Please let me off this ride

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Last Thursday I was sitting and having lunch in the breakroom at work.  I was talking to a friend, when I started to feel funny.  I was just finishing a piece of pizza when I began to think that I might faint.  I have fainted before, every time I have to give blood, so I know what that feels like.  But, unlike the times when I have fainted, the darkness around the edges of my vision never came.  The dizziness and unease just stayed.  I felt like a car that was out of alignment, pulling hard to one side.  I didn’t say anything until we got up to head back to work, then I told my friend that I was feeling weird and that if I passed out to please try to keep my head from hitting the ground.  She wasn’t really comfortable with that, so we stopped in a classroom for me to sit on the way.  Luckily, I work at a school that teaches various medical programs.  So one of the instructors came to check my blood pressure (it was fine) and give me the once over.  I could see the concern in her eyes, but after a few minutes I felt better and I went back to work.

As I sat at my desk, I was afraid that there was something really wrong with me, like I was having a stroke or that I had a brain tumor that had been quietly growing and  was just now starting to cause problems.  I can always count on my alcoholic thinking to come up with the worst scenarios!  My coworkers kept a close eye on me throughout the afternoon, and I tried my best to put on a brave face, and to act like everything was ok, that whatever had come over me was some sort of fluke and that it wouldn’t happen again.  I even made jokes about it, trying to minimize the catastrophizing that was going on in my mind.  I was really worried though.

I made it through the afternoon, only having a couple of minor “episodes” of the dizziness.  Each time, I would feel a pulling to my right side and I would feel like I couldn’t sit or stand up straight.  It felt like the room was moving and that I wasn’t ale to keep up with it.  Fortunately, I was sitting down when it happened.  I thought that I would make it through the rest of my work day, it was almost 5:00, when the mother of all dizzy spells hit me.  I panicked.  I didn’t want to yell across the administration area for someone to come help me, so I started trying to dial the extensions of various coworkers, all while I felt like I was going to fall out of my chair.  I couldn’t concentrate on the buttons on the phone with my vision, because I was seeing double, I had to go by feel.  Finally, after several attempts, I got someone and she came running.  It wasn’t long until I had just about every medical program director surrounding me in my office.  I was too dizzy and disoriented to be embarrassed over all of the attention (that would come later, as I was pushed out of the school in a wheelchair), I was absolutely terrified.  They took me into one of the labs that students use to practice their patient technician skills and gathered around me.  Now I really saw looks of concern.  Again, my blood pressure was fine.  They checked my blood sugar, it was fine too.  I was near tears, wondering what the hell was wrong with me when my husband got there.  It was decided that I better go to the emergency room.

My friend that I had been having lunch with earlier and my husband went with me to the hospital.  After waiting for about 3 hours, I was finally taken for a blood test and put in a room, where they started me on an IV.  They did an EKG, and it was fine.  And then they took me for a CT scan, and it was fine.  I was starting to feel a little better, it looked like I hadn’t had a stroke and that there wasn’t a brain tumor.  The doctor came to see me and did some examining, testing my motor skills and such, asking me to stand, balance on one foot, etc. with my eyes closed.  After a bit, he determined that I was experiencing vertigo.

VERTIGO!!!  Wtf?  I thought vertigo was something that little old ladies had from time to time.  Something that made them a little off balance, but that wasn’t really that bad.  I remember my grandmother saying that she needed to take her “dizzy pills” sometimes when I was a kid, but I never remember her being crazy dizzy like I had just been.  I guess I should be thankful that her dizzy pills worked, because the doctor prescribed the same medication for me.

This week I have to go to a balance clinic, so that they can try to determine the cause of my vertigo, and come up with a plan to treat it.  I am not looking forward to it as I understand that in order to determine the cause, they have to induce the vertigo, and I really don’t want that. But I will put on my big girl panties and go.  I just hope that they can fix it.

The good news in all of this is that I really felt how much everyone at work cares for me.  I was terrified and panicky and worried, and in seconds, I was surrounded by concerned friends.  They took care of me and reassured me that everything was going to be alright, held my hands, tried to get me to laugh, and generally helped me through the chaos of the moment.  I am so blessed to have great friends and for that I am very, very grateful.

