Tag Archives: PAWS

No black-and-white thinking allowed

19 Jan

1:47 pm

Hi, friends! It’s been a week and that seems too long. And, I’ve had such a BUSY week–labor-intensive, I should say– that it’s been rough keeping my head in the sobriety game.

I must admit, I’ve been having the “fuck it’s” a little too often for my own comfort lately.

I just feel pulled. I mean, for one thing, I don’t have a secure income. Hello, that would drive anyone a bit mad. Second, I don’t have this burning desire to do, as I once had. It’s persistent. I thought it would be gone by now, almost a year since I had my last drink, but “the blahs” are hanging on.

I mean, it’s been almost a year, but I’ll admit, I still go through most of my day just doing things because I have to. Maybe I did that before, maybe we all do it to survive. I don’t know, I’m confused and having a hard time figuring out where “sober me” ends and “me me” begins. Like, the other day, I did a shit-ton of stuff–a job interview, wrote a piece for publication, and went to a party and chatted everyone up while sober. And I came home with barely a memory of any of it. It was like I was in a mini-blackout. Now, with all my science-y reading, I’ve come to understand that forming memories that stick requires feeling–like, you form much stronger memories if your emotional brain is involved, which is why, heya, our emotions are so wrapped up in our addictions, and vice versa. I don’t know if I’m burnt out (freelancing takes so many things out of your control) or simply dealing with a lack of dopamine due to getting sober. I feel like I could take or leave most everything–work, eating, play. It’s all the same to me. It’s weird to try to explain it, but it’s like, I feel very little/numb/nothing, so I have to rationally engage my brain to make me want to do things. And I do them, and I like it, but… It’s weird. It’s sort of scaring me a bit, because I do realize that I’m operating on will and I know how testy will can be.

All that aside, I feel OK, fine, whatever, I’m not complaining about having sun, and water, and work, and basically, a lot of free time to construct any kind of life I want (as long as I make my rent, that is). I’ve realized that taking breaks–like, totally shutting down the information flow–is absolutely essential to me being able to breathe and say, OK, drinking would NOT help here. That means, no email, no Facebook, no news, no music, and most certainly, minimizing other people because other people means me having to take in their stories, and their feelings, and their problems–and it’s not that I don’t want to, I just can’t right now. I feel like I might implode. And, this all makes me feel desperate inside, and like I want/need to drink to shut it off. As Jen so well put it in a blog post:

Drinking is a way of controlling reality when everything else feels out of control. That’s where the ‘fuck it’s’ come in. Fuck it, everything is hard, might as well drink. Fuck it, I can’t change anything, might as well drink. Fuck it, I am not happy, might as well drink.

This past week, it’s hit home again: I use a LOT of black-and-white thinking. Black-and-white thinking is so tricky, and you don’t realize you’re doing it, but it raises your anxiety to the point where you want to say, Fuck it, and let yourself drink, whether it’s at your problem or because of your problem. For instance: I find a story idea, I pitch it, and an editor rejects it. I could either think, Well, that publication didn’t want it so the story’s dead…and, also, I suck at this and I should probably find another line of work; and then, Shit, how am I going to pay my bills if I suck; and while I’m at it, I also seem to suck at x, y, and z, too, and so, Why am I even here, why bother being alive? You see how it goes. Alternately, I could think (like “normal” people do?), Well, that publication didn’t want it, so, let’s see if another one does. I think the story idea is good, I’m sticking to my guns, and I just have to have patience, dampen the anxiety over money with simple trust in my own talents, and ramp up the aggressive side that says, Go get ’em, tiger.

This all leads me to the second big “thing” I’ve realized this week: I am performing all the time, mainly because I don’t think what I have is what people want. In work, in play, at parties, in relationships, I can see now that the common theme throughout my life has been trying hard to be something for others that I thought they wanted. I never once considered that it didn’t matter what they were thinking or wanting. Now, I’m trying to undo that, and getting sober has allowed me to see, for the first time in some cases, that it Just Doesn’t Matter. And, that I Just Don’t Care. And, that this is essential to staying sober, to healing, for me anyway. Going to parties sober is so much easier now because I can see how drinking is, for many people, a way to please others. It shows me that other people are struggling with this desire to please, which is a desire to hide your “real” self, I guess. It’s a way to perform your way out of being authentic; and being authentic requires something along the lines of not giving a rat’s ass–in a good way. I’m working on that, and it’s supremely liberating, even more than the absence of craving, which for the most part I have these days.

