Friday, June 29, 2012

Choosing Life

No joke, but someone jumped (or fell? Or was pushed?) to their death from my building this afternoon. I was home but was watching a dvd and didn't have a clue until my boyfriend called me in a panic to make sure I was alive. He's been worried about my anxiety and knows that sometimes I battle depression....we also had a bit of a grumpy morning and maybe he was worried that he'd pushed me over the edge.

I'm the kind of person to make jokes about this sort of thing. It's nerves. I also have a keen sense of the absurd, and life (and death) are absurd....but mostly it's nerves. I've known 3 people who have tried to kill themselves, one of whom succeeded and the other two are still (thankfully) alive and doing well. The one who did die was a friend of my brother's, and he stabbed himself when he was only 16 years old (I was around 18 or 19 at the time). And, because of my bouts with depression, I've certainly considered suicide at certain low points of my life.

I've always chosen life, but I can very easily imagine being the person today, how lonely and pain-filled they must have felt. I guess it's a flaw in our psychology, how we can get so trapped in despair and lose sight of possibility.

What I think has gotten me through has been knowing how much my family loves me, and how anguished they would be if I took my life. Even though we're separated by distance, my family has always been upfront and open about our love for each other, and there's an understanding that it's unconditional. No matter what I've done or how "broken" I feel like I am sometimes, it would break my mom's heart if I died, and I can't do that to her.

Hearing the relief and concern in my boyfriend's voice was another reminder to me. I am loved by too many wonderful people to do anything but choose life.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


Well, happy birthday to me. I'm not exactly where I want to be right now, and life is far from picture perfect, but I have my health (seriously: other than my anxiety, which is a major concern right now, I'm doing great: good cholesterol, good thyroid stuff, all my limbs and senses are operating as they should, I've lost about 10 lbs in the last couple of months as well), I have a good group of friends, and I have an amazing boyfriend.

Who I'm gonna talk about, right here! Right now!

Our 4 year anniversary was just three days ago (aren't I clever? I'll never forget our anniversary because it's so close to my birthday), which makes this my longest romantic relationship, and it's by far the happiest. Neither of us is perfect, but we seem to be imperfect in ways that match each other very well. In general, we're both low-maintenance people, we love each other and we really try to communicate. We've had a few rough patches, but we've never had what I would consider a giant fight, which, considering I'm pretty mercurial and, er, "passionate," is a big win. It isn't that we don't ever disagree, but we both really make a sincere effort to communicate, and we've been successful so far. Whenever I've had a problem, I could always trust that he will listen to me and try to understand, and I've tried to do the same for him.

Last night we talked a bit about my alcoholism. He asked me how I was doing and I told him (I'm doing well. The not drinking thing is mostly easy these days, so long as I remember that I can never drink again), and he told me how he's really proud of me, and let me know that because of my decision not to drink, he's noticed that his own life is better for it. He's not drinking as much, either, and for the first time in his life, his bank account is always going up, instead of hovering around "0".

I'm feeling really low about my anxiety, so I really needed to hear some positive feedback. My relationship with him was one of the major factors in my giving up booze - I could see that my drinking was putting strains on our relationship, and I could see a future where he' might leave me or where I might be holding him back - and knowing that I am making choices that help improve his life is a major motivating boost.

I don't do the AA steps, but the bloggers who do seem to have a big focus on gratitude, and I can get behind that. I'm very thankful to have him in my life, to know that there is a source of laughter and comfort and love so close by. I don't believe in a higher power, but if I did I know that I would consider him to be a sign of benevolent action in my life.

If you have someone in your life who helps you feel loved, maybe give that person a hug (real or virtually) and let them know you appreciate it. I'll be doing the same.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Camping Sober

I'm pretty sure I'm coming out of my anxiety. I can't tell for sure, as my first day back at work is Monday. There's a part of me that kind of hopes that maybe I'll go back in and they'll say "Well, sorry it didn't work out, we're taking advantage of the probation period and letting you go." I'm worried that it was a mistake to take this job. I did it, in part because I was relieved that someone wanted me. But I'm overqualified for this post, and the pay is 75% what I was making at my last job....and I quit that job because I felt that I deserved more. So, in a lot of ways if they let me go I might be better off.

But in a lot of other ways, if I can stick it out, I might also be better off, just differently. It's frustrating being stuck between two possibilities.

But, regardless, there isn't much I can do about it before Monday.

I mentioned that I went camping a little while ago. I'm not sure if it's the first time I ever went camping sober, but I can't remember another time so it probably is. It was a little strange not packing booze for my trip. And frustrating as well, as my boyfriend only brought a 6-pack with him and my drinker's brain knew that was not enough. I confessed how frustrated I was with his lack-of-alcoholism "You're doing it wrong!" I said. Camping involves a two-four, not a six-pack. Jeez.

