Last December I was drinking too much. Too much. Too often. Beer was my drink of choice at that time. Not really of choice, more of failing compromise. I never liked beer. I genuinely enjoyed red wines and cocktails with a vodka base. Unfortunately after a while I could put down an entire bottle of red by myself or multiple shots of the vodka I meant to mix with. Beer was just an effort to not get drunk so often. But I did. Numb out and go to sleep. Numb out and watch tv. Numb out, vomit and cry. A cornucopia of numbness. Me in the center of an emotional void. Surrounded by empty artisan beer bottles. I couldn’t just buy cans of Budweiser, I had to pretend that even the beer was something with some culture and not just a self medicating situation that had become a monster.
160 sober days later I still don’t understand my emotions completely. I drank them for years. I vomited them for even more years than that. The only emotion I could name for quite some time was “anxiety”. I still recognize “anxious” most easily. And lately “annoyed/frustrated”. I recently (like yesterday) realized that I prefer angry to anxious. I do not enjoy being angry but I am more comfortable in anger than I am in worry. I despise being taken advantage of. I have an overdeveloped sense of responsibility when it comes to work. And with people in my life sometimes but mostly with work. I see it as a team effort (it IS called a medical team) and I am willing to do my part to the best of my ability. I am willing to pick up the slack because when people’s lives are at stake, it really doesn’t matter to me who is doing the most work. I am sure anyone with similar work ethic reading this is not shocked to hear that this does not always work out well for me.
My Christmas this year was ruined by my job with two days notice. It was my Christmas to be off and now I will not be. After the shock wore off, rage settled in. The shrink at work who is my friend was like “You know…you COULD refuse to do it. Say no.” And I responded sure but I’ll spend Christmas day worried about what could go wrong if those people don’t have a nurse and I won’t enjoy Christmas. I would rather be furious about working than worried about not. It has been a difficult and unhappy Christmas Eve stuck here away from my family, unable to participate in the holiday after having it on my calendar all year that I was off. I worked Thanksgiving, I missed Thanksgiving with my family and friends and now Christmas. I work New Year’s too. Really, fuck this. And there is the anger.
Why is anger preferable to anxiety? Anxiety feels like something that is being done TO me. Anger feels like something in my control. Anger displaces hurt and disappointment. If I am angry, I am avoiding pain. Anxiety feels powerless. Anger feels powerful. It is, however, every bit as exhausting and I need to learn to recognize something other than anger and anxiety.
Calm is something I am trying to identify. It emerged very early in the sobriety experiment. I have not been able to get there as often or as completely lately. I feel calm at night in my bed with the dog at my feet as I write. It shouldn’t be a surprise that writing is calming to me. I used to always write before bed, back in the dark ages when our journals were on paper and read only by ourselves. I used to believe there was a book in me. But I have lost my voice and it is hard to remember that I once had enough confidence in my point of view to believe it needed to be preserved in hardback.