Posted in Addiction, advice, faith, health, Life, Mental Health, recovery, twelve step

Patience in Recovery

meth brain

I was sitting here googling random shit this morning, as one does, and somehow “Why are some people naturally more kind than others?” morphed into “Long term effects of methamphetamine on the brain”, which, in my case, aren’t necessarily unrelated to one another. Basically, I was wondering if my inability to be as kind as I’d like to be could be linked to damage in my brain caused by years of INSANE quantities of meth in my body.

It seems like there is good news and bad news. The good news is that, by now, my brain has mostly healed from all the harm I did to it. There are certain parts of my brain that might never be okay again, but as far as my behavior, moods and that sort of thing goes, it’s all me at this point. As far as “they” know, anyway. The bad news is, this means I am just naturally a bit of an asshole, but I don’t think this is breaking news. And, unlike most of the assholes out there, at least I’m trying to change. Actually, I have no idea what the other assholes are trying or not trying to do, I’m just angling to make myself look good. Shocker. Also, thanks to my years of chemical dependency, I have a higher chance of dementia and Parkinson’s, which I’m not thrilled about, but what can I do?

One thing I did find really interesting, though, is that I now have scientific evidence supporting what I have been claiming for a long time- your brain needs ample time to heal after your cessation of meth. I mean, duh, right? But this is not something anyone was able to reassure me of after I first got clean, and I thought I was going mad. If I wasn’t using anymore, why did I still act so crazy? Why was I still so full of anger and rage? Why couldn’t I control my emotions at all? In short, why was I still exhibiting all of the behaviors I associated with my drug use, but I wasn’t even using drugs?!

Although I was seeing some progress in my life in these areas, it was incredibly frustrating how slow it went, and how terrible I felt. I didn’t understand. I thought maybe it wasn’t the drugs after all, and maybe I was just a horrible monster of a person. My doctor strongly recommended that I go on an antidepressant or something, but I was so turned off by the idea of using another drug, even one prescribed to me. I knew that something wasn’t right, but my instincts urged me to wait and see. And so I did.

It took between 18 months and two years before I saw a significant change in my behavior- enough so that I felt passably sane. At 3.5 years, I can tell you that I am probably the best I have ever been in my adult life. I used drugs for most of my entire adult life, approximately 20 years. For someone who did more growing up and less drugs, I expect the recovery time would be shorter.

The point is this: be patient with yourself. Not only do you need time to grieve the time you lost and the damage you did, not only do you have to relearn, or even learn for the first time, how to exist in the “normy” world, but your brain has to heal physically. Meth might not be considered physically addictive, but this does not mean it does no physical, quantifiable damage. It does. Look it up, see for yourself the pictures of a brain six months after cessation of drug use. Actually, never mind, I’ll just post the picture so you can see for yourself.

My advice to anyone in early recovery from methamphetamine is to be patient. The changes will come, but maybe not as soon as you would hope. Commit to stick it out, and before too long, you’ll see the person you had always hoped to be under all the bullshit. With a lot of work, love and faith, it’s never too late to become the very best version of yourself. 🙂

 

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Posted in family, kids, Life, love, motherhood, Musings, parenting, People, women

Messy

messy

On the peninsula where I live, September and October are the most beautiful months of the year. We get these gorgeous, sunny days and the evenings and mornings are crisp and cool. It’s not like autumn anywhere else that I’ve lived, but it’s lovely nonetheless. I might be imagining it, but it feels like there is a quality to the light, too…it feels more fall-like, and I just love this time of year. My body seems to sense the difference, and I become more relaxed and languid. I want to be with my family even more than usual.

It’s a good thing, too. My daughter (who will be 21 in just a couple of weeks!) and her boyfriend had to move back in unexpectedly, just temporarily (we still haven’t pinned down exactly what “temporarily” means to them, but trust me, that conversation is coming), so I have a full house right now. They brought with them their cat and dog, and the cat is currently running around behind my chair, trying to play with/provoke her own murder with my cats. My cats are mostly just ignoring her.

So, my younger daughter is sleeping with me (nothing new about that), and my older daughter is in her sister’s room, and I…well, I’m happy. I’m sorry, I know I’m just one of those moms who sleep better at night when I know where my kids are. And the thing is, I ADORE my daughters. I sit here in the morning, and I think about how crazy it is, how lucky I have been, to have gotten the kids that I have. That I grew them in my own body, that they exist at all. It blows my mind. Of all of the ways I ever imagined my life turning out, there’s no way I could have expected this feeling of love. It is truly everything.

