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Dealing with negative emotions

22 Apr

2:02 pm

Even today, I get angry.  Depressed.  Sad.  And, I think about drinking.  I do.  I don’t want to, and know that I never will–I’ve been there, done that–but, it’s still there, this DESIRE to soothe.  It’s more like a whine, faint, in the distance, reminding me of the hot mess I was when I first got sober:

But THEY get to get away, to escape, to use their substance of choice–why can’t I?

I was thinking on my run today:  it’s not that I am UNHAPPY–happiness is most certainly a choice.  And, after years of forcing myself to find happiness in the corners of my early sober life; and more years of learning how to cultivate happiness as a choice, 100% of the time–well, I’ve realized that I can be happy without being content.  I am not content, and frankly, I am not sure I ever will be.  At 42 years old, I think I’m just beginning to try things that might actually make me feel contentment, which I suppose might be the opposite of things like accomplished, or having won the prize, of having earned the medal.

It reminds me of where I am right now in my job search:  I have been contracting with the same company for almost two years, but they still haven’t hired me.  Not only that, but I’ve interviewed for more than one full-time job with them, and each time, the interview process has consisted of meeting/being interviewed by 7, 8, 9 people!  I’m wondering, are they simply trying to make me second-guess my abilities?  Cuz, you know, of COURSE, I can do these jobs.  It’s not rocket science.  The drinker in me, though, craves their approval; wants to do it “right;” wants to win!  In reality, for the most part, I so don’t WANT the job.  What I want is them to want me, like me, hire me.  I want to win.  Even if that means that both during the interview process AND while I’m doing a job that I don’t really want to do; I am totally freaking DISCONTENT.

Ahh, life.  Sobriety has allowed me to recognize the nuances to all this “character flaw” stuff, and well, the difference (in my mind, anyway) of being unhappy and being discontent.  And, while I’ve wanted to drink lately trying to figure out just what is going to alleviate this lack of contentment (as a writer, I wonder if I am always going to feel like I haven’t done anything, or need to do something more, or different, or else), the five years of sobriety under my belt–and feeling this way so often back in the early days–has given me the tools to realize that drinking won’t solve anything.  Won’t alleviate anything.  Is not an escape, and is not a reward.  No matter how many people I see drinking to reward or alleviate the stress of transition, or decision-making processes, it still reeks of bullshit.  Drinking is bullshit.  Do I want a thing, somewhere that I can go?  Yes.  Is it up to me to figure out where that so-called place is, that place of acceptance and happiness in the moment, for the moment, and of the moment?  Yes.

We whine, we do.  I do.  Yet, that is allowed.  And then, depending on how practiced you have gotten, you move on.  You place those negative ideas and feelings into the “perspective” box, and you move on.  I feel happy most of the time, and that’s what matters and what I try to continue to focus on.  That and remembering how AWESOME-SAUCE it still is to be here, and not there (hungover on a Saturday afternoon)–being grateful, and cultivating happiness, in spite of this so-called discontentment, which is fleeting, and fickle.

Still (relatively) Facebook-free

18 Feb

And it feels good.

I’ve been back and forth lately about posting–I know I should, but life gets in the way.

Sometimes (my) sobriety feels like the Blob, just a mass of heavy, hot water hanging around the Pacific, hugging me as if I’m the west coast.  Sometimes I don’t even think about it anymore.  And some days, like when I was out running a few mornings ago, I just stopped, stared out at the water, let the hot sun draw the sad sigh out of me, and admitted:  I will never be free of this sobriety thing, and I don’t know what to DO with it.  I feel like I have to do something with it, my past and my struggle to get sober; but I just don’t know what.  I can’t get rid of it, and I can’t let it go.  What should I do with it?  I have no idea, so I keep plugging, hoping that one day, I’ll wake up and know what to do about it.

