Cash for Pills

The medical saga continues…well, it’s not really a saga, but it kind of feels that way. Both the insurance company and doctor’s office are closed for the holiday, but I just got off the phone with my pharmacy. Since I’ve had a prescription for Cymbalta before, they’re able to sell me a few pills rather than fill a prescription. It’s without insurance, so I’m paying cash for three generic pills of Cymbalta. $30 for peace of mind and spirit, I suppose.

Even though my prescription is for 90 mg, I’ve been taking 60 (due to another doctor/insurance kerfufle) and that seems to work. Rather than taking one pills a day, I’ll have to take one every other day until Wednesday, when I have my annual physical.

When my medicine is ready, I’ll zip over to Publix and get it…and start monitoring myself thoughts and feelings to see if I need a pill today or can wait until tomorrow. I can usually skip a day without feeling any side-effects. It’s not ideal, but I’ll make do.

I just wish I didn’t feel like I was self-medicating. Perhaps that’s not the correct term. Managing my own medicine? Perhaps. It’s better than being in the Upside Down, which is what it felt like a few days ago.

Hurray, it’s my untreated, unhealthy mind.

Grinding it Out

I haven’t felt this way (mentally, that is) since early recovery. More specifically, I haven’t had such negative thoughts. On top of that, I’m mostly emotionally numb with periodic burts of overwhelming emotion. As Ron Weasley would say:

bloody hell

As I told a few people yesterday, I’ve gone through enough episodes of withdrawal to know the difference between the physical symptoms and the unhealthy mental processes that have begun to creep in (and that hopefully won’t stay). The circular, hateful thoughts that say things like, “Robert, you’re a shitty excuse for a human being. You know that feeling you have right now that there’s no point in writing stories and poetry? Go with that. While you’re at it, stop doing everything worthwhile, because you’re doomed.”

Sigh. I recognize none of that is true, and right now, I’m strong enough to shrug it off. Not diminish its importance as a warning sign, but learn to exist with it. There’s a story related by Pema Chodron about learning to live with our demons, which makes sense to me, as does this quote:

pema 2

Right. I agree with her, but perhaps I’m not there yet. At least, not there enough to give up my medication.

It’s been seven days today without Cymbalta. And it’s Thanksgiving, to boot, and all I want to do is crawl in a hole and lick my wounds. I’ve decided to call my insurance company again and go through the necessary hoops and try to at least fill the medication. That way, I’ll have it on hand. I can discuss with my family how they think I’ve been without the medicine. That’s a huge part of this equation. I know how awful it is growing up with a mentally ill parent who didn’t recognize the need for treatment.

In the meantime, even though my creative writing seems to have given me the middle finger, I’m still able to write music, which helps. Here’s a recent song that depicts the suffocating sadness that overcomes me…oh, at least twice an hour. Weee.

ray of pitch black
I am, at that.


Not from alcohol, though. That would be awful. This time, due to a snafu with insurance, I haven’t been able to take Cymbalta. I’m on day six and am incredibly dizzy, cranky, fatigued, and am having difficulty thinking straight.

None of this is surprising or unexpected, so I’m not freaking out. I’m resigned to it, and I’ve decided to stop taking Cymbalta altogether and use other methods of treating my mental health.

What I didn’t expect, though, was the almost complete loss of interest in writing. Not on this blog, which I rarely use, but creative writing. I sit down at the keyboard and write, but nothing decent comes out. Writing is one way I deal with my mental illness, and I’m bummed that it isn’t doing the trick. Even writing this post is difficult…not because of the topic, but because my brain doesn’t seem to want to cooperate.

So it goes. I’ll keep hanging in there. I’d appreciate good vibes and thoughts and prayers.


Reflections on a 1001 days of Sobriety

I recently installed Sober Grid on my phone and noticed yesterday that I had been sober for 1,000 days. That aint nothin’. Now it’s a 1,0001, which has a nice ring to it, as well. So here are some thoughts at 1,0001 days sober.

