Four Years of Sobriety

My date is 1/1/17. I am a couple days late on this, since I am writing this post on 1/3/21.

How did I get to four years of sobriety?

  • Lots of hard work. I’ve been stressed and sad, and even had some thoughts of drinking, but I know what would happen if I did. My life would completely fall apart. I’ve come pretty far in the last four years and one drink would lead to more. That’s where things would go bad, and do so quickly. In the beginning of 2020, I almost relapsed. I was in a bad spot- I hated my job, which worsened the depression I was in. I didn’t want to get out of bed most days. I went back to therapy and got on meds. It took a couple of tries to get things right, but my meds work and I actually like getting out of bed. I know what my triggers are, and suprisingly, being around someone who is drinking isn’t one. It was for a couple of years, but give me a Cherry Coke and I am fine. I have plenty of friends who still drink, but they respect my choice not to. In fact, one of of my best friends decided to stop drinking not long ago and I am so proud of him.
  • Taking care of myself: I don’t have the option NOT to do this. I have two chronic illnesses- Rheumatoid Arthritis and Migraines (see Facts on Facts About RA: How it Affects My Life Chronic Conditions and Mommimg) so to be able to function, I have to take medications and see my specialists when I need to. At the moment, I have rheumatology appointments every two months and blood work is always involved. This is because my rheumatologist needs to be able to see if my meds are working and to watch certain things, like my liver. Clearly it has been through a few things. She is also watching my red blood cells super closely and has sent me to a hematologist. It also includes a ton of dental work, including having a wisdom tooth pulled and a small gynacological procedure in February. I can’t wait, because it means the end of having a period. Some women may be saddened, but I am ready to never have one again.
  • Therapy. Lots of therapy. This round is obviously a lot easier on me because I am not grieving and dealing with immense anger. I try my best to be a decent person but sometimes I’m tested. Sometimes I don’t even realize I am thinking something until I talk about it in therapy. I’m not sure I could have gotten through this pandemic without therapy. It will be a while before I go back to the office- my therapist is pregnant and is now doing telehealth exclusively.
  • Support. I have great friends and family support. This is so important to have- feeing alone in any circumstance is hard, but going through recovery alone? It doesn’t work like that.
  • Writing. I didn’t really expect to get this deep into writing but over four years, I have been able to expand my writing beyond this blog. That has been fun. It’s helped me grow as a writer.

I suppose this is my formula in staying sober- what is yours?

38 Things I Have Learned by Age 38

I am writing this the night before my 38th birthday, 12/29/2020.

It’s been a different kind of year for everyone so the only plans I have are not cooking dinner. Wings are looking GREAT right now!

As it turns out, I have learned a lot in life, most within the last decade.

Ready?

Let’s learn and share, like we did in Kindergarten.

