I’ve been adjusting various things in my life lately, and over the last week or so I have realized how much I hide from life. I hide from moving forward, I hide from trying new things, I hide from so many things, and what I do to hide varies depending on what else I’m doing or not doing.
A few weeks ago, I decided that I was drinking FAR too much. I had gotten to the point that I wasn’t sure if it was a full-blown addiction or just a habit, but I decided to find out. I read somewhere that it takes an average of 3 weeks to establish a new habit, so I decided to quit drinking for 3 weeks and see what happened to my body and mind. I printed out a blank calendar to mark off the days, because otherwise after about the 4th day of doing anything new I always think, “I’ve been doing this FOREVER, I can take a day off!” Ahem. I knew that there were a couple of days during that 3-week period when I’d probably have a drink or two with friends: there were a couple of birthdays and a trip home, but outside of that I decided I wasn’t going to drink. And I didn’t.
The first thing I realized was that I really didn’t miss it – it was more like I wasn’t sure what ELSE to do when I got home. So I started drinking water. And lo and behold, after a day or two of that, I noticed that I was THIRSTY when I got home. The thirst wasn’t new – it was the fact that I recognized it that was new. Basically, I’d been drinking out of habit, and because I was thirsty. (Note to self: drinking alchohol is NOT an effective hydration method. Geez.)
I was feeling pretty good about the whole thing; like maybe what I was dealing with was less an addcition than a compulsion, and I feel better equipped to manage a compulsion. After about 10 days though, I noticed that I was feeling sort of tired and rundown during the day. I looked around for what had changed and realized that although I wasn’t drinking, my sugar consumption had gone through the ROOF. I was having sugar hangovers every day, and was constantly tired.
So I decided I needed to quit eating so much freakin’ sugar. I wasn’t going to go to the calendar-mairking method (because I was still working on the not-drinking bit), but I just thought I’d decide to cut back on it. The first thing I noticed was that I was CRAVING sugar, and not drinking got a LOT harder. I gutted it out for about 4 days (why is 4 my magic number?) and then felt lots better. Whew!
But . . . about 4 days after THAT, I started feeling like crap again. WTF?? So I went back and looked at my behaviors, and guess what? I wasn’t drinking, I was eating more “normal” amounts of sugar, but . . . I’d started staying up about 2 hours later than I normally do, and I was doing it consistently. About that time, my 3 weeks of no drinking were up, and the first night after that, for the first time I REALLY WANTED a drink. I didn’t have one, but the next couple of nights I wanted sugar. Then back to the weird bedtimes.
I was thinking about it over the weekend. Sunday I had all this stuff I wanted to do, but Saturday I had a couple of drinks and ate a bunch of cake. So Sunday I had a sugar hangover like I couldn’t BELIEVE, and I only got about 2 things done (out of the 5 or 6 I’d wanted to do). But I had an interesting realization on Sunday, while I was giving myself the “why-do-you-do-this-to-yourself” speech: I’m not really after the alcohol, or the sugar, or the late-night television shows. I’m after the exhaustion that keeps me from accomplishing anything else. It’s been totally unconscious until now, but I’ve been hiding all this time behind the physical exhaustion that comes with those behaviors.
See, if I’m exhausted, I don’t have to do anything. I can write recipes for my cookbook tomorrow, I can see my friends tomorrow, I can run errands tomorrow. Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow. And in the meantime, I don’t have to face any of my fears. If I haven’t written any recipes, then the cookbook can’t be submitted, and if the book can’t be submitted, then I CAN’T FAIL at getting it published, because I never really tried.
I’ve spent most of my life looking for ways to avoid trying, so that I didn’t have to fail. Maybe that’s common to over-acheivers, or to those of us that fall under the “gifted” category (whatever the hell that means). I’ve also spent most of my life looking for ways to silence the voices in my head that beat me up for not trying. Frankly, if I’m tired enough, hungover enough, mentally and physically exhausted enough, those voices will give me a pass: “Ok, you don’t have to get anything done today because you really are tired, but TOMORROW! Tomorrow is a BIG DAY! Full of THINGS TO DO! So get some rest!” And I feel overwhelmed by the thought of all those THINGS TO DO, and so I drink. Or eat sugar. Or stay up late. Or sometimes, all three.
And the next day, I curl back up into my self-induced exhaustion and keep hiding.