Life Changes Every 24 Hours in Sobriety

FitFatFood‘s (“Blogging to Stay Sober”) recent post “Time for Me” perfectly expresses the internal struggle between needing self-care and the concern about how to find the time for it. If you haven’t already, please take the time to visit her blog.

Around the 7 month sober mark, I began to build a resentment around my sober process. I  have been working full-time throughout this incredible journey that is changing every piece of myself. I was raised to put work first, to make my job my identity. When your value is based on your success at work, it is impossible to consider scaling back for self-care. That is simply a selfish, lazy thought. Or so I thought until recently.

This sober journey is changing how I define myself. I had a very frank conversation with my boss yesterday and asked to reduce my hours to part-time for a 10 week period. I had my script in my head, but when I saw that she was not understanding my intentions, I threw out the script and went rogue.

She knows that I have issues with alcohol; I had to expose that truth to her 15 months ago (although I still didn’t get sober for another 5 months after that humiliating conversation). SInce then, we haven’t talked about my “issues” (that was as far as I was willing to admit 15 months ago). I gave her one hell of a big update yesterday.

– I’m in AA and I’m coming up on 1 year sober.

– I put an unbelievable amount of time into changing my life during 2013 and I need to take a little time to continue that work without being overwhelmed.

– Part of the work I’m doing is to take control of my mental health as well. I’ve been diagnosed with ADHD and am on medication to increase focus. I’m also in therapy and developing tools to further take control.

– In sum, I’m in a very positive place today and everything I worked so hard on in 2013 is to benefit me personally and professionally. I see the improvements in my work routine that are a direct result of this journey.

The meeting ended on a positive note, with my boss agreeing to all of my requests. I think that once I spilled the truth about alcoholism and mental illness, she probably couldn’t say no. It certainly wasn’t my intention to manipulate her into agreeing to the reduction in hours, but I now see that may be what happened. My intent was to help her understand why I am asking to scale back temporarily. It is not that I’m looking for another job, it is purely that I need to take charge of my health (physical, mental and spiritual).

It’s been another life-changing 24 hours. I’ve peacefully come to terms with the fact that maybe I’m not supposed to be a workaholic who can do everything that is asked of me. It’s time to be honest with myself and the people around me. I’m taking control of my life, but it takes a little more effort for me to maintain control than it does for others. I have some elements within me that require extra attention: bipolar II, ADHD, alcoholism, and a lifetime of self-hate because these elements have run rampant within me for 37 years.

So maybe I’m not someone who can work 40 hours a week. Maybe I’m someone who achieves greater success working 4 days a week and having the extra time to be active in AA, attend therapy, get more physical activity, and generally be selfish. I no longer see the word “selfish” as negative in this context. I cannot be a productive, happy person without control over the elements within me.

When I got back to my desk after my meeting yesterday, I had a mild wave of panic. “What have I done? Why did I tell her all of that? I look so weak to her now. I need to fix this and take it all back.” It was a fleeting wave. I grabbed hold of the thoughts and talked myself through them: this is what I need. I have changed my life for the better today. I am confident in that truth.


Day 312: Recovery and Reflections

by Philippe Sainte-Laudy

It’s day 312 and I’ve just recently started feeling as though a new normal has begun. About 6 weeks ago, I felt a fog lift and a new routine emerged. I can’t pinpoint what caused the shift, but I’m grateful for it. Perhaps it’s a cumulative effect that is my reward for the work I’ve put in over the past 10 months.

CursiveI’m feeling calm, which is completely new to me. Anxiety, worry and panic have been a part of my brain since childhood. The day before Kindergarten started, I panicked: I grabbed a pad of paper and a pencil and went running to my big sister. “I don’t know how to write and Kindergarten starts tomorrow.” I could print, but I didn’t know cursive. I thought I’d be a laughing stock.

Adding to my calmness is that I’m going to cut back to part-time hours at work for a couple of months. The first time I talked about the possibility, it was with my therapist. She noted that my body language instantly relaxed when talking the idea through.