The Big List

  1. Just be yourself. That’s it, everyone go home. I’m kidding! Being comfortable with myself hasn’t been easy, due to anxiety, depression and oh, yeah, staying in the closet. I may lose a few of you at this one, but I’m bisexual. I don’t remember a time in which I didn’t find myself attracted to women and men, but you know, this is Kentucky. I wasn’t ready to face it for years, but thanks to round two of therapy, here I am. Yes, Matthew is well aware. He told me he knew this before I said anything and that’s been it. That’s all I’m willing to go into with this topic. Those of you who do know me, HOW DID YOU MISS THIS ONE? I will let you live, but there’s a reason I love fashion, makeup and being messy in general. Please feel free to unfollow me if this irritates your soul.
  2. Vibes are a thing. I was having lunch with Sara recently and I told her that I was not catching good vibes from the story she was telling me. If there’s good vibes, then I am all for whatever, but bad vibes will mess up your whole life. Not worth it, not even a bit.
  3. Take care of your mental health. If you haven’t caught this idea by now, then you may want re-read a few posts. Mental health is important as physical health and there’s no shame in meds and/or therapy. I’m on meds and in therapy. Writing is therapy for me. Whatever it takes. You’re worth it.
  4. Find what you love and do it. This is in my Twitter bio. I have been super lucky in that I have worked in the mental health field my entire career. I considered Public Health, but mental health is really where I belong. It may take a while, but once you find what you love, doing it is even more fun. I left the job I loved the most, which broke my heart. I’ve found one other job that came close, but that ended after a complete 180 by the company. If I ever make it back to school, I think a MS in Clinical Psychology would be great.
  5. Help someone when you can, even if it is something small. I’ve taught the kids to do this. Everything helps, especially in the time we are in. I’ve given away two huge toy boxes that Matthew made by hand when the kids were little and were just taking up space. We give away clothes, to food drives, bail funds for protestors, and animal causes. We don’t have much to give, but we are glad to do what we can. I also believe in doing this while in recovery. I share my story when I can and hope it helps.
  6. Find out what your authentic is and live it. See #1. This didn’t really become a thing for me until after Jake died and I had to work through a lot of thoughts that I didn’t necessarily enjoy. I had to figure out who I was again and where I was going to go next. I started this blog as part of being authentic and open, and it’s helped me grow as a person. As Jake once told me, “Don’t ever be afraid to be yourself.” I didn’t get exactly what he meant when he said it, but I learned what that meant for him, at least somewhat, after his death.
  7. Food is good. Your body is good, no matter what shape it’s in. I seriously hated my body for a while, and at some point, I thought about what it had done for me. Why was I hating on myself so hard? I didn’t look like the women I saw online and reminded myself that those pics are photoshopped and they likely have a killer training schedule. I’ll stick to yoga, thanks.
  8. Sometimes things happen in life you didn’t plan for but there’s always a way to work around it. Lily is a huge example of this. We had no plans for a third kid but poof! She showed up in February 2008. I’ve got two chronic illnesses, both of which can ruin your life. I don’t let them ruin mine. I’m just trying to live my best life. The migraines aren’t as bad as they used to be and Humira is helping.
  9. When you land someone in your life that you never expected, hold on to the feelings and that person with all of your heart and both of your hands.
  10. Tell people how you feel. You may lose the chance and it’s difficult to forgive yourself for not saying the words. I have forgiven myself but it wasn’t an easy process.
  11. The hobbies that make you happy? Do them.
  12. Read. A lot. Even when your 14 year old son calls you a dork for doing so.
  13. Laugh. Everyday.
  14. Cherish the time you have with your kids, because you never know when puberty will arrive and that swet little girl is gone. You’re left with a SourPatch Kid.
  15. Take all the pictures of your kids.
  16. Learn new things. I’ve listened to a LOT of podcasts and now I know random things.
  17. Be easy on yourself. This is a hard one, but definitely worth working on.
  18. Don’t be a racist, sexist or any of those things. Not cool and honestly, you might really need to look at yourself before being proud of those things.
  19. Kids are a whole adventure. I don’t advise a two year or less age gap unless you really don’t like sleeping.
  20. Let those babies grow.
  21. Adopt, don’t shop. The hamsters were the only pets we ever bought. The rest were somehow rescued or given to us.
  22. When your life shatters, give yourself all the time you need to put everything back together. It took me two years.
  23. Celebrate the little and big things.
  24. As Kendrick Lamar said “Sit down, be humble.” He also said “we gon be alright”
  25. Go outside your comfort zone. I did this in my career, and I’m forever glad I did.
  26. Learn to accept compliments.
  27. Opposites really do attract. See my marriage.
  28. Love your kids for who they are, not who you want them to be.
  29. Meet you kids where they are. Julian and Lily taught me this. I’m not thrilled two of my kids have some sort of special needs, BUT I have always tried to meet them where they are. This was easier with Julian.
  30. Families are wild. Mine has had its moments.
  31. Family isn’t always family, especially if they are toxic as hell. I haven’t spoken to my dad in a year and I’m 100% okay with it. His loss, not mine.
  32. Sometimes going off IS the only option.
  33. When Fleetwood Mac is on, stfu.
  34. Your kid has a medical issue? Research and educate. I didn’t know what SVT was until Cameron was diagnosed. This goes for other diagnoses.
  35. Travel. It’s good for you.
  36. Find a cause you love and dive deep. Clearly my biggest two are autism and suicide awareness/prevention.
  37. Marrying your high school boyfriend is NOT all butterflies and rainbows. I’m still not sure I recommend it.
  38. Cats are the best.
  39. One day at a time.

