It takes everything in the end

The other night was TV night.  TV night is Thursday nights, a tradition that started some years back when Lovely Husband started going to an evening class once a week and leaving me in control of the remote.  Since it is only once a week, it’s a night I look forward to.  No idle channel surfing for me; TV night involves a DVD set or something highly recommended from Netflix.  It involves an indulgent meal, eaten solo after the children are in bed – recently I’m favouring spicy buffalo wings and fries, but it can be a smoked salmon and Brie affair or a huge bowl of lentil soup, as the mood takes.

And back in the day, it also involved a lot of wine.  A lot of wine: TV night was my free-pass night, because I was drinking sight unseen and I knew LH was nearby in case of emergencies.  I just added that last bit in case I sounded irresponsible; let’s be frank, here.  I was just drinking a lot because nobody was watching.

When I gave up drinking, one of the things I mourned was the end of my Thursday nights.  Because, you see, I can’t watch television sober.  That’s why I only do it at all once a week.  I needed the wine to make the television fun, without seeing through the tiresome cliches and the telegraphed plot points.  It was worth it, of course, but it was a loss.  And I stopped Thursday TV nights for a little while.

And then I started them again, and I found other ways to keep occupied.  Once I learned to knit, it helped a lot: I can’t knit without doing something else and I can’t watch TV without doing something else but the two things go together like the newly sober and oversharing.  TV night was back.

TV night.jpg

Anyway.  Last Thursday, I started the next episode of my current series (which is Nashville.  How good is Nashville?  LH hates it.  I’m particularly a fan of the fact that nobody kills one another and so far zero women have been raped) and I realised that I’d somehow skipped ahead.  I couldn’t remember which episode I was up to, and the blurbs weren’t helping, so I spent a few minutes cueing up past episodes and watching the opening to see if I’d seen it.  It took me four episodes to find the one I was actually up to, and all the time that I was doing this I was feeling The Oh.  The Oh is when I see a previous memory in a different light and – Oh.  Oh, that’s what was going on.  How did it seem like it was fine?  Oh.

I thought that wine helped me watch TV!  For maybe a YEAR after I stopped drinking, I still thought that!  (And not without a soupçon of smuggery, either: you guys, you normal people with your normal intellect, you might be able to enjoy the entertainment of the masses.  Some of us can’t descend to popular culture without a deliberate deadening of our insight.  Jesus.  How anyone ever stands me in real life, I don’t even know.)  And yet, here I was, mimicking a time when I used to have to re-watch episodes of my given show because by the end of the previous TV night, I was too drunk to remember them clearly.

The difference was that this time, it took me less than a minute to check each episode, because I remembered seeing it within that time.  Before, it would take me longer.  I might have seen this one?  I remember this bit, I think, where the guy comes in and shouts, but that whole sequence before it is new or is it?  I wasn’t enjoying TV.  I was barely registering it!  I had to give up on Sherlock because I couldn’t follow the plot!

cropped-antique_books1

Here’s another example: books.  I’ve written before about my love of reading with wine (and TV, in fact – here I am, at six days sober, two years ago, talking about exactly the same thing I’m talking about now).  Reading + wine.  Heavenly.  But again, by the end.  Not so much.  It became normal to pick up a book where I’d left off and then flick back until I reached a page that I remembered reading.  Sometimes that would be a page or two.  Sometimes closer to a chapter.  What was the point?

It takes everything.  It takes EVERYTHING.  Back when I drank, my only hobbies were reading, drinking, and occasionally watching TV.  And arguing on the internet, I guess, but I was trying to quit that one well before I got sober.  Forget the me that I now am, with a birthday list stuffed full of gorgeous hand dyed yarns, running gear, and courses I want to do on power tools and window glazing.  Reading and watching TV.  It’s not a big demand on the universe, to have those things to enjoy.  But I didn’t.  I no longer had even those.

In an abusive relationship, the abused partner adapts to the demands of the abuser.  She tries to become better at acquiescence, hoping that if she can show him enough love and understanding, he will return the favour in increased trust and openness.  Instead the demands grow, and grow, until the victim is backed into a corner and she has nothing left, and if she is lucky she will realise that nothing she can give will ever be enough and if she is really, really lucky she will be able to get out of that corner and away.

When we say the words ‘alcohol abuse’ we tend to mean that we abuse alcohol.  But alcohol abuses us.  It takes and it takes, and it lies and it lies, and we give up everything rather than lose it.   There is nothing we need it for, and there is nothing it won’t take.

It takes everything.

Tired of Thinking About Eating

I’m going on about eating again.  I’ve been thinking a lot about it recently, because my weight is back up and although I am trying to be alright about this (I’ve started dance classes, which is a nice reminder that my body does fun things) it is just past the point where anything I own is comfortable to wear.  So I’m reminded daily.

Anyway, so I posted this plea for help to some friends earlier – forgive the cut and paste dump, but I am taking you on an emotional journey here.  Or, a journey, anyway. Emotion optional.

What I find about diets is this. Either I vow to make general changes, like only small amounts of refined grains or added sugars, lots of whole vegetables and meat and legumes, which sounds great. But the problem with that approach is it is too vague and unquantifiable and I can’t record anything and there aren’t enough rules and therefore it doesn’t matter if I just eat a family packet of crisps tonight because How Do I Know That I’m Doing It Right?

