365

I made it to my first year mark. Last week I celebrated with my mother with dinner and also had a few friends congratulate me but other than that it’s been pretty low key… Kind of like my sobriety now. I don’t think of myself as sober or even as an alcoholic. I’m just a guy who doesn’t drink.

I’ve often said this but it bears repeating that I wish I could share how I got here but I have no idea. Somehow I’ve had a completely painless time staying sober. There’s never been one moment where I seriously thought about drinking and in the past 6 months I haven’t even had a craving.

With my year done, I am ending this blog. I’m not going to delete it and I’m keeping my same WordPress account to move on to bigger and better things so I’ll still stay in touch with friends but I don’t feel like there’s anything else to say here. Writing about my sobriety doesn’t excite me like it used to. Maybe I’ll write a more objective addiction blog; I’ve always wanted to do something more professional. I’m not sure yet. Thank you to everyone whose been here from day one (Nelson) and good luck in your own journeys.

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A Break from School this Morning

Normally I get into work an hour to an hour and a half early to work on homework or read whatever chapters I’ve been assigned but I finished all that this weekend so I’m just here enjoying my morning! It’s funny to think that only a year ago getting to work this early would have been completely impossible because of my constant hangovers… not to mention getting to work this early and being fully awake and happy!

I had a pretty awesome weekend which has been very much needed. It’s been a while since I really enjoyed my weekends because of all of the trouble I had with my medications and general BPD depression. The 5K on Saturday was definitely a pick me up which boosted me through the rest of the weekend. I’m very much a loner and isolator so just being out and about and surrounded by hundreds of people who were there for the same thing I was helped me to get out of my rut. I do wish I had the courage and social knowledge to strike up conversations with some of them but I was there with work friends so it’s not like I was completely alone and awkward like usual.

My homework this week is to make a vision board ($50,000 tuition well spent) and I had this super elaborate and artistic idea planned but after re-reading the assignment (thank God I did) I realized the professor specifically just wants us to make a crappy pin-up collage on poster board. Ho hum. I already bought all of the supplies though so I’m still going to make it on my own, I’ll just half-ass the assignment and probably still do better than most of the students. If you folks ever want a super-easy degree that requires almost no effort, go to the University of Phoenix. I study for about 30 minutes a day and have close to a 4.0.

Work will probably be awesome today. I bought some new completely wireless earbuds to try out. Since I got paid Friday and didn’t make horrible financial decisions this week (I bought a $400 computer monitor with my last check which was needed but I probably should have spaced it out a bit because I ate ramen for quite a few days lol) I could afford to pay my Scribd subscription and can once again listen to audiobooks at work. I love how easy it is to be constantly learning these days. When I was a kid I couldn’t have even fathomed listening to a book on Bluetooth earbuds while getting all of my email and text messages on my watch. Sometimes I feel like I’m too connected but I don’t have very many friends so it’s not like I’m getting texts all day.

Well, that’s my Monday for you. I’d say I’m going to start writing more regularly but you and I both know how that has worked out in the past! Hope everyone has a great week.

A Big Milestone Today!

I have a lot to be grateful for today, most of all for my sobriety of course. This morning I finished my first official 5K race and also set a personal record (34:48). I owe a lot to the lady in this pic for motivating me to start running and motivating me to keep running through my battles with depression and bad medications.

I’m addicted. I’ve already planned out my next 5 races. The goal is by the end of the summer to be up to 10K and then after that half-marathons are in my bullseye. I know a lot of drunks still manage to run (I mean that’s what hashing is completely about) but it’s not something I could have done. I’m a new me every day.

Coming Up on a Year

Day 341 which means… what… 24 days left in my first year of sobriety? It’s hard to believe I made it even this far. After trying to quit on my own for 10 years all it took was 12 days in rehab and some therapy. No AA, no praying, no “reinventing myself”. My therapist asked me if there was one thing I could tell struggling alcoholics what would it be and I said I’ve been telling them to go to rehab for 11 months but nobody listens. They all say they’re afraid to lose their job, it’s too expensive, etc. Pathetic, self-deceptive lies. It’s their life though. The vast majority of addicts simply die.

