On hot flashes and doom

Most mornings I wake up with my head and chest radiating heat, my skin sizzling, and my emotions pummeled by a horrid feeling of doom. The hot flash, as they are want to do, is gone within a couple of minutes. But it gives me an opportunity to come to myself, rescue, sit there with a self dwelling in a burning hell. Since I know it’s transient and I know the cause, that helps lighten the hell somewhat and give me a tiny bit of breathing room within which to practice … care. Love. Sympathy. Actions that I don’t come by easily when it comes to directing them toward myself. And from what I read, this situation is pretty damn common among drinkers.

These brief, regular bits of morning hell show me things. (The mornings are noteworthy now because the daytime flashes are dramatically reduced compared to five-six-seven years ago.) I’ve noticed that the whole idea of being present with myself has layers. The first, which for quite some time I thought was all there was, was simply not running away or tensing up / resisting. Running away with sugar, alcohol, compulsive email checking. (Which are admittedly difficult to implement while lying in bed in the morning. Maybe that’s also why these morning moments are instructive.)

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Day 300

Three hundred days, my people.

Spring is springing here (southern Iowa), with frogs squeaking in the pond, the first great blue heron (but just once, maybe only passing through?), first kingfisher, bees out and about on sunny days, rain and fog, redwing blackbirds staking out their reeds.

I’ve been mid-sober-stint twice before in the spring Continue reading

Phase change

Happy Friday. I come to the keyboard with nothing particularly in mind, simply wanting to stay connected. I have almost two months away from alcohol and am stepping through the days pretty annoyed these days. Most days for the past week or two I’ve just really wanted a beer. Haven’t had one. Have watched the inclination to suddenly, standing at the counter of the local coffee shop about to order my half-calf Americano, almost order a beer. Relearning for the nth time how instantaneously Continue reading

Fear as a fact

I was walking home this evening from a restaurant after dinner with an acquaintance/former client who I really like. As I walked down the sidewalk a few blocks from home, in my favorite neighborhood in the world, lawns and gardens now in full bloom, the loveliest spring evening one could want, the buzzing in my brain wanted to drive me mad. A weird anxiety that very specifically wanted a drink. My brain was really riled up, I’m not sure why.

It was still roiling me when I got home Continue reading

One of the biggest casualties of alcohol: Deep rest

On Friday, day 130, I was taunted and tormented by cravings all afternoon, unlike anything I’ve felt since the first couple of weeks without alcohol back in November/December. And I am home alone for a few days. Oh, ugh.

While I sincerely appreciate the little cravings for their reminder that my mind-(and body-)set can change in an instant — going from contented, grateful, and finding it impossible that anyone with years of sobriety under their belt would ever go back — the big constant flashback rattling ones I can do without. Ugh.

I was Continue reading

Self-medication is the real target

I’ve come to see quitting alcohol not as a thing in itself, but as an element in the larger human project of quieting ourselves and calming our logistics in order to reveal our deeper connections — to ourselves and our surroundings.

For people with problems with alcohol dependency, quitting alcohol is essential. It’s such an insanely powerful introducer-of-chaos and numbing tool. But peace is not found in the absence of alcohol. It’s found when we find our own way to access the quiet, joyful, unworried self inside who knows we’re safe. Intrinsically safe and whole. Continue reading

On alcohol as not the only escape

Continuing from a couple of days ago… one of the aspects of drinking that I found most troubling is the quick, easy deflation/escape, the ease with which it helped me escape from being present in myself. This is separate from the health/relationship/productivity issues involved in being drunk and picking oneself up and dusting oneself off after an evening of drinking. The escape itself, and the habit of escaping, is the bigger deal for me.

Alcohol was not my only mechanism of deflation/escape Continue reading

A cabin in Vermont

The more time goes by, the more I see into my idiosyncrasies and understand why it was so hard for me to care for myself, for so long.

The other day something in me was screaming that it wanted to be all alone in a cabin in a distant forest, drinking myself into oblivion. The urge, in the form of this thought, was so strong. I held it. I went over to it to try to see and hear and feel more closely what was up. Why the tantrum? What did it consider so insanely important to get?

Here is what I slowly saw. Continue reading

Why that first beer was so alluring

I don’t entirely know. But it’s one of the things I mull over these days when it occurs to me to mull over my relationship with alcohol. That first half hour gave me something I desperately craved. Liberation. Freedom from some belief I had (and still partially have) that said I couldn’t feel free and be myself with abandon and be socially acceptable/accepted all at the same time. (“Be myself with abandon.” What exactly is being abandoned?) The first beer gave me that sensation of floating happily in my own self, uncramped.

So I’ve been asking myself what was up with that. What am I craving and how do I Continue reading

The myth of strength and clarity as selfishness

This is interesting. Below is a post I wrote a long time ago, probably last spring. I had voices telling me that being comfortable in my own skin was selfish and that selfish was dangerous. (This was very internal. On the outside I have the appearance of being pretty dang comfortable following my own drummer. And I am. But the deep resistance and fear associated with that was real, and debilitating, and encouraged self-medicating.)

Note the past tense. This stuff seems actually pretty far away now. I’ve shifted out of that energy. It’s so cool to see how far I’ve moved from that mental space of last April or May, and I thought I’d put this out there despite its being out of date. Hopefully all of my words on this site will be out of date some day. Continue reading

Rumblings

Things are so not linear. The inner addict has been subtly angling for alcohol. Just a little. Just this once. (You probably know the drill.) Not two, just one.

Her current suggestion is to buy the beer that’s 2.3% alcohol. (It’s sitting in the liquor store right next to the NA beer. (I think it shouldn’t be.)) And then drink two. I tell her, that’s the same as one drink. It doesn’t matter if the alcohol is diluted — it’s a beer. We grab a pack of NA beer and go home.

Fortunately, this is her only trick at the moment. Continue reading

4 months without alcohol: 4 ways of staying put

I had my last beers on Christmas eve, more than four months ago. The new year came in, the winter persisted one, two months and part of a third month, and then spring broke through. I’m being driven further into my own mind and body not having that alcohol escape anymore. The tensions that I reacted to by drinking now lie out in the open. Some of the triggers weren’t even tensions, they could simply be the fact of the day drifting around to 3 p.m. and a bar and grill nearby.

In March I wrote about my selection of ways to repel from discomfort, and today I’m thinking about ways I’m learning to move toward discomfort. Continue reading

Discomfort #5: Contentment

Over these last four months without alcohol, I’ve seen more and more clearly my drive to block my own joy. I go round and round, splashing cold water on my joy and delight and contentment wherever they pop up. It sounds crazy to say that joy is threatening, but it is. Why in the world?

Deepak Chopra advocates healing addiction through finding one’s bliss, but in my opinion he misses a major element of addiction, at least for some of us: we have intense internal reflexes against bliss, euphoria, pleasure, contentment. I have a reflex that reacts very strongly against my own naturally occurring joy. It sniffs out contentment or pleasure 500 miles away, and it acts lightning fast to destroy it. (This discomfort with comfort joins my other known four. Still counting.)

Eventually, drinking alcohol became my preferred method of self-sabotage. The alcohol was screwing more and more with my physiology and nervous system. As I reached my mid-40s, I still was only circling my work, my calling, vocation, whatever you want to call it. I was wasting time, and the time wasn’t going to come back. Continue reading