Sunday, February 18, 2024

Grief and Talking to Spiders

104 days ago, I received a text message from my sister, Hey Sis, please can I borrow $10 and Sam is in a coma. It was 9am, instead of leaving for work, I threw clothes in a bag and drove the two and a half hours to where my beautiful brother lay in Auckland hospitals critical care. Mum was already there. I hadn't had a drink for four months but before I entered critical cares room 12, I swallowed a 7% can of gin and tonic.

Mum and I barely left his side. Despite what I so hopefully called, "wakeful moments", where his eyes would open and his voice could be heard in sometimes soft, sometimes loud sighs beside the biggest yawns, 21 days later, my beautiful brother let go. He was 36 years old. 

For the four months before the assault that took my brothers life, I was good. I was almost content. I was sober. It's been ten weeks since we buried his body. Ten weeks of avoiding feeling what I felt that night once the wake was over and the lights went out. After forcing glasses of water down my beautiful nephews throat, I tucked into the bed I'd made on my daughters lounge floor, closed my eyes and was grabbed by a pain so harsh and so physical and so dark. Thanks to some drug abuse, sips of anything neat, zopiclone, Curtis James Jackson fantasies and multiple three day bed rots scrolling Facebook reels; I've avoided feeling all together. Result, significant loss of income with real risk of loosing the self employed profile I've worked hard to build, a weak if not sick -  body, mind and spirit and a growing fear this traumatic grief will be the death of me. 

Is it normal to take comfort in stories of horrific crimes following the murder of a loved one? I used to fall asleep to scripture and Ted Talks. And is it okay that I spoke to a spider today and he/she did what I told him/her to do. No lie, when I stepped out of the shower this morning, clean and sober, I stood almost parallel with a spider who was quickly making his/her way down from ceiling toward floor. My first thought was, is he/she building that web that fast or was it pre-made this seemingly urgent descent, because he/she was gunning it. My second thought was he/she is putting self in danger heading for the floor inches from a door soon to open. So I said, "you best climb back up 'cause you're heading for danger". And he/she did. Right there, immediately after I spoke. I'm feeling mixed. Am I okay for thinking I saved that spider from certain death? Am I okay?

I'm writing for survival. I'm writing here because I am scared. 

Sam & I, two months before the assault that took him from us

Friday, April 29, 2022

Day 0

I've not written here for an entire year. When I began Sober Notes I thought it right to only write whilst clean and sober. Today I'm binning that rule because if I don't write, I've nothing to compare my life to a year from now. If I don't write my life will have no written memory. 

Around 6 months ago, I tuned into a radio station and by chance listened to a woman share the story of her mother-in-law's life. Her mother-in-law had grown up dreaming of becoming an Opera singer but her family told her to forget it because it didn't fit their plan for her life. So she folded up her dream and stopped singing, her children never knew what she had dreamed of becoming. In her final years she was diagnosed with dementia and was moved into residential care. It was there she forgot to hide the music inside of her and let a little music out, it was there she sang; out of the blue she would stand before her meal in a shared dinning room, or from her bed she would break into song stunning her audience with an aria. She would leave her bed or dinning room for a stage with lovers and killers, a full orchestra and a velvet curtain. Dementia forgot her families instruction to forget about singing, the music was too big, too loud, too much a part of her to keep quiet. Yes she sang a little in her final years but she lived her life without the joy of practicing her gift. She died with the music inside of her.

Its simple. When I lean on drugs and alcohol to numb it all, I do not grow. I do not practise my passions and I'm over it. I turn 45 soon. Everything I love to do is once again on hold. I imagine my dreams collecting dust and disappearing to nothing. Drinking like I do leaves me lazy, weak, depressed, numb, anxious, stuck.  Alcohol lies to my mind and body with fast temporary serves of contentment, relief and my favourite, the softening of uncomfortable feelings. There is no growth, no real joy. There is nothing new because there is no focus. Projects are thought of, goals are set but there is no focus nor energy to carry them. 

I miss feeling healthy and strong and I miss waking up feeling grateful just to be alive. The absolute notion when I first open my eyes that nothing will bring me joy the entire day is heavy and expected and won't change until I've banked significant recovery time. Right now 24 hours would be significant.

