“I Deserve Resolution”

Yesterday one of my Buddhist recovery group members brought in a reading from Pema Chödrön about loneliness. There’s tons to unpack in the article, which is about how we experience loneliness. But what really stuck out for me in the bit we discussed was Chödrön’s claim that “as human beings, not only do we seek resolution, but we also feel that we deserve resolution.”

By resolution, I think she means we want the comfort of feeling like we’ve nailed down all our struggles, that we can control our environments, anticipate what’s coming, and repair or conquer anything that doesn’t please us. I read philosophy here and there — particularly the kind that tries to make sense of the mental and physical activity we seem to need to do as part of our essential nature. We’re a scheme-y bunch. We try to problem solve, fix, create, destroy and change our worlds. We pretty much suck at sitting still, and accepting the things in life that hurt us, even when this may be the better thing to do. because dammit we deserve control! We deserve certainty!

But do we in fact deserve these things? This was the part yesterday that gave me pause. Because yeah. I DO think I deserve certainty. Which is just… not true. I’ve identified self-pity as the main driver of my drinking behaviour. At heart the rationale goes like this: “My life sucks, so I deserve to drink. If only I could get everything to go right… etc. etc.”

If your definition of a good life is certainty and security — certainly these are things that I crave constantly — you can be pretty sure that your life is always going to suck, because things are always going to be changing. There is no big-R Resolution. This leaves one — well okay me — with a dilemma: keep pouring beer and wine into bottomless place of feeling uncertain, or figure out how to make peace with uncertainty.

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The Perfect Metaphor for Addiction

One thing I keep reading about in my sobriety quest here is to watch out for the ways in which addiction can manifest itself in new ways. Master the alcohol thing, and whoops: something else pops in to the picture. My thing these days seems to be sugar: sugar, sugar, sugar. Bring on the sugar!!! That one is pretty common, apparently. Other “food issues,” may occur, or you find yourself drinking way more coffee, or smoking, or maybe you even swap out another drug – say weed – for your alcohol.

The prospect of cross-addiction is discouraging for those of us in early sobriety, but, as I discussed in an earlier blog, the same mindfulness and tools you use to stay sober can be applied to anything else in your life that seems to be claiming your attention in an obsessive way.

Obsessive craving can have any object. When drinking isn’t the object of my craving, it might be something else: Chocolate. Going for a run. Slow-cooked short-ribs. Another book I don’t have time to read. Another shirt I don’t need. So, the trick has got to be looking past the object of one’s craving and mull what the eff is going on when that craving is taking over your head and your body.

What is it with we human beings that we’re so damn needy? I’m convinced that the things most of us are after aren’t “things” at all, but feelings of belonging, recognition, and purpose. When we don’t get this, we go chasing after stupid stuff that feels like what we need, but isn’t. We want relief from the suffering that comes with feeling deprived, even when we don’t get what it is we’re really feeling deprived of.

Hungry Ghosts

hungry ghostsIn Buddhist cosmology (worldview), the Realm of the Hungry Ghosts is one of six human realms on the wheel of life. Each of these realms represents a human tendency in each of us that must be understood if we are to be liberated from suffering. Hungry ghosts are gory. This picture is typical. They look miserable, and they usually have these big swollen bellies because they are sooooo hungry. But the deal is they can’t eat. They try and try and try but the food bursts into flames when it goes down, or they have teeny tiny mouths or throats that won’t let the food down.

In traditional Buddhist/Hindu versions, hungry ghosts are getting their karmic comeuppance for being assholes in a previous life, but I’ve never bought the reincarnation aspect of Buddhism in any literal kind of way. Nor does Dr. Gabor Maté, who wrote In The Realm of the Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction. He’s all about compassion rather than judgement, and I like that.

Maté draws on the hungry ghost metaphor to describe the suffering of the many patients he has worked with in Vancouver’s east downtown: probably the most notorious catchment of poverty and addiction in Canada. The main message in Maté’s book is that addiction isn’t punishment for past misdeeds, nor the outcome of individual moral failings. Addictions are the outcome of unmet needs like that belonging, safety and purpose I mentioned above. The hungry ghosts are “ghosts” because they are trapped in past, trying to “feed” the gnawing emptiness of unresolved pain in their lives.

Maté’s patients are hard cases, and their unmet needs are obvious. Many are Indigenous Canadians who grew up under the worst of circumstances.[1] But this doesn’t stop Maté, an educated and comfortably well off white guy, from seeing himself reflected in the eyes of street alcoholics and heroin junkies. Cause he’s a junkie too. But his “fix” is classical music CDs. Yup. You just never know what your thing is going to be, right?

