Sober and Skinny

I haven’t written in a while. I’ve started a bunch of drafts, but have never wanted to publish them.

Quick update: Still sober, still into it. It’ll be 6 months on March 8th (I’ve got an alert on my calendar from back in the days when I was just starting and 6 months felt like a lifetime). Good things happening in my life, general not-being-a-fuck-up behavior is more frequent than being-a-fuck-up behavior.

That said, I’m fucked up.

I’m sober, but I’m all twisted up about food and I don’t know if I’m actually kind of fine or headed down a slippery slope.

So I’ve lost about 22 pounds since I gave up drinking. It’s a lot of weight to have lost.  I’m short, and I had a normal BMI to begin with.  I still have a normal BMI, although it’s verging on the very low side.

I’m a former actor turned writer. Anyone who’s a woman who’s been an actor knows that in that world, it’s pretty hard to ever feel like you’re too thin.

Anyway I’m getting to that point where people are starting to tell me not to lose any more weight. I have a history with anorexia and bulimia that got me hospitalized in high school, but I haven’t really had a problem with eating since my early 20s (I’m almost 35).  But something about the sobriety has sparked me restricting my food again.

The day I stopped drinking, I felt like all my desire, all my cravings just ceased. Like along with my disgust at drinking I became disgusted with all consumption.

This translated into weight loss.  It has been easy to make the weight loss seem normal because of the stopping drinking (When people comment on my weight loss I shrug and jokingly tell people, “I stopped drinking, which tells you how much I was drinking”).

And my eating has not been the kind of restricting where I eat lettuce leaves and nothing else, but rather the kind of restricting in which I’ll have a couple bites of stew here, a couple of cheese and crackers there, a slice of cake for breakfast and then not much until dinner. In short, I eat small amounts of incredibly rich foods.  I often don’t eat very much until late in the day to avoid consuming too much. It’s not very healthy.

But it’s also not terrible. I just see the potential of it getting terrible. It’s so different from my teenage and early-20’s disordered eating that I don’t know what to make of it. I already have passed my goal weight that I’ve had in my mind since the birth of my daughter, and I catch myself bandying about lower and lower goal weights, like “wouldn’t it be cool if you weighed this?” etc. etc.

Part of me wonders if I just don’t pass any judgment on this eating thing, if I just wait it out, then my system will right itself. Part of me just believes I should get myself to eat more vegetables. Lots of me believes that I need to get myself to a therapist to help with this whole sobriety thing, but I don’t have the time or the money.

So many people talk about the weight loss that comes with stopping drinking. It’s an incentive, naturally, but for me it’s becoming a distraction. I really didn’t want to be the kind of person in recovery who downed a pint of ice cream every night, but that’s because I spent so much time binging and purging in my teens and 20s that I seriously feel like that situation is all played out for me.

This whole situation is new, though. I can’t say I’m not excited about being thin again. I am. And I can’t say that I don’t want to hang on to this weight loss. I do.  But I don’t want to go into yet another recovery process.

Anyone out there get weird about food when you stopped drinking?  How did you work it out?

 

 

 

 

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Driving to the moon in a Volkswagon

My husband asked me yesterday at his birthday dinner (after my 100 days no drinking had passed) (as noted by a mark I had on the calendar from my early days, not counting) (extra, useless parenthetical because good things come in threes) what my ‘plan’ was in relation to my drinking.

I said I was pretty sure it was forever in a one-day-at-a-time kind of way.

And I asked him if he was upset about it.

And he said no.

And I pressed him.

And he still said no. And then he said, you’re more likely to see me coming over to your side than me convincing you to come back to mine.

And that was a wonderful 100 day gift.

We talked a little more, and I voiced a little vudu thought that’s been going through my head.

Basically, that I feel like I have a good life. A good life that is ratcheting up to be a GREAT life. (And as much as I know the value of being in the moment, I also think something gets lost when you cut the aspiration out of your life).

