what a wonderfully crippling world.

And ya’ll actually thought I had given up on writing. It was pretty believable for a while there. My facebook page is gone, and I haven’t posted a single thing since July 3rd. But here I am, here to tell you the things in my life that I don’t always know if people will care about, but are still relevant to the mental health community.

So the move happened, and I’m finally settling back into this life of living at home and regrounding myself. The beginning was rough. As soon as I got off that airplane, and walked out into the 95% humidity, I immediately started crying and regretting the decision I made to leave Colorado. And for about 2 to 3 weeks following coming home, I was pretty depressed while still trying to figure out what I was really doing here.

Familiarity is always good. Feeling the warm hugs of people who genuinely love you make you remember that life isn’t always so lonely. Sitting down in front of the easel you abandoned so long ago and just painting every color that you feel in your blood and soul is an instant release of everything that feels bad. Seeing my old therapist in person was weird, but ultimately relieving. Even when you go back to the gym you used to go to and see the same people doing the same things feels both homey, yet slightly sad, but I mostly find it hilarious. Finally, after one good night, it’s like something in me finally opened up, and I finally felt like I could dig myself out of my depression once again.

One night towards the end of July, I peeled myself out of bed on a particularly dreary rainy night to go see Andrew McMahon in Baltimore (if you don’t know him, please do your mental health and your soul a favor and look him up). Standing in the crowd of all types of people I would normally hate, there was this weird community where we all felt that Andrew had changed our lives in some way, and was still continuing to do so as he sang his little heart out on the stage of Ram’s Head. After the show, it was pouring down rain. I mean POURING. I got a flash flood warning on my phone. But regardless, I had gotten this far, and I decided to be an idiot and stand out in the pouring rain for an hour because I was that determined to meet Andrew for some weird life-fulfilling reason.

After waiting in the rain for an hour, or so it felt, Andrew finally steps out of the venue with no shoes on, and a giant plastic cup filled with wine, looks at us all standing in the rain waiting for him, and with a huge smile on his face, says “What’s up, everybody?” He made his way down the line of people and when he finally got to me, I gave him a hug and started crying while I told him how his music saved me when I was the most alone I had ever been while in Colorado. I’ve never felt like anyone has actually listened and understood how I felt in that moment until then when he looked me directly in the eye, and gave me another hug like there was nothing more that needed to be said, and I could move on now.

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sometimes people make you feel the impossible

After that night, I started using my synesthesia for painting. I stopped caring about making my painting good, and making them look how I felt emotionally and physically. Synesthesia presents itself in different ways, so for me, I perceive emotional and physical sensations as colors. Instead of feeling the warm fur of my cat, I sense a warm campfire orange. If that makes sense. Feel free to ask me more.

I was painting everyday. I was painting so much that I was stepping over the paintings in my room to get almost anywhere. And it felt so good. I looked forward to just sitting down with a bottle of wine and my paintbrush and watching the colors form across the canvas. And as I kept doing this, I kept feeling more and more at home, and happier in some way, which is a weird thing I’ve never felt.

A couple more weeks passed and I had never felt so great. I was beginning to feel at home with my new job, some new friends and old friends I had reconnected with. I could socialize comfortably for the first time in years. I started doing great workouts at the gym and was starting to feel comfortable in my own skin after months of hating my body. I felt great, I looked great, and I knew it. Each day was better than the next. I would try new things, and do things I wouldn’t normally do, and that was totally ok because I was finally stepping out of my comfort zone and into this new, confident, happier me.

But finally it hit me. This “new” me, wasn’t me. This was hypomanic me. This was the uninhibited, no impulse control with nothing in my brain to tell me to “stop” me. I wasn’t sleeping much, would eat a lot or nothing at all, and got annoyed when people would try to stop me. I felt invincible. I was a goddess and nothing could bring me down.

And it’s amazing what small things will bring a person down from that kind of high. This post is brought to you by my post mania depression that resulted from a bad night of drinking, yelling at people in the street, and spraining my ankle, my wrist, banging up my knee and elbow and ultimately, an extremely bruised ego. I can’t walk, can’t exercise, can’t paint. I went to my first ceramics class of the semester yesterday and walked out feeling completely defeated because my ankle hurt too much to use the wheel and everyone was making beautiful pieces while mine kept falling apart.