I know why I drink and partake. There is an anger inside of me that is so ugly, so full of hate, I quell it in temporary blasts with substance. And where is my faith, I practice in fits and starts which makes me wonder if I know myself at all. I'm coasting, holding it together but only just. I'm hot and cold; enjoy church one day and cringe at anything Christian the next. Do I have an undiagnosed personality disorder or is it only my attitude that changes, as different as day and night according to my posture toward my maker. Its like there are two of me, they war each other to take the other out and I am tired.

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Here I am one...

Hello Day One, 

Yesterday I poured myself a large glass of wine at 9am, the clock has just ticked to 9:01 so I am officially 24 hours sober and you my dear friend are mine, my Day One. You my dear friend are very very important. You are a life changer, a life saver, a rest, a refection, you are hope and inspiration and I am so thankful for you. It's strange to me how my thoughts and ideas change. There was a time when I didn't like you, I deemed you purely as a reminder of my own weakness and failings but I don't see you that way today, I see you as the start of something good. Without you this good thing; me returning to a life that is full, where I grow, learn, heal and love myself, can't even leave the ground, so you are good and I am so grateful for you. 

As for yesterday, I'm super happy it's...yesterday. Yesterday was so dark, I had hardly slept and was scared I'd waste another day in a depressed, unable to function or think straight state. I was low and stuck but I recognized it for what it was, change was the stair case I needed to climb and only I could take the first steps. My first step was connection. I reconnected myself to the online Living Sober Community; and I shared my truth with others who are living their own journeys of living sober. Within minutes I had responses of understanding and encouragement. This is what I shared...yesterday...

I don't feel like writing but I have to capture this moment of truth, in this moment I know alcohol is making me sick...again. It's hard admitting that after a mostly blissful eleven months of sobriety, I'm now almost an entire year relapsed. I've been lying to myself, "it's fine, I'm not drinking a bottle of wine a night, most nights its half and sometimes only a glass". But I know the truth and the truth is that lately, no mater the quantity of what I end up drinking in a night, I've been unable to go a night without it even when I've wanted to. Just because some nights I only drink a glass or two, doesn't mean I'm not an alcoholic anymore. As soon as Friday arrives or if during the week any shit hits the fan, eg, stresses at work or an emotional trigger/episode arises, that one or two glasses becomes a bottle anyway. So here I am, clinging for dear life because I'm sure that the depression I've been stuck in for the last five days has everything to do with my relapse about to turn a year old. I'm scared that if I don't pull my self out now, I'll become too unwell to pull myself out at all. 

So hello Day-One, my friend. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Pebbles of Pain and Parked Trucks - 11 months sober

Sobriety has given me the foundation needed, to start addressing the trauma I've experienced. 

The chances of a person who experiences trauma in childhood becoming an addict is high and I know I'm one of millions. That doesn't make it less painful but it does seem worth sharing how I cope with trauma now its not lying in a drug or alcohol induced coma. The first step was hard and its one I took before getting sober, I made a sensitive-claim through ACC here in New Zealand were I live (maybe called something else to you). I made this claim through a General Practitioner, I received a claim number that I was able to use to engage with a clinical psychologist trained in counselling people with the kinds of trauma I experienced. For the first year, I saw her every week. Now I see her fortnightly, I also took a 9 month break before reengaging recently. Treatment needs to fit in with lifestyle and I need the freedom to come and go. It took a while to remove the walls and masks. I used to attend my appointments in a polished state. Hair was blow-dried, styled. Make-up meticulously applied. Clothes paired carefully. I looked put together. And looking put together helped me to feel that way. Truth was that when I first attended counselling I was falling apart. I was suicidal and I was scared. The walls and masks have come away now and I'm so thankful they have. It was so tiring holding it all together in a place I needed to let myself fall. Yesterday I attended counselling in track pants with wild hair and a clean face. Now... I let myself fall apart during the hour we have. I cry. I swear. I speak with no filter. For me, counselling is proving to help. There are things that are still unfolding today that if I didn't have a trained counselor to share it with, I'm not sure I'd still be sober. 

