August 23, 2013

The Only Thing You Have to Change

I had a nightmare last night. I was walking down the street with my kids and they started to run off. I shouted for them to come back. Suddenly a shadow was cast over the street. Looking up, I saw a tsunami of lava (in dreamland tsunami + lava = tsunami of lava, kind of like a Sharknado). The lava tsunami was upon us before I could react. I was dead but somehow my soul was bound to the spot where I died. I lay there, silently screaming for my kids, for all eternity.

So that was awesome.

I don't want to become a "sobriety blogger" just as I don't want to become a "mom blogger," a "political blogger," or any other genre. I write what's on my mind, and I suppose what's on my mind recently is sobriety.

When I went to rehab eight months ago I was told that "the only thing you have to change is everything." I thought this applied to everyone except me. Obviously it meant people who have a bunch of drug friends and spend all their time partying, not happily married stay-at-home moms with a drinking problem. The only thing *I* needed to change was drinking too damn much.

I never got to the root of my drinking problem in rehab. Yeah, I had some issues, but mostly my life is pretty great. I must just have an "addictive personality."

My first few months back in the real world were spent with my head in the sand. I basically stayed in my house, played video games, and tried not to think too much. I was afraid of unexpected triggers in social situations.

I felt more confident as time passed. I began investing a little more in friendships and allowing myself to start facing problems.

Now I'm ready to put my head back in the sand. I'm realizing why I self-medicated for so many years. The feeling reminds me of that children's rhyme "Going on a Bear Hunt":

Going on a bear hunt, I'm not afraid.
Got a real good friend by my side.
Uh, oh! What do I see?
Oh look! It's some tall grass.
Can't go over it.
Can't go under it.
Can't go around it.
Got to go through it.
Bear hunts were a lot more exciting when I was eight:
  • I'm in bankruptcy-level debt.
  • My house is always a mess.
  • I'm obese.
  • I'm concerned my son is autistic.
  • I don't have close friends because I have trouble connecting with people.
  • I'm terrified of natural disasters.
  • I think the atheists are right about god.
Where do I even start with that list? I've got a doctor's appointment for my son. I've been focusing on keeping basic chores around the house caught up. I'm starting on Dave Ramsey's "Baby Steps" plan for getting out of debt.

None of that feels like enough. It's completely overwhelming. I have zero coping skills because I've always coped by consuming alcohol, tobacco, or prescription drugs. The only thing I can do is go through it, like the song says, and hope I can figure it out along the way.

Speaking of hope. The atheism thing. I always thought atheists were happy about being atheists, and thus I could never be one because I wanted to believe in something greater than myself. I think now, however, that many atheists also want to believe but they simply cannot.

I read this on Yahoo! Answers the other day in response to the question "Where do atheists find comfort and guidance in life?":
If by 'comfort and guidance' you mean the same type experienced when you believe in a god/afterlife, in most cases there is very little that can give you the same level of reassurance. However, it is somewhat comforting to know that you don't have to live your life based on the law of a religion but instead follow your own moral code; it is comforting to know that you don't need to spend your life worrying about some eternal punishment that is far more terrible than anything in this life; it is comforting to know that we won't live for all eternity but rather have a limited amount of time on this Earth and that we must not spend too much time worrying about the absence of god but rather try and make the most of our lives and do what we can to help others in need so that they might also make the most of their lives.
I can't speak for all atheists, but for me nothing will ever fill the void of the reassurance I once received from believing in god, and my lack of faith is something that I just had to adjust to. However, life is still just as beautiful; there's music, art, poetry, science, films, friendship, family, love, literature, sport, nature and all the other things that make life amazing. It is easy to simply turn to religion to tell you what the meaning of your life is, however it is more fulfilling to discover your own purpose for yourself.
Yikes. I've heard the "music, art, poetry, blah blah blah" stuff before and it doesn't do anything to make me feel better. My family is the only thing that gives me true meaning without the supernatural and they are so fragile, so breakable, so mortal.

