Month: April 2014

LEARNING HOW TO DINE OUT AGAIN, 2 WEEKS SOBER

It has been two weeks since my last drink. This should be a celebratory moment but I haven’t yet learned how to celebrate without ingesting the thing that I would be celebrating abstinence from. Still, I recognize this milestone as positive and am glad I haven’t gotten wasted in 14 days.

Saturday I felt wonderful. I went out to dinner for the first time since stopping. We sat down at our table and my boyfriend quickly put the wine menu underneath his food menu. I know he was trying to be helpful but I never ordered wine anyway and didn’t need a menu to order my usual dirty martini with olives. We ordered Diet Cokes and water instead. The people on either side of us were going to town and murdering glasses of white and oddly colored novelty cocktails. But I felt totally fine. I thought perhaps it would feel awkward but it didn’t. I did have a moment of guilt that the BF couldn’t have some wine. Well, he could have if he wanted to. And I’m confident I would have still been able to enjoy myself and refrain. But he chose not to which meant a lot. I said, “You know eventually this will get to the point where you can have a glass at dinner with me around and everything will be fine.” “I know,” he said. “But you know this won’t work if you ever decide to drink at home,” I replied. “I won’t,” he said. I felt very supported, safe, and worth something. The fact that he is willing to alter his own alcohol use for me told me a few things. First, it told me that he was obviously not an alcoholic. And second, it reminded me that he cares about me very much and wants me to be healthy and happy.

We scanned the menu deciding what to order. Normally I would have been very concerned about food prices because I needed to save as much money as possible in order to be able to get my 2-4 drinks. I found myself doing the same thing even though I wasn’t going to drink. I was still protecting my budget to allow for my drinking. Once I recognized this behavior, I immediately shut it down and ordered two appetizers which is something I would have NEVER done. I would have talked my boyfriend into not getting any because I knew the 15-20 bucks would be better spent on getting drunk. It was so freeing and sort of exciting to be able to order and try whatever we wanted without the stress of overspending. Our conversation was much more complex and stimulating than normal. The food tasted better and I savored every bite. THIS IS WHAT GOING OUT TO DINNER IS SUPPOSED TO BE LIKE!?

On the walk home I wanted to tell the boyfriend about my “big revelation” about the true joys of dining out but I didn’t want to sound crazy so I kept it to myself and now share it with all of you. Also, the walk home would normally involve me manipulating and carefully placing suggestions with the hope of us swinging by the liquor store to grab a bottle of something. He would normally be okay with this after having had a couple of drinks at the restaurant with dinner. And if he wasn’t okay with it, I would have gotten all assertive and would tell him that I was an adult and could do what I want. He would give in and wouldn’t say anything more in an effort to avoid a confrontation. We would go home where he might have one more drink and I would pretend to have one more as well but would create excuses to go to the kitchen and quickly down shots in secret. The following morning would involve me being miserably ill and him not understanding why because as far as he knew, we drank the same amount. Depending on how ill I was, I might sneak down to the kitchen in the morning and have a few to help me maintain until midday. Then I would be miserable again from noon until early evening when I’d again manipulate the evening to make sure we were drinking again somehow. I am SO RELIEVED that I don’t have to go through that cycle of lies and misery anymore.

So far, the moments of being UP are short lived and are typically followed by extended periods of lethargy, boredom, and strange discombobulation. I was walking to laundry yesterday and I could logically acknowledge the fact that it was a nice day. It was as if I was registering the fact that the weather was good as some strange robot who is programmed to know that something is pretty but doesn’t have an emotional response to it. It felt as if I was looking at the lovely day through some lens that made it also appear fake. I often have the sensation that I am dreaming or not actively participating in my life. And then moments later I can find myself suddenly extremely present and happy for no reason. Thankfully, my moods alternate between joy and indifference but I have yet to become sad or depressed. I can deal with even keel and happy just fine. I’ll take it. Indifference is better than the despair and angst I was feeling before.

So far so good. I just wish the fog would clear.

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WE HAVE ALL OF THE LIQUOR AND WINE!!!!

Our office is having a Spring party this evening that coincides with a film festival currently happening in the city. Delivery folks have been walking by my office all morning with flowers, glasses, utensils, decorations… and enough alcohol to fill a pool with. Turning the corner to use the restroom, I found myself face to face with a wall of cases containing reds, whites, sparklings, whiskey, etc.

