Chasing the High

I’ve taken on so many new things recently that I’m both exhilarated and terrified all the time at the moment. Who needs alcohol when you’ve got a healthy dose of adrenalin, right? It’s all good, satisfying stuff that is for myself; I’m studying, pursuing new career directions, renovating and generally carving out a new way to live.

And yet, somehow, I still feel a lack of something. I’m reminded of the way Mrs D described needing more wine as wanting to feel ‘full’. That’s exactly it. And I’m in an awful spiral of eating junk food in an attempt to do the same thing, and it’s completely unsatisfying – which means that I try again the next evening and in a shocking turn of events, it continues to be unsatisfying. I’m sure it’s an addict impulse, this conviction that if I just find the right substance to put into myself, I’ll feel better (maybe salt and vinegar crisps will do it? Maybe if I go on a special errand to the one store that sells lime and chilli soy snacks?) whereas clearly, what’s needed here is not going to come from external sources.

But I don’t know what it is that I am yearning for. Relaxation? I’m quite relaxed, these days, though. Life is so much easier without wine that I feel like a lady of leisure. Evenings are packed with possibilities, all of them satisfying in their own way; shall I have an indulgent bath? Spend the night cooking and listening to music? Go to bed early with a book? Write another few pages of the book? All of them are things that make me feel good, all of them are quite healthy ways to spend my time. When it stops with the blizzard conditions outside* I may even take up exercise again.

So why do I go back to this idea that I am not full, that there is something missing? A magic key that somehow unlocks a new level of joy or deep satisfaction? Something, above all, that will make me feel satiated.

When I was eighteen, I intended to write the definitive Australian youth novel, along with almost every aspiring teenage writer out there. It was going to be about my friends and I (along with almost every aspiring teenage writer out there) and our experiences in share houses, at parties, in tangled relationships fuelled by dope and booze. And then John Birmingham wrote He Died With a Falafel in His Hand, so I didn’t bother. Well, and I was too busy with the aforementioned, and also Boys. Anyway, I was going to call it Chasing The High, because it seemed to me even then that that’s all any of us were doing.

The first time we do anything, it has more power and resonance than ever again. Do you remember the knee-weakening amazement of your first kiss? The first time you heard a song that spoke to your soul? The day that you got your first paycheque? The first time you discovered that you could make yourself come? And then we want to do these things again and again, but they wear out with use, they lose their power. The lyrics become trite, the kiss becomes a mere stepping stone on the way to something else.

And of course, if you’re an addict you find an external substance that enhances the sensation you’re looking for, the high you’re chasing. But then you build up a tolerance, and you know how the rest of this song goes. The very definition of addiction is chasing a high.

Right now, I’m on another high, because I’m pursuing a long held dream that is starting to come true. But what happens when the novelty wears off? When the ‘firsts’ stop and I’m back in reality, doing the same things over and over. Even if my entire life is comprised of things I love doing, they can’t be newer and higher and more exciting every time. One day soon, they’ll be routines. The most exciting love affair in the world becomes your daily domestic life eventually. There is no magic formula for living that means that you stay on the high.

I don’t know how to stop chasing highs. I don’t know how to just live.

That’s the hollow inside me that I’m trying to fill, this time with external validation and an audience for my words. A hollow where peace should be. I don’t have peace, because I’m still chasing the high.

*It’s not a real blizzard. I’m in Australia. It’s just quite chilly and there’s some drizzle. But if my English friends can describe 30 degrees as ‘scorching heat’, and believe me, they can and do, then I’m calling this a blizzard.

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16 thoughts on “Chasing the High

  1. Sounds like what you’re needing is a little spontaneity & variety here and there. I think we often have this tendency to think that either we are chasing a high to escape the mundane or trapped within an automated routine. Routine is good; authentic *emotional* highs are good. Leading a healthy lifestyle is all about finding a balance between both.

    Even though you describe doing different things with your evening time, it sounds like they are all low-level, at-home activities. Perhaps you can change it up every few days (or once a week) and do something more in the direction of exhilarating, out of the house–such as going for a run in a new neighborhood, attending a live music show, people watching at the park (there are tons of fun games you can play with a friend or with yourself while ppl watching), having a games night with friends (who support your sobriety), etc. Doing something out of the ordinary is what helps us feel alive and having routine is what helps us maintain direction in our lives. Too much of one and not enough of the other will either leave you feeling chaotic or dull. It’s great that you have found some personal calm within your journey, reward yourself with a bit of healthy variety so that you don’t get stuck in a rut of predictability…it will trick you & make your former lifestyle seem more and more appealing by the day. Remember that you are where you are in your journey for a reason: the former did not feel as great as you imagined it looked. Don’t punish yourself with routine because of who you were; you’ve shown yourself that you can do this! Reward yourself in a healthy way because of who you (now) are.

  2. Maybe writing is the way to go, then? I can’t speak from experience of fiction, but reading some writers’ blogs, what strikes me is that each new novel becomes a different, exciting challenge, even if writing so many words or pages a day is part of a routine. I write non-fiction, and certainly each new project is a high for me. So perhaps you’ll be OK so long as you keep writing? Here’s hoping, anyway.

    • I hope so! I am writing quite a lot, but it’s still chasing the high, in that the days when my stats don’t spike, or nobody accepts a pitch, or I don’t find a new follower or I don’t get a thousand words of the novel down, feel blah. And more; once I have done those things, I need to do more things. Like, I got a pitch accepted! So now, to feel the same buzz, I need to get TWO pitches accepted! Crazy.

  3. I found that balance in AA. It took awhile for me to embrace this simple “design for living” but once I did, my life became full and genuine.

