Saturday, September 13, 2014

I've Migrated

I decided to migrate to Wordpress. I've had some folks experiencing difficulty commenting and/or subscribing. I guess everyone is using Wordpress these days!

Here is my new blog.

Thanks!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Lifting Out

Well, I'm back, baby! My fatigue started to lift this morning. I don't know when the next episode is going to come, but I'm hoping to have a little break. I like when positive thoughts mill around in my brain. When I am looking at the world through a rosier lens, which is most often as I am pretty much an optimist by nature. I feel like PAWS not only makes me feel icky on a physical level, but the negative thoughts are so toxic. Also, our country had a very sad anniversary yesterday and I was confronted with all of that drudging up. There was a special on the History Channel with footage that people in New York had shot during that horrific tragedy. It brought back all the same feelings of panic and helplessness we all felt across the country. This led to me reflecting on the afternoon of the Boston Marathon bombings, as I was "fortunate" enough to have been 500 ft. from the second blast. Ironically, I was there with friends who I met when I was living in Philadelphia, the very place I was on 9/11. It was a strange, full-circle kind of thing for me. I am still not quite over it. Added to the fold of bad thoughts - I live 10 miles from the site of the Station Nightclub fire. I grew up 20 minutes from the Rhode Island border in Massachusetts and the people who perished in that fire were all my age (I bought that first Great White tape when I was a single in high school). So, all of this was swirling and swirling and swirling in my brain the last couple of weeks. Now that the PAWS fog has lifted, I feel "right" again. I guess my point is, (a) PAWS is real and (b) the timing of that bout was pretty bad. I am reminded that self care is critical. For me, it means making the time to go grocery shopping for healthy food every week. I am pretty good about this, but I missed shopping this week and it threw my nutrition off (if I don't pre-plan my meals and PAWS creeps along, I am left making some not-so-good choices). I have to exercise. During an episode of PAWS, it's quite literally the last thing in the world I want to do. But even if I don't do my usual routine, I think that at least doing some of it is better than doing none of it. I have to listen to my body. If I need to go to bed at 8:30 PM, then I just do. And I need to practice gratitude.

Moving on!

I am so glad I can come here and write about this. No one in my life gets addiction besides people in my recovery group, so talking to people about PAWS would just be weird. 


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Follow Up to Today's Earlier Post or Of Course It's PAWS!

Everyone is different. Some people will never feel symptoms of PAWS. I wish that were true for me, but, alas, I'm a bonified PAWS sufferer. I've said this before, but it's worth repeating: If this is the worst consequence of my drinking, then so fucking be it. I know it's not ideal, but at least there is a name for it. And when there is knowledge, there is power. No wonder I just wanted to plop on the couch last night. The main symptoms I am experiencing are fatigue, lack of motivation, inability to concentrate, memory loss, difficulty in solving problems and thinking clearly and obsessive thoughts. 

And this can lead to some icky things. It can lead a person to buy a bottle of non-alcoholic wine. It can make said person beat themselves up about it. And the negative dialog leads to more negative dialog. I am feeling somewhat better today, but still not 100%. Not even close.

I am a bit of a type A personality. I own a business and I am accustomed to drawing up a huge to-do list a the beginning of the week and working hard to cross every little item off over the course of the week. I am never able to do it, probably because it isn't always feasible. But I give myself a ration of shit about it. I call myself lazy and accuse myself of being wasteful of time. I regret spending time on Facebook and wish instead that I had filled all my time with work. I've always been this way. Part of the perfectionism piece (I need to get that book, Anne!). But when I'm in the middle of a PAWS episode, everything gets amplified. I am so physically exhausted, but the negative self talk doesn't change. Actually, it gets worse because I am accomplishing less. Instead of breaking down tasks and doing one small thing at a time, I become seriously overwhelmed.

I don't think this is depression because my mind actually wants desperately to accomplish my tasks. It's just engaged in a huge duel with my body and my body says, "Fucketh You!"

I'm not suggesting that I'm not getting things done. Of course I am. But not nearly as much as I usually do and certainly not as much as I was able to do when I was actually drinking (go figure).

Here's what I read one ought to think about during a bout of PAWS (from elementsbehaviorhelth.com):

Despite the intensity of the cravings in the acute stage, many addicts are able to resist them, only to relapse later during the post-acute stage. This is because substance abusers are often well-prepared for the strong physical symptoms that accompany abstinence, but they are not ready at all for the scary and unfamiliar emotions they are suddenly forced to deal with after the onset of PAWS. That is why knowledge is the most important defense an addict can have against PAWS; as long as they know what to expect, they will not be taken by surprise when the various manifestations of the post-substance abuse blues descend upon them. When dealing with bouts of PAWS, recovering addicts should remain calm and relaxed, realizing that this too shall pass and that all of their inner turbulence is just a natural and unavoidable consequence of getting clean and sober.

