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On boundaries and saying ‘no’

7 Apr

12:40 pm

So, this morning, as I was scrolling Facebook, I became frustrated:

Why do I have to care about you?  Ugh, I should have gone to that thing last night–why am I so lazy, why am I so antisocial? 

And, on and on and on.  I saw in the early years of my sobriety just how much I could overthink and overanalyze, and how this contributed to my unhappiness and dependence on wine to escape my thinking.

It got me thinking about something else, too:  here I was, on a beautiful Sunday morning, and what was I doing but berating myself because I had let my Facebook feed intimidate me!

In getting sober and staying sober, I have come to realize that creating boundaries and saying ‘no’ are essential to my peace of mind.  There are a LOT of things that caused me to binge drink and drink alcoholically, and I never made the connection between that reactive behavior and the bullying forces in my life until I got sober.

In fact, there are a lot of bullies in everyone’s life–whether your friends, parents, or coworkers are consciously aware that they are being bullies is up for debate, though.  And, until I started to understand the concepts of boundaries and saying no–that there could be emotional bullying, and that this is far more prevalent than actual, literal bullying–I didn’t get that I could both say, No, I will not do that, and say no to taking on other people’s stress or expectations of me (or themselves).

It still makes me feel angry when I delve into this aspect of long-term sobriety, and I feel like this is something that will never go away completely because almost everyone out there (including myself) is engaging in some form of bullying–whether it’s dumping their emotional baggage on you, manipulating your weaknesses, or just using your reactions to make themselves feel better.  I have to remind myself, almost daily, that it’s ME who is in control of how I perceive and receive people, and how I react and interact with them–that ultimately, bullying is a two-way street.

Some real-world examples:

Facebook/social media–Before I got sober, I would scroll relentlessly, and I would allow everyone’s story to affect me.  I would internalize my feelings of “not good enough” and “guilty” and “should have, could have, would have” without realizing that one, I didn’t need to feel any of that, and two, I had control over who and what I let into my worldview.  These days, when I feel that coming on, I try to remember that social media is not real life; people posting to social media are not trying to offend me, personally; and if I want to not care, I can choose to not care and close the app.  I don’t have to feel guilty about not really interacting with my so-called friends; I have friends in the here and now, and I can interact with them–and this is healthy, and it is good enough.  These days, I would much rather engage people offline, in the real world, and not on social, email, or text.  And, some days, it’s as simple as closing the app and moving on with my day–and not judging myself to be a bad friend, somehow, because I have chosen to be a spectator on social media and not a player.

Parents–You know, before I got sober, I didn’t have as much frustration toward my parents for their mental health issues as I do now.  I knew that my mom’s difficulty setting emotional boundaries and my dad’s bullying behavior definitely contributed to my drinking, but I didn’t know exactly how.  In any case, I internalized my mom’s pain, and I always tried to please my dad–two things that I have to work very hard at today, every time I talk to them, to NOT do!

These days, I don’t know if I’ve figured out exactly how these family relationships have made me who I am, but in getting sober, I have learned that calling my parents less is OK, that not allowing them to control how I feel is OK, that putting up boundaries and saying no to their projections and expectations is OK–I wish it was different because they are in their 70s and “should know better,” but…

My mom has a lot of health problems these days, and so, our calls are always quite long and tedious. I feel like she feels slighted that I don’t call often, and I feel almost unconsciously judged for having become an alcoholic drinker and for not having had kids; but none of this matters when it comes to me needing to say no to taking on her bad mood or her feelings of helplessness.  In part, I think she wants me to share my own health problems, but I refuse to go down that road because it’s almost as if she relishes that; simply put, I DO NOT relish it.

My dad is an entirely different beast in that the family believes he has multiple actual mental health disorders, and his entire way in the world with everyone has always been about manipulating other people to do what he wants them to do for him, and expectation (I am hard on myself and need to prove my worth, so you should be, too).  I have simply come to the frustrating conclusion recently that nothing will ever change in our relationship except the way that I deal with it.  I have decided that while our conversations won’t change, and while I’ll never likely be able to directly say no to him, I can say no to his expectations–I love our life, and I don’t have to let him lead the conversation toward accomplishment as a measure of success.