Don’t get me wrong- it’s not always sunshine and butterflies. The older one has mood swings that are unpredictable and incredibly swift, and the little one cries about thirty times a day for almost any reason you can imagine. They are people, not just little extensions of me. Which means they have minds of their own, and reactions I don’t expect, and feelings about things that are different than my own. But this is also what makes them so wonderful. I love their differences. I love them exactly as they are. I enjoy their company. Which makes me very, very lucky and blessed. And super grateful.

I have not always been a “good mother”, whatever that might mean to you. By anyone’s definition, I would have pretty much sucked. But more and more lately, I feel like I am doing it right. At least when it comes to them, at least in that part of my life, I feel capable and competent. And that makes me feel really good. Because when it comes right down to it, what else could matter more in my life? The way I loved my children has got to be right up at the top of the list.

My life is messy. I can’t ever seem to get a handle on my home, I can’t stick to a routine to save my life. I struggle to like myself, I’m harder on me than anyone else has ever been. It’s a challenge for me to just lighten up a little bit. But you know what? That is just LIFE. This is just who I am, and I’m working on accepting myself, warts and all. (for the record, I don’t actually have any warts. That I’m aware of.)

And there are some things I’ve gotten right- these beautiful, funny, smart, big-hearted young ladies that I get to call my own? I hit it out of the park in the kid department. They are part of the mess, I suppose. Which makes the mess a lot easier to love.

Posted in Addiction, anxiety, Depression, health, Life, Mental Health, Musings

Realization Dawns

anxiety

Recently, I was wrapping things up with my therapist, and just before we were done with our session she said something like- “Oh, well you have anxiety anyway, so that makes sense.”, and she said it so matter of factly, and I was a little bit offended for some reason, like, pssshh- I get a little nervous sometimes, but I wouldn’t say I have anxiety! Which is so funny, now that I think about it, because…I obviously HAVE anxiety. I must have been in a really good phase or something, because her words kind of wounded me. I just don’t think of myself that way.

That’s the tricky thing about MY particular set of mental peculiarities. I am not anxious all of the time. It comes and goes with me. There are certain situations which trigger massive anxiety, and once my thoughts start spiraling out of control, it is very hard for me to pull myself back into logic and reality. One of those is, clearly, my children. There have been times when it was worry about my health. Occasionally, I will obsess over losing my job or having to move. But all of these are pretty manageable except for the one about my kids. That is my big-ticket item, the one that I can make myself physically ill over.

So, when things are going along nicely, and our routine is well established, and nothing weird happens, I forget that I even have anxiety. Because, technically, when I have nothing to be anxious about, I kind of DON’T have anxiety. But that’s the thing- there will always be times when things don’t go as planned. I can’t control every single situation so that it works for me, and I really shouldn’t have to. Sometimes people’s phones die. Sometimes they are running late, or they lose track of time. These little tiny things, innocent, average, every day things, can make me lose my mind. When I can’t reach my little one’s dad because his phone is on the charger, or she is at the fair with a family friend who lost track of time, I don’t think “Oh, they’re fine.”, I think “Well, I better get in my car and go look for the wreck they were in”, only in a more screamy voice.

Anyway, I am in a lot of private groups on Facebook, and the other day I joined several more- groups for people with anxiety. After I had my meltdown on Tuesday, I just thought maybe an anxiety support group might help. So I joined three. Last night, a girl posted that she had been obsessing about a pretty unlikely health worry, and that she knew it was silly, but she couldn’t stop thinking about it, and she couldn’t stop pacing, and she was exhausted, and I reached out to her, and so did a lot of other people, with stories of their own, and with…well, support. Here’s the thing: Not one single person said “Oh, come on, that is so ridiculous! Of all the things to worry about, you think you have THAT?” Which, if it were any other group I am in, that would have been said. Instead, at least three other people confided that they had shared the exact same fear at one point, and others shared similarly unlikely worries. Everyone got it.

And I woke up this morning still thinking about that. That not only did I totally get where she was coming from, but everyone in the group that spoke up did, too. And that is when it hit me- I TOTALLY have anxiety. These people are my people, because they get it. When I am freaking out, even when I know I am being crazy, I just can’t stop being scared. Fear literally takes over my body, and will not listen to reason.