The best strategy for coping with the negative emotions and loss of focus and motivation associated with PAWS is to scale things down and to simplify. Outside of work, days and nights should be filled with small activities that bring pleasure, such as playing sports or games, exercising, reading, taking nature walks, journal writing, pursuing favorite hobbies, and so on. Generally anything that does not involve too much time or effort is acceptable; however, it is not a good idea to while away the hours by surfing idly on the internet or by vegging out in front of the television, since passive, unfocused pursuits like these can actually reinforce a negative mindset and end up making a person feel worse rather than better. Activities that require real effort and concentration in manageable doses, which is what recovering addicts dealing with the symptoms of PAWS should be looking for.

So, yes, it's all pretty straight forward. Take care of yourself and try not to be too hard on yourself. Simple things, but not inactivity. Okay, I'll keep trying. I know the episode will pass. 

What I'm Missing + More PAWS Crap

Warning: It's time to beat a dead horse!

So, last night, I did what a lot of people in recovery would stone me to death for. I bought a bottle of non-alcohol wine. *Shudder* I've been struggling with PAWS a great deal. Yesterday, I was smack-dab in the middle of a particularly torturous episode of fatigue. I was feeling crummy and all I wanted to do was have a sandwich and plop on the couch after work.

I drank 2 glasses over the course of about 4 hours. And what I realized is that it really isn't the wine I crave so much as a room temperature, unsweetened, slightly bitter, non-carbonated beverage. I don't even want the alcohol part. I LIKE feeling sober. Hot tea usually does the trick for me, but it's been too hot for that.

I guess I'm just hopeless when it comes to this stuff. I obsess about the appropriateness of drinking non-alcohol beer and wine, yet, when I do, it doesn't make me want to drink the real thing and I don't drink a lot of the fake stuff. So, I don't really see the harm. Conversely, I am happy to drink all sorts of non-alcoholic beverages when I am out. But in my mind, I see this entire arena of recovery people screaming really judgmental things at me from a distance. I suppose I will continue to struggle with this issue until I come to some kind of firm personal policy about it.

On the plus side, I am feeling a wee bit better today. This fatigue is miserable. I feel fine for a while and then - bam! - it hits me. This coming Monday will make 4 months for me and I have read that PAWS symptoms peak between 3 and 6 months. I do have a check up scheduled at the end of October with my doctor, so I will mention everything and if there is something else going on, I'm sure I will find out. I started taking a multi-vitamin this week, too, so that can really only help.

  

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Let's Change the Conversation

Once I started learning more and more about addiction, a funny thing happened. I began getting a little ... how should I phrase this? ... annoyed/offended when I heard the way some people referred to alcoholics and drug addicts. It started making the hair on the back of my neck stand up a little. Now, I certainly don't want to pretend I didn't do it. I most certainly did and sometimes I judged harshly in my mind as a way to put great distance between myself and my fellow addict. I'm sure I made poor choices of words when describing some people. One develops a sensitivity to others in recovery (and those actively using) once one educates oneself about addiction.

There isn't any person to blame for this. Society has taught us that we are the way they are because we refuse to stop drinking. That we are bad people. That we are horrible people and if you don't label us this way, you just aren't seeing us for who we are. Society says, "They know they need to stop, but they won't. It's their fault. They hurt themselves and cause damage to those around them. They ought not to be pitied, but blamed. Perhaps even incarcerated or institutionalized where they can no longer cause harm and think hard on what they have done." We are taught that this is an appropriate response to someone suffering from addiction. Okay, I understand that certain things happen in the wake of one's addiction. Car crashes, manslaughter, theft, parental neglect. Lots of things that are tragic and punishable by law. And those who have taken a life or harmed someone in an illegal way ought to serve for that. The addiction itself, the source of the pain and damage, should be treated. If it isn't, that person is going to continue causing harm to themselves and those around them.

When someone on television or even a person I know uses the word "alcoholic" with a tone of disgust, I at first feel hurt. I take it personally. I believe that they are disgusted with me. But after a second or two, I realize that they are simply not properly educated about it. And unless they struggled with it, why on earth would they need to be? I certainly didn't think I had a problem for a long time. I know I was judgmental and critical, too.