However, I have been having the “fuck it’s” lately, and sometimes I want to smoke a cigarette. I don’t like smoking, but lately, I’ve almost lit up a few times out of desperation! To cast order, to soothe, to activate my mind–I don’t even know what I’m looking for in these moments. I wonder if an SSRI might be good for me; I often feel a palpable absence of motivation. But, where does “sober me” end and “me me” begin? Should I just keep waiting to recalibrate? I’ve always felt a fire in my head, and now I wonder, was it fueled by wine this whole time, and a continuing surge of dopamine? I’d have to say no, because I do remember how passionate and driven I was in my teens and college years, before I started drinking. Yet, that was 20 years ago–could it be an age-driven sense of “meh, been there, done that”?

So, I wait. I’m waiting. Which I can do. And, this is sobriety. I can tell you this, though: I have ZERO desire to go back there, to be those drinking people at the party, some beholden to the bottle, others pulled by it, a few enslaved to it. But all–ALL–trapped into performing their lives, their selves, instead of simply being and doing. I might be feeling flat, but I definitely am feeling FREEer than ever when it comes to not having to perform in my own life anymore. Sure, I might come across as disinterested or even bitchy or uncaring, but you know what, maybe I am. I’ve come to accept that YES, it’s OK to displease others; it’s OK if other people don’t like or get or get off on you–it’s not your responsibility. And isn’t that great? In the sense that, if I am disinterested and I don’t hide that from myself–or from you–I’m on the fast track to finding what really interests me, what I’m really passionate about, what I feel safe expressing my excitement for. I’m being me, and that’s a gift, to you. Getting sober has taught me that this is a good thing, and I am using this as a kind of mini-life raft right now, until a solid shoreline comes into focus.

I hope everyone is doing well, and taking breaks, and having treats. And turning it off when you must, and not giving a rat’s ass! 🙂

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Fizzling out

11 Jan

7:58 pm

I just wanted to check in and thank everyone, firstly, for all the great comments to last week’s post on PAWS.

And, well, not to write a long post about it, but to say, I’m fizzling. Fizzled. It’s been a long past two weeks, and will be a much longer next few. This freelance writing stuff is the most labor-intensive thing I’ve done, mainly because of two things: 1. the world we live in doesn’t seem to value contextualized written pieces (unless they’re of course, shit like “Fifty Shades of…the Worst Writing in the World”), and 2. I have to juggle so many other balls in the air to keep my income coming in during the down-time/story pitch void (or, shall I say vortex, because often, that’s what it feels like). I spent all day today setting up an exchange between a yoga teacher and myself: I help her run her studio, she lets me take yoga for free. GREAT deal, and I’m pumped. I thought that this could be a paying gig, but it turned out to be better for both of us to just do an exchange. Still, I need to pay my bills, so I guess I’ll be looking at some other stuff in the “random job search” files next week.

I’m good, though. Aside for the sound of some dog barking incessantly from a distant hillside, nothing much is annoying, saddening, or triggering me. I feel relatively “up.” And, I know not to expect the “high high,” or the buzz, or the occasional “escape” into the ether that comes with a glass (bottle or two) of wine, but… Eh. I just feel “eh” a lot these days. I finally got my work mojo back, and it’s getting easy again to socialize and do business with strangers, but, it’s sort of…boring. I thought I’d get a MUCH bigger kick out of Accomplishing My Work Goals (in all caps, because it’s been SO freaking important to me to get to this point, being able to work AND be sober). Like, it became such a big deal to me, and now that I’ve come back and have realized that it’s SO not that big of a deal–everyone works–and that I’ve SO done this before; it feels too easy and not as rewarding as I would have hoped.

