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?

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.

2020 Post-Holiday Check-In

I entirely forgot to do one of these before the holidays so here goes:

Physically: I spent a week in a flare that required steroids. That’s the first time I’ve had to get them, but have had a different kind for migraines. The steroids helped and I’m good.

I went in for labs- my liver and kidneys are good. Yay for my liver cooperating. I’m on Vitamin D now but otherwise my other meds stay the same.

Sobriety:

I have three years as of 1/1/2020. This is and has not been easy. I struggled a lot with wanting a drink but it isn’t worth it. Plus, I gotta keep my liver in good shape so it can tolerate these meds.

Emotional:

Ugh. I’ve been a huge mess off and on for the last couple months. I’ve decided to go back to therapy, but this time with someone who can prescribe meds. I think it’s time.

I had a really hard time accepting that I need to go back to therapy. I felt like I failed at my promise to finish Jake’s work. As a friend told me, I did fulfill that promise, and it’s okay to need a bit of extra help.

She’s right.

I also struggled with telling Matthew and my close friends. I felt (and sometimes still do) feel like I should have myself together and that I’ve bothered everyone plenty over the last few years.

I did tell them and I cried for a while because they support me. Good thing I wear waterproof mascara because that day’s would have been ruined.

I’m not even sure what happened. I’ve tried to figure it out, but I can’t live my best life if I’m constantly anxious, sad and not wanting to get out of bed. I have been a lot happier so I know what it feels like.

My first session is on 1/8/2020.

What’s Next?

I couldn’t begin to tell you. I’m not sure about the job I’m at right now for numerous reasons. I got an email for an interview for a position that I’ve previously applied for twice and never got a response.

It starts with a phone interview, which I definitely prefer. Cross your fingers and toes.

Today is Matthew’s 37th birthday. Cameron will be 15 on 1/7/2020. Yuck. Where did the last 15 years go? My little 7 lb, 5 oz baby is now 5’7″ and weighs as much as I do.

There will be a book review this month.

Stay tuned to find out what comes next.

Silly Saturday

Yoga cat

I laughed so hard at this pic when I found it.

I attend a Y12SR (Yoga 12 Steps for Recovery) class most Sundays. It’s a class for those in recovery or who are dealing with the addictive behaviors of others.

I love it. I don’t miss unless I have a good reason.

There’s only two of these classes in Louisville, so in smaller locations, there might not be any. I happened to find this class randomly on Facebook. I’m glad I did.

The instructor for this class has this face on every week. She does not play with us.

This is good, because as she always tells us, we can do hard things.

I’ll remind myself of this when I have a hip replacement because I spent too much time in the half pigeon pose. I hate the half pigeon. If you’ve never seen it, please look on Google and you will understand why I don’t enjoy it or its easier version.

I’m on that mat fully aware she’s ready to push us to our physical limits. This is a hard workout for me but I truly enjoy it. It’s 45 minutes of not thinking about anything but the next pose and breathing.

I probably look like hell in the process but I didn’t go to this class to be pretty. I leave class more relaxed and ready to face the week.

Pic courtesy of Pinterest