Job and school stress–It took me getting sober to see that I was putting a TON of unnecessary expectations and pressure on myself for many, many years.  And, that I don’t have to respond to stress the way people around me are either responding to it or worse, telling me how I “should” respond to it.  It’s like, I don’t have to keep up with the Joneses by wanting that house, or that car, or that “bigger” job–likewise, at work, I don’t have to stress out just because my boss or coworkers are stressing out, necessarily or unnecessarily so.  You don’t have to stress out to care, or to prepare; stress will not help you have fun.  You can (and should!) take long showers, eat nice dinners, go to your yoga class, or hey, even hit the beach (man, I miss it!)–AND get your work done, and be a careful, caring employee who is worthy of her paycheck.  This mentality is really hard to push back against, but I have to push back–if not just in defense of my health, but in defense of my sobriety.

Exhale.  We all have to set boundaries and guard them fiercely, no matter if we’re getting or staying sober.  Likewise, we all get to say ‘no’–and that is a beautiful thing.  I think that is the most empowering aspect to my sobriety, and to my evolving life and lifestyle these days.  As recovering binge drinkers or alcoholics, saying no is essential to our happiness, to our joy, to our continued sobriety.

So…just say no (sometimes)!

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Too busy to think about drinking or being sober

6 Nov

9:43 am

Hi! I just wanted to check in and say, Yes, I’m still here, and Yes, I’ve been busy trying to earn a living. It doesn’t have to be this hard, and I am hoping to remedy that in the the next six months–I’ve realized that job change doesn’t happen overnight/in a few months, so I’m going to give it a lot longer; meantime, continue to grind out the freelance life.

I think about being sober these days, only in the context of it being my anchor to sanity–I’d be one big ball of uncontrollable worry about finances if I let myself lag on my to-do lists by procrastinating with wine. I rarely think about drinking–it wouldn’t be nice, and it wouldn’t solve anything. I was down last night, but I shed a few tears, forced myself to “get happy,” and made a pie. It totally took me out of the moment, which I knew if I just felt it, would pass. There is literally no place in my life right now for alcohol.

Well, I gotta get to work, but I promise to check in again very soon and start blogging more. Miss you all!

Understanding triggers

12 Oct

10:34 pm

I’m embarrassed, but I know you guys won’t judge.

I drank. I mean, I got drunk. For the first time since my quit date of March 18, 2013. And yes, the whole bottle, of course. I know it’s going to be a one-time thing, primarily because being hung over sucks. And, my body and mind can’t take another one.

Why did I drink? Half of me is like, I did it to “just get it over with,” and half of me is like, I did it because I wanted to try and see what it was like–not sure if I could or would moderate (which to me would have been two glasses, not the four I had). I think Paul blogged something that is exactly right: you try to fit back into it, and it doesn’t fit!

Now, the fact that I’ve been obsessing about this one freaking bottle of wine for like months? Wondering, planning, and then, finally drinking and being hung over for 12 hours? Houston, we DO have a problem. And it’d called alcoholism. I’m not sure what it means, precisely, but I can no longer deny that um, I am not normal when it comes to drinking, and er, recovery might very well be a lifelong thing.

Oy. Hangovers still suck. Suckage. Blargh.

Right now, I think I just feel like WHOA, too many things. Too much stuff. The ending of one life, the embracing of a new one. Confronting unresolved issues, and yes, personality problems. Wondering where my money for November is going to come from. Job searching (am I too old? I wonder, here, if I am too old) and freelancing and stressing about my savings, which is low. I was and continue to be a lurker–I despise that about myself.

What I do know is that wine did not help. And, this hangover will not happen again. It wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but on a scale of 1 to 10, it’s up there around 7 or 8. Swirling head, anxiety, sadness, thinking of death (of my own, of my boyfriend’s), weeping for at least an hour, if not more; and then, trudging around the cold, dark city realizing that THIS IS MY PAST. These are well-worn paths. And, they are triggers.