I guess the lesson in all this is that it’s not a bad thing to have unmedicated bipolar disorder. I wouldn’t trade my hypomania for anything because it’s the best thing I could possibly feel and it feels like a gift to feel so alive, and to feel something that no one else can. Sometimes it’s even worth the horrible, crippling depression that follows and the stupid mistakes you made (like wearing heels while drinking and dancing). But there’s a difference between managing your mental illness, and living with it. And obviously, I can’t just live with it and expect to be okay. It’s not okay to start acting psychotic and screaming at people in the street because voices are screaming in your head. It’s not okay to become a total klepto during a hypomanic episode. It’s not okay to let depression make  you sleep for 3 days straight despite having an ankle injury and avoid contact with everyone.

But I will be okay. I always am. And at least this time, I’m not alone because I’m finally home.

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find zen in a punching bag

It’s funny to think about where I was a year ago. Actually a year ago I was in a hospital bed trying to convince the doctors I rarely saw to let me go home. But on the other hand, I was also dead set on getting out of Maryland and moving to Colorado. And now, I’m here and I’m not sure why. Funny how something you thought you were so sure about ends up being the one thing you’re completely unsure about.

I was so sure that I just wanted to be here to figure my life out and just work. Well, I am doing that but it’s not nearly as glorious as I thought it would be. I did figure out where I want to be and want to do, but in the midst of that, I realized I needed to make an even bigger decision. Should I stay, or should I go?

Truth is, times are pretty tough. This whole “starting a new life” thing kind of has ended up being financial suicide, which is pretty untimely now that I’ve decided to go back to school. I keep wondering to myself, why didn’t I figure this all out BEFORE I decided to move here? Well, I guess I was just a bit naive. And that’s okay. Sometimes learning things the hard way is the only way. I followed my heart instead of my mind. In doing so, while this whole concept is incredibly freeing, it is incredibly terrifying as well. Staying out here is what my heart is telling me because I am free and I am afraid. My mind tells me to go back to Maryland because I might find myself out on the streets trying to teach my pet rats to do tricks to earn money if I stay here. But the fear and freedom I’ve found in being here in Colorado and finally figuring out what I want to do with my life has made me realize I’ve finally begun to think with my heart instead of my head. As irrational as the heart can be, I now feel free. Decisions are hard. I decided to follow my heart.

And I did make a few decisions. First, I made the decision that it really is time to get off of my meds and handle my anxiety in more holistic ways through meditation, tai chi, yoga, acupuncture, and of course the biggie: limiting alcohol. After dealing with this bitchy psychiatrist that I decided I never wanted to deal with again, I went to my primary care doctor who ACTUALLY LISTENED TO ME. He was completely on board with my decision and after telling him that I’m applying to acupuncture school, he was in complete support of me using acupuncture as an alternative treatment to my anxiety. Coolest doc ever, right? Doctors who actually support the lifestyle that you think is best for you is what every doctor should be, unless your lifestyle is hurting you, of course. He’s also the first doctor who hasn’t tried to scrutinize me for eating a mostly vegan diet by pushing me to take supplements and get my blood tested to make sure I’m healthy etc. etc.

Basically, I decided to take control of my life for the first time. Getting off of benzodiazepines is really tough, I won’t lie. There’s the physical withdrawal in which sleeping seems impossible because you feel like you’re heart is going to thump thump thump its way out of your chest because it’s beating so hard, and then waking up feeling hungover every morning even if you didn’t even have a sip of alcohol the night before. And there’s the mental withdrawal. Always on edge. Always afraid. Finding your anxiety worse than you can ever remember it being. It sucks, but I know that this too shall pass because I now know how to control it. I will be free.