Like many recovering alcoholics (and just peope in general), I’m good at isolating. I’m very good at telling myself and others that I just need some time alone to recharge. While that’s true sometimes–say, after a long day or work or being in a hectic social situation–it’s usually just an excuse to separate myself from the world. And why not, right? Why not forgo interaction with other people in order to write poetry and music and enjoy your own company?

For me, too much time spent by myself reinforces the idea that “it’s about me.” If I stay in my head and keep my own counsel, I don’t run into trouble, but I also don’t grow. And I sure as hell dont help anyone else.

Take as much time to yourself as you need, my brain says. You’ve got two little kids who take up a lot of energy. And if you don’t have time alone, when will you write? 

Valid points, but that doesn’t mean I get a pass. It doesn’t mean that I get to extricate myself from the world and carry on like I have nothing to offer anyone except my family. Ugh, it’s painful for me to write this, but I have a lot to offer people. I just read that sentence and shook my head. Gah! What’s that line about an egomaniac with an inferiority complex? Maybe that is the line. I think I’m pretty darn great, but that’s fine because think that. Anyone else who would willingly spend time around me must be weird, and if they knew better, they’d steer clear. It’s like I have a monopoly on me being a good, talented person, and I’m automatically suspicious if anyone thinks that. Weird shit, I know.

I wasnt always like this, but I became more and more convinced of my worthlessness the more I drank. Depression and anxiety certainly play a role, too. One of the reasons I drank was because alcohol deadened the negative voices…for a while. Like they say, it worked until it stopped working, but that didn’t mean I stopped drinking.

I have to go forward acting as if I have things to offer people. Not being disingenuous or manipulative, but kind of faking it til I make it. To that end, I’ve started going back to meetings. I’m going to church and making an effort at talking to people, though the idea freaks me out.

Most importantly, I’m not drinking. It’s tempting every now and then to take a break from myself, which alcohol could certainly offer, but the price I’d pay is too dear. I’d pick back up where I left off and would drink with a fucking vengenence. No thanks.

That’s all from me. Happy sober Monday to you fine folks.

Musical Interpretation of Anxiety, Depression, and Mood Disorder

As I’ve indicated before on this blog, I write instrumental music as part of ongoing personal therapy, and for the simple joy of it, too…it’s usually not a chore, but it can stir up strong and not-aways-pleasant emotions. Ultimately, writing music is cathartic for me, even if the process is sometimes painful.

When I wrote the first part of a piece I’m tentatively calling “Losing the Sky of my Mind,” I didn’t expect it to cause such an emotional reaction in me, but in listening back to a rough cut of the track, I felt uncomfortable, uplifted, scared, anxious, and happy all at once (perhaps because I haven’t been able to refill my medication?). Like I do with poetry, I’ll go where the music takes me, though I suspect I’ll write two more parts and combine them all in one piece.

Until then, if you’re curious, you can check out the track on my SoundCloud page.


Anxiety Continues to Rear its Dreadful Head

“Dread” is quite an appropriate word with it comes to anxiety, at least for me. Usually, every day around 9:00 AM, a pit of cold dread forms in my stomach. It’s the same feeling I’d get before teaching a class of middle-schoolers. Since I no longer do that (the story of that year will have to come in a series of posts when I’m ready to think about it again), I was surprised when the anxiety struck with the same ferocity and at the same time. I suppose there’s no rationale for irrational emotions; I know I’m fine, I know I don’t have to be in battle/survival mode for eight hours a day, I know that my family is safe and healthy, and I know I’m on the right track with sobriety.

sober time
Sadly, this pic is from two days ago…it’s not a drunken selfie.

As I’ve said before, I see a psychiatrist regularly and am on a good combo of meds. I try to remind myself to breathe properly, and I’ve started using essential oils to help combat depression and panic. I also gave yoga a shot for eleven day before concluding that it wasn’t for me. Writing poetry and music also helps, but I’d really, really like to avoid anxiety altogether.

I know that’s unrealistic, and it’s one of the reasons I used to drink. I could change my mood in under five seconds by taking two or three shots of vodka; I could be pleasantly numb to most things by drinking a bottle of wine. It’s tempting to think that I’d drink like a normal person again if I ever picked up a glass, but that’s utter and complete bullshit. I’d drink my face off and would do the same thing the next day.

