This song is my anthem today! Stay sober. Be grateful. Shake it out!
I’m a double agent. Hm. No. Let’s be real here. It’s more like a triple agent. The fucked up web of lies, deceit, and isolation caused by my disease has turned my life and the people in it into the equivalent of a giant fisherman’s tackle box. Or like one of those plastic containers that keeps your pills separate from one another. There are people from my past that don’t know people in my present. And purposefully so. There ARE people from my past that DO know people from my present and keeping their interactions to a minimum has always been very exhausting. You see, there are things that people from the past know; things that people in the present do not know. And vice versa. It has been a constant struggle keeping people in their compartments and only opening the lids to their sections when necessary. There are other people that I sectioned off where the lid has been kept closed for years. The relationship may be dead for all I know. Friends that have faded into memories. Friends that probably wondered what happened to us or why I disappeared. Maybe some of them can deduce why. Maybe some of them don’t care why.
While I know I’m not really ready, I am very aware of the mess I’m going to have to eventually clean up. And a fucking Swiffer ain’t going to cut it.
My descent into wild and wonderful world of alcoholism started in 2002-ish at the age of 20 when I was just a precious and cute little arrogant asshole. The disease progressed rapidly reaching physical dependency and medical crisis in 2004. Without getting into the details of my hospitalization itself (that is its own post), let’s just say I nearly died at a very very young age (22). My sickness was blatantly public and everyone in my family knew what had happened. I got sober, developed a new circle of friends, artistically explored my sobriety in a very public way, etc. I was an advocate for recovery and no one hesitated talking to me about my own experiences or their own concerns with their own questionable behavior.
Then in 2008, I very casually and without much fanfare, relapsed. Here’s a post about that. My relapse coincided with the end of a relationship and a professional opportunity which required relocation. This is when my life began to fracture and compartmentalize socially and the various sections where I kept certain people began being born. It has gotten quite complex so to break it all down, here is a guide to various social vestibules in my people pill keeper container of a life:
- There are the family and friends that I moved away from due to work who think I am still sober from my first go at recovery. In their minds, I have been sober since February 2005 and if they were to do the math, they would assume I just recently celebrated NINE YEARS of sobriety. That freaks me out and makes me wish it were true. Some of these people (my mom specifically) I’m sure are suspicious or think/know that I have not stayed sober this entire time. If they are, they don’t say anything. And neither do I. These are people I will need to come clean to about my relapse and newfound recovery. They will be disappointed, shocked, or relieved that their fears were finally corroborated and justified and will be happy that I’m finally getting help again.
- There is the very small handful of old and ostracized friends that know about my relapse. I somehow manipulated them into allowing me to drink the way I wanted to even though they initially expressed concern and were terrified by the fact that they saw me suddenly with a beer in my hand at a bar in 2008. They were not happy about it but did very little to stop me. Ultimately, I moved away and in addition to the physical distance that separated us, I emotionally and socially distanced myself from them because they would have made it difficult for me to continue drinking and would have threatened my newly forming relationships by possibly revealing my past. These are the people that I need to acknowledge my relapse to even though they already know. I need to tell them I finally recognize it is a problem and make amends for selfishly choosing alcohol over them and causing them concern. I need to try to repair those friendships where I can.
- There are the NEW relationships formed since relapsing and moving from home in 2008. I fear that this group of people poses the most challenges for me because it means admitting that I formed and developed relationships based on lies. None of them know I had a problem with drinking in the past. This is why none of them know any of my old friends. That was my doing. Specifically, I’m going to have to work through the challenge of discussing with my boyfriend the extent of my prior problem and how life threatening my illness was/is. He knows that I’ve dealt with substance issues but doesn’t know the details about my near death experience and hospitalization which makes my six year dabble with the sauce seem even more irresponsible and fucked up. Yes, it’s a disease and yes, if I had any say in it then it would have never have happened. But it did. And it did impact our relationship. And now I have to tell him how I kept things from him that I never should have. At the same time, there are current new friends that really only need to know that I have a drinking problem now and that I’m getting help. While not cool, my omission about my past prior to knowing them really shouldn’t cause too many ripples. I can’t see any of them being irreparably offended.