And here’s the deal- this is not a new thing, not at all. I started having full blown panic attacks at the age of 17, sometimes as many as five, six, or seven every single day. I didn’t know what they were, so I thought I was either going crazy or someone was poisoning me. The only problem with the poisoning theory was that I was around different people all the time. So instead of realizing that this was improbable, my poor, sick brain assumed that everyone was trying to kill me, and I just stopped eating food that anyone else had touched. Do you know how difficult this is? I lost a ton of weight, and my mom said something like “My god, you look like you are dying of cancer.” Which, of course, gave me a whole new set of worries to obsess about.  Honestly, the only reason I pulled myself out of that mess was because I got so sick of worrying all the time that I just said “Fuck it, I can’t live like this anymore- if I’m going to die, so be it, but I have got to eat.” And I just threw all caution to the wind and ate at Denny’s. From that day on, I stopped having panic attacks, and thought I was cured.

But…here I am, at 43, realizing that it never really went away. I masked it for many many years with drug abuse, and now I am discovering that it has been here all along. It was just covered up. I am so lucky that I can talk about it to the people around me- my boss knows that I get weird, sometimes, and she is super supportive. And I am sort of the quirky friend, the crazy co-worker, the funny-but-super-high-strung one. Being the oddball is kind of my thing. I’ve made it into a bit of a joke, I guess. Because it make it more tolerable, for me and for everyone else, too. Which made me forget, or not notice, that it is real. The moments when I want to cry because I’m so scared, when I can’t sit still, when I can’t breathe, when I can’t slow down my fucking insane thoughts- that’s not funny at all.

My point is, I guess, that I woke up this morning and realized that I really, really have anxiety. And that it’s been part of my life since early adulthood- this is NOT a new thing. It might look a little different, my fears might have changed a little bit, but the feelings? They are exactly the same. And now I get to figure out what happens next. But I have found some people just like me, and I am much less afraid.

Posted in family, Goals, kids, Life, motherhood, Musings, parenting, People, women

Close, but no cigar.

Before I even get started, I have to tell you this: As soon as I wrote down the title to this post, I had to go and look up where the hell this expression even came from. Apparently, from what 30 seconds of googling could tell me, it originated during the 20th century at carnivals when they would hand out a cigar as a prize when/if you could win one of the carnival games. So there you have it.

Anyway, what I am referring to here is my attempt to make it a full 24 hours without raising my voice. I did pretty well, honestly, right up until I was getting ready for bed. Cam was out in the living room with her dad, doing homework, and I was trying to figure out why all my sheets and blankets were all over the floor…and in the hallway. This isn’t what irritated me, though. I like to make sure my bed is made properly before I get in it anyway, so I would have been fixing it no matter what. What made me forget my goal was the pile of milk-soaked cereal, not in a bowl as one would expect, but sitting ON the surface of my antique wood dresser. Just sitting there, soaking in. Ewwww…not cool at all.

So I may have raised my voice, just a bit (although, in fairness, she WAS in the other room, so I needed to be heard) to demand what the hell was happening on my dresser. A silly question, as I obviously knew what it was, but…maybe just a little clarification as to whether or not she knew it was there, and why, if so, did she simply leave it there? Her father, who reads my blog, reminded me of my goal to not yell- which I both appreciated and found very annoying, in equal measure- and I simmered down. But still! What the hell?

So, I kinda fell short. It was a brief episode, and it didn’t leave me feeling guilty and terrible, but I still fell short. I will continue today to try for 24 hours without raising my voice- same rules as before.

In other news, I know, and have known for a while now, that it is high time to get my kid into her own room. She thinks my room IS her room, and her room is just where she stores her belongings. I know lots of people have lots of opinions about this, and I am going to be very upfront here and say I HAVE HEARD ALL OF IT ALREADY. I always have allowed my kids in my room…my older daughter didn’t start sleeping in her room until she was probably 8, and honestly, I have no regrets about allowing her to sleep with me for so long. They grow up so fast, and one day they want nothing more than to hole up in their own room and have no interest in snuggling with you at all. So I created this situation, 100%.

And now I am ready to start transitioning her into her own room, and her own bed. Sleeping with Cam is like sleeping next to a very active windmill. She’s a bed hog, she’s a blanket thief, and she takes up an incredible amount of room for a child. When she spends the night away, I find that I sleep quite well and that my blankets are incredibly neat in the morning. I feel guilty for even saying this, but it’s true. So, putting her into her own bed, in her own room, will solve a couple of problems- it will alleviate the things like wet cereal on my dresser, and it will also give me a good nights sleep, without being punched in the face by anyone other than myself (I actually did this recently and gave myself a bloody nose. True story).

So, goals for today: No yelling. Get Camryn to at least lay down in her room, if not spend the entire night- I’m not stupid. I know it might not happen on the first night. Let’s see how this goes~!