I’ve been clean and sober, completely free of alcohol, for nearly 8 months. The past few months have been a challenge visually and aurally. For the past 35 years, while I was a constant drinker, the world was muted and tolerable. Generally, everything seemed gray, noises were subdued and I had the capability to talk to people in large groups and even hang out in concert venues, supermarkets and malls. Recently, however, things have started to change. Loud noises, like a telephone ringing, an alarm going off, a dog barking, a horn honking or a man snoring can make me jump out of my skin. Noises can bombard me when I’m driving to the point of distraction. So far I’ve made a few driving mistakes (going past streets, going down the wrong road) that could’ve been disastrous but I was lucky. These days it’s better that I don’t have company while driving because their talking can throw me off. Not only do sounds seem louder to me but, visually, there is also too much information flying into my brain at once. A few weeks ago I was working the phones at the front desk here at Aloha Inn. At first it was tolerable. Then, suddenly, there was the phone ringing, the fan motor from the large printer, the whirring motor from the elevator, people talking, glasses and silverware clinking in the nearby dining room to contend with. My head felt like it was going to explode. I tolerated it until the people who were talking near me quieted down. That seemed to help a lot. I’ve become so sensitive to noises now that I don’t go to the dining room unless there’s just one or two people in it. Mostly, I eat up in this room. I have cans of green beans, corn, peas, potatoes, pinto beans and vegetable chili which I eat cold right out of the can with my fingers. Yes, that’s ghetto, but at least it keeps me out of the common areas. I’ve also noticed that I stim more, too. I shake my legs a lot. It’s to the point where nearby people are bothered enough by it to tell me to cool down. Since my level of anxiety has been through the roof lately, I told my psychiatrist about it. She started me on Buspar last week. Hopefully, it’ll help, otherwise I’ll have to move on to something else. I don’t mind this isolating stuff I do because I get along well with my roommate; at least we can tolerate each other anyway. For the first time, though, I’ve been playing computer Scrabble at the genius level. I’ve beaten it three times but I must’ve played about 100 games. I think in 6 months I should be good enough to enter one of those Seattle Scrabble groups. Physically, I feel ok. Since stopping drinking, I’ve lost about 51 pounds. My BMI is at a healthy level so I can’t complain. I still stand to lose a few around the midriff if I want to get back to my high school weight. I’m still very much interested in Jainism and hope to attend a few Jain festivities in Bothell in the coming months.