I’ve come to have a newfound understanding of triggers. Triggers are not just the people, places, and things, but, they are ways of being, of thinking, of feeling that are embedded in us, and that take work to excavate. They don’t disappear overnight–in fact, they still reside in us, intact, like living fossils. I feel like I’m sad, and depressed, and a lurker (i.e., I have no life, but everyone else does–my one huge “reason for drinking” back in the day). I feel these things, as if they are real, right now-feelings. As if I am still that person. And, then, my reaction is still that person’s: I want to drink, and I drink, and I feel hungover and spend the day writhing and alone.

Yet, none of this makes sense! How could it be? These feelings are totally out of context. I am FREE of that past, aren’t I? I mean, I am no longer sad, no longer depressed, no longer a lurker–I have my own life, one that gives me a lot of joy. I have my boyfriend, 2.5 years living together; our dogs; friends who have become like family; an entire career carved out of sober work. Two years before that I moved my person out of this town–so, it’s been 4 years since I left.

I stored my stuff, though, and I can see how clearing out the unit might be sort of representative of what’s going on here–what I’m mourning is, the actual decision to finally say goodbye and move on. Maybe literally, maybe figuratively. I mean, it’s a great city and I think I could form a new, amazing life here.

It’s a lot to say goodbye to. And, while I am in tears again thinking about it, my only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner. Talk about ambivalence! It takes what it takes, I guess. I am finally ready to let go and move on. I am finally allowing myself to see that this place can trigger me–activate that stored stuff, that radioactive material that simply takes work to lose, if we are lucky enough to be able to apply constant effort.

I mean, it’s just WEIRD. How can I still be there, when I’m here? How can I still feel the feelings of HER, back THEN, when I’m me, now? It’s just so weird. These triggers–they are deeper than I realized, and more ingrained. And yes, it IS easier to not be triggered into that past when you leave the scene of the crime, so to speak. I’m not sure if moving is the answer for all of us, but it has profoundly affected me–in a good way.

Maybe I’m just awful at saying goodbye. Of holding on when I shouldn’t. I’ve always held on, clung to the past to the point, I guess, of living in it. Or, if not actually living, then dwelling on it such that I’m not living in the present. Why is this, when the past sucked ass? I mean, yes, a lot of living was done here, but a lot of pain happened, too. I love being in a relationship–I can see now why I was so depressed here. Afraid to admit that I wanted–needed–someone else. I always saw that as a bad thing; now, it’s the ONLY thing (that makes my day worth having).

I miss my dogs, and I miss my boyfriend, and I miss our life. And I’m going back to that! And, I see how lonely this place can still make me feel. So, why am I sad about releasing it?

I’m OK, and getting right back on the horse. I know that this has to be a one-time thing; I’m not sure how it wouldn’t be, based on how awful I’ve felt all day. I’m not used to this, and I don’t want to be here. Letting it go as a slip, and moving forward tomorrow.

(In case you’re wondering what it was like, it was pretty uneventful. I felt…somewhat sweaty, and then, somewhat awake, and a slight bit of a buzz in the beginning; but mostly, I just felt anesthetized. But, in a bad way. So, yes, spending your Saturday evening sober is WAY better than sitting there, drinking shitty wine that tastes like cough syrup and makes you feel nothing but numb. I’ve done both, and I can honestly say that being sober is, in fact, a better way to spend the night. Especially if you don’t get buzzed anymore, if you only just get numbed.)

Information–I used to love you, but I want to kill you

27 Mar

11:05 am

I am not sure if anyone understands just how much Too Much Information triggers me. Maybe it’s a legitimate pressure–if I can’t keep up, then I should bow out of this profession. Maybe I’m simply addicted to information? I should go online and search for a support group: Information-aholics Anonymous?

