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?

A Year-End Reflection

2020 has been a complete dumpster fire.

In this house, we have gone through quarantine, saying goodbye to Tails very unexpectedly and then getting Shadow, online school and the joys of Lily starting puberty.

That’s just a short list.

2021 looks a bit better, starting with Cameron turning 16. I do not know where these years have gone, but in two years, my oldest kid will be grown and I really don’t know how I feel about that. Part of me is happy, part of me is sad. Cameron has been so much fun to raise, especially after he figured out how to sleep. SVT hasn’t stopped him much, which was the idea.

The idea of him driving is scary. He’s a young black kid, whether he looks like it or not. I can’t even think of him being pulled over, which is almost worse to think about than an accident. I just think about the other young black kids getting shot by police senselessly. In the end, I want him to come home safely. We have already talked to him about what to do if he does get pulled over. It’s not a talk I wanted to have, but one that was necessary.

But first, he has to get his grades up! Online school isn’t for every student. Cameron is one of those kids that hasn’t done well, even though he is fully capable of doing the work. I’m hoping they go back to school in January, but whenever they do, Sara and I are going to feast on wings.

I don’t like looking into the future much, but it does give me hope.

I’m having a procedure to stop my periods in February and I am excited. I’ve been done with my issues and cannot wait to never have a period again. I mean, who wants to have a period? I don’t know one woman who does.

My cousin Julia, one of my favorite people on the planet, is getting married in the Keys on 4/3/21 and I am her matron of honor. I am so happy for her and Jenna, plus the Keys sounds fantastic.

On 1/1/21, I will have four years of sobriety. This is fantastic- I’ve stayed sober through a pandemic! Thanks to therapy, meds and a great support system, I am okay most of the time. I still crack jokes about drinking, but everyone around me knows it’s just jokes. This time last year, I almost relapsed, so I am super proud of myself.

The Fun Challenge

2020 has been all about keeping busy.

During the pandemic and social distancing, I have actually improved my cooking skills. I’ve joked for years about my cooking and the smoke alarm near the kitchen, but I haven’t burnt anything in a while. We even got an air fryer, which everyone has enjoyed. It’s pretty simple to use.

Thanks to Lily working with a dietician, we learned a few things to help her eat healthier and work on losing weight. I wouldn’t have pushed this idea, but her pediatrician was worried, so here we are. She’s lost about 10 lbs, and her weight gain has slowed, which is great. I’ve been making snacks and other foods from scratch, and weirdly enough, it helps my stress.

I’ve gotten back into crafts, worked on organization and of course, lots of coloring, reading and podcasts have been involved. Working has really helped because I actually get out of the house. The kids and I have almost daily Uno games and I’ve bought another card game and two board games as Christmas presents. Online school has been a bust, but we are trying. That’s all we can do, right?

Making chicken pot pies and flower pens

I have been able to look back and think about where I have been and where I want to go next. I’m still not 100% sure on school, but never mind the MPH. Public Health workers have been ignored and not taken seriously during a pandemic, so why on Earth would I dedicate my work to that field? I have no interest in epidemiology but as a whole, the field is looked down upon. I’ve decided that I’d rather go for a MA in Clinical Psychology. I can still do what I want to do and I think it may better suit me in general.

Writing is still a priority for me. I have joined up with a new local parenting website, so I will be adding those links to my “Where to Find Me” page. It’s been pretty cool so far. I will probably keep my writing to this blog and a couple of side projects but that’s it.

It’s a good thing I am so funny and try to see the humor in everything because this year has tested everyone. I’ll end this with some memes because who doesn’t want to laugh?

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?

A Tribute to Tails

Seven years ago, we got a tiny kitten that Cameron named Tails.

Matthew and I had decided that it was time for a pet, mainly to help Julian build relationships.

It worked. From the day we brought him home until he was unfortunately euthanized, Tails and Julian were best friends.

Not liking the new guy (Tiger)

The Big Floof

Tails loved chicken, no matter how it showed up. He once ate a tender and took my fork with it. If it was chicken night, he sat in a chair ready to eat.

Like most cats, Tails hated belly rubs and you could only pet him so much before he started scratching. He was infamous for his sneak attacks.

When Miss Purr showed up, he wasn’t initially a fan, but they ended up getting along well. This did not happen with Tiger. He really didn’t like Tiger, especially after the one time he barked at him.

We loved Tails, even if he was a little on the mean side and snatched our chicken. He also loved treats. Any kind. It didn’t matter as long as Matthew gave him his treats every night.

A Very Bad Morning

It took me almost two weeks to write this post because I was so crushed.

