Resetting the clock

I had two months in my rear-view mirror when I decided to have a drink again.


The Margarita that reset the clock

I was thinking of ending my sobriety for a couple weeks before I actually did. Everyone said that it would only be a matter of time before I was back to square one. I still couldn’t get the idea out of my mind that I just wanted to enhance my situation sometimes.

I felt like a little kid in timeout that wasn’t able to play with the adults.

I wanted to be able to go to a restaurant and order a fancy cocktail. I wanted to have a beer at a concert with everyone else. I wanted to try the seasonal drinks at the local brewery. I even wanted to come home after a hard days work and have a cold one. I guess I just perceive these things as “normal”, since drinking is such a big thing in our society.

So, one night my boyfriend and I went to the Cheesecake Factory and ordered steak and I had a margarita. It ended there.

Well, at least until three nights later, when I had a hard day at work so I decided to have a pint. After all, it was only one pint and it was a seasonal pumpkin flavor that I needed to try.

Two days after that I got two more of the pumpkin pints. I don’t really have any any reasoning for that…other than I really enjoy them!

It’s been really hard for me to decide that I need to stop. So many people have said that it’s only a matter of time before I am back at square one, but I don’t really feel that way or have the desire to stop.

I don’t know where I will be in the the months to come. I do know that I hope to look back and read this reflection with a peaceful heart, a forgiving soul and an open mind.

Making strides.

Twenty-five days ago I quit drinking, and most people told me to start AA meetings or sign up for therapy. I started running instead.

I am not an athletic person whatsoever. I don’t work out and I’ve never trained for anything. Even as a child, I never participated in sports. I couldn’t even tell you how most of them are played. The 3-block walk to the grocery store to pick up potato chips for my Netflix marathon is usually plenty of activity in my book. That said, starting this running regimen has been kind of a big deal for me.

I suppose before I started the C25K program I had a romantic idea in my mind of what I thought running was like. The expectation was that I would leisurely jog down tranquil beaches in cute exercise clothing while sporting killer abs and hardly breaking a sweat, just like the girls in pictures. The reality is that I would drag my 2000lb, heavier-than-stone, aching body through the grass for fear of breaking my shins on the concrete, in the grubbiest clothing that I own because they will be so nasty that I will want to burn them in the fires of Sauron when I’m finished, all while praying nobody noticed my fat jiggling to the tune of “Get your freak on” on my Ipod.

Running is hard.

I know, I know. You’re probably thinking: You fool! You should go to AA. That seems to be the common thought among society. I did try a couple meetings, but sitting in a moldy church basement with a bunch of strangers and listening to someone’s struggle that was brought on from their dead cat simply isn’t therapeutic for me. Don’t get me wrong, I can see why a lot of people like the program. There is that sense of community when everyone greets you, listens to your woes and shakes your hand at the end. You even get coins, and who doesn’t like prizes?!  Well, this loner could do without.

The road is a fairly good listener and I get to tell my tale to the most important audience: myself. On my first run, I noticed right away the amount of positive self-talk involved to get through a session. It sounds really cheesy, but telling myself, “Don’t stop- you can do this!” has done wonders not only for my running but my self confidence.

You can get through this.

This pain is temporary.

You are strong.

These are all things that I think on my runs and I’m now starting to apply those same thoughts when I have other challenges in my life. As a drinker, I was only familiar with negative self talk and sabotaging myself into not doing anything that could result in failure. The mind is a very powerful thing. If you can train your mind to keep going even when your body wants to quit, you can achieve some incredible things.

I’m not sure how long I will have to train before I can consider myself a “real” runner. Right now, I am on week 4 of the C25K program and I find it quite challenging. Sometimes in the middle of a jog interval I have asked myself, “Is this really jogging or am I just hop-walking?” but finishing is all that matters so I keep going. I never regret a run. Even if my energy sucked and I come home feeling like I totally sucked, at least I tried.

The saying goes that you have to get through hell to reach heaven. Like all things worth pursuing, you are going to get knocked down, stepped on, and rejected along the way.  Maybe this is part of the journey to get to my goals. Sometimes it’s more about the journey than the destination, anyway.


Obligatory photo of my running shoes and heart rate monitor.

The burning.

Five years ago, I was sitting at the kitchen table in the same run-down apartment that I live in now, and I realized that my feet were burning. Careful inspection revealed no burn, and no home remedy seemed to help. My skin simply burned in weird waves like a sunburn. It didn’t take long for the sensation to move to my legs, arms, face and back. The burning would float around, coming and going like the tides. I was stumped as to why it happened or why some days it was like the plague was upon me and others it was hardly noticeable.

I finally went to my primary doctor when I was in an unbearable flare. I remember telling him, “It’s like I’m being dipped in acid! I can’t stand it“. Sometimes I would touch things with my arm or leg and feel a burning sensation in its wake. Sometimes I would touch something and itch in that spot. My doctor said it was Neuropathy and referred me to a neurologist.

