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sober lifestyle

Regret

It’s not that I don’t have some beautiful memories of the once-in-a-lifetime, two-week trip to Hawaii I was fortunate enough to be invited on, back in August of 2015. It’s that the “bad,” or at least cringe-worthy, ones are so hauntingly vivid that they crowd out everything else.

I suppose I’m lucky to have any recollections at all of that time, given how much of it I spent intoxicated.

Part of early sobriety, I’m finding, is flashback attacks that hit at random moments, without warning. It’s like my brain is healing itself by scanning for sores and starting to apply ointment, creating some ugly, pus-like seepage in the process. 🤢

Sound gross? I’ll tell you, it is. Picture me relaxing on my deck at 14 months sober, listening to a peaceful, calm “beach massage” meditation track and suddenly, WHAMMO, I’m back to slipping on the wet tile stairs of a cabana in Kailua while double-fisting bottles of Corona I was drunkenly carrying back to the beach, then lying there bleeding profusely in a pile of broken glass while my traveling companions look on disgustedly, no doubt noting that just a few days earlier, they watched me drunkenly horsing around at the pool, and slipping and face-planting on a rock, cracking my front tooth and busting open my lip and cheek.

(Enlarge the attached picture — snapped, I think, in a blackout — and you can see the scabs.)

I lost a lot of blood on that trip. I also lost quite a few friends.

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sober lifestyle

Solitude

What if I told you it was easier for me to quit drinking than it is to initiate a social interaction?

It took me 20 years of getting my ass handed to me by booze to finally get that 🐒 off my back. I guess it’s not really surprising that, in the absence of my precious chemical security blanket, I’m just as afraid of people now as the awkward, anxious 1990s teenager who preferred tutoring sessions with a math teacher to hanging out in the hallways before class trying to make small talk with schoolmates.

(Oh, just wait! The stories get even more embarrassing…)

Solitude has always been my natural comfort zone. It’s normal to want to cozy up there after losing my most loyal lifelong friend: liquor.

Well, it might not be so “normal” to be 42 years old, and the mere idea of picking up the phone to call someone — anyone; the pharmacy, Athleta customer service, my family members — gives me a severe case of the jitters. Some of these people are, like, required by law to love me, and I still get so nervous about engaging them in conversation that I often chicken out and do not make the call.

Reminds me of my early days as a reporter, when I had to use an actual land line to solicit interviews. I would sit there, staring at the number pad for 10 minutes, trying to work up the courage to lift the receiver while simultaneously racking my brain to think of any other possible way to get the information I needed for this story. Were quotes really necessary? Could I just up and quit this job and move to a cabin in the woods? 🤔

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Tyler State Park Sky, Day 418

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Renunciation

So we could also call shenpa ‘The Urge’ — the urge to smoke that cigarette, to overeat, to have another drink, to indulge our addiction, whatever it is. Sometimes, shenpa is so strong that we’re willing to die getting this short-term symptom relief. The momentum behind the urge is so strong that we never pull out of the habitual pattern of turning to poison for comfort.”

— Pema Chödrön

The Urge is strong with this one. It has been all week. I could feel it building, or more like steadily pulsing in the center of my chest, and I described it to my therapist as feeling like I was plugged in to the Tesseract…you know, from the Marvel Universe?

She knew. Thank goodness. Nothing more awkward than when a pop culture reference falls flat. 😉

It’s an apt analogy, too: an indefatigable, incredibly powerful energy source that will not stay frozen or buried and can reawaken at any time and threaten to destroy everything. That, my friends, is the compulsion behind addiction.

It distressed me that at nearly 14 months sober, after several dull, sleepy — one might even say balanced — months, my old core issues had seemingly jolted back to life. Why now? What triggered this familiar, scary rush of need, to buy things, exercise all day, scroll through Twitter and Facebook, snap selfies…and write blogs on blogs on blogs?

All of the above = healthier than drinking tequila. So, there’s that. At the same time, it’s plain to see that the mere absence of alcohol does not remedy the underlying problem. It merely exposes it, more raw and real than ever before.