I’m trying to take it easy on myself. I need to work through these things at my own pace and keep reminding myself that this is not a race. There is time and right now I need to heal physically and deal with the immediate fallout and trauma. But it’s so very hard when you’re on the phone with your mother and you almost blurt out, “I’m 45 days sober today, mom!!!” before catching yourself and thinking, OH SHIT NO I’M NINE YEARS SOBER. NINE YEARS. It’s very hard to be watching a medical show with your boyfriend where they mention pancreatitis and you have to pretend like you don’t know what that is even though it almost killed you. It’s agonizing to have to FUCKING PRETEND that recovery is a new thing to me and that I’m learning concepts for the first time. How incredibly stupid does that sound?? When talking to my boyfriend, I actually think about how I’m phrasing things so I don’t give away the fact that I’ve been through this before and that I already know the drill. I’m proud of the work I’ve done so far. I feel good about it. So good in fact that I almost tell friends things like, “No PAWS symptoms all week, Linda! HIGH FIVE, SUGARMAMA!” Then I bite my tongue. Linda doesn’t even know about me and my problem yet. Also, I don’t actually have a friend named Linda so everyone stop picturing Linda in your head. It’s a waste of time.
I had some people tell me a few weeks back that I should just tell everyone and anyone. People talking to me like I don’t know what it means to be proud of my sobriety. People talking to me like I’ve never walked this walk or assume that I know nothing about advocacy even though I’ve done this all before. And I just have to be okay with that and not let it bother me. Ego shedding underway. They don’t mean anything bad by it and they don’t know me. They’re just trying to help. But just between us girls, know that I DO know what it’s like to proudly scream about my sobriety from the rooftops. I’ve done it. I’ve had that. And if you’ve never experienced it, just know that it feels fucking amazing. And I want it back. I’m going to get it back.
What a difference a fucking day makes. Took melatonin last night and basically bathed in Sleepy Time tea. It took me a while to fall asleep and as I would doze off, I started having very vivid and bizarre head images and mini-dreams that made no sense. I was confronted by things like large vibrating avocados and then I had to jump on trampolines that threw me way too high into the air so when I started coming back down I felt that awful falling feeling you get in your stomach while riding a rollercoaster. This feeling would jerk me awake over and over and went on for about a half hour but once I finally went to sleep, it was good sleep. It was amazing sleep. It was OH YEAH DO ME JUST LIKE THAT sleep. You know the kind I’m talking about. Where it feels so good it might as well be love making. Becoming one with your bed and pillows and sheets. A sexual experience sans the actual sex. An orgasmic symphony of memory foam, down feathers, and Egyptian cotton.
I woke up with Billy Joel’s Piano Man in my head (WTF?) and sang a verse to the BF as he got out of bed and looked at me like I’d lost my mind. The puppy climbed into bed with me and snuggled. I felt like I needed a cigarette and I don’t even smoke. It was as if 100 pounds was lifted from my frame. The closet door swung open and the gospel choir that often serenades me on good days was finally back. Joy to the World this time. Not my favorite but I appreciated the sentiment. Got dressed and walked down the street toward the train with squirrels doing dances around me celebrating my existence and the cartoon blue birds that like to sing me songs on happy mornings fluttered around my head once again. One accidentally shit on my face but I didn’t care. That’s how good I felt.
Feel. Not felt. I’m still feeling good.
And I’m not writing this to brag or gloat! I’m writing it for myself and for YOU to remind us that the bad will pass and the good will come. If you’re having an especially awful day today, read my post from yesterday and then read this one again. This is evidence that even though it might feel like it, it’s not always the end of the world and I have to make a lot of effort to remind myself of that. I might wake up with a migraine and drag myself around all day crying but IT’S NOT THE END OF THE WORLD. I might find myself forgetting how to do my job or get overwhelmed by things that were once simple but IT’S NOT THE END OF THE WORLD. I might look up at the sky and see a giant asteroid heading towards me on fire just moments away from impacting the Earth and IT’S NOT. Well… Shit, girl. That’s probably the end of the world so go on and panic about that one right there.