I guess I’m still looking for that buzz, whether it comes from an intellectual accomplishment or a glass (bottle or two) of wine. Maybe I’ve simply plateaued; maybe I might be here for a while; maybe I’m tempted to drink when my brain goes quiet because nothing is too bad anymore? I don’t dislike the plateau, and it sure beats the ditch where I was. It’s just…flat. And, I want to scream at myself, Uh, yeah, isn’t it NICE?! I want to yell, Isn’t it fan-fucking-tastic that there are no hills to climb–or cliffs to fall off of?!

Yes, it is nice, I quietly reply to that mean bitch (yes, DDG, you can be one mean bitch, just like your friend, Wolfie-boy). YES, it’s nice to be able to have productive day after day after day, with no unnecessary obstacles–like a pounding hangover or dreadful anxiety about what you might have said or done the night before–in the way. It’s SO nice. It’s SO good. Yet…I feel like I want to shake it up, come back to “myself,” mess up the rug a little.

Then I think, OK, I can mess up the rug a little, sure. But not until AFTER I get this, that, and the other done. And, those things are really important to me, so I can’t break my mental momentum just yet (ever). I can’t think about drinking AND get my shit done anymore. It’s like, I can’t circle back right now, it’s too distracting–and scary. I don’t want to lose time, to lose motivation, to lose the thread of my new life. It might happen if I drink; worse, it might happen even if I give myself the option to drink! I’m still too brain-less, in a way, to be able to live two lives, like I was doing for such a long time–how did I manage? Uh, I didn’t.

And, so it goes. I have come to appreciate the productivity in exchange for not drinking. Mostly, I have come to rely on this sense of focus, this recovered ability to actually make long-term plans and act on them. When you’re drinking, or even thinking about drinking, this seems to be at the least, compromised, and at the most, completely disabled.

Anyway, this wasn’t supposed to be a long post! See you tomorrow, when I finally reach 300 days! 🙂

Into every life a little PAWS will fall

5 Jan

12:29 pm

I was going to post on something that I mentioned to Lilly the other day–how we have to remember that we’re addicted not just to booze, but to the “idea” of what booze gives us, does for us, makes us; and how we have to grieve the person we “lost”–but instead, I’d just like to keep it simple: PAWS sucks.

According to the “illustrious” Wikipedia, the symptoms of PAWS–post-acute-withdrawal syndrome–include mood swings resembling an affective disorder, anhedonia (the inability to feel pleasure from anything beyond use of the drug), insomnia, extreme drug craving and obsession, anxiety and panic attacks, depression, suicidal ideation and suicide and general cognitive impairment. These can last from a year to several decades, or indefinitely. YIKES.

I highlighted the ones that have affected me the most, and I think we can all agree: once we stop drinking, it doesn’t necessarily do jack shit for us. In fact, for me it meant seeing myself succumb to a lack of motivation that I blamed on my inherent nature, when really, it was just me coming off booze. That goes for my ongoing mood swings and depression, too.

I felt frustrated A LOT. Up until about a few months ago, actually. I mean, we stop drinking, and we’re supposed to feel great and happy and lovely, right? And yet…we feel WORSE sometimes (most of the time). We not only feel the depression or anxiety that we’ve been self-medicating away, but PAWS brings its own special form of hell. And, until we have medications to help us out with PAWS symptoms, we simply have to go through it in order to be able to look back and say, Ahh, so that’s what they were talking about. FUCK.

My main symptom has been lack of motivation. A feeling of “meh,” or “blah,” or “why bother?” surrounding basically everything–eating, reading, watching movies; working, hiking; going to bars and picnics and barbeques. It wasn’t that I didn’t have fun doing these things, or that they were so bad to do sober; it’s just that I totally noticed how much I MISSED wine and how most things just didn’t offer much reward for doing them without it. Wine was a serious motivating factor; it was also my main reward.

In learning more about how our reward circuitry gets fucked up when we come to depend on booze, it’s not hard to see how nothing but wine would motivate me. Our brains become sensitized to alcohol. What does this mean? It means that, other rewards–incentives, like eating good food or having an orgasm; or higher-level rewards, like a future job done well, or a big professional goal accomplished–other rewards lose meaning. They hold no weight, in fact. It’s like, the ONLY thing that’s going to do it for me, and by that I mean, instill in my brain a DESIRE to do something, is wine. Forget that it may or may not give me pleasure. What’s happened is that your dopamine circuits (among others that make wine the “high” that it is) have become attuned to this one stimulus–your only motivating factor becomes wine. Otherwise, there literally is no reason, in your mind, to do it.