A lot has been happening in my brain lately. My current course in college is a psychology course aimed toward self-betterment and it’s led to a lot of mini-epiphanies. For one thing, I never noticed how lonely I am. Now I realize that loneliness was probably one of the major causes of my alcoholism. There were other causes but it’s probably in the top three. Loneliness isn’t, as I thought, simply not having anyone to hang out with when you feel like it. It’s not having people you can share your deepest fears with, mentors you can ask for honest advice from, or people to just give you a hug when you need it. Even in the prime of my social life, I didn’t have any of these things. Or they were very rare. I do have two friends I trust more than anyone in the world but they live on the other side of the country and texting just doesn’t do much for you.

So with that, my focus for the rest of 2019 is to make some damn friends. Quality friends, not the kind I’ve always had in the past. The kind I just fall in with because it’s easy and they worship me because I’m their better (just being honest, haha). People I can look up to, who are honest with me, who have goals and reach for them. It seems like everybody in my life right now is just settling for what they currently have. They’re just done. 30-40 years old and they’re already at the end of where their life is going to take them.

That is fucking depressing.

It’s Been a Rough Few Weeks

I believe last I checked in I was just starting a Zoloft prescription. Everything was pretty standard for the first couple of days but then I sunk into a depression the likes of which I have never experienced. I stuck it out for three weeks thinking that eventually the meds would kick in and I’d be flying high but it just kept getting worse and worse. By last week I couldn’t even get out of bed except to go to work. The only thing that saved me was the knowledge that it was just my medication and I wasn’t actually this sad. I definitely see why they say suicidal ideation is a potential side-effect of SSRI’s, though.

Although antidepressants hadn’t made me more depressed in the past, this was a somewhat familiar feeling. Without any sort of stress or anxiety I lose all will to do anything productive. Being anxious about failure and social seclusion is what drives everything that I do. Once those fears were completely eradicated all I cared about was sleeping and playing video games. I didn’t even eat most days (which is great now that I’m back to normal and 10 pounds lighter).

Unfortunately this three week loss of action has completely screwed me for my upcoming 5K. I haven’t run so much as a quarter mile in almost a month and I only have two weeks before my race. I’m not going to do well by any measure but I’m still going to do it. Maybe I’ll surprise myself…

Still Alive!

It’s been a bit since I’ve written here. I had temporarily become somewhat of a perfectionist, not wanting to write anything that didn’t have a specific topic and lots of editing. That resulted in me never really finishing anything. I’m learning a lot about writing in college and while it is something I’d like to apply to my blog, I just don’t have time with everything going on in my life right now! Anyway, here’s a quick update for my friends here:

11 MONTHS! Yep I’m about 11 months sober now; quickly coming up on a year. I say every month that I never thought I’d make it this long a year ago but it’s even more unbelievable to come up on 365 days. Still going to one on one therapy (every 2 weeks) and group therapy (every week) which I honestly enjoy a lot. I’ve been in therapy in the past but I’ve never really clicked with a therapist like I do this one. We’re about the same age and he’s also in recovery (sober from painkillers 8 or so years) so he understands what it feels like. Group therapy I could take or leave; I skip one every few weeks but overall it’s good to have a reminder of how easy it would be to go back to drinking and have my life completely fall apart. At least once a month someone relapses and disappears from the program. We’ve even had a couple of them die which is … sobering.

School has been great this time around. It’s the first time I’ve attempted university completely sober since I graduated high school and even though I failed back then without any help from alcohol, I was definitely still behaving like an addict. University of Phoenix is an accelerated program so each class is only 5 weeks long meaning I’m already into week 2 of my second class. I am easily one of the more intelligent people in my classes which is strange to say because I never used to think of myself as particularly brilliant. Despite there being pretty strict rules on grammar and spelling for discussion posts, most of my fellow students still look as if they’re using text to speech to write their material. The only downside is that I’m going for a bachelors in computer science and my first semester has zero computer classes. I’m all for learning something new but I want something I can potentially take to a new job before I graduate. All in due time.

I have been horribly depressed which might come from nowhere considering the tone of my last two paragraphs. If you’re new, I am bipolar and have been trying different medications which so far have had the reverse effect on me. Lamotrigine is supposed to flatline your mood and it did but it flatlined it in my depressive state so while I haven’t been manic in over a month I also haven’t really been happy or motivated. I started taking the lowest possible dose of Zoloft two weeks ago to try to elevate my mood with the Lamotrigine but so far it has made me even more depressed. For me, normal depression is just a lack of desire to do anything but lay around all day. Now, though, I’m experiencing true pit of your stomach sadness which I’ve never really felt long term before. My dose goes up today and if it doesn’t fix the problem I’m going to go in sooner to change my plan. I’m not suicidal, but if this feeling were stronger I can definitely understand the warning on the label.

