Med Compliant

Since I’m on vacation, my schedule’s a little thrown-off. I’m sleeping later, which is nice, but I’m so accustomed to getting up early, making coffee and grabbing a bite to eat, and taking my medicine. If I don’t take my medicine my medicine at a certain time and in order, I’ll forget if I’ve taken it or not. There’s nothing wrong with taking an extra pill (which I’m sure I’ve done), but skipping one isn’t good. I’m also careful not to exhibit what the psychiatrist at my rehab called “addict behavior.” When he first prescribed Depakote, a mood stabilizer, to me, I reported back to him that I’d taken the recommended dosage. I think I even brought in the pill bottle and gave them to the nurse during my out-patient session.

“What kind of addict are you?” he asked, half-joking. I guess he expected to down a handful of pills to see what the effect would be.

“I’m an addict who’s trying to do better,” I said, and we moved on. He might have been kidding around, but I was deadly serious. Since Depakote is often prescribed to people with bipolar II (the good doctor didn’t diagnose me as such, but many of the symptoms I experienced in early recovery seemed to fit), I didn’t want to mess around with it. I wanted it to work because, drinking or not, I’ve suffered from massive mood swings for most of my life. Depakote, along with Lexapro, seems to work quite well. My moods are mostly stable, and when I get down, it’s not that hopeless, suffocating feeling that I’d often drink over in hopes of pulling myself out of the darkness. Drinking worked until it didn’t, as we’ve all probably heard before, but by then, it was too late. I was going to drink regardless. I stopped that pattern last January, thank God.

As happy as I am with my progress and sobriety, I found myself looking at my medicine bottles the other day and thinking Well, what if I just went off these for a while? Just to see what happens? In that moment, I found myself missing the bursts of energy and creativity when I was on an upswing (which I don’t believe qualified as mania). Sure, it was awful coming down, but those golden moments of feeling confident and awake and ready to get writing and music projects under way made the depression worth it…right?

Wrong. Because even when I was on a mood upswing, I still drank. Sometimes I drank to calm myself down. How many times did I start feeling positive about life and my talents and think, Whoa, now, this is out of character. Better tone it down some. Alcohol, being a depressant, did that and then some. It eventually rendered me unable to feel good things, too. I drank automatically and figured I’d deal with the wreckage another time in the distant future.

I took my pills and haven’t missed a day. I’ll admit, I hesitated again this morning, but like with exercising, I just forced myself to do it. Perhaps one day in later recovery I can see about cutting down my meds, but now isn’t the time. Now is the time for self-care and following my primary care doctor’s advice, which is to continue taking my prescriptions. And so I will.

I just have to keep ignoring that voice in my head that says I know better than my doctor, my addiction counselors, therapist, people in my home group, and you all.

Happy sober Thursday.

 

 

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On Vacation

Whew…I just double-checked final grades for my classes to make sure everything looked okay before signing off on them. A week of grading seventy papers and projects, dealing with emails, and making sure I took care of all the end of semester responsibilities is over. I’m in my sun room with the window open (high of 80 today, which is about right for south Georgia in the fall), drinking coffee, and coming up with a plan for my day and the week. Vacation = time for creativity, at least before we travel to see family for Christmas. Even then, I can usually sneak in a little time to jot down a poem or work on a song or two.

Today, though, it’s time to get back in submitting poems mode. I found some new online journals that look like a good match and some print journals that take poems the old-fashioned way, through the mail with a self-addressed stamped envelope for their decision. It’s how all the print markets used to do it; I remember at seventeen printing off poems and stories on my dot-matrix printer and carefully addressing envelopes (I still have to do that because my penmanship is atrocious).

After that, I’d like to work on music for a bit, hit a 12 o’clock meeting at my home group, catch a nap, and then get my son from the bus and play some video games with him. Speaking of games, it’s time to get my own game on and make some progress in Witcher 2. I miss playing games, and I usually catch up on them on breaks.

I can get a little ahead of myself with everything listed above and be self-critical if I don’t accomplish my goals, so I need to be aware of my thoughts. If I get overwhelmed, it’s time to stop before my obsessive traits come out to play.

Here’s to a sober Monday and the start of a relaxing and fulfilling week. I hope this post finds you all well.

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On Not Panicking

Today is my 42nd birthday. For some, like me, that means this:

42

I love The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and want to re-read the whole series. How can you not like a book that contains a line like this?

“For a moment, nothing happened. Then, after a second or so, nothing continued to happen.”