We need to change the conversation about addiction. I'm not sure how that happens. If we live in a world where everyone involved in the struggle is anonymous, how in the world is society to catch up with those in recovery who are close to the issue and educated? 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Word "Habit" and More Thoughts on Advocacy

I've been thinking about the word "habit" and how it relates to addiction. It seems that attaching the word "habit" to something like alcohol consumption, smoking, drugs, etc. sort of makes it seem a little benign and easy to end. So-and-So should really put a stop to that cocaine habit. Habits, unlike addictions, are actually more like little, harmless rituals. I check the oven twice before I leave the house out of habit. When I was younger, it seemed that the words "habit" and "addiction" were somewhat synonymous. But how can you compare double-checking the oven to smoking cigarettes? Maybe the science behind addiction wasn't as comprehensive back then. Perhaps people are collectively realizing that addiction is real and it is powerful. Labeling it as a "habit" causes harm. For one, it minimizes the damage it does us. It also blames the victim because it assumes that habits can be controlled with a little good ole fashioned willpower. Calling it a habit says, "What the heck is wrong with you? Why can't you stop doing this?" When we call it addiction, it forces us to examine it further. It's more clinical and less "pesky."

This is a pretty good little article I discovered that goes into a bit more depth about the difference between the two.

I started listening to this week's episode of The Bubble Hour on my way to work this morning. Amanda and Jean interviewed Greg Williams, the filmmaker behind "The Anonymous People," a wonderful documentary about the emergence of addiction advocacy and how it is reducing the stigma, bringing about programs and legislation that give people greater access to recovery programs (You can view the trailer my clicking on the link in the right navigation on this blog.). The film raises awareness about the issue and debunks an outdated notion of what addiction looks like. This episode is the second interview they have done with Greg and I am anxious to listen to the rest of the podcast today. There are a couple of ways people can go regarding anonymity and addiction. It is good to know that we have choices. These pathways are not set in stone, either. If one elects to keep their recovery under wraps, there is no rule that says they can't change their mind at a later point in time. Of course, once you are public with it, there's no turning back and I believe that fear of being judged is what prevents so many of us from being "loud and proud." It's really quite personal. No matter how each of us ultimately decides to share (or not share) our story with those we know, my wish for all of us in recovery is that we have a healthy, realistic and beautiful view of ourselves. We can't control how the outside world views people in recovery, but this perception need not be attached to us as individuals. This is why Greg's movie is so important. People need to understand that this struggle has no bias. He has received a lot of flack from certain sectors of the recovery community. However, this world is evolving and the longer we keep ourselves secret and pretend that the problem isn't as pervasive and nondiscriminatory, the more we are hurting people who might otherwise reach for help. The good news is that attitudes are shifting. Instead of maybe seeing their addiction as a tricky little "habit," people are beginning to understand that this is a medical issue. For which it most certainly is.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Kitty Challenges

Our Jojo, 4 Months Old

One of our kitties, little Jojo, was recently neutered. He was born feral and we socialized him with our cats when he was 4 months old. I had been feeding his mother, who has established our backyard as her territory, for a long time and little Jojo since he was old enough to eat solid food. My husband and I established a bond with him pretty quickly. He got all his shots and was checked for FIV and other illnesses and was a-okay. Still, it took time to get him settled in our home. The first trip to the vet was rough on him, so we wanted to give him a few extra months before getting him "snipped," as they say.

After his surgery, he developed a UTI because of the stress he experienced (even waiting the extra few months) and had to get antibiotics to clear it up. That was another traumatic trip to the vet's office. Once he started feeling better, he decided to sneak out of the house. This is my fault, really, because though I thought I had latched our side door after popping out to my car for a second, I did not.

Jojo was gone for more than 24 hours. None of my cats had ever escaped before. Well, a few times, I've had cats scoot out for a second, but since they were all totally domesticated, all it took was me lunging at them and picking them up quickly. Jojo still has feral instincts and my husband and I worried that he might just decide not to come home. I don't have children, just our furry friends, so they mean a lot to me. This isn't to say that people with children and pets don't love or care about their animals. Of course they do, but these are the only little ones I look after and I am quite attached. I was sick to my stomach while he was out there. We have lots of feral cats in the neighborhood and a few coyotes, too.

There were a few moments that I actually rationalized drinking. Or at the least, I thought that smoking a cigarette would help. I was paralyzed with worry and felt that I needed booze and/or cigarettes to manage. Even if I snuck them behind my husband's back. I am happy to report, though, that I did not indulge. My nerves were shot, but a little voice crept in every so often that said, "Just relax, he'll be home soon." As it turns out, that little voice was right. This morning, at about 6AM, he must have had enough of "roughing it," because my husband saw him outside, called to him softly, held the door open and in he went. No coaxing, no trapping. He was just tired and hungry. After he ate, he came right over to me for cuddles. He couldn't wait to saddle up next to his kitty friends (our other two cats) and they seemed pretty happy to have him back home, safe and sound.

Today, I've got a little extra skip in my step. It's going to be a good day.