Tomorrow might be amazing. Tomorrow might be fine. Tomorrow might be a disaster. But if I don’t pick up a drink, I have the very real chance of having an amazing day the next day. But if I do pick up a drink, never ending days of misery are certain to follow. I know that. So I’m going to be happy when I can be and when I’m not, that’s fine, too. Just have to weather the shit show until I wake up singing Piano Man once more. Because it WILL happen if I just hold on tight. Love you, Billy. XO
I’m really ready to feel better than I do. This sobriety thing is fucking weird because the ascension from crappy to better than crappy is extremely noticeable. But equally noticeable are the stretches of stagnation and occasional backsliding to less lovely feelings. I’m in the weeds right now and am trying to find my groove again.
I’m not going to drink today. Not even if my butt falls off. Someone said this in the BFB and I laughed so hard that a little bit came out. And it’s true. I’m not going to drink. I don’t want to. AT ALL.
But you guys, I AM FUCKING TIRED. I don’t know what the hell is going on with my sleep but it’s really starting to make me angry. And it seems like coming off of a weekend is even worse than sleeplessness during the work week. I’m waking up every few hours and have to readjust myself. And when I am sleeping, it never feels like real sleep. It feels like exhausting work. I don’t always remember my dreams but when I do, they almost always involve alcohol. Last night, I also had a dream that my primary care physician prescribed me some kind of really strong anti-anxiety drug. I was really excited about it and kept trying to get the prescription filled but every pharmacy was out of the medication. I remember thinking that the doctor really shouldn’t have prescribed me such a strong mood altering drug given my history but I was happy he did and I wasn’t about to remind him about my addiction issues. Obviously my brain is still like, DUDE GO GET DRUNKY DRUNK DRUNK LOLOLOL XOXO!
Getting out of bed was absolutely terrible and even now I feel foggy, not very chipper, and ready to nap for hours. Unfortunately, I’m at work and can’t. I keep telling myself that this is normal and that everyone I’ve heard from has expressed issues with sleep to varying degrees. But there is another part of me that keeps saying, “THIS SHOULD BE OVER BY NOW!” I mean, it’s been 43 days. I know that’s nothing. I know that’s a blink of the eye, a drop in the bucket. It took me nearly six years to do all of the damage I did. What makes me think 43 days is going to reverse it?
Usually I find it very easy to be grateful for the progress I have made. I’m able to work through the uncomfortable symptoms until the stretches of positive results return. But this exhaustion is mood altering in and of itself. It’s so noticeable and disheartening that I find myself saying, “YOU GOT SOBER FOR THIS?!” Then I tell myself to just shut the fuck up and cool it. No, stupid. Of course I didn’t get sober for this. What kind of dumbass question is that?
But what if this isn’t normal? What if people are telling me it’s normal but really this kind of lethargy is dangerous or a sign of something else being wrong? What if they are just telling me it’s normal because they can’t actually feel what I’m feeling and if they did feel it they would say, “OH SHIT THAT’S NOT NORMAL.” I really should go to the doctor and have them test me out to see if there is anything else going on. At least then I won’t feel stressed out dismissing these symptoms as completely typical of recovery.
I remember waking up mornings during the first 2-4 weeks and thinking, “WOW. I FEEL FUCKING GOOD!” And while I occasionally have those moments now, they seem to be getting fewer and farther between. Like I’m plateauing. Or sometimes even digressing. It seems the further from Day One I get, the more disrupted my sleep gets. Maybe it’s about to turn a corner? Maybe it’s going to take even longer? 60 days? 90 days? A year? I can wait it out. I have to wait it out.
I try my best not to whine. It doesn’t do me any good and it’s also really disgusting and not at all cute. But sometimes you just want to call a world meeting where every other human sits down in a massive auditorium, looks at you, and watches you ugly cry and moan and talk about exactly why your life is awful as you accidentally eat your own snot.
