Instant Gratification: Six Things To Do When You're Battling The Beast

By Amber Tozer 11/25/15

Some of the practical tricks I've learned to sit with the discomfort of sobriety.

Instant Gratification: Six Things To Do When You're Battling The Beast

Being able to instantly change the way I felt fueled my desire to keep instantly changing the way I felt. I'd drink and smoke weed and cigarettes and sometimes I’d pick a fight just to get the adrenaline going. I did coke a few times, but for the most part I was just your run-of-the-mill alcoholic. I sort of wish I did heroin just to know what it feels like but I guess I’m happy I didn’t try it because maybe I’d be dead behind a dumpster being sniffed by a cute little doggy. And, since I’d be dead, I wouldn’t get to pet that cute little doggy.

In early sobriety, I still craved the quick fix and I tried sleeping around but I am blessed with being physically disgusted by most men. I tried to be gay because sometimes I get mental crushes on girls, but discovered that, physically, I'm drawn to guys. GODDAMMIT. I hope one day I’m physically disgusted by everyone. Food was never a fix for me. I overeat sometimes but that feeling of being really full, like you feel on Thanksgiving, makes me feel sick so I only overeat when someone is buying me dinner at an expensive place. I think maybe I don’t eat a lot because I love feeling empty. I wonder if I have a point. Yes I do! My point is - I am getting dementia. J/K. My point has something to do with instant gratification, I’ll get there. 

A lot of my discomfort in sobriety comes from not having something that immediately changes the way I feel the way a drink used to. It’s so easy to shift your feelings when you’re an active alcoholic—you pour a drink and you drink it. You pour another one and you drink it. BAM—you are on your way to feeling like an entirely different person, a very confident person who will make decisions you will regret the next day, turning you into a very insecure person—but hey—for NOW, you feel good. Feeling good right NOW is a core issue with addiction.

In sobriety, after many mental fits, I have learned to sit with discomfort. I mean, I still go nuts and freak out, (I'm not that enlightened), but at some point I either have to figure out where the fear and pain is coming from and take action or accept that it's there and trust that it will pass. And, I guess doing both at the same time works, too. Here are some tips for those of you might be struggling with discomfort in sobriety and feel like ripping your skin off. I wrote this out in the form of a list because it seems that people would much rather read a list than something that is not a list. I personalized it by writing from my experience, otherwise it’ll sound like I’m giving advice and I’m too nuts to give anyone advice. But, you’re probably nuts, too, so what helps me might help you. Most of these are inspired by the 12 steps, I am not smart enough to come up with this shit on my own, even though a lot of this is common sense. Ok. Here we go. 

1. Get out of the fucking house. Or remove yourself from the environment you are in. If you are stuck in an office or surrounded by people that make you feel like smoking crack, maybe go sit on the toilet and take some deep breaths and think your actions all the way through. I’m a writer and spend a lot of time alone because I can’t write at BBQs or charity events or orgies. I have to be alone, but when my mind starts spinning out, I have to get out of my fucking house and take action to change my thoughts. Otherwise, I’ll start pacing and having arguments in my mind with people I’ve never even met. I yell, “Fuck you Susan!” and then I’m like, “Who’s Susan?” Going to the gym helps me so much. I know being a gym rat isn’t as cool as being a funny drunk chain-smoker who makes jokes about being a drunk chain-smoker, but there is nothing funny about hacking up a lung in your forties while your dead eyes sit in your bloated, blotchy face staring at the world, wanting to die. Whoa, dramatic. I prefer spin classes because I feel high for about an hour after class and it makes my ass not that saggy. If pedaling real fast and going nowhere isn’t your thing, maybe go for a walk and remember to look up. Looking at the sky reminds me of how small I am and that we are on a planet floating in the universe and whatever situation I’m in, it will evolve the way it's supposed to. Another cool thing about looking up at the sky is sometimes clouds are shaped like animals or humans or something else. One time I saw a cloud that was shaped like a penis and I pointed it out to a lady on the street and she said "Ha!" Clouds just might entertain you enough to break a negative thought cycle—like going to a movie. Sometimes I’ll go to a movie like it’s an emergency. Just the other day I said, “Hello. Yes. One for Jem and the Holograms, please.” it was 11:30 am. It was such a shitty movie it inspired me to write a not shitty movie.