Earlier this week, I had made plans to go hiking with a couple friends. Today, I woke up to get ready for the hike and I felt awful. Racing heartbeat, suddenly not wanting to go out, and still feeling hungover even though I didn’t drink last night (unless I’m getting Buffy hangovers, maybe I’m binging too much, possible?) Still, I wasn’t going to back out on plans because I wasn’t going to give into my anxiety. Once I got outside and we were on the trail and I’m 15 minutes into the hike and dying and hating myself (see JP Sears’ video about Boulder: The Consciousness Capital of the World, which also sums up what Boulder, CO really is like. Goddamn trustifarians, aka rich hippies), I looked out at the mountains and breathed in the fresh air and felt an immediate sense of peace. Sometimes it really is that simple, sometimes not. For me, getting outside and feeling the sun hit my face and breathing the fresh, clean air of the mountains reminds me to just be here, now. Sometimes it isn’t that simple. Sometimes you have to go Buffy on a punching bag until your knuckles are bruised and blistered and your mom yells at you that you’re going to get arthritis to get out that nervous energy. Because that’s all anxiety is for me: pent of energy. I guess also slowly dying on a beautiful hike uses up a lot of the anxious energy too. But hey, the mountains are still beautiful even if you’re surrounded by an entire forest that was completely burned away in a fire about 5 years ago. Deciding to live with my anxiety is freeing, while also being ultimately terrifying.

The other decision I made is that I still want to be here. For a few months, I had convinced myself that nothing was ever going to work out here. The job market out here is horrific and I’ve found myself losing money instead of making money. Finding friends that I actually like in a town full of college kids is pretty hard too, especially when you don’t like people your age. But when I see the red light shining through my window in the morning as the sun rises, and seeing the sun set over Horsetooth Rock after a snow storm, I feel peace and I remember why I wanted to be here so badly in the first place. Maybe not being here in Fort Collins, necessarily, but being in a different place where I’m surrounded by mountains and being away from the place that I had grown too comfortable with is enough. I’m trying so hard to give myself reasons to stay because it is freeing and terrifying and I don’t want my head to make me go crying back to my mom in Maryland because everything out here isn’t working out.

How did I decide that applying for a graduate program in acupuncture here in Colorado was the right decision? Well, I felt freedom and fear. Freedom in the sense that I finally figured out who I really want to be and what I want to do, and the fear of everything that goes along with applying to grad school when you’re pretty low on funds and looking at a $60,000 program.

Here I am now, a year later. This time last year, the only future I saw ahead of me was my delusional relationship with Blob, feeling sorry for myself, not knowing who I was or what I was doing, but only knowing that I wanted to run away, and so I decided to do that. Now, I’m away from everything. Free from my past life, mostly, ambitious to follow my heart and take the next big step in my life and willing to take control of my anxiety instead of hiding it under medications.

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One year ago

I found peace on a mountain top. I found it letting loose on a punching bag. It can be found even when everything seems dark and scary. 23 years later, I am free.

*Most people know JP Sears as that guy who appears on your newsfeed once in a while sarcastically talking about veganism or how to be gluten intolerant. I found out the other day that he’s actually a certified holistic health coach who specializes in self-empowerment. See his video How to Follow Your Head (not your heart).

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Today. Grateful. Free. At peace.

 

all that and a pint of ice cream and bottle of wine

The blog hiatus is still pretty real. To be honest, I thought this was the end of my Wallflower Waterfall blog journey. After scrolling through all my social media accounts after the inauguration, I realized (as much as I really do care about it) that I don’t want to see all this stuff clogging up my newsfeed. And besides that, since it seemed that that was all that people wanted to read and write about, who would want to read my blog in which I completely avoid talking about politics?

The answer, I found, was still a handful of people. So I’ll keep writing for you guys, but you’re gonna have to look hard for it amongst all the political rants and articles that are probably clogging up your Facebook/Twitter/Instagram pages as well. And for that, you all will get a lot of virtual hugs and maybe cookies if you live near me (I guess we’re back to the cookie bribery). Also, I realized that as of next week, I will have had this blog for a year.  Definitely baking cookies for myself. And because next week is Valentine’s Day and I’m sure you all know how much I LOVE Valentine’s Day … queue sarcasm. See last year’s post numero uno and the Valentine’s Day follow-up of post #2. For the record, my mind is still like the DC metro (see the second post). I also totally take back what I said about teddy bears and all the cheesy Valentine’s Day crap. I fucking love flowers and those stupid little heart shaped boxes of chocolate. But only good chocolate. None of that Russell Stover excuse for “chocolate.”

