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How We Feel. What We Do.

28 July 2014

Lately, I am feeling slow and stupid and lazy and ill at ease. Discontent. Fraudulent. Useless. I’m feeling angry and irrelevant. Uncreative. Dull. I am supposed to have ideas and be interesting. I am supposed to be engaging and dynamic and focused. I am not any of those things right now. Sludge and bituminous, sessile stupefaction. I don’t have the things in me I feel like I should have to be productive and mobile. I am wasting but bloated.

That’s how I feel. I’ve felt this way for a while. A month at least. When I feel this way, and it isn’t uncommon, I have a tendency to wallow. It’s an appallingly childish, dramatic inclination. I want simultaneously to shrivel into total oblivion and to have everyone come look at how horrible I am. A masochistic narcissism.

It is a state that we alcoholics often refer to as, “being in my own head.” I’m in a peculiar and absorbing headspace. It does me no good to linger here. So what can I do?

Well, I used to feel this way all the time. What I did was drink. Drinking doesn’t cure this space. In fact, it worsens it catastrophically. But it also obliterates the keenness of it. The glass-blade sharpness of intolerable disquiet. Alcohol does a magnificent job of sanding down that edge for an hour or a day. At least, until it doesn’t anymore. That’s the problem with disease progression of course. First I needed more to get the same effect. Then, no amount could ever produce what I needed from it.

What can I do instead? Being sober has allowed me to understand time in a new way. I can let go of the immediate need for anesthesia by recognizing that pain and discomfort are temporary. I will not feel this way forever. Hell, I didn’t feel this way yesterday. I might well not tomorrow. It used to be that even during the hours that I wasn’t drunk, I still wasn’t sober. I didn’t know how to recognize that things pass. I may not need to treat every insult with a blackout drunk.

I can work my program specifically on the issues that I am struggling with. In AA, we often call this “doing a 4th step” or “doing a 10th step”. We look at the thing that’s troubling us, and we ask questions. “What does this affect in me?” “Who is involved?” “What is my part in it?” All by themselves, these questions can lead me out of the dark. When I understand the source and impact of a period of melancholy, and can identify my own part in it, I can often just let it go from there.

I’ve always been told that courage doesn’t mean not being afraid. Courage means doing what needs to be done despite my fear. I think that’s true of my melancholy and my laziness and my general discomfort. It’s not so important how I feel. It’s important what I do. I am lazy: I will run. I am angry: I will meditate. I am bitter: I will do things for others. I will take actions I know to be effective in changing my feelings, rather than actions designed to mask, obliterate, or conceal them.

And crucially, I will not be alone. I have many, many loving friends and a devoted family. Those are wonderful things, but they cannot replace the simple understanding and support that I get from talking with another sober alcoholic. One who understands what it means to walk through the feelings rather than away from them. Who understands how my mental state is related intrinsically to my alcoholism, my disease. Who understands that relieving my condition is not the same as removing it.

I never want to be a non-alcoholic. I’m so grateful to be what I am. Where I am. In all this tumult, I have found a deliberate way to live. And I will not relinquish it.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. 28 July 2014 12:41

    Deep acceptance of all that is and I value your authentic expression, it takes courage and grit. We all live with fear of the unknown, self doubt and uncertainties which are part of life..and fear is like a fast get away on a wooden horse..:) We, humans are relational and connection, safety and security, belonging are needs which must be met for wellness.. I am deepened by all that you share and your courage. integrity, sensitivities and wisdom gained from your own experiences is a gift for me. Be well and celebrate you..:)

  2. Lori George permalink
    28 July 2014 13:48

    I am very well acquainted with feeling ‘slow and stupid and lazy and ill at ease’. I am fortunate that my vice during those times is retreat to bed and hours and hours of TV, rather than alcohol. I too find some measure of comfort in knowing that this state is temporary. But I struggle to parse my agency without hating myself even more. Thank you for sharing. Stay well until you are on the other side of this ‘spell’.

  3. Syd permalink
    28 July 2014 21:34

    It is a human condition that happens to me as well. I did the ill at ease and self-recrimination sans alcohol. Every day brings a new challenge. It’s good to inventory what I am feeling and look at the shortcomings that are front and center when I am in a sad, bad place. Great post.

  4. 29 July 2014 11:35

    Happy birthday!!

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