Needless to say, I’m not staying for the event. I made up an excuse and am sneaking out to head home before it begins. And I’m not at all concerned about it or feeling left out in the slightest. 10 days ago, I would have stayed and would have been thrilled by the idea of never ending FREE booze. I’m not going home because I’m worried I’ll drink if I don’t. I’m going home because this event seems like it would be absolutely and unbearably boring without alcohol so I don’t feel bad about leaving.

But I did start thinking about other types of events that I would and should want to attend. Friend’s birthdays. Holiday get togethers. Wedding receptions of people I really care about. There are going to be things that I absolutely have to be present for eventually. And the thought of doing it sans lubrication sort of terrifies me. There is nothing on the calendar as of now and I’m doing my absolute best to keep things free and clear for myself in these early stages. But I know I can only be reclusive for so long.

Got an email reply from a friend yesterday about something I need to do for him and he closed with, “Let’s get drinks very soon! We need to catch up!” I immediately recoiled and a wave of anxiety rolled over me. DRINKS? I CAN’T GET DRINKS! WHAT AM I GOING TO DO!?!? MY LIFE IS HORRIBLE! NORMAL PEOPLE GET DRINKS! I WANT TO BE A NORMAL PERSON WHO GOES AND GETS JUST A FEW DRINKS. Well, crazy alcoholic. First of all, stop lying to yourself. You don’t want to get a few drinks. You want to get ALL OF THE DRINKS. You want to be completely trashed. So, obviously drinks are not an option. Try this: Ask to meet a coffee house. Or at the very least, a restaurant that serves alcohol for him so you can gorge on French fries and Diet Coke to make it through. Yeah but he’s going to be drunk and I’m going to be jealous! Okay. The truth is, most people around you don’t get drunk at happy hour. Only you do. Or, try this: Just always be busy and apologize that your schedules just aren’t matching up to grab those drinks (although this is more isolation, more of the same). Or try this: Tell the friend you aren’t drinking for a while but would they like to do something else that doesn’t involve alcohol? Like a movie? At least then you can sit in silence and not be forced to have to come up with things to say because communicating without courage sucks. WTF? These are things I think.

What it comes down to is this: I don’t want to hang out with you unless I can be drinking. And that is a really HUGE and FUCKED UP problem. I remember last time I went through this. The only way to fix it was to unlearn everything. To force myself into situations that made me anxious or uncomfortable but were normal situations to be in socially. Each time I did, I felt the resistance becoming less and my sober social muscles getting stronger. So I know what to do. I just don’t want to do it. Yet.

10 days in and here is where I’m at: I don’t want to drink. At all. Which is great. But I don’t want to do the things that need doing unless I can have a drink. But I don’t want a drink. So either I a.) don’t do the things that need doing or I b.) do the things that need doing anyway or I c.) drink and then do the things that need doing. None of these seem like options I’d like to choose and there is no d.) None of the above, to pick instead.

ARROGANT “OLD TIMERS”

It’s no secret that I am emotionally charged and borderline irrational, but I really must vent a bit about the arrogance and oftentimes blatant rudeness of some self-proclaimed “old timers” I am encountering in online AA forums. And don’t be offended if you are one. Obviously I’m not talking about all of them.

I’ve repeatedly mentioned that I am not new to AA and that I’ve done this before and I’m being spoken to by certain individuals like I’m a five year old. One told me, “Wait until your my age and you’ll see what I’m talking about.” That’s odd because I don’t recall ever disclosing my age and I haven’t alluded to anything that would date me. Also, there are so many cryptic and self-aggrandizing answers that these people are giving in response to my very real, fair, and simple questions. For instance, I explained some of the physical responses I’m having in my first 2 weeks sober. I talked about what ails me, what is getting better, and how I feel overall physically. I then asked others what got better for them over the first few weeks. One person said, “What got better? I GOT BETTER.” That’s it. That’s all they said. Well no shit. And thanks for the fellowship and making me feel like you understood what I was experiencing.

Look, I totally respect and admire people who have gotten sober and have years upon years to show for it. But the last thing a newly sober person needs is a chastising grandfather that acts like I should be bowing down to the God of recovery and giving thanks for the incredible amounts of wisdom they are imparting upon me ESPECIALLY when they aren’t imparting any wisdom at all and are instead just being a smart ass. The truth is, I came to this on my own. I came before I lost my job, my family, my license, and my ability to walk or talk or speak clearly. I didn’t come as a result of some catastrophic bottom and I’m thankful for that. I understand and comprehend what is going on here. And I don’t think it’s productive or healthy for the sober folks with dozens of years on me to address every newcomer with the same glib and snide remarks as if I just walked in from a gutter without being able to remember my name.

AA allows seemingly anyone to declare themselves a leader in the name of service. But let’s be honest. Not everyone should be.