I would really appreciate hearing other’s experiences with vertigo.  I am concerned that I will have more episodes, and I am really scared.  I have never felt so out of control of my body (and I’m a drunk, for crying out loud!), and I’m filled with anxiety that I will have to feel that again.  Hearing your experience, strength, and hope about this would be really helpful to me.

On being sick…

I don’t think I have ever posted twice in one day, but today I am going to.  There has been something on my mind these last few days besides prayer and meditation.  You see, I’ve been sick.  Not seriously sick, just what seems to be a head cold or sinus infection.  The creeping crud has not yet made its way to my lungs, and I really hope that it doesn’t.  I haven’t been sick enough to stay home from work, although I would’ve liked to.  I have had to cancel some plans with friends and let some of my chores at home go so that I could get some rest.  And I’ve been sleeping a lot.

So, what has been on my mind?  Well, since I began to feel under the weather, I have had this under-the-surface feeling of guilt and shame and failure.  I felt it toward the end of last week when I had to cancel plans with a friend from work because I was feeling crappy.  I felt it on Friday when I was at work, because even though I was getting my work done, I could feel myself moving slower than normal and not working as efficiently as I usually do.  I felt it when I got home from work and asked Austin if we could order in pizza because I was too tired and grumpy to make dinner.

Why was I feeling that way?  I certainly can’t help it if I get sick, so why am I feeling bad about it?

The answer hit me yesterday.  It’s because when I was drinking, I used to feel sick all the time.  I would stay in bed as much as I could to nurse my self-inflicted illnesses until I was better enough to go self-medicate again.  I was not a maintenance drinker, so there were plenty of times that my hangovers would do me in for days.  I would lay in bed feeling like I was going to die, wishing that I would, all the while telling those around me that I was sick.  And then, as I did my best to sleep the day away, the guilt and shame would set in.  I didn’t have to only lay there in my physical pain, but the emotional pain too.  I can remember thinking to myself, “You did it again, and you deserve to feel like crap.  What a miserable failure you are.”

So really, is it any wonder that now, when I am legitimately sick, my emotions go right back to that old familiar place?  Probably not.  It’s like muscle memory, or something.  My body does X, so my mind does Y.  I figured out yesterday that I have to remember to tell myself the truth when little things like this come up.  I am not doing the same old destructive things that I did when I was drinking.  Me having a cold does not make me a loser; spending extra time resting and sleeping when I’m sick doesn’t mean I’m a failure; I don’t have to feel guilty about being sick.  Geez, normal people get sick too!  (Not that I’m normal now, by any stretch of the imagination!)

Anyway, I’m off for a nap….and I’m not going to feel bad about it!

Healthy Habit #2 – A Month of Meditation

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The month of February brings Healthy Habit #2 – Meditation.  It seems that I’m not the only one that has decided to give meditation a try.  Kristen over at Bye Bye Beer is also working on meditation, and Lucy at Soberistas is posting some great information about mindful meditation.  I’m keeping my eye on both, to be sure.

I hear such great things about meditation in the rooms of AA.  Step 11 is, “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.”  The fact that it is right there in one of the 12 steps, tells me that meditation is both important and beneficial to the recovering alcoholic.  I have carefully and thoughtfully worked my way through the steps with my sponsor, but somehow, up until now, I have managed to leave the meditation piece out.  I feel like my conscious contact with God is continually improving through prayer, I am doing well sharing my thoughts, needs and thanks with God.  But I have heard so many times that meditation opens the door for God to speak to us, instead of the other way around.  I haven’t felt that yet.  So, I thought it was high time to give meditation a try.

Outside of the rooms of AA, meditation is practiced for a lot of reasons, stress-relief being the chief among them.  Meditation can help you to learn to be mindful and present in your everyday life; to simply be.  Some of the meditation websites that I visited also say that there can be physical and mental health benefits.  It can improve your focus, memory, self-control, academic performance, as well as improving metabolism, heart rate and blood pressure.

All of that makes it sound like meditation might just be the best thing since sliced bread!  I don’t mean to sound skeptical, but it sounds too good to be true.  All of that said, I am giving it a try (because I have been skeptical about a lot of things.  For example:  the grace of God, the power of prayer, Alcoholics Anonymous, journaling as a form of self-awareness, taking medication for psychiatric issues…and I have been proven wrong on all of those!).