Today, I’m supposed to be Taking The Day Off: that means, for ONCE, no working. And, by no working, I mean, not just no story pitching, writing, or “job searching” (which, I admit, is part of the freelance game; I’ve had several job applications turn into freelance work); but also no sorting through scientific press releases; no stressing out about finding an outlet for a story that I wrote but that was subsequently rejected by the magazine that I thought I had it matched with; no checking journals, blogs, and the other quintillion sources of science news. And, it means, no other news, which I tend to do AFTER I “breeze” through the science and health news–radio stations that I like, talk shows, mainstream news, magazines here, there, and everywhere.

You get the picture. Information is endless these days, and if you’re not careful, it could blow your mind.

And then there’s social media. Dun dun dun. I was just commenting on someone’s blog about how back when I first started blacking out and getting angry, I would always take it out on my phones and my laptops–I am embarrassed to say that I have thrown oh, about 10 to 15 phones to the ground in drunken rages, and banged the shit out of at least three or four laptops (yes, my drinking was a lot more expensive than just the cost of the wine). And, I knew back then that I was missing real connection, and I was sick to death of the fake stuff: connecting to people through phones and through computers (via chat, email, and Facebook).

I’m learning balance these days, but it’s hard. If your profession is literally, dealing with information, then you can’t quite say, Fuck it, I’m quitting Facebook and never reading the news. If you want to be in this profession, I’m finding, you have got to find balance, which means, learning how and when to get just enough information to “keep up,” but not enough to drive yourself to drink.

Sigh. It’s my day off, and I’m already feeling that feeling I get–tight chest, upset stomach, a feeling of defeat washing over my brain. And I haven’t even gotten my social media fix yet! You know, I hate Facebook these days, not so much because of the rather “ill” interactions it encourages–I don’t really post anymore–but because I Just Can’t Keep Up. With all the information. And, it stresses me out. It doesn’t necessarily make me want to drink, but…it does something. Let’s not even talk about Twitter (which I use sparingly, mainly because I basically think it’s nonessential to my career at this point, and for lack of a better word, masturbatory–like, the same people re-tweet and post about each other, and then, they all convince themselves that that news piece or idea or meme is “important” or “hot”).

Yet, before I even got out of bed this morning, I was on my phone, checking the science news press releases. And then, after popping out of bed, and making it (ahh, diversion!)…I was on my laptop, checking work email, reminding myself to go to one of the big science journal’s web sites to see what came out today, and, then, to my blog to check on all y’all–which, I have to say, is NOT part of the cycle and is something I really enjoy and don’t consider stressful!

Oh, well. It’s all part of my story, right? We all have different triggers, things that bug us to our cores and make us want to numb out; mine happens to be this information thing, getting older and not being able to parse it all as enthusiastically as before, and not really giving a shit as much as I care about other stuff (inner knowledge, silence, listening to the birds and wind draw patterns on the inside of my brain, for example).

Most of the time, I don’t allow myself to consider this a real stressor–I mean, it’s not like I’m chasing kids, or commuting three hours one way (I did that once, for 18 months, remember?), or taking pictures in a war zone, or triaging AIDS patients in some poor African country? But sometimes, I think all of that would be preferable to playing with information all day.

At least I have the day “off,” right?

“Happily ever after”

23 Feb

12:46 pm

And, it’s been a week since I last posted–gah!

First, the good news: I am sober. And, we all know that that three-word sentence holds SO much good. Enough said.

Second, I have my life, and my working limbs, and no cavities, and relatively awesome health. I am calmer and happier than I’ve been in, like, ever. I am sitting at my part-time job right now, which is at the ferry terminal; and while others are too proud to beg, I sure ain’t. (I get paid $10/hour, but all I “have” to do, at this point, is exist and be friendly to strangers who come up and talk to me–done and done!)

All that being said, Jesus Fuck, I wanted to drink last night. I was agitated, and foggy-brained. Not sure which comes first, or if I can actually DO something to prevent this deadly state-of-mind. But, I got through it–thank God(dess). I wrote (pounded; I have no markings left on my “n” and “m” keys, which is curious because there aren’t many swear words that start with these letters) out all my bad feelings into my journal, and about an hour later, I was feeling better. And, this morning? SUPER-glad I didn’t drink. I would have gotten even more foggy-brained, and today, I would have been hungover and I would probably still be wondering who let Satan invent fermented grapes.

