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Emotional support animals for alcoholism

15 Dec

3:21 pm

This past week has been rough, and Monday, especially.  I think it’s all just hitting me now.  And by all, I mean the two hurricanes and the aftermath that has changed entire lives, some in the forever sense.  We are recovering, and things are starting to settle back down…

And then…a few weeks ago, we discovered a couple swollen lymph glands on one of our dogs, took him to the vet, and the vet was like, Oh, Wow, and scheduled him for a biopsy.  Our little man had his biopsy yesterday, is wearing a cone, and is still sort of out of it.  (While the vet did prescribe him the usual course of antibiotics, which I think covers a number of different infections, they haven’t seemed to significantly lessen the swelling.  I am more optimistic than I was on Monday, and I am not sure why–he could have swollen lymph nodes for many reasons, but of course, we can’t help but jump to the worst possible conclusion.)

My sweet bear.  He has been with me these past 5 years through it all:  love, addiction, aging, hurricanes.  I honestly cannot imagine a life without him!

I have written (with my science journalist’s cap on) about emotional support animals (ESAs) for recovery from alcoholism and substance use disorders, in general.  There is no doubt in my mind that my recovery was helped by my two dogs–having them to care for and love helped to negate the triggers, lessen the cravings, and simply kept me from drinking when I really wanted to drink.  Did they understand my mental health crises far better than I, in terms of how to manage them?  Probably.

Walking the dogs–in the morning sun, through the heat, with the gleaming blue water reflected off every green leaf, decaffeinated coffee in hand–was something I LOVED doing when I first got sober.  It was something I relied on to start another day, sober; something that served as a touchpoint to both staying sober and then, growing emotionally and psychologically; to becoming a loving human being again.  I loved all of it–that I could get up and feel so good in the morning, that I had “someone” to care for, to not let down (dogs don’t understand hangovers).  These two dogs were my higher power, my pink cloud.

Both my dogs were my emotional support during my PAWS period, too–a post-acute withdrawal that lasted 18 months.  They quelled my fear of “what now?,” eased my anxiety, helped to block the triggers and numb the cravings with their physical (soft fur, dog scent, warm presence) and psychological support–unconditional love.  My boy was strong for me when I could not be, and did not want to be–if I drank, I would yell, and he would hide under the car, and I NEVER EVER wanted to scare him like that again.  So I did not drink when I really, really, really wanted to.  He was there for me when work frustrated me, or I was (am) beyond frustrated at the pace of my writing life/career–one whiff of his odor was like a hit, one touch of his soft ear like a balm; a belly rub, a roll, and his dog laugh and furious shaking it all out before jumping up on my knees for more.  I adore him so much, and I love what he has meant to me, through my recovery–what he means to me, present tense.  No one knows this but me; even he might not know it, but I truly believe he does.

Now, to imagine the possibility of my boy going down is just…very saddening.  When I watch him struggle a little bit on the walk route he used to BOUND along, tears come; when I obsessively feel his lymph nodes, hard and nodular and big under his neck and behind his legs, and notice they aren’t any different than yesterday, I tremble a little inside; when I kneel on the floor in front of him sitting on the bed, and tears rush down my face, and he licks them away–there are no words for this growing fear.

GAH!

I cried all day Monday, which is not something I want to repeat–too draining, and not helpful to anyone.  I have since started to feel better, optimistic, even.  He’s had his biopsy and all we can do is wait for the results, and then go from there.

One step in front of the other, that is how this is done.  What will be, will be.  I want to accept the things I cannot change, but sometimes I feel so very helpless amidst all this “breaking down,” all this ending, aging, dying–in essence, renewal, but I can’t see it like that through my self-conscious ego.

Maybe I am overreacting–I think I’m just bracing for the worst so that I’m not floored when the worst happens.  Life goes on and things will get better, but why does it feel like we’ve lost SO much of our lives here over the course of a few hours of hurricane activity?  The storms took so many of our physical landmarks and mental and emotional  signposts, all of which are now only memories; why do they have to take my boy, too?  And, at the very moment that we are planning to move on, start over someplace new?  I want to show him the world…  We have SO many more walks to go on…

 

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Sunday, blarg-y Sunday

9 Feb

1:39 pm

Remember the days when white wine was your “cure” for being sick? Hahaha. Um, I DO. And, truth be told, the acid in white wine can work as an antimicrobial–the problem for me always became, one glass turned into the whole box, and then the sugars (not to mention my immune system being completely compromised by the alcohol) would go to work making me feel much, much worse “down there.”