In one particular story that really stuck with me, he describes keeping his nine-year old son waiting for half an hour because he just has to go buy this one CD at his favourite classical music store. It really struck me because I thought about all the times when my kids were little that I’d pushed them beyond their limits of patience, hunger, or fatigue for just a little bit more shopping. All the times that some mindless hunger, that craving for something led me to make stupid, selfish choices.

We’ve all got a little or a lot of hungry ghost in us, don’t we? I’ve never been able to relate to the idea that I might be “drinking to numb,” which I know resonates with many. But when I think about alcohol addiction as the product of the wanderings of this sad, hungry human being with needs that feel insatiable: well, I see myself there. I still don’t know what to do about that, entirely. But I see the hungry ghost inside of me with some clarity now, and that recognition does help me to head that poor little sucker off at the pass. At least until I figure out what kind of nourishment she really needs.

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[1] I want to note here that here in Canada we treat our Indigenous people like shit. Always have. So, the high rates of addiction and poverty in Indigenous communities are the outcomes of intergenerational trauma. Maté’s work illustrates this sharply.

Right Now, It’s Like This

I’ve mentioned in the past that Buddhism and recovery are intimately linked for me. I can’t remember how I stumbled upon podcasts from Against the Stream Buddhist Meditation Society. I didn’t even know at first that its founders had come to Buddhism through addiction and recovery, and when I first started listening to the podcasts, recovery wasn’t even on my mind. Who knows. Maybe that was what planted the seeds for me that quitting drinking was desirable and possible.

Noah Levine, started Refuge Recovery as a Buddhist alternative for recovery. Another founding member, Mary Stancavage, is a recovering/recovered alcoholic, and is, I think still my favourite speaker. One of the first things she said that really stuck with me was “Right now it’s like this.”

Well what’s that supposed to mean? Without a context it sounds stupid, right up there with the banal tautology, “it is what it is.” But it actually contains an important Buddhist insight for recovery, which is that you have to learn to sit with your unpleasant feelings, without judging them, and without going off all half-cocked trying to fix them.

Part of Buddhist philosophy is recognizing that shitty things are going to happen, and that the pain that comes from shitty things happening is just part of the human experience. Which sounds like a total bummer, I know. Who wants to hang out in a faith where the first noble truth is “All life is suffering?”

But the big paradox is that we suffer way, way more when we fight what hurts in life by denying it, numbing it, trying to beat it up, trying to fix it, or otherwise get rid of the pain. So, the challenge is to instead observe what makes you feel hurt, uncomfortable or angry, and just let yourself feel your feelings.

I need to stress that this doesn’t mean inaction. You don’t just go “Oh well, life sucks,” and give up. It’s just that you don’t take action until you are calm, and you’ve made some peace with the fact that something in your life is hurting.

Anyway, if you are someone like me who goes all reptile brain when confronted with shitty feelings, every fibre of your being screams “Do something!”[1] For me in the past “doing something” has included, among other bright ideas, running away from home, burning furniture, attempting suicide, and in less drama-fuelled instances, impulse buying and drinking.

Freaking out in response to my own pain has always been in part out of panic: “I’m going to feel like this forever!” That panic has been amplified by the extreme and instant reactions of my body to emotional stress. I just want the bad feelings to stop. So, you do stuff. Stupid stuff. Which, in the words of David Bowie, amounts to putting out the fire with gasoline.

Right Now, It’s Like This. But Not Forever.

The hardest thing in the world when you are in the throes of “do something!” is to sit and, as Stancavage describes, repeat “Right now its like this.” The “right now” part is a gentle reminder that you are not, in fact going to feel this way forever, no matter what your amygdala is screaming. The “it’s like this” part is recognizing that you’re not doing so great, and bringing some compassion to that. You acknowledge your own pain, and notice the tendency in your head to make it bloody worse by feeding it.

You know this thing? Say something simple where someone cuts you off in traffic or has thirty items in the 16-item express line. And you go off on this monologue in your head about what an asshole the person is. And by then you have a bunch of cortisol in your system and you feel like shit. And you wouldn’t have felt like shit now, fifteen minutes later, if you hadn’t fed the beast of your own annoyance imagining the person probably also beats her kids or cheats on his taxes, and it just isn’t fair and what is wrong with some people and…uggggggh.