The first step in my search for peace and mindfulness was to decide which type of meditation I was going to try.  There are a bunch out there, and different things work for different people.  I decided to take a look at three different types, the ones that didn’t seem too far out there, for me.  First, there is guided meditation, in which you are assisted by a teacher or guide to talk you through your meditation, helping you to refocus as your mind drifts.  Second, is mindful meditation, which is about being aware of the sounds and activities happening around you as you let your thoughts flow, without judgement and without trying to shut them down.  And lastly, there is mantra meditation, in which you choose a calming word or phrase and repeat it over and over, either to yourself, or aloud, to prevent distracting thoughts from entering your mind.

To start with, I chose guided meditation. It seems like anything that has “guided”  in front of it is a good place to start.  I found a lot  of youtube videos that offered guided meditation, and I downloaded a couple of meditation apps to my phone.  Ultimately, I chose one of the apps to start with.  My decision was based solely on the way the guide’s voice sounded.  I picked the one that was the most soothing to me.  There are different lengths that I can set the app to, ranging from 3 – 30 minutes.  I started with 5.  Each morning, for the last nine days, I have gotten out of bed, made coffee, written in my journal and then sat down in my comfy wing-back chair to meditate.  I’m the only one up at that time, so I don’t have to worry about distractions, but I use my earbuds nonetheless.

I am, for 5 minutes, able to focus on what my guide is saying.  I can concentrate on what she asks me to, whether it is my breathing or how my body feels, or pushing distracting thoughts away.  It is relaxing, and mindful, and peaceful!  And the 5 minutes goes by very quickly (I think I am ready to up it to 10 minutes).  I also have to admit that there is a feeling of calm that stays with me for a little while after I am finished.  I also feel a sense of quiet focus…not like I am having to work at it, but rather my mind feels comfortable focusing on whatever task is at hand.  My mornings have been like that for the past few days, but somewhere during the day, I lose that peaceful feeling.  I thought that perhaps that meant that I should try adding another meditation session somewhere in the middle of the day.  However, both days that I tried that, I ended up falling asleep.  Ah, progress, not perfection!

I will keep meditating and I will try the other two methods, and let you know how it goes.

Namaste   😉

You are my sunshine….

Sunshine Award

I am so excited to have received the Sunshine Award from Tracy over at Wanderlust! Thank you so much for the honor, Tracy.   I obviously love the sunshine, which is why I live in Arizona…so what a perfect gift to receive.  If you have a minute please give Tracy’s blog a look, her photography is truly breathtaking.

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As with any award, there are rules! I will do my best to honor this tradition.

To accept the award, the awardee must do the following:

  • Display the award on your blog.
  • Announce your win with a post and thank the blogger who nominated you.
  • Present 10 deserving bloggers “who positively and creatively inspire others in the blogosphere.”
  • Link to the awardees and let them know of the nomination.
  • List 10 interesting things about yourself.

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10 interesting things about me:

  1. I am a dog person.  I don’t hate cats, but I find them aloof and boring.  These are my babies:
Gilbert and Lucy

This is Gilbert and Lucy. They love each other.

And Benson, their son...not sure where the black and white came from...

And Benson, their son…not sure where the black and white came from…

2.  I learned how to knit by watching youtube videos.  So I now have about 127 scarves, and I live in the desert…go figure.

3.  I am short…really short (5′ 0″), so I often use tongs to reach things up high, unless my tall husband is around.

4.  I love mornings.  I get up at about 4:30 am each day so that I have time to enjoy them.  It’s my time to journal, and pray, and meditate.  Oh, and my time to drink lots and lots of coffee.

5.  When I am at home, I wear my husband’s clothes.  There is nothing more comfortable than his sweats and over-sized (well, for me anyway) sweatshirt.

6.  I love made-for-TV movies.  I know, I shouldn’t admit that.  But they always have a happy ending.

7.  I wish I could write poetry.  I love to read it, but I don’t feel like my attempts at writing it have ever been successful, or that I have produced anything that people would want to read.  Maybe my vocabulary isn’t big enough…

8.  I love to bake.  Cookies, breads, cakes, anything sweet.  It relieves my stress and I love sharing it with others.  I try to limit how much and how often I bake though, or I would weigh 650 lbs.

