I have been using a habit tracking app on my phone to keep track of how long I haven’t been drinking. It is nice to see the counter increase each day. When I look at the home screen on my phone I can see the number of days it has been since I have binged yet again. I want to see that number increase and my desire to see it increase increases with each larger number. It is like a positive feedback loop. As long as I keep it in mind throughout the day, I am more likely to avoid temptation to drink later.
Photo by Akira Ohgaki at Flickr.
I’m writing this draft late at night after a long day at work and I am still working and looking at a large pile I brought home that just isn’t going to get done. This is yet another one of my drinking triggers. I am a perfectionist that thinks that everything needs to be done perfectly every time on time. I am also a person who doesn’t to work perfectly on time every time. This is then a stick I use to beat myself up for not living up to unreasonable expectations. Eventually the rest of my brain gets tired of getting beaten and says “screw this, we just need a drink and we can all feel better.” I am not going to drink tonight. Instead I am going to put this laptop down, play a game for about half an hour, take a shower and go to bed. There is always more work that can be done tomorrow. And no, I’m not going to take the time to search Flikr for a relevant picture. This post doesn’t have to be perfect, either. Good night.
We had friends over this weekend. They brought wine. Everyone had some but me. No one thought it was weird at all. That always stuns me. I always notice who is drinking and how much and who isn’t. People with a rational relationship to alcohol do not worry about how others drink. They drink if they want to and stop when they have had a glass or two — three if the event is several hours long. They don’t think about the next drink, they think about the people around them. That’s not me. I’m always thinking about the drink in my hand. How full it is. Is it time to get another? Should I get two next time and quickly down one before coming back to the group? How many minutes until closing time? Can I get one more in before we go?
Photo by Simon Wright at Flickr.
One of my drinking triggers is boredom. Being bored, bored, bored. I find that I am the most bored when I spend long periods of time by myself. This is the major reason I could never work from home. By every three in the afternoon I’d be breaking out the gin and tonic. In fact, the last time I was unemployed for a significant period of time, I looked for work in the morning and was drunk by five.
To be truthful, when I am drinking, almost everything else that doesn’t involve drinking is boring. Or I think that anything that can be better after a couple of drinks. I’ll be more active and happy and have that pleasant warm glow. Of course, after a couple more, I’ll be an asshole and piss off most people around me. But by then, I’ll be drunk and won’t care. At least not until the next day during the hangover.
Today is a snow day. Work is closed because of the ice storm. This should be a danger zone for me. But I have power and lots to do. Writing this post, for one, and planning future posts has kept me busy for a while and I have broken the day up with chores, catching up on television, and baking. I guess this is what the self-help books call mindfulness. To be aware of triggers and danger zones and keep them in mind. Knowing that I had made a commitment to write on this blog about my path to sobriety has kept me thinking about it all day. I like that effect. It reminds me several times a day to think exactly what am I going to write about in describing my path to sobriety.
Bad weather is moving in. It looks like all the roads will be covered in ice tomorrow. There is very little chance I will actually make it into work tomorrow. In fact, we may be iced in for several days. I went to the grocery store to make sure that there will be enough to eat for the next few days. But I made sure not to replenish the wine cabinet or beer fridge. Being iced in would have been a great opportunity to start drinking mid-morning in the past. Tomorrow I think I’ll make hot chocolate and watch the rest of Firefly on Netflix instead.
I have almost always known I am a different drinker than everyone else I know. Its as though my brain is crosswired from the standard pathways. The normal response to alcohol, as far as I can tell, is to feel happy and relaxed; to begin to feel a little tired; to begin to feel discomfort at feeling unsteady and out of control; to feel as though they should stop right now before they get sick. My response has always been very different. All of those same signals of the effects of alcohol come into my brain, but instead of being wired into the areas of concern or fear or self preservation, my brain wires those signals directly into my pleasure centers. My brain loves the feeling of being completely out of control drunk. At no point ever during a binge does my brain say “you are poisoning your self, stop.” Instead it says “this is amazing! Go get some more!”
I remember in my early binges in college always looking for the drinking game table and playing to lose. Then at the end of the night falling on the bed or couch and the room was spinning. I loved that feeling. It was like riding my own personal roller coaster. Others felt sick when drinking too much, I felt great. Others felt tired when drinking too much, I felt wide awake. The more I drank, the more I wanted to stay up and keep drinking.
I remember many years ago trying to describe to my wife the feelings I have for alcohol when on a binge. It surprised me she got so angry and upset. I really had no idea others didn’t feel anything like I do when on a binge. I never told anyone else again. People might start thinking I’m an alcoholic. Heh. Of course, now more than twenty years after college, I have been the last one at the binge party for a long, long time. No one I know well is confused about my relationship with alcohol.
One thing I notice when I stop drinking (yes, I’ve walked this road several times before) is how tired I am. I go to bed before 10 and get up after 6, adding almost 2 hours to my “normal” sleep time. Maybe this is the amount I am supposed to sleep. When I am on my binge drinking cycle I go to bed later and get up earlier everyday. Of course, I am exhausted immediately after a binge since I stay up so late drinking, then sleep so terribly afterwards. But I sleep less in general between binges.
Drinking has always been a pick-me-up for me. No matter how tired I am, after a couple of drinks, I am energized and ready to go out for the night. It worked much better than caffeine. The one time I drank Red Bull and vodka in Vegas on New Year’s Eve was one of the few times I’ve stayed up all night. It was so powerful, I’ve shied away from it since.
Now with the future possibility of another pick-me-up taken away, I feel the pull of exhaustion and it is harder to ignore.