And…

“So this is it,” said Arthur, “We are going to die.”
“Yes,” said Ford, “except… no! Wait a minute!” He suddenly lunged across the chamber at something behind Arthur’s line of vision. “What’s this switch?” he cried.
“What? Where?” cried Arthur, twisting round.
“No, I was only fooling,” said Ford, “we are going to die after all.”

I used to be a self-pitying, cranky-ass drunk on my birthday (so, really, no different from any other day). I’m at the end of the semester, so I have a lot of grading to do, but I also managed to go to the gym, take my dog for a morning and afternoon walk, work on a song, and nap for an hour-and-a-half. Hopefully, I can write some poetry later.

Tonight, I’ll have a normal dinner with my family, and we’ll go out to eat Saturday. Not too shabby for entering into my 42nd year on the planet.

Happy, sober Thursday to all.

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Zen and the Art of Dragon Maintenance

Well, bearded dragon maintenance, but still. I’ve only read a portion of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenanceand that was when I was in graduate school. I had no concept of Buddhist principles, and even if I had, I wasn’t in a place I could have applied them to my life. That’s not because of the drinking, either, which wasn’t out of control at that point. I just wasn’t able to receive the message. My journey hadn’t taken me to a place where I needed Eastern wisdom, as I do now.

Recently, my wife and I gave our oldest son an early Christmas gift: a bearded dragon he named Oscar.

oscar

Howdy.

I knew nothing about bearded dragons except that they made good pets as far as reptiles went. My wife would never sign off on having a snake, so we went with Oscar.

At first, I was hesitant to handle him, even though he’s quite docile and doesn’t seem to mind being held. He actually unnerved me a bit, which I’ve since gotten over. My son thinks he’s the bee’s knees, as does his little brother.

I’ve gotten in the habit of going into my son’s room and spending time with Oscar, simply watching him as he cocks his head and turns an eye toward me. Unless he’s zipping after a cricket, his movements are measured and fluid. Not as measured as, say, a chameleon’s, but…calm. Assured. As I watch him, I feel myself calming down. I can be fully present when I walk my dog (and sometimes when I pet our cats, though I’m usually watching TV), but there’s a different flow when I commune with Oscar. And that’s what it is, really: communing, meditating, and being with another creature.

This morning, I helped clean out his terrarium, giving him clean water and some pellets and meal worms to eat (blech). He watched me the whole time, and then I picked him up. I didn’t hold him long, but I studied him, as he studied me. It was a small but nice addition to my day.

*I-Thou, Oscar, I-Thou.

*Info on Martin Buber’s philosophy, including I and Thou

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Transformation, Accountability, and 11 Months Sober

I didn’t want to go to a meeting yesterday morning, which is always a sure sign that I need to. I always get so much from meetings (especially at my new home group), but it’s easy to get lazy and slip into old ways of thinking, like I should just go to work after I drop my son off at school. I can have some coffee, listen to music, and ease into the day. Never mind the fact that my wife has a busy next two days, so it’ll be me and the kids. I won’t be able to go to a meeting tomorrow, so the best idea would be to attend the one meeting that I can…right?

Right. So I came to a crossroads (literally) and turned left instead of right, and I ignored the jabbering in my head that said I’d be uncomfortable walking in, would maybe even have a baby panic attack because the meeting is so small at 8:00 on a Friday…despite the fact that I joined this group because of its intimacy. Sometimes all rational thought goes out the window and I have to buy into the dictum of bringing my body and trusting my mind will soon follow.

I helped set up for the meeting, and it was small, as expected. Friday mornings are always speaker meetings, and they’ve all been wonderful. Today’s speaker was a young lady with a powerful story and who was a good communicator. By that, I mean her diction was spot on, she spoke clearly, varied her tone, had great eye contact, and sent off positive and comfortable body language. I always try to shove down the snooty part of me that wants to level criticism at poor speakers, and I’m usually successful, but today I could relax all my OCD tendencies that crop up when I listen. Progress not perfection, eh?

When the speaker finished her story, we went around the room and shared about aspects of recovery her story raised. Several people talked addiction leading to suicides in their families; the speaker’s story included her best friend dying in a car accident after she drove impaired. In the middle of these sad stories–and on the morning that I found out that Scott Weiland died, which wasn’t surprising but hit me hard, anyway–a woman talked about the hope and miracles she’s seen *in the rooms.

*in the rooms – Speaking of being a snooty, eye-rolling, intolerant ass clown, I once vowed to never use the term “in the rooms.” I no longer feel that way, because good lord, what does it matter? All of us in recovery share a common language. How am I “better” by avoiding it? Talk about taking myself way to fucking seriously. I even initially refused to get the Elf on the Shelf for my kids because I said it unwittingly and dangerously introduced them to Foucault’s concept of panopticism.  My wife was having none of that nonsense, and I bought the Elf on the Shelf this morning. This round Sobriety 1, Ego 0.