Now think about how we do that stuff with our relationships and with “big problems.” The monologues are even worse. Buddhism helps adherents to recognize that we actually grow our own suffering when we dig into our pain, create stories around it, justify it, punish ourselves for it, punish others for it, or play the blame game. You feel worse. And you further elaborate on why you feel worse. Hence drinking, or your pathology of choice.

“Right now it’s like this” is a way to turn off the mental gymnastics. You acknowledge that you’re hurt or angry or anxious or scared, but you also try to stay with the recognition that in our lives, all of our feelings, good and bad, are in constant motion. You can stop panicking, and stop trying to fix and explain things when you are least equipped to deal with them. Honestly, you start to figure out that most of the feelings do in fact pass, and most weren’t half as big a deal as they felt in the moment.

For the tough stuff that doesn’t pass right away, you can call a truce with the fact that you are going to feel pain in your life. You just are. And that’s not fun but if you just breathe a bit and give yourself some space, you can deal with it like a grown up. Over time, you forge faith that you’ll figure out what to do about the pain once you’ve got yourself calmed down and your heart and mind are back at full capacity.

I’ve been learning that most of my awful feelings do pass. Really. My cravings for alcohol pass. My sadness passes. My anger passes. My anxiety passes. Every time I let myself just sit and feel those feelings without succumbing to “do something!” I feel a little less panic-struck the next time:

“Remember that thing and how you didn’t react, and if you’d reacted in that way you wanted to it would have been ten times worse?”

That. It’s a learning process. And I can safely say that every time I handle my pain – great or small – with calm dignity, I feel just a tiny bit better about myself.

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Endnotes

[1] It’s worth noting that the compartmentalization of brain functions has been critiqued as overly simplistic, and hence misleading. There’s a brief summary of this critique and an account of the origins of the “three brain” model via Wikipedia.

Self-Compassion

Okay I think I have this diagnosed, sort of. I’ve been having a really hard time lately with my Drinking Voice, which still sounds like woe-is-me. And I hate feeling sorry for myself. That doesn’t mean I don’t do it. I just hate it when I do do it.

Hate is a strong word. And I’m hating on myself. I kind of figured this out last Sunday at my meeting because someone came in with another self-compassion reading — this one from Brene Brown — and I had another viscerally angry reaction to the idea that I’m supposed to be all “accepting of myself just the way that I am.” Like people go around the circle saying “I liked the reading and here’s why.” And I’m thinking, “I hated the reading. Can I say that? Why do I hate the reading?”

Uggghhhhh. Hate, hate, hate. And all the feelings that come with that. I always think I’m too grown up now to have feelings of self-loathing. But I realized that the readings were pissing me off because I don’t want to be nice to myself. There is no self-compassion going on here. Somewhere along the way I rejected the core idea — and I mean core to both recovery and my Buddhist practice — that self-compassion is critical to healing both ourselves and the world.

So why can’t I muster self-compassion? I think it boils down to my chronic resentment of the world that I can’t get a permanent, full-time job. I don’t like feeling resentful. I don’t like feeling bitter. These feelings make me not like myself, so I get pissed off at myself for feeling these feelings. It’s like this: “If you are feeling resentment and bitterness it is because you are a loser and you should get over yourself. Lots of people have it worse than you do.”

I’m not sure what to do with this. I started in on Kirsten Neff’s book Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself, and just “bringing awareness” to moments like when she says it is okay to physically hug and stroke yourself to show yourself compassion, which makes me want to thrown the book across the room. But that reaction is the problem, right?

I am just going to keep going and try to keep myself open to the message that self-compassion is good. In my head I know that is true, but my heart isn’t listening yet.

 

Tough Times

Things are tough these days. A good day is followed by a bad day. My cravings for alcohol have been more frequent and intense these past couple of weeks than I’d like. Last night I just wanted to buy a bottle of wine and some good Scotch, and sit on the couch with my husband, listen to music and get drunk.

I’m probably going to have to kick my own ass to get to my meeting on Sunday because I still want to self-isolate and push away the “good” messages about sobriety. I know they are true. It is just that right now I don’t want them to be true. What I want to be true is the the lie that alcohol will make me happy.

This is nuts. I don’t get it. How is it that I have been sober for 138 days now, and still, despite ample evidence to the contrary, believe that my life just *might* be better if I hit the bottle again?

I guess this is the seduction of alcohol. I was thinking a little bit about how people (including me) have described and thought about their relationship with alcohol as something that is, all at once, heady romance and dysfunctional fuckery. Your Drunky Voice is a bad boyfriend (or girlfriend) who is always waiting to suck you back in. The resonance of Caroline Knapp’s book title, “Drinking: A Love Story” lies, I think, in her insight that the addict’s relationship is intensely emotional in that way that an unhealthy romantic relationship is.