I'm not alone when I share that my years of drugging and drinking completely screwed with my emotions and removed any resilience to feel the things that hurt. I'm so thankful to report that 11 months of sobriety and counseling has changed that. The slightest upset used to see me sculling bottles of wine. The slightest upset would turn into something much worse. I have resilience now. I can feel things that hurt. I can cope with raw emotion. My firstborn, recently moved her sweet self and my almost 4 year old grandson, (whom I adoringly refer to as my Sunshine), to Australia to live. And instead of blurring my emotions with bottles of wine, I felt it. I felt it all.  I can recall the precious time spent with them in the weeks leading up to their departure. I can recall the sound of my Sunshine's voice telling me he loves me. I can savour the memory of the night before their flight spent with my Sunshine, how he jumped between the beds in our hotel room with smiles and laughter. How he snuggled into me and fell asleep then woke with me at 3am with a smile telling me, "I love you Nonna".  And while it hurt to say goodbye to my precious daughter and my Sunshine, I am beyond grateful that I was absolutely present and sober. 

Recovery is not all roses. sometimes its confronting and plain hard. Sometimes the guilt and pain that surround many memories become too heavy. I've recently discovered a new tool that helps. I imagine the pain as small pebbles in my pocket and when my pockets are full, I empty them. There are two pockets in my imaginary coat. The pockets are deep. When I'm safe in bed, I reach in and I take them out one by one and I hand them over. I hand them to God. When my pockets fill up but I'm too busy with the day, I imagine my pain is a big old beaten up truck with rust and a kind face. I get in and I park it beside grass and trees. The memories that cause pain used to consume me and drugging and drinking them away seemed to be the only possible respite but by imagining the pain as a separate physical thing, an old truck, the pain is removed from me a little. 

Sobriety has given me the foundation to build a life and all the things I was attempting to escape, the things that almost broke me completely, they just aren't so scary now. 

Monday, December 30, 2019

I wanted the floor to swallow me whole...

I recently experienced a social occasion where I felt so uncomfortable the entire time, I wanted to run or be swallowed by the floor. There were people I didn't know and people I'd met once, some were drinking and some weren't. I think that if I'd been drinking, the anxiety that grew the entire afternoon leading to the occasion, might have been suppressed so that I too would have been able to relax and make banter and breathe and converse naturally instead of feeling the most awkward I can remember ever feeling. If I'd been drinking, maybe I'd not have felt absolutely self conscious of every word and movement made. Maybe I'd not have been so affected that I clear forgot the occasion was in celebration of two peoples birthdays, not one, and maybe I'd not be sitting here now asking myself who am I now in a social setting without alcohol.

Hours before the event, I imagined buying a flask of vodka and secretly swigging a gulp or two before entering. I'm glad I didn't but I wish I hadn't attended at all. Now I'm left with a whole lot of wonder around why it was so damn hard. I wonder if I'll ever be able to attend social gatherings where others are drinking and feel okay. Will I ever learn to fit my skin comfortably and mingle with, meet and chat with people easily while sober.

When the event was over, I locked myself in the bathroom and cried. I was embarrassed but also just sad that I'd been incapable of enjoying myself for one freaking minute. And I worried that I'd ruined other peoples night by being so obviously uncomfortable.

When I used and drank, I could handle almost any situation. Sometimes I'd truly surprise myself just how well I held myself though some. I could usually gulp down or breath in some confidence-by-chemical and talk to anyone anywhere without breaking a sweat. I love being sober and I certainly don't want to trade it for a night I'll most probably not be able to piece together come morning but I do want to learn how to overcome the overwhelm of anxiety and crippling shyness around meeting new people in a social environment where simply chatting is required and drinking is not an option.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Fear & Vulnerability

It's been three months since I've written here. Putting sentences together is difficult when being honest is hard. I'm full of fear, fragile and bursting with a thousand thoughts. I don't know where to begin to make sense of the fear I’m feeling but I know I'm desperate to snap out of it. Accompanying this fear is a low mood, sleepless nights, headaches, worry and loss of appetite. I'm unsure if I'm burnt out or depressed or both but whatever I am, I considered drinking today. I considered relapsing my 261 days of sobriety away just to feel different. I must stop thinking that the things I'm struggling with and the things I'm feeling aren't valid or worth addressing, because this is where I end up, this place I can't name.

I tend to compare my struggles with something absolutely extreme in order to minimize my pain or  other feelings until what I'm struggling to process becomes small enough not to matter. One year of weekly appointments with a therapist earned me this insight. For example, earlier today when I felt full of fear and realized where the fear was from, I reprimanded myself for being ridiculous, I told myself to stop being stupid, I told myself my feelings meant nothing compared to a young Nigerien refugee escaping with only her life after her village and parents burned to ash...I'm reading The Other Hand by Chris Cleave, the novels main character is a young Nigerian refugee whose village and family are burned to ash.