But that goodness, of my life, that to me feels incredibly nerve-wracking. Like, why do I deserve such a good life? Something is bound to happen to interrupt what has felt like a stream of good fortune (I mean it’s not like I don’t have struggles — I mean good fortune in the sense of good health, security, love and family).

And something will. But last night I told my husband that I viewed myself quitting drinking as a spiritual homage to the good fortune that I feel like I have. I viewed it as a kind of sacrifice. And then I reworded it. I said  — not sacrifice so much as — I want to be awake for this life. Really and truly awake and aware of every minute it’s happening. In good and bad. I feel like I owe my life my sobriety.

Blah blah blah and then we talked about Saint West*

Buddhism talks so much about being “awake”. I mean, I find it hilarious that the tradition of Buddhism that I was practicing with back in the day almost encouraged drinking — trying to “wake up” while getting blotto 2-3 nights a week was, for me, to quote James Ellroy “trying to get to the moon in a Volkswagon.”

Not like sobriety is some sort of express train to enlightenment, but I think, on the way (to a destination I’ll never reach in this lifetime) It’s got a better view.

 

*Did not actually discuss Saint West.

 

 

Pride goeth…

Of course, after that chipper, glowing paean to being an awesome person at sobriety I wrote yesterday, I had a night made of trash.

I stayed sober through it. I didn’t want to, but I did.

Basically I just don’t understand how to balance having an under 2 year old, getting household chores done so that you don’t feel like you’re drowning in mess and laundry, be trying to launch a career, and having enough energy to spend quality, non-TV time with your spouse that leads to … you know, without both of you taking the breath that is a shared bottle of wine.

Sometimes we do some yoga together and that’s nice, but we’re not both always in the mood to do it. Sometimes we sit with our computers at the kitchen table together and get things done, but invariably it depresses one of us. My husband gets up super early and so whenever we watch a movie he falls into a deep sleep (with snoring) and that drives me crazy (which he thinks is crazy) and we end up having an argument about it. He hates Scrabble.

Honestly I don’t know what to do.  The wine used to help – it was fun and it loosened us up (both of us feel like we’re juggling a good deal of things, and it can be hard to unwind). I’m better without it, but these nights at home aren’t (and I’m getting the not-so-subtle messages from my husband that he misses wine nights, which is depressing my shit to no end).

I don’t know what to do. Seriously. Any thoughts?

HELLO 90 DAYS

WARNING: Pink Fluffy Cloud Sentiments To Follow:

I love not drinking.

Thanksgiving was a teensy bit hard (although, really, hard for other reasons). There have been a couple of rough nights when my mood has been in the garbage and I’ve not been my best self to people I care about.

BUT I LOVE NOT DRINKING.

