I would like to point out that I have not been scrooging on everyone’s Christmas. In spite of my disappointment in the Christmas crowd for trammeling Thanksgiving with their Christmas chatter. I’m hoping that this magnanimity on my part will inspire everyone to leave off the Christmas chatter until AFTER Thanksgiving next year.
Today I’m going to see The Hunger Games in the theater while Philip and Max see The Hobbit. That’s right, I’m a Hunger Games movie fan and I haven’t read the books. I’m still not sure I’m going to. I’m almost as excited as the tweens about this movie. Plus – I love movie popcorn even though I know it’s very bad for me. The only time I drink soda is with a big bag of popcorn at the movies. I love going to the movies by myself so this is a double treat.
Between now and my birthday – after which I will be starting my big fresh adventure – I need to be mapping out my intentions, my goals, and my ideas for getting there. Part of not drinking (for however long I abstain) is recognizing all the things it does for me. No matter how much of addiction is just a chemical your body grows dependent on – it can’t grow dependent on something if it doesn’t perceive benefit from it in the first place. For some people the thing they love about alcohol is shutting out all their problems – being drunk. I have known plenty of people whose main reason for drinking is to get actually plastered. They want that total incomprehensible slurry place where you are no longer in control.
I hate that. This is why I don’t do psychedelics. I hate feeling out of control. I hate things to swim before me or become unpredictable or to alter from how they are supposed to be (the way colors get weird on acid and everything has an aura or how heroine makes you feel like you’re under water and time has slowed down). I hate it. It makes me feel scared and it makes me so uncomfortable I want to crawl out of my body. I already want to do that most of the time. Taking anything that accelerates and strengthens that desire is like poison to me. I don’t want my mind altered unless it’s going to be altered to be less weird and dark and scary.
My mind is already a complete chaos of thoughts, hundreds of ticker tapes constantly computing and spewing out reels and reels of words and feelings and images and predictions and voices. It never stops. It’s a mad-house in my head. This is why I have to write. Writing is the most natural and healthy way I know how to get some of the noise down. If I transcribe it into words on paper (or on a screen) then it makes my head a little bit calmer. Cigarettes helped too. Then psyche meds helped the most. I still have a head full of noise but it’s less malignant and harmful when I’m on psyche meds. It’s interesting without being so scary now that I’m medicated.
I need to figure out how to give myself the same benefits that alcohol does in healthier ways. So first, here’s a list of what it does for me and how it has gotten me through 7 years of hell:
Beer makes me sleep better. I still wake up a couple of times a night most nights and I still have nightmares but I don’t have any trouble getting to sleep in the first place and getting back to sleep when I wake up in the night. When I don’t drink I have insomnia and once I wake up in the night I have a much harder time getting back to sleep.
It needs to be noted that I’ve had sleeping problems my whole life. Not sleeping well when not drinking isn’t a withdrawal symptom, it’s just me going back to the way things are when I don’t drink.
Alcohol eases anxiety and quiets my mind. It instantly eases my anxiety. Social and otherwise. I do not feel anxious when I’m drinking and I love that. When I’m drinking my mind feels calm and in conjunction with television shows or movies it is completely quiet. There is no other time in my life when my mind is completely quiet. A quiet mind is an addictive feeling. It is not quiet when I sleep and it is not quiet when I’m just drinking but when I’m drinking and watching television there is no noise in there. Just blissful quiet.
Alcohol tastes good. Yeah, there’s no beverage that tastes better to me than beer. Except for coffee and water, which I drink quite a bit of too. Tea is okay but lacks the punch of bitterness that beer has. Coffee has the same satisfying punch that beer does but I can’t drink coffee (not even decaf) later than 1pm. (I drink mostly decaf as it is)
Alcohol makes it possible to be social. I don’t think about this too much because I avoid social gatherings as a general rule. I love to hang out with very small groups of really close friends and though I don’t NEED alcohol for that – in those situations it’s just warm and festive and enjoyable. But without alcohol I could not possibly go to parties or large meetings of people. The idea of going to a dry wedding sounds like the most depressing and tedious thing I can think of. I don’t know how people can do that. I have serious social anxiety but most people only know that because I tell them I do – they can’t tell for themselves because I am very skilled at hiding it, especially if there is alcohol present. If I have to attend any big group meetings with people I don’t know intimately I will most likely drink more than usual when I get home to bring down my anxiety levels.
