Soothing my amygdala

“Loneliness does not come from having no people around, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to oneself, or from holding certain views which others find inadmissible.” Carl Jung

It’s like the chicken or the egg scenario. Did I start drinking excessively from such a young age because I was lonely? Or did my drinking cause me to isolate, which resulted in loneliness?

I have always felt alone. Not always lonely, but certainly alone. Booze took on the role of my life companion: someone to hang out with, keep me company, block out the feelings that I had nobody I felt connected to. I was single for most of my life – a couple of longer relationships here and there but nothing serious – so I would go to school /college /work then go home and drink. I never took vacations or had many plans to fill my time. I was biding my time, waiting for something to happen, yet I never knew what I wanted that to be. I had friends and family but my family basically ignore me, and friends eventually partnered off and started their own families. I continued to drink to soothe and comfort.

It’s only in recent years that I am in a stable relationship. This has created a secure base from which I now have the freedom to begin to let go of that which no longer serves me: booze. For over 20 years it was what I used to alleviate my inner (unacknowledged) distress and I am at the point where it is not needed any longer. In having a secure base (which doesn’t have to be a relationship but I didn’t know how to create my own earlier – I am not being a smug married), I am allowing someone to love me, which in turn opens me up to the possibility that I am worthy of love, which opens me to loving myself.

I now endeavor to bring a gentleness to myself that I have never held before. I was always so sharp and critical, beating myself down, telling myself how much of a fuck-up I was, when it would have been more beneficial to hold myself with care and kindness. I keep a photograph of myself as a young child on the refrigerator to remind myself that there was a time when I was without addictions, that my default, inner child is one of purity and clarity. I chat to her occasionally, telling her all the things that she would have liked to hear growing up. I am soothing her and myself.

 

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Feeling my emotions

“Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.” Carl Jung

Since quitting booze, I have been surprised (so much about this is surprising!) to experience how chaotic my mind is. I’ve done mindfulness courses so sitting in the moment is not new to me, but it has been so interesting to observe what’s happening through these early days. I catch my mind ruminating about what I’ve said, what I should have said, what I did or should have done, what he or she said or did, what I wanted him or her to have said or done, etc. My head gets so busy with all these thoughts and the (mostly imagined) wrongs or potential conversations or situations, and is rehashing stuff that can be years old. I will roleplay these in my mind even though they have no basis in any reality … in any realm … anywhere. Seriously, I just make some of this shit up.

So in these times, I have taken to asking myself: ‘What do I need right now?’ This serves a couple of purposes:

It brings me into the present moment. It forces my brain to stop its catastrophizing and ruminating, and to objectively look at the current situation to evaluate my needs. Perhaps the need is food, water, action, move physically, stretch, get fresh air, change activity, focus on my breath.

It also allows me to begin to learn to identify my needs. Learning to recognize what I need in any given moment helps to combat any cravings. I haven’t really experienced any big cravings for booze this time around (surprised, again!), but the thought sometimes crosses my mind that ‘a drink would be nice’. This voice is loudest when I am hungry or tired. So I am learning to say – oh, I’m hungry so I need food. I’m tired so I need to stop or step back from the situation, take a rest or even a nap if I can. It’s learning to listen and care for myself. For people who live without addiction, this is probably pretty bloody obvious. But when my go-to to feel better was never actually looking at what I needed, but was instead drinking wine because I thought that was what would make me feel better, this is a huge step in the right direction. Ultimately, addiction is nothing more than our best efforts to feel better in the moment. Asking myself this question allows me to make better choices.

I have also taken to asking myself: ‘What am I feeling right now?’ It sounds like a simple question, but this is a really difficult one for me. Showing feelings or emotions was not allowed in my house when I was growing up (and that is a whole other post in itself). The English language has a multitude of adjectives to describe emotions and I am learning to really drill down and find a fitting word to label what I am feeling in the moment. Learning to name what I’m feeling helps to combat any cravings: oh, I’m feeling bored, I’m feeling melancholy, I’m feeling grief. By naming the emotion, I recognize what is happening within me and can either let it go or take positive steps to alleviate the painful feelings I am experiencing.

Ultimately, this all helps to take myself less seriously. Thoughts pop into my mind All The Freaking Time. I don’t need to act on most of them. My thoughts are not Me. I can detach from them.

 

 

Eliminating my obstructions

​Yeah, I’m going there. I went to my old blog the other day to see what the hell happened to me physically the last time I gave up drinking. I don’t remember it being this bad. Turns out I didn’t write much about it back then, so I am ensuring I now note the gory details for posterity.