In my old world, this would be drinkworthy. But EVERYTHING was drinkworthy. Thursday was drinkworthy because Friday was the next day. Tuesday was drinkworthy because it wasn’t Monday. Sunday morning was sometimes drinkworthy because you had to wait for laundry and it was beautiful outside. St. Patrick’s Day was drinkworthy even though I’m not Irish and am terrified of leprechauns. Well. Not just leprechauns. Anything under 4 feet, really. Children. Snow White’s friends. I drank over anything and everything and nothing at all. And now you are asking me to NOT drink over things that actually are significant, difficult, and scary?
YES. THAT’S RIGHT. WE DON’T DRINK ANYMORE.
Okay. Not even if we’re really tired and feel like we’re going crazy?
NO, FUCKTARD. NOT EVEN.
Fine. What if someone dies?
THEN YOU CRY.
What if I get in a car accident?
CALL YOUR INSURANCE COMPANY. ALSO, YOU DON’T EVEN HAVE A CAR.
Fair enough. What if my relationship falls apart?
EAT ICE CREAM AND GO TO MEETINGS.
What if there is another Hurricane Sandy and I’m stuck at home for an entire week without internet or television or anything to do and I start to die of boredom?
OK, YES. THEN YOU DRINK.
NOOOOOOOOO GODDAMNIT! I WAS TESTING YOU. NEVER DRINK! NEVER!
So here’s the thing: I may feel awful today and I may want to crawl into a hole and fall asleep and never come out, but it is this very feeling that should be my motivation to stay sober. Drinking for so long made me feel like THIS. It was alcoholism that brought me to a point physically where normal human existence is HARD. And that’s really fucked up. So I’m going to stand in solidarity with my body and mind. These symptoms are SOS signals. This is me trying to tell me that me is broken and me needs to heal. So like always, I’m not going to ignore this. I’m going to sit in it. I’m going to feel it. I’m going to hate it. And I’m going to embrace it as further evidence that sobriety is the only way out and that today is not the right day to drink.
Last night I faced my first social situation that included people other than my BF. He had written a play over the course of a ten week class which culminated with a presentation for invited guests featuring single scenes from each student’s play. It was an event that I assumed would be low stress and one that I should have little to no problem handling. He invited some of our friends to attend as well and the plan was to grab a bite to eat afterwards. Easy peasy, right? Not. A. Big. Deal. The people he asked to come are people I already know fairly well and there should be no reason for being apprehensive about seeing them. But if you’re anything like me, it obviously cannot be quite that simple. As the day of the event approached, I became increasingly paranoid.
I did everything I could while sitting at work to minimize my irrational fears. But while Anderson Cooper (my logical brain) kept trying to talk me down, the ticker tape of insanity kept scrolling across the bottom of the screen. It read: ….OMG OMG YOU HAVE TO GO TALK TO PEOPLE…. OMG OMG THAT COULD MAKE YOU DIE MAYBE…. OMG OMG NO YOU WON’T DIE BUT YOU MIGHT GET EMBARASSED BECAUSE YOU COULD SOUND DUMB…. OMG OMG WHAT IF THEY ALL DRINK.. OMG.. SHIT.. OBAMA APPROVAL RATING AT 62 PERCENT.. OMG HUH? WAIT, WHAT?…OMG MAYBE I SHOULDN’T GO… OMG KIRSTIE ALLEY REGAINS ALL 60 POUNDS SHE LOST AND UNREST IN THE MIDDLE EAST…… and so on and so forth.
I told myself to shut up. Then I asked myself, “What’s the worst thing that could possibly happen?”
And then I answered myself, “You really want to know the answer to that?”
“No, not really, “ I replied to I.