Part of my depression has affected my financial discipline a little bit. I’m not going out spending money frivolously but I built a new PC over the last couple of weeks. It was something I intended to do anyway I had just been holding off because I didn’t want to spend that much… well I ripped that band-aid off. It hasn’t been terrible: all said and done it was probably $800 for a PC that would retail for $1500 if you bought it pre-built. I remind myself that it is a genuine hobby that brings me joy that I had simply been afraid to indulge in. Everyone has them and I definitely have the income I just was being a bit extreme about saving to the point that I never had any fun. I’ll try to be mindful of that in the future.

So that’s it… some ups some downs. I think more ups than downs whether or not this post makes it seem like it. Hopefully my mood gets sorted soon because I just feel lazy. I still hold a job that I perform well at and I’m still doing awesome in school… just gotta remember that no matter how depressed and lazy I feel I still have those things going for me.

290 Days – What is Rehab Like?

Ten months ago I decided that I was going to kill myself. Right away or over the course of several years through alcohol abuse, it didn’t matter. My life was meaningless. You’ll often hear alcoholics and addicts in A.A. or N.A. say that their best friend and only lover was their addiction and it’s logical to ask: “what about your friends, family, and significant others? Didn’t you love them?”. At the risk of making spouses and loved ones of addicts more unhappy than they already are I will simply say that an addict does not care about any of those people. They’re tools we use to get what we want. Who could possibly lie that often and that well to people they love? Who could steal from their parents or hit their spouse if they loved them? No, it’s not love. It’s one of the strongest expressions of Machiavellianism you’ll find.

People, especially addicts, ask me what rehab is like. Reflecting back on those days when I was seeking help I must say I’d never had an inkling of what it was going to be like either. Pop culture displays inpatient treatment as a lot of sitting in circles and sleeping in bunk beds with 40 other people who twitch and talk to imaginary people; walking around in bathrobes and slippers and smoking lots of cigarettes. I never made an actual decision to go to rehab, I don’t think. It wasn’t bravery or courage, it was desperation. One day I called in to work hungover (again) but instead of sleeping until four and buying another case of Corona I called Brighton Center for Recovery just to ask some questions. I’d bet that’s what most of their patients do because they very quickly flipped the conversation into me coming in the next day by 11 a.m. with a rather short list of things that I was allowed to bring. The actual courage came the next day when I asked my mother to drive me two hours to Brighton’s campus and I walked through the front door to turn myself over to their care.

After signing in and filling out the intake paperwork, I was led to a large waiting room with a TV that was playing the most boring AM talk show drivel they could find and a coffee machine. A couple other people came in and out as they were processed but I was stuck there for two hours as the treatment center tried to get a hold of my insurance company. As you can imagine, my anxiety peaked during that time. Why was I here? Was this even going to work or am I just taking the most boring 3-week vacation of my life?  Will my insurance even cover this or are they about to send me home? Will I have to pay all this back? Oh God did I just spend thousands of dollars on rehab? All of these questions wandered in and out of my head several times as I tried in vain to read some of the four-year old magazines on one of the coffee tables.

Toward the end of my wait another patient-to-be and the greatest enabler I had ever seen up to that point in my life strode in… Well I say “strode” but it was more of a shuffle. The patient: a man who could barely stand and who stared slack jawed at the walls and the enabler: his father who had stopped on their way to Brighton to buy his son a pint of vodka so he could chug it before coming in. The patient kept whining that he was hungry over and over and over ad infinitum while the nurses and his father repeatedly told him he couldn’t eat until his blood work was done. Fortunately it wasn’t much longer until I was given word that my insurance company had graciously agreed to cover my treatment (no sarcasm there; a lot of insurance companies don’t cover 100% of treatment like mine did).

A nurse showed me around the campus which ended up being radically different from the image I had in my head. It would have been well furnished in 1972 with those thin hospital carpets and chairs that were probably donated from the lobby of a doctors office. There were two units that patients could stay in depending on how far gone they were. Most people had to go through the main unit first where they were hooked up to an IV of drugs intended to wean them off of whatever drug they were on. This unit was more or less a hospital complete with nurses stations and hospital beds. The second unit, which I was assigned to, was either for people who didn’t need medical help to detox or who had already been through the detox process and were deemed to not need constant supervision. A lot of my companions in that unit cynically said it was because our insurance wasn’t good enough for the hospital complex but after seeing the way the people who stayed in that unit looked and behaved I’m pretty sure my impression is correct.