Sometimes it feels like some people in the AA world aren’t even actually listening to the words coming out of my mouth. Like they have this bag of preprogrammed responses that they just spit out. I think that’s the problem I’ve always had with AA. While I totally understand why it is important, I never seem to be able to get over the fact that it all just seems so staged, repetitive, and formulaic.

I’ll keep going though.

ACHES, PAINS, AND REMEMBERING WHERE I LIVE

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As I emerged from the dark underground rat hole that is the New York City subway, I happened to look up. For the first time in a very long time, I realized where I was. The Empire State Building towered over me making me feel simultaneously insignificant and extraordinarily alive. Walking through the park on my way to work, I took note of the impeccable landscaping, newly planted flowers, and the smell of fresh cut grass. I looked at the faces of people passing by on the way to face their day just like me. I wondered if they were happy. I wondered if any of them had a hangover or a problem. I walked past a television show shooting on the sidewalk across the street from my building. I live here. I live in one of the most beautiful and exciting cities in the world where there is always something to do and something gorgeous to take in. And for the past 5 1/2 years, I plowed through it daily without giving it a thought. I emerged from my cave in the morning, quite often deathly ill, and kept my head down until I got to work. I did my job (sometimes) and then kept my head down again until I got home and was able to drink. And what was the point? What did I accomplish in that period of time? Absolutely nothing.

The most frightening thing that I’m currently dealing with is the sudden and disturbing realization that I just threw away another 5 1/2 years of my life. 5 1/2 years that I will never ever get back. And while I know there is nothing I can do about having lost the past, I can’t help but mourn the idea of where I could have been by now in my career if I would have just done the work to stay sober.

On another note, my body hurts. It hurts in a very strange way. Nothing too acute or piercing. But yesterday I had random pain on the left side of my neck that has seemed to disappear today. Also, pain in my groin area near my inner thigh. That, too, has subsided. But it seems like there are sudden and unexplained momentary bouts of soreness, sharp pains, dull aches, etc. They don’t linger too long and they aren’t debilitating, but I’m feeling my body so much more than I’m used to.

Positives: The sweating has gone away for the most part. My face feels smoother and has normal color again. I feel less bloated. My digestion, I think, is returning to a somewhat normal place although yesterday I randomly had some trouble for a few hours but am now fine. My blood pressure and pulse are under control and my medication is effective for the entire 24 hours that it is supposed to be effective for. While drinking, the pills I am prescribed sometimes did absolutely nothing and I could feel my heart pounding constantly. It was pretty terrifying. I’m sort of amazed how quickly my body corrected it with the absence of alcohol.

Lastly, I really wish I felt rested. I went to bed at 10:30PM last night and woke up at 7AM. That’s more than 8 hours of sleep but still it was a major struggle to get out of bed. I don’t feel rested at all, ever. This past weekend, I had to force myself to get up by 10AM so as not to miss my day. If I allowed it, I’m certain I could have slept for several hours more and still would not have felt rejuvenated. Hoping the B vitamin supplements, healthy diet, and exercise will slowly correct this. I honestly felt less sleepy in the morning when I was drinking. Granted, I felt AWFUL in every single other way imaginable, but I don’t recall feeling like I was going to fall asleep at my desk.

I suppose these are minor complaints and small prices to pay for freedom and life.

 

CRAZY THOUGHTS

Aside from trying to get my work done, I’ve been researching meetings and outpatient groups. My insurance apparently covers a limited amount of outpatient group therapy so I think it might be wise to take advantage of it. I ate a healthy salad for lunch, took my vitamin, did my sublingual B12 drops, and am generally taking good care of myself today aside from the Diet Coke I’m about to drink and while I know they aren’t healthy, the soda police can go and fuck themselves. At least for now.

Aside from the care and attention I am showing myself, my brain has decided to be off and on ridiculous:

  • I got a message from a friend that made me very happy and my first instinct was to get a drink tonight because I was happy right now. The two have nothing to do with one another but just the simple emotions of excitement and joy triggered an urge to drink. If I were to tell this to a “normal” person, I would surely sound insane.
  • I’ve checked my I Am Sober app multiple times today in hopes that maybe there would be more days on there than 7 since the last time I looked an hour before.
  • I had a brief anxiety attack when I thought about my wedding day and not being able to drink to celebrate. I’m not even engaged and there is no wedding coming anytime soon.
  • Realized I would be home alone one night this week and immediately started planning my drinking and how I would conceal it once the BF got home. This was maybe a 3-5 second chain of thoughts that I immediately squashed but I was shocked how quickly I forgot about sobriety.