I guess this year probably won’t be much different besides the fact that I’m not dating a sociopath, but vegan Ben & Jerry’s, wine and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless mind will probably still be in the mix. I really don’t know why Valentine’s Day always gets me down. Every year, I watch Eternal Sunshine to remind myself that people come and go, and life can continue on regardless. Yesterday, the tattoo itch kicked in so badly that I sat through six hours of getting my entire left side of my torso tattooed with the quote from the movie. It’s been six months since my last tattoo. And since it’s close to Valentine’s Day, I only felt it was appropriate:

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How happy is the blameless vestal’s lot! The world forgetting by the world forgot. Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind! Each pray’r accepted, and each wish resign’d                      -Alexander Pope

If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll get it. If not, well I just planned your Valentine’s Day for you.

A spotless mind, one that is untainted, and innocent. Eternal light lives in the minds of the innocent. But are they happy not knowing?

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I guess we’ve all felt like this at some point. I thought this would be me this year. But second chances are always a thing. Sometimes even third and fourth chances if somehow it’ll seem worth it. But who am I to talk about relationship advice. I mean come on, I dated a sociopath for over half a year.

But disclaimer? I’ve actually been binge watching the Twilight series. 50 Shades of Grey will be on the queue for later. And then back to the beautiful tragedy that is the eternal sunshine.

 

I just really don’t trust doctors

I kind of wanted to just leave it at that and not even write a post about it. Let the title be the end of explanation.

But for real, I officially don’t trust doctors.

After driving down to this really sad part of Colorado to see a psychiatrist, I basically spent my $20 copay to get yelled at by a psychiatric nurse practitioner about my health habits. I’ve been taking klonopin for about 4 years now. After I told her that, I sensed the KLONOPIN LEADS TO EARLY ONSET DEMENTIA AND ALZHEIMERS rant at which I stopped her before she even started and almost yelled YES I KNOW THAT FROM MY 2 DOCTORS WHO DIDN’T SEEM THAT CONCERNED ABOUT IT. Clearly, my first psychiatrist didn’t seem that concerned about having me on 3 different types of mood stabilizers at once and another time when he had me taking Xanax 5 times a day in addition to taking Klonopin twice a day.

Here’s the struggle with mental illness and psychotropic drugs: finding one that works for you can be one of the biggest struggles of mental illness. It’s frustrating, time consuming, hard on your body, and endlessly exhausting. When you find one that works, that’s it. You don’t want to change because after all that struggle, why would you want to change? From weight fluctuation, to no libido to insanely high libido, to the seizure I had in high school, the manic episodes from the first SSRI I took, to the other drugs that I just felt like didn’t do anything except make me feel exhausted for no reason, yeah, when I found that klonopin was actually helping me and the side effects were bearable, no way did I want to change. Let’s be honest, who would?

Now there’s this doctor who wants to take away the one thing that’s worked for me and make me change my entire lifestyle after going through the health questionnaire. Stop drinking, don’t be vegan, don’t take the Klonopin, get my blood tested for 8 different things, start a “selective carbohydrate diet” for my IBS, take a B12 supplement… Um. I thought I was seeing a psychiatrist. Not a life coach or my physician.

Somewhere, in every psychiatrists’ education, it has slipped through the cracks that when people find a medication that works for them, that’s it. End of the road. No more trying new medications.

And then there’s my hatred for medications. I would love to not have to take medications. Honestly, I might be able to. I’ve been medicated for 9 years now, so how would I even know if there’s anything actually wrong with me?

After a lot of reading about traditional Chinese medicine, I’m starting to believe that the only way to heal myself, is by myself. Chinese medicine looks at the body as a whole, and how the body connects to nature. It’s not like modern Western medicine where we have separate doctors for each part of our body. Chinese medicine believes in having one doctor that has a complete connection with their patient, mind, body and environment. Everything is connected. Qi (pronounced “chee”) is the basic concept of Chinese medicine which encompasses a life force that inhabits both the body and the earth. When Qi is not in balance in the body, the body will become ill. Having the perfect balance of Yin and Yang in the body is what will make the body whole and healthy. When both Yin and Yang are in balance, then Qi flows throughout the entire body and keeps the body in balance.