Happy Birthday to me!

There May Be Hope After All

I’ve seen a lot of young kids do extremely dumb things. Remember my rant about Logan Paul and the suicide forest in Japan? If you don’t, Logan Paul’s Mistake  may be a good reminder.

Lots of us hear things all the time about the generation that our kids are growing up in and I’ve thought a lot about this, maybe because my kids are teens. Maybe I just think a lot in general? Who knows.

Lily and I talk on our way to her OT appointments every week, it’s a 15 minute drive, so this is a time for us to chat alone. Today she and I were talking about trying to get her friends’ numbers on her new tablet. It turns out that she had just gotten numbers for two of her friends, who have mental health issues. She told me that she had been worried about them because she hadn’t heard from either lately.

“Mom, I don’t want to lose another friend to suicide.”

Lily will be 13 in February.

No teen, or child in general, should have to deal with that kind of loss, but earlier in the year, one of Lily’s friends completed suicide. She took it hard but has been able to move forward.

This hurts my heart. Throughout my life, I’ve lost an uncle, my dad is an attempt survivor and I’ve lost a handful of friends to suicide. Many of my closest friends have had suicidal thoughts. The suicide loss that impacted me the most, of course, is Jake. My dad’s attempt is a close second because 10-year-old me found him. I’ve been able to process both and move forward, but I’m never going to be the same.

I told her that her friends are lucky to have such a caring friend, because she has a huge heart. She loves to help people, so I can see her going into that area of work. It shows that she actually has been paying attention all these years while I’ve worked tirelessly in the mental health field and gotten involved with the AFSP. But yet, my heart hurts for her.

We become engaged in a passion sometimes when things happen to us that are completely out of our control. For example, several of the kids that unfortunately were victims of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting have gone on to become activists. Cameron Kasky has an amazing Twitter, if you’re on there. I wouldn’t be surprised if one of them gets into political office.

I’ve been passionate about mental health and suicide prevention for years, but after losing Jake, I felt like I needed to do something. I speak up more than I used to, became and AFSP volunteer and started this blog. I’ve always said that if my writing helps even one person, then I have accomplished my mission- to educate and hopefully, someone thinks again.

I just wish that Lily didn’t feel the need to worry so much about her friends. That just isn’t the world we live in. If more kids band together and take care of each other, I think they may do well in the future. I see articles all the time about kids who organize food and clothing drives because they want to help other kids. There’s kids who are out there trying to save the planet, literally. I think it’s fantastic. All we can really do as parents is encourage them to do what makes them happy and generally good people.

I guess this is a sign that I must be doing something “right” with at least one kid. It’s hard to see this sometimes and I wonder everyday about this. Clearly, parenting is full of surprises. This is a good one.

Living With Yourself

It can be extremely difficult to live a “normal” life when you have any illness that impacts your daily life, physical and/or mental. Sometimes you have to miss things that you are really looking foward to, sometimes you forget your limits and pay for it later. I’ve done both. When these things occur, it can be hard to keep a good opinion of yourself.

In this post, I want to explore four questions that everyone can ask themselves, whether changes are needed or not. It’s good to reflect while moving forward without messing up your progress.

