Day 100: Recovery and Reflections

100 iStock

100 days. In the span of a lifetime, 100 days is a blink. However these past 100 days for me have been filled with more self improvement and reflection than I’ve done during my lifetime.  These past 100 days are worthy of mention.

102 days ago held a turning point. It wasn’t a blaze-of-glory type of bottoming out, in fact it was quite the opposite. I’d been stumbling towards the finale for a couple of months, hanging on to the belief that my drinking was under control and I’d be able to carry on as I was for the rest of my life. “Under control” meant that I was drinking 15-20 oz a day, completely in hiding. Although I wasn’t fooling anybody, no one in my life was calling me out on the obvious. Until 102 days ago.

It was a simple moment, but it ended up being a turning point. I took a break from cooking dinner to run upstairs to my stash for a quick nip. As I came out of the spare bedroom, my husband met me at the top of the stairs. I don’t even remember what he said, but the look on his face called me out on the obvious.  This wasn’t the first time over the past 10 years that we’ve had this exchange, but I hope that it’s the last.

3 days later I met with a new therapist and started a new way of existing day to day. I’m still struggling with the new way of existing. Sobriety isn’t the biggest struggle; facing the things I used to avoid by drinking is what’s difficult. Without my new therapist, there is no doubt I wouldn’t have lasted more than a few days on my own. I didn’t know how to fix the things that made me turn to alcohol.

While I am taking a moment to reflect on 100 days, I’m hyper-aware that this is just the beginning. I’ve been here before. Somehow I have to make this time different. As uncomfortable as I am in my own skin sober, it’s slowly getting easier.  There are a lot of feelings to work through – both new and old – but for today, I’m going to take stock of what’s working.  And that’s how I’ll get through day 100…

Day 97: Recovery and Reflections

I am exhausted.  On Day 90, I mused about my upcoming week and its built-in hurdles.  I wondered if it was my 90 day test: dinner and a concert with girlfriends I haven’t seen in 12 years, a 3 day out-of-town conference riddled with boozy evenings, a weekend sleepover with my young nephew, and a day of visiting with the in-laws.  Phew!  Just listing all of these things has me worn out, let alone living them in a span of just 6 days.

I am exhausted.  Although, there is a little flicker of enthusiasm deep within me because I made it through this past week without having a drink.  I’m even able to keep my self-loathing inner voice relatively quiet as I reflect on the past week and remember moments that triggered and what worked to move past.

One trigger came from my boss, which was surprising because I’ve recently had to confess my addiction to her.  We were at a cocktail event and she was drinking a gin and tonic, made with a local spirit that tastes quite different than the commonly used Beefeater.  She was trying to describe the flavour and said “well here, just try it” and she held her drink out to me.  I politely declined, quickly saying “thank you, but I don’t enjoy gin.”  It was an odd moment.

A couple of hours later, I was eating dinner with people I’d never met and I was filled with social anxiety.  That’s when I really wanted a drink.  I gave it serious thought: my boss would never know (and would she even care after our exchange earlier?), it would take the proverbial edge off and I’d magically be able to start selling the virtues of our company to anyone who listened (enter the delusional thinking).  I rode out the uncomfortable social anxiety and white knuckled it, eventually overcoming the delusional thinking with truthfulness: one drink would turn into many and any attempt to promote the company would come out as a slurring mash of words that would leave a less than professional impression.

I’m proud to be able to survey the past week and say that I did it all without alcohol.  Just a few months ago, that would have been unfathomable.  Hell, even just a week ago I wasn’t sure I could.  It’s satisfying to have these successful days tucked under my belt.  And that’s how I’ll get through Day 97.

Day 93: Recovery and Reflections

Guitarist

Earlier this week, I had an amazing night.

I saw Tom Petty with 5 girlfriends that I haven’t seen in 12 years. It was amazing, and even better than I thought it could be.

If I were still drinking, this evening would have been very different. I still would have planned it, because planning this type of over-the-top event (reuniting with 5 friends after 12 years) is exactly what seems like a great idea during a manic bender. However, within days I would have started regretting even suggesting the reunion, eventually talking myself out of it completely and bailing on my friends.

But I didn’t.

I didn’t even think about bailing. And I wasn’t anxious about reuniting. I had butterflies of excitement. At dinner, it was as though we’d last seen each other yesterday.

The only thing that had me anxious ahead of time was ordering drinks at dinner. I had planned for it (even discussed it with my therapist) and was very comfortable with my plan. However, it ended up being such a non-issue. I guess we’ve all grown up. I ordered my club soda and no one even looked at me sideways. That speaks to me about the quality of these women. I am incredibly fortunate that they’ve ever been a part of my life and I want to keep the friendships alive.

Big self-awareness moment: I felt at ease with myself in a situation that I couldn’t have even contemplated being in when I was drinking.

Then the concert: phenomenal. Tom Petty fucking rocks! I saw him 18 years ago and he looks and sounds just as great as ever. Amazing!! I, on the other hand do not look as I did 18 years ago!

While driving home, self-aware moment #2 happened: I drove past 2 police cars. My first thought was “I hope I get pulled over. I’m driving home at midnight after a concert and I haven’t had a single drop to drink. I want to tell someone that!” When I was drinking, my anxiety would skyrocket if I spotted a police car. I’m not proud.

Alas, I did not get pulled over, so I’m telling you: I didn’t drink that night!

Day 90: Recovery and Reflections

90Day 90 feels like a milestone worthy of reflection.  I’m proud of myself.