I do, however, see a 9-to-5 in my future. I mean, ultimately I can’t seem to grasp exactly how writers can keep up the freelance thing without a full-time (or at least, 3/4-time) job “on the side.” I don’t think many do, for practicality’s sake, but also, for sanity. Stay calm, I tell myself in the morning, and in the evening: you will somehow find the money for next month’s bills, you will somehow muster the energy for yet another pitch…for which story, if assigned, you will make a tenth of what you’re worth–but hey, who’s counting pennies? Yes, I’d be remiss not to admit that this makes my stomach boil, in a way. Two Ivy League degrees–one in the life sciences, no doubt–and I’m working a part-time job for $10 an hour so that I can be able to afford to do journalism? As one colleague of mine put it: journalism, the last “luxury” profession. It’s just…maddening…and, yes, it REALLY makes me want to drink. Like, every second of every day. It’s just another thing, I guess, that I fight against, along with the normal mood swings/cravings that come and go.

But, I can change things, and I have to remember that. And, all these things I’m worrying about, eh, they probably won’t add up to much anyway when the time comes to do the adding. Like, OK, I spent a year of my life not making that much money, living in the middle of the ocean. So? And? All this is to say, tomorrow–in the form of next week or next month or next year–will come, and I likely won’t even remember what I was worried about not having, or losing.

I’ve been feeling somewhat down lately, so forgive if this post screams dragging, or tired, or bothered. Or just UNDERPAID. I also haven’t been feeling well; and, it bothers me, like it would anyone. I mean, Google is the devil digital-incarnate when it comes to figuring out what’s wrong with you. I’ve determined I’m either dying of cervical cancer, or have lupus. Right. Dr. Drunky Drunk Girl and her assistant, Nurse Google. Maybe it’s nothing? The most frustrating thing is not knowing; a close second might be, not having any control either way–to the extent that you can take care of your health, you do, and beyond that, you don’t have that much say in the matter.

Yes, I really wanted to drink last night. I just felt…sad, or something. Sad about it all. Sad that I don’t feel well. Sad that I am pushing a boulder uphill. Like Sisyphus.

Which brings my wandering mind to my brother’s wedding in May. But, of course! You know how people get married and then, for some reason, expect their lives to be radically different somehow because they have a piece of paper that says “married?” Yeah, I never got it either. “Happily ever after”…what? It seems the same with sobriety: there is no happily ever after. You just keep doing life, albeit sober instead of drunk. YES, I handle things better–probably a lot better than I’m giving myself credit for today–but I still get agitated, I still ruminate, I still don’t want to socialize and then end up feeling alone. I still get stressed about work, and I still drag my feet when it comes to making decisions about pretty much everything important. I still feel depressed, or, slightly down a lot of the time. (Thinking of myself as Sisyphus is probably something I should stop doing if I want to not feel slightly down a lot of time, methinks.)

As my year approaches (in three weeks), I am definitely wondering about all this navel-gazing that Getting Sober brings (instead of simply quitting drinking, or cutting back). Do NOT get me wrong: I SO don’t miss being hung over, and doing and saying horrible things while drunk. Duh. However, I have to admit, I do miss the “fun” me; and, honestly, the sober me is well, sobering. And, she’s beginning to be quite a downer. I think back longingly to my late 20s-self–where is she? I miss that girl.

I know what I have now, though–who I am–is stronger, and more settled, and more emotionally adept at handling life. I know that I’m a much improved version of myself. Yet, I miss something…and I’m not sure if it’s related to me getting older, me getting sober, me not really feeling stimulated in my life down here, or what. Puzzles; it’s a good thing I have the patience for them.

Anyway, signing off for now. Chittering insects (my mind, reference to the closed captioning on ‘The Walking Dead,” anyone?). Hope everyone is doing OK. I, for one, have about 10 blog posts that I started and have yet to share. This week!