Let me count the ways…

  1. I know this is kind of — well, surface-oriented, but I have lost AN ENTIRE 15 POUNDS (I mean, I’m fucking short, so that’s HUGE) without much effort at all.  I’ve upped my exercise (because it feels good) and I’m no longer chasing after sausage egg & cheese on a bagel sandwiches after a rough night, but I’ve definitely been enjoying treats: pies, cookies, cakes, ice cream, and SO much fancy cheese. I used to diet like crazy to keep my calories in check for my drinking, and couldn’t lose a pound for trying (um, just maybe because I was drinking 800-1200 calories of booze every evening). Now my eating is much more balanced and relaxed AND the poundage is melting off.
  2. I feel responsible and in control of my abundant life. Prior to getting sober, I felt like I was just drifting along like a leaf. I had my work, but my work doesn’t pay very well, and the support of my family definitely rests upon the shoulders of my husband. As someone who never envisioned herself as someone who would be “supported,” that drove me craze. There’s this song I (maybe a bit strangely) sing to my daughter in the evenings while putting her to sleep from the musical Caroline, Or Change. There’s a line in the song that goes, “The day will come, I’ll pack up the NOTHING I own.” When I was drinking I used to sing that song and cry at that line every night. I don’t have shit, is what I would think to myself. About 40 or so days into my sobriety, I sang that to my daughter and realized that that line no longer affected me – because I realized I had so much abundance in my life. I have my family, I have my education, I have my skills, I have my work (which may not pay so many bills these days, but will do so soon, and besides I’m raising a human being right so there’s that). This whole narrative of suffering about my work status has gone the way of the 15 pounds, and I feel excited and responsible for all aspects of my life.
  3. Aspects of my work that used to stress me out do not stress me out as much. Life changing.
  4. I have revelations again, personal and about humanity.  My favorite experience in my twenties was the moment when I learned something new about just – you know, being a human. Like, “ah, everybody wants to be liked,” or, “saying I don’t know is more powerful than pretending you know,” you know, things like that. When I got into my 30s, I felt like my revelations had stop coming with frequency, or at all. This really bummed me out. But now I realize I was just anesthetizing my brain with alcohol, and now that I’m sober, I’m learning again/anew small and beautiful insights as I go through my days. That may seem strange, but it’s a huge value-added in my life.
  5. Art (by which I mean mainly theater and film which are WHAT I DO) mean something to me again. Like, I get why I do them again. I’ll leave that there, but again, it’s life changing.
  6. I not only like, but I LOVE to exercise. Isn’t that hilarious?
  7. I also love giving myself some treats! I’ve been to spas and bought jeans and today am getting a Christmas tree with some cute-as-all-hell handmade ornaments for my 90 days.
  8. My baking game is ON POINT.
  9. I’m a better fighter. I used to be The Worst Person to Have a Fight With In The World (TM). If a confrontation arose, I would cry profusely, apologize profusely, and then nurture a grudge against the person for 5-10 years. Now, I’m not so ashamed of myself that I can’t grow a pair and say what’s bothering me, or defend myself. I can stand on my own two feet and say, “Um, no. I don’t think you’re right, and here’s why.” That doesn’t mean I don’t see it from their side eventually, or admit when I’m wrong, but it’s just healthier. There is, of course the theory that some psychotherapists subscribe to that depression is redirected anger.  Letting my anger out in short bursts has desperately improved my overall mood.  Leading to:
  10. I’M NOT DEPRESSED. (right now). I know depression comes and goes, but these past 90 days, without alcohol keeping my mood down, I have experienced an exponential growth of day-to-day well-being. I enjoy my daughter more, my husband more, and my sweet life, for which I am so grateful for, more and more and more. Once again I appreciate a beautiful day, a spot of sun coming in hot through a window, a hard laugh, a beautifully written sentence.

There’s more. But that seems like a good one to close on. I’m the granddaughter of a preacher, so I can’t help stepping up to the pulpit every once in a while and saying: seriously, if you’re thinking about giving up booze, even (or especially) if the  dialogue you’re having is wondering whether you’re an alcoholic or not, then please, give not drinking a try.  If your life is better without booze, does it matter whether you’re an alcoholic or not?

It really really doesn’t.

See you soon,

 

Clem.

Almost to 90.

I’m getting fuzzy about my numbers on purpose.

I feel like the world has confirmed, in good and not so good ways, that not drinking is a better way for me to go. This is not an experiment, this is not a test, this is an entree into a new way of life.

And besides the fact that I’ll have to host some dinner parties without feeling like I’m the star of my own Nancy Meyer’s movie (i.e. goblet of wine in hand in my perfectly tiled kitchen with art-directed gourd arrangements), I’m feeling pretty stoked about it.

Today I got a work email that normally would have sent me into a tailspin of stress.  This morning, however, I woke up and realized it was no big deal, and I could deal with it calmly and with no excess nervous rumbling in the pit of my stomach.

Part of this is realizing that there ARE life and death circumstances in this world, and my work is not one of them. Part of this is the fact that I’m not drinking, and my general coping skills are just simply higher — I’m not hiding from the email in a bottle of wine, so I’m not as likely to drown.

There’s been this odd shift in me. I just feel like the stuff that used to make me want to run under the covers and hide is no longer that threatening.

I had a revelation in college when I all of a sudden started doing my homework. I never had to do homework in high school and so didn’t get accustomed to working, BUT I was always stressed out about not doing my homework, not handing things in on time, waiting until that dreaded last week of the quarter to stay up all hours and hand everything in.

