Down, but not out.

Over the last week, I have started this post several times, only to end up deleting it.  Some of the drafts just sounded too depressing because I’ve had a rough month.  Some I thought seemed flat, like I just didn’t have anything good to say.  And one draft just sounded angry, and that’s not how I wanted it to come across.  Today, I realized that the whole point of my blog is to express my feelings – whatever they are.  So, I’m not going to delete this one, I’m going to put my feelings down and get them out of my head.

May has not been a great month.  At the beginning of the month, my estranged daughter celebrated her 17th birthday.  Not being able to be with her was heartbreakingly painful.  I wrote an open letter to her, and while I had no expectations of a response (I don’t even know for certain that she reads my blog, but I know that other family members do), I think I was holding onto a little bit of hope. But I heard nothing, good or bad.  Then, just a week later I had Mother’s Day to deal with.  I was sad to not be spending it with my daughter and with my own mother.  No matter what my relationships with them are like now, I still miss them.  In recovery, I have gotten better about accepting the past for what it is, but on days like Mother’s Day, there is still a part of me that longs for a different past.  I know it’s an impossibility, but I still wish for it, especially on days that I am already in the dumps.

As if that wasn’t enough to deal with, last week we lost a member of our home group to his addiction.  He was a handsome young man who had been in and out of the rooms for a couple of years. He was intelligent and friendly and had a smile and a voice that lit up the room. My husband took an instant liking to him and talked with him at length on several occasions. The last time I spoke to him, he was headed back to treatment and he sounded hopeful. He did not die sober. It was a drug overdose that took his life. He was only 18 years old.  That’s where my now deleted angry post comes in.  When our friend’s death was announced at our morning meeting, some of the comments from old-timers majorly pissed me off.  Before I knew it, I had written a long rant about how some old-timers forget what early sobriety is like, and that their self-righteousness will, more than likely, send newcomers back out the doors that they only just worked up the courage to walk through.  The comments that were made were enough to offend me, even if I hadn’t known the young man who died.  When you add the shock and grief of losing someone who you care about, it makes it all the harder.

The first three weeks of May have mostly sucked, and I’ve been feeling depressed and sad and discouraged.  What have I been doing with all of these negative feelings?  Nothing.  I’ve let them be.  Now, if I were to play Monday-morning quarterback I could list the things I should’ve done that I didn’t:  I should’ve talked to my sponsor more, I should’ve finished working on my 4th step (I’m in the process of re-working my steps), I should’ve practiced more of my Healthy Habits, I should’ve journaled more and written more posts.  But, until today, I just haven’t felt like doing many of those things.  So instead I’ve been binge-watching Nurse Jackie, crushing candy like a crazy woman, and taking 4 hour naps on my days off.

So, where exactly is the silver lining in all of this, you may ask?  Here it is:  even through my blues and self-pity, I was able to remember that “this too, shall pass.”  I was down, but I didn’t despair.   I didn’t isolate (much), I went to meetings, I talked about my feelings when I needed to, I honored my commitments even though I didn’t feel like it, and I took care of myself.  And the icing on the cake was that I didn’t drink.  I didn’t even want to.  That’s huge.  It’s a fucking miracle.

I’m happy to say that I think I am coming out of my funk, and while I didn’t do everything right while I was down, I did what I needed to and I remembered that feeling bad wouldn’t last forever and I made it through.  I learned that my emotions won’t kill me and that I don’t have to try to avoid or numb them.  I also learned that I am stronger and healthier than I thought before this period of melancholy.  That’s some pretty shiny silver lining, if you ask me.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go finish my 4th step, do some yoga, and de-clutter something.  🙂

 

 

 

 

Have I lost my compassion?

This past week was a rough one.  It was the week before classes start at the school where I work, which is always a crazy busy week for me.  And it was a busy week in my personal life as well, as we had friends over for dinner on Tuesday and I also had to deal with the last bit of the wreckage of my past drinking life.  There was a fair amount of anxiety – how am I going to get the house clean before my friends come for dinner?  How is my court date going to turn out?  How am I going to finish all of the class schedules for the new starts?  It seemed like there was a lot on my plate, but even though I was a little bit anxious, I knew that those things would be alright.  And they were.  The house was clean before dinner on Tuesday and we had a great evening, filled with laughter and friendship. My court date went as expected and I am now finished with worrying about the unknown.  And every student that starts class tomorrow has a schedule.

