I Don’t Feel Good

I woke in a panic attack yesterday at 4AM. As usual with these things for the past two months or so, I was having a nightmare about my dad. It set the mood for the whole day. I was on edge all day long.

I realized yesterday that since my parents disowned me, I’ve become much darker in many of my thoughts. Some of my actions are not well thought-out. They border on being self-destructive. I’m going to talk about this realization to my therapist tomorrow. I’m also going to ask him if there’s any way to have more appointments in a week. I don’t feel stable.

I’m still doing the things that I’ve done for years to stay well. I take the medication my psychiatrist gives me as prescribed. I’m meditating daily and often more than once a day, but I’ve noticed it’s really hard to concentrate and get calm during some sessions. It was that way this morning. I’m talking to my therapist weekly. We’re meeting by video for the time being during this current health crisis. I’m getting good sleep, and I’m eating healthy food. The one thing I’m not doing is exercising, and I refuse to beat myself up about it.

The current world-wide health crisis makes all this worse. I don’t mind working from home, but the news is scary. I don’t watch news on television. I read it online. I prefer to get my news from a source that I read, because it’s less sensational. There’s less a sense of entertainment to how it’s presented. It feels calmer to me.

Here’s what scares me most: I have a sense that my behavior is self-destructive. I’m worried that could play itself out to become truly so, and I could drink. I’ve been sober twenty years, ten months, and 28 days as of this writing. I do not want to drink for any reason. My drinking days were horrific. I do not want to go back there. I’m grateful that I can go to AA meetings online. I will certainly get to a meeting today.

All this makes me feel bad. I feel damaged. I was describing myself to a friend like an old dented car. I’ve done a lot of work and healed a lot of my pain, but the dents are still there. I’ve only painted over them. I just don’t feel good.

Heaviness

My heart is heavy. I had two real traumas in January. The first was when my dad called to disown me. The second came much later in the month, and it had to do with my job.

The agency where I work is being reorganized. As part of that reorganization, my job is being reclassified, and the little office I run is being made part of a new office. The result is that my salary is being slashed by a lot. The reorganization takes place July 1. At that time, the new office will come into effect. It will have a new office manager, and I will be eligible to apply for it, but there is no way to know in advance if I will be successful.

I spent much of last week reeling with this news. There were days my anxiety was so high I had to take sick leave at work. The slash to my income is too high for me to manage. If my application for the new management position is unsuccessful, I will have to take a roommate to afford my rent. I have analyzed my budget, and I can’t make ends meet by simply cutting expenses.

I have done several things to prepare. I have immediately slashed spending. I still have a number of months to go at my current salary. I will save every stray penny that I can.

I just feel very heavy.

Through it all, I realize that I’m quite strong. I have weathered two real traumas, but I’m still standing. I haven’t isolated. I’ve been out on two dates. One man came to my house, and I made him a cup of very good coffee. I met another man for coffee. I was able to tell both about my troubles and demonstrate that I’m resilient.

I’ve been seeing my therapist weekly.

I’ve been sleeping a lot, which can be a sign of depression, but sleep is one of my recovery tools, so I take this as a good sign. I say “a lot,” but it really just is a healthy amount. It’s not too much.

I’m taking all my medications as prescribed, and I have made an extra appointment with my psychiatrist to tell him what’s going on. He needs to know about these things to help me monitor myself for signs of debilitating relapse into depression or hypomania.

I’m meditating as much as I can. I’ve started walking down to the cathedral during work breaks and getting some even breathing in that time.

My diet is unchanged. I eat healthy food. I don’t drink soda. The only thing that is close to junk food I’m eating these days is trail mix, which is mostly nuts and raisins with a few M&Ms.

I’m going to AA meetings when I can. That’s about two or three times each week. It’s good to be around other people working on improving themselves.

One thing I’m not doing is exercising. I’m just not doing it, and I’m not going to beat myself up about it.

