Meeting 2

I had meeting #2 of 2 this evening. It was a women’s meeting so I felt less apprehension. As I walked in, a woman asked if I was here for the meeting and sat down beside me to chat. She introduced me to several other women before and after the meeting. That small act of kindness went miles in making me feel comfortable. This was a “Step” meeting and I honestly had no idea what to expect. I know one of them is to “make amends” but that’s about it.

This meeting was about Step 6. I am no expert but it sparked discussion about the defenses we hold onto. Kind of the shadow self and why it is there and how to deal with it. One woman commented that she chose to change ways when they brought her “enough pain” and everyone chuckled. There was a common feeling that we all had pretty incredible tolerance for pain. The discussions at tonight’s meeting were more meaningful to me. Maybe because I felt welcomed. Maybe because it was all women. I don’t care why. I just care that it did.

Afterwards, some of the women stopped outside to smoke. I joined them and we talked for about a half hour. I got a page of maybe 25 phone numbers and 2 of the girls texted me while we were there because I mentioned that I’m not great at reaching out. I always feel like I’m burdening people. They let me know the meetings they’d be attending over the next few days and invited me to join them.

It was a relief to talk to these women who FUCKING UNDERSTAND. The anger. The shame. The relentless agony of craving and fear of missing out. The HOURS wasted for NOTHING. The quick thrill of the first glass and the disappointment in chasing that feeling until the wee hours of the morning. Never learning the lesson that it will never happen. Each assured me that it gets better.

I reached out to a couple of (male) friends who are in the program and received such warmth and support from them. Each offered to accompany me some time. A couple of faraway friends who are sober now also offered to be a sounding board. It’s incredible how much people want to help you once they have been through it. I suppose that goes to show what a fucking dark place it can be before the starting line.

One woman and I laughed about how we thought we could drink like normal people but the fact is that “normal” people would never ever have that thought cross their mind.

I’m cautiously optimistic. Today was a really good day. I have my meetings lined up for the weekend including a yoga class tomorrow night. I’m hoping this feeling continues. I hope I can get away without facing too much FOMO this weekend.

Day 2, 2020

I attended my first AA meeting last night. Well, that’s not entirely true. I attended a couple in the early 00s as part of my partial hospitalization but it didn’t stick. Obviously.

So I went last night. It was a beginners meeting. A guy talked. A few people raised their hands to talk. I sat in the back. The person running the meeting gave me some phone numbers for temporary sponsors. I didn’t talk to anyone though.

The guy who spoke said this was his home meeting. When he came 12 years ago he was welcomed with open arms. Several people mentioned that actually. I was not? I felt alone. That being said, the meeting was mostly men. And I give off an almost aggressively unapproachable vibe. It’s armor. I hate small talk. I am wary around people so I guess I send off a message of “no thanks”. Seriously. That’s why I drink. I’m much friendlier when I’m drunk. Almost aggressively friendly actually.

Many friends that I met in my teens and twenties have said – wow, I thought you were such a frosty bitch. Anyway. I did not leave any room for people to welcome me. I almost ran out of there now that I think of it. I am going to a women’s meeting this evening. Maybe that will go better. From what I understand, you have to try a few before you find one that works for you. I don’t know. At least now I know it is ok to bring tea.

I slept like shit. I knew this would happen based on the last few times I tried to quit drinking. You’d think you’d wake up the first day all refreshed but you don’t. It takes like 4 or 5 days. I’m not sure because I never made it that long. Also my kid couldn’t sleep so he was in and out of my bed. I tried listening to podcasts, white noise… nothing. It was a circus here last night. I’d love to say, well maybe I’ll sleep better tonight but I would up reading at 8:30am and falling asleep again until noon. So I shot myself in the foot. Whatever.

Today was a vacation day for me. My intention was to keep it super chill. Do some writing and reading and not much else. The kid is at school so I have had a few hours of absolute silence. It might have been nice to go for a hike or get a massage but I’m fine with this.

Day 1, 2020. Long and meandering.

