Day 138: Recovery and Reflections

Marching Band IllustrationI can’t feel my heart.  When I was drinking, I was always aware of it beating.  Sometimes it beat too quickly, sometimes too slowly, but it always beat hard.  It’s strange to lay still and not feel it pound.  Everything’s changing.

I spent Saturday night in a bar.  In the past few weeks, I’ve spent more time in bars than in the past 5 years.  Husband has started playing with a band and they’ve been playing open jam nights as often as possible.

It was Saturday night and we left the house at 10:00 pm.  We left the house at 10:00 pm. I haven’t done that since my 20’s.

Before husband’s band played, the house band jammed for about an hour, and they were awesome.  Near the end of their set, I sat back and forced myself to evaluate how I was feeling about being in a bar on a Saturday night with people I’m still relatively new to.  I was amazed that I had been able to get out of my own dysfunctional head and really enjoy the music and the company.

It is very unusual to me to be comfortable in my own skin, let alone sober and social.

For the majority of every day, I am overwhelmed by my new sober life.  It often feels like an impossible long-term goal.  When I think about the enormous amount of internal work that’s ahead of me, I want to recoil and just give up now.  What keeps me afloat is reflecting upon the results of the work I’ve done so far.  Being able to enjoy an evening of music in a bar is a huge change that’s a direct result of self-reflection, honesty and therapy.

That reflection, a brief glimpse of light in a dark room, is what will get me through day 138.

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Reactive vs. Proactive Medicine

Doctor Apple“Our healthcare system is broken” is what a friend has written over and over in her blog that chronicled her experience in the final months of her husband’s life.  Her husband may not have died as a direct result of the gaps in our healthcare system, but his remaining months could have been less stressful had there been a better continuity of care.

Sadly, their story is just one of millions.  Everyone has a failed-by-the-healthcare-system story with varying levels of severity.

That said, I am a very lucky human being.  I won the birth lottery and was born in a first world nation with government-subsidized healthcare.  I have never had to pay for a doctor’s visit.  My husband has a gastrointestinal disease that has required lengthy hospital stays, weekly blood testing and more specialist appointments than a day planner could hold.  The only bill we’ve ever received (aside from medications) was for an ambulance ride he needed one night when he could not stand without passing out because he had lost too much blood.

My father in law died after his second battle with cancer.  In addition to many week-long inpatient chemotherapy treatments, he had 6 weeks where he received 2 radiation treatments per day, 5 days a week as an outpatient.  He had surgery to remove a football-sized tumour.  He and his widow never received a bill for anything. Continue reading

Can’t Identify the Feeling

Comfortably NumbI’m sitting at my desk, surrounded by tasks but unable to get started on any of them.  My mind is darting from one thought to another, so quickly that when I try to remember how I got to one, I cannot retrace the path.  I can’t remember what felt so important and urgent just seconds ago before I started thinking about organizing that desktop folder.

I try to force myself to identify how I’m feeling.  I start the sentence “I feel really…” a dozen times but can’t finish it.  The usual adjectives just don’t fit.  So here I sit with my mind flitting and feeling numb.  That’s the best I can do when I try to finish the sentence: I feel really numb.

I can’t explain why I cannot get motivated to work.  I’m spending hours surfing the net, going between news sites, Twitter and WordPress.  When I’ve exhausted one site for the moment, I sit with my fingers positioned on the keyboard, staring at the screen hoping to be inspired as to where to surf next.  After a few beats, I’ll type in the next URL and spend a few minutes getting caught up from when I last visited (maybe an hour ago?).

As unproductive as I am sitting here, I don’t have an overwhelming desire to leave for the day.  I’m not thinking of excuses to leave early and I’m not counting down the minutes.  I’m just numb.

Maybe “numb” isn’t the right word.  I’m just in limbo?  I’m just…

Two minutes left to the day.  Now I’m counting down.  I’ve managed to complete one time-sensitive report for a client with 2 minutes to spare.  That’s just enough time to catch up on Twitter.

Day 126: Recovery and Reflections

B&W RollercoasterIt’s tiring putting this much effort into existing.  Sure, life was difficult as a functioning alcoholic too, but right now I’m having trouble believing it was more difficult than life today.  Realistically, I know that returning to alcohol is not the answer, but there has to be a third option.  There has to be a better, easier way to live.

I’m bipolar and my internal rollercoaster began its decent into depression late lastnight.  It would have been nice to stay in mild mania longer; it was a short stay at the top this time.  Based on history, I know that my depressive mood will last anywhere between 2 to 4 weeks.  Fuck a duck.

It’s exhausting putting forth the required thought and work to maintain sobriety, let alone everything else that life demands.  I would love a break from it.  Just 1 day to not compulsively think about what needs to be done today for work, or to stay sober, or count calories and plan meals.  Yes, after somehow getting through 126 consecutive days without drinking, I’m now adding an earnest effort to lose weight.  I’ve packed on a substantial amount of weight over the past 5 years (not coincidentally, it was 5 years ago that I shoved my drinking into secrecy).  Despite cutting 900-1200 calories from my daily intake just by eliminating booze, I haven’t lost a single pound in 126 days.  Fuck another duck.  I thought a small amount of weight loss would be a bonus side effect of getting sober.  Apparently not for this lug.