Anyway, sure enough, he didn't have enough beer and he was lucky that one of the other campers wanted to make a liquor run the next morning, or else he would have had to be sober with me.

The camping site we went to is a big gay camp site. It was a "bear weekend." A "bear" for the not-gay, is a big, hairy, bearded gay man. There's quite a little sub-culture going on there, and the weekend was organized to be a big ol' hedonism thing: drinking, drugs, nudity, and sex. In general, I support all of those things, though for me lately, hedonism means reading a lot of books in the sunshine, which is what I did, and it was fine.

I don't think I was terribly tempted by the booze. I did partake of some pot, and that was nice, but for the most part I was really content to stay by our tent while the rest of our group frollicked around the campgrounds, debating whether 9am was too early to start drinking (for most it wasn't, which is fine, because it's a party weekend, eh?).

I did get upset the Saturday, because my boyfriend didn't come get me for lunch. I just slipped his mind completely and he ate with some other friends before going back to the partying. He was suitably ashamed when I told him I was a little bit hurt (and hungry!), but what could I do? He doesn't let loose like this very often, and it was clear that it was a mistake and he felt bad.

Other than that, though, it was all pretty good. It was a success. It was a meaningful success.

My last camping trip was not so good. It was pretty much in the wilderness, with a smaller group of friends, and I was full-on drinking at the time. I was grumpy and frustrated the whole time. I felt like no one was drinking enough, I was self-conscious about how much I was drinking. I got so drunk that I fell out of my chair by the campfire and was embarassed and resentful of everyone. I behaved like an ass, and for weeks afterward my friends gave me a wide berth. That camping trip is one of the reasons why I'm sober today, because it was crystal clear that my drinking was getting in the way of my relationships. It still took me another 4-5 months before I actually stopped, though.

Last night I was talking with a friend and I told him that I really believed this summer was going to be a good one. He asked why, and I demured, just saying it was a gut feeling. Last summer was miserable for me. I spent most of it inside, drinking by myself, blowing off responsibilities and fun activities alike. Of all the grand plans I had last summer, I don't think I enjoyed (or even did) most of them. What's worse is that I felt like I was the only one: the sun was shining and I was inside in the dark with a glass of booze or a bottle of beer.

The real reason why I think (or maybe hope is a better word) that this summer will be different is because I am sober. It's not the only factor: I can be sober and miserable, people do that every day. But the fact that I had fun on this camping trip makes me optimistic about the other things I want to do this year. I'll miss the patio-drinks and the cold beer (now that is a powerful sense memory: the dewey bottle of beer on a hot summer day, the first cold, biting sip.....never again? That's right, never.), but in exchange I will have sunshine and the company of friends. That's a more than fair trade.

Thursday, June 21, 2012


Just an update before bed. Today I did go out and do things, so I now have my prescription filled and hopefully in a few weeks (that's how long these things take) I'll have a better handle on my anxiety. It's entirely psychological, but I already feel better just knowing that I've done something.

One thing that gave me a small smile today was when I took the pill bottles out of my bag when I got home and saw the little sticker on them that says "do not consume alcohol while taking this medication."

I remember reading that label the last time I was taking this, and thinking it was a bit ridiculous. I mean, these drugs (SSRIs, used for depression and anxiety) sometimes take weeks to work, and at the time I remember being amused that the sticker-makers thought it was reasonable for me to stop drinking for weeks or months. Obviously those stickers didn't apply to me, they didn't mean that I should refrain from drinking. With this and the sleep apnea concerns I mentioned a few posts back, it really brings home that I was taking my life into my hands every time I drank. I made some really poor decisions.

I feel really good about dealing with my anxiety in this way, now that I've been 8 and a half months sober. I'm hopeful that maybe this is another piece in the puzzle for me to have a happy and fulfilling life. The drugs aren't magic: they will handle the chemical causes of my anxiety, but - just like with sobriety - I still need to continue learning how to respond to things in a better way. It will take me time to stop acting anxious, if that makes any sense, long after I've stopped feeling quite so anxious.

There's a lot of research that shows drug and alcohol abuse and mental illness are connected, and now that I'm in a place to work on my mental health, it can only help reinforce my goal of staying sober.

This blog isn't supposed to be about my anxiety, but I guess that's how alcoholism works: it affects everything, nothing is safe. But the flip side of that, though, is that now that I'm sober, there isn't anything in my life that can't improve. So, while it's too bad that I made bad choices, I now have a future where I can make good choices.