So, yeah, I’ve stayed off Facebook for the most part (went on a few times and got sucked into my feed, but mainly, if I do log on, I just check “on this day” and my individual pings and user groups), and it feels really…peaceful.  My daily life is just easier not having all those other people/places/things in it–they are merely distractions, and since I need all the focus I can get to make the transition that’s coming up, it’s helpful to not have to worry about all that other stuff.  I do wonder if this is just another symptom of my increasing tendency to accept being a hermit; though, not being a part of Facebook has…given me back to me.  Maybe when I ramp up my science writing again (freelance journalism), it’ll be worth it to get back onto social media (Twitter, mainly), but until then, I’ve realized that I’m not missing out on anything but my OWN life when I log onto “the ‘book.”

My contract was extended, and all I felt when I woke up at sunrise (yep, I continue to wake up at the hour I used to when I was working morning barista shifts) is trapped.  WHAT ON EARTH IS THERE LEFT TO DO HERE?  I have these moods at very specific times:  around 11 pm, I crash and the world sucks and I have done nothing in it; and around 5 or 6 am, I am raring to go, but…there is nowhere to go and nothing to do, and I feel utterly trapped.  And, it’s funny because these moods are consistent in content, and occur at the same time of day.  Of course, when I wake up, all is well, I feel good, and I tackle the day–and along the way, try to appreciate the outstanding geographical beauty that has become so familiar that it’s easy to let it go unnoticed.  It’s just funny, to have these swings of thought, to notice them, and to know that while they’re emotionally (and psychologically) powerful, they’re relatively meaningless.

I need a change; we both do.  In fact, my fiance and I have been having serious conversations about moving, and I have been applying for new jobs in different places.  Soon come, a change.  You can’t rush it.  You just cannot.  I have a couple of friends who have decided to just move to a city in the Midwest, and, uh, I wish them the best but I feel like they’re doing it out of this desperate need that is so familiar to me–to just CALL THE FUCKING SHOT because you are so sick of weighing your options and feeling stuck.  It’s so tempting to just say, OK, we’re leaving this place, we’re moving here, and we’ll figure it out when we get there.  I did that in my early 20s, and even my 30s, and, well, look who JUST paid off her student loan debt–at 42 years old.  It’s time to be patient, to plot and plan and plod through the tough conversations with spouse–where makes him happy, what are my dealbreakers, and what, really, do we envision for our lives?

It’s so hard, it really is.  But, I don’t want to drink in the face of it.  I do have the tendency to shut down when the options become too many, but I know that I have to do better, and stick the process out.  And, I will.  We will.  And we’ll be better off for it.

Facebook-free is helping me figure out my life if only because I’m forced to focus solely on it.  And, it’s wonderful to see that I don’t need Facebook, that I can live happily without it, and that I am (for the most part) not really missing out on anything.  Sound familiar?

Facebook-free 2017

8 Jan

11:23 am

Well, I’m doin’ it.  Finally.  It’s been 1 week and almost 4 days since I logged onto Facebook.  Like, I literally have not logged in.  I decided that “deactivating” was not the route I wanted to take (in quotes because one, do you really disappear on the back end, and two, all you have to do to “reactivate” your account is log back in!).

And you know what?  I feel good.  Like, really good.

Yes, I feel out of it; and, I’m not sure I can maintain such a distance from my professional sphere for THAT long–personal and professional are intricately intertwined in journalism, and probably other metiers, too.  I don’t mean or want to throw the baby out with the bathwater.  I don’t want to disappear–I still want a career, and to be present in said career.  And to be present in the world of information is to have it, and to dish it out.

That all being acknowledged (obsessively, over and over), I’m learning to let all these fearful thoughts go because, well, I feel better.

