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Recovery…from family time

14 Jul

4:04 pm

I’m back from my 4th of July trip to see my dad and mom, back to back–along with my brother.  And, whoa, Nellie, what a (head) trip, indeed!

See, I’m going to be blunt–and maybe it’s not my place, but I have to talk about it:  both my parents suffer (yes, I know they are in pain, which makes me feel pained) from untreated mental health disorders.  We think my dad has bipolar disorder, I think my mom has anxiety and possibly never-diagnosed OCD, and we know for a fact that they’ve both been treated for depression.  Not a big thang, you know, if everyone involved SEES that they are suffering and makes a CONCERTED EFFORT to get and stay in treatment.  But, you know, they don’t.  They are not.  They try to hide or avoid their issues, and they seem to be too afraid to confront them in order to change.

Of course, I get it!  I could be describing MYSELF when I was in the midst of my drinking disorder!  And, I know it takes what it takes, but…  They are both in their 70s!?  I don’t know what to do most of the time except to practice not reacting the way I want to (in anger) and accept their behavior but try to lead and/or engage them in what I see as “healthier” techniques of relating.  It’s just all very hard when these people are your parents and not some strangers, or even someone else’s parents.  Our shared history and my emotional baggage makes it harder to not react emotionally.

It makes me angry to see both of them not really ever seeming to resolve anything on the inside, but mostly, it is just draining to have to deal with it.  I felt so drained coming home, and it took me days to stop being really angry and reactive and just heavy-hearted and like my brain had been scrambled.  To make matters worse, they had these issues growing up, and they affected me in a big way–it took me years to even realize what bizarre coping mechanisms I had developed let alone start dealing with them so that they stopped negatively impacting all of my own relationships, from personal to professional!

I SO want to just out them sometimes, to yell and scream, to tell them “what is wrong with them.”  But, I don’t.  It just doesn’t seem…worthwhile.  I’ve thought about writing a letter, which would allow me to be more measured and empathetic, but again, it just seems like it might be a waste of time.  Plus, I’m not ready to go there AFTER the letter has been read, as in, I don’t have the desire to be that open right now, as their daughter, and/or the ability to play the role of psychologist.  So, I just leave it–with my mom, I think she is trying to work on some of her problems, and my dad, well, I kind of consider him a lost cause at the moment because he’s manic, and it seems like a hallmark trait of mania is that until the person hits bottom, they honestly don’t believe there is anything wrong with their thoughts and behaviors.

It was great, though, to get caught up on on this stuff, and to be with each other, and to just be real.  And a part of me feels sure that somehow, seeing their kids helps them stabilize a bit, normalizes whatever tangent their emotional or thought disorder has taken them on–I imagine our kid-parent bond as a powerful antidote, at least temporarily, to feeling estranged from themselves; it helps me, in a way, to feel less estranged from life, to reel me back into something bigger than myself, gives me a sense of order again, helps me find “myself” again, at least one that I recognize.  I hope that I’m right, and it makes me realize that I should see them more often (I hadn’t actually seen my mom for two years, and with my dad, it had been a year…but before last year, it was three years!).

You would think that all of this would have made me want to drink, and I admit, there were a few moments when I really did think a glass of wine would make it easier to just escape, to get rid of the bad feelings, to disappear for a while.  Of course, I didn’t; I had plenty of time to think about ALL that I’ve worked for the past six years, and how, really, one drink would lead me back to where I was when I started writing this blog in June, 2012.  I’ve had quite a few moments, too, in the past month or so, when I’ve felt SO FUCKING BORED here, in my new home, that I have wanted to “start drinking again.”  It’s weird how in this case, it’s not a glass of wine I want, but the entire habit, or activity, of “drinking again.”

Not to worry:  they are just thoughts, and I have every reason in the world to NOT start drinking again.  In fact, just this morning, as I was listening to a podcast about a man who lost the use of his lower body from a drinking and driving accident, I just felt so…horrible for him, and disgusted for him, but also grateful for the simple beauty of the GRAND, POWERFUL act of getting sober, of being sober.  It does keep going, and it does get better, and I am still feeling wonder-full about it all–in spite of family pressures, and in spite of the occasional side of boredom that comes with the eggs and toast of life!  (haha)  Have a great Saturday, all!