Feel uplifted yet? Yeah. Me neither. 

I do feel optimistic. It's kind of like cleaning a teenager's room. You take all the dirty dishes, love notes, school books, electronics, stinky socks, etc. and throw them on the bed. It looks insurmountable, but as you start chipping away at the pile you feel better. The pile will never be gone, in this analogy. There will always be stressors and unexpected life events. Once I've developed coping mechanisms that work, however, the mess will be smaller and easier to clean.

I hope.

-Kim

June 26, 2013

Non-Celebrity Rehab


Tomorrow (June 27, 2013) marks six months of sobriety for me.

I spent 28 days in rehab and then spent the next five months figuring out why they taught us what they taught us. I'm very much a "why" person (as a parent I realize this is genetically going to bite me in the ass).

The gist of my situation is that I started smoking cigarettes in my teens, started drinking heavily after I quit smoking at 29, and have always struggled with compulsive overeating and various prescription drug abuses. I've also been diagnosed (before all this) with ADHD, generalized anxiety disorder, and major depressive disorder.

It's super fun here in my head, join me!

Rehab is intensive - with vast amounts of information being conveyed in a very short time - but a few salient points stuck with me:

1) Addiction is a disease* involving the reward pathway in the brain;

2) All aspects of my life must be balanced in order for me to succeed;

3) I can't do it alone. Honestly I don't know how anyone does it alone or with a shaky support system, because I have the best support and the best situation I can imagine for this and it still sucks.

So in my entire adult life I have never had a properly functioning release of dopamine, the "feel good" chemical in the brain. Chemical stimuli have led my brain to believe that it needs 1,000 hypothetical units of dopamine to feel okay when the most I can obtain through normal activity (cuddling kids, exercise, etc.) is 48 units.

Notice I said "feel okay." The truth is I feel pretty blah most of the time. I love my life, don't get me wrong, but I actually *feel* bored. My inclination is to fill this with video games, fatty foods, etc. which are quick fixes in the same way a beer would have been a quick fix.

I am trying to learn the second point above - balance. The best way for me to function is to maintain a balance of physical exercise, spiritual fulfillment (meditation = the bomb), friendships, and healthful eating. A low glycemic diet is amazing for addiction recovery, I can testify to this.

It's taken me five months 
just to get to the point of realizing the stuff that's in that last paragraph. Slow learner.

Now I've got to actually *implement* it. I'm ADHD, so that's basically like saying "The answer is underneath that sleeping bear, just go pick it up."

Since I've been out of rehab I've been on a low glycemic diet, I've exercised, I've meditated, but doing it all at the same time is rough. I have to look at it in terms of progress: I didn't do anything with anyone for quite some time when I first came home. I was scared to leave the house because I didn't know how to handle stress or temptation at all. Now I do things with friends about once per week. I meditate daily. I'm starting to get on track again with keeping the house tidy (a huge obstacle for me).

I still feel like a newborn baby, though. Sometimes expectations are the worst. I realize that other people often think I need to "get used to" being around alcohol eventually. Not actually the case. If I were allergic to dogs would I need to "get used to" them?

We all know that guy who has been in recovery for 19 years and goes out to bars with his buddies, no problem. I'm not that guy. I'm someone who drank WAY too much for way too long and now I'm learning how to live without it. Some days keeping a cool head takes all my focus. If I am overtired, stressed, sick, or just plain ready to strangle the kids I have to find a way to calm myself down so I don't go into the danger zone of wanting to drink.

This perception our society has of people in recovery being self-righteous goody two-shoes - what in the actual fuck?! Don't get me wrong, I used to feel that way too. But this takes more strength than anything else I've ever done.


I have a secret weapon, though. My super rad tattoo reminds me why I did it:
Have you hugged an addict today?

-Kim


*I don't want to debate semantics. It may or may not be a "disease" in the strict definition of the word. Whether or not it's physiological prior to the addiction it is absolutely physiological once the addiction has begun.