The first day was the hardest (it always is).  That first day, making the decision to not drink, even though I wanted to, was the hardest.  In the days following, it became easier to not drink.  Even though I’d been through this start-stop cycle a hundred times over the past 10 years, I was excited to make the change different this time.

I started with a new therapist on Day 3.  She is the reason this time is different.  Although working with her has pushed me into some uncomfortable emotional directions, the urge to drink has been very low.  The urge has been limited to mostly fleeting thoughts and only a few strong urges that reached near dangerous levels.

There are some upcoming events that will be hurdles along this path of sobriety.  This week, I will be going to a concert with friends, attending an out-of-town conference for work, and spending a day with the in-laws.  Seriously, all this in 1 week.  Perhaps it’s my 90 day coin test??

Previously these would all be events that I would plan for.  I would pace out my alcohol consumption for the days leading up to these events, ensuring that I wouldn’t be overly hungover and unable to drink, because I knew the urge would be strong and I would have to drink.  I would also have to plan further if it was an out of town (especially overnight) event.  I’d have to bring enough to get me through the entire trip (can’t always count on an opportunity to run out to a liquor store).

These hurdles will come up regularly through the rest of my life. I want to get through them without white knuckling it, but I also don’t want the opposite: feeling complacent.  That’s when I allow myself to believe the inner monologue: “I can have a few drinks, it’s no big deal.”  It is a big deal.

It’s a balancing act, for sure, one that I’m just starting to learn.  For today, I’ll be proud of the past 90 days and mindful of the work I’ve done to get here.

Mental Illness in Silence

A woman committed suicide this week.  I did not know her, however family members did.  Through Facebook, I put together the pieces of a somber puzzle.

I first saw the status update of someone who witnessed her death.  They did not know each other, she didn’t know her name.  It was happenstance that put my friend in front of the building when this lady jumped.

Hours later, there were vague posts from others saying “so sad about” and “RIP”.  By connecting the nameless, vague dots I realized that the woman that these people were mourning killed herself.  But no one’s talking about that.

Everyone’s words are carefully crafted to avoid suggesting that it was suicide.  Her obituary has the typical scrubbed language: “died suddenly”.  But that’s not even true.  Suicide is not like getting hit by a bus; it is not something that happens in an instant that ends a life.

When someone dies from cancer, the obituary will read “after a brave battle with…”.  Isn’t suicide also the end of a battle?  Setting aside the common “selfish” argument, a battle with mental illness is not unlike a battle with cancer.  In both cases there is something wrong with your body’s function.  Whether it’s a malfunction of the brain or a growing tumor, it is something that needs treatment.

A battle with cancer is talked about.  Women who beat breast cancer row boats and run marathons to publicly and proudly boast their victory and to support other women who are in battle.  No one talks about the battle with mental illness.  I’ve never seen a 5K for depression.

I’m certainly in no position to judge.  I silently struggle with mental illness from the safety of this anonymous blog.  I presume the woman who killed herself this week also battled her illness silently.  It’s a reminder to us all that the silence is deadly.

Young Businesswoman with Her Finger on Her Lips

Why Isn’t There More Time To Do What I’ve Put Off??

www.freefoto.comThere just aren’t enough free hours in the day to do everything I want/need to do!  The next two weeks are busy – nothing extraordinary, but there are a lot of little deadlines and commitments.  My ADHD mind knew, in an abstract way, that some of these commitments were coming up, but I hadn’t connected the dots because of my finely tuned ability to delay and put things into the mental “deal with later” file.

So yesterday I connected the dots – I put together a beautifully formatted (ADHD) spreadsheet outlining the next 2 weeks and all of the little tasks that need to be done in order to hit the big deadlines.  Then the anxiety set in.  I’m trying to be very mindful of my usual ADHD pitfalls, especially underestimating how much time a task will actually take.  Not to mention my tendency to over schedule, having the best intentions to complete 17 tasks in one day (“I can do it, no problem”), with no chance in hell of getting to half of them.

There’s no choice but to simply do as much as I can and let the less important tasks fall away.  Amidst all of the mundane tasks that need to get done, there are a few fun plans that I don’t want to overshadow with anxiety and over planning (and the subsequent self-loathing for not completing said 17 tasks).

The highlight of the next week is reuniting with 5 friends I haven’t seen in 10 years.  This is an evening I want to purely enjoy and not allow any of my (73) mental roadblocks overshadow.  Let’s see if I can strong-arm my brain into being normal – if only for a little while!

Day 81: Recovery and Reflections

ApplesI’ve been struggling the last couple of weeks, feeling lost and alone.  I don’t feel as though I fit in at a 12 step meeting.  The problem is that I’m comparing myself to others.  It is such destructive behaviour to compare, no matter what the comparison is.

As I get older, I’m learning to not compare my high-level life stats against others.  As I start to learn how different the outward-facing me is, compared to the reality of what’s going on inside, I realize it’s likely that others do this too.  Therefore I’m not comparing apples to apples.  I’m comparing my messy inside self to someone’s polished outside self.

NA cautions against comparing ourselves to others:

Once we stopped using drugs, many of us started comparing ourselves to other addicts. We focused on our differences rather than our similarities. Seeing only the differences made it easy to think that maybe we didn’t belong in NA.

~ “Recovery in Narcotics Anonymous”

This is exactly where I’m going wrong.  I feel like a fraud, that I’m not truly an addict, because my story isn’t as tragic as some.  I recognize this as dangerous thinking; it will eventually give me permission to relapse.

So for today, on Day 81, I will remind myself that my experiences are my own and don’t need to be held up against someone else’s to be considered true or false.  That is how I’ll get through today…