I must admit, I feel that sort of righteous self-satisfaction that is similar to how you feel when you get sober.  I also have this sense of a load having been taken off; I am no longer burdened with YOUR LIVES.  Other people’s lives.  So many other lives to ping me, enrage me, give me joy–I guess it was just too much, and I took it home with me.  Now, I just have this sense of relief, this screaming cheer in my head that keeps saying, I don’t have to take my friends home with me!  Haha.  I get to focus on MY life.  Sure, it’s boring as shit sometimes, but… it’s my life.  Isn’t it worth as much appreciation–time and effort–as I’ve been putting into other people’s lives?  (And, now I really do see how this is related to drinking to drown out:  you tend to put yourself second, then you feel un- or under-appreciated; not to mention, you have ZERO actual connection, and reciprocity, in your relationships if they are primarily virtual ones…all stuff that drives us to drink to soothe, fix, drown out, douse, hide from!  I say, No shit, sherlock, now, but back then, how everything was connected and impacted my drinking seemed so…inaccessible.)

I also think it’s given me the head space, literally, to start digging in on some personal writing projects.  And that digging in entails a lot of things that you forget, as a writer, are necessities to the creative process–one being the time and well, empty-headedness to actually think.  Or not think, as it were.  To conjure memories.  To dream up random plots, or have deeper thoughts that may have been buried, drowned out by all the incessant noise.  The chitter-chatter is gone, and it’s a relief.  The endless drone of increasingly source-less information (i.e., why the eff is THIS in my feed, and is it even real news?), over.

I decided NOT to deactivate because to me, that’s like giving the bird to your friends.  I mean, it’s rude.  It’s like, NO ONE keeps in touch via phone or email anymore, we all know this; so if you’re going to ghost but don’t mean to, at least have the courtesy to give people your “off Facebook” contact info.  Otherwise, you’re just ghosting.  That’s not what I want to gain from this–as it is, I feel guilty just “abandoning” some of my friends, i.e., not keeping up…  I just can’t anymore, is all.  And, it feels good, albeit a little scary, to let go.

I don’t know for how long this will be; maybe long enough to clear the cobwebs from my head, maybe longer.  I’m just going to keep going, and see where it takes me.  (Kind of like getting sober, no?)

There are lulls, but never lows

5 Nov

2:02 pm

In sobriety, there are lulls–such as the rather lengthy one I’m going through now–but never lows.  I mean, not the kind of lows I had while drinking.  In fact, I’d say sobriety is really one (life)long high, with lulls.

Right now, I’m trying to regain some energy or focus or something that I feel I’ve lost.  Or, lost within.  I’m not off caffeine yet, and I’m still running around (figuratively), doing work to make money and not doing writing to make myself fulfilled.

All in due time.  I’m not too worried–it’s always there, and it’ll always come back, if it’s not there right now, the desire or essential nature that drives me to write.  Mostly, it requires stillness of mind, of heart, and of body.  That is lacking, and in part, it is lacking because I’ve chosen to create a space of constant activity–because writers can be sort of effed up, I’m doing that in order to not HAVE to write.  Sad, but true.  Still, I want to want to write, if that makes sense.

I just spent most of October traveling, and now, I’m back to my “old” life here and it feels…like it did six months ago.  I’m trying not to go there, and to remember that I can change it by staying active.  However, at some point, I have to figure out how to balance staying insanely active/busy with sufficient “still” time for reflection and writing.  It seems so either/or to me right now, and I’m struggling, I guess, to figure this out.

One thing that I’ve noticed throughout this lull (maybe even depression) is that you CAN, with practice, re-frame your thoughts and thereby, divert your mood.  Distractions help, but I’m finding that simply narrowing in on the rogue thoughts and literally thinking myself out of them helps me more than a reward here, a distracting treat there.  I need to work and stay on track; I can’t stay on track if I’m thinking things that are making me feel negative (doubting myself, wondering about the future, feeling vexed that I am not writing or creating).  So, I try to catch myself and think other things, other outcomes, other possibilities.

I am not on that pink cloud anymore, but I think that’s because I re-entered the world of the living a few years ago, and increasingly, it’s made my life feel normal.  Normal is good, though.  I’d rather feel normal and be out and about, able to deal with the world; than on a pink cloud, in my imagined bubble.

