Passing through the world like a ghost

Feeling anxious and fidgety this morning after a couple of stressful days.  A friend has been in a lot of pain, now is in the hospital facing possible spinal surgery. My son-in-law also is in a lot of pain from a work-related injury to his right arm, may need surgery, worrying about long-term damage, how to work, how to manage if he can’t. My own pain has shot up, probably in part because I haven’t been able to do the daily maintenance stuff I’m supposed to.

I’ve felt in need of soothing and couldn’t find anything readily available. Meditation probably would’ve helped, but sometimes I am so distracted by evil thoughts and the catastrophic future I can’t make myself sit down and do it.  Reading a lovely poem by Jane Hirshfield that Mary posted on Letting Go this morning, I was in tears thinking about aging and time passing and days squandered…which wasn’t the point of the poem at all, the exact opposite, in fact.

It undoes me, this sort of mood.  I lash out, get angry over nothing, rage at the news of the day, complain about my husband, get furious at my children, feel friendless and abandoned and peevish as hell.  I want to sweep the table clean and start over, have some other life.

Apparition close-up, by Mahtomj

These are the times I used to turn to wine, the great and almost instant soother. And instead, I have to sit here and feel this way. How fair is that?  I’ve done the Right Thing, given up my wine, made the sacrifice…I should be rewarded, right? I shouldn’t have to feel like this!  Never mind that the wine was taking my life away, flooding it with bleakness, leaving me alone in the dark.  At least it dulled the pain in my brain–and back.  That friendly soporific life-snatching analgesic.

Question: if a feeling can’t be felt, is it real? With wine, I could pass through the world like a ghost.  Talk about squandering life.

Rage rage against the dying of the light.

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18 Responses to Passing through the world like a ghost

  1. Lisa Neumann says:

    “… have some other life” I darn say I have felt that many, many times in sobriety. Thank goodness it always passed. I use the “3 day rule” … nothing usually stays intense for more then three days. Glad you’re no longer a ghost :)

  2. Mary LA says:

    Not to have to feel the feelings, I remember how grateful I was to the drinking for that — and the price that was paid. It still shocks me how numb I was when I sobered up, unable to feel much of anything, as if I had concreted over my emotions with years of drinking. So much so that I needed to get drunk in order to find out how I felt about things.

    Going back there is not an option, no matter how distressed or frustrated I feel now. And Susan I hope your pain eases over the weekend. And thinking of your friends —

    • sswl says:

      It shocked me too how numb I was, and I’m not out of it yet. It’s my first reaction in a crisis, to turn numb and wooden, but at least without alcohol, my feelings eventually catch up with the rest of me, or I with them. Weird way to talk about it, but how it seems.

  3. Imogen says:

    It’s so difficult when people around us are suffering, it can contribute to a feeling of helplessness and things being out of our control, which of course they are. It’s doubly hard when you are suffering yourself. I also sometimes feel the huge burden of regret for time squandered but take faith in the knowledge that it will pass and the present is all i have. A big bear hug to you xOx

    • sswl says:

      Thanks, Imogen, for that bear hug! Also for the present of the present. :) And you’re so right, regret is just another device for stepping away from the present.

  4. byebyebeer says:

    Yes, I know those feelings you describe, as we all do once we’ve been sober for a little bit. And I know how awful they feel (and I am truly sorry you’re feeling this way now). And I don’t feel that way now, so I can’t fully conjure the frustration and bitterness and loneliness, though I just felt them recently. I guess this is the only thing that comforts me some days…This too shall pass. I hope this state feels like a distant, hazy memory soon for you.

    • sswl says:

      Getting hazier as we speak, BBB. They come and go, those feelings. Maybe they always will. And maybe wanting to escape them will always be my default setting, it always has been. But writing about them helps me claim them, and hearing how others have fared helps me know they’ll pass. Thanks for your part in the process!

  5. lisamccolgan says:

    There are days when I still resent not having the chemical escape valve. But then I have to remember that at the end of my drinking, I felt only two things: terror and despair. I feel all kinds of stuff now, and some of it sucks, but a lot of it’s good.

    Wow. Lifering. I started my recovery journey making use of their online resources (was a chat moderator for a while, too). While I eventually had to do face-to-face meetings (not much LSR in the Northeast) and have been “taking what I need” from AA, I’ll always appreciate those early days of recovery in LSR. Fireman Jack still in there?


    • sswl says:

      Oh, how nice you know LifeRing! Fireman Jack was still there last time I checked, but that was a couple of years ago. I’m mainly on the Delphi forum and the LSR Safe list (another email list), both a huge support, though I also went to quite a few f2f meetings my first year (I’m in San Francisco). My younger son has been sober 10 years in AA and has a wonderful group of friends there, so I’m all in favor of whatever works. I think that’s the general attitude in LifeRing these days too.

      Good to have made contact with you, Lisa.


  6. What a great read! Wow, OTHER people feel that way too!!!! :) Good to see others are also taking action when it happens. Getting out of that place in your head, reading something moving. I appreciate that. Glad to have found your blog!

  7. mishedup says:

    I am weeping….another blogging friend turned me on to yours and I am grateful; I imagine I will be reading past posts for a while.
    I was the same…no feelings, none! I did not want them, could not stand them and was perfectly happy, frankly, to give up good feelings as long as I wouldn’t have the bad. The problem was that it stopped working, the drink. And then what, right?,

    “with wine I could pass through the word like a ghost”.
    I am grateful that I am less ghostly. LESS….I still feel like a ghost a lot. But a sober ghost. It’s better.

    • sswl says:

      I’m so glad that it spoke to you! For me, though, wine not only numbed me to bad feelings, it also, for a long time, gave me a kind of euphoria I couldn’t find easily other ways. And then, it stopped working for both. I was utterly miserable and going straight from sober to drunk without passing through euphoria. After 3+ sober years, I remember the euphoria a lot more clearly than the misery–kind of like childbirth :)–and not running away from painful feelings is still a major challenge.

      Thanks for your comment. I’ll be checking out your blog. Thanks to Christy at Running On Sober for connecting us!

  8. Is that Dylan Thomas, Susan?

    I’m glad you are feeling less ghost like now, but ah that desire to escape. To want to be rewarded for all that we suffer. I felt it this past week at the dentist of all places, and I later wrote about how nitrous got at the part of me that just wanted to check out and float much like a cloud. It scared the shit out of me later- and I know it is not the nitrous, but something deep-seeded in me.

    • sswl says:

      Yes, it’s from Dylan Thomas’ “Do not go gentle into that good night.” Should’ve credited it.

      I was fascinated by your nitrous story, and I’m completely convinced I would’ve reacted the same way. I’m not sure we ever get rid of that urge to escape, though it does seem to be more severe at some times than others. Read Memoirs of an Addicted Brain recently (Marc Lewis). He does such a great job of describing that compulsion to get out of himself, going from one substance to another, loading one on top of another, mixing them into cocktails. Must’ve looked absolutely suicidal from the outside, but it wasn’t, it was wanting to be somewhere/someone else. Reading his story, you’d never imagine he could free himself of drugs, but he hasn’t used in many years. Somehow, some of us learn to stay in the world.

      • Thanks for mentioning that book again Susan. I remembered saying I would look into it but forgot. I just downloaded the preview onto my Kindle- can’t wait to dig into it.

        I’m still a work in progress in that staying in the world deal. Even my running is a form of escape, though I do try to stay mindful and aware in some of my runs. (They’re not as fun as the zone out runs if I’m being totally honest….)

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