So I do what I can to curb the anxiety. I began this post a few hours ago, thinking the dread would pass like it normally does, but it’s still with me. Slightly lessened, thankfully, but hanging around like an unwanted guest.

Such is life these days. It will still be a victory to put my sober head to sleep tonight.

Thanks for reading. Happy sober Monday.

me and the lady
After looking at the picture above, I shaved and got a haircut. And then cut my eyes at the Lady of Shallot



The Storm Inside Her (song)

Hello, there. It’s been a while since I posted here, and while this isn’t a typical post for me, I wanted to share this nonetheless. I wrote a song called “The Storm Inside Her” (instrumental, as all my songs are, and in this case it’s just piano). As I wrote it, I knew “storm” was going to be in the title. When I finished it, the full title came to me, and I realized the song was about a woman struggling with depression, anxiety, and addiction. There’s strength in her, though–I hope you can hear that in the middle of the song–but she has a long, hard road ahead of her.

I hope the songs helps some people.

Happy sober Friday to all.

I Survived Middle School…

…for the second time. The first experience was as a kid, moving from the relatively safety of a single teacher in one room to the middle school where I had a locker and various teachers. Some of my worst memories of school come between 6th and 8th grade, as I’m sure is the case for a lot of folks.

This time, I’ve survived middle school as a teacher, and I won’t be returning. Not that the school would have me–I didn’t score especially high on my evaluations, which didn’t suprise me in the least. Practically from the beginning of the school year in 2016, I was in survival mode. Once the students got a feel for me and realized that A) I’m not an intractable, unfeeling automaton who only understands screaming and writing discipline referrals, and B) I’m fairly easily distracted and often get lost in what I’m teaching to the point that I tune out other things, it was pretty much over. It isn’t that I lost control of my classes (except one over which I never had control to begin with, and that particular mix of students was so bad that it prompted the first panic I’ve had in years), it’s that I have no idea how to relate to middle school students as a whole. I’m also not spectacular at setting up and following routines day after day without fail, which is what administration wanted me to do. I see the benefit of doing just that; the kids I taught needed routines and clear directions, and I’m more of the type to walk in the room, chat for a bit, and then launch into a lesson which might look completely different from the day before and will certainly be different the next day. When I tried to put in routines and rituals, it didn’t work. I went back to my default setting, and my personality and perferences rocketed back as if nothing had changed.

I became worried about half-way through the year that I wouldn’t be able to continue. I would shake while driving into work; on more than one occasion, I pulled into the parking lot, opened my van door, and threw up. Good lord, I remember thinking, this is what would happen when I drank, and I’m doing it because of nerves? This was right before the panic attack that sent me back to my psychiatrist to talk about medication to keep me calm for the remainder of the year.

My other option was finding another job and convincing the county I didn’t have to pay the $2,000 penalty for breaking my contract due to my mental distress. Both my primary care physician and psychiatrist said they would sign off on a document declaring that the work environment had a deleterious effect on my mental health to such a point that I couldn’t perform my job.

How did it come to this? I thought more than once. I’ve been teaching for nearly eighteen years in various capacties (private schools, colleges, alternative schools) and middle school is what breaks me? Correction: it didn’t break me, but it came damn close. Now I have four days of so-called “post-planning,” all of which could be done in two days, but I digress. I’m not exactly proud of myself for sticking it out, though perhaps I should be. I’m just relieved and faintly surprised.

My experience here wasn’t entirely bleak. I met some wonderful people, as well, both teachers and students. Last Friday, which was students’ last day, one of my kids walked up to me and gave me a long hug. I hugged her back and told her I enjoyed getting to know her this year, and I wished her well in high school. One of my guys came up to me and blinked back tears, “I’m really going to miss you,” he said. I hugged him, too.