So, I keep working, and trying to write, through it all.  And I hope (believe) that it is or will somehow, some day, be enough.  I would never call this a low, though.  And I would never want to distract myself from the struggle–which in itself is enlivening because it is an active one, now that I see how I need to use my mind to control its tendencies toward the complicated or negative–with a drink.  And, frankly, I look at my old friends and think, how on EARTH could you still be doing that?  And, doubly frankly, I wonder, how does it even work on your brain anymore, after all these years (almost 10 years, and definitely 7 or 8, for most of my drinking buddies from the time right before I got sober)???

Time to turn it off and get back to my day.  Much love to all.  Thanks for reading…!  🙂

Time to get sober–from caffeine

25 Jul

2:07 pm

Is it just me, or is caffeine (coffee, in particular) sort of like alcohol?  I mean, in the way I fixate on it, drink WAY too much of it, and regret both after the fact?

I know someone who is in recovery who drinks a TON of it, and I can’t help but wonder, is it because his mood is low (drinking too much alcohol over a long period of time leads to dopamine surges leads to, ultimately, the brain being unable to produce this feel-good hormone in regularly sufficient amounts–leaving you feeling depressed, tired, and unmotivated, to name a few), or if he just does EVERYTHING the way an addict does:  too much, constantly, in fear of the comedown/reality.

I mean, I know how much coffee he ingests (I serve him most mornings), and I’m guessing he is buzzed ALL the time, unless he’s sleeping.  I’m not THAT bad, but in my own way, I am.  Starting to feel that bad.

The thing is, I went for a decade not needing–and finally, not wanting–coffee!  I worked, and wrote, and got sober, all without caffeine.  Now?  I can’t–no, don’t want to–go through my work-a-day life without coffee.  And worse?  I FEAR not being able to work my coffee shop shift, let alone start freelancing (successfully, at least) again, without coffee.  I FEAR being utterly unable to write without coffee.  That thought in and of itself scares me.

I’ve got some reconfiguring to do.  It hasn’t been easy, stopping freelancing and working this (boring) job, and all the while, slowly but surely becoming addicted to what I see as a roadblock to my creativity.  Call me a purist, but I don’t LIKE having to rely on a buzz to be able to think with fire and write with passion.  In fact–and, call me a masochist–I think that in order to find true fire and passion, you have to do it sober.  And that means, totally sober.

Sigh.  Shaking my head at how black-and-white I sound.

Still.  I felt proud when I was off coffee.  Pure.  More me.  And, much less afraid.  And, ultimately, if I’m feeling all this, and having all this mental chatter about a cup of bean water?

Needless to say, I have to do what’s right for me–even if it sounds crazy to almost everyone else out there who has gotten sober (I don’t know ANYONE who doesn’t drink coffee after they’ve gotten sober).

I’m tired of it.  I’m going off caffeine because, well, I FEEL like I “do” it addictively.  Not saying it’s bad, or it’s bad to drink it the way I do; I just feel like I felt better, and more positive, and had MORE ideas and energy, without this drug in my system.

I’ll keep y’all posted!

Do you still miss drinking?

21 May

10:16 am

Well, that’s a question, isn’t it?  My boyfriend and I were driving to the beach the other day, or back from some boat trip, and he was like, Do you ever miss drinking, or still want to drink?  Or, do you just not talk (complain) about it anymore?

Hmm.  I really had to think about it.  I’ve been thinking about drinking, and sobriety, but I just haven’t been coalescing those thoughts into posts.  And, as you guys know, it’s partly because life has gotten busy, work-wise.  I’m still working remotely for the company I was at, and I’m also working three to four days a week at the same local coffee shop.  And, frankly, it’s still not enough money, considering my ever-present student loan debt, future goals and dreams, and well, life is expensive.  But, it’s comforting to know that I do have spending money (the lattes money), and I don’t feel “guilty” buying trips, new shoes, and expensive food items once in a while.  As Peter Tosh sang, most of us are livin’ small.