  1. What have I missed because of mental health issues?

I’ve missed out on a lot, actually. I’ve had some form of anxiety and/or depression since I was a teen. Over the years, I’ve probably missed out on more than I can list but here are a few:

-My friend Karyl Anne’s wedding. She got married not long after Jake died, and I couldn’t handle being around so many former coworkers. Mallory was one of her bridesmaids and I knew it would be a bad idea to go. Thankfully, she understood.

-Career opportunities. I don’t think I am manager material and am comfortable with the positions I have held. I have turned down things that I don’t think I can handle because my anxiety would get out of control. No job is worth all that.

-Fun times with my friends. Sometimes it’s been just because I didn’t know everyone involved in the event, sometimes it was because I didn’t want to leave the safety of my house. Scott almost dragged me out of my house in early 2016, and I’m totally grateful for that. I am going to miss him so much when he leaves for his new job out of state in a couple of weeks, but it’s going to be a great experience for him. Honestly, there were many times that I just didn’t feel like doing anything, no matter how fun it sounded.

2. What are the signs that you are struggling?

-Lack of motivation. I struggle with this anyway, thanks to anxiety. My therapist and I are working on ways to lower expectations and strain on myself. If my to-do list is too long, I just don’t want to do anything. I shut down. If it’s a day that I don’t have much to do and I still don’t want to do anything, I just take it easy on myself and cheer myself on when something is done.

-Pulling back from people. My friends know when I’m not doing well- Sara and I are great at checking in with each other. It’s probably because of how we met and built our friendship- making sure we were okay emotionally while processing grief. If one of us is quiet for a day or so, the first thing we ask is “You okay or no?” Matthew can also tell. He’s known me for almost 22 years, so it’s not hard for him to realize this even when I try to hide my feelings. I even hang out in my room more and want the kids to leave me alone. My motivation at work is even affected.

-Sleeping more or less than usual. I usually take naps when I need one, because RA is exhausting. In this case, I mean having problems going to sleep at night (not pain-related) because my brain won’t shut down. I also mean sleeping more to escape thinking about what is bothering me.

-Eating more or less than usual. If I am extremely anxious, I don’t eat a lot. My stomach usually hurts too badly to do so. If I am feeling down, there’s a chance I will eat more to drown my feelings. This is probably how I gained 50 lbs over about a year.

3. Biggest struggle with mental health?

Going back to therapy earlier this year. I didn’t have much of a choice because it was that or potentially relapse. I was in a very dark place in my mind and couldn’t see my way out of it. I didn’t want to keep going anymore and knew something had to change. I didn’t have much of an issue getting on meds, that part isn’t upsetting to me. This is probably because I knew that I needed it. I felt like I had failed by going back to therapy, but I didn’t. Sometimes you just need an extra boost. Currently, my therapist is pregnant so we just went back to telehealth. It really isn’t the same as in person, but it’s still doable.

Trying to explain how I see things can be difficult. Even in 2020, some people just don’t get it.

4. What have you achieved in spite of mental health issues?

I will have four years sobriety on 1/1/21. That’s big. I don’t count days, I count years. It’s much easier for my non math brain to work with. I’m fully aware that if my mental health goes to hell, so does my sobriety. That’s it. I have to stay emotionally okay to stay sober. If that means therapy and meds, well, it means therapy and meds. If I can stay sober through this, I think I’m doing pretty well.

Raising these kids- I am trying to get us through a global pandemic in the best way I can. It’s stressful to have teens anyway, but that has been a huge stumbling block. I think Matthew and I have done a good job raising decent kids. We have certainly tried. They’re smart, funny and caring, each in their own ways. I just hope they follow their dreams and live good lives.

Working part-time and being okay with it. I have realized my limits with RA, which was difficult and a career-changer. I have worked full time since 2007 and it was a hard decision to slow down. I can’t do the work I loved so much anymore, so I’ve had to find other work that I enjoy. I’ve been able to do so, which is great. I’ve had to accept that it’s not that I don’t want to, but that I can’t hold up to full time work right now, even if it’s a desk job. I’ve found that part-time really isn’t that bad, especially right now. Being home with the kids during NTI has been helpful.

