skinny but drunk
Interesting article about Addiction

Habit (from Merriam-Webster.com): “A behavior pattern acquired by frequent repetition or physiologic exposure that shows itself in regularity or increased facility of performance.”

"An acquired mode of behavior that has become nearly or completely involuntary."

"Addiction."

I remember a time in my mid-twenties when I was newly married with no kids and minimal responsibilities, save for my day job of freelance writing and editing from home. Most nights, at five o’clock, my best friend would come to my apartment and join me for a bottle of wine. Eventually, my husband would come home, and the three of us would finish the bottle and maybe open another one before we went out for dinner or drinks with friends.

This routine became as regular as brushing my teeth and continued for quite some time. Eventually, I started waking up with a fuzzy, out-of-it feeling, most likely from an allergy to the sulfites in the wine. I began working in an office, and I had to curtail my habit so I could function at work, but it was hard. The habit was so deeply ingrained and so pleasurable before the consequences set in that I chose to endure the hangovers for quite some time.

Like anything else, drinking can become a habit and move beyond the realm of relaxation and pleasure into something we just do — and something that becomes harder and harder to stop doing.

So how does this happen?

According to New York Times business writer Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, every habit starts with a three-part process — a psychological pattern called a “habit loop.” In drinking terms, it goes like this:

First, there’s a cue. In my case, 5 pm was Happy Hour Time! My friend came over, and this told my brain to kick into automatic mode and let a certain behavior unfold…

The routine, or the behavior itself: the drinking, which gave me a…

Reward, or something your brain likes that helps it remember the “habit loop” next time. In the case of drinking, the reward could be the buzz or the camaraderie. In my case, the reward was most definitely the pleasure of hanging out with my friend and my husband for hours, doing nothing else but chatting and laughing.

Duhigg explains that habit-making behaviors come from a different part of the brain than decision-making behaviors. Habits come from the part of the brain responsible for emotions, memories and patterns. When a behavior becomes automatic, the decision-making part of your brain has to work less and less and goes into a kind of sleep mode.

So what can we do to change or modify our habits? (I’m not talking about people who are ankle-deep in their addictions — they’d probably do better with detox and rehab.)

My guess would be to start with a disruption of habits. For example, if five o’clock is the cue for Happy Hour, try having five o’clock tea, or going for a five o’clock walk with a friend. If the reward is camaraderie, find another way to spend time with friends.

Here’s an interesting quote from Charles Duhigg: “The weird thing about rewards is that we don’t actually know what we’re actually craving.”

If you find yourself mired in habits, it might be best to work backwards and ask yourself, what is it I really want? Not an easy question to answer, but worth it. When I was sharing the bottle of wine with my friend and husband, what I really wanted, I think, was to make time slow down, to take a breather from doing things and process the day.

As Duhigg points out: “What we know from lab studies is that it’s never too late to break a habit. Habits are malleable throughout your entire life. But we also know that the best way to change a habit is to understand its structure — that once you tell people about the cue and the reward and you force them to recognize what those factors are in a behavior, it becomes much, much easier to change.

With regards to Alcoholics Anonymous, Duhigg writes:

…the reason why AA works is because it essentially is this big machine for changing the habits around alcohol consumption and giving people a new routine, rather than going to a bar or drink… It doesn’t seem to work if people do it on their own… At some point, if you’re changing a really deep-seated behavior, you’re going to have a moment of weakness. And at that moment, if you can look across a room and think, ‘Jim’s kind of a moron. I think I’m smarter than Jim. But Jim has been sober for three years. And if Jim can do it, I can definitely do it,’ that’s enormously powerful.

Leah Odze Epstein is a writer and co-founder of the Drinking Diaries

Are you addicted to Struggling? (interesting article…)
Round 2, 45 days

Well, I have been back to work for a month now, minus a week’s vacation.  Definitely back to the grind, but on a much more positive note.  I am nicer to people on the phones.  I have more empathy, and compassion.  Plus I am GRATEFUL I have such a good job.  I got the statement for my taxes, and my department actually paid out over $10,000 for pay while I was out on administrative leave.  I received uncompromising support from the employees assistance counselors, and was given the opportunity to not only deal with alcoholism, but some other lingering grief issues from the past that  I had never truly faced before.  I got a chance to seek out my long suppressed creative side.  My son got hired permanently at Macy’s after the Christmas season!  I have 2 houses, two adorable dogs, good friends, a six month old car and all the food I want.  I am golden.