The other reason I haven’t been blogging is this irritant factor.  It’s like, I’d rather just not think about not drinking anymore.  But, I DO think about it, all the time.  It’s just changing.  It’s weird.  While I miss getting sober–there is definitely a “high” to achieving and sustaining a longish-term sobriety, and I’d say that lasts up to years–I do have to accept that I’m beyond that.  The pink cloud still rests above my head, it’s just sort of faded.

I mean, yes, when I see people come into the coffee bar at 5:30 (my start time–ouch), STILL FLAMING DRUNK and having incoherent and emotional arguments with each other, I cringe inside; and then, I breathe a sigh of relief.  And that relief doesn’t ever go away; in fact, it just keeps getting bigger and bigger.  I have to admit, in my darker hours, or my agro ones after the caffeine buzz wears off and I get “hangry,” a small part of me feels smug about it–just a little bit.  Mainly, though, this sense of relief, of being FAR, far away from the urge to binge drink/drink alcoholically–it’s a constant, gracious presence.  I feel gratitude all the time.  For not feeling the urge to drink, ever, really.  And for never, ever having to be hungover like that again.

What I don’t feel is the excitement in congratulating myself anymore.  And, I suppose that’s a good thing.  Life is just life, it doesn’t have to revolve around this idea of “me being or getting sober, or being pleased with me being or getting sober.”  You know?

However, then my boyfriend hits me with that question, and it stirs up the fact that I haven’t forgotten about my sobriety at all, and I have to say:  Yes.  Yes, I do still think about drinking.  Yes, I do still want to drink once in a while, when I encounter a very powerful (to me) trigger.  When?  Well, let’s just say, on a boat trip, when I feel jealous (ugh) of all the hot, young girls with their flat bellies (well, I never had a flat belly, even in my 20s).  On that same boat trip, toward the end, when my insecurity about being “old” has been sufficiently compounded by the sense that I’m not only “old,” I’m also boring–that’s when I really start to feel grumpy and want to drink.  I feel sorry for myself.  It’s residual though, like a long lost limb from a faraway ancestor–I can intellectualize it away, and realize that it’s just a feeling.  Still, I do feel tired of being the “narc.”  (In fact, at the last beach bar we stopped at on this “for example” boat trip, I ordered a virgin tropical drink, and the guy goes, “I die a little every time someone orders said tropical drink without the rum.”  And I look up, pissed, and I go, “Well, I die a little every time I drink rum.  So, what do ya got for me?”  He wasn’t displeased, but he was definitely taken aback.  He ended up adding coconut water, and let me tell you, it was pretty damn tasty!)

I have to stress, and this is most important as my sobriety lengthens:  it’s not that I want to get drunk.  It’s just that I want to…not be sober.  When I see a friend of mine, doing it up in the big city we used to live in together, drinking drinking drinking all over the place, every night; I feel…some sort of loss.  I know it comes back to this fear of missing out, or my OLD ideas and notions about how to “have fun” or “have a good life.”  My OLD ideas of me.

I don’t miss getting drunk.  What I, Drunky Drunk Girl, miss is the ability to instantly and effortlessly escape my seriousness.  The world.  Daily, “hum drum” life.  Some might call it a lack of free spiritedness, an “always in my head”-ness, a sobriety of thought, or, an overwhelming thoughtfulness.  Maybe it’s simply neuroticism:  the tendency to overthink negative (and positive?) thoughts.  Maybe I can call it depression, as this lingers.  I don’t know.  But, I do miss being able to “be that fun girl.”  Of course, I know I can be that fun girl in other ways, and that frankly, I WAS NEVER THAT FUN GIRL when I was drinking.  But, the constructs and stories we tell ourselves linger on and on into our sober years–and it really does take a constant checking in to right, correct, re-mold these ideas.  And, yeah, the peer pressure is always going to be there unless you check in and say, Fuck that, I rock.  SO MUCH HARDER NOW THAT I’M SOBER.

