Tag Archives: contentment

Five years…and counting

15 Jun

3:37 pm

Five years ago yesterday, I got sober.  And, I started this blog.  And, my, I’ve come damn far from this first post (this is how I started the post):

I woke up today hung over.  And it’s going on oh, about 48 hours or so since I had my “last” drink and I still feel like ass.  My belly is swollen and my liver hurts, which, this morning makes it hard to fit into my interview clothes.  My pants are too tight and my underwire bra is pressed so tightly against my aching liver that it makes me cry.  So now I am crying and I’ve got less than 10 minutes to pull it together and all I can think is, Fuck, I wish to Jesus on the Cross that I hadn’t poured out the last third of that “last” bottle of red that I had stored in the fridge two nights ago when I binge drank.

And, five years later, my life has changed drastically.  I can’t even begin to write about how different my life is–how different *I* am–it’s that different.  And, I’ve written five years of blog posts covering all that awesome progress!  Suffice it to say, I am never hungover, I have paid off my student loan debt, I have gotten engaged, I have become a “successful” freelance journalist; I have gone on trips, volunteered abroad, become a barista.  All that, however, is the cosmetic byproduct of a deep, unwavering peace.

Yes, I feel negative emotions, and get confused about what direction to go in; but beyond and untouched by all that surface stuff is this, well, peace.  The big stuff stays in place.  I can think and plan and act coherently; I continue to work steadfastly toward my goals, even if I can only intuit what they might be in the long-term.  I sometimes focus on the negative (especially lately), but beneath that external chatter is a universe-sized body of water called *possibility*–into which I can deep dive because I am sober.  Only because and precisely because I am sober.  I can even see a life–a world, actually–beyond me, and my past, and my sobriety; and boy, is it endless with possibility.

Exhale, is my mantra these days.

All that being said, I haven’t been blogging much, and I haven’t been feeling that excited by my sobriety these days.  I’ve been re-reading my posts from years ago, and I’m left wondering, where have I gone?  Where has that girl gone?  That getting sober girl who was on freaking FIRE to be getting sober?  I guess it’s simply that we all grow, change, evolve, move on.  And, I can accept that, and I do.  It’s just…  I want some of that fire, and I want to know why it’s no longer infusing me!

Not to say that life isn’t full, and complicated, and grand–because and only because I  got sober, and wrote this blog, and made a new way of living for myself.  Life has become full, almost always a race to the finish.  My partner and I are in a transitional phase, meaning, we want to move but we’re just not sure where–where to go, what will it lead to, how we’ll fare in a new place and a different life.  We’ve been talking about it for years; I think we’re at the point that if we don’t make a change soon, we’re going to implode.  Pull the trigger, I say!

I’m tired of waiting, of wanting another life!  Yet, I also want to know what, exactly, I’m looking for, and why, exactly, this amazing life I’ve created here seems no longer enough.  Maybe I’ve just outgrown it?  Been there, done that.  I mean, it’s possible!  I’ve been living here for five years now.  While I want to continue to write about sobriety–there’s so much to mine–most of the time I just want to forge ahead on my work, and keep getting shit done.  And I do.  I just wonder where all the excitement has gone.

Frankly, I think it might be related to taking the pill.  I have never taken meds, and since I’ve been on these, I just feel…flat.  I feel nothing.  To the point where, I feel no “looking forward to” feeling, no “I can’t wait to do this” feeling.  I don’t dream–like, literally, I have no dreams.  It’s like, I can’t “see” my emotions, I can’t “see” my desire; it’s like, that part of my brain is off.  I can’t see it; it’s dark in there.  It makes it easy, I guess, to live on a day-to-day basis, because I have ZERO emotional ups and downs.  Except, the only feeling I seem to have, that I can touch, taste, smell; is anger.  And, that sucks.

Exhale.  Maybe all this angst is circumstantial:  maybe my corporate job has driven me insane because it feels SO irrelevant to me now, having been a journalist, having done freelance writing.  I wouldn’t mind leaving the corporate work for good, and becoming a barista full-time again, you know?  I can’t, though; after all this time, at 43 years old, I’m finally gaining some ground, financially.  I can’t let this go.

I don’t know what the next step is, which is a good thing, in a way.  Why?  Because ANY next step is the right next step!  So, I have decided to take a few weeks off and travel to a country I’ve never been, on a volunteer project I’ve never been a part of, alone.  I am hoping it’ll jump-start me–take me out of myself, and my situation; help me to figure out what’s going on.  Or, what the next steps might be.  I leave next week and come back after the holiday in July.

My life is awesome, I have to say; which is why all this internal angst is confusing.  How can I intellectually see how good I have it while also feel so…frustrated?  In any case, I am sober, and that is 99% of my life, and that 99% is simply awesome.  I would not trade the past five years of learning, and even this period of struggle, for anything.  I wouldn’t trade it for the brother who has written me off, the friends I no longer feel connected to, the big city career that I probably won’t (and don’t want to) regain.  I feel so blessed to have made it out alive!  I feel so blessed to have been given the gift of having to work on  myself, of being forced to change and grow and evolve.

