Trying to Accept Happiness

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.

Me, most days.
Me, most days.

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.

That’s all for now. Happy sober Tuesday.


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.


Sober but Twitchy Christmas Eve

There were many Christmas Eves when by this time (1o:45 AM) I would have already been on my way to being drunk. If we were visiting relatives, I’d have little wine bottles hidden in my bag, or I’d sneak into the kitchen and find whatever liquor was available and have three or four shots. I’d keep a good base-line buzz until after lunch when I’d find myself alone as family did Christmas things, and then I got down to the real drinking. I’d chew gum, brush my teeth, drink water, even take an alcohol-induced nap…and no one seemed to notice. Perhaps they were so used to be isolating myself–even during Christmas–that they didn’t notice or get to close to me. I spoke little for fear of slurring my words.

During the evening, when it was more acceptable to drink wine, I’d knock it back and replenish myself by darting upstairs and drinking more. To anyone paying attention, I had no more than two glasses of wine on Christmas Eve. I knew the truth, though I vigorously blocked it from my mind: I was probably bordering on alcohol poisoning, as I had many times before. I’m amazed that my drinking history doesn’t include a trip or two to the hospital.

On January 5, 2017, I’ll have two years of sobriety…and I have no plans of fucking that up. But under the guidance of my psychiatrist, I’m in the process of switching anti-depressants. I’m tapering off one, and it’s a quick taper. I spoke to my psychiatrist before leaving down because I felt I was going to explode out of my skin…I also felt like running into a brick wall repeatedly. On top of that, I felt like I had an enormous hole in the middle of myself that I desperately needed to fill. I know what I would have filled it with before, and the thoughts whizzed through my mind, but I didn’t act on them.

Today is hard, but I feel better than yesterday. I have an anti-anxiety pill if things get to bad. I wanted to type this entry to hold myself accountable and reach out to some fellow alcoholics.

I hope this finds you all well. Merry and sober Christmas Eve.



Dragging Myself into the Light

I’m still here, still sober…and still overwhelmed. Well, I’m less overwhelmed now because we have our winter break coming up. I should already be on vacation, but our school system is making up for days lost due to Hurricane Matthew. It’s okay–my students and I can make it through two more days.

I think because I see a break coming up, I’m willing to get back on WordPress and interact (at least on social media…I have a spotty record at best when it comes to real life interactions).

I started seeing a new therapist whom I like very much, and now I have a psychiatrist managing my medication for anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder. It’s not difficult for me to go to therapy or to see my psychiatrist…but it’s hard as hell to talk to other people in person. I can’t use that awkwardness to avoid socializing. I have to remind myself, as silly as it may sound to some, I’m a human being. Due to basic biological programming, I need people. I have my wife and children, of course, but I need to be part of a bigger tribe. Otherwise, I get trapped in my head, and that can be bad despite my effective medication.

My sobriety is in a good place. I think about drinking at least once or twice a day, but the thoughts are passing. If I’m at the store and pass a bottle wine, I might think Man, it would be nice to drink that like a non-alcoholic person.  And then I move on.

I hope this post finds everyone well. Happy sober Sunday.

A Recovering Alcoholic Walks into a School…

…and to be more specific, “A recovering alcoholic with clinical depression, OCD, severe anxiety and bi-polar spectrum disorder walks into a school and does the best he can, and soon discovers he needs a lot of help.”

I’m out sick today, as I was yesterday, with some sort of illness that may very be the accumulation of stress at school. For those new to the blog, I teach English to 8th graders. The situation is, in a word, awful. I left public school years ago for definite reasons. Also, I was drinking myself blind in order to get through that time, a pattern which stayed when I moved onto a less stressful job environment.

I’m a good teacher, but my strength isn’t with middle-schoolers. It probably isn’t with high-schoolers, either, since I did that before and left completely disillusioned. Of course, I taught at an alternative school then, with an administration that supported only certain teachers. In my current situation, not only are the students a serious challenge, the county’s requirements for the teachers seem impossible to reach. I do best when I work with adults, teaching reading and writing, but there aren’t any schools in the area except one that offers that as a job. I worked there for five years and left because of the insane demands placed on teachers (seven classes per semester).

I wish my summer job search had yielded different results, but it didn’t. I took this job because I needed money. I was hopeful that I would find my niche in middle school, but that isn’t the case. I’m on the verge of severe panic attacks nearly daily and relying on a new medication to prevent them. Before work, I’m nauseous and sometime throw up. One morning, I sat in my car, pounded the steering wheel, and burst into tears.

I’m going to the doctor in a hour to see if I can get another effective medication that doesn’t carry the risk of dependency like the one I’m taking as a last resort (which is quickly becoming the only option). I’m also in the process of getting a psychiatrist to manage my meds.

I have to make it through the school year; breaking my contract isn’t an option. At this point, I’m not concerned about flourishing; I’m concerned about maintaining my sobriety and surviving. The only bright spots at my school are a few of my fellow teachers who know my situation and are supportive, and my great administration. I’m aware that I’m quite fortunate in that regard.

Perhaps if I can get my meds right, I’ll be able to move out of survival mode. I’m trying to be hopeful, but it’s hard.

I’ll take any positive thoughts, good vibes, and prayers. Thanks.