Month 8

Month 8 has come and gone. Previous months seemed to take longer to get here; seems like just 2 days ago I was saying “7 Months”. How can time fly by when I’m dragging my feet around all the time, feeling like I’m scraping by on dust.

I’m definitely noticing “the food thing” – it’s very clear now, and I don’t like it at all. One of my first coping mechanisms was shoveling food now my neck, as in my house food was the only thing that seemed to stop the sadness, the depression, the arguments, the shouting and terror, the total dysfunction. There were definitely many tense and abusive dinners or occasions linked to food outside the home and many nights I could barely swallow without silently choking, due to the poorly prepared from depressing ingredients food itself and the thick silence and pervading at times unspoken anger in the room. Any sound would make us jump in our chairs and put our eyes back to our plates, counting the seconds until we could move on to the next thing. Though the next thing was often homework upstairs, homework that I so often did not understand and the pages of my textbooks would swim before my eyes in my sheer panic. But at least I was not still sitting at that table in that frigid room with the inappropriate for the climate tile floor, next to the bulk that could strike out at any moment or across from the other bulk that would drag her foot down my shin if I laughed or talked too much on the wrong day. At least I did not have to try to stiffle myself or entertain, based on the current needs of others.

Yet somehow, I always equated eating a lot with strength, maturity, “doing it real and right”. I would sneer at people who were picky eaters or left food on their plates and said they were full. I still do. Maybe that will never change. But I know now that people are allowed to make statements about their eating habits, make choices. They don’t at all need the food to make the choices for them or the other people in the room to bully them one way or another. I do not believe that people should eat animal products and looking back as I have been doing over these last many months, I see indications where I never did believe they should. I won’t go on about any of that right now.

I don’t feel here at 8 months that I have any more figured out than on Day 1. Maybe it was all there all along, so there’s no real “ah-a” moments. There are more subtle ones though surely, that have been popping up along the way.

I’m still sitting here with the same questions I’ve had for as long as I remember: where should I move to? Should I stay? What should I do?

And the answers seem hidden under a gray blanket, one that I cannot lift or even peer under the corner of.

But I can say that the voice of “should I have wine?” and “what’s the difference anyways” have dialed down a bit. I know that there’s no fun in drinking, there just isn’t. No more than there’s any fun in eating a whole french breach loaf smeared with Myokos vegan butter, while standing at the stove and cooking greens, listening to the Unruffled Podcast. That sounds fun right? I would be all for that. This happened yesterday, or I should say “I did that” not that “it happened”. The whole time though, I was thinking that I shouldn’t be doing that, that I so so so did not want to gain anymore weight, that I was scared, aware that I was pushing it down, pushing it down, pushing it down. I spat out the last bite into the trash and guiltily, sadly, threw away the bits of remaining spread and cleaned up the millions of crumbs that I’d produced in my compulsive bread sawing, over and over.

Later I would make vegan cookies and have 4, then another 4, all in conveyor belt-like fashion, just one after the next after the next. Then a roll-up and a whole bag of cauliflower puff snacks, then a grapefruit, then 5 mini-sleeves of Ritz. 4 Seltzers, hummus, kale…consuming….stuffing….totally irritated and disgusted, I finally got myself to go for a walk at the ocean, where I stomped around trying to avoid all eye contact. Luckily I got to a section where there were no observers and I could listen to the birds, starting to come back, trying to make a new year for themselves. I could listen to the ocean and actually hear it above the humming negativity yelling into my forehead. I could smell the sea and look all around, into the secret silent except for the rustling of the air, shadowy places that live under benches and between stone walls, where the leaves pile up at the end. Stone figures poked out previously unseen from behind thorny bushes of sticks.

And I could count a few breaths and a few steps. And finally feel at ease.

 

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The Wall

Your mind starts to skim through the options…not giving a shit, giving a shit, moderating, drinking only on weekends, drinking only beer, only wine, only gluten free anything…

Some days are hits. Some nights are misses. Some are the worst sweating begging terrified end of the line panic attacks lasting for 18 hours. Some are sitting in the sunshine with a full glass, a migraine by 3 pm. Hunger.

Crying, vomiting, praying, begging, all the pain, all the laughing, all the slurring, all the feelings of being unsafe, unsafe for yourself, unsafe around others, all the realizations that it “wasn’t really you” for those 6 hours in the bar, all the knowing you won’t be able to not do the same thing next time. You have no control, you give it away again and again. And the voice comes back, again and again.

You’ve gone back to the house you used to live in, the one where you made 1000 mistakes. The angry man comes in a rush of palpable negativity, yelling at you to get the hell out of his house, that you don’t belong there, his face contorted in disgust, fury, detachment. You say you are just getting a few things, you are scared but your voice stays calm. You are accustomed to trying to seem calm, like everything is ok, so that he will feel ok. And why do you keep going back to that house? Forget the house. Forget the things.