I have not, however, been going to AA meetings.  Maybe I just never found the right group, and while I certainly appreciated that it got me started in the right direction, I just always felt I needed to stop drinking on my own, just like I quit smoking 20 years ago, and doing recreational drugs 25 years ago.  I never believed I was powerless over alcohol.

There have been a couple of times I have thought about drinking, like after my 12 hour shift on New Years Eve I thought about getting a bottle of champagne to celebrate the New Year.  Then I thought that would be kind of silly since one of the reasons I am celebrating is that I have my life back and am not drinking.  I think that’s what I miss the most about alcohol is the “ritual” of it.  Doing shots to “get the party started”.  Have a beer with friends.  Celebrate with champagne.  Shot of whiskey for a cold.  And then I think about where that leads me to, bringing the bottle home and drinking alone till I pass out.

I know it’s really been a short time but I am over the whole alcoholic phase of my life. Now I have a clear head, never have a hangover, can remember the movies I watch, enjoy a nice breakfast at the cafe with my next door neighbor (the lawyer) and discuss politics, appreciate a beautiful clear day at the dog park. And BONUS!  People keep telling me I have a special glow and look much younger, can you beat that???  :)

Post gastric bypass addiction
New Definition/Recovery
30 Things to STOP doing now!

Stop spending time with the wrong people. – Life is too short to spend time with people who suck the happiness out of you.  If someone wants you in their life, they’ll make room for you.  You shouldn’t have to fight for a spot.  Never, ever insist yourself to someone who continuously overlooks your worth.  And remember, it’s not the people that stand by your side when you’re at your best, but the ones who stand beside you when you’re at your worst that are your true friends.  Stop running from your problems. – Face them head on.  No, it won’t be easy.  There is no person in the world capable of flawlessly handling every punch thrown at them.  We aren’t supposed to be able to instantly solve problems.  That’s not how we’re made.  In fact, we’re made to get upset, sad, hurt, stumble and fall.  Because that’s the whole purpose of living – to face problems, learn, adapt, and solve them over the course of time.  This is what ultimately molds us into the person we become.  Stop lying to yourself. – You can lie to anyone else in the world, but you can’t lie to yourself.  Our lives improve only when we take chances, and the first and most difficult chance we can take is to be honest with ourselves.  Stop putting your own needs on the back burner. – The most painful thing is losing yourself in the process of loving someone too much, and forgetting that you are special too.  Yes, help others; but help yourself too.  If there was ever a moment to follow your passion and do something that matters to you, that moment is now.  Stop trying to be someone you’re not. – One of the greatest challenges in life is being yourself in a world that’s trying to make you like everyone else.  Someone will always be prettier, someone will always be smarter, someone will always be younger, but they will never be you.  Don’t change so people will like you.  Be yourself and the right people will love the real you.  Stop trying to hold onto the past. – You can’t start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading your last one.  Stop being scared to make a mistake. – Doing something and getting it wrong is at least ten times more productive than doing nothing.  Every success has a trail of failures behind it, and every failure is leading towards success.  You end up regretting the things you did NOT do far more than the things you did.  Stop berating yourself for old mistakes. – We may love the wrong person and cry about the wrong things, but no matter how things go wrong, one thing is for sure, mistakes help us find the person and things that are right for us.  We all make mistakes, have struggles, and even regret things in our past.  But you are not your mistakes, you are not your struggles, and you are here NOW with the power to shape your day and your future.  Every single thing that has ever happened in your life is preparing you for a moment that is yet to come  Stop trying to buy happiness. – Many of the things we desire are expensive.  But the truth is, the things that really satisfy us are totally free – love, laughter and working on our passions.  Stop exclusively looking to others for happiness. – If you’re not happy with who you are on the inside, you won’t be happy in a long-term relationship with anyone else either.  You have to create stability in your own life first before you can share it with someone else.  Stop being idle. – Don’t think too much or you’ll create a problem that wasn’t even there in the first place.  Evaluate situations and take decisive action.  You cannot change what you refuse to confront.  Making progress involves risk.  Period!  You can’t make it to second base with your foot on first.  