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Bad news and your sobriety

19 Jun

1:38 pm

Welp, we are back from a weeklong “birthday” road trip to see my mom and celebrate my big day (well, 44 isn’t really big except for the fact that I am officially in my mid-40s), and um, yeah:  the seemingly constant stream of bad news and overwhelming cynicism (Drumpf, border nonsense, Kate Spade, Anthony Bourdain) is just TOO MUCH!?  If you only lived in the world of the news media, you would die, mentally and spiritually.  (Which is why I went into science and health journalism.  And, I’ll be the first to say that being a journalist is one of the most emotionally painful jobs out there, and it may very well have been one factor that contributed to Anthony Bourdain’s unhappiness!)

You need to filter it out.  Take a break.  You just cannot think about it all, and take it all in, all the time.  If you’re trying to stay sober–and even if you’re not–it is OK if not necessary to turn off the proverbial radio.

I had this longass post written about Anthony Bourdain’s suicide, but I decided to not post it because, what the eff do I know, right?  I mean, I could wax on and on about what I think about life and lifestyle in USA, Inc.–and how our lack of community, increasing lack of empathy, and overall stress levels and competition cause people to lose sight of what’s really important and worth worrying about–but…

I won’t.  Ultimately, I don’t believe you can help other people become and be happy.  You just cannot help other people gain this hard-won prize (if you’re prone to negative self-talk and depression, it is, indeed, hard won).  You can be there for them, and you can tell them things, and you can try to do things that you think will help them, but every single person is responsible for their own happiness.  And, that’s a lesson that most people have to learn!?  And these days, I think that takes a LOT of work because a lot of us live in tiny, isolated bubbles of individual pursuit, punctuated only here and there by other people.

I’ll be honest:  I stopped going to meetings early on because I just could not stand the pressure of other people’s drinking problems AND my own!  And, that worked for me; it was necessary.  As I came up on SIX YEARS SOBER (more or less) a few days ago–and the anniversary of starting this blog on June 14, 2012–I couldn’t help but feel like, so what?  NOW WHAT?  There is so much cynicism and bad news drawing me away from that wonderful period of my life, those years of rebirth, of continuing to appreciate what I accomplished and that getting sober IS a worthy achievement–it almost makes me want to start on the wine again, if ONLY for a break from it all, you know?  Now, imagine combining that frustration with alcohol, drugs, and/or HUGE amounts of self-imposed pressure (Spade, Bourdain)?

I don’t know much, really, when it comes to helping people with mental health disorders.  And, frankly, I almost want to say, we are all mentally ill or scarred, in one way or another.  I think the urge to commit suicide–when you get to that crossroads in your mind–is an individual thing, different for every person who reaches that point.  It’s a puzzle, that’s for sure.

I am feeling a bit frustrated (and those thoughts of drinking again, I know, I can’t just let go), so I am going to get back on my mental water wagon–gym, yoga, journaling, and hopefully, starting some contract work again soon (grateful beyond belief that more work is looming, even if said work is “boring”–I have yet to reconcile making money with doing something I truly love; and, making money is the only way to ENABLE those dreams, so…I say yes to the work).  And, hopefully, we will eventually stumble upon a place that offers soul food for my insides, which are starting to feel kind of empty here.  (Starting?  We’ve hated this bland desert wasteland from day one!  LOL  In all seriousness, we just don’t feel at home here, and since it’s coming up on almost 6 months that we’ve been here, and we STILL don’t have a sense of wanting to be here–I think we might just call it, collect our losses, and move on.)

Onward, then, with courage; but turn the noise off if you need to (and even if you don’t)!  Your mental landscape, creativity, and spirit will thank you.  I’m not saying don’t acknowledge and think about what’s going on in the outside world, but be mindful of your inner world–and what it needs, wants, and rests upon.