I’ve been mentally preparing for this for a while now. I am part relieved and part terrified. The relief comes from letting go of the illness, shame, and anxiety that comes with it. The terror is all anxiety.

I didn’t drink much until my late teens/ early 20s. The first time I really drank at a party, several people commented about how much fun I was. I never talked much in high school. It was nice to be funny and to talk to people I never would have interacted with otherwise.

I started gigging in clubs around that time. I found that a glass of wine before performing helped loosen me up. I moved out with 800 roommates at 20 and we had parties all the time. From that point, drinking became part of my nightly routine. I was mainly surrounded with friends and we were having fun. Somewhere in the past 15 years though, it became something else.

Numbing. Avoiding feelings. Little sleep. Troubled sleep. Odd dreams. Depression. Anxiety. Shame. Guilt. Numbing. Avoiding feelings. Bad decisions. Blackouts. Lost time. Wasted time. Lots of social interaction, little connecting. Numbing. Avoiding feelings. Isolation. Shame. Guilt. Weakness. Defeat. Numbing. Avoiding feelings.

Almost a bottle of wine every night. Or the White Claws when I was trying those out. Minimally 4. Usually 5 or 6. Chain smoking. Not moving. On my back step. ALONE.

On the few occasions I honestly shared this with friends, they thought I was exaggerating. I am not. Not even a little bit.

On big gigs or celebrations, I used to throw down and have fun. Over the past 4 or 5 years, the blackouts started. I put myself in some really fucking stupid situations. I fell down. I would feel mortified when people filled me in. A 40ish tornado ripping through the party. Not cute.

I’ve steadily put on like 10 lbs each year for the past 3. I’ve never been this heavy. A bottle of wine is like 500-700 calories. Each night. Math. The drinking led me to forget my concerns about eating so that would typically result in a stop at the diner on the way home from a gig for some disco fries. Then I’d need a bagel to soak up whatever in the morning. Math.

I used to look younger than my age. Now I look my age. It’s fine but I don’t want to look older because I am vain as fuck. I know several people who look fucking terrible and it’s their lifestyle. Maybe I’m that person to someone else. If I am and it makes them re-examine their choices, then good. But watch out because I’m shaping up* this year, bitch.

I have a feeling I’ll be writing here a lot. I’m afraid of being isolated since the vast majority of my friends are drinkers, some of whom do not have a modicum of control. I am not casting judgment because that is me. I get it. I just know I cannot be around it for a while. I’ve taken the month off from gigging. Actually it might be the first two months.

I’m scared of how I will even talk to people. Even my friends. Mostly because the entire time I’ve known them, our social interaction has been doused in booze. Will we be able to talk? Will they still like this version of me? Will I still like them? What will we do? I’m dreading have to explain this shit over and over each time I reconnect. I’m sure some relationships will suffer, but I think that is just part of life.

I don’t know.

____________________________________________________

*results may vary.

Last Hurrah.

I guess I had my last hurrah last night. It was a good night with lots of friendly faces. I had a lot of drinks. I wasn’t counting. I don’t think I was acting like an asshole… but that’s the thing about drinking. You’re never 100% sure what a weirdo you’re being.

I digress. I shared with a few more people that they might not see me drinking next year. Do you see the “might” in there? That’s fear that I’ll fail. That’s the bargaining I started to do in my head as I told people. I even said “I’m not drinking in January but we’ll see what happens.”

I mean, I guess it’s ok to go in baby steps. But I’ve been feeling really good about my decision to quit and it’s kind of crazy that self-sabotage is already creeping in. Self sabotage has been a gremlin in my brain for most of my life. Panic mode. “You’re not strong enough for this” despite having proven time after time that I’m strong as hell.