This is the recovering alcoholic's life: balanced on the edge between a frightening and dangerous past and a future filled with possibility. Not really a bad place to be, after all.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


So, I mentioned in my last post that I was struggling with anxiety, and well I am still struggling with anxiety. I'm currently on sick leave from work (my new job!! Ugh) at least until Monday.

I've got a prescription that I have to go out and fill, and each night I tell myself "tomorrow you will leave the house and fill that prescription and do lots of constructive things," and each morning I wake up and don't leave the house.

I am still not drinking, though, even though there are two giant mostly-full bottles of vodka in the freezer from a camping trip me and the boyfriend took a few days ago. I may have to convince him to trade that bottle with one of his friends, because he's not a drinker and that bottle could seriously be there forever. Like, years.

I'm not seriously tempted, except sometimes I almost kind of am. It's like you know that demonstration to show how gravity works, where you hold a sheet flat and put a bowling ball in the middle? And sometimes the teacher (or whatever) would then roll a smaller ball along the sheet and you'd see how the ball's path curved to accomodate the bowling ball? If the ball was rolled hard, it would just curve a little and then keep on going. If the ball was thrown to soft it would curve right into the bbowling ball and stick there, and if you got the force just right (and if friction didn't exist) you'd get that little ball into an orbit around the bowling ball, forever.

Well, I feel a little bit like that little ball, and the vodka in the freezer is the bowling ball, and I can feel it tug on my trajectory, and I just sort of hope that I've got enough momentum that I'll just breeze on past with just a slight tug....but you never really know, right? There could be a day where maybe I've got just a little less momentum to get me through and then.....

Anyway, that's where things are at.

But tomorrow I am going to leave the house and fill that prescription and do lots of constructive things.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

8 Months

Oops. Yesterday was my 8-months sober point. I'm glad it was yesterday and not Monday, because yesterday I felt great and Monday I felt like shit. I've been struggling with some anxiety issues lately, and Monday was a low point. It's easy to see why I would drink when feeling like that: if someone told me that chewing my arm off would help with the anxiety, I would seriously consider it.

Once my new job's benefits kick in, I'll be talking with my doctor about getting some treatment for the anxiety. I've gone the route of SSRIs (selective seretonin reuptake inhibitors, I think?) before, but at the time I was also drinking heavily. I'm curious how they will work on a sober brain.

In the meantime, I just have to trudge through. When I'm anxious (and I am, a little, this morning) the only thing for it is to just keep on going through life until I start to feel better.

Anyway, I've made it two thirds of a year. Getting close to an actual anniversary. I just have a long stretch of cold-beer- and sangria-free summer ahead of me and I'm home free!

Congratulations to me!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Boring, I guess

Before I dive in to this post, let me divulge that my boyfriend and I have given up cable. This is hard! I'm not a music listener, so I'm having to get used to the apartment being so very very quiet when I'm home alone. Just me and the keyboard and sometimes (er...often) the sound of me talking to myself.

It'll be okay though. Once the withdrawal wears off, I'm sure I'll become a hyper-productive dynamo. My hope is that I can one day be as insufferable as all of those jerks who proudly proclaim "Oh, we don't watch television at our house." This will never happen, though, because with the internet all the TV I want to watch is just a download away....

Anywho, Friday night I went to see a local production of RENT with a friend and two of his work colleagues. I love RENT, mostly because it completely gets me in two sweet spots: the idea that weird is to be celebrated (see La Vie Boheme) and that the most important thing in the world is to love each other (or put another way, in the words of my favourite author E.M. Forster in his epigraph of Howard's End, "Only connect."). Even though a few of the characters are addicts or ex-addicts, the play doesn't really speak to me on that subject much.

But while we were waiting for the play to start, my friend's work colleague was talking about the Angelina Jolie vs Jennifer Aniston subject. I'm completely "Team Aniston" because (as I joked that night) she seems more like "my kind of people", you know, down to earth, like I could totally call up my girl Jen and we'd go for coffee and have loads to talk about, not like that snooty Angelina lady.

The friend's colleague agreed with me, and added "Also, Angelina doesn't drink, so she's clearly no fun." Because I'd just met this person and am not likely to meet her again, I let this go, but I knew right then that the exchange would appear on my blog, because Hey! I don't drink, and just a second ago you thought I was pretty entertaining what with my talking about being best friends with Ms. Aniston and all. In fact, maybe I'm MORE fun, now that I'm not drinking! Ever consider that? And even though this one fact about Jolie isn't gonna bring me around anytime soon, at least I won't have to worry about her getting loaded and puking all over my shoes and driving her car into an innocent pedestrian on our special night out. Not to say that this is a concern with Jennifer or anything, but, well.....

But since I'm not drinking, I guess I'm just a boring old fuddy duddy who isn't fun to hang with any more. Oh well.