When I was in college and I finally realized, “oh, I can just do my work and I won’t be stressed out all the time” it was like an enormous weight had been taken off my shoulders. I felt free. And good. And happy.

Similarly, I feel like I have just felt this shift about my work. I simply need to do it – not dread it, or run away from it. What’s there to run away from, anyway? It will still be there when I decide to come back.

Sometimes, in sobriety, I do get that feeling that I just want to escape — and I’m sad that I can’t have a drink to bring me down and out of the reality of the situation. But lately I’ve realized that sobriety is all about playing and winning the long game. The long term results and effects far outshine the momentary release that drinking gave me.

And so, here’s life. and it’s the only one I’ve got. I’d like to be around for it.

Day 83: Worst Thanksgiving Ever TM

I didn’t drink.

Let’s get that out of the way.

It was the worst Thanksgiving ever, and I drank a million cups of coffee and smoked during the day, which I never do, but I did not drink.

My mom, who is one of the most vibrant and healthy people I know, inexplicably passed out on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and hit her head against a granite countertop on her way down to the ground.

I was in the other room and heard her go down (thank god) and was sober (thank fucking god) and ran in to find her lying on the floor in a pool of her own blood. We called 911 and they came quickly (thank fucking fucking god) and we got her to the hospital. She had a small brain bleed (the worst phrase) but it healed over the course of her stay. She’s sustained some memory loss, but is getting gradually better. The real problem is that we have NO idea why she’s passing out. She has no medical history or complications that the doctor can find in any way. This is the second time she’s passed out in the last two months (the first was on a plane) but because she has memory loss we can’t know if the incidents were related.

It’s terrifying. I’m back home now, but even thinking of her walking around the kitchen or doing laundry in the basement back in our childhood home fills me with fear and gripping anxiety.

I am not ready for my mom to go. I am not ready for her to be sick. I am not ready for her to be anything other than the kick-ass woman she is – a woman who is literally stronger, like in her arms, than her daughter. A woman who wakes up at 5am and goes to bed at 1am and spends all the time between working on everyone’s happiness other than her own. The most fun and energetic grandmother to my daughter. I can’t face the idea of not having my mom in my daughter’s life.

I’m just not ready.

I’m thankful for Buddhist training in these moments. I know that worrying won’t solve anything. I know to breathe.

Life is so precious and so fragile. I know that even more now.

 

Day 76: But only through math.

I haven’t written in a bit because of…I don’t know.

I realized today that I didn’t know what day I was at in terms of sobriety. I only knew by looking at my last post, the date today, and doing the math.

That feels like some sort of victory.

This morning I woke up and thought to myself, “I don’t drink….WEIRD.” Then I thought, “I used to drink all the time…..WEIRD”

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I’m also at the point where I’m realizing that nobody is going to give me a medal for staying sober. Some people may be impressed, but silent (as I was when I heard about other people stopping drinking), some people may be disappointed, but silent, and other people will just be silent because they have nothing to say and they assume it’s my business and I want to keep it that way.

Growing up I was a “good girl.” I put it in quotes because it was all external goodness in the hope of being recognized and patted on the back by approving adults.  It was all about the medals, the prizes, the recognition.

Sobriety has taught me that I have to go a long way towards making the barometer of my self-approval myself, not others. It may make my husband occasionally feel bad that I don’t drink: I know it’s best for me. It may make my mother feel like I’m not as fun: I know it’s best for me. My friends may take a while to adjust to the fact that coming over to my house for dinner may no longer be the booze fest it used to be: still, I know it’s best for me, and I need to do what’s best for me.

It’s like my compass used to be pointed towards what other people thought and approved of – if they said they thought I didn’t have a problem, I believed them. It took giving up the sauce to realize that the person I’m most responsible to is myself, and the prizes and awards are my strength, confidence, faith in myself, and pride in an accomplishment I know is pretty big. Even if nobody else does.

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