Sunday, May 24

10pm

I'm not sure what it is about this time of night that makes me cry. Somewhere between 10 and 11pm, my ears become heavy and I start to panic. It usually spawns when I'm getting ready for bed, somewhere between brushing my teeth and returning to my room alone.

Loneliness is the worst part of depression, not the getting out of bed at 6pm or the feelings of failure. It's the idea that I'm alone, alone with my thoughts and my bed, the bed that isn't even mine. Sometimes I feel like this bed is the last thing I have left. I crawl under the covers each night knowing that I'm not going to be reaching the pinnacle of my day until the birds are well into chirping a few hours later. I keep the window open because it feels like I'm outside without having to leave the comfort of what isn't actually mine.

Stores are closed, restaurants are closed. Parents aren't in bed yet because of the holiday weekend. Kids are running around the coffee table while an animated television distraction lights the windows from Netflix. Two drunk people kiss at a bar. An old man curses the rain and his step-son. A well-loved cat sits by his bowl of food that he doesn't seem to realize isn't empty.

I started Season 8 of SVU. Mariska is on maternity leave and was "temporarily reassigned" to her newborn baby. Stabler butts heads with Dani Beck, his overzealous new partner. Ice-T cracks comments like, "that's cold, dog" while Munch enlightens everyone to his newest conspiracy theory. Blah blah blah.

Every time I'm in a major depressive episode, I latch onto a television series. It makes me feel like I have friends. I can catch up on their drama and the backstories which lead up to the latest goings on. In 2010, it was The Office. In 2008, it was Ghost Adventures. While I enjoy the ridiculousness of these shows, they help me feel like I'm not alone.

I've been trying to do at least one thing per day. Yesterday, it was dye my hair a heinous color. Today it was laundry. Tomorrow I need to buy stamps. Having someone ask me, "What did you do today?" has left me feeling dry and unaccomplished because I never want to respond with "nothing." There have been those days in sobriety where I let myself be tired or numb, but the feeling of inadequacy always returns around 10pm, the time where my solitary confinement sets in. Supposedly, my body and mind won't be completely acclimated to sobriety until I'm sober for one year. Nine months to go seems like a long time, even though the three months I've been sober has almost seemed longer.

There are times where I really enjoy being alone: I can do what I please without anyone judging me. Other times, I'm really craving social interaction, which is hard to accomplish at 10pm on a Sunday night during a holiday weekend. I cannot expect the world to cater to my loneliness.

My dreams have been vivid, and I'm relieved to leave them upon waking. Buying a gun in a bar was probably the scariest one yet. I sat down to purchase a beer from the bartender and a gun from another comic. I woke up sweating and crying. Drinking dreams are supposedly a sign that you are committed to your recovery because you're seeing the things that could potentially happen if you return to alcohol. I want to be a whole person, and drinking never allowed me to be a whole person. I highly doubt that if I were to drink I'd be purchasing a handgun because guns scare me and I've never owned one, held one, or even seen a gun. I don't want to be a monster anymore.

I should go to bed, but I don't want to cry or have bad dreams. Season 8, Episode 6 of SVU it is.


Thursday, May 21

There are few things that make the human being unstoppable: power, freedom, sobriety, laxatives.

Tonight I was elected squad leader of my Thursday night AA meeting. The responsibilities of a squad leader include directing the meeting through the serenity prayer, announcements, birthdays, and the multitude of texts that preclude the topic of discussion each week. I was a little surprised someone nominated me; I was one of the newest and youngest members of this group. But they told me that because of my dedication each week, my intelligence in regards to sobriety, and my sense of humor be successful for the group, and I gratefully accepted.

I first went to this meeting after I was assaulted. I showed up in an oversized hat and scarf to draw attention away from my black eye, and wore gloves to cover the bite on my hand. AA wasn't like I remembered it: over ten years ago, I went to AA in accordance with a fledgling outpatient treatment program in Seattle. In order to not become a liability for underage drinking at my private education institution, I was to undergo outpatient and chemical dependency therapy. Ten years ago, this program failed me miserably. I wasn't ready to be sober, my grades were slipping due to my extracurricular "activities," and the obligation of leaving my friends for Bill W wasn't conducive to my 17-year-old social habits. I was going to AA because I had to. At one point, I was forging my AA slips intended for my squad leaders as proof that I was actually attending.

