Recovery in Action

Recovery works. Over the past week, I have weathered a maelstrom that could have easily set me back. I could have easily slipped back into depression and spiraled out of the life I’ve created.

Ten years ago, my day was a success if I brushed my teeth. That was it. That’s the point I was at. I could have reverted to that.

But that created life includes recovery tools that I’ve made a habit to use. I have constantly preached in this blog and in my life that I take medicine as prescribed by my psychiatrist, I meditate daily to give myself a calm center to retreat to when things are out of kilter, I see my therapist regularly and tell him everything, I get exercise, I eat wholesome food, and I get good sleep.

Medication.

Meditation.

Therapy.

Exercise.

Diet.

Sleep.

I have stayed stable in the face of being abandoned by my parents because I’m gay, because my recovery tools are habitual.

Am I tooting my own horn? Yes. Am I showing arrogance? Not if it’s the truth.

My reason for writing this blog has always been to show that it’s possible to lead a good life even while living with a mental illness. It’s not an easy thing to do. I have proven that it’s possible.

If I can do it, others can, too.

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.

The Teens

In 2010, I was living on disability. My life was a mess. I was unable to cope with most things that life threw at me. I had a psychiatrist, a psychologist, and a case manager.

I got some medications that worked well, which I changed in 2013 to different medications that work better.

I learned to meditate, and that has proven strikingly valuable. I now meditate between 10 to 30 minutes every morning, and I can’t imagine starting my day without it.

I have been going to therapy regularly through thick and through thin. It has given me a safe place to go and talk about all the things that weren’t working for me and to come away with ideas to try that might work better.

I got on a regular sleep schedule that has helped.

I have been exercising by walking most of the time. I’ve had periods when I stopped, but I’ve been fairly consistent in the ten years.

I changed my diet. I now eat a mostly vegetarian diet. I try to eat as much fresh food as possible. It’s not easy, but I feel so much better.

I was accepted into a training program in 2013, and today I administer that very program. I work full time.

With the skills I learned this decade, I now live a fulfilling life. I have my own place and a car that’s paid for. I pay all my bills every month. I cope with all the stress of living a modern life. I am an out and proud gay man. I have friends.

I am excited to see what this new decade brings.

Busy

Work is changing a great deal. There has been a change of management and a restructuring of the organization. Not only did my boss change, but my place in the structure was rearranged. The new big boss is proving to be good. She’s very vocal about praise for what we’re doing.

One of the things we’re doing is trying to pull off a training that I’m supposed to run in less than a month. This is a process that we would put six months into in the past because of needing various approvals. Doing it in a month is exciting and stressful. I’m excited to do the training, but all the planning is overwhelming. Thankfully, the new bosses understand this can’t be done alone. A team is working on it. That helps my peace of mind a great deal.

I’ve been in this job for almost four years. I basically worked alone for three and a half years. This new team environment is welcomed. I like the idea that there are people helping me to get projects moving.

All this is affecting my sleep, one of the pillars of my recovery. I’m taking some medicine to give me good nights, but it’s less than ideal. It’s not a sleep medicine. It’s simply one that has a side effect of causing sleepiness. I need good sleep, and it really upsets me when I don’t get it.

I have been doubling up on my meditation. I used to meditate only in the mornings, but I’ve added a time late in the afternoon or evening before bed. This helps me feel better. It keeps my mind clear.

I’ve also been seeing my therapist weekly. These sessions give me the opportunity to say a lot of stuff out loud that I keep within. All that keeps my mind clear, too.

My diet is unchanged. It’s mostly vegetarian with very little refined sugar. My birthday was last week, and the man I’m dating baked a cake, but he only put in half the sugar. It was still just as good.

The one area I’ve really slacked off on is exercise. I’ve basically quit. It’s not ideal, but there’s so much stuff going on in my life right now, and I’m not even going to think about it. Things will settle down in a few months, and I’ll restart my speed walking routine. I refuse to berate myself for this one point.

All in all, I suppose things are pretty good right now.

There’s hope!

I haven’t been friend-zoned after all! Hooray for me! The man I thought who’d friend-zoned me has been over to my place twice since I wrote that, and we’ve had a good time both evenings. We have good conversations in person and on the phone. I’m very hopeful that this will develop into something romantic.

There’s more reason to hope on the recovery front. This past weekend, I received a message from an old friend thanking me for my candid posts on this blog and on Facebook about my recovery from both mental illness and alcoholism. He told me he has just passed two years alcohol-free, and he said my posts helped. It does me so much good to hear that.

I’ve had several notes from readers here also thanking me, and those kinds of words are so valuable to me. It really makes a difference to me to hear that my experience resonates with others.

I am full of so much gratitude for the people who take the time to read this blog. I am full of so much gratitude for my recovery. I have so much good support. I have a good psychiatrist, an excellent psychologist, a wonderful best friend, and amazing friends. I’ve had really good teachers along the way who have helped me develop the good tools (medication, meditation, therapy, exercise, sleep, and diet) I use to keep myself stable.

I started this blog nine years ago. I’ve come a long way, and I’m so grateful.

The Day After

Yesterday, I was feeling very low because I broke up with the man I was dating. Last night, I went out to eat with two very close friends. They allowed me to dominate the conversation. I was able to say everything I wanted to say and process the whole experience. The result is that today I feel refreshed.

I love the way the process works. For this low spot, I used meditation, medication, and conversation.

In meditation before the break up when I was feeling particularly bad, I used visualization. I imagined myself actually vomiting up all the anxiety I was feeling. It was remarkably helpful, and I felt better. While I was feeling so low after the break up, I was able to imagine myself receiving light and positive energy. It helped.

I have an anti-anxiety medicine that I use as needed. With all the chaos at work the past month and with my doctor’s approval, I’ve been using it daily. It really helped during the break up, too.

I used conversation in therapy to help me know how best to manage the actual conversation of the break up, and last night, the conversation with two close friends really helped me get all the crap out. I’m so grateful to them.

All of this reinforces what I already knew. Get it out. Whatever is troubling me loses its power when I speak it. It really works. Speak it to a trusted person. That’s key.