Despite two real traumas, I’m going to be OK. Right now, I’m allowing myself to feel heavy. This is grief.

Long Road to Recovery

I’ve had some bleak days, but I’ve also had periods of calm. If you wonder what has happened, see my last post.

I’ve been using my recovery tools.

I’ve been using the medication my doctor gave me to help with the situation, and I’m grateful to have it. It honestly helps a great deal.

I’ve been meditating. I had a very long one this morning.

I’ve been to therapy, and I have another appointment coming up next week. I’ve also been to some AA meetings. They’ve been helpful. Most importantly, I’ve got some good friends checking on my daily. I cannot adequately express how good that feels.

I have walked some. Not daily, but I have walked. Exercise is a good idea when I’m feeling low.

I’m eating good food. Yesterday, I actually cooked for myself, which is something I rarely do. That’s real self-care. I took the time to wash mushrooms and cook them and eat them over toast. I did it for myself.

I’m making sure I get good, restorative sleep.

Medication, meditation, therapy, exercise, diet, and sleep are the important tools I use to stay stable.

This morning, I’m battling negative self-talk. I know it’s lies, but it’s so loud. Pain in a situation like this comes and goes in waves, and today I’m in a wave. It will pass. Soon, I hope.

My Parents Disowned Me

When I was a teenager, my father threatened to kick me out of the house if I was gay. This trauma forced me deeper into the closet for many years and greatly affected my alcoholism when that happened.

When I got sober twenty years ago, I came out to my mother. She was not supportive. I always assumed she told my dad. In these past twenty years, I haven’t really done anything to hide my sexual orientation from my parents, but I live 5000 miles away from them. When I talked to them on the phone, I never talked about men in order to keep the peace. It never occurred to me that my dad didn’t know.

Yesterday morning, my phone rang. It was my dad. He quickly got to the point. He said he’d discovered that I am gay, and therefore, he and my mother never wanted to hear from me again.

During the call, my heart was pounding. I was shaking. I felt like I was being physically attacked.

I said nothing to try to change the outcome. My dad asked if he’d made himself clear. I simply said yes and hung up.

I spent the day in shock yesterday. I told my children, a sister, some close friends. I texted my therapist. He responded helpfully. I texted my psychiatrist to alert him, and he acknowledged the news.

Everyone was helpful except for one friend who wrongly thought it would be helpful for me to try to see it from my parents’ point of view. Everyone else was very supportive. My children have been a source of great love.

The next thing I knew I would need was to go to an AA meeting. I did that in the evening. It wasn’t a great meeting, but it helped me. I wrote an email to a good friend who has been sober a very long time. I spoke to him this morning. He is a gem. So kind. I had to cut that call short to get to another AA meeting, and this one was really good. I’m so glad I went. I met a man there I’ve met under other circumstances, and he and I are going to meet at the big LGBT meeting Monday night. I’m looking forward to it.

I am hurting. A lot.

My greatest fear is that this will trigger a mood episode. Specifically depression. I’ve been having depressed thoughts all day. I’m using the medication the doctor gave me as prescribed to try to prevent a depressive relapse.

I am using my recovery tools to stay stable. Only time will tell if this will work.

One thing is very clear. I feel like I’m officially gay now.

Twenty Years

Today is a special day for me. I am celebrating twenty years of sobriety. I’m full of emotions. My stomach can’t decide if it’s excited or anxious.

I remember the days before sobriety. To say I was miserable is an understatement.

I remember those early days. I was so confused and in such a fog.

I remember those early years. My life was such a mess. A really awful mess.

If you’re newly sober or thinking about getting sober, I can tell you it’s worth it. I have peace today. My head is calm. I live with serenity. My life is not chaotic. It took time, but I have built a life that is good.

I don’t know how to put into words how good it is to simply say I have peace. Those few words carry so much weight. That’s really all I can say right now.

