Last week, I started therapy again, which is a good thing. I hadn’t been to a therapist in quite a while, and I when I stopped, it wasn’t because of anything bad…I just think I accomplished all I could with that particular therapist. She was wonderful, and I still see her around (we go to the same church), but it was time to move on.
Luckily, the woman who was instrumental in my recovery has started her own somatic therapy practice, and her office is so close I could walk to it (in this and future posts, I’ll all her Beth). It also helps that we have a good relationship and have similar personalities. I’ve also seen Beth at various meetings over the years, and I always appreciate her reflections and insights.
Beth asked what I wanted help with, and I told her anxiety and panic attacks. I went on to say that I’m med-compliant and use essential oils, but I wake with anxiety and go to sleep with it. The panic is usually just below the surface, and while I haven’t had a full-blown attack in a few months, it’s still not pleasant to feel constantly on edge. We talked about techniques to help relieve anxiety symptoms. At some point in our conversation, I said, “You know, I thought I’d be farther along with all this. I’ve been sober for three years.” I went on about arrested development and how I still felt around nineteen or twenty. “I’m still staggeringly immature,” I added.
Beth laughed gently and shook her head. “You’re just now figuring out life without self-medicating,” she said. “You’ll be amazed how much ground you’ll have covered when you look back in ten years.”
I struggle with patience, admittedly, as many of us do. I’m willing to do the work in therapy, and I trust Beth. Deep breaths going forward…I’ll see Beth again next Friday.
Yesterday, things had been clicking along normally. I went to work (I’m currently teaching part-time in an adult education program, preparing people to take the GED test), came home, and did stuff around the house. I then picked up my children from school. I didn’t notice anything was off in my mind or spirit until my kids had a little dust-up, an I over-reacted in a major way. My tirade hit such a high octave that my voice began to crack, and still I kept on, though somewhere in the back of my mind, I thought, What the hell is this? Why am I flying off the handle over something relatively minor?
The three of us finally settled down, and I was completely drained. I mean, drained like I’d just spent eight hours toiling away in a middle school language arts classroom (which, for the record, is mighty draining…I used to come home and collapse in bed for two hours). I carried on with other household chores like laundry and getting supper ready while my kids occupied themselves. At one point, my youngest approached me in the kitchen, and I said, “I can’t listen to anything else. I’m sorry. Just please don’t ask me anything right now.” My son, who’s heard this from me before, shrugged and went back to the living room, and I tumbled under wave after wave of guilt.
Right before my wife came home, I sat down and began a post. I got as far what you read below:
This is going to most likely be an ugly and not terribly hopeful post. As I write this, my children are asking me questions, and I’m doing my damndest not to snap back. It’s a losing batttle, I’m afraid.
This happens periodically….
At this point, my wife walked in the door, and my youngest son ran up to her and said, “Daddy said I can’t talk to him now. He can’t listen to any more voices.” My wife looked at me, and I clutched my head and said, “It’s true, I can’t. There’s just too much audio stimulation going on.” Of course, my kids started arguing immediately, and it felt like knives tearing into my brain. I went on the porch to get away from it and deal with laundry.
All the while, the noise in my head kept on, joined by the hyper-critical voice that was one reason I used to drink: to shut that fucker up. I don’t understand, I thought amid all the mental and spiritual chaso. This wasn’t a bad day. I shouldn’t want to crawl into bed and shut everyone out.
And then I passed the cabinet where we keep medicine. I looked at my bottle of anti-anxiety/anti-depressant medicine. “Oh, bloody hell,” I said. “I didn’t take it.
I’m normally med-compliant. If I don’t take my medicine every morning, I usually fare all right until the afternoon, and then the wheels come off. Or they can come off. I’ve certainly missed a dose before and not had an issue. That wasn’t the case yesterday.
I walked into the living room and told my family I’d missed a dose. My oldest son glanced up from his game and said, “Well, that explains a lot.” And it does. I went back to the kitchen and took my pill. About an hour later, I felt a little more like myself.
This experience comes on the heels of another one that surprised me. I’ve developed a crippling fear of dentists, which I never had growing up. Now, I feel trapped and like I’m going to choke to death when I’m in the chair. Anyway, I hadn’t been to the dentist in something like two years, so I asked my doctor for a Klonapin to calm me down. I took Klonapin daily during my ill-advised year back teaching in the public school setting. It worked like a charm then, and when I quit, I also quit taking Klonapin. No withdrawl and no regrets.
But I was freaking the hell out about going to the dentist, so I took one. I expected to calm right down have that feeling of relief as my obsessive, terrifying thoughts were put behind a wall. That’s what it always felt like; the thoughts were still there, but they were trapped. I could carry on with my day.
This time, though, the thoughts remained and within five minutes, I felt inebriated. I couldn’t walk straight, let alone think straight. “I feel drunk,” I told my wife, who was going to drive me to the dentist. “And I don’t like it.”
That was the freaky–but good, I suppose–thing: I hated the feeling. I hated that I started babbling about nonsense, just like I did when I drank. It got to the point on the drive to the dentist that my wife looked at me and said, “You need to tone it down before you get there. You’re rambling.”
The dentist visit wasn’t pleasant, but I guess the pill worked enough that I didn’t bolt from the office. But my anxiety was almost through the roof the entire time. When I finished and walked home, I was furious: the pill hadn’t done what it was supposed to, I hated dentists, and the world could go fuck itself. Why these thoughts? I was coming down,l that’s why.