Alcohol is an effective pain killer. Ever since breaking my hip I’ve had a lot of pain in my body. Even after it healed. Since then I’ve had a lot more problems with my back going out, my feet started having problems, and exercise results in injuries quite often (recurring foot injury, flare-up of hip pain, the weight of my body is absolutely to blame for some of this though I have always had skill at injuring myself in situations that shouldn’t be injurious)
I am a person who relies heavily on habits to get me through life. Routines are important. Not necessarily having a strict daily schedule. Not like that. Routines such as the order in which things are done. Every morning I wake up, start coffee, brush my teeth, and then go to the bathroom. Exactly the same. If I wake up and have to go to the bathroom really bad I will try very hard to wait until I have done the other things first. If I can’t, I feel out of whack. Every night after 5pm I start drinking some beer and I check in with my family, feed my kid, eat if I haven’t already eaten (though I usually eat dinner before 5pm) and then I start watching shows. I have to watch 2-3 hours of television with alcohol to wind down before going to bed. Minimum. Otherwise I’m too wound up to sleep. I generally don’t bother trying to get to sleep early because I have never been able to. Not even with alcohol. Sometimes I’ll watch tv and drink beer until 3am. My body doesn’t like this. My mind desperately needs it.
Ideally, I would have a mental health professional visit me every day at 6pm and turn off my brain, activate a coma, and then return at 5am and turn my brain back on and wake me from my coma. It’s essentially what I try to do to myself every night. It’s the best I’ve been able to come up with and it works well except for the part where I’m fat and hate myself.
I always laughed when my Kung Fu teacher talked about studies that show that watching television puts your mind in a coma-like state – AS THOUGH THAT’S A BAD THING. I realized that that’s exactly what I love so much about it. I watch it and one part of my brain gets engaged in what I’m watching and the rest of it shuts up like it’s in a coma. If you have a brain like mine you know that this is the only time I truly am at rest.
Reading books used to be inextricably connected to smoking for me. It took me a few years after quitting smoking to be able to read books again without an intense urge to smoke. It’s been years now since I struggled with that. I got back into the habit of reading without smoking and they are no longer linked.
Drinking is now linked with watching television. The link is also complicated by another issue. Something I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned before. When I watch sitcoms I usually drink one beer per show. When I watch dramas I usually drink two beers per show. This is actually very difficult to queue up properly. I won’t stop watching television until my last sip of beer occurs in the last scene of the show. If I have half a beer left at the end of a show I have to watch another episode. If I finish my last beer only halfway or two thirds of the way through the show, I have to open another one. I rarely leave a beer unfinished unless I fall asleep in my chair. It’s very much a compulsion. I feel itchy inside to have things not level out evenly. I also have to finish ALL the beers if I even hope on a prayer to not drink the next day. Philip not drink the next day even if there are some left over. I want there to be no beers left and it isn’t just because I don’t want the temptation. It’s the unevenness of leftover beers. I have been known to stay up two hours longer than I wanted to because I couldn’t stand the thought of 2 or 3 beers being leftover.
I don’t have this problem with wine. I can not drink when there’s a bottle of wine in the house. I have even been able to not drink when there has been an opened bottle of wine in the house. But I prefer beer and this thing – whatever it is – is fucking annoying and uncomfortable. It’s exactly like that urge to do things in the precise correct order or feel wrong and itchy and have your brain stuck on the wrongness until it’s righted. I had a half a bottle of 100 proof vodka in the house for a long time that I didn’t feel compelled to drink.
Next I will try to list some things that might help calm me in the place of alcohol and also lay out the routine that I want to establish for myself.
I hope you’re all having a great weekend – hope you’re not freaking or stressing out about Christmas. It’s just a holiday, it’s not the apocalypse.