Oh, and thank you for letting me vent! I feel so much better. Smiling. You guys rock. And I don’t care who says what, even IF I don’t know what you look like and have never heard your voices (except for Belle), I can’t imagine having come this far without you. 🙂

300 days, and it’s getting better

13 Jan

12:42 pm

Well, here we are! Well, were, since 300 days came and went. And, to be honest, it was a day like every other: some ups, some downs, but mainly just stressed about finding money! I don’t know…it was just there.

When I think about how I spent my day, I really have to take a step back and say, Wow, that’s remarkably better than how you were spending your Sunday’s just a few years ago. Yesterday, I got up at the usual time, 10, which was fine. Early enough to have some morning left. I did some chores, took the dogs for a long walk, spent about 45 minutes chatting with my landlord/neighbor/friend, catching up on her holidays and future plans–a really good way to make myself feel more of a part of “things.” I came home, made some lunch (a spinach salad with some basalmic-oil dressing and some pasta), and then, followed up on yesterday morning’s yoga class by trying to replicate it on my own mat. Afterward, I meditated/dozed off on the mat, until about 2. I spent the afternoon trying to boost my mood to get myself to “do shit,” but I just couldn’t find the energy. My boyfriend came home from work, and we/I spent the evening walking the dogs along the back hills, grocery shopping, making dinner, talking to my mother for about an hour (I really need to call her more so that our conversations can be shorter!), and then, “binging” on our Netflix show du jour (Dexter).

I also made sure my dog got her meds in the morning and evening–she’s on doxycycline for tick fever, and she was prescribed a shit-ton of pills (a whole month’s worth, so four a day!).

Why so much detail? Well, if I was drunk/hung over, my day would NOT have included anything related to self-care or care of others/animals. It would have resembled what is unfortunately familiar to all of you: in bed until 3 pm, feeling sick, confused, and panicky, looking through my texts and email to figure out what I might have done or said last night; finally heaving myself out of bed long enough to make ramen and tea, eat that, and then pathetically slump back into my bed, feeling still drunk. I might have gotten up by 5 or 6 pm, as the light was leaving the sky, to get some air, walking a short few blocks up and down the city streets, alone. I probably would have called my mother, and then it’d be about 8 pm. Since I have no dogs to take care of in this scenario (no plants either), no boyfriend to share anything with, and no story pitching to worry about–because I have no freelance business–I’d probably go out to the corner store, buy a bottle of red, and drink that down while binging on a random assortment of Netflix shows (Intervention, Breaking Bad, or Lost were some of my favorites when I was hung over–sad, in a way, except for Lost, which I never quite remembered because I was drunk). Of course, the red would be making me feel at ease, and mainly, helping me to forget my hangover, another wasted day, and the dreadful feeling that I am missing out on SO much.

It’s the little things…but I can’t tell you how they really do add up to one HUGE thing. Like, the fact that it’s just normal now for me, expected that I wake up before 10, to take care of my dogs, to give my girl her meds on time, every day. The fact that it’s a given that I’ll have the desire to prioritize yoga, meditation, and a spinach salad on my day off–and not wine wine wine wine wine. The fact that I have someone to share my day with–that I’m not afraid of intimacy anymore (I was terrified of it, and everything that came with it, when I was drinking–it’s one reason I drank, to both avoid it and hide from my fear of it). The fact that I’m able to talk to my neighbors, that I have an outlet for feeling alone–that I see that others need me as much as I need them, that this is how it works, building community from the inside out. I don’t have to walk around alone in a cold city; I get to do it with someone else, among trees and sun.

I get to choose all this, and I get to choose to approach it with a positive outlook (that often means just ignoring the negative thoughts, the stress, the anticipation of the worst). And, I am aware of all of this, and of how good all of it is, and of how much better it is with this choice. It doesn’t always feel good–I have doubts and anxiety all the time–but it is better, that’s the truth. I look back and think, I may not have known I was dependent on wine, but I knew (believed) that I didn’t have a choice–especially when it came to the negative self-talk about how much my life sucked/how much more I wanted out of life that I didn’t have, which inevitably led to me drinking my nights away, one by one. And then, entire weekends. And sometimes, entire weeks (toward the end, I spent a few ENTIRE WEEKS drunk around the clock=yikes).

