Sunday, September 23, 2018

I Finally Joined The Team

I have had an amazing and dedicated team of Nurse Practitioner's and a counselor (along with a few other wonderful clinicians and supporters in the clinic) working with me for about 4 years. I am so full of gratitude for their commitment and belief in me, even when I couldn't find it within myself. 

I initially began seeing the team after the volatile separation from my husband, for health and safety concerns and issues, and I believed I was ready for counselling support. I knew that nothing I’d been doing thus far had been working for me; my life was out of control, and I didn’t know what to do anymore. I needed to do something different. I had little faith in counselling and zero interest in anti-depressants, but as I sought Ativan for my anxiety, the team convinced me to give anti-depressants another shot as well.

Again, nothing stuck, and I quickly fell back into my usual methods of “coping”, irrational thoughts and behaviors. I created a new “normal”, immersed myself in others, drinking, and working enough to cover my ass. I, somehow, managed to home school my daughter, successfully. We were rarely home, as I preferred the company of my “little village”, the quiet of the country, the lack of perceived
 expectations and demands, the complete distraction from my life, and all the things that desperately needed healing inside of me.

The anxiety began to creep out of control shortly in the month before my friends heart attack, and afterwards, I instantly fell apart. I had a desperate “need” to be helping and taking care of others, to have some sense of control, and to distract myself from my thoughts and feelings. I completely sacrificed myself, my life, my role as mama, the relationship with my daughter,my physical and mental health… I used up all of my resources and fuel, everything I had in me.

And then there was nothing left to give.

I couldn’t function. I couldn't sleep, but when I did, I suffered from violent and horrific nightmares revolving around my ex-husband. I had anxiety and panic attacks so intense I believed, truly, that my heart was going to fail me. There was no medication that was helping the intense pain, pounding, and racing in my heart. I was sure that my heart was going to explode. I was paranoid about dying, and stopped taking Tylenol, Advil, and anything for colds or sinuses, convinced they would give me a heart attack. I started having trouble going anywhere because the panic and anxiety attacks were too severe. The tears wouldn’t stop. I couldn’t breathe. My skin crawled, from the inside out. I trembled like a leaf. I couldn’t stop my mind from frantically racing. And I just couldn’t be around people; which, of course, added more stress to the already unhealthy dynamics within my relationship with “the boyfriend”.

I had no idea what to, I knew there was no way I could continue the way that I had been. I needed help.

I went back to the clinic, my team, begging for help. I was “finally ready” to do whatever it took, "arms wide open", to deal with everything I needed to. Anything to get “healthy and happy”. I got on board with finding an anti-depressant, all of the heart tests, breathing tests, all kinds of tests, beginning to learn about grounding and mindfulness, CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), and I explored my marijuana use. Whatever they began to throw at me, I was willing to try.

Except for one thing.

I was resisting any conversation about my relationship with the booze. I had endless excuses and stories to offer instead: “I quit before, I can do it again”. I was just in a “rut”; I could and would eventually pull myself out.  I just got stuck in the “routine” of it sometimes. It was a “bad habit”. I'd say I was "aware" that it was an unhealthy relationship. I was just on the roller coaster while I slowed down. I'd get the drinking back under control “soon”. “I’ll think about it.” It was always later, tomorrow, next week, next month; never RIGHT NOW.

After receiving much prompting from my team, that Summer I started (and graduated) a 
Pre-Employment program for women through the Elizabeth Fry Society. I learned new skills, tested myself strongly while earning several certifications, and took in a whole lot of, I guess, personal growth?, classes.  I was feeling good about myself, remembering my strengths, and confident that I was finally making some bit of progress.

It had taken about 6 months, but my anxiety began to come down to a manageable level, and I was feeling proud of myself while in the program, but the unhealthy thoughts/behaviors and dependency on alcohol continued to slip further out of control. 

The boyfriend and I struggled, and continued our tug o’ war dance; but he was also a huge support in many ways. He helped with my daughter, cooking, other parts of daily life I struggled with, he was a positive influence regarding my irrational thoughts, getting me out to nature, out to do things, he often suggested that we have a "tea night", or plans for a night with no alcohol... But, I became resentful, wanting a partner in crime, not another person to hinder and question my ways. I began to feel like the rebel again, pushing back at the perceived sense of authority. I rarely wanted to do any of the healthy things he suggested, aside from fishing (but, of course, we usually took a few beers for that) and if he suggested a sober night, I would laugh and head straight to the liquor store.

The program ended, and aside from the team and my daughter’s counselor, the only people I saw were my daughter, the boyfriend, my brother and his girlfriend. I was losing momentum, shutting off and stepping towards isolation again. As Summer wound down, I became increasingly nervous, aware of the tendencies I have towards deep depression in the Fall and Winter. 

I started to consider my relationship with alcohol; remembering the times I had stopped, how I felt, the positive effects, so desperately needed, that would come if I cleaned up... I began to slow down, even going a week or so without a drink. Each time I drank again, I fell deeper into darkness, finding it harder to reach the light. Yet, I was still not willing to consider or discuss QUITTING forever.

But, my curiosity began to pique when my team gave me information about a group that they thought would be helpful. It wasn't specifically for alcohol, drugs, or gambling, it was for ANY type of addictive, destructive behavior or thought patterns. In my need to keep alcohol out of the scope, I COULD recognize the many other addictive behaviors and patterns that were a problem for me. I was very unsure and afraid. All sorts of crazy thoughts raced through my mind.

The team had successfully planted a seed.

I finally agreed to go to CAB (Changing Addictive Behaviors).

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