Perhaps the emotional relationships we have with alcohol explain why reasoning your way out of it seems, by itself, an inadequate strategy. Right now I feel like I’m hanging on to reasoning, but all my feelings say GO DRINK! I’m honestly not sure what to do about this. Not today at least.

Recovery is Messy

I have learned a lot about recovery over the past few months. One thing that never ceases to fascinate me is that it’s a process, not an epiphany. I mean its fascinating because even though I get it, I kind of marvel at how deeply entrenched the epiphany thing is — like for me personally, but also as a cultural thing. The pervasive “rock bottom” trope tells you that you have to come as close as possible to killing yourself as you can before the light bulb moment. Then you change.

I have a couple of thoughts on this. First: it’s bullshit. In an odd way, I think it can actually fuel nihilistic drinking. “I”m not there yet. I can keep going. I should keep going.” The (twisted) logic here is that the more effectively you propel yourself to the “bottom,” the sooner you can get better. Or something like that? But we drinkers are all about twisted logic right?

Second and more deeply, I think the “rock bottom” myth plays in to the hope that “if I’m fed up enough, willpower will come.” Rock bottom becomes “the event” that will magically infuse you with the mojo you need to quit for good. In other words, we think, somehow, that rock bottom will make quitting easier.

I think this is one of the reasons why we love redemption stories. They turn change in to a mysterious force from the outside that descends upon you, and smooths the path. But if there is one thing I’ve learned — be it quitting smoking, trying like hell to stay on top of  my to-do list, or shit-canning 90% of what I write before anything is published — it is that change comes out of getting up the next day and trying again.

It takes courage and fortitude just to ignore set aside the self-loathing you feel after you’ve bolloxed it up, and just start over. I don’t always have this courage and fortitude, for the record. But I try to remind myself that starting over is always good. Even if you feel like you are completely full of shit. Even if you don’t feel you deserve to try again. Even if you have failed fifty times before.

This is why recovery isn’t a tidy epiphany, or an “event.” It’s a process. Some of us who learn the hard way have to get realllly good at failing before we succeed. Trying to change and failing is normal. It’s really normal. So if I am talking to someone who is trying to moderate, or quitting for a few days or weeks at a time and always finding themselves back at the starting line, I don’t know what else to do but validate “trying again.” My kid and I talked about this once a while back. No matter how much wallowing you’re doing, and no matter how much you’ve botched up in the past, you can be sober today. Hard to argue with that logic, isn’t it?

“The Drinking Quiz”

If you’ve ever wondered about your drinking, you have probably taken a drinking quiz or two to figure out if you have a problem. I first did this a few years ago. Can’t remember the exact deal, but it would ask things like whether you blacked out, or missed work, or binged. In my case, quizzes would return something tepid like “you may have a problem with alcohol.”

In my head: “Okay this says I’m not an alcoholic per se but I may have a problem with alcohol? What does that mean? I’m not that bad right? I don’t black out. I don’t miss work. I feel bad about drinking sometimes but I like drinking. Do I have to quit? I don’t think I have to quit because I’m only a 7 out of 12. I’m okay. I’m mostly okay. I only may have a problem. That’s not the same as a problem, right? Now if I was a 10 out of 12…”

Etcetera. Etcetera. Etcetera. How. Exhausting.

Probably about six years ago, my doctor casually asked me about my drinking:

Her: Ever feel like you should cut down?

Me: Yeah. Sometimes…

Her: Do other people criticize you about your drinking or tell you to cut down?

Me: Not so much. Not really.

Her: Do you ever feel guilty about drinking?

Me: Yeah… yeah I guess I do. It does bother me a bit.

Her: Do you ever drink in the morning or anything? To calm down or nip a hangover?

Me: (I totally got this one). Nope.

Her: If you’ve answered yes to one of these questions, you have a problem, you know.

Damn. I was so busted. First I didn’t realize she had been administering a very short, and very effective drunky quiz. Usually I’m smart enough to know when I’m being cornered by a shrink or doctor. Not this time. The four questions she asked me are part of the CAGE diagnostic, which has been found to be highly accurate for identifying problem drinkers. Second, my vague “yes” responses didn’t deliver a comfortingly vague diagnosis with a middling score that might help me to keep downplaying my drinking.