    Today, after seven years of sobriety, I am using my AA tools to change my eating habits. I’ve been aware of the sabotage that emotional eating has undermined my efforts to lose weight and improve my health, I just truly never accepted that aspect. After three months of acceptance and then taking action, my diet has changed and my workouts have replaced that need for comfort that I use to fill with unhealthy eating.

  4. This is a great post..but all of yours are.
    There is a reason why addiction is called a three-fold disease, of the mind, the body and the spirit.
    The real hole to fill is spiritual.
    I ran for a long time on all the external highs of quitting, the new experiences sober, the time do do things I liked…it was all so satisfying until it wasn’t. Very much like my drinking.
    The spiritual solution can be anything….even a god if you are so inclined.
    For me it comes with volunteering, for doing for others, for being in the world in a way that others can look to me for help and support.. All the things I do for myself are incredibly important, but without that reliance and trust in a higher power (different for everyone and changeable…for me, in this moment, I describe it as a universe that wants the best for me, and I work hard to believe it!) I still have that hole, that empty space. Until I started working on that aspect of my recovery I felt vulnerable, that I could drink again.
    Now, not so much.
    My 2 cents….it’s what I read in your post today, this lack.
    I saw it because I was there for so long. I fought and resisted it for a long time in sobriety.
    When I was able to relax into it and to start taking my recovery out into the real world, even if it wasn’t couched in “recovery”…things started to change, fast. Life started to fall into place.
    The hole began to fill.

    • OH yes!! Excellent post/responses. I needed this today and agree, that for me, it is this lack. Maybe I see that because it is the lens I am wearing right now. And I love the idea of HP being a universe that wants the best for me because that is exactly how I am viewing the ol HP these days. Of course, that could change by this afternoon. Thanks y’all.

  5. I love what everyone has said here. Especially M there at the end. Balance, and filling that hole with something within, rather than trying to get from external. Getting that next buzz or fix is common for us after we put down the drink. We want that next high. But we learn to live on even ground. There are some spikes and dips, but being content and in serenity means that we’re on a good groove. Not all over the place like we used to. And not only are we even, we are content to be even. I am just now in a place where I don’t need to start looking for that. Seeking validation from the externals is a BIG struggle for me, and I am just now seeing that it doesn’t work for me – food, stats, whatever…it holds no water in the end. But I needed to go through that to understand it.

  6. I had the same thought as I was reading – it’s a spiritual lack. Some people fill it though religion. I have found I feel so much better when I spend some time using deep relaxation or self-hypnosis each night or in the morning. It keeps me centred, and more purposeful. We all have to learn to be happy with our
    selves

  7. The ol’ hole in the stomach routine eh? Kinda like an empty void feeling right above the belly button? Man o man, I had it too. I musta heard 5 – 10 thousand people talk about that ‘hole.’ Funny thing is though: All the stuff that I knew about, and tried to fill the hole with, didn’t work to good. I had to experience and learn something completely foreign to me that made the hole into a whole.

    “”The first time you discovered that you could make yourself come? And then we want to do these things again and again, but they wear out with use, they lose their power.”” Dang. I’m so old that when I cum only dust comes out. I’m happy its still workin though, even If I gotta tie a helium balloon to it.

  8. I think that finding stillness and the ability to sit contented with just being in the moment truly starts to fill this hole. Try meditating and see if you can find this inside. Allow yourself to enjoy the now without worrying about what will happen next. You deserve it.

  9. Hi Allie, I found your blog on Paul’s Message in a Bottle because he nominated us for the “Blogging From the Heart” tour.
    This was such a lovely post and quite needed; especially for past alcoholics like myself. Where our highs were once drinking until we blacked out or chasing after those one night drunken messy love affairs, they are now replaced with whatever sugar cravings we have at night or binge pizza and pasta eating… whatever eases the endless cravings.
    I’ve found my author work helps to condition my high. False freedoms such as vino and patron once took me to those awful numbing worlds. But now, I search for highs which will actually move my soul. I want to feel EVERYTHING and remember all of the goals I now have laid in front of me. No more chasing highs but instead, making the inevitable happen by constantly grabbing after our dreams.
    This was absolutely beautiful and I’m looking forward to reading more of your posts.

    • Hi Gina! I’m glad to hear that the writing helps; I’m currently really focused on establishing a professional writing career, and I wrote that post partly in a sudden fear that all I was doing was chasing a new thing, and that it would wear off. At the moment, my go-to technique for free-floating anxiety is to write 1000 words of something, on the grounds that I always feel better when I’ve written, and that does help. Lovely to hear from you.

  10. Thanks for writing this – this is something I’ve been struggling with lately, and it’s good to hear that I’m not the only one. I switched careers about four years ago, and for the first two years it was all different, new and challenging. Now my “new” life is pretty normal, and I’m having a hard time staying motivated. I, too, want “the high” that comes with something new and exciting. I often think that I’ll just chuck it in and do something else – and THEN my life will be perfect – even though I know that is completely untrue and won’t solve my problems. That is my addict brain searching for external things to fill the hole inside me. So, I’m not sure what to do – thinking meditation, maybe a gratitude journal could help? True validation can only come from inside you – I know that, logically. But feeling that validation – that’s a whole different story.

  11. [i]Do you remember the knee-weakening amazement of your first kiss? [/i] Unfortunately my first kiss was more of a kind of larger soaked ash tray performed out of a sense of obligation (“he put up with my talking to him so I guess I owe him something for his trouble”) followed by being drenched with water by his wife (I was 14).

    I’ve made a lot of bad decisions really 😛

  12. I’m late to respond after spending the week-end away in scorching heat! 😉 I hear you Allie and am still chasing the high too. If you find the answer do let me know!! xx

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