“Too late,” me said. “Here’s what’s going to happen. You are going to walk to the theatre space and on the way you are going to encounter horrible things like rain and crowds of people also walking to places. You’re going to get all sweaty and disgusting because it’s so humid outside and your hair will start to curl and look absolutely disastrous. You’re going to look at yourself in the reflection in the elevator doors as you ascend the 15 stories to doomsday and you are going to attempt without success to make yourself look presentable. When you walk in the room, everyone is going to look at you and scream obscenities because you look so terrible. Out of courtesy, they are going to ask you questions about how your day was and what was going on with you. Because you’re still mentally foggy and often get tongue tied, you are going to reply to them by saying something terribly embarrassing like, ‘I don’t know what my life so I stupid alcoholic hahaha I stupid dumb man shit fuck sorry I like gorilla so do you have banana? and need to pee BYE!’ Then you are going to run out of the room as they throw their shoes at you which is a really big insult in some countries. You are going to cry in the bathroom, splash water on your face, and sneak back into the room as people give you death looks and wonder who invited the incompetent addict. Then more small talk after the reading where you might say, ‘These is good plays, huh!’ while everyone rolls their eyes. Then you’ll go to the restaurant where everyone will order sake or draft beer or chocolate martinis while you sip Thai Iced Tea in the corner of the booth and slump down in your seat hoping no one asks you any other questions or notices you are there. And as they all get more and more drunk, they will completely forget about you. You’ll excuse yourself to the bathroom but no one will notice or care. When you get back, they will all be gone having moved on to another location without bothering to tell you. You’ll make the commute home wondering where your boyfriend disappeared to. That’s what your night is going to be like if you stay sober. ENJOY!”
Some takeaways here:
- I am currently a nauseatingly insecure human being that needs a lot of work.
- In addition to being insecure, I am simultaneously arrogant and my ego is out of control. Why I even had the thought that this night would be all about me, I have no idea.
- My imagined sober self talks like a caveman.
I had worked myself into such a tizzy that I honestly considered not going. My BF has been amazingly understanding and although he might not like it, he would let me out of this if I really needed to avoid the situation. But I made the decision to proceed as planned because if I never allowed myself to feel uncomfortable, how would I ever get comfortable? You get sore from lifting weights but get stronger. You run further and for longer periods of times when training for a marathon even though it hurts and is uncomfortable but your endurance improves. You do strange impossible things that feel foreign with your fingers when first learning the piano but eventually muscle memory takes control and it’s a breeze.
I HAVE TO GO THROUGH THINGS. Not around. Not over. Not under. THROUGH.
I got to the reading, small talk was had, I didn’t sound like a caveman, people seemed happy to see me, and the discomfort and apprehension slowly faded. At the restaurant, everyone other than me and BF had something alcoholic to drink. I had Thai Iced Tea. People sipped their sake slowly like total assholes. CHUG THAT SHIT I thought. But it’s their sake and they can do what they want. Someone asked me why no cocktail and I said, “Because the Thai Iced Tea here is amazing!” This satisfied them. The guy next to me finished his sake and then ordered a beer. ATTA BOY I thought. IT’S ABOUT TIME. I made note of these thought processes and reminded myself that this is why I can’t drink. The conversation was easy and enjoyable. No one got trashed. No one suggested more alcohol or another stop. And after some hugs and promises to connect again soon, we were on our way home.
“Let’s pretend I had some drinks tonight,” I told the BF. “What would have happened is this: I would have had my few drinks but would want more. I wouldn’t have listened to what anyone was saying because I would have been so consumed with getting something else. And right now as we sit here on the train, I’d be obsessively checking the time because we’d have to stop at the liquor store. Or 7-11 if it was closed. And I’d go home and have that extra drink or two or three. But I didn’t have those drinks and this night was awesome. I feel so free. I can do anything and not think about THAT.”
He seemed proud if not still slightly confused. It’s hard to get normies to fully grasp what goes through our heads. But he’s working on being there for me as much as he can.
We were out late and I woke up this morning EXHAUSTED. But I had a smile on my face. I had a good time with good people. I felt something I haven’t felt in a long while. I felt connection and joy. I felt cared for and valued as a friend. And I really can’t wait to hang out with my friends again.
Something clicked last night. I’m really doing this.