I’ll say I responded with that typical mix of denial and recognition that messes with your head when you are asking yourself “Am I an alcoholic?” But this quiz caught me off guard because aside from the reference to morning drinking, it didn’t include any of those extreme behaviours (DUIs, criminal convictions, job losses) that many take to be the markers of “real” alcoholism. I kind of had no wiggle room on this one. Obviously it didn’t change my behaviour right away. But it sure as hell didn’t let me off the hook as “not a real drunk” like some of the other quizzes had.

I was thinking about this because I’m extra-reflecting on the occasion of my 100 Day Thingie yesterday. I was thinking about all the exhausting years of trying to decide if I was an alcoholic. If someone asked me if they were an alcoholic today, I would ask them these questions:

  • Does drinking make you feel shitty about yourself?
  • Do you expend a bunch of energy trying to manage your drinking?
  • Do you expend a bunch of energy trying to figure out if you’re an alcoholic or not?
  • Does the idea of living without alcohol completely freak you out?

For me, these have proven to be the core questions to answer. There are many variations on this of course. Nothing here will be a surprise to anyone who’s been in recovery for a while. But if you just happen to trip on this blog as one who is “sober curious,” maybe you can mull these questions in addition to others you might be asking yourself. I think if I’ve got a big point here it is this: whether you use the label “alcoholic” or not doesn’t matter. In fact it just interferes with the process of honestly answering questions like those in the CAGE, or the similar ones I just asked.

PS: I am no longer nearly as freaked out by the prospect of living alcohol-free. Still a little freaked out, but not terrified like I was when I started. There is hope.

#selfcare WTF? (Oh yeah. And 100 Days)

I was listening to a recovery podcast the other day and found myself quite frustrated. Guests and host had been going on a bit about being able to tell the difference between taking care of yourself and being self-indulgent – the latter being that frantic trying-to-fill-a-hole-you-can’t-fill business that seems to underpin a lot of addictions and addictive behaviour.

All very interesting and worth thinking about. Until, no shit, they try to sell us something! Uggggghhhhh! Carefully selected wellness products, that somehow – in their minds anyway and bless their hearts – are distinctive in being offered being cognizant the aforementioned distinction between wellness and frantic hole-filling.

But isn’t buying shit pretty much hole-filling no matter what? Maybe they’re just confused? Maybe we’re all confused. I certainly don’t always know when I’m practicing “self-care” versus “self indulgence” either. I don’t always know when I’m working on my self-esteem versus just being a self-absorbed navel gazer.

The challenge is to figure out what healthy self-care looks like, I suppose. I’m not denying we need it. I go off my nut if I don’t keep up with exercise. I love my nice bubble bath, and writing, and new socks, and cooking something gorgeous, and clean sheets. But just as often I am self-indulgent, especially when it comes to buying shit. I’ll get some… thing. A new lipstick. Another shirt I don’t need. And realize I wasn’t self-caring, I was indulging a pity party/sense of entitlement of the variety that has in the past, preceded drinking.

That’s why its so confusing when self-care and consumption get mixed together. I read a couple of articles about surging use of the #selfcare hashtag, both of which pointed to the relationships between wellness and consumerism. Examples were pointed to where our collective fascination with #selfcare is happily being exploited by advertisers on Twitter. We get conditioned to think that wellness is something to be found not in our relationships, but in our personal individual consumption of weekend retreats, or vegan facial treatments, or heirloom vegetables.

There’s this weird political angle too, where self-care is some kind of political act to validate your identity group. Justify it as activism if you will. To me, obsessively documenting your lifestyle on social media feeds the kind of focus on the self that, ironically seems to keep us unhappy instead of making us happy.

Here’s the thing: for me anyway, self-absorption is the enemy of sobriety. Much of my “sober journey” thus far has been trying to get my head out of my own ass, and challenge my tendency to self-isolate. It’s required doing something that’s scary for me, which is being more open to other people’s stories, more empathetic, and less selfish with my time. There is a deep paradox here that I don’t get but know to be true for me: self-love will come out of a deep regard and compassion for others. I have heard others in the sober community with whom this resonates. Maybe what I’m getting at is that “self-care” is a complement to, but not a replacement for the kind of care that is exchanged in community with others.

I hope this doesn’t come off too harshly. I don’t mean to begrudge anyone their lavender scented eye masks or Sunday lattes, or acupuncture treatments . I just think we have to be careful to keep our perspectives and priorities clear in a media saturated world that constantly tells us that we can’t be happy or well unless we are buying shit. We also have to work hard to strike that good balance between caring for ourselves, and caring for others. It’s not easy, is it?