The man yells in your face, then immediately demands that you do not leave without spending time with him. Says not to even think of leaving without seeing him some more. You give in and say you will, though you know it’s a dreadful idea, one that will only lead to a further loss of self. Why are you trying to appease this terrible man? The man walks out of the room.

You gather the things. You reflect on this terrible man. You realize that you are the terrible man.

And that you keep going back to be with him. And that you keep trying to soothe his ego. And that is he is what it’s like to be around you when you’re like that. You’re horrified.

That is what you are like.

The wind blows…. the trees are bare.

You cannot keep going back to this house.

You leave the house and run. 1000 mistakes become farther and farther away. And yet the man, the voice pages you and you find yourself returning the call. You drop that phone in horror, it dangles on the cord in side the booth, line dead, but the voice still comes through.

Run again. Look back over your shoulder, then turn forward again, just in time to see the giant gray wall that has appeared, right in front of you. Not two steps away and there is no more time, no more ground to cover within the land inside the wall.

You hit that wall, scrambling left and right, desperately flailing arms up , trying to reach over the top, there are no hand holds. A light appears behind you, casting a shadow of your own flailing limbs onto the wall, the shadow looks like a stretched out marionette.

A new voice says something softly, indistinguishable, it seems to be coming from the light. You recognize the voice a little, it sounds like a voice you used to hear and to listen to.

The voice reminds you of the dark shadows in the snowy woods, on a parched radiant winter day, blue sky spreading wide, under the pine trees whose branches hung heavy and low from all the snow covering them. You would hide under there cushioned by the drifts and lay down flat.

In the hushed snow fairy world, outside of the tiny raspy patter of snow drops, only the occasional chickadee songs reached within. You could have stayed there.

But now you are here. But at least you’re no longer in the house of 1000 mistakes, making 1000 more. You hope.

You turn around, back pressed onto the cold bulk behind you, squint into the beam, hand half over your eyes.

 

 

Desperately sought

The desperation I used to feel over “having a good time, a GREAT time” while I was drinking has returned to my thoughts over and over these past few years. I was seemingly eternally seeking this amazing time, that when I go back over the events, never actually transpired. The times I actually did pull off having “a good time”, the fun part was not the drinking part and vice versa. The fun part was the laughing, the dancing, the drives listening to music, the sunshine, the conversations, the environment (typically vacation or ocean), the artwork I used to do, the shared labors under the theater stage.

But I never failed to think this time would be awesome. This time would get me “there” – this place that seemed always out of reach, just at the edge of my fingertips and moved as I moved, if only I were more/less _____ I could reach it, grab it, hold it close and learn what it was made of so I could do it every time. Guess what? I was never able to reach it. And the feeling of failure, missing out, expanded…bloomed…..fungus…..

I think the “feeling of missing out”, the FOMO, is inherent in the drinking itself. It does not spring into action when we quick the drinking – the drinking is the home base for FOMO, the fertile dirt that it sprouts from. And the only way out of FOMO – the relentless bully that now lives in the mind – is to stop drinking and discontinue its use. That sounds steril, unfun, medical, boring, like a pamphlet at the doctor’s office.

Here’s another way: it only feels like the dreaded FOMO is nascent now that we quit because we are seeing other people in the midst of their own alcohol use and we are projecting their feelings surrounding it onto ourselves. (Add that to the fact that most people are seen initially or posting for pictures at the START of their evenings. When they are still fully upright, wearing all of their clothing and posing in the requisite: one -arm- on- hip- akimbo- with- make-up- still- up- around- the- appropriate- facial- features).

The echos of alcohol induced FOMO, that were born into us, by OUR OWN alcohol use is returned to us again and again. We are remembering our own FOMO from those times. The longer we spend away from active creation of FOMO (ie: drinking) the softer those echos will become. It’s all just a memory, it is not a thing of the present.

I’m not sitting here (unfortunately) on this pulpit of “hey guess what guys? I’ve figured it all out and it’s clear as day. Wow.” No. I am sitting here struggling. Down and beaten by this bullying winter and by my own shitty thoughts that never seem to abate. My own reactiveness, my own dysfunction, drama, depression, anxiety, negativity. So I was mildly considering – was I really more fun when I was drinking? And I started to flick through my mental memories and I can say no, I was not “more fun” while drinking. I was always just trying to have fun.

I remember all the times getting drunk in my various apartments and room rentals alone. Many times at one point, I remember drinking SoCo compulsively and smoking endless cigarettes while trying to dance in my kitchen, one winter around 24 years old. I made myself sick many times because I also felt that I’d eaten too much beforehand and was always terrified of getting fat. I kept drinking though and smoking because I thought I could reach the fun at some point soon that night. Like so, my god, so many nights before and after, hundreds upon hundreds, I ended up passing out destroyed, lonely, desperate, depressed and bloated and waking up to another mess.

