Coming up on three weeks of sobriety this weekend and I’m confident that the physical acute junk has reached its end. While I’m thankful that the sweats, shakiness, and general physical discomfort has subsided, a new and formidable opponent has taken their places. A recent listen to The Bubble Hour’s podcast on PAWS reminded me that psychological and emotional symptoms are far from over. I had a vague recollection about how challenging the first year was from the last time I battled this beast. Still, not even prior experiences can prepare you for some of the things you begin to encounter.

A Day In the Life of PAWS (yesterday)-

I woke up in the morning after not getting to sleep until very late the night before. I had every opportunity to get a full night’s rest and I certainly tried to. Tossed and turned and fell asleep for five minutes off and on until finally passing out for a lengthier period at around 2AM, I think. That’s the last time I recall looking at the clock. As I forced myself to the shower, I noticed dizziness and a touch of rage inside. I was so angry. As I washed my hair, I cursed the day and tried to pick a fight with myself. I told myself how sick and tired I am of my routine, my job, getting up early, and how none of it was fair. I brushed my teeth like I was pissed off at them. Poor teeth. My hair wouldn’t do quite what I wanted it to so I very audibly began cursing and threw the brush down and pulled at my hair with a good amount of force as if saying, “FUCK YOU HAIRS! YOU MAKE ME MISERABLE!” Poor hairs.

I stepped outside my house and was met by a torrential downpour of rain. I knew I needed to grab an umbrella from inside and that it had to be one of the sturdy ones and not one the easily foldable pieces of plastic. Became even more frustrated by this because I hate carrying an umbrella that doesn’t fold up. It gets in the way. It’s incredible how enraged this seemingly minor inconvenience made me. As I walked to the train with my stupid giant inconvenient umbrella, I said things to myself like, “Yeah, OF COURSE it has to be raining on a day where I’m already feeling terrible. OF COURSE. Thanks a lot.” I’m not sure who I thought was listening to me or why I thought the weather cared enough about me to purposefully conspire against me. ME ME ME ME ME.

Work was challenging. There seemed to be things coming at me from all directions. Everyone needed something and everyone was annoying. At one point, I felt my jaw clenching and there was this immense and profound anxiety bubble in the pit of my stomach and I was sure that at any moment I was going to tell someone off or throw a stapler at my bosses eye. I ordered lunch, ate, and felt better. Then as the day went on, I developed the most awful headache. It made me feel sick to my stomach. I sniffed around the office like a bloodhound looking for candy and found some. Ate it. It didn’t help and then I felt guilty because I’m overweight and really have no business eating that crap. So then I felt badly about myself and my awful migraine-ish head pain.

I left work, rode the train home, and walked inside our house. My partner and I share a four bedroom with two other friends because this is New York City and who can afford the rent with just two people? A quick glance toward the living room revealed that every person was home and sitting there. They have every right to be sitting there. But my head didn’t care. I wanted an empty house to come home to. This was the icing on the cake and I could feel my face turning red and the anger bubbling up inside of me. I ran upstairs to my room, shut the door, and swam around nearly drowning in my own horrible emotional upheaval. I’M TIRED OF LIVING LIKE A COLLEGE PERSON! WHY ARE THEY ALWAYS HOME? DON’T THEY KNOW I’M GOING THROUGH AWFUL CRAP RIGHT NOW??? Again. Me me me me me.

After about 20 minutes of this, I came down a bit and felt suddenly exhausted. I needed to eat dinner so I considered heading downstairs, grabbing something, and then running back up and closing my door. Isolation. Wait. No. WTF? I’m doing the same thing I was doing when drunk and for what? How was doing more of the same going to get me where I wanted to go? After a few minutes of positive self-talk, I went downstairs, got my dinner, and sat next to my roommates quietly and eased myself in. I was still frustrated they were there so I chose not to speak for a bit so I didn’t say anything stupid. Eventually, reality snapped back and as quickly as things spiraled out of control, they all became manageable. Normal, even.

Before bed, I spent some time looking at the day’s events and tried not to be too hard on myself. I made it through. I didn’t drink. So this was a victory. But what can I do to make it less challenging or get through it with less gnashing of teeth?

First, I think I waited too long to eat at work and hunger and perhaps low blood sugar really made everything seem infinitely worse than it was. Second, I didn’t do what I normally do at work when feeling stressed which is to pause and take a few minutes to touch base online with some people on the blogs and forums. That always grounds me and brings me back. Third, I still haven’t found meetings to attend so all of my support is virtual and I KNOW this isn’t going to fly long term. If I had finally bitten the bullet and found some places to go, I could have stopped on the way home from work which probably would have made my night less chaotic.

So while I made a lot of mistakes, I did two huge things that were right. 1.) I recognized the insanity as insanity and am learning from it and 2.) I didn’t get drunk.

I can always do better but even my worst day sober is better than my best day drunk.


  1. The rage at your teeth and your hair. And then compassion for them – Poor teeth! Poor hairs! This has to be the funniest description of PAWS ever written. But spot on, too.

    1. When PAWS symptoms hit, and they still do every few days, I just wish I could throw my hands in the air and yell, “OK EVERYONE HOLD ON. I’M AN ALCOHOLIC.”


        I have driven down the freeway and screamed this out my window with the wind blowing in my face.

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