Internet searches for what happens to your body when you quit booze throw up multitudes of pages and information. However, no one really talks about the fact that YOU CANNOT POO PROPERLY when you quit drinking. Or it is just me?

Oh.

So these first two month have been … difficult. Hernia-inducingly difficult. I thought being booze-free was meant to free up all this time to be fabulous and motivated and energetic and all bloody pink-cloudy? That’s not the path for me, apparently. I spend my newfound sobriety in the bathroom; all unhappy and bloated and lacking energy and unable to do the most basic of human functions. Even babies manage to achieve – multiple times a day – what I am unable to achieve most days.

In searching for a solution, I accidentally found myself reading an article about colonic irrigation (now unfortunately long-lost in the vortex of link-clicking). It basically said that one of the three main functions of the colon is to absorb water contained in the waste that is collecting. In fact, a healthy colon absorbs 80% of the water that passes through it. The longer food sits in the colon, the more water is absorbed, which means … difficult life indeed. God damn nightmare.

In trying to introduce extra fiber into my diet, I have been eating raw vegetables, fresh fruit, steamed vegetables, quinoa, lots of water, etc. Yet, still! I also resorted to prune juice, which is not ideal because I don’t want to kick-start my day with such a massive amount of sugar, but it did help. Somewhat.

A final desperate search two days ago led me to the discovery that not all fiber is created equal!** There is a freaking difference between soluble and insoluble fibre and they each bring their own skill set to the table. Here’s a snippet from My Food Diary:

Soluble fiber is “soluble” in water. When mixed with water it forms a gel-like substance and swells. Good sources of soluble fiber include oats and oatmeal, legumes (peas, beans, lentils), barley, fruits and vegetables (especially oranges, apples and carrots).

Insoluble fiber does not absorb or dissolve in water. It passes through our digestive system in close to its original form.  Insoluble fiber offers many benefits to intestinal health, including a reduction in the risk and occurrence of hemorrhoids and constipation. Most of insoluble fibers come from the bran layers of cereal grains.

Further reading into insoluble fiber and constipation led me to … All Bran!

Oh, holy sweet evacuation. The relief. It bloody worked. I feel like a new woman. Now I can get on with being fabulous and motivated and energetic and pink-cloudy. Sometime soon.

 

** The fact I didn’t even know this proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am no health expert, and this disclaimer regarding my incompetency to provide any information regarding being unable to poo is a given.

 

De-toxing my physiology

First month off the booze recap:

Physically: I am completely drained and have very little energy. Headaches appear every day. My bowels don’t work. I can’t sleep. I lie awake from around 2am – 5am most nights. I prowl around the house wondering what on earth I should do at stupid-o’clock.

Mentally: My mind is racing with one hundred thoughts per nano-second. At 3am. No wonder I drank – I needed it to just shut the fuck up. I often said to husband that I wanted a drink just to get my brain to stop tiring me out with its endless and repetitive drivel. I am so godamn tired.

But … I am so fucking tired I don’t even care that I can’t sleep. Naps during the day take the edge off, so overall I can look at this stage quite objectively. I am happy my body is doing what it needs to do to heal. I have been messing with it for so long and have poured so much poison into it that it can take all the time it needs to re-set itself and get back to where it needs to be. Poor body needs a break and I’m giving it one. It’s all I have to transport me through this life, and I really want to start caring for it again.

Losing my addiction

So, here I am. Again. Eight days off the sauce.

I’ve been here before, doing the whole giving-up-alcohol malarkey. Previous stints have lasted 40 days and over 180 days, then invariably it all became too hard and alcohol crept back in. And then there are the (literally) thousands of times over the decades I swore I would stop drinking while in the throes of painful hangovers. So, yeah … I am comfortable admitting I have tried to quit drinking well over a thousand times over the last twenty years. If at first you don’t succeed?

One of the best things I’ve found about quitting booze is writing about it. Which is kinda fucked up when you think about it: I can’t eat seafood because it makes me sick, yet I don’t have a need to bang on about that ad nauseam, do I? I can’t drink alcohol because it makes me sick (and drunk, tired, nasty, lethargic, grumpy, mean, selfish, etc) and I have to start a blog about it? Such is the power of the poison.

I found an amazing blogging community when I last gave up. I’ve just re-visited all the old sites and not many are still blogging. I wonder what happened to everyone? I don’t want to go back to my old blog and pick up where I left off; too much has happened over the last five years. However, the journey I took back then taught me lessons I take with me to this day. I can’t un-know what I now know. So here’s me on my brand new, sparkly, shiny blog.

Deep breath. I am here.