You don’t have to be awesome, or win

25 May

4:16 pm

Yes, that’s right, folks!  At 43, soon to be 44 next month, I have at last made the realization that, nope, you don’t have to be awesome, and you don’t have to win.

You don’t have to do anything amazing, or challenging even; you don’t have to do it perfectly, or better than someone else; you don’t have to win any prizes.

Life goes on; life will go on, whether you publish a book, or open a business, or make millions as a lawyer or doctor.  NONE of that really matters; what matters, I say, is the fact that you got to fall in love with a dog, and walk him–he laughing into your tears with his tongue–until you stopped crying and starting laughing with him.  Our boy is gone now, but he lives on in my mind; and most days, that’s the only thing that feels like it matters to me.  And, I’m not sure if I am supposed to feel liberated by that or straight up SCARED to death that I am getting closer and closer to just not giving any fucks anymore!

There is so much consumerism here–buying and selling of things, of work, of jobs, of people, of relationships, of experiences–in America.  Maybe it really is everywhere, but, man, does there seem to be a desire here, almost a frenzied one, to acquire experiences.  I’m in on it, too, of course, and as frenzied as the next person–and enthusiastically so most days!  Yet, I try to remind myself of the existence of my higher power, the higher things, the lessening and loosening and lessons of sobriety.  Life is about the wind, the breath being taken away; the letting go.  Sometimes I do feel…estranged, I guess, in a “land of plenty” where there is never enough, and in some cases, feels like nothing.

I am trying to write these days, and all the usual bullshit comes up; somehow, though, I had this thought the other day that it just doesn’t matter–for real.  It’s a thought that I’ve tried believing before, and I got to a certain level and then you know, went back to being my normal competitive, hard-on-myself self.  Yet, the other day, I just thought, you know, you’re going on 44, you don’t have to win anymore.  You don’t have to get into a good school (did it, twice), be the best in that school (failed at that, but I’m sure I tried and tried), do this and that and the other (did it all, in search of “growth” and “challenge”); you don’t have to get another degree and even if you do, you don’t have to do well in the program!  You don’t have to DO anything or BE anyone except…yourself.  A person who will maybe be loved and maybe be forgotten; that is life, and that is what we fight for, and against, it seems, every single day.

At this, I drank.  I drank so much trying to be and do and achieve and win–and also, to NOT be and do and achieve and win.  Now, I don’t want to drink at this; I have accepted that this is how I feel sometimes, and what I think, and well, maybe the reality that we all have to face now and again in this lifetime.

It’s so hard not being hard on myself; it’s so hard for all of us, I assume, to not be hard on ourselves.  And, I would venture to say that, even IF someone tells you, Oh, DDG, don’t be so hard on yourself; in the back of their mind, they’re thinking and plotting and planning because there seems to be so very little example here (I’ll just call this world USA, Inc.) of actually choosing to not do, to not achieve, to not regard the world and your place in it as part of a game whose very existence hinges on your winning.

I’m not sure I know anyone who has completely said, fuck it, and decided to do away with the need for validation, by self or others.  I am not there yet, but there is a voice inside me that is screaming, quietly, DDG, it does not matter what you do, just be.  Just breathe.  You can try stuff, and do stuff; and trying it is good enough; doing it is good enough.  There are no prizes, and there is no winning, and when you die, your name and your achievements will not really be remembered as much as who you were, and what your presence meant to people.  So, just be.

Ahh–if ONLY I could practice this now-ness all the time, and not for about three minutes a day!

Who you are vs. who you want to be

14 May

6:14 pm

So, as you all know, we moved to a new place about three months ago, and we’re managing to stay sane, I suppose!  Being in a new place, my contract job having ended, and neither of us really all that extroverted or desiring to be so–it just sort of sucks!  It is NOT EASY moving somewhere new in your 40s!  Haha.  You sort of just don’t feel like any of it anymore, you know?  I knew that I would feel more comfortable in one of the many places that I have already lived, but I thought, take a chance, go outside your comfort zone (again), yada yada yada.  I think we have both realized that there is a point of diminishing returns when it comes to aging and trying certain new things, like, moving to a new place.  I don’t know.