P.S. Today is my 100th day of sobriety. I only committed to 100 days. In theory I could jump off the wagon again tomorrow. But I don’t want to. I will keep going. I like being sober.

 

 

 

 

Reprogramming My Brain

I realized this week that there have been a couple of points of progress. First, I have stopped having that feeling like I should be stopping at the liquor store on my way home from work. That was happening every day, and now I am not thinking about it much at all! Second, it’s not feeling so weird to not drink beer at night. It felt really odd at first, and now it is starting to feel normal.

I do wish it wasn’t patio season though! I suppose I could have waited until patio/cottage season was over, but there’s always a good reason to wait, right? There is never an easy time to quit. Anyway I do have these little twinges out riding my bike when I see people sitting on patios with pints, or glasses of wine. The thought that always, immediately pops in to my head is this half-wistful, half-pissed off “Well. So much for that then. No more patios for me.”

patio

Ahhhh, patio season!

The thing is, that is really very silly. Last I checked, they haven’t outlawed non-alcoholic beverages on patios. It’s not like there are bouncers who won’t let you in unless you promise to drink. In other words, there is no reason in the slightest I can’t still enjoy sitting on a patio on a nice summer evening. It is just so hard-wired in my brain that patio+alcohol=fun, that it’s really difficult to rework the equation. I think that part of quitting drinking is to reprogram your brain. You have to have some experiences that help you to break the automatic associations of alcohol with events you have enjoyed.

For some people, strong associations can can be triggering. I was talking to my daughter, and she still doesn’t feel like she’s in a place where she can go out to a pub and hang out with other people who are drinking. So I expect it is different for everyone. You have to be secure that you can safely navigate a social outing that you would have boozed at before. I’ve read lots of good advice about that: making sure you’ve got your own transportation home, going with sober peeps, having a sponsor or sober buddy on speed-dial, and bringing your own non-alcoholic drinks if need be. But even with all these safeguards in place, you have to feel ready.

I have gotten through a couple of drinking occasions now with success, and it does build your confidence and hope a bit. It doesn’t mean I’m ready to run out to the pub every Friday night now or anything. Why hurl yourself in to temptation when you don’t have to? But, I do think I should hang out on a patio soon, perhaps with a big cold soda, cranberry and lime, and give my brain some further hard evidence that my life isn’t over as a sober person!

Easier on Myself

perfectionism and solitudeI know it is still early days here (this is Day 42), but I have this inkling that I may be easing up on my perfectionism. Wow. That would be cool.

For as many years as I’ve been running, I’ve been fighting the nagging Beeotch in my head who tells me I’m not going fast enough. There’s a healthy space of setting personal goals and taking pleasure in achieving them. It’s one of the things I love about running… setting little goals for myself and achieving them: one extra hill on my hill repeats. One quarter mile push when I feel like I am spent. You get the idea. The Beeotch is not satisfied with this.

Beeotch in my Head: “You are slow. You can’t run fast. You’ll never be any good at this.”

Me: “Fuck off. I like running. Quit wrecking my fun.”

But the Beootch in my Head is persistent. She comes back pretty regularly to try her hand at undermining me. And here’s the thing. I think she might have been dating the Drinking Voice in my Head, Cap’n Mo.

Several blogs ago, I wrote that I was surprised that I was far from alone in managing to exercise like a lunatic despite daily drinking. I’m thinking this has served two functions. First, has served as a subtle form of self-flagellation to assuage my drinking guilt. Second — and perhaps more importantly — it has been on my list of “Things I Do That Prove I’m Not a Drunk.”

I’m wondering whether these conditions have empowered the Beeotch in my Head. She can come after me harder and push my perfectionist buttons when I’m already feeling crappy about myself, and pouring energy in to denial.

So the thing is that I am noticing the Beeotch retreats more readily these days. I felt a little slow-ish today, and I fully expected her to show up, which she did. But it was — I don’t know — just easier to blow her off. “Not every run has to be my best run,” I reminded myself. And I let it go. It has been part of feeling more at ease about missing gym days, or not quite reaching my mileage goals during a busy week.

In the months leading up to my quitting, I had been worrying that I was getting a little obsessive about exercise. I felt anxious if I missed the gym. I found it easier to work out than to be around other people. Socially, you get reinforced because people admire you for being all fit and dedicated and stuff, not knowing that you are using exercise to hide from the shit in life that scares you or makes you feel bad about yourself.

I’m truly wondering whether the obsessive gym behaviour has in fact been connected to my drinking. Who knew?