Anyway, as she described the transformations she’d seen in people–rightly described as miracles–I realized she was right. She went on to say how rare it was to see people transform, but we see it all the time within 12 step fellowships. All of us in recovery testify to this phenomenon, and it’s not ego-based to see that I’m a miracle in progress.

Today, I celebrate eleven months of sobriety. I’m sipping coffee, catching up on your wonderful blogs, listening to my children play (and not fight, for which I’m grateful). I don’t have anything out of the ordinary on the agenda today…except not drinking.

That, above all things, remains extraordinary to me.

 

 

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Another 3:30 AM Morning

I don’t fight getting up this early any more. If my brain and body tell me to get up, I’ll get up. I slept until 6:30 until this morning because over the last few days, I took a muscle relaxer at night because of a minor shoulder injury, and that knocked me out.

When I first picked up the medicine, I took one in the afternoon despite the sleepy/dizzy warning on the label (and my doctor, who knows I’m in recovery, assured me that the muscle relaxer would play nice with my other medications). Well…no, that wasn’t the case. When that pill hit, I went downhill fast. My wife came home from work, and I said, “All this pill has done is make me cranky, dizzy, and confused.” I hated the feeling. I figured all the drinking I’d done in the past would make me immune to the side-effects of the pill, but clearly I was wrong. I ate dinner with the family, stared grumpily and my computer, and thought, This is just a chemical reaction. You’re not worthless or stupid or ugly. These are just thoughts.

Thoughts or not, I wasn’t fit to be around, so I said good night to everyone and crawled into bed at 7:30. I was out in five minutes and slept nine hours. When I woke up, I was back to my old (new?) self, and I vowed to take the muscle relaxer right before getting into bed.

Well, my shoulder feels fine, but last night I found myself looking at the pill bottle and thinking, This stuff works pretty damn well as a sleeping pill, and I have several left. I should take one. What would happen if I took two?

Cue the disordered thinking. Though I knew the answer, I turned to my wife and said, “My shoulder feels okay. Do you think I should take a pill? They help me sleep.”

My calm, rational, non-addicted wife said, “No, you don’t need it.”

“Okay,” I said. So I opted for a melatonin instead, fell asleep quickly…and now I’m up.

I admit to liking being down here while everyone’s asleep. The kids and I put up the Christmas tree yesterday, and it’s nice to write with it glowing peacefully in the corner. I have a few candles lit, and I’m going to make another cup of coffee.

Not a bad start to a Sunday morning.

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Gooble Gooble

If memory serves (not always a guarantee), I once told a bedtime story to my oldest son about a turkey who couldn’t gobble correctly, and he ended up saying “Gooble Gooble.” Then again, it could have been a duck who couldn’t quack but instead said “Quackle.”

In either case, Thanksgiving has come and gone. It’s never been a particularly important holiday to me, which I know is heresy to some. I have nothing against it, and I’m especially thankful this year, but the rest of it–all the food, people milling about, football games–isn’t appealing. Add to it my aversion to eating around people, and perhaps you can see why I wasn’t pumped about driving down the road a ways to share a meal with my extended family. I did pretty well, though, and my kids had a blast. I got to see my in-laws and nieces, which I enjoyed. Really, if food hadn’t been involved, I probably would have been happier overall.

I know why I’m hesitant about eating in front of people. Growing up, dinner time was especially stressful due to my father’ mercurial nature. There were also rules at the table we had to follow or else; we had to hold our utensils in the proper way, sit up straight, and have impeccable manners. None of these things are bad necessarily, but having them enforced by barking commands was nerve-wracking.

I don’t expect my own children to follow such rules at the table, though I do get upset when one of my children decides to stand in his chair rather than sit down. We’re also just as likely to eat in the living room and watch a show as sit down at our dining room table. Despite all the progress I’ve made, I’m still genuinely uncomfortable eating in front of people, especially if they’re strangers.

When we got home, I hopped on my laptop. I made some comments to myself, and my oldest son asked what I was doing. “Checking in on my people,” I said as I read sobriety blogs. “I want to make sure they’re OK.”

“People who used to drink?” he asked.

“Yep.”

And so I did. I thought about you all during the day and sent prayers and good vibes for strength during what for many is a very stressful day. And I know that the stress continues even if family has left and it’s just you and the left-overs. The holiday season is officially underway now and triggers abound.

Remember the importance of self-care and sleep. Remember to breathe. Remember that feelings come and go.

pema

 

 

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