And, this has all made me start thinking about this whole, “go outside your comfort zone” thing, which I’ve been trying to do my whole life, to varying degrees of success.  Like, what IS a comfort zone, and why do we have this idea of it being a bad thing?  Are you supposed to be doing something that makes you feel comfortable, most like yourself; or are you supposed to be challenging yourself and doing things that are hard or scary or too big to chew?  I guess I’ve been thinking a lot about how much I just can’t stand writing anymore, and I want to do something else; but, when I boil it down and observe myself in action–you know, being who I am, or who I have always gravitated toward being–I realize that I AM simply a writerly type (quiet, thoughtful, introverted, so at ease in my thoughts) and then, can’t seem to conclude that I should do something else.

Yet, what IF I didn’t want to be that thing anymore?  Can I just go and be someone else entirely, throwing off the “callings” and character traits that I always seem to relax into, and instead do something that I think would make me the person I want to be (less in my head, more active, more intrepid, as it were)?  I have thought about this a lot in getting sober, in moving through it all, in relocating, in losing yet another job that I didn’t really want in the first place but that I was “good” at and that I made money doing.  Are you supposed to be who you are, or work at being who you want to be?

I am SO fully on board right now with trying to be who I want to be–with putting in that work–because I am so tired of who I am.  I am so tired of being the neurotic writer, the science geek.  It’s like, I wasn’t that good at science and wanted to major in freaking poetry in college (yeah, the fear started way back then, and it is one of my life’s regrets)!?  Um, when as a child did I say, Mommy, I really want to be a…technical writer when I grow up?  Time is running out, y’all.  And not only that, but I am sort of becoming desperate to NOT be in my head all day–even IF it means taking a huge pay cut…at a time in my life when I need all the money I can get.

The other day, as I was contemplating who I am (a writer) versus who I want to be (maybe a public health professional, maybe someone who works for an international development nonprofit or NGO), I was struck by how confusing it is to decide who to be:  which person (the one you are, the one you want to be) is more authentic, more truthful, more along the lines of fulfilling a personal destiny?

It’s a dilemma.  As a writer, I am always looking for work, selling myself, and moving from contract to contract, subject to subject.  I mean, it would almost be easier to be a lawyer, or anything with a well-formed trajectory, and then at a certain point be like, it’s too late to change course.  As a writer, part of your job is changing course, so you are constantly also thinking about courses outside of your own realm (well, at least some of us are).

I am trying to sort of end this chapter in my life, but I have only ideas, and not enough savings, and a heavy dose of fear.  I hate that.  I hate feeling afraid at this late stage–I am 43 years old, and it’s only been in the past several years or so that I wouldn’t have just up and left a well-paying job to pursue a shitty paying passion.  And, I am grateful for that newfound level-headedness (it has enabled a lot of financial progress and big changes, like this move), but I’m also still learning how to balance my need to earn a big check with my equally large need to feel stimulated, excited, fulfilled, wanting to get out of bed in the morning.  I know there are many an alternate career I can pursue, and I just need to sit down and chart a course of action beyond the next few months.  All in due time, I say.

I gave up freelance writing because it did not pay the bills; and, I think it might have just tired me out and made me believe that I didn’t like writing when in fact, it was the stress of never making enough money.  I WANT to be like, eh, I don’t need the savings, the retirement account; I should just Go For It and become a barista (again), or a teacher, or a poorly paid writer for an international NGO.  Yet, can I expect to feel safe, or, the way I want to feel, on that kind of income anymore?  In an ideal world, we would have a thriving business, which would allow me to pursue a more “passionate” career again; in THIS world, maybe we would both feel equal parts comfortable and challenged; in this world, maybe I would love being a writer again.

Exhale.  It will all be OK, I keep telling myself.  You got this.  It’s all about balance, right?