Some people may think that this whole Eastern philosophy is total bulls**t. But think about it, it really does make sense. When someone suffers from migraines, instead of treating the migraine, we should be looking at what is causing the migraine. Stress in any part of the body can trigger distress elsewhere. You know that whole thing about how depression can cause sleep disruption, appetite changes, and body aches? Well, there’s your proof that the body and mind are connected. Yes, doctors can argue that the chemical changes in a depressed person’s brain can affect the rest of the body. This argument is valid. Having taken neuroscience in college, yeah those little neurotransmitters in your brain can have a huge impact on your mind as well as your body.

But medication isn’t going to fix it. Medication is still only a band-aid and that band-aid can lead to worse problems. See the body as a whole. See the body as part of the earth. The body is an element. The body is a garden. It needs maintenance and care. If you have a garden, you would know. You can’t look at your garden, see that your tomato plants are dying and ignore the rest of your garden while you care for them. The key is balance. The key is balancing the energy in the entire body, not just one part of it.

My Yang is weak, while Yin rules most of my body. Yin gives me quiet and coolness, but in excess, it’s unhealthy. Restoring balance to the heat and activeness (Yang) and coolness and quiet (Yin) is what will eventually heal myself as a whole.

I don’t need medications to find balance. I don’t need a Western doctor to tell me to do xyz and my body will be better. Don’t see me as a brain that needs tweaking. See me. See me as a whole being.

I don’t trust Western medicine educated doctors.

2017 UPDATE: somewhat manic, mostly reasonable

Note to self: do not post manic ideas as a blog post.

That last post was pretty unnecessary. Manic induced ideas can be awesome. That’s how I came up with the idea to go to U of Edinburgh for school (to get out of taking the GRE) and the idea of painting skate decks for money (possibly still a good idea for side money). I actually did spend a large amount of time researching where to buy blank skate decks and what type of varnish to use, etc. etc. But as much as I would like to extend my artistic talents into the world of skating, I think I’m better off doing something more realistic now that my mania has subsided.

For the first time since moving to Colorado, I finally feel a bit settled. Why’s that? Well I’ll tell you why even if you don’t care.

I finally have a REAL JOB. I START TOMORROW. Like, big girl 9-5 job. Okay it’s actually 8:30 to 4 and I have to work at 7:30am on Saturdays but a set schedule? Damn I feel spoiled.

And then after spending a month and a half of unemployment, I had a lot of time to think about long term. Long term commitments are scary. I couldn’t even decide on what I wanted to major in in undergrad until I realized I might as well major in psych just because I had enough credits for it. Bad decision, but probably ideal for someone who wanted to graduate ASAP.

But anyway, I recently realized how much I hate modern Western medicine and practices. These drugs that doctors have been shoving down my throat since I was 14 have done nothing for my mental health besides permanently damage my brain and have only acted as a band-aid. Honestly, the happiest I’ve been is when I start with treating my body with respect. It’s cliche, but my body is a temple. Treating my body right is what will eventually lead to having a healthier brain. I decided a more holistic approach to my health would be a better long-term decision for myself. Through eating a plant-based diet and exercising regularly, I feel better. When I started getting outside more and more when I moved to Colorado, I felt even better. Waking up sober everyday (this is sobriety Day 9 for me!!) helps me feel more productive and overall better. Doing yoga and meditation before bed calms me down and helps control my anxiety. Drinking teas with natural and beneficial herbs in them have helped my body through this alcohol mental and physical withdrawal. And of course, I’ve been going to acupuncture every week for the last 3 months.

Initially, I went to an acupuncturist because my allergies since moving here had gotten so bad that I was getting sick every week and I felt like I was constantly miserable. Taking massive amounts of painkillers and Allegra and Mucinex would barely help and just felt like poison to my body. A month into acupuncture, I realized I hadn’t gotten sick in weeks. Either my body finally adjusted, or acupuncture really did help. Acupuncture can be used to treat an extensive amount of ailments so I decided I wanted to start working on my mental health since it seems that I’m finally no longer a prisoner of allergy induced sickness.

