Tuesday, August 31, 2010

And Then it Kicks You in the Ass...

I realize I just posted, but holy crap.

About twenty minutes ago I was hit with a near desperate craving for a drink. Typically, it was just one. One slug of vodka. "Please...no one will know." That happened at precisely 1:50pm. It's my first REAL and specific urge to have a drink. It was nearly overpowering.

But whew.

It passed.

Thank god.

Smoking is Like Drinking (2)

Or, Denial is Powerful.

I recovered my train of thought on this late last night.

I've known for years that I'm addicted to smoking. I would never think to lie to myself or someone else about this fact. It is something that simply is. I'm in the grips of an addiction, and when I've stopped I am completely aware that "just one" is never an option - I'll never be a normal smoker again. :) Never. I'm just not wired that way.

Behaviorally, I act on all of the impluses that govern addiction:
  1. Plan ahead: count your remaining cigarettes to ensure there won't be a middle of the afternoon emergency.
  2. Take measures to ensure there are enough: this includes biking in the rain to buy them at odd hours.
  3. Desperation: in the event I run out, I panic, much as a normal person would about food or shelter.
  4. Secrecy: I hide how much I smoke to prevent well-meaning people from worry.
This leads me into my thoughts about denial. How is it that drinking could be perceived any differently by my addled brain? My addictive behaviors for drinking were far worse, yet it took me longer to admit I had a problem and still I waver about "never again." I'm not even sure why.

The rational side of me is fully aware that I cannot drink normally. I am so much happier without any at all, than I was in spending all of that energy trying to control how much and when - all of which failed, nearly every time. Yet, this afternoon, some trigger was pulled and I felt the urge. The rationalizations even emerged in their half-baked state.

They've been crushed and I'm drinking tea, but I really wish the addictive, non-rational side of my brain would go on vacation for a while.

How did you (do you) find early recovery?

Monday, August 30, 2010

I'm So Happy to be Sober Because...

  1. I can remember each and every conversation I have, no matter how late in the evening.
  2. When I wake up in the morning I don't have to experimentally assess whether or how hung over I am.
  3. I have real, actual, and sometimes fascinating dreams (don't worry, I won't share them...yawn).
  4. I have more patience with my kids...I am actually listening to them because I'm more fully engaged.
  5. I stop eating when I'm full, and remember the meal the next day.
  6. I can drive wherever, whenever, I need to without assessing whether I've gone over the limit.
  7. I don't feel shame and guilt as a default state of being.
  8. I've begun rollerblading...for the first time ever, and it scares the crap out of me, but I'm doing it anyway.
  9. I feel possibilities opening up and presenting themselves to me.
  10. I believe I'll have even more reasons as time goes on.

Drinking is Like Smoking

Or smoking is like drinking. At least for me.

I've smoked almost continuously since I turned twenty. Last year I quit for a month. A few months ago I quick for a few weeks. Each time I quit, there was a moment when I just couldn't defer the craving any longer. Part of this was due to an untenable work situation, but largely, I think I was "white knuckling it" the entire time. Smoking again was in large part inevitable.

Just a few weeks later I decided I just had to quit drinking before my life truly spiraled out of control. I realized that although smoking was more likely to kill me long term, alcohol was sapping my will to live at all. In the early days of my first sobriety I was attempting to deal with strong cravings for alcohol, but made no effort to change anything else about my life. As with smoking, drinking again was truly inevitable for me. The spiritual component was completely absent from my intent to quit. Beyond admitting that I couldn't control my drinking, I didn't delve into any of the reasons I actually drank.

I've always known I used smoking to escape from emotional discomfort, but I never really understood I was using alcohol for the same purposes. Not really. But it's true - I avoid every uncomfortable emotion I can. If alcohol isn't available, I smoke. If I can't smoke, I drink. This time around I am truly making the effort to understand the emotional triggers for drinking, so that I can make real life changes that hopefully will minimize my risk of relapse. Although I continue to smoke - to do both at once would truly be too much for me - I am trying to be more aware of the emotional undercurrents.

So I pray. Every day. To be honest, I'm not entirely sure "who" my prayers are going to, but I do feel a difference. I am NOT alone in this. And I feel such deep gratitude for that. It is a relief to repeat "I am unable to control my consumption of alcohol and my life has become unmanageable. Please help me." every day. Sometimes it becomes a near continuous manta. Relief comes from that, from not having to rely on my own imperfect self to get through all of this.

The other big thing I've done is to turn to community. At the moment, this is limited to blogs, message boards, memoirs, and this blog. But I can't tell you how important this has been to me. Time and time again I see myself in the pages, making it impossible to talk myself out of the insight that I am an alcoholic. Without this community, and the accountability I feel, it would be very easy to go back to the "old" me and drink - no one in my life believes I have a problem (I'm sure they have their own reasons for denial... also, I have deeply hidden how much I consumed). I thank everyone for sharing so much of themselves.