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Profession

I didn’t tweet it. That’s the old me, rushing to share publicly every thought and event that moves me personally. (I do that here now! Much more mature! 😂) I don’t want to sound tone deaf. Or materialistic. Or like someone who thinks she’s immune to the universe’s twisted, jinx-y sense of humor.

“Watch me get fired tomorrow,” I texted my parents, along with a screenshot of my bank statement, showing what I believe to be the largest direct deposit of my post-college life. 🤑

Recovery from alcoholism doesn’t cure fatalism. I’m still a girl who’s prone to go to extremes.

This girl 💁🏼‍♀️👈🏻 just made it through her first payroll cycle as a full-time content marketing manager for a multi-brand, multinational company (I was part-time in July)…and she did not celebrate with a drink. 🚫🍻

Celebration does seem in order, though. Yes, my salary is relatively modest, and pretty much all earmarked for paying off credit card debt, but given my uphill professional journey over the past two years (411 days of it stone cold sober), I can’t help but be proud of this paycheck.

It’s nice to be able to help my husband with the burden of the bills, after saddling him with the lion’s share of responsibility in our relationship for so many years.

It’s nice to feel like my skills and contributions to a company are valued. It’s nice to feel like I’m moving onward and upward, rather than hopelessly stuck or desperately sinking.

As an active addict, I was basically living in quicksand. No wonder my professional life seemed, for such a long time, to be headed for a dead end.

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Relief

I had a drunk-driving dream last night.

I was behind the wheel of a white pickup truck, and while I didn’t feel intoxicated, I recklessly steered into an abrupt, wide turn that cut short when the back end of the vehicle bashed into a concrete wall.

Crunching metal. Flying debris. Rubbernecking passerby. Immediate feelings of terror and panic. (None of this was enough to snap me awake.)

It was my third offense, the dream proceeded to reveal to me, and police showed up on scene before I could flee. I don’t know if they intended to take me to jail; my thoughts were immediately consumed with the cover story I’d have to come up with to keep my family from finding out how badly I 🤬ed up…

Then, finally, that beautiful moment arrived. You know it well, I’m sure. You’re at the climax of the nightmare, and suddenly realize you can just wake up and it will all go away.

And so, I did.

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Activity

Before I was the middle-aged woman in black Under Armour leggings walking through the neighborhood at all times of day, multiple times of day (doesn’t every suburban neighborhood have at least one of these?), I was the pre-teen in Lee jeans, happily roller skating up and down the block for hours on end, listening to music and stopping only when her mom stepped out the front door to call her in for supper.

Occasionally, I’d get a phone call from another kid asking if I wanted to “ride bikes,” or maybe play catch, but for the most part, my favorite childhood activity involved one pair of white Roller Derbies (with pastel stripes, as shown), and, of course, one double-decker Panasonic boom box with a stack of homemade mix tapes.

When outdoor conditions didn’t cooperate, I skated in my grandma’s basement. That place was the textbook grandma’s basement — both fascinating and spooky, dimly lit, smelling like plumbing and old stuff, packed with appliances and 1950/60s artifacts, like Alvin and the Chipmunks records, early-edition “Clue” and “Life” games, and my dad’s childhood train board that still worked and inspired many a made-up story in my head. (Come to think of it, everything back then inspired made-up stories in my head…)

The basement was not well-suited to serve as a makeshift roller rink, but I carved out enough of a clear path, winding my way around the tiled floor. Then, I literally carved up the tile on the floor with my skate wheels as I circled and circled, singing along to Tiffany and Madonna. I don’t remember Grandma being mad.

I do remember feeling so totally happy when I was free to move.

Maybe it was anxiety driving me, keeping me from ever sitting comfortably still, and fueling a constant desire to break away — to go my own way. I would eventually establish an identity playing team sports, but deep down, I didn’t want to have to perform for other people. Trying to be perfect was too much pressure, and fear of failure was too hauntingly painful to bear for very long. I relished any chance to go away, be alone and calm down by keeping active; skating became my go-to escape, long before I found alcohol.


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