Anyway, I think of this today as I continue to battle some “flu thing” I’ve had for about two weeks, going on three. I get minor “stomach things” fairly regularly (I blame it on all those years fucking with my gut microbes as a binge eater, and then, a binge drinker), but I just roll with it. However, this bugger has been around for almost three weeks. The usual: nausea, bloating, stomach cramps, headache, sometimes fever, and a few times, hot flashes. (No, I’m not going through menopause…at least I don’t think so!)

The more online research I do, the more I think I might have something from our water. We drink cistern water down here, and I can’t help but wonder if it doesn’t have all sorts of possible infectious agents, especially water-borne parasites. I should probably go and get tested.

I just downed a glass of juice with 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar, per something I found on the good old interwebs about ACV being good for a lot of shit. I’ve used it on warts, actually, and that stuff BURNS your skin right off! Leaves scars, too. Yet…I’ll try anything once, and what harm could it do? An alternative is eating crushed garlic (which is supposed to be a natural anti-bug remedy), but raw garlic by itself makes my stomach burn, so that’s out.

Which brings me back to my use of white wine back in the day. And how, I actually heard myself think (rationalize) a minute before I drank the ACV juice, Damn it, I can’t even use white wine the fix my stomach–fucking sobriety, what bullshit. And then, as I took one swig of the ACV mixture and felt it tingle on the way down–that shit is strong, and a DEFINITE alternative to let’s just say, alcohol–I was like, Um, there are alternatives to drinking. There are ALWAYS alternatives to drinking. There are so many other ways to solve your problems than drinking that it’s almost funny (in a not “ha ha” way) that we get stuck, when we’re active, in this thought pattern that alcohol is the only way. It is not. We just have trouble learning how to do things differently, how to actually sit back and consider other possible solutions to our problems. This comes in time, and is coming in time for me. My brain is re-learning how to learn, how to learn how to do things differently.

I’ll keep you posted on how the ACV, etc. pans out. I should probably get tested for the two common water parasites, but…eh, it costs money, which I don’t have, and it’s a hassle, and, I read that the cures for those bugs don’t necessarily work, and also, that these things if not severe (is three weeks severe?) resolve on their own.

Sunday, blarg-y Sunday.

God in my garden

21 Jul

3:47 pm

I am growing things. I have what some urbanites might call an “urban farm,” but what this farmer’s daughter (yes, I grew up on a dairy farm) calls a garden.

Actually, all my plants and herbs are in pots, and I’ve now got about ten going! Three of them are massive Jack-and-the-Beanstalk-sized tomato plants that I’ve had to re-pot three times already! I staked rods in them this time so that they have something to lean into as they continue to shoot up. I cannot WAIT to see some actual tomatoes on the vines, too–the produce down here leaves a lot to be desired.

I’ve felt very quiet of mind lately. Well, this morning. For a few hours. LOL. It was nice to be alone, in the sun, gardening. It’s cool to see my plants actually coming along; I don’t even care, really, if the tomato plants bear fruit.

I think I’ve had enough time and space to “recover” from my friend’s visit to have come to a few hard conclusions: she and I likely won’t continue in the same kind of friendship we’ve been having, and, I need to actively speak in a more positive way.

Our relationship was a co-dependent one. In a nutshell, she needed me to be a drunk in order to diss on me to make herself, who is very insecure, feel better; and I needed her to diss on me because I felt afraid, I guess, of shining. There’s a long trail of “hiding your light under a bushel” behavior in my life, but with this friend, it’s clearly a defense mechanism for me. I couldn’t confront her feeling jealous and expressing it by hating on me; I wanted to assuage her feelings of self-loathing by bringing myself down to her level. We commiserated a lot together, but deep down (and this came out in my blackouts), I hated myself for participating and I hated her for trying to bring me down to make herself feel better. I wish this didn’t sound so harsh because underneath it all, she’s a good person–aren’t we all?

Fast forward to now. Cut the bullshit, basically. The weekend was me being strong, present, direct, and apparently invested in an actual life here. A life that you all know about, but that she could only imagine until she got here…and saw it for herself. It threw her for a loop, to put it mildly. And, I have to say, I don’t think either of us knew how to interact with one another in these new “roles.” It seemed like she noticed that I had not only changed, but grown up, taken hold of my life, and moved forward–not to make her feel bad, but because this is me now and this is what I do now. It was apparent to me just how insecure she feels about herself–her job, her relationship status, and especially her looks (which may never change, and which I simply don’t play into). We performed a balancing act the whole weekend, and while it was nice to see her and get caught up, I was relieved when she left.

As for me, I noticed that when unsure what to talk about, I would often hear a stream of negativities come tumbling out of my mouth. Literally, it was like I was listening to someone else. These were not so much direct complaints, but rambling monologues that tended toward why this doesn’t work, and why that’s not for me, and why I don’t like this or that. YUCK. I couldn’t wait to get home sometimes and lapse into the fun–and for lack of a better word, “ego-relieving”–“cartoon” voice I use with the dogs.