Stop thinking you’re not ready. – Nobody ever feels 100% ready when an opportunity arises.  Because most great opportunities in life force us to grow beyond our comfort zones, which means we won’t feel totally comfortable at first.  Stop getting involved in relationships for the wrong reasons. – Relationships must be chosen wisely.  It’s better to be alone than to be in bad company.  There’s no need to rush.  If something is meant to be, it will happen – in the right time, with the right person, and for the best reason. Fall in love when you’re ready, not when you’re lonely.  Stop rejecting new relationships just because old ones didn’t work. – In life you’ll realize that there is a purpose for everyone you meet.  Some will test you, some will use you and some will teach you.  But most importantly, some will bring out the best in you.  Stop trying to compete against everyone else. – Don’t worry about what others doing better than you.  Concentrate on beating your own records every day.  Success is a battle between YOU and YOURSELF only.  Stop being jealous of others. – Jealousy is the art of counting someone else’s blessings instead of your own.  Ask yourself this:  “What’s something I have that everyone wants?”  Stop complaining and feeling sorry for yourself. – Life’s curveballs are thrown for a reason – to shift your path in a direction that is meant for you.  You may not see or understand everything the moment it happens, and it may be tough.  But reflect back on those negative curveballs thrown at you in the past.  You’ll often see that eventually they led you to a better place, person, state of mind, or situation.  So smile!  Let everyone know that today you are a lot stronger than you were yesterday, and you will be.  Stop holding grudges. – Don’t live your life with hate in your heart.  You will end up hurting yourself more than the people you hate.  Forgiveness is not saying, “What you did to me is okay.”  It is saying, “I’m not going to let what you did to me ruin my happiness forever.”  Forgiveness is the answer… let go, find peace, liberate yourself!  And remember, forgiveness is not just for other people, it’s for you too.  If you must, forgive yourself, move on and try to do better next time.  Stop letting others bring you down to their level. – Refuse to lower your standards to accommodate those who refuse to raise theirs.  Stop wasting time explaining yourself to others. – Your friends don’t need it and your enemies won’t believe it anyway.  Just do what you know in your heart is right.  Stop doing the same things over and over without taking a break. – The time to take a deep breath is when you don’t have time for it.  If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re getting.  Sometimes you need to distance yourself to see things clearly.  Stop overlooking the beauty of small moments. – Enjoy the little things, because one day you may look back and discover they were the big things.  The best portion of your life will be the small, nameless moments you spend smiling with someone who matters to you.  Stop trying to make things perfect. – The real world doesn’t reward perfectionists, it rewards people who get things done.  Stop following the path of least resistance. – Life is not easy, especially when you plan on achieving something worthwhile.  Don’t take the easy way out.  Do something extraordinary.  Stop acting like everything is fine if it isn’t. – It’s okay to fall apart for a little while.  You don’t always have to pretend to be strong, and there is no need to constantly prove that everything is going well.  You shouldn’t be concerned with what other people are thinking either – cry if you need to – it’s healthy to shed your tears.  The sooner you do, the sooner you will be able to smile again.  Stop blaming others for your troubles. – The extent to which you can achieve your dreams depends on the extent to which you take responsibility for your life.  When you blame others for what you’re going through, you deny responsibility – you give others power over that part of your life.  Stop trying to be everything to everyone. – Doing so is impossible, and trying will only burn you out.  But making one person smile CAN change the world.  Maybe not the whole world, but their world.  So narrow your focus.  Stop worrying so much. – Worry will not strip tomorrow of its burdens, it will strip today of its joy.  One way to check if something is worth mulling over is to ask yourself this question: “Will this matter in one year’s time?  Three years?  Five years?”  If not, then it’s not worth worrying about.  Stop focusing on what you don’t want to happen. – Focus on what you do want to happen.  Positive thinking is at the forefront of every great success story.  If you awake every morning with the thought that something wonderful will happen in your life today, and you pay close attention, you’ll often find that you’re right.  Stop being ungrateful. – No matter how good or bad you have it, wake up each day thankful for your life.  Someone somewhere else is desperately fighting for theirs.  Instead of thinking about what you’re missing, try thinking about what you have that everyone else is missing.