The alternative is anything that does have rules. I’ve calorie counted, done whole30, done 5:2. I drop weight very fast, partly because I get into the whole rule structure and start competing with myself about how much better I can do.  If a calorie plan says I should eat 1500 calories, well then I’ll eat 900!  And then in a totally shocking plot twist I stop dieting and go back to crazy bingeing eating.

Diet is one of those questions that elicits All The Opinions, so that’s what I got.  Some of them responded by recommending versions of those all-encompassing lifestyle diets where you get an entire meal plan and exercise regime laid out for you.  Others suggested I take a tried-and-true like Weight Watchers and adapt it for my own needs.  Others still said, look at the underlying causes of why you might overeat.  Think about your food and be mindful about the pleasure and make sure it hits the right spot.

food mice

None of them appealed, because no matter what the approach was, they all had one thing in common: they required me to spend more time thinking about food.

Friends, I am tired of thinking about food.  Belle’s website resonates with so many of us because she encapsulates this so well about alcohol.  I’ve had a few relapse thoughts recently, just idle ‘I wonder if I could…’ thoughts, not helped by the holiday season and the swathes of people who keep asking me if I’m sure I don’t drink at ALL, and really, STILL sober huh?  But what I remember every time is how boring and tedious and  time consuming it was, thinking about drinking.  And if I went back to any drinking at all, that would happen.  Maybe I’d stick to one glass on a Saturday night.  It’s unlikely, but one hears stories suggesting that it’s possible.  But I’d only do so by exerting fierce self control all the time.  I’d think about that one glass all week.  I’d wonder, on a Thursday, whether it would be alright to have that glass on Friday instead this week because it’s been a hard week.  And maybe I’d go back to drinking a bottle of wine a day and maybe I wouldn’t, but I know without the tiniest hint of a rumour that there might be a doubt in there somewhere that I would be back to thinking about drinking.

Not thinking about drinking has freed me up to think about so many other things.  In the past twelve months I’ve taught myself to sew, and to knit, and I’m teaching myself carpentry at the moment, and that’s just the non-business side of my life.  It is ridiculous, with so many amazing things to occupy our brains and our hearts, that we shoved them aside to think about whether we’ve had two drinks tonight and is a third reasonable, on a Monday?

food sleepy

So, no.  It’s not worth the brain space, not something that mundane.  And that’s how I feel about food at the moment.  I want to eat when I’m hungry.  I want to enjoy food for its own sake.  I do not want to spend any more time thinking about it than I do.  I don’t want to count points or calories or grams, I don’t want to meal prep or read ingredient lists to see if something contains a verboten substance.  And I definitely do not want to sit with a single cookie and savour it, because seriously, I am an adult woman with better things to spend my time doing than romancing a baked good.

food cupcake.jpeg

And that’s why, my friends, having no rules at all and just “embracing healthy eating” feels so hard!  Because it means that I have to make a decision about everything I eat, every single time.  Is this dried fruit what I really want; is it going to satisfy my craving; is there a better substitution I can make?  Fucking exhausting.  Mindful eating, even worse.  Rules?  Just as bad, or worse, or better, who even knows?

I feel like I should end this post with a fanfare – tarantara! – and an announcement of the solution.  I don’t have a solution, though.  I’m just tired of thinking about eating.

And leaves you wanting more

It’s a chilly evening,  but the lounge room is warm and clean.  The children are in bed, Lovely Husband is out at a class and I have the night to myself.  In front of me is a huge bowl of lentil soup, my favourite food in the world.

The first bite is heavenly.  Hot, spicy, creamy and thick, laced with lime and yoghurt for tang. I am perfectly satisfied, and in the very next second I feel a spike of anxiety. Eventually this bowl of soup, enormous though it is, will be gone and the pleasure will be over.  Even reminding myself that there is more soup in the pot doesn’t help, because there is no way I’ll be able to eat more.  Once this bowl of soup is done, it is done, and I am mourning its loss even as I contemplate a second spoonful.

alwayswantmore

You are, at this point, either nodding in recognition or thinking that I am entirely insane, and both are completely legitimate responses!  I laugh when I catch myself doing it now.  I used, of course, to do it with alcohol; my anxiety that there wouldn’t be enough pleasure in a bottle would almost outweigh the desire to drink it at all, which is both ludicrous and also explains part of why it is so much more peaceful not to drink it at all. I’d be watching a film, which would be coming up to the most emotional moment, but if my glass was almost empty I’d pause the narrative – and lose the tense build up – to make sure it was full again.  I couldn’t possibly lose myself in the moment if I didn’t also have that glass by my hand.

I haven’t lost any of that anxiety.  I still feel as if somehow, somewhere, I’ll hit upon a magical combination of fulfilling leisure and sensory pleasure that somehow satiates me completely and propels me into a new world.   And when I do find something that gets close – right now it’s Pretty Little Liars and knitting – I do it again and again, every evening.

Sleeves being knitted and worn at the same time

I cannot do this, in case you’re wondering

Sometimes I think that learning how to just be is the hardest thing of all.