This is how I am on day 126: uninspired, tired and falling down the rabbit hole of depression.

Dear Mom

It’s taken me a long time to be able to admit that I’m an alcoholic. I’ve shied away from that label for more than 10 years because I didn’t want to believe I was “that person.”  After many failed attempts to stop drinking, I’ve had to admit that it’s not something I can fix alone.

I’ve been working with a therapist for the past several months to help me become more comfortable in my sober skin. It’s not easy to retrain my brain after nearly 20 years of using alcohol to avoid any unpleasant feelings.

I’ve also been going to AA meetings. While I’m not 100% sure yet if 12 step programs are for me, I’m open to anything that’s different than what I’ve tried in the past to get sober. I’ve had many ups and downs in trying to get sober and I have to admit that I’ll never be able to do it alone, in silence. Until a few months ago, that was the only way I thought I could do it, because I didn’t want to “bother” anyone with my problems.

I’m telling you this about myself, not to cause worry or pain, but to finally be open and honest about something that has contributed to making me a closed person. I hope that this makes you feel comfortable talking to me about things we don’t normally talk about.

I’ve been “hiding” my drinking for the past 5 years.  I had myself convinced I was hiding the drinking to protect them from me.

I spent today golfing with my Mom.  It was fabulous in every way: the weather was perfect, we both golfed well (which keeps frustration at bay) and it was an opportunity for us to talk about things we don’t normally do.  My family rarely talks about unpleasant personal things.  As a homework assignment from my therapist, I wrote the letter above.

I didn’t give my Mom the letter, but I shared the gist of it: I am an alcoholic and can’t stay sober without help.  I felt so relieved once I got the words out.  She reacted exactly as I thought she would: supportive and relieved that I was getting help.

The truth is that I kept her (and everyone else) in the dark because I knew that if I told my secret, it’d be harder to keep drinking.  I was protecting the addiction.  Letting my Mom in on the secret is just one more way that I’m making it harder for myself to relapse.  It’s one more tent pole!

Singular Sensation: Sobriety

Daily Prompt: Singular Sensation

If one experience or life change results from you writing your blog, what would you like it to be?

My goal for this blog from the beginning has been to give myself a place to work out thoughts and feelings in a quest to feel more comfortable within my own skin.  A large part of this project is to stay sober.

So much of my overall unhappiness is tied to alcohol.  Plus, the alcohol exasperated bipolar symptoms and anxiety.  There is no question that alcohol was a big part of what made day-to-day life so unbearable, despite convincing myself that it was the one thing that helped.

In the past 5 years, I’ve tried many times to stay sober, always going about it the same way – alone and in secret.  Knowing that I have to do things differently to have any chance at success, I’m putting things in place that make it harder for me to relapse this time.  One of these things is this blog.  Simply posting regularly about what day of sobriety I’m on, it’s one more thing to consider when thinking about drinking: do I really want to come here and have to admit that I’m back at day 1?  It may sound small, almost trivial, but to me it’s one more tent pole helping to keep my sobriety up.

 

Day 119: Recovery & Re-counting

Barbie Math is HardComplex mathematics has never been my strong-suit.  However I thought that I had a good grasp of basic counting.  1, 2, 3, carry on… Apparently I was wrong!  My sobriety count was off by a few days.  So here I am, on (legitimate) day 119.

I’ve been taking note mentally of some of the things I’ve been doing sober for the first time. Some are little things like going for a tan.  Some things are bigger.  Tonight I went to a bar.  Hubby recently joined a band and they did a short set tonight.  So I spent a couple of hours in a bar socializing with people that I’ve only met once before.

That scenario, for most people, is pretty innocuous: have a drink, chat with the band wives, get to know people.  For me, however, it’s fraught with potential pitfalls.  If I picture this scenario happening 4 months ago, I would have drank heavily before leaving the house (in “secret” because I was pretending to be sober).  I would have been very irritable with hubby before leaving the house, hoping to get out of even going because of the anxiety of spending time with people I don’t know – what the hell would I say to people?  I would end up going, but I’d be bitchy in the car ride over, sucking the fun out of the night for hubby.  And of course, there would be a water bottle filled with vodka in my purse and I’d excuse myself to the bathroom every half hour.

Such a miserable scenario.  Thankfully my head is a little clearer, 119 days in, and the night ended up being a lot of fun.  I was supportive of hubby, who thoroughly enjoyed himself, which is the most important piece of the night.  I even enjoyed chatting with one of the wives.  It’s been a long time since I’ve had friends and it was nice to have a small reminder of what it’s like to just chit-chat and get to know someone.

My take-away at the end of day 119 is that I want to be conscious of little snippets of life and how different they are to experience sober.  And that’s how I’ll get through this final half hour of day 119…