In the spirit of “New Year’s Eve” lists, here are some things I will NOT miss about drinking:

  • Wine headaches
  • Sleeping through half the day due to physical recovery
  • Wondering what embarrassing thing I said or did last night
  • Constant heartburn
  • Making terrible decisions about driving… like…
  • Vomiting in the car while driving
  • Falling down/ unexplained bruises
  • Awful, spotty sleep
  • Grinding my teeth to the point of pain
  • Perpetual brain fog
  • Hours/ days/ weeks/ years of wasted time
  • Being unable to trust my own thoughts because they’re soaked in alcohol
  • Accepting problematic behavior from others because I feel guilty and ashamed that I am such a waste of a person

I am looking forward to getting to know myself. I haven’t known myself since my early 20s. The intensely quiet, sensitive, dreamer. The best part of myself. The INFP. The tea drinker and blanket dweller who is happiest with dog and book – either writing or reading.

I’m looking forward to exploring this. I’m a documenter so I’m sure this will result in lots of artwork and/ or songs. Maybe I’ll teach myself how to record some shit. There is equipment here. I know how to do (very) basic stuff. Or maybe I’ll finally get my business idea off the ground.

I also feel like this will make or break my marriage. Either the relationship improves because I stop sitting outside and chainsmoking and gulleting a bottle of wine every night… OR, I become more connected with my thoughts and feelings and gain some clout with clearer mind and heart.

In all aspects, I’m looking forward to some clarity.

Side note. I just had a bite of a chocolate covered gingerbread cookie and I wish I could show you what my face looks like. What a terrible combination – gingerbread and chocolate. I’ll finish it though because that’s how I roll.

The Goodbye Tour continues…

My “goodbye tour” has been less than successful. I contracted a miserable virus last week and had to bow out of several engagements. I’m bummed because I was looking forward to a last hurrah with these folks specifically and I also intended to tell them what was going on. I went out last night and was able to get some solid hang time with some of my people, informing them of my impending sobriety. I even directed a couple of folks over here in case they are so bored that they want to read the ramblings of a middle aged alcoholic with self control issues. Hi friends!

I drank wine last night. That’s been my beverage of choice for the “goodbye tour” and I think it’s because of how shitty it makes me feel the next day. I’m guessing that my subconscious is trying to make sure I am real about this.

I slept like shit. I feel crummy. I prattled at people. I am still on board to not do it anymore next month. Right? Right.

I keep trying to envision what it will look like when I am at gigs or out supporting friends. When I was 28, I spent some time in inpatient and intensive outpatient which is a story for another time. Part of my group therapy was a MISA group – dual diagnosis/ mental illness and substance abuse. I was not allowed to drink during this time. My husband had a gig and I specifically remember ordering some stupid seltzer and cranberry or something and feeling like I wanted to crawl out of my fucking skin. It was so hard being there. I sat outside and chain smoked. I think I brought my sketchbook too. Like… I always need a distraction when I’m out.

I am an introvert. Most people who know me would find this very funny. But I am. My default setting is quiet, observant, and under many blankets. Preferably with a dog. The drinking is how I cope with having to be an extrovert. I suppose I thought that in order to front a band, one needs to be an extrovert. It’s so fucking interesting to unpack this because I am still operating on assumptions I made when I was 22.

Anyway. I’m tired of thinking for now.

Happening.

Yes yes. It’s been a few minutes.

I’m going into treatment in January. My alcohol use is out of my control. I cannot do this by myself. I have told my husband and a couple of close friends. His reaction was “why don’t you just stop.” I’m not even kidding.

Friends have been supportive. I’m not sure if anyone believes I will actually go through with it. But I need to finally follow through with something in my life.

In order to start this thing, I printed out 180 journal pages from 2015 – present so I can see how often I have repeated myself about wanting to quit drinking. I’m very interested in this. So yeah. That is what is happening.

Same as it ever was…

This “blog” is basically a microcosm of other journals in which I talk about how I need to stop drinking and never do. I literally have a decade’s worth. Some are hand-written. Some are typed. Some are completely electronic. All are repetitive laments about my relationship with alcohol.

There used to be relationship woes peppered in but at 42, I am pretty clear that the most toxic relationship I had was the one with myself. I had little to no self-esteem in my twenties. I had no idea who I was or what I wanted. What I knew is that generally, when I was drinking, I was pretty fun.