When I think of a way to describe a fun time, I would not think of the words above and it’s horrifying how long I tried to work through this reality.

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Here. Today.

Say an occasion presented itself, where people were drinking and someone who didn’t know me offered me a drink and I hesitated. Let’s imagine I hesitated. Let’s imagine I was not prepared at that moment, that I was thinking about other things, like the food or the music or the people or the parking or my hair or my husband. I would like to believe I would not hesitate. To not hesitate but to simply be mentally set-up beforehand would be ideal, as I know myself and am busy BEING myself as well. But who knows, maybe someday it would happen again that I hesitated, then the thinking would start. Well, just what would I be thinking?

I know that alcohol is a total lie.

And I would do this mental walk through.

  • I would remind myself things like – that I wouldn’t have a chance to not be forever depressed if I started drinking again.
  •  That I would be bullshitting my workouts (which are high on my list of values) if I drank again.
  •  That I would be a farce in my meditations.
  • That I would be again in the grips of a drug if I started again. I would lose my freedom.
    One of my biggest regrets in life was becoming a drinker (during a bad relationship) and consequently keeping myself stuck. I tried for 17 years to keep alcohol in my life in one way or another, for one reason or another and it never went well, not ever.

These are the things I remind myself of.

  • And I never EVER felt as good drinking as I have doing non drinking things. Never laughed as hard, never felt as bright. And that’s not the pink cloud talking.
    So yeah I walk myself through to the next morning, all the possibilities, and then have a seltzer with lime or a cool mocktail and it’s done and the next morning comes and I’m off again into my life as best as I can.

Me drinking is not the best I can do.

 

  • And I would remind myself of all the things I used to believe, but that did not stand up over time or over use.
  • I used to believe that drinking was part of being an adult; I used to believe that I could never imagine my life without smoking cigarettes; I used to believe that sober people were boring and stodgy; I used to believe that vegans didn’t get enough protein; I used to believe that I would be more interesting if I were totally different than who I really was; I used to believe that I had to prove to people that I was worthwhile, never believing it myself; I used to believe that love was enough to maintain a relationship; I used to believe I had to be accepted in order to be acceptable….

And here I am. Now. Today.

Goalz

As I have many times before on this blog, I strongly recommend Lee Davy’s work. His podcasts under the Truth about Alcohol or Needy Helper are KEY for me. I also really recommend his 3 month course for alcohol, it was very valuable and helped me big time through the last 3 months. It is very reasonably priced for the support and information and work included, without Lee I don’t know if I would be here writing this today: Truth about Alcohol course

I believe I have the fundamentals in place, finally and am living from a much more stable balanced life within myself.

Primary choices:

I find that everything I want in life, these things are less tangible at this point, after so many years of thinking it’s a particular job or place or weight or person or hairstyle or skill etc:

  • Peace, harmony, balance, stability, fulfillment, fun
  • Justice, autonomy, self reliance
  • Traveling, health, exercise, strength
  • Wealth
  • Nature

I choose peace, harmony, justice.
I choose health, exercise, strength
I choose fulfillment, fun
I choose traveling for interest and possible second home
I choose wealth, autonomy, self reliance
I choose to be mentally stable and in control or aware of my thoughts, but not act on them if they are negative.
I choose not to trust my emotions or thoughts or feelings as they can get distorted.
I choose to acknowledge that I can be in the grip of an emotion and it is not real.

Secondary choices:

– Peace, harmony, balance, stability, fulfillment, fun: secondary choices for these goals are daily practices like meditation, reading, mindfulness, breathing exercises – all of which I have added to my list of things to take care of each day.

– Justice, autonomy, self reliance: the more I act on the daily practices, the more able I will be to rely on myself and make the best choices I can. I will be less reactive and more responsive, when needed.

-Traveling, health, exercise, strength: I am currently seeking places in SC or the surrounding area, for a second home. I am planning a trip to Hawaii this year. I am taking care of my workouts and getting walks on the water in in the afternoon when weather permits. I’ve forced myself to walk even when it’s 0 degrees, and windy enough almost to push me over, or very humid, but in blizzards or hard rain I don’t do the walks.

– Wealth: I am staying as close to the cuff as I can, to get the most out of the money I make and not take on more that I can feel I can handle. I’m working on secondary sources of income.

– Nature: I plan to have a garden finally this year, to do more hikes, to finally get kayaks and do kayak camping trips rather than our usual hotel/meals/hiking trips. Now that I don’t drink, I don’t have to worry about where we are staying in relation to where the restaurants are. In all the times we have gone on vacation, this was a top consideration for me and limited us greatly, After a long day hiking, I’d be looking forward to drinks and more drinks and then walking back to the hotel. Now we don’t have to accommodate any of that.