So, yeah. I don’t want to overemphasize the negative, but this post is just to say, it creeps up on you, the GOOD, and the BETTER that everyone (at meetings) bangs on about when it comes to getting sober. Sure, you sober up–there are a lot of realities I am facing now, and most of the time, reality comes with fear (whether that reality is actually anxiety-producing outside of my overreacting mind, I am not sure). But, you also GET. You get a lot. And most of it is in small changes, incremental ones that build upon one another until one day you wake up and you’re like, OK, wow, so I might want that glass of red, but honestly, I really can’t see going back to giving up all this–I can see it now, I have it now–in exchange for the “buzz” of alcohol.

As Dan Savage says, it gets better. Sometimes, getting better doesn’t mean what we want/think it should mean, though. Getting better is more complex than just feeling better–isn’t that what we tried to do when we were drinking, feel better? We never GOT better, though.

And, I guess I’ll fix my counter to 365 days on March…18th?

I can work without wine!

17 Nov

1:04 pm

I’ve had a lot of thoughts lately, but I’m just checking in today. Still here, still plugging away. I had two big weeks the past few, and today will be a big day, and then five more big days–all work, no wine. And, I am doing it.

It’s been tiring, and I still have to figure out the work-life (I have none to speak of yet) balance, but I’m actually really proud to say that I have three pieces coming out, have made my bills for October and November, and am *hopefully* going to make my bills for December (working up some pitches now, and waiting on some editing work to come through). This freelance life is pretty stressful, I must admit, and the day I go back to a 9-to-5 will be the last day I ever complain about working a 9-to-5; but, yeah, I’m proud to say that I’m not only doing it–I am doing it sober.

Honestly, it’s taken me over a year–almost a year and a half–to get my motivation and concentration levels back to where I can work. Well, to where I can work without the “reward” that was so wired into my brain. I can work without the reward of wine, and I can rest and get ready to work again without the reward of wine. There were a few times this week when I was so nervous anticipating not only my first interviews in a while, but my first interviews about things like cloud computing and SSRIs, and my first editorial feedback from a major magazine (ouch); so nervous that I couldn’t eat and all I could think about was, Why can’t I have my wine? I NEED IT. But, they were just thoughts, and as I tossed them around, I realized that I have SO been down that road: all wine will do is take away everything I’ve worked the past 18 months to get back, including my motivation and focus. I can’t imagine having to go through that getting-back process again, it was so tedious and hard-won. Plus, um, waking up hung over is something I cannot imagine doing right now, with deadlines to meet and a schedule to maintain–I’m my own boss, no one is hounding me here. In fact, it’s like I’m walking down a straight path now, and I simply cannot veer off. I’m not sure if I’d be able to handle keeping up, mentally, with my pieces and such if I distracted myself even for a few hours with wine.

So, it’s been stressful, but the important thing is that I’m managing it, and that I’m doing it without the crutch of wine. I can always drink after these stories are done, right? Right. But, then there’ll be something else, like another pitch, the personal writing, the long-term commitment that involves staying focused on a book’s breadth of research. In fact, it seems to me that there will always be a good reason NOT to drink. Or, there will never be a good time to waste being drunk or hung over.

And, honestly, after years of drinking precisely because I didn’t have projects, or the courage to start OR follow through on these writing dreams of mine–those two ideas are relief, cool water, opening clouds, a big wide sky. God-send-type stuff. I get it. I really do. No, there will never be a good time to waste being drunk in my life again. Who knew that would be a comfort to me, rather than a sentence, or a diagnosis?

So, on to my work (yes, I took on a bit too much and now have to punch in this afternoon), and a renewed resolve to make it AT LEAST another few weeks (300 days, my next goal, is right around the corner, and then there’s 365…and, it goes on, and on, and on).

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