Our bear passed on…

21 Mar

10:58 am

On Saturday, March 17th, our “son” (beagle mix, almost 10 years old) passed on to the next realm, or whatever you believe exists after our brain turns off and we take our last breath.  We were beside him on the bed as the house-call vet (who happened to have gone to vet school in the islands, which was actually quite comforting–we just moved here, and it still feels quite foreign) stabbed some “feel good” drugs into his heaving frame, and then followed that with barbiturate.  I have had people and pets die, of course, but I have never been in the room as the creature took its last breath.

I almost took my last breath as, a moment later, our dog stopped breathing and his eyes went glassy and still.  It was heart-wrenching, and it was seared into my brain.

As I’ve written, he was such an intimate part of my island life, and was everything to me for the 6 years that I knew him:  coworker (I work from home), confidant, best friend, higher power.  Once, when I was still drinking and had just arrived on island to visit the man who is now my fiance, I drank and blacked out and yelled; and our boy was so scared he hid outside under the truck.  That was before I knew what a gentle, sweet soul he was, apt to cower at even the slightest expression of frustration, the smallest rise in voice.  I vowed never again to scare him like that, and it was that memory, along with so many nights of love, comfort, and simply his presence that kept me from uncorking a bottle of red wine.

As my mind, however, begins to do what I could not imagine a few days ago–accept the unacceptable, normalize the horrific, move on from death–all I’m left with is a sense of awe and anger:  the mind is an amazing, if not entirely effed up, place.  Haha.

As we moved through the first hours without our little man, I couldn’t help but recognize in my actions the similarities between coping with death and dealing with a hangover!  I spent the day clinging to “micro-goals,” like, breathing, like thinking about my next breath without having a panic attack; putting some food down my throat; paying my bill; rearranging the pillows on the couch; forcing a smile just to know that my face was still there.

And I gasped when I suddenly realized that EVERY one of my hangovers was a small death–a little death, but a death all the same.  And, of all the horrific events of the last few days, that realization was kind of the most horrifying–that we, as alcoholics, put ourselves through a death every single day, for months, years, decades.  How cruel are we to ourselves!  Our bodies, minds, and souls deserve so much more; we deserve to be sober, we deserve to live.

I have wanted to smoke a cigarette the past few days, when my heart has felt so tight I could barely think; but not drink.  I can’t imagine going through this trauma and being drunk or hungover.  I still think about my old drinking buddies, some of whom are still using booze to coat, soothe, forget; and I wonder, how is it that I got here, that I GET to be free, to actually live through this pain alcohol-free–such that I can, again, transform it to something else, something positive, something light?

It was interesting to watch our other dog sniff at death and then immediately move away; it was saddening but also interesting to watch myself caress my boy’s corpse right after he stopped breathing, check his eyes (I was like, Is he definitely gone?) a couple times, and then…move away.  We instinctively move away from death.  Likewise, eventually, we instinctively move away from drinking alcoholically; drinking alcoholically is death, and we move away from it to life, to light, to clarity, to actually processing our reality.

I miss him, but I know I have to be grateful for all the life he gave me, the love he allowed me to see in myself, the thing that we conjured together by loving each other–that lives on, I have a strong sense.  And for that I am grateful.

Is self-love radical?

5 Mar

11:12 pm

We’re finally settling in here, coming up on 6 weeks after our big move.  And, while we’re getting used to the new normal–stores, working electricity, no bugs (and therefore, an almost-vacuum of sound at night), a sense of being definitively bounded by four walls (not the sky as one, the ocean as the other three)–I’m still feeling a bit disoriented.  But, I just plugging away, and doing what needs to be done; sort of the same thing over and over, day in and day out.  That’s how I’m coping with all this change.  Kind of sounds just like getting sober, eh?

This move has been challenging, to say the least.  Who am I here?  Who are we?  And, am I still sober or do I just not drink?  I guess I’m sort of  on autopilot at the moment, and with that, some of my old “character defects”–feeling restless and irritable, desperately not wanting to “miss out”–crop up.  I don’t feel like I can relax, or let go of the reins, and therefore, my dreams, and my sense of humor, and my romanticism are sort of dwindling.