Where is this present fear from, what am I trying to make small ?...It can't be compared to a young woman witnessing the brutal murder of everyone she knows and loves but it is taking its toll...I am afraid of being hurt. Entering relationships while in recovery isn't recommended but six weeks ago, I did. With complete confidence, I threw all caution to the wind and began to wholeheartedly fall. I've been falling ever since. It's been fun and exciting and for some of it I've felt safe but I'm out of my mind with fear. Last night I lay awake convinced he doesn't want to be with me even while he slept with his arms around me. I lay there believing that while he is with me he's thinking of and wanting someone else. There is nothing he can say or do to make me trust him and there is nothing I can tell myself this moment that makes me feel any less terrified. It's impossible for me to trust him naturally, I have to choose to trust and that is where this fear is from, right there in the possibility, in the risk of being hurt.

I need to learn how to be vulnerable. Brene Brown become famous for her Ted Talk on Vulnerability. She describes vulnerability as uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure. She encourages people to be vulnerable..."to let ourselves be seen, deeply seen, vulnerably love with our whole heart, even though there's no practice gratitude and joy in those moments of terror, when we're wondering can I love you this much ? Can I believe in this this passionately ? Can I be this fierce about this ? ...just to be able to stop and, instead of catastrophizing what might happen, to say..."I'm just so grateful, because to feel this vulnerably means I'm alive."... But most important, is to believe that we're enough, because when we work from a place, that says, I'm enough, then we stop screaming and start listening, we're kinder and gentler to the people around us, we're kinder and gentler to ourselves." always, witting has helped me empty my head of the tangled mess my thoughts become and focus on whats truly got me. I am afraid, but I'm also deeply in like with a man I want to know better. If I end it now because of fear, I will regret it, so I'm deciding to be brave and practice vulnerability. I'll need to work hard not to run with the stories that form in my head...stories that tell me I'm not good enough, not smart enough. I want to love and be loved so I must start believing I'm worthy of it.

Monday, September 30, 2019

180 Days

I'm almost six months sober, I can't quite believe that alcohol has not passed these lips in half a year. I've been in a kitchen alone with a bottle of Absolute. I've held an Apple cider in my hand while feeling really crappy. I've brought my mum a wine with lunch and I've sat at a table celebrating my 41st while two of my party drank beer and cocktails. And although the thought has crossed my mind many times that nothing can stop me from taking a drink, I think back in staunch reply about how much I'm enjoying being sober. I think about all I've gained and how far I've come. I'm so thankful to be six months sober.

However, I'm afraid that I'm in danger of developing an Opiate addiction and that is why I'm sat here writing this now...I've just popped a Tramadol, not because my shoulder has pain (reason said Tramadol was prescribed) I popped a Tramadol because I've some massive emotions and uncomfortable feelings. Have I abused this said Tramadol before ? Honest answer is yes. I'm on the verge of throwing the remaining pills out but what if my shoulder's pain does relapse...relapse ! There's a word ! Have I ? Have I relapsed ? Do I need to wipe my 180 days of sobriety and start again ? Am a fraud or am I catching myself in time ? Does my popping a few Tramadol monthly over the last few months make me an Opiate addict ? I'm scared. I've not written for such a long time. I've not attended AA for such a long time. I believe if I don't start doing both immediately and frequently, I'm in trouble. 

I asked myself, I'm not sure when, weeks ago maybe longer, why I don't feel the need to attend AA anymore or make an effort to write (two absolute life-lines to me during my early sobriety) and I told myself  I'm doing okay so there's no need. I believed I didn't need to attend AA any longer because of how well I was coping with life. And I have been okay, I've not missed a day of work, I've not had a meltdown or had the urge to run and hide in a bottle but then there's this, this sneaky little pill popping. It has to stop. I'll be handing said Tramadol to a family member today for safe keeping - to only be taken when the pain in my shoulder is keeping me from working and or sleeping. And I will attend my first meeting tonight in a long while. This scare has scared me in the right direction and I'm not taking any chances. This Living Sober thing sure seems simple at times but it's also highly complex because I'm human with complex feelings and emotions with regrets and pain and a physiology I don't fully understand yet. I didn't come this far to trade in this record-breaking sobriety for another addiction. Life is too short. 