I waited for 3 months to get in to that specialist. On appointment day, I arrived 5 minutes early with a list in hand. I didn’t want a single thing to get missed. I waited for 45 minutes in the exam room for the doctor to come in. I remember it all so clearly. I remember his suit that didn’t fit, his white hair and his indifferent gaze. I remember starting to tell him about my symptoms, but he cut me off and started a few physical tests on me. I remember one of them was running a paperclip down my leg. He asked me if I could feel it, and I said yes and added that it left a wake of fire behind it. He raised his eyebrows and nodded as if I were telling tales. Then he said, “Well, it’s not M.S.” in a dismissive tone.

He wrote me a prescription and quickly left. The whole appointment was less than 10 minutes long. I remember getting up and watching him walk away down the hallway. I stared down at my list and realized that I had only touched on 1/4 of it. I was so angry.

An older, wiser self wishes that she could go back in time and tell Mr. Big-Shot Specialist a thing or two. I wish that I could say I never said anything about M.S., you twat. I wish I could remind him that the only way to diagnose M.S. anyway is with a series of tests like MRI and spinal tap, and he hadn’t ordered those. I wish I could tell him that when he dismissed me as being a liar it deterred me from getting help for nearly three years and encouraged me to self medicate with alcohol. Prick.

Today, I am no closer to getting answers or relief. In fact, new symptoms were one of the things that increased my drinking and brought things to a tipping point. The doctors are very quick to offer medications, but not so quick to get to the bottom of why it’s happening.

Using alcohol to self medicate was a dumb decision, but it seemed necessary when prescription medication had failed. I tried the medication the Big-Shot Specialist gave me, but it didn’t help my symptoms and had a lot of side effects. Other medications that I tried before that induced panic attacks. It didn’t seem worth it to feel worse in an effort to feel better, even if it was temporary.

After many negative experiences with doctors, the very idea of going again makes me instantly angry and defensive. And yet, I know that I am writing this because I am opening myself up to the idea of going again. I know that I don’t really have a choice if I want to stay sober. I have a neurology appointment coming up this month, and I’m not feeling very open to whatever treatment they will recommend. I don’t know what other options I have, though.

Sometimes, giving up alcohol is the easy part. The hard part is afterwards, when you’re thrown into the UFC octagon ring called Life with nothing but your wits and you’re opponent is a decade’s worth of problems. All you can do is hope to come out alive.

Okay, that’s a bit dramatic, but still fitting. The best reassurance that I have received lately was from my boyfriend, who said: “Well, you’ve made it this long with your health issues and you didn’t die, so… you will probably be okay”. Not dying is always promising. I’ll take it.

When enough was enough.

I remember the moment that I decided to quit drinking very clearly. I think deep down I knew that it needed to happen months before this, but I always rationalized that my habits were okay. I would always compare myself to the hardcore alcoholics that drank until they threw up, blacked out, or pissed the sheets. The type of people that would get the shakes if they quit cold turkey. I would say, “See? I’m not like that. I’m fine”.

Except, I was never fine. Sure, I never did any of those things, but I did drink fairly often. Sometimes several nights in a row, or at least half the week. It’s very common for me to buy a 6 pack of IPA and say that it will last me all week and polish it off within one or two nights. I have never, and I mean never, just had one drink and stopped. The only purpose of drinking is to get a buzz for me.

Somewhere along the way, I found it hard to enjoy basic things like going to a restaurant or night on the town if we weren’t going to drink. My boyfriend would have one beer with dinner while I had two margaritas. Most of the time, my drinking took place on my couch with some Netflix after throwing in the towel for the day. I tried not to think about it. It’s not like I can go to work and brag to my coworkers about staying up and drinking until I passed out. Alone.

I finally faced my drinking as I was crawling out of bed around noon on a Wednesday. A day that I would normally be at work, but decided not to go because I didn’t want to feel exhausted all day long from the drinks I had consumed the night before. The crazy thing was, I have been going through some financial stresses. It’s one of the things that led me to drink to begin with, but missing work obviously only puts me in further financial crisis. I said to myself in that moment, what are you doing? This makes NO sense!  I was filled with shame over my choices.

Drinking is glorified by our society, especially if you’re a young person. I told myself that my habits were okay, even when I was chronically depressed, because I was still functional. Then this image really stuck out to me:


Just because something is still functional doesn’t mean it’s not broken.

I decided then and there that it was time for a change. I am tired of waking up with a headache, exhausted and achy. I am tired of rationalizing with myself. I am tired of the money spent. Most of all I am tired of the time wasted.

I don’t know if I would consider myself an “alcoholic”, but I definitely think that alcohol is negatively effecting my life right now. I am not going to focus on labels or long-term commitments right now. Instead, I am going to focus on healing my heart one day at a time.

(Today is my 4th day sober).