So why then, was it a rough week?  I found out last Sunday that one of my coworkers had died.  He suffered a brief, but fatal illness that took his life so quickly that many people at work were dumbfounded.  You see, he traveled a lot for work, visiting other campuses and working with agencies all over the southwestern states, so his absence wasn’t felt as much as if he had worked full-time in Tucson like the rest of us.  He was last at our campus in early January, but it took until mid-February for most of us to ask, “where’s Walt?”  I guess we all figured that something was going on, but we didn’t really know.  I found out a couple of weeks ago, that his illness was really serious and that his doctor had said that he only had a matter of weeks.

Then on Monday, I found out that another one of my coworkers who had retired a number of months ago, had also passed away.  She was someone who I had worked more closely with when she was there.  She came back to visit with us a few times since her retirement, and was so happy and loving her time away from working.  She had even started seeing a gentleman recently and was traveling and having fun.  Her death came as a shock.  I guess she didn’t want anyone to know that she was sick, so I didn’t find out that she had been moved to a nursing home and was unconscious until just days before she died.

With news like that, I guess you would expect a rough week.  Things seemed off at work, many people who knew Walt and Jessie were not acting like their usual selves;  work was quieter and people seemed introspective. There was sort of pall over the administration.  It just hung in the air, no one really acknowledging it too much.

Here’s the thing though:  I went on, business as usual.  When I was told about Walt and Jessie, I knew that I was supposed to feel sad at the losses, but I just didn’t.  I felt bad for their families and for the person telling me, because she is one of my closest friends and she was very close to both of them. It was a very hard time for her, and I wished that there was something that I could say to make it better for her.  That said though, I didn’t feel the losses myself.  I knew that I should, they were both my friends, but the sadness and grief just wasn’t there.

I was really perplexed for a few days, wondering what was wrong with me.  I have always been a person that was ruled, almost completely, by my emotions. That’s why I drank – to shut them off.  Where were my emotions now?  I have practiced so hard at acceptance during my recovery, and I have felt good about the progress I’ve made, but had I gone too far?  Was I so deep into acceptance, that I was easily accepting things that clearly should’ve been upsetting?  I didn’t know, but if that was the case, I didn’t like it.  I also thought about the growth of my faith.  It used to be that I thought that once someone died, that was it.  I didn’t believe that there was anything else for them in this world.  But my thoughts about that have changed.  I have faith now, I believe that there is something more, and I believe that both Walt and Jessie are getting to experience that now.  But shouldn’t I still be sad at their absence?  Where were my emotions, my compassion?  Had I lost them?

By the end of the week, I was asking myself those questions.  I didn’t voice them to anyone, instead I kept them to myself.  I was worried about it, but I didn’t want to admit to anyone that I just wasn’t feeling it.

Yesterday though, it hit me.  I went to Walt’s funeral and as I sat there, looking at the photos on the screen that told the story of his life, I was sad.  I did feel a loss.  I thought about the good talks that I had with Walt and the jokes and stories that he always told.  I smiled to myself, and I cried, I felt angry that I wouldn’t get to have those times anymore.  Ah, there were my emotions.  They came on, slowly at first, but then they were awash over me.  After the funeral, I came home and slept.  And slept. And slept.  I was in bed from noon yesterday until 3:00 am this morning.  I woke a few times and ate some oatmeal last night, but for the most part I slept.

When I woke this morning, I realized that my emotions aren’t gone.  I also realized that I am probably dipping my toes into the pool of old behavior.  Before I started drinking alcoholically to quell my exploding emotions, I was very adept at shutting them down.  I could, and did, just turn them off when they got to be too much.  I think that I was doing that again this past week.  I think that’s why I slept so much yesterday; it takes a lot of energy to stuff my emotions and I was exhausted.  Thank God that this week didn’t lead me where it used to – to wanting to drink.  This is the stuff I used to drink over.  It’s amazing how quickly my alcoholic thinking and behavior can return.  I guess that’s why they call it cunning, baffling, and powerful.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the daily grind, and to miss things like this.  That’s why it’s so important that I keep my recovery fresh, that I remember what it used to be like, and that I have gratitude that it’s different now.  Self-awareness alone isn’t enough to keep me sober, but holy cow, it sure does help.