Nineteen Years

Today, I celebrate nineteen years of sobriety. A friend reminded me that’s a long time. At first I thought about the fact that it’s only a string of single days all put together, but you know what? It is indeed a long time, and it’s a big deal.

It’s easy to live through the single successive days and lose sight of the larger picture. In that string of single days, I’ve built up a lot of really good stuff. A lot has happened that was truly good. There was some bad, too. I remember the bad, but today, I feel the good more.

The best is that I healed. I drank because I was broken. Sobriety helped me know how important it was to reach out and get the help I needed to heal. I did that, and it worked. Read some of the past posts on this blog to understand how I’ve used therapy, medication, meditation, exercise, and sleep in my recovery from mental illness and substance abuse.

And today I celebrate nineteen years! Hooray!

Healing the Wound

When I remember my drinking days, the pain is what comes up first. There was tremendous pain. It was pervasive. It seeped into every corner of my being, and it oozed out of me in all my relationships. I was capable of happiness, but it was always fleeting. It was never enduring.

I drank for one simple reason: it gave me relief from the pain. What I did not understand was that the relief was fleeting. The drinking did not do anything to help heal the pain. The wound remained. The drinking was a kind of Band Aid on my wound.

It’s no secret that my wound was my warped perceptions of what it meant to be gay. The ideas inculcated in me about homosexuality were not compatible with living a happy life. I grew up convinced that god hated gay people, and that gays were beyond god’s grace. I also had good reason to fear ostracism from my family if they knew I was gay. Finally, society allowed violence against gay people. Some portions of society even condoned it preaching that gays were beneath contempt and unworthy of safety and fulfilling lives.

I became an alcoholic, because I got relief from my pain when I drank. The pain was so great that I needed a lot of alcohol to relieve it, and I needed it daily.

The day came, however, when the pain became more than the alcohol could cover. That day I faced the fact that alcohol no longer worked. That day I also discovered that quitting drinking was not a simple matter. I am grateful that I found AA. With the help of the 12 Steps and with the love from a sponsor and other members of the program, I found a way to live without alcohol.

Sadly, the pain was still there. The wound went untreated. I lost the Band Aid that alcohol provided. My next course of action was to find a way to heal the real wound. I am grateful that I found therapy as a young adult. I continued it through the years, and it proved invaluable for healing my wound.

Meditation also helped me slowly change my perceptions of what being gay meant. I learned I am not an abomination. I learned god loves me. Most importantly, I learned to love myself.

Gradually, I healed.

And I discovered that when my wound healed, drinking became unnecessary. It’s not even the slightest issue. I go to gay bars these days and feel nothing. I have no compulsion to drink alcohol.

AA gave me the tools to stay away from alcohol, but the AA I was exposed to did not direct me to the tools I needed to heal the wound that caused me to drink. The AA that I was part of treated the drinking as if it was the wound. It taught me that not drinking was enough.

But it wasn’t enough. I needed to heal the wound. I had to find the ways to heal outside the rooms of AA.

I doubt I’m alone. I am confident when I say that alcoholics drink because it provides relief from a pain-causing wound. We need to stop drinking because it is a destructive way of treating the wound. It does not heal. It masks only.

We are doing a disservice by telling people that the pain will stop when the drinking stops. This wasn’t the case for me, and I know many people who agree. We need to do our part to help individuals stop drinking, but we also need to actively direct them to the places where they can heal their wounds.

After 18 years of sobriety, I’ve seen countless people return to drinking after a period of sobriety, and I am convinced it’s because they could not find a way to heal their wound. They return to using the only Band Aid they knew that gave them any amount of relief.

It’s not enough to stop drinking if we ignore the reason the drinking started. The drinking is only a Band Aid. It is not the wound.

Again, we need to actively help individuals find a way to heal their wounds.

[I have been thinking about this for a long time. I’m reluctant to share it, but I have experienced my words reaching others who feel the same but are unable to speak for various reasons, so I’ll share.]