I closed the loop. Went from having a big bigger bigger number, 200, 300, 360, 365 …. to a little one: 1 year. But it’s a little one that feels very solid to sit on.

I have a circle now, the snake swallowed its tail, and I get to start retracing the circle again.


Oh how Continue reading

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

Cravings, sugar, and resistance

It’s Sunday and my partner left on Thursday for a business trip. I had been having a cravey time of it and was somewhat concerned about the four days alone. I wanted to sit down and write to you all but then got busy. The cravings and general weirdness lightened up over Thursday and Friday; I managed to keep steering clear of sugar for some additional, very useful days; I stuck my head in a big painting/plastering job into Friday evening; and I’ve rolled much more contentedly out the other side. I’m reading The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown and listening to HOME podcast after HOME podcast. And I’ve done a lot of thinking. Continue reading

Chipping away at my secrecy

I’ve started letting people into my drinking secret. A tiny amount, with no plans to expand it substantially. But this is a big deal.

Like a lot of you from what I can tell, I went to comical lengths to hide my drinking. I guess it’s part shame. And for me it was also related to the basic fact that I drank to try to achieve privacy. Some weird not-grounded-in-reality need for privacy, because I drank even when I was as alone as humanly possible. Like, in a tent in a state park in Maine Continue reading

One drink isn’t just one drink: thoughts on day 49

Today is day 49 for me, and I can’t tell you how glad I am that I got a run at 2017. That wasn’t the plan — I just quit (again) on November 21 and god damn it, it finally stuck (again).

I’m in an interesting space. Getting past the first 10 days is so lovely. But I remained preoccupied, and then reaching 30 brought more great relief. I think this is the first time I’ve hit 30 days since the first time I quit in spring of 2015. (I feel so ashamed to admit that. I know I “shouldn’t.” But damn it I do. I promised myself I’d be honest on this blog, so there it is.) But I’ve stayed preoccupied in a low-grade way. Not craving, exactly, but wanting. I have a low-grade missing of my IPAs. A gentle nervousness 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

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

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

Trained to resist my self

Resisting my urges became second nature early on. It turns out I’m an exacting person. One with powerful desires and urges and ideas that I never figured out how to handle and wasn’t taught how to by my parents. (To say the least.)

I trained myself to accept conditions (inner and outer) that weren’t what I wanted or needed.

I wanted quiet, and I had to live in a noisy world. I wanted shade, and I live in a world where nice day equals heat and glaring sun. Continue reading

How I repel from discomfort — looking back in time

I’ve had a few different ways of repelling from the four discomforts. They’re differently damaging. Alcohol is the first one where I was putting my body in danger, and that finally got to me. As I’ve said elsewhere, the health risks were never enough to get me to actually quit abusing alcohol. But once I gained enough clarity and strength to do this, I’m grateful for the immediate invisible health benefits.

Binge eating

The first substance I used to numb my feelings was food. Continue reading

The four discomforts

From what I can tell, the discomfort that I used alcohol to try to obliterate came (comes) from four different directions. Two have to do with my feeling judged or attacked by other people or simply by voices inside my own head, and two are productions of my own physiology. All are deeply uncomfortable, and I haven’t dealt with that very well. I sketched out a map a couple of weeks ago, and the discomfort is right there in the middle. Continue reading

My knock-down drag-out fight with discomfort

During these almost two months of not drinking, I’ve had a chance to see more clearly what’s up with me. What my demons are. Over the last many months and years I’ve gotten bits and pieces of the story, seen light flashing off odd corners of my mind and emotions (yes, my emotions have odd corners — and yours??). But in the quiet of these mornings and evenings that I experience with a clear mind I’ve come to see the various parts and how they fit together.

I’m a ruthless systematizer, and while that serves me well in Continue reading

Early signs of alcohol dependence: 20/20 hindsight

I wasn’t one who drank in high school, or even college. I hated the taste of the stuff, and for that I’m grateful. I also had no money. For many years into my thirties I lived on temp jobs and tiny grad school stipends. There really is a direct correlation between my increasing drinking and my having a job with a livable salary. So for that very low bank account all those years I’m also grateful.

However. Continue reading