Penance – a sacrament, as in the Roman Catholic Church, consisting in a confession of sin, made with sorrow and with the intention of amendment, followed by the forgiveness of the sin.

I do feel alot of sorrow over this but I’m tired of playing the sick game of sin, guilt and penance.  Once I realized that drinking was a problem for me I felt a lot more guilt over it than I did before I knew it was a problem.  Once I started this blog and could better share, articulate and describe the problem I actually felt a little worse about it because there’s no turning back and saying, “Oh, actually everything is fine now.  I thought I had a problem, but I quit for a month so I’m fine now.”  I wish I could say that.  I can’t.

I do this thing, I think as a coping mechanism, where I just shut everything off and ignore.  Drinking helps me to ignore.  So then, with life, problems, emotions, I just kind of shut them down and put them on pause.  What that means for me is that I am purposely ignoring all this stuff.  So, when I drank at the beginning of September it was almost as if it was on purpose, like I made the choice to do so.  I drank this weekend and it felt like it was deliberate.  Like, I am going to ignore this for two days and then I will pick it up again and do what I know how to do.

Yesterday, I felt like the only way my life has improved or moved forward in the past 5 years has been professionally.  I realized this while listening to a SMART recovery podcast about depression.  I’ve had mild depression for years.  I took medicine for 1 year and then went off it because I knew I could address it naturally and I respond well to exercise, St. John’s Wort, yoga, etc.  But the past year has been really hard for me.  My job was incredibly demanding and all of my good coping skills were pushed aside so that I could work more.  I have quit that job and am starting a new one in a week.  This week off has made me realize how extremely off track I am right now.  After listening to the podcast, I realize that I need to address my symptoms of depression which are mainly procrastination, hopeless thinking, lack of motivation and feeling of isolation/loneliness.  I often can’t see the forest because there are too many trees.

I’ve realized that drinking is a quick way to turn on the ignoring.  Part of the relief that I got from drinking was not thinking, not feeling, not having to deal with life.  My “off” switch often does not work and drinking helped with that.  It is the way to turn off that takes the least amount of effort.  There are other things that work quite well for me too that also happen to be healthy like meditating, listening to guided meditations, yoga, exercise, comedy, etc.  But over the past year especially, I used those tools less and less because drinking was easier and my job was so hard, I was so stressed, I don’t have time, I need to shut down and all sorts of other lies I told myself.

I don’t know where this is going.  I guess I just wanted to say that I’m sick of the cycle of “sin”, guilt and penance that I have created for myself.  I know better but I’m not doing better.  Its ridiculous.  I’m not helpless but it is so uncomfortable to ask for help.  I know I need the accountability and community that in-person meetings could create for me.  I know I need to see a counselor who specializes in alcohol abuse and the things that often go with it like depression.  I know what I need to do.  I know I need to quit drinking.  I know that if I could be a normal drinker I would but I’m not so that would indicate that I should not drink at all.  I know I need additional help and the thought of seeking it out and doing the things that I believe will help me makes me feel vulnerable and anxious which makes me want to normalize what I’m going through because if I can normalize it and rationalize it then it’s not a problem!

And now, I’ve completed my penance.  I’ve told the truth.  I’m going to forgive myself and make something of my day.  It’s my favorite time of year and I’m going to spend a few hours outdoors.


10 thoughts on “Penance

  1. I totally relate to every word here. Brought up Catholic I know all about the sin, guilt penance trip. I never thought of this way though – in my posts I talk about the self loathing I felt when I binge drank. But its kind of the same thing. And the lifting of the self loathing is one of the best things about not drinking – and seems to flow into all areas of one’s life. I have also struggled with depression and I have found my depression has lifted since I stopped drinking. I know I am sounding like I am a pain in the ass perfect non drinking person. Really not trying to say that at all. Its just I identify with so much of what you are saying and I want to say its really all IS alot better when drink is out of the equation. So my advice (unasked for I know!) is to stick with the blogging, the meetings, ask for the help wherever you find it, whatever it takes to help you to stop drinking. It takes time and patience – but the rewards do come.
    And sorry for the preachy lecture – its as much to myself as to you. xx

    • I love your advice cleo. I often lack patience. When I think back to August, one of the things I remember is how not-guilty I felt. It was amazing. I was rarely mad at myself and I felt calmly confident about almost everything. And that is also how I got myself the new job, all of my interviews were in August except the last one. It was August-Suzy who got me that job and I’d like to have her back! FearOfLife-Suzy is trying to come back and she did for a bit…its simply time to grow up and move forward. I need to write a letter to the old Suzy…that can be my next post.

  2. Hi, I agree with the idea of “well now I can’t go back” because you’ve accepted the issue at hand. A little bit of me is annoyed I can’t ever be a “normal” person again without a bunch of negative feelings. And I can easily imagine the feelings of guilt that come from a night “off the program”, I been there on previous attempts. In hindsight, these failures are part of the journey, and so long as we learn from them, or resolve to learn from them, guilt shouldn’t come into it. Good luck with the meetings, Paul.

    • Thank you Paul. That is one of the reasons I started the blog, I knew that it would put me “out there” even if it was by hiding behind my computer. I know I would’t have made it this far without our blog community. Now I think I need at least one local, in-person resource and that will make the next difference.

  3. “I’ve told the truth.  I’m going to forgive myself and make something of my day.”

    Good for you! It is so important to forgive ourselves and move on. It sounds like the break has brought you some clarity and hopefully the new job will allow you the time and energy to refocus on those things you know help you and bring balance to your life.

    • Thanks Missy (I’m going to call you that over CS because it’s way cuter!). My goal this week is to work on forgiveness and next steps in place of guilt and penance. That’s what really healthy folks do naturally, just like some people have no issues with drinking. And I mostly have a clear and healthy perspective on life – its just that alcohol puts such a grey cloud on everything and I can see that now because of my experience in August. Anyway, I’m glad you’re here with me and I look forward to your posts!

    • Hey B, yes – I also relate to so much of what you write. I’ve also been working on improving/fixing some financial stuff this year but I can’t even begin to write about it – I think my head might explode! For now, I just automate that shit adn check on it once a month. I’ll dig deeper when I’ve got more sober days under my belt.

  4. god i also wrote before about having an ‘off’ button, it’s like we’re all speaking the same language. like B. above, my off button now is herbal tea, tonic and cranberry, bath, and bed. Anytime i’m feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, or like i’m about to pick up a drink, i go straight to bed. last night it was before 9 pm. no matter. cuz then i slept 10 hours so i probably needed it. yes, i’ve definitely caught up on my sleep since i got sober. i think i spent the first 30 days reading, staring at blogs, and sleeping …

    • I think alot of us in our sobersphere world are Superwoman/Superman types of people. I’m just so used to getting lots of things done and doing pretty well at most of what I do (except finding a man! lol). I often forget why I even need an “off” button, but then I just spend some time with my sister, whose off button is more broken than mine and I remember how important it is. This week I’m going to set a reminder to pop up on my phone and then I’m going to get ready for bed no matter what I’m doing!

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