My first meeting in ten years was located in a house in Columbia Heights. Walking in felt like I was walking into someone's home to borrow a cup of sugar. The kitchen was tidy, and fifteen or so chairs horseshoed in the living room. A giant marble coffee table with the AA emblem housed coffee cups, AA literature, even some thawing Girl Scout cookies from the year before.

I took a seat in the corner and didn't speak to anyone. At this time, I was on a wait list to go to inpatient rehab at Fairview Riverside. In order to get in the right headspace, I decided to attend a few meetings before submitting myself to those behind hospital doors.

I was the youngest person at the meeting. Another member handed me a phone list complete with first names and sobriety dates, some of which were from around the time The Doors and Led Zeppelin were getting popular. I was a newcomer, scared and ashamed. I sat in the corner and tried not to make eye contact. We all stood and held hands for the serenity prayer, which I knew but didn't recite during the start of the meeting.

To be honest, I don't even remember the topic of the meeting. I was too frightened to focus or make light of other members' enlightenments. I held my hands in my lap and placed two dollars in the basket when it was passed around to me. The meeting is discussion based, meaning everyone speaks. Around the horseshoe we went, talking about how we were grateful for sobriety and listening various shortcomings. And then it got to me. I choked and cried when I talked. I talked about how if I wasn't drunk, I wouldn't have gotten into physical trouble the way I did. I talked about how I was on a waiting list for inpatient and that I didn't know when I would be drafted. I talked about being more scared and ashamed than grateful.

Many members spoke to me afterwards, reassuring me that if I kept coming back, things would get better. Others spoke about how they had went through treatment 12 or 14 times, but that AA steered them right. I drove home in the snow, content I had come upon something I could rely on and contribute to rather than just becoming sober on my own.

When I was diagnosed with diabetes, I quit drinking for almost two years starting in 2010. I can do it on my own! Surely I can do it again. And then I slowly started drinking at open mics, dinner parties, and other relaxed occasions. I was laid off from my first real job in 2012, and down I went. Six days a week, I was in the backyard tanning with a stiff whisky drink and no real sense of self-esteem. I was defeated while my unemployed pity party was in full swing. The legitimate struggle has been real for the last two years, and in February of 2015, it came crashing down again, this time with a deafening din. AA has helped me stay sober, however I have a few reservations.

There's a lot of god talk in AA, and it took some getting used to. We're supposed to "turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him." As an atheist, there is no one to "turn my life over to," and pronouns aren't capitalized. In the Big Book, there is a chapter titled "We Agnostics," which asks you to surrender. But god as I understand him simply does not exist for me. Some have told me to find faith in a Higher Power, a power that is greater than myself and to use that as my spiritual guide through the program. I have a rough time with this aspect. A while back during an outpatient session, we were having a seminar on spirituality which was lead by a backwoods woman who is in recovery and found her calling as a pastor. However, she was asking us to share our experiences with our Higher Powers. Some people shared about how they reach out to their HS to stay sober. But I was fairly dumbfounded when others were saying things like, "Well, I really needed to find a book that was out of print, but low and behold, I found it! And it was all thanks to my Higher Power."

To be short and possibly curt, these are not spiritual experiences (to me). Frank Costanza getting the good parking spot in front of the good building is not an indicator of someone watching on him: it's how he perceives it. By scientific law, these are mere coincidences. That long lost book freed up its schedule to be available to the person who needed it, and I doubt there was a third party ensuring its safe arrival. AA asks me to set aside my prejudice, which I do at every meeting. Sally's Higher Power is not my Higher Power, and that's fine. It's my recovery, not Sally's, and I'm going to do what works for me.

As an atheist, it was foreign to say prayers or give thanks. I was also finding myself getting too caught up in the wording and phrasing of the 12 Steps. Recently I found a dumbed down version, which I can relate to a lot more:

1. Admit I'm a mess and I'm in over my head.
2. Maybe I don't have all the answers, so I'll ask for help.
3. Decide to pay attention to advice given.
4. Take an honest look at how I've been living my life.
5. Tell someone else about my unhealthy lifestyle and harm to others.
6. Decide to live a healthier, kinder life.
7. Make specific changes towards those goals.
8. List everyone I have hurt.
9. Have the courage to tell them I'm sorry and make amends, except if doing so would cause harm.
10. Keep an eye on myself, alert to old thinking and behaviors.
11. Be aware of the beauty in the world and in people.
12. Pass onto others the kindness extended to me.