In my thirties, I began to feel more secure in who I am. Not completely, but the whole decade was a climb. I became a mom at 34. I figured that would be the end of drinking and smoking. But clearly I was wrong. I’m a musician, dammit. And when I play at bars, I’m drinking. Yay. Hi-five. Incoherent yell. Selfie.

This continued on into my forties and here we are. I’ve successfully cut down a bit. I don’t go out as much as I was. This turned into me drinking more at home. I’ve tried to curtail that and it kind of works. I broke up with wine because now I keep blacking out whenever I drink it. So I’m sticking with White Claws because I don’t get too crazy with them. When I drink, I want to chain smoke. The two go hand in hand and I get this grindy manic obsession where I have to be doing both of those things at all times.

I’m not sure why people even want to hang out with me because I’m always “going outside for a smoke”. I want to sit outside and chain smoke and drink. And it’s all like nervous energy. Sometimes I’m relaxed and enjoying myself but mostly… mostly it’s me trying to quell my anxiety about being out in the first place.

I think I mentioned that my therapist said I approach my problems in a very cerebral way. I know why I do things. I’ve drilled down to find the causes and reasons for my problematic behaviors. I’m good at it. What I’m not good at is finding the FEELINGS attached to those reasons. And my disinterest (or aversion) to feelings also leads me to numb myself (drink). See? I just did it again.

My face is starting to look it’s age. I’ve always looked younger than I am. My skin looks terrible. I don’t remember nights anymore. Who knows what a nightmare person I have been. I’m a middle aged woman for crying out loud. I need more gentleness in my life.

Want. Need. Listening. Shit.

I had my ladies night on Saturday and I didn’t get too crazy. In fact, I got a headache. I’m not sure if it was from dehydration or from exhaustion but it was a doozy. I barely slept the night before due to the Pup wanting to go out, the little guy wanting to come in, and regular old general anxiety. I had a nice breakfast at the diner with the girls and then went home to complete some chores.

I went back down about 3:30 and had a few hard seltzer’s before the headache started it’s strangle hold. I just wasn’t feeling it. I wanted to go home but I felt bad, so I stayed. A beloved friend was in from out of state so I wanted to be sure I spent time with her. Unfortunately, it was getting to the point where no one was making sense and kind of talking over one another. Sometimes, I feel like I somehow missed the wave everyone else is surfing on and then I just can’t catch up. And ultimately I’m fine with that because I’m so tired. And cranky.

I had intended on staying over and really going for it, but I left around 1am and put my throbbing cranium on a pillow. It’s weird that I couldn’t just leave at like 9 or 10 when I wanted to. I always feel like I’m going to be seen as a jerk if I do that. And I have a crippling need to be liked. So this is what I do.

We had a nice family day on Sunday. Lots of outside time. Reading, My little guy and the dog running around the yard. We went out for dinner and I had a glass of wine but that was it. All night. I went to bed at a reasonable time after watching a Doris Day movie.

Tonight, I am struggling. I honestly do not WANT a drink but I’m craving one. Does that even make sense at all? Like… many body wants it. I guess that’s why they call it addiction (sung to Elton John’s song). It’s such a shit feeling. I’m sort of caught between “oh go have one” and “no, just ride it out. Prove something to yourself.”

The second one is yelling louder. I’m listening.

Mountains.

Have I mentioned that I am a performer? Maybe not. I mostly perform in bars and at (alcohol fueled) events. This weekend’s gig was an overnight. It’s far. So we took advantage of the situation. A bunch of middle aged folks unleashed from having to drive anywhere. Mix in the fact that we’re in gorgeous mountain country. It was a recipe for celebration. We were out until 4am. I slept well and the mountain air did me good. I love it up here. Today I feel relatively gross but not terrible. I’m also pretty sure I smell like a barroom floor which is horrifying.

silhouette of mountains

Photo by Simon Matzinger on Pexels.com

I’m still listening to Claire Pooley’s The Sober Diaries for my long car trip. I’ve also cued up Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly but haven’t started it yet. Pooley’s story (and her honesty about her drinking) resonate deeply with me. She almost makes me believe that I can do it one day. I’ve reached the point in her story where she discusses her diagnosis of breast cancer at 46. Women who drink excessively are way more likely to get it. She also discusses Edith Piaf’s death from alcoholism at 47 from liver cancer. Like… what the fuck am I waiting for here? I’ll be 42 in a few months. I’m honestly terrified to go to the doctor for anything because who knows what is brewing in this cauldron.