Those moments are what I choose to dwell on going forward, as well as the various lessons about life I learned while helming middle school classes. It isn’t the right fit for me…or at least, this school and county isn’t the right fit. I suspect I won’t find myself back in a middle school classroom, but I’ve learned to never say never when it comes to teaching jobs.

I did it. And I didn’t drink, by golly. I was tempted, of course, but the thoughts were mostly fleeting. I got through the year with the help of coffee and herbal tea, and those were the strongest things that passed my lips.

Now it’s time, once more, to look for a job. I’m not terribly worried about it…the sense of relief is powerful and touches other aspects of my life. I’ll find a job and move on to another experience.

That’s all for now. Happy sober Monday, people.

St. Patrick’s Day? Meh. Work, though….

I was never a big drink-in-public kind of guy. I didn’t like paying for drinks when I could just get a bottle from the store, crack it open, and drink in peace. And that was the big thing–there was no peace for me if I drank in public, whether at a restaurant or bar, no matter how intimate the setting. I’m not terribly keen on eating in public, for that matter, but that’s a different matter. I was a closet drinker, and even if I wasn’t, I would have been a home drinker.

The same goes for so-called “drinking holidays,” like St. Patrick’s Day. My city does it up big for St. Patrick’s Day and has a massive parade and gathering downtown rivaled only by festivites in cities like New York and New Orleans. I have never gone downtown on St. Patrick’s Day, never quaffed a green beer in a racous bar, or set foot in anything location bedecked in green and filled with people wearing t-shirts saying, “Kiss me, I’m Irish.” St. Patrick’s Days of the past saw me following my old routine: I drank or I didn’t. If I did, I got drunk. If I didn’t, I felt a small sense of accomplishment, but it was tinged with sadness, because I knew I’d go right back to drinking the next day.

I write all this to say that while yesterday wasn’t a temptation for me (just like the Super Bowl doesn’t cost me a moment’s thought), I imagine it was difficult for a lot of people. I hope everyone fared well. I’m grateful for over two years of sobriety, and the only threat to it as my job.

I teach middle school English, and it’s the hardest, most wretched position I’ve ever taken. The worst part –and this is the reason I left my previous public education job, though it was alternative school–is I’m forced into combative situations with students in every class. Multiple times a day, day after day, week after week. I haven’t drank over it yet, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t thought about it a lot. It’s easy to fantasize about disconnecting, drinking enough to forget my job and troubles with students, but the solution would be painfully short, and I’d pay like hell for it the next day. And the day after that because I’d start drinking at the same killing pace where I stopped.

I applied for two jobs today (and sent poems to three markets!) and am hopeful about both. Contracts come out next month, and while I don’t think my principal will offer me one, I’d love to have a job lined up so I could politely decline it and thank him for his support. I’m just not cut out for teaching middle school, and now I know. Actually, I knew it after the first two weeks. I’m sure my administration knows it, too.

Anyway, it’s Spring Break for me and my family, so I have some down time for a week. After that, we have state-mandated testing. And then, according to a teacher who was at my school last year, “things go downhill, fast,” and not in a good way. She told me to expect more arguments, fights between students, and even lower morale among teachers. Fantastic, I thought.

Hopefully, I’ll have a new job lined up soon, and I can take this last year as a learning experience. I’ll certainly be happier, and so will my family.

That’s it from me, folks. Happy sober Saturday to all.

Two Years Sober

Since I lasted posted, I hit two years of sobriety (January 5). I marked the occasion rather quietly; my family and I talked about it, and they congratulated me. I went to a meeting and picked up my second blue chip. Other than that, I went about my daily life…mostly grateful to be sober but not making a big to-do about it. Within a few days, I stopped checking my sobriety tracker and carried on with teaching and raising my children and such.

It wasn’t until I got sick–first with a cold, which then morphed into pneumonia–that I felt truly grateful for my sobriety. I kept thinking how much worse things would be if I knew I couldn’t drink. I rarely drank when I was sick, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t think about it constantly. Incidentally, for a great description of being grateful for sobriety in the midst of sickness, check out Heya, Monster’s post here.

That’s all for now. I hope this post finds you well. Happy sober Sunday.