Leading this more holistic lifestyle based on Eastern medicine has began to fascinate me. Every time my acupuncturist puts a needle in my skin, I always wonder, “why there?” During treatment, I like to meditate. Yesterday, I told my acupuncturist that I wanted to work on my depression and energy levels, in which he then placed three needles in my head. My mind spiraled into a crazy, manic-esque state but at the same time, calm and reasonable. At the time I was still thinking about the skateboard thing but something in the back of my mind reasonably talked me out of it. Eastern medicine is my calling. Coming from a psychology background, this would be perfect. I want to treat mental illness with more holistic approaches instead of shoving drugs down everyone’s throat and telling them what they should and shouldn’t do to cope with their minds.

That’s the short version. Yesterday, I was a unstable and depressed mess. When I finally found passion in something, that finally subsided. I found a purpose. I found a goal. I ordered books off Amazon on traditional Chinese medicine and started my application essay for a couple of TCM schools. I’m suddenly inspired to learn again, and I’m excited. I can be the calm little center of our ever chaotic universe. Zen, focused, and passionate about something for the first time in my life.

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Also, no GRE scores required, did I mention that? Don’t worry though, I won’t ever abandon writing. My crazy mind will still be on the internet for all to see.

2017: the year of manic-induced ideas

Anyone ever go through phases where your dreams get so vivid that you wake up the next morning like “OH MY GOD I HAVE TO GO GET MY LIP RING REPLACED TODAY”? Yeah that totally happened to me the other day. I had this weird dream that my lip ring fell out and when I picked up the ring it was one long piece of wire that I had to wind into a ring shape and when I put it back in my lip there was blood EVERYWHERE.. and then I woke up. So yeah, I woke up and automatically ran to the mirror to make sure I still had a normal looking lip. Close call.

Okay and then last night I had a dream that I owned my own custom skate deck company. It was so vivid that I was putting my own designs that I’ve actually drawn or painted on skatedecks. So, naturally, I woke up this morning thinking, “hey, that’s actually an awesome idea.” I’m barely a skater myself, if anyone recalls my several instances of spraining my wrists during my phase of wanting to be a skater kid. I can go down a flat wide road without falling pretty well and… that’s about it. Maybe when it gets warmer out and there’s not ice everywhere, I’ll try again (Godspeed, wrists).

But for real, custom skate decks? I don’t know anything about actually putting together a full board with all the wheels and hardware, but I can paint. I picked out my skate deck purely because of the design (pink background with a unicorn with tentacles? How could I not get that one?) Okay, granted, the start up would be hella expensive. Blank decks start at $17 a piece (and that’s just for small skateboards), plus paint, lacquer spray, and MAYBE grip tape if I really want to get fancy. But man, I could make bank on that

Let’s start with my latest and greatest storm trooper jelly.

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The ever famous Marla image I printed on t-shirts
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Geometrical patronus?

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The original design for my calf tattoo..hmm
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And I think we all remember my jellyfish phase..
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And this is just cool. 

Start up material? Maybe. Maybe I’m just a little manic because I was really depressed last night and played Alice: Madness for like, 5 hours and what happens after I’m depressed? MANIA AND STRANGE DREAMS THE UNENDING CYCLE.

I should really calm down and not buy a blank skateboard and maybe just draw instead of thinking of company names for this manic induced idea. Wonder Decks? Manic Decks? That one might be more appropriate.

First Hogwarts, now custom skateboards. Where will my mind take me next? Mania can be a beautiful thing. What else am I gonna do while I’m not bound to a real adult job? Be a manic kid. It’s kind of nice.

there’s no passion in sobriety

Yeah, so I did give up drinking as my New Year’s Resolution. I finally figured it’s time to kick it to the curb and go American History X on it. Wow that got racist fast.

Anyway, it’s been 6 days so I finally just decided, hey, I can do just one glass of wine. I deserve it for reasons xyz (REASONS INCLUDING THAT I GOT A REAL JOB FINALLY). And for the record I’ve been nursing this one glass for the past hour. But as I’ve been drinking this, and really wanting another glass/the whole bottle, it made me realize something: I can’t find passion without altering my brain, whether that’s smoking or drinking or whatever.  Continue reading “there’s no passion in sobriety”