Right now I am in famous hippie town having a lovely lunch and drinking a blood orange iced tea that is delicious. Can’t I drink things like that when I’m out (or in)?

I worry about how my relationships would continue. My friends and I have a very deeply rooted drinking culture. Staying out well into the morning hours, drinking bottles over bottles while making a mountain out of an ashtray. These are therapy sessions. Summits on solving the world’s problems.

I’m scared of losing that.

When I try to break down what that would look like… I see more day time hangs. Maybe more like outings – to DO things? A museum, a show, a yoga class? Even if we did dinner, I doubt there will be a shortage of things to talk about.

Truthfully, I’m afraid of who I am without drinking because I don’t know her at all. I’ve been “self-medicating” since I was 24. I don’t know if she has ever even existed.

I DO know that the person who drinks is a loud, rambling chainsmoker who loves to interrupt you and talk about herself. The alcohol free me can’t be any worse than that. I also know that before I drank I was not a talker AT ALL. I was an observer. I would take EVERYTHING in. As an artist, I’m going to guess that will only benefit me.

I think of the extra energy I’ll have. I’ll lose weight. My skin will clear up. I’ll be fucking healthier. I’ll likely keep the majority of my friends. Ugh.

There must be some kind of way out of here…

I need to start writing here as a way of documenting whatever the hell this is… either a path to better health or a slow descent into complete atrophy. Small steps though. I think I am one of those people who thinks that everything will change overnight. I logically know this to not be true but I am still bafflingly disappointed when I haven’t lost 15 lbs after a half hour of exercise or eating a salad.

What is that? Like – why am I like this?

I suppose I’m in this situation because of my need for instant gratification. I am overweight. I drink too much. I smoke cigarettes. I am uncomfortable, always tired, depressed, and full of guilt. It is a pretty tight operation if you think about it. The perfect combination and sequence to keep this thing running strong.

I should probably go back to therapy. But I arrogantly feel like I have been there and done that and I know myself really well. I know what the problems are. I am insightful. I majored in Psychology and Counseling in under- and post-grad. I have a good handle on why I am like this. My problem is finding the will power and discipline to turn it around.

I suppose I’ll go into my history at some point but the nutshell version is that I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety almost my whole life. A chemical thing. I found cigarettes in my teens, alcohol and food in my 20s, and have been treating myself like a spoiled toddler ever since. I have gone through spurts of exercise. I even did CrossFit for a year. I looked great. I felt great. I was NOT into the weird “cultiness” of it though. Yet, I plan my social life around recreational eating and drinking. (Talk about worshipping false idols.)

It’s gotten pretty bad in the past few years. I’m in my 40s now so I’m probably seeing the consequences on my face and body more. I can’t bounce back as quickly so I feel like shit pretty much all the time. I come home late, so I order fries from the diner to eat. I feel like crap in the morning so I grab a giant bagel. (Yes, clearly I’m in NJ.)

I have been a donor to Weight Watchers, Noom, various online eating and exercise plans and here I am gulleting two bags of M&Ms at 1am. Wonder why the scale keeps going up? Also, wine is like 150 calories a glass or something. (More like 200+ with the quantities I pour.) So, if I have 3 glasses of wine in a night… when I’m being conservative… I’m ingesting 450-600 empty ass calories.

Anyway… I am trying so hard to just get off the fucking ground here. I want to be healthier. I want to feel better. I want to have a sense of control back in my life.

So here we go. Again.