It’s good timing: my parents leave for Florida this week. They go every year for a couple of months and it’s always been my time to ramp up the drinking. I spend a lot of time at their house alone while they’re gone (my dog stays there during workdays so that I can let her out at lunch). My routine for years, while they’re gone, has been to drink whenever I’m inside their home. It’s a strong routine and I’m very mindful of the need to set myself up for success.

Liquor BoxThe day they leave, I will pack up their well-stocked liquor cabinet and store it at my sister’s house. I’m not struggling with sobriety at this time, but I’m wary of the potential triggers that will come when I’m in their empty house with even less accountability than I usually have.

Working fewer hours means that I won’t need to be at their house every day. Plus it will give me some extra time to work on myself – more time at the gym, more meetings, more self-care.

I’m looking ahead at a potentially difficult week: parents are leaving and my sponsor left today for a 2 week second stage treatment program (that’s a whole other concern I have…). My plan is to be open about the concern I have about the next couple of months. I’m asking for help and going forward with my eyes open. That’s new, too: being proactive instead of blindly letting time march on and having to later deal with consequences.

This new normal is feeling good.

Binge TV

TV StaticRecent inner monologue:

“Hmm, lately I’ve been a little sad. Nothing extreme, just a little sad in the evenings. Wonder why? What’s changed? Nothing’s changed.

How long has this been going on? Let’s see… it seems to be about 2 weeks. Ok, what happened 2 weeks ago? Huh, could it be? “Party of Five” was added to Netflix 2 weeks ago.”

With Netflix, iTunes and other streaming media services, a new way of watching TV has emerged: binging! When “Orange is the New Black” was released, we ripped through that in a week. Some shows, however, are just not meant to be binged on. There’s only so much scripted drama about 5 orphans that one person should ingest in a day.

Back to the comedies on Netflix!

Winter Reset

Winter Beach

Lake Huron beach covered in snow and ice. In the summer, this stretch behind the dunes is filled with sun revellers. In the winter, it’s silent enough to hear the ice move.

It’s an annual trip that started 4 years ago: myself, my mother, my sister and her teenage son camp immediately following Christmas.  Don’t get the wrong idea – we’re not roughing it!  Although there were brave souls in tents, we rent a one-room cabin for 3 nights in a nearby provincial park.  And it’s wonderful.

This was the first year that I didn’t smuggle booze in my luggage.  This was also the first year that I was sober doing all of the planning and prepping before the trip.  The end result?  We all agreed that this year was the best of the winter camping trips yet.  There is no doubt in my mind that it’s because I’m sober.  It made me a better participant throughout the trip.

One beautiful mild afternoon we went cross-country skiing.  We last did this 3 years ago.  The 2 excursions could not have been more different!  Last time, I wasn’t drunk, but my motor skills were definitely impaired.  I had a terrible time locking my boots onto the skis and I needed help getting up from a couple of falls.

This time around, it was me who helped my nephew get his skis on, and I had no trouble getting up from falls.  (Yes, I fell almost as many times sober as I did buzzed – I’m not proud of that little truth!).

Worst of all last time, my sister gently confronted me about drinking, tell me that she knew I had been.  I am deeply embarrassed to admit that my reaction was to deny.  How utterly ridiculous: my breath smelled like vodka and I needed help getting upright.  I can only imagine how my drinking affected the trip for her that year.  Although we didn’t speak of it again and we politely went about the rest of the trip, I’m certain she worried in silence for the remainder of the getaway (and beyond, no doubt).

This year, that cloud of worry and suspicion was nowhere near us.  This is how I am making it up to my family for the years of worry I’ve caused: by being a better participant in all of their lives.  By being more present (not just physically) in everyday life, I can slowly lift away that piece of worry.  So much of my recovery work during these past 9 months has been about me.  The new year is a good time to shift some of that focus to my family and making nonverbal amends.

We have another camping trip booked in 5 months.  I can’t wait!