I’m also taking stock of how I feel physically. Random aches and pains that come and then go. Feel incredibly tired and foggy. When I walked outside to grab lunch, everything seemed ridiculously bright and blinding. I could tell that it was a pretty day and that the normal response should be, “Wow. It’s so lovely out.” But to me, it was blinding and assaulting to my senses.

I haven’t felt anything that makes me worry that I might drink. So far everything has been very manageable and my logic continues to win over the insane thinking. I know that it’s only a matter of time before I encounter a hurdle not so easily able to be cleared which makes me very on edge and hyperaware and stressed out.

It’s really interesting because I’ve gone periods of days, even weeks without drinking before and never noticed some of the things I’m noticing now. The difference between those brief stretches of unmonitored sobriety and what I’m experiencing now is that during those times I wasn’t not drinking with the intent of not drinking forever. Somehow the choice of perpetual abstinence shifts the mind in a way that makes it all seem so much more scary than it did when you just didn’t drink for a week. I suppose the knowledge that you would soon have a drink and end the sober stretch was enough to put the mind at ease. Now there is no end to the sober stretch. It’s forever. And that’s terrifying.

 

THE BEGINNING. AGAIN.

I’ve done this all before.

I’m sitting at the office on a Monday morning sipping iced tea from a clear plastic cup while repeatedly marveling at how closely the golden brown color tries desperately to be whiskey. My mind independently repurposes the actuality of my beverage with what it COULD be in my imagined paradise of never ending intoxication in a world void of hangovers and responsibilities. I know for a fact that iced tea wishes it could be whiskey. I wish it could be, too. Iced tea, however delicious, would give anything to be as cool and carefree as a glass full of Bulleit and I don’t blame it for aspiring to such beauty. I’ve spent the past six years flooding myself with beautiful alcohol in what appeared to be an attempt to actually become it. Or at least get as close to its calming perfection as humanly possible. Obsessive wandering of the mind and for what? I should be working. After all, this is the first Monday I’ve been on the job without feeling deathly ill.  I didn’t even drink whiskey and somehow that’s what tea is making me long for. I could switch to lemon lime seltzer but the mere taste of it immediately fills my mind with thoughts of vodka sodas and makes me seriously question whether or not I’m beginning to feel the tip of a buzz even though I know there is nothing buzzworthy in my cup.

Last Monday I sat at this same desk with my head in my hands trying not to vomit. I had the kind of hangover that makes you literally question whether or not you might die. It’s difficult to describe this kind of profound illness to someone who has never experienced it. In fact, it probably should have its own name altogether. There exists an overwhelming sense of doom and anxiety that makes any task completely impossible to execute. You repeat phrases to yourself rhythmically and rock yourself back and forth while you wonder if you might be losing your mind. “I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what do. I don’t know what to do.”  My pulse was racing and I kept my hand over my chest as if that might keep a heart attack from showing up. I left my desk and took refuge in the handicap stall in the men’s restroom where I realistically weighed my options and assessed the likelihood of being able to make it through the day. It quickly became apparent that this one was too bad to endure upright. I had already missed several Mondays this year as a result of my Sunday night binge drinking and I knew this was not going to go over well with management. Still, I made my way from the restroom, gathered my things, walked to the office manager’s desk, and told her that I had just started vomiting in the bathroom (I hadn’t) and that I needed to leave immediately.

While walking to the train, something entirely unexpected happened. After years of hiding, rationalizing, downplaying, and avoiding, I seemingly became possessed. I opened a blank text message to my boyfriend and typed:

I’m sure this comes as no surprise to you but I have a problem with alcohol. I’m tired and exhausted and can’t pretend everything is okay anymore. I need help and need to be sober.  And I need your support. Desperately.

I waited for what seemed like days before he finally responded:

Absolutely. I’m there for your. Whatever we need to do.

I sobbed on the train the entire way home, went to McDonalds and ordered disgusting grease saturated breakfast food, walked the rest of the way to my house, and climbed into bed for one of the most miserable 8 hours I’ve ever endured. He eventually arrived at home after his work day and I sobbed all over again in his arms. 

It has been one week since my last drink. I haven’t sought help other than opening up to my thus far supportive partner. I haven’t gone to meetings. I’ve only been able to find the courage to read blogs, articles, and message boards online. I’m hanging on by a thread and know that I need to start doing the work again. Did I mention I’ve done this before? I don’t have the energy to tell you about last time because I’m too busy dealing with this time. Maybe later. I hope there are some readers to be had out there. I could use the encouragement.

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