While I did have a brief fling with vodka in the mid-00’s, beer was always my drink of choice. With that and the fact that I hadn’t had a drink the day before I “turned myself in”, I didn’t need to detox. After a brief check-up with one of the facility’s doctors I was shown my room. Also unlike the television portrayals I had seen, the rooms had three beds and were well furnished. I had just enough time to put my bag on the floor before I was whisked away to the first “class”. You don’t start the program at Brighton on day one with a group of people, you start in the middle of whatever they’re already doing. This was jarring at first because everybody else knew each other and the cultural cues of the place. In the end that was good, though. It snapped me out of my social fear and forced me to start trusting people again. Trusting anyone was difficult for me; imagine how hard it was to trust a bunch of drug addicts and alcoholics! Some of them were sent there by the court as a hail mary before their final court date in the hopes that a judge would see that they were trying and wouldn’t send them to prison. Others were there because their parents forced them. People like me who were there of our own free will were a depressingly tiny minority. So, no. I didn’t trust most of them on my first day. Or third.

Changes weren’t quick or dramatic. I was still quiet and introspective most of the time. It’s difficult for me to spear myself in to an already established social group and probably always will be. I feel like jumping into the middle of people’s conversations is rude and awkward even if it’s what most people do. Over time, though, I started to form a bond with the people there. First it was with the people who were in my group therapy sessions… our unit was further split up by therapist so there would be groups of 6-8 of us in the morning for therapy and then we would all come back together for classes and meals. A strange thing started to happen. My perception of other people was beginning to change for the better without any effort on my part. I was with hardened criminals, mothers who had their children taken away, and abject losers like me who had never amounted to anything. I started seeing them all as people though. Even the guys who came in “tough” on their first day started to let their guard down mid way through the first week and by week two were just normal people like the rest of us. I think that the most valuable lesson I learned at Brighton is that we are all just as scared of life as everybody else. People may make bad, even terrible choices but they weren’t born thinking it would be a fantastic idea to rob people for drug money. Life happens to all of us and I was lucky to be an alcoholic son of a reasonably good family instead of some of those other people. I would like to believe that we all changed there and the hardened criminals I met left to pursue an altruistic life of happiness but that isn’t how our society works. We won’t get into that though.

It was a bit like school from how I remembered it. There were cliques and hierarchies but unlike high school I was near the top of the ladder for a change! It felt good to know I was succeeding at at least something. There were still the groups who screwed around and didn’t take anything seriously. There were two groups of people in particular who were sneaking into each others rooms and doing what boys and girls do. Obviously they’ve relapsed by now. But the bulk of us paid attention and did the work. They kept us pretty busy. We had the aforementioned group therapy in the morning after breakfast and a class before we left to go to the hospital unit for lunch as that was where the main cafeteria was. After that we came back to our unit and had two more classes and then left yet again to have dinner. After dinner we stayed at the main building for an AA meeting and then came back for essentially two hours of free time. Even given that rigorous schedule I was starting to get severely stir crazy by my last week. One of the counselors would occasionally take us on walks through the property (they had at least a hundred acres of forest and lakes on their campus) but other than that the only outdoor area we were allowed to use wasn’t even the size of my back yard. It helped to have made some friends but those of us who were more serious about the process took a lot of “me” time to do the assignments and reflect on our lives. We still played board games and tried to play sports in our 20 yard garden but I spent a lot of time thinking about my past.

In the end, I walked out on May 16, 2018 with more sober time then I’d ever had since I was 21. Life hasn’t been a pleasant little picnic since then but one thing I can say is I basically do not think about alcohol anymore. I don’t know why. Whether it was the classes telling me the scientific explanation of how my brain works or the time I burst into tears when a woman in group told me after going through a laundry list of all of the horrible things I’d done in my that life she still loved me as a person. No clue. But for some reason I got away scott-free while thousands of other addicts go to AA meetings two or three times a day and clutch their heads in agony as they try to resist the temptation to drink. It’s not a thought for me.

I just don’t drink anymore.