So, no, I never want to get drunk.  But, yes, I still do want to “not be me.”  Or, be that fun girl.  Or, escape from my sober life.  And, I guess that’s what we give up in exchange for constancy of mood, deep knowledge of self, and the GIFT of being able to look forward, with relatively laser focus, on our lives–and to make plans that suit us, lift us, and maximize our potential.  That is worth a thousand nights of drinking, and a million mornings of being hungover.

I’m home..and kind of tired

23 Apr

12:37 pm

I’ve been “home” for a few weeks now.  And, well, admittedly, I’ve been feeling tired, and sort of alone; and realized (again) today that despite all that “sober” work, I’m still me:  I have trouble reaching out to people.  And that I really need to do that.  And that it’s the only thing that leads to feeling a part of things, of life, of community.  Duh.  Well, not duh to people “like us,” who, for whatever reasons (natural hermits, fear, self-consciousness, “drinking thinking”), find it really hard.  It’s hard.  But, once you get over that hump–I did it once and I am going to do it again, get over that hump–life greatly improves on SO MANY LEVELS.

So, yeah, I’m home (from where I was for a work contract for that past 7.5 months).  And, it’s kind of cool that I consider this place my “home” now, if not a little scary–I don’t really love familiarity.  Anyway, I flew home about 3.5 weeks ago–and have been struggling ever since to figure out my new, well, everything.  New (old) home, new (old, well, current because they are letting me work remotely right now) job, new (old) schedule, new (old) climate (I have to say, going from 20% humidity on the regular to 80% when it’s not raining hasn’t been that easy).  It’s been a lot of things, but tiring and confusing come to mind.  Life is tiring and confusing, and I think I’m just extra tired and confused right now.  Haha.

Tiring.  It’s all happening at once, and I want to do it all at once.  That means, writing a book (!  just gotta try), writing stories, writing a business plan (!  just gotta try) so I can open a coffee shop of my own, all amidst trying to figure out the rhythm of life here, again.  It’s kind of maddening in that, I put SO much effort into leaving, and I left, and now, I’m back, and it feels like I didn’t leave.

(The one thing I learned that I’m blindly, almost, clinging to right now is this:  what you FEEL and what you BELIEVE or THINK you know, is usually wrong, or at best, doesn’t align with what actually IS, or with what actually WILL BE.  Haha.  So, I’m just going to put all this thinking into a box on the shelf and come back to it later.)

Depressing.  Well, maybe I’m finally coming out of my depression?  I don’t even know exactly how I feel.  I will say that my depressive symptoms have eased now that I’m not chasing around constantly, stressing continuously, and well, now that I’m actually eating normally again.  My diet was horrible there–I was literally starving myself for the past 7.5 months.  Like, 80% consciously aware of it, the other 20% a combination of denial and depression, I think.  (Eating disorders are definitely deeply ingrained behaviors, and for me, even more buried and hard to discern and examine and change than binge drinking behaviors.  At least with drinking, you know that it’s fucking you up; with bulimia, or restrictive eating, it’s the opposite effect in that you THINK it’s improving your life, somehow–and then you come to depend on how it makes you think and feel about yourself, and not just your life.  So weird.)

Enlivening.  Well, it’s great to be home, in a (almost too) familiar place, with my boo, my dogs, and job prospects that I left…and that I just have to plug myself back into.  I have to rev up to do it, is all.  Why?

The ever-looming conflict for me is this:  do you just plug back in when you know that moving on might be the more challenging thing to do?  The thing that makes you grow, change, learn, expand?

More later.  That’s about all the time I have (I have to do something for work, and then, do errands–the never-ending to-do list of coming home…).  Miss you all.  (Oh, and no thoughts of drinking since being home; none.  I’ve been tossing around the idea of just forgetting about the entire “getting sober” thing of the past FOUR years, but, how?  And, why would I?  Should I?  I can’t let it go.  I can’t, and that’s OK.)

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