Now, I’ve blogged about this before, but I’ve seen a lot of people on here lately complaining that they’re feeling depressed, or unmotivated, that they’re just going through the motions and really, wasn’t quitting drinking supposed to have the opposite effect? And, all I can say is, it takes time. YOU HAVE TO GIVE IT TIME. You have to live through the “blah” period. For me, that lasted for a good 1.5 years. I’m sorry, but it’s the truth. My innate motivation–you know, how I used to “get pumped” to work out, to job search, to plan a trip to Greece…because these things are inherently worthy of doing–took some time to return.

I journaled a lot. I felt sorry for myself a lot. But, I also just went through the motions, and there’s a LOT to be said for just doing what needs to be done. I made a lot of to-do lists, and then, finally stopped berating myself for not getting to much of what was on my list. I just didn’t drink. Sometimes I’d go to bed early; a lot of times I did only what needed to be done in terms of work (I didn’t make very much money last year–haha); I bitched to my boyfriend; I took long walks with my dogs (they are my “higher power,” I swear); I ate a lot of sweets; I drank a shit-ton of Diet Coke. There were treats in the form of trips and hikes and lazy days on the beach–which were sometimes (often) clouded by me feeling bad or guilty about taking time off to heal, or not being capable of enjoying the moment. It just takes time, and constant effort. But, mostly, it just takes doing it, and going through the motions. Believe me, you will NOT be going through the motions forever, even though you’re convinced that things will never feel good again and you might as well drink because there is NO WAY you’re not drinking and putting up with this shit forever.

It’s like a really bad breakup: one day, you’ll just move on. One day, you’ll wake up and the gut-ache will have dissipated, poof, gone. One day, you’ll be like, Oh, well, he was a fucking asshole anyway. One day, you’ll say, Huh, I think I’m gonna wear some lipstick today, and maybe even some short shorts. HA.

Your motivation–spark, enthusiasm, desire to do, and to go, and to achieve–will come back. But it’s going to take time, healing time. It wasn’t until I gave myself a SOLID 7, 8, 9 months (and this was AFTER a solid 2, and then, 6 months first-tries at getting sober) that I started to see my thinking change. To feel butterflies again. YES, I’d actually feel butterflies once in a while (when was the last time I felt butterflies, in the ’90s?) thinking about the trip I was going to take, the book I was going to write, the new job I was going to apply for and work.

I’m still just starting to come back, but I am coming back. I have found myself having more random man-on-street conversations, being open to socializing; applying for jobs and not feeling like I can’t do them (that was scary, having so little self-confidence when it came to work, which was always “my thing”); in general, feeling at ease in my own skin again. Thinking back, I wonder, why did I make it so hard? Why was I just so…weird all the time? Not “myself?” Literally beside myself? Because getting sober–and PAWS–sucks, that’s why. But, it’s not going to suck all the time, and it’s definitely not going to suck forever. And, you will get through this. You have to. If you keep not drinking!

Consider this: what IF you healed your mind, and you could drink again? What IF you healed your mind and you simply did not WANT to drink again? These are very real possibilities. And, you can even use them as motivation to not drink–IT’S OK. Don’t let other people’s personal experiences in getting sober bog you down: your path is your own, and what you CHOOSE to do after a period of abstinence WHICH ALLOWS YOU TO FULLY HEAL, MENTALLY AND EMOTIONALLY, is up to you. But first you have to heal. And you have to see how this might work, the longer you go without your “go-to” (wine, in my case).

I’ve got a story/essay to outline, and job to apply to, and then, “me” time! And that always involves trees, sun, water, and exercise! Happy Sunday, all. (And, I’m inching toward 300 days come next Sunday–woo hoo, I guess.)

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).

Stress, writer’s block, and Wellbutrin, oh, my!

12 Aug

11:58 pm

On a positive note, first: tonight I had both pizza AND cake. Yay! Yay, cake! With homemade buttercream frosting! (Nope, it never gets old.)

So, that dip? The one that started about 10 days ago? Welp, it’s still here. I’m still dippin’.

