Sobriety whack-a-mole

This is not going to be an update of heartbreaking beauty and blinding insight; I’m blogging at my kitchen table before the Monday morning school run, ignoring my daughters squabbling about who gets the pink colouring-in pencils. I’m very tired. I’m tired partly because Big Girl ended up in bed with me last night, and has all the consideration for personal space of a bloke on a crowded subway commute. But I would have been tired even without her nocturnal incursion, because I’m currently going through a bout of my old friend insomnia.

Lying in bed last night, I thought to myself gosh, this can’t just be a reaction to too much caffeine, because I was careful about that last night, it must be actual insomnia. Goodness, I haven’t had proper insomnia since, let me see, 2006 when I started working as a lawyer.

At the time, I had been in a dreadfully dull job in the public service, the sort of job where I had very little to actually do but they couldn’t fire me because it wasn’t my fault that I had nothing to do. And my insomnia was awful. I would very rarely get to sleep before about 1 or 2 am, I tried camomile tea and meditation (badly) and all sorts of things. When I finally graduated Law and was offered a job with a big corporate law firm, the insomnia went away overnight. Partly, this was because I was using my brain for the first time in at least a year, but partly. Well. Hey, guess what’s quite common amongst junior lawyers?

I have always drunk a lot, so – despite my attempts to delineate it in early sobriety – there isn’t any one point where I can say that I crossed the line into heavy, regular drinking. But certainly, in those years as a new lawyer, before I became pregnant with Big Girl, there was a lot of drinking, and it was pretty much every night. And it wasn’t until last night, lying awake, that I remembered that my sober self has always been insomniac. Of course, in the drinking years, I had trouble getting to sleep on alcohol-free days, but everyone does. And then when I gave up, like everyone else I was tired all the time, slumping through the days and going to bed early every night. Once that phase was over, I started sleeping wonderfully. Deep, rich, luscious sleep, sleep which was a total joy to me, sleep which came wrapped in purple velvet in purple velvet ribbon, a precious gift from my precious sobriety.

But now I’m back to my pre-drinking sleep, which was always bad. And this time, I’m going to have to try and address it properly. Set into place good habits; look at the causes of the insomnia instead of the symptoms; try things and maybe get them wrong and then try different things.

Five or so months in, there’s a lot of things like that. My skin, which was red and dry and puffy, and then turned clear and dewy and soft, is now starting to sprout pimples along the back of my neck. It hasn’t done that in longer than I can remember, although I assume it’s to do with the sugar I now eat.

And that’s another thing. Once I got over the initial all-sugar-all-the-time detox phase, I realised I didn’t really know how to eat So then I channeled my teenage self and just didn’t eat. And now I’m swinging between fasting, bingeing, feeling awful about myself and trying to eat clean whole foods and then failing. So that needs work as well.

My professional life is going through a surprising upswing. Quite apart from the second career, the One True Love career, that I’m developing on the side, my actual job is going well. There’s a long story behind this, which I don’t have the stomach to tell you, but in essence I stepped down from being a lawyer, a job I loved and was good at, because I was struggling to cope during the depths of my drinking. So now I have a job that I pass off, shrugging, as ‘mummy-tracked’, which is significantly below my skill levels but offers flexible school hours and the opportunity to dick around on the internet quite a lot. It’s no wonder the insomnia is back, now I think about it. But in the past month, with my new-found confidence, I have started pushing back against my micro-managing, no-good-at-delegating boss and wresting a little bit of responsibility from him. It’s a tooth and nail battle, but it’s paying off. I was asked, the other day, by a fairly senior industry group, to chair a working party for a significant social initiative. I was asked, last week, to submit my CV to a law firm I’ve wanted to work for for a long time, so I could go back to Law. I’m not sure I want to, because of the One True Love, but it’s not a coincidence that these things are happening now. These are the gifts of sobriety.

But, in line with the other things above, I suspect that this is the high before the crash. Just as my skin and my sleep are starting to emerge from under the effects of alcohol and then detox, forcing me to address the real, underlying, actual-person problems , I think work will be the next one. I can see some serious, major decisions coming up soon, that will require me to actually figure out once and for all what I want to do with my life, and how much fear and shame have held me back.

Alcohol acted as a huge heavy blanket for years. It squashed down every need and problem and issue that I had. And then it came off, and everything sort of rose up and gently hovered in the air. Now gravity has taken its toll again, and things have fallen back to the ground, but every now and then a real issue pops up, that is insistent and loud and needs dealing with. And when I’ve dealt with that one, another one pops up. Sobriety is a mallet in my new life of whack-a-mole, and this is possibly the worst metaphor I’ve ever written on here. Still, it’s Monday morning and I haven’t slept, so you get what you get.

{Insert pithy sign off here]


7 thoughts on “Sobriety whack-a-mole

  1. Insomnia sucks! I’ve always had trouble sleeping. In fact, that was one of the reasons I drank wine in the beginning, because it helped me to sleep. Good luck with your job. It sounds like things are going well xx

  2. Swinging between binging and restricting food is not a good place.
    I have tried to reign in my own sugar demon, but the resulting anxiety was way too much for me. Self acceptance requires me to eat what makes me feel good. It will have to be an evolving process. I’m too close to my old disordered eating (extreme low carb and calorie, topped up with copious wine and extreme exercise). Whenever I try to make a change I go into the all or nothing mindset. Being sober is too vital to mess with for me.
    Magnesium before bed works wonders for insomnia. Seriously. Give it a shot.

  3. I think that the body and brain must go through waves of healing as we detox our liver and the breakout and sleep struggles might be part of that. As for the eating stuff I hear you and am beginning to realise that I have replaced my emotional drinking with emotional eating. Arghh!! Whack-a-mole indeed! xx

  4. I love this post so much. You crawling out from under you blankets is like me clearing the clutter from my basement. Love the whack-a-mole analogy and have used it to describe several things in my life. Oh, and the damn sugar! Damn it. Insomnia really does blow. I hope you are successful in dealing with it.

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