I’ve been using essential oils for quite some time now, and I’ve recently added Copaiba oil, which has an almost immediate calming effect on me. I believe I’ll stick with that when I go back to the dentist (and, in future posts, I may mention some other oils that benefit my emotional well-being).
Gah, what a long post. Thanks for reading. Happy sober Friday.
Happiness and I don’t have the best track record. Historically (and well before I began drinking), I haven’t trusted myself when I started feeling good. Wait a damn second, I’d think. This isn’t right. I’m not supposed to feel good. The feeling would pass, and I’d be back comfortably ensconced in my mild to moderate despair. It was my standard operating procedure, and deviations from it felt alien.
It’s not that I was never happy. I had moments of happiness, but it was always tinged with distrust. When I discovered drinking, I realized I could shut off that uncomfortable feeling. Drown it out. Numb everything. It wasn’t until I went to rehab that I learned that I was only fooling myself that I could choose which feelings to suppress. I was in the process of suppressing all feelings…turning them off one by one, slowly strangling them. It got to the point where I stood in my kitchen, drunk and getting more drunk, and realized I didn’t care if I lived or died.
I have an idea where my inability to feel happiness (or joy or whatever positive emotion you can think of) comes from. It’s wrapped up in my childhood and my home. I accept that. Certain things happened that changed my emotional trajectory, and I have my own brain chemistry to thank for clinical depression and other issues. I’m learning, very slowly, to recognize joy and not run from it. I laugh more easily. I’m not as jittery around overwhelmingly positive, energetic people.
As the AA big book says, “Progress, not perfection.” I had a good day today, and I chose to be positive. Not 100 percent of the time…not even close. Let’s say 60 percent. Compared to what it used to be, that’s pretty good.
I went in this afternoon for my yearly physical which included fasting bloodwork so I could see how my cholesterol levels are. Not that I was terribly worried. I don’t have the worst diet in the world, but it could use some tweaking. I’ll admit a penchant for Eggo waffles in the morning.
Anyway, my doctor pulled up the results of my bloodwork on the computer. The screen showed my bloodwork, liver function, and all manner of things for the last few years, going back to before I got sober. My cholesterol was a tad bit high, just as it was last year, and the year before. My liver function was fine, just as it was last year, and the year before…
…and the same when I was drinking, except for one July when the functions were a little elevated, but not an insane amount. “That’s weird,” I said to my doctor. “My liver functions weren’t all that bad when I was drinking, and there’s not much difference now.”
“Well, there’s a difference, but it isn’t huge,” my doctor agreed.
“Huh,” I said. We moved onto other topics, but my alcoholic brain began whispering, Hey, man, looks like you weren’t that bad off. You didn’t ruin your body. That liver has some good drinking years still in it.
“It’s not like I’m going to start drinking again,” I blurted out, apropros of nothing. My doctor gave me a quizzical look and said, “No, that wouldn’t be a good idea.”
There were a few seconds of silence, and we picked up our rhythm again. She’s a good doctor and a nice woman, though I don’t know her well. She’s not like my last primary physician, who specialized in addiction (and was fantastic). There’s no reason my current doctor would know how much I drank and how wrecked my life was. I’ve never told her, and I don’t see a reason to. She just needs to be accepting of my quirkiness, which she is, and know that I’m in recovery, which she does.
The rest is up to me, with the help of my AA home group and others in recovery (I’ve found SoberGrid quite useful for inspiration and for positive, encouraging feedback). I didn’t shut down the lies my addiction started feeding me in the doctor’s office and that continued on the way home. I let my alcoholic brain say what it would, and eventually the voices subsided. Now I’m going to go make supper for my family in a kitchen blessedly free from alcohol. It was a very different scene this time in 2014.
I woke up this morning and meandered downstairs. The rest of my family was still asleep, and the house was quiet save for our two indoor cats demanding food. The dog was still sacked out with my oldest son. I also fed our two outdoor cats, a big tomcat named Ben who’s missing the tip of his left ear and has world-weary eyes. His voice belies his size; he has a tiny, sweet meow though he looks like he should growl like a bear. The other cat is Sara, and we think Ben’s her father. She’s not thrilled with his relaitvely new presence; she lowers her head and makes a low, moaning sound which I interpret as I know who you are, but you haven’t been around for most of my life, and now you come in the backyard of my human? In my territory?! Not cool. Ben just blinks at her.
I put on my cozy robe and started the kettle. I looked around my kitchen and once again found myself enjoying the silence. And then, this thought: a shot of vodka would be nice. Hell, maybe two shots.
There was no vodka on hand, luckily, or anything remotely alcoholic (I’m not even sure if mouthwash is a good idea to have in the bathroom. Though I never went that route, I get it). I let the thought play out, and eventually it went away. I made some oatmeal and a cup of coffee and started my day.
There’s a difference between periodic thoughts of drinking and the obsessive drive to drink, the drive that would have forced me to arrange plans to sneak off to the liquor store after 12, get some vodka, hide it in the back of the freezer, and then start making bargains with myself that I’d only drink half of the bottle, only to drink the whole damn thing and then drive to get another one under the pretense that we needed something at the store. Dear lord. I don’t miss those days.
The thoughts of drinking are still whispering in the back of my head, so I’m digging into myself to find some Sunday morning courage. Coffee helps. Writing helps. My family and the animals with whom I share space help.
Deep breaths. I’m a recovering alcoholic, not a practicing one. I will get through the day and night without drinking. And tomorrow, I’ll do it again.
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.
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 I 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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.