I don’t know why, but it kept happening/I kept doing it! Maybe I’m still trying to downplay my happiness (or at least, contentedness) because I’m afraid of success, or because I still care too much about what others think, striving for their approval, i.e., I better talk badly about my cooking or my car or my apartment before SHE does, just in case she doesn’t approve. UGH. DOUBLE-YUCK. The point is, I want to change this as much as possible and immediately; it affects everything, and not in a good way. Sometimes I wouldn’t mind going back to the uber-quiet girl I was growing up–maybe there was a lot to be gained from being “too quiet” all the time?

Again, it was nice to be alone this morning, without my thoughts, in the “garden.” A lovely morning, literally. Maybe love is transcending all the bullshit and just being quiet, aware, and absorbed in growing things? Maybe that’s a metaphor for life? If I believed, I would say, possibly that’s even one for God…

What day is it? I’ve got my eyes set on 180 days, which is September 14th. No point in even thinking about drinking until that day comes. (In fact, is that my Unicorn with Sparkly Teeth over there, kicking the grass? Isn’t that where the remains of wolfie-boy are decomposing? Get it, GIRL.)

Who’s up for a boat trip without booze? I am, I am!

4 Feb

10:16 pm

Well, folks, it happened: I made it through an event–said boat trip to a neighboring island with a gang of drinkin’ buddies–with smoking and drinking all around the entire day, did not partake, and felt amazing the entire time! Like, comfortable just being there and not inhaling smoke and not sucking down liquids (other than Diet Coke). Sure, sometimes I felt like the old woman who wears purple, and that sucked a little. Otherwise, I felt great. And grateful.

It wasn’t that hard, for some reason. And, I had a lot of fun! And, from what I could tell (more on this qualifier below), I didn’t feel awkward or weird; in fact, I mostly felt SUPER-grateful to not be hung over. Last year, I went on a boat trip that was nightmarishly hard, mainly because I got belligerent drunk the night before and was SO hung over I wanted to die. That was a year ago, if that gives you any indication of how bad I felt–and therefore, how grateful I was yesterday.

Yes, it was GOOD to be sober, to be clear, to feel none of the sway and sleepy nausea of being drunk in the sun (how do people drink during the day? I never could, actually, without feeling horrible), to know that I wasn’t going to feel any of it the next day. One big, Ahhhhhhhh.

What WAS hard was hearing today at my NSA (network spinal analysis–I got a gift certificate so figured I’d check it out) appointment that my entire spine, from top to bottom, is in fight-or-flight mode. For the most part, that means locked up, and the muscles around the cord, firing constantly (no wonder I have pain and no wonder I’m tired all the time). The way the analyst put it, it’s like walking around with my arms extended the whole day.

I’ve always carried a lot of tension in my back. It’s where I store my emotional “trauma,” as well as how I “hide.” I can’t help some of it–ingrained response of an incurable introvert. For the past oh, 5 months or so, though, it’s been getting noticeably worse. And, its worsening condition seems to coincide precisely with my soberversary. Could it be that the more I’m sober–the more I have to deal with shit instead of escaping from it–the more I’m actually causing my body to tense up and freak out? I think so.

It sucks. It’s made me wonder if drinking wasn’t so bad after all? I mean, we all have past trauma and present anxiety, and it’s HARD to deal with it nonstop. Hard. I don’t get to wipe it away, even for a few hours. And, there is something to a hangover wherein your body just melts, stops resisting. Like, you don’t have the resources to keep your defenses up, so you actually let them down for however long it takes to get over it. There were times when I was CERTAIN that I’d never felt better the next day than after a few shots of tequila and a burger the night before (though, in those days, I hadn’t also drunk two bottles of wine). Seriously.

I wish I could turn it off, but I can’t. And, with the stress of transitions galore, and being sober and having to confront reality every second of every day… Well, I guess I’m going to have to focus on making some of my new coping mechanisms work–meditation, diverting my attention to the bigger picture/positive, etc. That is, until I can see that life isn’t supposed to be all about “getting through” it.

Sigh. What with all this mental and physical, let’s face it, PAIN–sometimes I actually look forward to shedding my physical body. This mortal coil. This pain in my ass that doesn’t seem to know how to BE in this material reality and go with its grain. All my life it’s been this way, fidgeting in my own skin. I’m TIRED of it. I’m OVER it. It doesn’t seem to get easier, it just seems to go in and out, shape-shifting from one form of expression (pain here, addictive behavior there) to another.

Oh, sparkle-toothed unicorn, where art thou?

Anyway, there I go again. Focus on the positive, remember? Coming up on 17 weeks sober this Thursday. 🙂

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