BPD

Oh muh gawd-being bipolar is a struggle! It never hit me while I was drinking because I was always in too much of a haze to think about it but now that I’m actively trying to better my life it feels like I hit a cement wall every two weeks. I’ve not written anything here for weeks because I just couldn’t. It was hard enough getting out of bed to go to work. The medication I was prescribed doesn’t work at all… I guess those three weeks of heavy productivity were just a placebo effect. However the fact that a placebo effect is even possible given my brain chemistry tells me that I can beat this. I’ve redoubled my focus on diet and exercise. Diet seems to be the key (go figure, science was right about that). The days where I make sure to pack a ton of fruit and veggies into my meals I get a lot more done and wake up the next day with more energy. Real energy, too, not the fake manic feelings I get.

It hasn’t all been storm clouds and self-pity, though. I’ve kept up (more or less) with my 5k training and I started school last Tuesday! I did attend a community college last year but dropped out because I just wasn’t retaining anything with all the booze in my brain. I’ve gone to the same community college in the past but this is the first time I’ve attended a real university. It’s a might expensive and I’ll probably have debt for years to come but it’s so worth it in my mind. I’m working towards a bachelor’s in computer science with a focus on advanced cyber security. Cyber security is in high demand these days and I’m hoping to one day have a 200k square foot house on the beach in Santa Monica. Haha, kidding but I am for sure tired of living paycheck to paycheck.

I also secured a promotion a couple of weeks ago but the new position doesn’t start until the 11th. Job-wise it’s a huge downgrade and is moving me in the opposite of my desired career track but it’s a $5000 a year raise and I’m not planning on working here beyond graduation anyway so I don’t think it’s that important. The extra money will be a nice cushion to get the rest of my current debt paid off and to start building my savings. I currently have more in my savings than I’ve ever had thanks to my tax refund and some better budgeting decisions. I haven’t even touched my refund and I put half of my check in that account every pay period so it should grow consistently. My stocks aren’t doing anything for me right now but I don’t think they’re doing anything for anybody.

Still sober and that’s really all that matters in the end right now. Over 9 months currently although I don’t track the days so I’m not sure of exactly how many. I still go to therapy every two weeks and group therapy every Wednesday. I occasionally glean some knowledge from group therapy but mostly all it does for me these days is remind me of how far I’ve come. I’m the only one from my original group who hasn’t relapsed (two people graduated out) and the new batch are pretty insane. I’ve talked before about the “creepy kind of Christian” that comes out of AA and that’s pretty much my whole group. My therapist in one of our personal sessions encouraged me to be more confrontational with people in expressing my own opinions and I tested that out on the group last week by challenging AA and their idea that Jesus is responsible for everything good in their lives. It was met with a ton of defensiveness and accusations that I’m just going to relapse because I don’t go to meetings. I laughed because they don’t know my thoughts or how I feel… even my therapist said that if there’s anyone he thinks will never relapse it’s me. It was still a net positive though because I felt like I stood up for myself… maybe for the first time in my life… and at least people knew what my stance was. For my whole life I’ve just agreed with people on the surface even though I was screaming on the inside. It’s something I’ll continue to work on because it just feels better to have people know how you feel instead of incorrectly assuming you agree with them. Obviously not everything is worth arguing over and not everyone is worth arguing with. That’s something I’ll have to learn as well. Also how you argue is important. Never make things personal and try to avoid the logical fallacies that seem to be the only mode of discourse this country knows anymore.

I feel good today. I’m not perfect and I never will be but I work towards being a little better every day.

Bad News

So apparently my medication was just a placebo and didn’t actually do anything. There are countless medications out there in which the med sites say “some studies have shown that…” which generally means it doesn’t actually work. My medication was primarily a seizure medication but was marketed to treat BPD because “some studies have shown” that it works. It doesn’t.

I crashed hard last week and haven’t started to come out of it until today. I managed to run twice since then but am way off schedule with it as well as just about everything else. I see the psychiatrist again in a couple of weeks and I’ll throw in the towel and try an SSRI again. I start school next Tuesday so I can’t be having these two week long periods where I don’t even want to get out of bed. I know diet has a lot to do with it but once the depression starts coming it’s not easy to cook a meal of fruit and vegetables 3 times a day.

But I remain positive because 9 months ago I just let it happen and lived with it. Now at least I am searching for answers and trying to beat it. I’ve figured out a lot of things that help and now I can happily say that my depressive periods only last a week or a week and a half instead of MONTHS like they used to. It will get better.

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