That's a list that makes sense to me. I want to be a better person today than I was the day before, and a spiritual guide isn't something that needs to be brought into it, although I understand that it can help other people because we are all different, and thus our needs are different.

Overall I'm happy my squad has trusted me to run our weekly meeting. Time for tea and kitty headbutts.


Saturday, May 16

90 days.

I celebrated 90 days of sobriety this week. Well, "celebrated" is an exaggeration. I woke up too late in the day, around the time when young moms start texting each other for happy hour plans or when dad swears all the way home from work because he forgot about summer onramp closures.

I have lost touch with the inability to be grateful. I gave up alcohol but took back nicotine and caffeine in exchange. I'm not sure I'll get to a place in life where I'll be without vices.

Escaping bureaucracy has become less of a habit and more of a frustrating part-time job. I can only do one thing per day: make one phone call, pay a bill, text a sober friend. The thought of doing anything more wears me out. My skin has worn thin and everything hurts. The other day I woke up in the afternoon and cried first thing because I keep dreaming I'm being chased and drinking things I never drank, even when I was in the thick of my drinking. I keep telling people my allergies are really bad when really I was crying in my car and trying to pull it together to the point where others can see me as a real person.

I'm really trying to buck up, but not having the energy to reach said levels of "up" has become really difficult. In the last two weeks, I've knocked out four seasons of Law and Order: SVU. A lot of my dinners have come from fast food locations or Super America, and I've eaten so much cereal that my body is starting to reject it.

Despite being emotionally comatose, I've actually started taking better care of myself. My blood sugars are stable almost 100% of the time, and I floss every night. I have a cup of tea before bed and try not to wake my roommate while I light the stove at 2am.

Kitty has kept me company through everything, the worst and the slightly worse. I have him, but I'm all he has. It's warm enough now during the days where I can leave a window open for him to peek out at squirrels or skateboarders. He's been pretty clingy since I got home from inpatient. He's usually sleeping in my side or in the bend of my leg. I think he knows something's going on with mom, but he isn't sure how to address it except for making sure I'm not alone, and that's all I really need.

I've slowly become over-analytical of my emotions. Why am I feeling this way? What feeling is this? Do others think I feel differently? What can I gain from feeling like this? Is this emotion right or wrong? How can I express how I'm feeling without being aggressive or sarcastic? Use "I" statements. Be clear without applying swearing for emphasis. Such and such. I wear myself out from this emotional analysis.

A few people have asked me if I'll ever be able to have a beer in the future, and I always reply with the same response: no. If there is one thing I can't do, it's drink responsibly. Things got so bad, and if I go back to drinking I know they'll get even worse than that, which is hard to imagine.

I'm trying to rekindle my interest in things I used to love: reading, walking, spending time outside when the weather permits, learning, having fun in the loosest sense of the word. I'm distracted by outside influences, mostly the onslaught of feelings pouring out from an unknown emotional crevice. I feel like that random girl in Mean Girls who shows up to share her emotions on stage during the assembly. She doesn't even go there.

In bed is where I feel the safest. Nothing can hurt me, and I have control of my own environment. Despite not having a door to my actual room, I feel like I've placed a decent sized wall between me and the outside. I don't like being awake, and when I'm sleeping my dreams catch up to me. I can't decide which nightmare is more frightening: the life that I want to subdue or the sleep that spirals down and down and down. Yet my bed is my cradle, my home: the 7 x 4' sanctuary of jersey sheets and cat hair. Nothing can bother me in bed, yet everything bothers me in bed. Rectangle limbo.

I went back to reread this post and it's purely just thought garbage, sober thought garbage. But I'm trying to journal more and see a tangible portrayal of my feelings. It kind of helps, I guess. Now that I'm sober, most of my sentences end with "...I guess." I'm feeling okay, I guess. I should probably go to Target, I guess. I should write some jokes, I guess.

I am the hollow egg and the bed is my carton. I am the sober egg, the somewhat grateful sober egg.