9.  Jesus, my husband, and AA have saved my life.  I am blessed and grateful.

10.  I am silly and goofy.  Almost all of the time.  And I love other people’s silliness.  Life gets way too serious so much of the time…why not have fun?

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And now for the important part – here are the bloggers that I would like to present with the Sunshine Award.  I mainly read recovery and faith-based blogs, and these are some of the best I’ve seen:

My recovery would not be where it is today without these bloggers.  I am so blessed to have found this wonderful online community of knowledge, love and support.  🙂

Making Prayer a Habit – Healthy Habit #1

February is here, so it is time for me to give you all an update on Healthy Habit #1 – Prayer.  As I wrote in my last post, I made a commitment to praying out loud each morning with my husband using our prayer beads.  My hope was that our daily prayer would become a habit and that we would continue to grow in God, and closer to one another.  I started off by doing some research about the benefits of couples praying together and I was immediately happy with the healthy habit that I chose.  Here are some things I found out:

  • Prayer Unites Couples.  Praying with your spouse provides spiritual unity through God, and spiritual unity is a tie that binds us to one another and is not easily broken.
  • Prayer Promotes Emotional Intimacy.  When couples pray together, they are not only inviting communication with God, but also with one another.
  • Prayer Keeps You Humbled.  Praying together is a humbling experience.  It’s easy to be humble before God when we pray on our own, but being able to ask for help, or strength, or mercy while praying together requires humility and vulnerability.
  • Prayer Gives Hope.  When your hearts are in unity with God’s good and perfect will, then your prayers will always be answered.  Regardless of you actually getting what you prayed for.

After reading these things, I was all in, and, after a month of daily prayer, I have to say that I experienced all of those things.  My husband and I have a very strong, fulfilling, happy marriage.  That said, I did (do) experience a stronger sense of unity and humility when we pray together.  The act of sitting together, heads bowed, eyes closed, approaching God as one instead of individually, was extremely intimate.  Talking about what we wanted to pray about extemporaneously before getting started was definitely an act of humility.  Being able to tell one another, “here is what I need help with today,” or, “I need to pray about (fill in the blank), because I am really struggling,”  is much more difficult than baring our souls to God on our own.  All in all, it has been a beautiful experience…one of growing in God together.

Another benefit that I have found is that when we pray together, we remember to pray for others.  I’ve heard it said that the biggest lie that comes from Christians is, “I’ll pray for you.”  I have said it before myself, and then forgotten, or just thrown up a few words to God in passing.  This month, whenever I said that phrase to someone, I was able to keep my word because Austin and I talked about who and what we were going to pray for beforehand.  The prayers were more thoughtful and thorough than they would have been otherwise.  That’s a blessing, for sure.

As far as it becoming a new, healthy habit…it has!  I don’t know how the experts judge whether or not a behavior has become a habit, but I think that once something is truly a habit, you will feel it’s absence when you don’t do it.  For example, I am in the habit of getting to work earlier than I have to be each work day.  On days when, for one reason or another, I have to get to work at my actual scheduled time, I feel like my whole day has been thrown off.  It’s like forgetting to kiss my husband good-bye in the morning.  Not doing it doesn’t ruin the day, but it makes the day (or morning, at least) feel like something’s missing.  That’s how I felt on the few days that we didn’t get to pray in the morning.  I think that there were four days that we didn’t pray together before work.  On a couple of those days we did end up doing our prayers later in the day, but on a couple, we didn’t.  One day in particular I remember that we didn’t have time in the morning (I overslept but still had to be at work an hour before I was scheduled…I know, I have issues), and all day long I thought “we need to do our prayers,”  but the evening came and we just didn’t get to it.  I felt the lack.  I felt like something was missing.  I was so happy the next morning when Austin said, “are you ready to pray?”

I am going to call Healthy Habit #1 a success.  We are going to continue to pray together every morning, using our prayer beads, and growing closer to each other and to God.

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Healthy Habit #2 – A Month of Meditation  

I’m going to need your help on this one.  I haven’t really ever had any success with meditation, but I’m going to give it another go.  I started this morning and will post about it in the next couple of days.  In the meantime, I would love to hear from any of you that find meditation helpful.