I know it’s all got to come back once we find our way, but I must say, once in a while, out of boredom and restlessness (I feel so boring sometimes, especially if I don’t write or dissolve into a slightly more magical reality), I do wonder if I can drink again?  Like, it’s been so long, can’t I…improve this mood, make me funny, and young, and sexy again?  NOT!  I know it’s just a fleeting thought, but I still have it and others like it once in a while–especially under stress, or while I’m PMSing.

Lately, I’ve been stuck in the past–and, angry about it as well as confused as to how I actually have a past (haha)!   First up, I’ve been ruminating on friends who I feel just don’t get the new me–I know it’s been years since I got up, got sober, and went my own way, but I wonder, WHAT do they think happened to me?  Like, these were good friends, but friends who never bothered to ask me, so, you quit drinking, moved to an island, and…what happened?  Why did you do that?  How did you fare?  What’s your life been like?  Who ARE you now?  And, now that I’ve moved to a totally wacky-choice place (it’s a place I never would’ve imagined I would live)–not ONE of these so-called friends has inquired at all.  Maybe they never cared, or maybe we just fell out of touch as our lives moved on.  Maybe probably I was bad keeping in touch; yet, they KNEW of my drinking problem, and how much emotional trauma I had put myself (and them) through–so, I get tired of making excuses for them.  The street goes both ways, it really does, and after a while, I think you just have to truly, finally let old “friends” go and make new ones.

Second, I finally got ahold of a set of old boxes full of old stuff–like, my life in pictures and scrapbooks, journals, jewelry, and stuffed animals–stuff spanning my childhood through teenage, college, and early 20s years.  And, I went through it today.  And, uh, I felt nothing but sadness, and confusion:  sad that years have passed, we’ve all aged, and yeah, I’m definitely, I guess, “not young” anymore; confused in that, I don’t know what to do with all the memories, all the powerful experiences and people who have shaped who I’ve become, or, more pointedly, who I became up until I quit drinking.  I am angry at that person (my younger self), and all those people and places and things that “happened to me” before I got sober.  Why?  It’s my life, it’s what made me, me!  I guess I’m just at a loss as to what the point of all those experiences are, when, today, I have nothing really to do with those old friends, exes, people who left such a mark on my path; all the experiences and diplomas and takeaways.  Since getting sober, I have practiced so much living in the present, and maybe forgetting about a painful past, that I literally forgot about it; erased a lot of times that have made me, me.  It’s strange:  what’s the point of all the living that we do, when in the end, all it amounts to is a few boxes of fading, illegible memorabilia?

I wish I could have hung onto all that, but I had to let it go in getting sober.  At least so it SEEMS to me now.  And, I think the hardest work in sobriety is after you make the break, the split with your old self and life and you finally do get sober–what do you go back for, reconcile, keep?  How do I love my younger self, when I SO didn’t love her then?

I see my story, how things turned out, what was happening THEN so much clearer now; and the biggest question I have is, why did I hate myself so much?  I was so sweet, clear, beautiful, harmless–at least from the outside.  I was such a pleaser.  Yet, I felt NO ONE loved me, and I definitely hated on myself.  Maybe it’s just common to teenagers, or common to people affected with depression and anxiety, which I had growing up.  I don’t know, but I did kick and scream against my self-hatred for a long time, and it wasn’t until I got sober and started practicing what I now see as an almost-defiant act–self-love–that I have come to realize how DIFFICULT it is to push against that hate, pressure, disapproval, discrimination put on you as a kid or teenager.  The more I come into my own and STRUGGLE to love myself every day, the more I see not only what a DEFIANT act it is to practice self-love, but how RADICAL an act it is.  To consciously love yourself is a radical act of defiance.  And I don’t think I’m the only one who understands this!  I think we all struggle with this determination that no matter what has happened, or happened to you, you must push up and into the sky, and love yourself.

The boxes are too much, so I’m putting them in the closet.  The past will always be there, but right now, I need to live in the present, and somehow begin to again honor and love the girl who got me here.

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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