Thursday, July 4, 2019

92 days

Living sober has absolutely changed my life for good. How did I get here...the decision to stop drinking (for real this time!) came from utter desperation, becoming completely honest about my drinking; how unhappy it made me and how my behavior was hurting the people closest to me and by complete surrender to my maker. I decided to trust that the one I call God would catch me.

I was so broken. I was done. I didn't want to die but I couldn't continue. What kept me sober during those very vulnerable first days...I stayed honest. I looked at my life as it truly was. It was hard to do, made me sick to my stomach. I cried buckets. I threw myself deep into the Living Sober community built by Mrs D aka Lotta Dann, I kept the browser open and constantly read other peoples journeys and shared my own, I went to every pm AA meeting locally available. Those first few days were hard, there were many tears, looking back it's a little blurry. I documented the first days on camera, I sat in my pajamas and snot and pressed record and talked to myself. It felt strange but it helped, it helped me to process the muddle my thoughts were in and it allowed me to hear and see how weak and unwell I'd become. Long walks and talks to my maker became my refuge. I began to feel strong and at peace. The miracles and mysteries that have and continue to bless my life today are so so so precious. can become mundane, stressful, plain-hard. No matter how good life is now, it can't always be roses and sunshine and working forty-plus hours in a new and challenging role could become a trigger for tiredness and stress, both of which have been common triggers to drink for many years. While driving to a meeting recently I noticed I felt average, a little down, stressed, tired...and out of the blue I remembered I was 80 days sober and my whole state changed. This was an awesome experience that taught me how important it is to continue to celebrate achievements and milestones, big and small.

The list of blessings that have come from living sober is long but my favorite most recent is this...I picked up Miss 16 from the airport last night, (she just spent a week holidaying in Fiji), when our eyes met, both our smiles grew big and her first words to me were, "I missed you". Before I stopped drinking, our relationship was so broken and it's hard not to grieve all the time wasted but today is what matters most and today my Miss 16 misses me when she goes away and when shes home shes happy to be home.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Day 55

Life is good, I can honestly say I'm happy. The gifts and miracles of sobriety that have blessed my life in just 55 days overwhelm me with thankfulness. During a recent counseling session, I laughed as I likened myself to Julie Andrews prancing the fields in The Sound Of Music; I've felt that happy. I tend to question and analysis my behavior a lot and I am stumped as to why I've not arrived at this break-though until now. Perhaps I wouldn't be this grateful for all I have now without having first lived the heartache. Perhaps I needed to be this grateful so I'll never take what I have now for granted, I never want to be less grateful for my life than I am now.

Life's not perfect, I've a way to go managing the urge to be frantically busy all the time; to rest and be still. I can feel the growth and stretch of sober living and I like it, I've been desperate for it so long. No, life's not perfect but it feels pretty close to perfect when compared to much of my past. 

It's becoming more and more apparent how weak alcohol kept me, I had no resilience to cope, to respond with clarity. I can now, I can notice a situation inducing an emotion or some worry and if I cant fix it I pray. My prayer life has become a source of peace and strength that I'd be lost without. I truly believe that it was by true surrender to my maker, the one I call God, that has got and kept me here; sober, free, growing and stretching into the person I've always been with dreams, abilities, and strengths that just couldn't be realized whilst drinking plagued my days, body, and mind. After so many false starts to kick the booze, I've finally arrived to where I've been so desperate to be for so so long; living this life without needing a drink to cope. 

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Day 36

I confidently conducted myself through a job interview today. I would not have had the confidence to sit relaxed and answer each question without fretting if I were not sober. Good things really do happen when you stay sober; even while other stuff is still really hard, good stuff happens. Important, good stuff. It really is true that the longer I am sober the better I feel, think and do. Even the pre menstrual, I-feel-like-utter-crap days are better because I feel connected to my own body now. I feel like I'm waking from an alcohol controlled coma. The delusion has lifted, the belief that I need alcohol to make anything better no longer exists, it's so far from what I believe today that it boggles my mind how long I've lived believing it.

I'm a little pissed it has taken this long but I'm careful not to dwell too long in regretful-reflection and instead continue to discover what is true and keep these life saving truths close where I'll never forget, so I'll never slip back into another coma of lies.