Everyone woke up on the Saturday after my wisdom tooth removal and the cats came upstairs as usual, but one major thing was wrong.

Tails was dragging himself up the stairs.

I immediately yelled for Matthew and we got him into a carrier. I took him to the vet, while he howled the whole way.

I thought maybe it was a jump gone bad and he’d broken something. A little while later, the vet called me while I sat in my car (thank you, coronavirus). As it turns out, Tails had a blood clot on his hear that we weren’t aware of. Unfortunately, part of the blood clot broke off, cutting off circulation to his back legs. His legs were cold when the vet examined him.

It’s called saddle thrombosis and it is almost always fatal for cats. The only options were to let him stay in the hospital, where he would likely die, or euthanize him.

I called Matthew and we decided that Tails wasn’t going to suffer more than he was and that euthanasia was the best but hardest option.

A paw print

I sat with Tails for a few minutes before the vet started. I sobbed while holding him and saying goodbye. I would miss the fluffy guy. After he died, I sat alone in the “comfort room” shocked and sad. I drove home with the carrier next to me, but no cat inside.

When I got home, I saw the boys on the couch.

“I am so sorry.” That’s all I could say. The house was quiet that day and everyone took a nap. None of us felt like doing anything. The following day was a quiet one. I went to get Tails’ ashes a few days later and burying him was hard. I let Julian take over that because he was Tails’ human. He is near Tiger.

Losing a pet is difficult, especially one that’s been in the family for years. I’ve made dinner with chicken since and it’s sad to hear the can opener without Tails running from wherever hoping I will throw him a piece of chicken. We are looking for a new friend for Miss Purr. She misses Tails a lot, she’s never been here without him.

Everyone misses Tails, even my mom. She’s not a fan of cats but said she missed him being at the door when she came over a couple of days ago. Hopefully our next cat is as funny and hungry as Tails was.

Go eat all the chicken and hang out with Tiger. You were a very good kitty, Tails.

It Feels So Heavy

I wonder sometimes how I continue to get out of bed everyday.

If it weren’t for Prozac, the kids and my job, I’m not sure that I would be able to.

I woke up this morning feeling like an elephant was sitting on my chest. I fell asleep last night with the same feeling.

Anxiety creeps in when you don’t expect or want it.

Not Sure Where I’m Going With This

Dyspraxia is a neurological issue in which your body doesn’t always get the messages that your brain is sending. It leads to problems with motor planning, which leads to many kinds of issues for kids.

Lily’s issues are with motor planning, which explains why she took so long learning how to ride a bike and does not like most physical activities. There’s also issues with speech but clearly that’s not an issue. Speech therapy paid off.

One of the biggest parts that bother me about this is that it’s a developmental disorder, a major criteria is premature birth and delays as a baby/toddler.

For those of you late to the story, Lily was born at 37 weeks and 1 day- barely. I went into labor twice before she was born, at 31 weeks and three days before she was born. It was a complicated pregnancy.

In 2008, full term was considered to be 37 weeks and beyond. In 2020, Lily would be a late preemie, since anything short of 40 weeks is considered premature.

Lily had multiple delays and here we are 12 years later, again facing an uncertain path.

Luckily, I have a lot of friends on Facebook. I talked to two of them about this. One is another mom and the other is a former coworker who was diagnosed last year as an adult.

It turns out Lily and the other girl are a lot alike and if we didn’t live an hour apart, we would probably get them together. It felt great to have someone to talk to who gets it.

We talked about school, personalities and adulthood. One of my biggest worries is that Lily won’t be able to live independently as an adult. I may end up going for guardianship. (I may do this for Julian, but that remains to be seen.) I was so glad to talk to her.

The former coworker told me that her parents didn’t quite get her issues when she was a kid. She was also bullied in school because of her physical difficulties, as in gym class. I hated to hear that.

I’m not 100% sure on what to do, I can do my best, right?

I emailed Lily’s pediatrician to get a referral to get a neurological evaluation. I think that would be a hugely helpful step. Ironically, the place I asked for is part of the neurology practice Cameron and I go to for migraines.

She’s staying in OT as long as her insurance covers it. She’s doing well and enjoys her sessions. I laugh at this because when she was a toddler, she would completely lose it when the OT had her do certain tasks. The irony is not lost here.

Whenever school opens, I’m going to request a meeting with her teachers so they can give me input for the neurological evaluation.

There are things that Lily can do at home to help her skills, for example, applying makeup can help with fine motor skills. I have time and eyeshadow that I don’t use. Bam.

Most of all, I will need to work more on my patience with Lily. This is a hard one sometimes but definitely worth doing. There will be good and bad days. We just have to keep trying.