I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but I think this community can handle my sad, sorry rants by now! And, I DID have fun tonight, and I DO sort of just take this all in stride. But man, the days have felt long, hard, and…extremely agitating.

After some pondering lately of my past, I think I may have had an at least notable chemical imbalance for most of my life, which was exacerbated by abusing wine. These days, I just can’t seem to shake the foggy brain, and I’m wondering if this was basically my base state and I used wine all along–about 15 years–to “fix” it. I feel like sobriety has sort of killed my fire. I NEED that fire, you know? It’s not that I want to drink wine; it’s more like I want to inject it directly into my brain.

I don’t feel very motivated. At the very least, I feel (much?) less motivated than I used to, before I quit drinking. Days like today, when the brain fog takes hold, it’s hard to find any motivation at all! The things I do do, I find myself doing more out of necessity than any true sense of pleasure or reward. Maybe this sense of authentic pleasure or reward is so unfamiliar to me that I don’t recognize it when I see it? Keep your eye on the prize, I keep telling myself. Yet, I’ve been waiting, and waiting, and waiting…for the other shoe to drop–where the hell are my pink clouds? Sobriety just feels flat. Worse is, *I* feel flat.

I’ve been figuring, I can either go on an antidepressant (Wellbutrin sounds exactly like what my brain needs, a “dopaminergic” jump start), or I can go back to drinking. (Or, of course, I can wait it out and muscle through, which is 99.5 percent likely what I will do. Why the black-and-white thinking, I’m not sure; it just seems like after all, there’s not that many more choices in terms of immediate solutions…) It’s more bitter than sweet to realize that I probably drank (and did a lot of other self-soothing behavior) not just to self-medicate normal negative feelings but to self-medicate abnormal brain chemistry.

It’s no secret that a LOT of people self-medicate trauma with drugs and alcohol. For some reason, I tend to dismiss my past as irrelevant to my current place, as if it was totally my fault. My past, I’ve come to see, definitely predisposed me to addiction: recurrent stress in the form of childhood emotional trauma. I don’t remember a time when my parents weren’t angry or sad or upset; I remember the yelling, and crying. I remember trying so hard to please, putting my introverted self out there in plays, musical competitions, dance recitals; succeeding in all of it but being so emotionally taxed in the process. (I hated performing so much that after almost a decade of playing piano, and performing, it took me almost another decade to pick it up again. Sadly, I never play musical instruments in front of people, and I think my past has something to do with it!) Onto college, with more overachieving and ridiculous striving. (Who gives themselves a literal semester of recurrent heart palpitations? Someone taking a heavy pre-med courseload and getting 4 hours of sleep a night, that’s who!) I probably messed things up way more than I can understand by being a binge eater for several years during my late teens and early 20s, too.

Stress (especially as a kid) causes your body to make all sorts of adjustments, and you end up both more sensitive to it (lower amounts of stress can now cause a greater response) as well as being unable to produce normal amounts of dopamine (and probably others, like noradrenaline, which is what Wellbutrin works on improving). You–well, I–end up being always in deficit, feeling a lack.

I drank to feel better, plain and simple. Could it be as easy as finally getting the meds I need to fix my dopamine depletion, let’s just call it? And, even if I didn’t start out this way, and drinking caused me to mess up those circuits, wouldn’t I be justified even more in getting a prescription for meds?

I must admit, I fear the side effects. Every time I’ve taken a pill, I’ve gone crazy. Xanax is not my friend. Vicodin is not my friend. Chloroquine is DEFINITELY not my friend. All the side effects of Wellbutrin sound…horrifying. And, believe me, those “rare” ones DO occur, and it’s not a fun trip.

Has it really come to this? Wellbutrin versus red wine? I’ve had ONE bottle of wine on ONE night in almost a year. I don’t know if this is going to “right” itself. How much longer should I wait? In sobriety, I feel less motivated and less able to find motivation to work the way I once did. I can’t focus, and this is a problem. I’m at the point where I really need to find that mental oomph, otherwise I’m going to have to change professions and call it a fucking day.

That’s what’s been up over here. It’s not a fun post, but I know that I won’t drink. Maybe it’s just a gnarly case of writer’s block?