The final thing I've looked into are the physiological effects of drinking. I got a book called How to Quit Without Feeling S**T (this is the actual title...I would otherwise have written "shit"). The authors recommend vitamin, amino acid and dietary changes to minimize the cravings. I haven't finished it yet, but do currently feel many of the secondary withdrawal symptoms they mention, including: day time sleepiness, concentration and memory problems, hyper-sensitivity to noise. I plan to make a list of supplements and see if they help. When I first quit I also did a 10-day cleanse, which I do think made a difference.

The point of this post has sort of gotten away from me, but I suppose a little stream of consciousness is inevitable...especially with the concentration and memory problems!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Side Effects

Sobriety is full of surprizes...some of them are superficial.

After I had my last child I put every effort into losing weight and "getting my body back." I discovered I had a wheat allergy and totally revamped my diet. After six months I looked better than I did before I had children. Of course, all of this happened before I was consumed by alcohol in 2007.

When I started drinking heavily I promptly gained 15 pounds and spent the next three years trying to lose it. As would only make sense to someone drinking alcoholically, I tried to limit my intake of alcohol and then limit my food intake to the calories left over after drinking. You really have to love alcoholic math. I may have lost a pound here and there, but always gained it back during a binge period.

So a miracle has happened over the last three weeks of not drinking (except for the one day slip) - I have lost 6 pounds! The only "trick" to this "miracle" is the removal of 1000 or more liquid calories per day.

Simply amazing.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

I Know I'm an Alcoholic Because...

  1. I always made sure I got my share of whatever alcohol was on offer.
  2. I was adept at sneaking another gulp, drink, or sip.
  3. I always drank more than I promised myself I would.
  4. I never stopped at one glass of anything.
  5. I had conversations and fights I could not remember.
  6. I drank to "overcome" a hangover.
  7. I avoided social situations and commitments if it interfered with drinking.
  8. I avoided making friends with people who didn't drink.
  9. I drank every day.
  10. I rarely dreamed.
  11. I woke up feeling like I had the flu every day.
  12. I always made sure there was "enough" in the house.
There are others, of course.

I wasn't always this way. I can remember when none of these things were true and I drank normally. Unfortunately, over time, all became true and I hit a point where I could no longer trust myself to moderate my drinking.

Tomorrow I'll make a list of all of the things I truly love about not drinking. Maybe the next day, I'll even tell a joke, instead of being so melancholy.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

My Third Day Three

This is the third time I've attempted sobriety in three months.

The first time, I'd come off of a three month bender, which culminated in slashing my wrists while completely drunk. The only thought I had at the time was that my psychic and emotional pain needed to be made "real" and visible. The next day I truly believed I'd scared myself right into sobriety, because I couldn't face the idea that the bottom could be lower. For the first time, I was terrified of what I might do if I ever drank again. That time, I made it ten days before I decided it was about controlling intake, not about the alcohol itself.

The second time was a month later. The circumstances were far more benign. After carefully (and not so carefully) regulating my intake without catastrophe, I started to break my own rules. I found myself repeatedly hung over at work, unable to concentrate and filled with self-loathing each morning. I spent my weekends trying to maintain "just drunk enough" and hoping to avoid a Sunday night binge. On Sunday night I realized we were out of anything to drink, so walked to the liquor store at 9pm. Thank god it was closed. I realized how far I would go to get the next drink, despite everything it was doing to my life and my sense of self worth. I went to bed, and for 14 days I focused on sobriety. Day 15 I had wine at dinner, followed by brandy. The next day I felt like hell. I just couldn't believe I used to feel like that nearly every single day.

And so began day 1. Today is day 3, almost day 4 (the clock flips over mid-afternoon), and I am so thankful that it was only one day lost.

This time feels different. The first time I stayed sober out of pure fear and although I felt better, I didn't make any changes other than not drinking. The second time, I started learning about the steps, thinking about a spiritual connection, and truly felt changed. Euphoric. Each day I was excited to add to the tally. This third time, I feel good, but it's tempered by the knowledge that there is so much work to be done. Abstaining is key to that process, but in order to stay this course, there are so many other changes to be made.

I truly want to work through them.

Welcome

This is my first ever blog post. I'm not even on Twitter. Or really on Facebook.

Over the past several months of trying to come to grips with my alcoholism, I've realized how essential it is for each of us to tell our stories. I've been so thankful to read so many wonderful blogs and to identify with something in each one. They have helped me immensely. They are the reason I have started to come to terms with my addiction and am trying to make positive change.

I want to add my voice to the others, in the hope that I will become more accountable to myself, rediscover dreams I've long given up on, and maybe even help someone else on their path.

So here it goes!
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