Round 2, Day 7

Good Afternoon from Las Vegas!  It’s a cold and blustery day, snowing in some areas, very windy and the dogs and I will not be walking outside today.  My little dog will have to be satisfied (and I know she will) with me throwing a tennis ball down the stairs and retrieving it for me about 100 times.  It amazes me how every time I throw the ball it is like the first time for her and she is so happy!

My relapse now seems like it happened a few months ago, almost like it was a bad dream. Since I only drank beer and not that much I never went through any physical symptoms, and my head is back to being clear and present.

I saw the work doctor on Tuesday and I told her about my “slip” (which makes it sound so skippy and fun!) and I also told her I needed to get back to work.  I’ve been working since I was 14 and having and doing a good job is part of who I am.  Although this work leave (over two months)  has been necessary, beneficial, and healing, I need to return to my routine of working, exercising, weekly shopping, caring for those I care about.  I just need to do it all without alcohol present in my life.  It was interesting, the doctor asked me if I could guarantee I would never drink again and if I couldn’t perform my duties at work if I will always take a sick day if I needed it.  At first I was taken aback, legally and morally I can’t make the statement “I will never drink again”.  I don’t think anyone can ever make a definitive statement like that about the rest of their lives. Then I realized she was only fulfilling her duty to recommend I return to work and adhere to the policy of calling in sick at least 2 hours before shift.  I told her that I could guarantee I would never again put myself in the position people that care about me worry enough to call my work, causing the police to come to my door and having them find me drunk, thereby causing me to be put on administrative leave and going through what I’ve been through.  She is recommending I return to work, but with the paperwork involved and this being the holiday season I might not go back until after Christmas.

Not being responsible to my job was HUGE to me, I am one of those people that has a really strong work ethic, it devastates me when I screw up!  I am very prideful of my work performance, and am so grateful to have the job that I do.  Not to mention that I really LOVE my work. I feel I truly help people, whether by getting them the help they need for police or medical assistance, or by telling them where to get the information they need.  Many times I just provide a voice on the other end of the line, which can be a comfort in itself.  I have always tried to help people my whole life, and to be a good friend and Mom, and only when I have been impaired by drugs (many years ago) or recently by alcohol have I ever let anyone down.

I have vacation scheduled the week before Christmas, and I am going to the beach house and see my son.  I am so excited to see him I can hardly stand it.  I hope his work schedule allows us to see each other a lot, but he works in retail and will probably be working overtime.  I plan to meet him for lunch often, make some good food for him at home, see some movies, and spend really quality time with him.  Even though I know I disappointed him so much when I drank last week, I think he will see in my eyes that I am different and sober now.  I am also looking forward to going to some AA meetings in “the OC”! 

The key to a happy, sober life is to be responsible when necessary, but to find joy in your life doing things you love.  Instead of taking a drink or a drug, read that great book or see a movie that inspires you.  Be with someone you care about.  And take a dog for a walk.

Have a great day everyone!  image

Read this after my big FAIL with the Christmas lights…

“I’ve learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow. I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights. I’ve learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you’ll miss them when they’re gone from your life. I’ve learned that making a “living” is not the same thing as making a “life.” I’ve learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance. I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back. I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision. I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one. I’ve learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back. I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn. I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

—Maya Angelou

hookersorcake:

“We are all alone, born alone, die alone, and — in spite of True Romance magazines — we shall all someday look back on our lives and see that, in spite of our company, we were alone the whole way. I do not say lonely — at least, not all the time — but essentially, and finally, alone. This is what makes your self-respect so important, and I don’t see how you can respect yourself if you must look in the hearts and minds of others for your happiness.”
- Hunter S. Thompson

hookersorcake:

“We are all alone, born alone, die alone, and — in spite of True Romance magazines — we shall all someday look back on our lives and see that, in spite of our company, we were alone the whole way. I do not say lonely — at least, not all the time — but essentially, and finally, alone. This is what makes your self-respect so important, and I don’t see how you can respect yourself if you must look in the hearts and minds of others for your happiness.”