I still have a full life- friends, family and cats that I love. That makes me lucky.

How would you answer these questions?

Pre-Holiday Check-In 2020

I’m back with another pre-holiday check-in. It has been a weird year. My mom has cancelled Thanksgiving at her house- she still doesn’t feel great and would be heartbroken if she got any of us sick. My niece’s kids are young, I have RA and one of my sisters has lupus. This is a good idea, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t suck. We are going to do a video chat.

Plus, for the first time ever, I’m making Thanksgiving dinner. Matthew has wanted to deep fry a turkey, so it looks like he gets his chance. I’m working on sides and desserts. The kids will help cook, so this should be a blast.

I’m also doing video chats with Sara, Tyson and Ashley. It’s the best option we have right now.

Physically:

I started Humira injections in September- one shot every 2 weeks. This isn’t a bad schedule. I can’t even see the needle and it barely hurts, so I can live with it. It’s too early to tell if I have responded well or not, but as of my 11/2 rheumatologist visit, things are good so far. I may even be able to discontinue Plaquenil early next year.

Meanwhile, I am about two hours from a hematologist visit. I’ve never been to one but thanks to my last set of labs, I’m getting some extensive blood work done. Yuck. I did get my flu and pneumonia shots and I’m still bruised, almost two weeks later. I was mildly anemic before my RA diagnosis, but apparently, it’s gotten worse. It’s that or RA has really damaged my red blood cells, which at this point, wouldn’t surprise me. It affects more than just joints- it also affects organs, eyes and just about anything else you can think of. I was diagnosed 3 years ago at the end of this month.

Working part-time is great and all, but it exhausts me. Today is Wednesday, the day of the week that I take it easy on myself after working 4 days in a row, two of them being late evenings. It’s a great job- I can wear pretty much whatever I want, I get paid well and it’s been fun so far. Plus my boss, Billy, is great. That always helps. My coworkers are a lot of fun. There aren’t many of us so we try to take care of each other.

Sobriety:

I’m sitting at 3 years, 10 months and 10 days as of the date of this post. Staying sober during a global pandemic is rough and I have certainly had thoughts about drinking BUT I know what happens if I do. Things go badly very quickly.

My job helps a lot- I’m a behavioral health technician at a sober living facility. Helping my clients helps me keep things in perspective.

Emotionally:

I’m still in therapy. I can be found at my therapist’s office on Fridays at 3 PM. It’s going well.

My psychiatric nurse practitioner was a bit worried about serotonin syndrome (you can read up on Google- it’s not pretty) so I am currently switching from Prozac and Effexor (migraine prevention) to Cymbalta. I felt like complete crap a few days ago, but I’m feeling better. My neurologist was okay with the change and Cymbalta works for both migraine prevention and mental health issues. I’ll let you know how this goes.

I do miss seeing my friends and family. I’m constantly stressed over my kids’ schoolwork- Cameron is way behind in some of his classes and I know he can do it. I’m worried that he will not graduate on time in 2023 if he doesn’t pass everything. Usually, I’m good with A/Bs, but at this point, I just want them to pass their classes. I’m also worried about getting COVID-19. If i do get it, I’m not sure what happens next because my immune system isn’t close to being able to handle it.

What’s Next?

I’m unsure. I’m good, work wise. It’s the first time since I left Peace that I think I may have found something I really like. This has done a lot for my outlook on life in general.

My 38th birthday is 12/29. I have to work that day so I don’t have plans at the moment.

These kids? I have no idea. Cameron will be turning 16 around the time I do the Post Holiday Update. Kentucky law requires that he pass all of his classes and hang on to the permit for a year. Matthew is handling driving classes because I’m definitely not the parent for this.

I’m hoping that things become less stressful and more fun. Like every parent out there, I am just doing the best I can.