2. Reach out to a friend and ask how they're doing. When I get that nagging little feeling that something is wrong, it’s usually because I feel disconnected from the world. Engaging with another human always brings a little bit of relief. Whether it’s a phone call or a text, it helps knowing that there is someone I love in my life, out there living their life, and we’re all in this shit together. Whenever I listen to someone else or just send a nice message to someone, it breaks the cycle of negative thoughts going on in my mind. I love texting my sister to see how she’s feeling because she’s pregnant and tired and she is always throwing up. When she tells me how many times she’s thrown up, I feel better. That sounds sick, like I’m saying, “My life is better than hers because I’m not throwing up.” I’m saying, “I’m glad I checked in on my sister because she’s not feeling well and can vent to me about it.”  

Sometimes when I reach out to check on someone they’ll say,“Hey, we should hang out!” and the next thing I know I’m on the beach, or at a concert, or on a date I didn’t know was a date. Is this livin’ life or what?

3. Write about the things you're mad about.  A lot of my fear and discomfort comes from resentments and when I get it down on paper, it relieves so much anger. It’s basically a mini-fourth step—laying out what they did, how it effects me, and then admitting my part in the situation/relationship. Clarity shines through and sometimes a healthy plan of action falls into my lap, and if I’m lucky, forgiveness enters my bitter cold heart. If it’s not a resentment towards a person, it might be a resentment towards a situation or entire industry that I have no control over and that’s when I just take a deep breath and give it over to the motherfucking universe. It’s only my problem if I think it’s my problem, and I like to make everything my problem because I think maybe sometimes I’m addicted to drama. When I write about it and get clear and am brutally honest about my role in the situation, resentments lighten up. Clarity is key, and so is being ok with not doing anything but trusting that things will work out without me trying to force the outcome I want. 

4. Running ideas by someone who is not you.  A wise outsider’s perspective is always helpful because most of the time the discomfort comes from my bullshit thoughts, so I have to take action that allows me to realize that and it ultimately shifts my thinking. When I’m uncomfortable I come up with crazy solutions that are worse than my problems so when I call someone and tell them what’s going on and what I'm thinking about doing, they’re usually like, “Um. Why don’t you try to not do that and try this?" Taking suggestions from kind and wise people when I'm feeling nuts has saved me from embarrassing myself and feeling guilty, because my plan usually includes mentally torturing someone I’m mad at or pulling an Into the Wild and never talking to anyone ever again because I’ll eat the wrong plant and die on a toilet in a bus. 

5. Sit with the pain. I just let myself feel uncomfortable because sometimes I just feel like shit and that’s ok. If there isn’t an obvious problem with an obvious solution, doing nothing works for me. I’ll sit there feeling like shit, knowing it’ll pass, and it always does. Just like a kidney stone! Your pain is a kidney stone, it’ll pass through your pee hole! I don’t think we’re supposed to feel good every second of everyday. When I was drinking that’s all I wanted and would do anything to “feel good right this second.” Now I know that feeling like shit is a-ok and it's normal and before ya know it, I’m feeling real good again. Super good. In sobriety, I often feel high and buzzed and euphoric, I just have to do a little bit of work to get some clarity then wait for it. 

6. Be of service. Sometimes when I hear this I feel like throwing up. I don't know what it is, maybe it's because I want to be the cool girl who doesn't give a fuck and if someone has a problem I just want to tell them to get their shit together and quit whining. And if I get a text from a friend asking if I can help them move, I always want to throw my phone in the toilet so I have an excuse for not responding. But, I gotta tell you—nothing changes my mood like doing something kind for others. Whether it's picking up the phone and listening to someone who is stressed out, or taking a commitment at a meeting, or doing the dishes after a family meal—it never fails to give me a little boost of positive thoughts. So the next time you feel like getting fucked up—maybe drive around and see if anyone needs a ride to the airport. 

Alright. I’m done. Hope this list helps you. If it didn’t, maybe try reading something the Dalai Lama wrote—that dude is incredible. Ok. Bye. Adios. Laters. Forever and ever. Amen. 

Amber Tozer is a comedy writer who lives in Los Angeles. She has written about a date gone awry, and five whole reasons sobriety tends to be awesomeFollow her on Twitter @AmberTozer

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Amber Tozer is the author of Sober Stick Figure, a really funny book about alcoholism. She lives in London with her husband and they are thinking about getting a dog. Find Amber on TwitterInstagram, and LinkedIn.