sober lifestyle


Getting wheeled out of Holy Redeemer with a clean bill of health…and, for at least another hour, a clean colon. 😉

When they woke me up, with a gentle “You’re done!”, I understood exactly what “done” meant, and I was instantly filled with joy. This was like rising from a nap on a lazy Sunday afternoon and knowing you have, like, Thanksgiving leftovers in the fridge for dinner. 😋 Or that it’s the one special Sunday in the month that you and your hubby “splurge” and order Jules Thin Crust pizza. 😋😋

“You guys weren’t kidding!” I said brightly to my colonoscopy team, before even rolling from my side to my back. “That anesthesia works GREAT!”

Yes, part of my joy came from visions of solid food after more than 24 hours of…you don’t wanna know 🤢, but a larger part came from the sweet, sweet mixture of propofol and lidocaine coursing through my veins.

I’m no expert; I’m just telling you what was explained to me in the obligatory pre-sedation consultation. These are the drugs administered before your gastroenterologist sticks a tiny camera into your intestines and looks around for 20 minutes, searching for potentially problematic polyps or any abnormalities that might explain the awful digestive issues you’ve been experiencing for more than 10 years.

I should probably break in here to say, I’m extra joyful because no polyps were found during my procedure. I do not have colon cancer. Now, what the hell is actually going on with my temperamental, often cranky gut remains a bit of a mystery — not that you asked, but the doctor said I have an unusually long, or “redundant” colon that could, in concert with stressors in my everyday life, be making me miserable, and I should resume taking my IBS medication and call him in three months.

But, like I said, no colon cancer. Time to eat!!! 🍕🍕🍕

Before I start stuffing my face, though, let’s go back to talking about drugs. I’m not gonna lie: I like them. When they ask you on your intake chart if you or anyone else in your family has had an adverse reaction to anesthesia, I’m like, “yes” to the family part — on account of my grandma’s explosive tirade after hip surgery back in 2007 — but “no way” for me.

“Make mine a double.”

I didn’t actually write that, but I did say to my recovery room nurse (hi, Jill!), when she told me I was good to go because the anesthesia was wearing off, that I’d prefer it didn’t. I wanted it to last. I also called her my favorite person in the world, and as I reached out to give her a hug…

It occurred to me, sitting there in an open-backed hospital gown and matching mint-green no-slip booties, that I was behaving just like Drunk Jen used to act during her first hour or two of intoxication. Everything, and everyone, was awesome in that little window of relaxation. Life was perfect in those few fleeting moments…before I inevitably overdid it, flipped the script, melted down.

It made me kind of sad, sitting there on the stretcher coming down from my colonoscopy, to think: I am the kind of person who cannot fully relax, who cannot truly experience joy, without help from some kind of substance.

I ended up cramming those thoughts back into the deep, dark corner from whence they came. I buried them under more Jules Thin Crust pizza than you’d imagine one woman could eat, then passed out at 3PM, my body just done with the whole ordeal.

This morning, checking off my 531st day of abstinence from alcohol — and having to confront these thoughts because I’m writing a blog — I think this anesthesia experience hit on the essence of my issues.

Learning how to find joy in the ordinary is the heart of the hard work I’m doing in recovery.

My challenge is, and has always been, balance. I am a person who’s prone to extremes. I overthink, feel things too deeply, take things too personally, EAT TOO MUCH PIZZA, inflate my expectations for myself and for the world, then deflate my own worth and life’s meaning when things don’t turn out spectacularly. Just enough has never been enough. The middle ground has always been uncomfortable.

My personality, as a high-strung Highly Sensitive Person, could be one reason my digestive system is a mess. 🤷🏼‍♀️

Alcohol and drugs are, indeed, a great antidote for “the regularness of life,” as my favorite Sopranos quote puts it. But their effect is elusive. It’s always only temporary. To chase it is to take the easy way out.

Drunk Jen did that every day, and it’s not that she was a bad person. She was fun, in an over-the-top, lit-stick-of-dynamite, train-wreck-in-the-making (sometimes, actually-in-the-wrecking) kind of way. She was clueless, then delusional, then willfully avoidant…and then, she woke up.

Sober Jen had a brief encounter with her old alter ego on Friday morning in a curtained-off corner of a busy outpatient medical center. Can the two personas coexist peacefully — the insatiable appetites of the hedonistic addict for more, more, more, and the mindful wisdom of the healthy woman who believes a peaceful, balanced life is worth working hard for? Can they permanently combine, somehow, into one person…the person I’m meant to be?

We must wait to find out. Right now, I have to go downstairs and work out. There’s, like, 10 pounds of pizza sitting in my “redundant” colon, no doubt preparing to turn into belly fat, and my only exercise over the past 48 hours has been…well, just Google “colonoscopy prep,” and you’ll get a very clear picture. 🤣

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