- Hunter S. Thompson

Thanks a lot God, or higher power or whoever you are

Judging from reading some recent posts from random people and others I follow, this week has been a pretty bad one.  Ahhhh, the Holidays!!!!

First of all I want to apologize to all of you who wrote or called and I didn’t respond.  I drank this past week.  Not sloshingly drunk but I did and I haven’t a clue why.  It didn’t even feel good; I mean yes, I got buzzed but then I just fell asleep.  I would wake up and just go to bed.  What a waste!  I almost had 60 days.  60 fucking days, and I was going to march right into that AA meeting and claim my 60 day chip and feel so good about myself.  Of course my son knew I had been drinking one night when he called, and now I have lost his trust all over again.  I was also going to go to an AA meeting on December 24th and claim a 90 day chip and give all of them to him for a Christmas present.  As he put it “this is like the 6th or 7th time you promised me, Mom.”

Why didn’t I just call someone?  I have at least 5 people (MOST IMPORTANTLY MY SON!) that have told me to just call them if I feel like having a drink.  I could have called any person from AA and been talked out of it.  I did talk to my best friend a couple days ago, (that I’ve known since junior high school) and she called it “a slip”.  She was married to an alcoholic for over 20 years and knows whereof she speaks.  She said to remind myself that I have done some really good work on myself since September 26 and that things are different this time.  I do tend to believe her, after all normally I would have had a bottle of Smirnoff a day and lost track of days, and I feel like I did show some restraint by only drinking beer and only sleeping for a couple of hours. 

So now I guess I have to work even harder on myself.  I was so down on Friday!!!  All I wanted to do was sleep but I couldn’t do that without taking something like Ambien or Tylenol PM and I just kept wishing this horrible feeling of sadness would go away.  Then it was so silly, I realized my DVR in my bedroom was almost 4 years old and I had been wondering why it had been acting up recently; I was annoyed last week’s episode of American Horror Story didn’t record and I had to watch it on On Demand and couldn’t zip through the commercials.  I then realized how fucking lucky I am to have a DVR!   Or even a TV!  Cable!  Not just one but two houses!  A job!  What a fucking joke I am!  I’ve worked since I was 14 years old and always done the right thing (well most of the time) and I am letting alcohol get the better of me.  Why does this liquid have such power over me? It’s just so stupid when I really think about it.  This IS something I can control. I think that is another reason I have problems with AA, I don’t believe I am powerless over something I have the choice not to do.  

I watched the old 1989 movie “Drugstore Cowboy” last night with a 20 year old friend of mine.  He is a very intelligent, thoughtful young man who works very hard at his job, helps his Mom with her bills, write and sings his own songs in a band and hopes for a full, successful life someday.  He was raised in a house where TV was not allowed and religion was strict.  He drinks and has used mild recreational drugs at times, nothing more than any other man his age.  It appeared to me that the concept of the life of a “Junky” (thanks William S. Burroughs) was foreign to him.  I don’t think he’s ever known anyone that lives to do drugs, and how hard that lifestyle is to maintain.  My sister, who died of an OD 4 years ago was able to sustain that life for almost 30 years, by means of government assistance, lying, stealing and cheating even herself.  The effort and energy it requires to be an addict of any kind is exhausting.  My friend and I discussed how most people in this world could do amazing things if they put that energy into something worthwhile.  

I have watched people close to me over the years buy and sell drugs, both prescription and street drugs, and marveled at the tenacity someone will pursue a cocaine purchase all night long or the pot dealer who is bombarded with cell phone calls day and night by his customers.

That made me realize that even this last week, while I delved temporarily back into an alcoholic stupor, that I simply don’t have the energy to pursue it any more, and frankly, why would I want to?  I guess this is just one of those life questions that has perplexed us for centuries.  Admittedly there has been some pretty amazing art, music, architecture, theories and inventions made by people who were on some type of substance or addiction but who knows what they could have accomplished on their own? 

So, it’s another Day Three for me!  But I feel stronger this time, definitely more educated about alcoholism and addiction.  I think I just might go put some Christmas lights up today!