I loved Lee Davy’s podcast about the Vow, I’ve listened to it multiple times. I’ve often gone back and re-listened to his earlier podcasts, where he just kind of talked and they really got through to me, especially at a very hard time in my sobriety seeking.

I did make the fundamental choice to remain someone who doesn’t drink alcohol.
I know my husband was positively influenced by my changes.
I’ve been doing everything to make this change and to make it stick. For years now.
I’m definitely not willing to let any circumstances dictate ANYTHING, anymore, in my life.
I am glad about that choice, very much so.
The thing though, is that there is still a little voice in the depths of my mind that says “but forever is a long time!” It’s just a glimmer of a voice at this point. But it’s still there, like a little niggling breath, heard from inside a black well in the ground. I’m just saying it’s there, not saying I listen to it. I’m aware of it.
I have seen that voice getting smaller and smaller….I believe someday it will be silenced completely.

I strongly recommend Lee Davy’s work. His podcasts under the Truth about Alcohol or Needy Helper are KEY for me. I also really recommend his 3 month course for alcohol, it was very valuable and helped me big time through the last 3 months. It is very reasonably priced for the support and information and work included, without Lee I don’t know if I would be here writing this today: Truth about Alcohol course

6 months – Long post about a relatively short time :)

So today is 6 months for me – a milestone I really found important.

Mainly because in 2015 when I’d first really applied myself to quitting drinking for good, I got to 6 months and had been thinking after 3 months or so “So what’s the point again?” and started drinking a few days after that milestone. I remember I’d started thinking about it for a while again and was bored and still feeling not myself (whatever that is or was at that point) and thought “hey, I MUST be able to drink now and again, after all this”
We’d been watching the show Frasier for weeks and I always was thinking about how good and relaxing and no big deal the liquor they drank every time they got together was. It was this liquor in pretty glass decanters of whatever they’re called and they would go into Frasier’s cool apartment and have some sips and talk and be themselves and then go on with their days. No big! That led to me recalling how much I used to like the taste of Gran Marnier and surely I could keep a bottle of that in the house and just have daily sips to round the day out.

Along the way of those 6 months I’d filled the white space to some extent. I’d done puzzles in front of the fireplace during snowstorms and allowed myself to have pretzels and crackers by the box full. I had ice cream if I felt like it. I listened to podcasts and journaled and did yoga at home, did my workouts, ate what I considered normal at meals.

I got through sex without drinking for the first time in my entire life, through my birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, the major stressor of having my husband’s son come for New Years for a week, New Year’s itsel, countless arguments and many times out at a resturant where my husband cracked jokes about how I was drinving so he could have 2 beers instead of 1. It was all in good fun, so I thought or tried to make it.

But the seeds were sown along the way, after 3 months I would say. I had spent a lot of time thinking and saying, “man I’m so glad I don’t drink anymore”. But then it started to shift. And I started to doubt the point and then I was with the Gran Marnier and the red wine. I remember doing a toast for my first glass with my husband and it was this moment, I almost put the glass down again, I wanted to, but I forced myself to drink it. And something kind of shattered inside. I felt so sad and so much like I was letting myself down, because I was.

And I forced the issue more – sitting outside in the snow, drinking Gran Marnier in the afternoon on a Sunday, trying to feel good, to have the liquor work its “magic”. But that magic was gone forever.

Months of going back and forth came after that. Months on months off. Slogging through, sometimes feeling like I had the pink cloud, sometimes just wanting to die.

And now here I am now, 6 months of this time. I must say there are occasional whispers of “what’s the point?”, there were yells of that 3 months ago. I found months 3-4 the hardest in that aspect so far. But i’ve gotten through them.

Honestly, I don’t feel “proud” to be at 6 months, I feel like it’s all just what I should have been doing in the first place, so I don’t deserve any pats on the back. But I definitely feel it is worth noting and worth telling anyone that it does get better. Just like people with years under their belts have been telling me that same thing.
It looks different past every turn and I just have to get there to see it, I can’t see it beforehand.

It might not be the glitter parade of self fulfillment (like I had hoped for), but it will be an improvement and a knowledge of getting yourself back, even if it’s just a scrap of you at the time. It’s all an improvement over the mental agony of the back and forth and shame spiral. So that’s worth it and that has a point.

I’m certainly not meaning to speak “at” anyone on this, as I’m running the same race as anyone else. I’m speaking to you on this, and I’m speaking to myself, as well.

 

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Bucket List

– Get a second home down south
– Hawaii this year
– Celebrate 1 year sober
– hike mt katahdin
– hike part of the Appalachian
– grow my own vegetables
– #185 bench press
– publish my memoir
– have a farm in the right place
– find the place i like best to live