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.

Advertisements

Surrendering

I’m in a funk and I need to get out of it. The trouble is that I don’t even know where to start. My head is swirling with too many thoughts to count and I can’t grab hold of one long enough to give it proper attention. I’m overwhelmed by feelings and I’m having trouble separating reality from what’s potentially just a creation of my own self-loathing mind.

Above all else, I feel completely alone. Is that real or is it a manifestation of my warped mind? For a brief moment, I was feeling as though I had people around me that I could open up to. That’s gone. I’ve realized that no one wants to hear from me – I have nothing to offer. It’s what I’ve suspected for years, and what has made me the closed person I am today, but I foolishly allowed myself to briefly believe otherwise.  I’ve slowly, over the past 6 months, been trying to create a more open relationship with my husband. I would compare our relationship to that of roommates. We don’t talk about anything below the surface. “How was your day?”; “Did you see that thing on the news?”; and “What are your plans for the weekend?” are as deep as we go and I feel completely alone because of it.

I’ve been trying to slowly open the door. I developed a rash last week as a reaction to a new medication – it’s one of the side-effects of this drug that they tell you to seek medical attention for because it could be a symptom of something more serious. His question to me: “are you sure you’re not just creating a problem by itching?”. It immediately fed into what I’ve been fearing lately: that there’s nothing wrong with me and I’m just a whiny, needy bitch.  I’m ready to give up on medication. Nothing is helping, which is a pretty sure sign that there really isn’t anything wrong with me. A pill can correct a chemical imbalance in the brain, but it won’t correct whiny, poor-me self-pity. That’s all it is.

So how do I get back from here? How do I surrender and accept that there is nothing medically wrong with me and somehow become a tolerable person?

It’s a Balancing Act

Juggling Mental StabilityI’m juggling a lot of balls in my mind.  There’s a ball each for bipolar, anxiety, ADHD, and sobriety.  If I allow one ball to stray, then all will fall.  If I allow the bipolar ball to dip too low, I will sink into depression, which threatens sobriety.  It’s all a balancing act.

I’m constantly tweaking the strategy to maintain the balance in my brain.  It’s an interconnecting puzzle of medication, therapy, bike riding, comedies, blogging and reading.  The one piece that keeps everything together is therapy.  There is no question that without working with a therapist (one who is an excellent fit for me), I would not be the person I am today.

I have a lot of personality quirks, let’s call them quirks, that need work, but overall I’m a much better functioning person than I was before therapy began 5 months ago.  It’s the motor that keeps the juggling at an even keeled pace.

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!

My Inner Addict

In a rational state of mind, I can separate reality from my inner addict’s voice.  I need to document reality before my inner addict takes control of the amusement park and puts me back on the rollercoaster.

“You’re over-dramatizing your addiction.  It was never that bad.  You didn’t go to rehab, you didn’t lose your marriage, your family never stopped talking to you.  It was never that bad.

You don’t belong in 12-step; you’re a fraud.  These people have experienced the worst of addiction and what it can do to a person.  By pretending to be one of them, you are minimizing their struggles.  You are a fraud.”

– my inner addict’s monologue

When I hear of other people’s experience with addiction, the inner monologue begins.  This post is my reality, to serve as a reminder to myself when I start to believe “it wasn’t that bad.” Continue Reading…

The Reset Button

I planned this past weekend 5 months ago.  However, 5 months ago, I didn’t know just how much I would need this weekend.

54 days ago, I stopped drinking.  This isn’t my first rodeo, so I will not claim that I took my last drink 54 days ago.  What I can say is that 54 days ago, my daily life changed significantly.  While the overall adjustment is positive (no hangovers in 54 days, more cash in my bank account, less physical clutter in my home), it’s been a bumpy road.

So far, I’m not struggling to stay sober – that’s happening very easily.  (Again, having been to this rodeo before, I’m not surprised that it’s still easy on day 54).  What I’m having trouble with is mental focus, depression and anxiety.

I’ve started seeing a therapist who has been very helpful, even in this short amount of time.  While therapy is helpful, it also brings out a lot of conversations and emotions that are uncomfortable.

The past 54 days is why I needed this weekend.  Spending a weekend at a cabin with family is just what I needed.  Early morning bike rides, mid-day hikes and late-night board games was the reset button my mind needed.  4 days without thoughts about work deadlines, household chores and the perpetual to-do list that’s always revolving through my mind,  replaced by the plot line of my current read (The Shining), the day’s weather forecast and  the next lazy day activity.

It’s back to the grind tomorrow.  But I am approaching it with less anxiety than usual.  I only get a couple of resets like this a year.  What I’ve learned this weekend is that I want to (need to) plan more frequent resets.  They don’t all need to involve a lot of planning or a lot of cash, just something to release my brain from the daily anxiety.  That’s what alcohol used to do for me.  In fairness, it stopped working a long time ago when I let it take over.  So I begin my quest for a new reset button.