Five years…and counting.  I can’t wait to see what the next five will bring.

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.

My drinking past: a reminder

15 Mar

1:05 pm

Not to go into it in too much detail–to protect you from wanting to strangle me, and to protect me from my head exploding–but I went through my drinking past the other day. Yes, again. I wrote out all the drinking shit/stuff/shenanigans/problems/troubles/shambles that occurred since 2007. Why 2007? I don’t know; a friend emailed me and was waxing nostalgic about our “amazingly fun” (my words, but hers were even loftier, as if she had forgotten the Hell that I would go through) drinking binges at this one bar we discovered that spring, which would become our “go-to” or “local.” And which is where, over the next few years, my worst drunken mishaps would happen.

And, that got me to going into my past again, and realizing after I had written it all down in a text file, how draining, how sad, how wasteful, but yet…how painfully instructive it all was. Mostly, I saw just how wending wine was in my life–threaded into every nook and cranny. It was not just a part of my life; it became a driving force, a mitigating factor. It was, in essence, what everything else revolved around, and worse, sort of determined how everything else went, or turned out, or happened. In my worst of moods, I think back and hate myself for not seeing it, and my family and friends for not only allowing themselves the luxury of denial but also, for letting it happen out of ego, or spite, or resentment. In my best, like I said, I take it as a painful, yet instructive, part of my past.

Now? I’m pretty damn relieved to have stopped drinking; stopped the madness; to be making my choices, steering my ship, with a sober mindset; which is to say, my choices and driving force is about my essence as a person, about what I want, about who I am, about who I really want to be, about who I really want to be with and what I really want to accomplish.

I’ll be turning 40 in June, and realistically, I have a good 30 years left to do shit. That shit better be well chosen, you know? I can’t afford to waste any more time–and spirit energy–on drinking; on wrapping my life around a rotten core. On making life choices based on how it will or will not affect my drinking, and vice versa!

I hate to say it, but now, I’m actually living my worst fear. Quitting drinking has allowed me to confront what I was running from, and professionally, I think my worst fear was writing–working as a freelance writer! Which is what I’m doing now. As I was lying in bed last night, I realized that it was/is my biggest fear. I drank to avoid writing and then I drank to forget that I was running from what I should be doing. And, while I often tell myself, Enough is enough, you should simply give up and do something else–this is what I have to do. At least for now. Which, in a big way, has kept me sober.

I tell myself things like, I won’t drink until I get a story published here; or, until I get a story pitch accepted via THIS route of query. (I’m a biologist at heart, so I can’t help but leave no stone unturned, meaning, no estimates, and no shortcuts…which is the God damned mentality that made (makes?) me want to drink, but hey, we can’t strip our core overnight.) So, until I do this, and do that (pitch here, write this, volunteer there), I can’t drink. And, this is basically the hardest, scariest thing I’ve ever done, in my own mind; so, if and when I get over this hump, maybe I’ll drink then. Maybe I’ll be able to afford the time spent and the money wasted getting drunk instead of working on my life. Not yet, though.

And, that’s been good enough. So far. Lately, though, that drinking past of mine has come up again, and in realizing so clearly how drinking LED my life–it wasn’t something to fill the time, a diversion, an afterthought, as I told myself for years–well, it makes me really, really, REALLY not want to go back there. I mean, I COULD drink, but man, I’ve already been through that wringer. I’ve tried it all before. I’ve done it from every fucking angle. And frankly, I think I hit bottom. I think this is what they mean. YES, I could get that buzz again, and I could then be like, Woo hoo, my life is back to normal…

…but, THIS is normal now. And, that buzz comes with not just a bad hangover the next day, or the sober day count being set back to zero, or a sense of “Oh, I can drink now” and the obsession slowly but SURELY coming back; but, that buzz also now comes with my entire drinking past. That huge text file of a million words covering all the drunks and hangovers, and scraps of a night out, shrapnel of people and places and things–it’s just not worth it. As my sense of denial has disappeared in the face of remembering more accurately, that buzz HAS BECOME not worth it. So very much not worth it.

It pains me to admit it, it really does. And, I know I will continue to struggle with the IDEA of drinking again, of it being fun and a release and a refuge; but really, that is the old myth of me. I am coming into the new myth, and starting to believe it. Was it always there, lurking in the shadow? Or, have I torn down the old statue, and there’s a hole waiting for the new one–which I am building, and will erect in its place soon? It’s like changing religions, coming to believe in a new myth; and it takes time. It takes moving a boulder, inside and out. But, you do it, and you come to understand that you can change myths, you can tell a new story to yourself about yourself, you can become new. You don’t have to live in the drinking past, but you can use it as a tool to build your new statue.

THREE MORE DAYS, people! Till I turn one. Woot woot! I am planning a little get-together (at a wine bar, no less–no worries, I will not be imbibing, it’s just a really cute little place with lots of ambiance), and…I feel really good about that. Like, a birthday party that you weren’t going to give two shits about and now that you’ve decided to celebrate YOU, you’re at peace with that and looking forward to it.

It’s the end of the world as we know it…and I feel fine. 🙂

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