Have a great night, all. Tomorrow is another day…to hope it gets better and a firework goes off inside my head. (A girl can dream, right?)

Not PAWS, but maybe PTSD?

16 Jan

3:16 pm

Well, you guys have got me thinking again–so, of course, I have to follow up on my last post.

Lately, I’ve been feeling burnt out by the littlest of things, the slightest pressures, the shortest to-do lists. Or, maybe the to-do lists aren’t that short, but my energy definitely does not match my ambition. I no longer seem to have the get-up-and-go that I used to when I was drinking. Or, rather, the go-go-go, and chase-chase-chase.

I think I was simply running on fumes when I was on The Wine. Like, my adrenaline was constantly up, and my immune system was running on overdrive–no wonder I could do and go and stay up and drink, and it seemed like I felt much more alive than I do now. Or, was I just wired? Actually, I was probably a nervous wreck, and my body was about to go from saying “Hello, we can’t keep you amped up like you’re escaping from a pack of hyenas much longer!” to “We quit, bitch!”.

The more I think about it, the more I don’t really buy PAWS, or, post-acute-withdrawal syndrome. The main issue I have, after having quit drinkin’, is getting used to not being fueled by the anticipation of getting drunk. I have to say, it is still a struggle for me to not feel anxious, sometimes panicky, and often sad whenever I realize (daily, still sometimes more than once a day) that I can’t get buzzed. I used wine as a motivating factor for so long (i.e., If I can get through this day, then I can have wine), as a way to combat the stress and fatiguing aspects of my life. Now that it’s not even an option, what is my go-to source of strength? What becomes my motivating factor? I mean, at this point, I don’t NEED to work full-time and/or compete and achieve in the “real world;” I sort of dread the day I have to go back to that shit. What I’ve come to understand is that while there are plenty of people who use substances to propel them on their career paths, I cannot–and don’t want–to be one of them anymore.

And, while I know about most of the physical damage I’ve caused to my body, I cringe–stricken, to an extent, as if I have a mild case of PTSD–at some of the things I’ve done and lived through while blacked out drunk. Waking up in bed with a stranger? Spending entire evenings out, with only fleeting glimpses of what I might have said or where I might have gone? Cursing out strangers (or friends, or bartenders) on every other street corner on the LES? Getting into a fight, being shoved, and breaking my arm as I crashed my shoulder onto the sidewalk? And then, passing out and having to deal with it the next day, so hung over (and in such excruciating pain) I could barely keep my eyes open as I stumbled from ER to ER, trying to find one where the line wasn’t hours long? Spending nights (on more than one occasion) in jail, alternately screaming belligerently at the cops through my blackout and curled up in the fetal position as I waited for my court papers to come through; communing for days with 20 other women over a non-working toilet, rotten cheese sandwiches and sour milk, and gymnastics mats that served as our “beds” in a 40-degree holding cell? YIKES. I could go on and on.

Moving back to [cold west coast city], pining for a romantic relationship, for friendships, for an old self–all of which had been thoroughly extinguished years earlier (and, if they hadn’t, DEFINITELY flitted out to a mass of dank coals during the ensuing 18 months that I continued living there)? Drinking entire weekends away, so that my first encounter with daylight was at 3 pm on a Sunday, when I would walk to the Safeway to get more wine? Drinking several times for entire weeks at a clip: commuting while drunk, working while drunk, passing out in my cube while drunk? Drinking to obliterate my nerves at having to go back to work the next day, not sure what my coworkers heard or saw, not sure how the shuttle driver deposited me at the train station because I had blacked out hours before leaving work and don’t remember anything of the commute home? I could go on. And on and on and on.

Post-traumatic stress disorder? Yup, I think I got it.

But you know what? I’m through it, on the other side, and I feel great! Stronger, calmer, and much more capable of taking care of myself. I obviously was taking my anger out on the wrong people, including me, but, that’s behind me now. I am onto a better–and very different–way.

And, all this is to simply illustrate that yes, these things can depress and/or overwhelm, but we get past them, forgive and forget for our own sakes, and deal with the memories of how they made us feel. Slowly, but surely. And in our own time and graces.

All in due time, I keep telling myself. All in due time…

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