Six Steps: Part III

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When I spoke with my friend Jean, who hasn’t let go of me despite my absence from social media, I told her about my reticence in blogging. I’m struggling, and I had the absurd idea that I should be much further recovered before I write anything. Well, I didn’t realize how absurd it was until we spoke. 🙂 She reminded me that you all, like me with you, would want to share in the struggle. We need to know we’re not alone.

Here, then, are the last two of the six steps.

5. Your choices are yours. It might be tempting to tell ourselves that we’re making a change to please someone else. That way, if it doesn’t work out the way we would like it to, we know where to place blame. “You happy now?” we shake our fists in frustration. It’s because it’s so hard, that’s my opinion. Withdrawing from my medications is the number one most difficult thing, next to my father’s death, that I’ve ever been through. Does my decision have wide consequences/rewards? Of course, it does. The difference in who I am off meds with who I was on them is like – well, like the difference between milk chocolate and dark. I’m dark chocolate now. I’m richer with my emotions, like eating the most expensive caviar, but there is a slightly bitter bit at the end. Dark chocolate is an acquired taste. I’m teary a lot, over silly movies and TV shows. And my emotions are all over the place. God bless my mother, as she accepts who I am now in all its nakedness, reassuring me I’m much better to be around without being literally sedated. I suppose in a way I’ve been sleepwalking through the last 28 years. Does my family’s happiness at my condition mean they want to see me struggle? Not at all. I think what I’m trying to say is that it’s my life and I made this choice. Whatever happens, good or bad, it’s my responsibility.

6. Practice loving kindness. Times like these, fraught with emotion, need lots of affection and tenderness. Everyone, including ourselves, needs our loving kindness or at least the benefit of the doubt that we are all doing our very best. My mind is sharper now, which I’ve decided is not necessarily a good thing. With no buffer between my mind and the memories of nearly thirty years, I grieve for all that was lost. I grieve the loss of who I might have been. I grieve at costing my family, especially my mother, so much sadness and fright over the years as they had to deal with a shell of a human being. So, yes, I need to practice loving kindness with myself as I try to keep myself mindful and free from the gaping maw of past defeat. I’ll never do it perfectly. All I can do is my very best, and sometimes be happy with half-efforts. That’s all we can do, any of us.

Six Steps to Take Back Our Control: Part Two of Three

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Good morning. 🙂 If you are just tuning in, you can find steps one and two written in the previous blog post.

3. Politely listen but don’t necessarily follow well-meaning advice from family and friends. It’s human nature to want to tell someone or share with that person our ideas about what we think should be done in certain situations. In some cases, this helpful advice comes from family members who have heard us sound entirely different than usual. In my case, it was other siblings who heard me on the phone coming off slurred, drugged, or very sleepy. That’s alarming. I agree. It was disturbing to me as well, even as it happened. Others, including friends who are still on medication and doctors who don’t believe it can be done in your case, offer entirely different words of advice.

4. Visualize all possible outcomes of your choices. I did not do this before I chose to wean myself off my psych meds, but I wish someone had suggested it. I like to play the “What if” game in my head these days. It helps me with most situations. If I’d played this game before I weaned off my psych meds, it might look like this:

  • What if I get anxious? Coming off bipolar and meds for anxiety (specifically Ativan 2mg tablets 3x daily), this is a pretty likely event and concern. So, if I get anxious, I’ll have to cope.
  • What if I can’t cope? What if I *can’t* cope? What do I mean here with this fear? What if I don’t have the *ability* to cope, or I do have the ability, but I’m afraid I won’t want to deal? Suss out those meanings for yourself. I might have to ask for help.
  • What if I ask for help and I’m turned away, or the person I call isn’t home? Then I keep asking. If I have to call the suicide hotline for help, I’ll do that.
  • What if whoever I ask for help that person tells me I need to be admitted to a psych ward? So, is this a terrible thing? It’s *incredibly* difficult to wean off meds by oneself. I’m sure I did it more quickly than I should’ve.

Anyway, you get the idea. Play devil’s advocate on this step.

Peace. xoxo

Chrissy

Six Simple Steps to Take Back Our Control: Part One of Three

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I’ve been having the most difficult time putting my words down here. It can’t be because I’m afraid I’ll get it wrong. It’s my story, my life. How wrong could I get it?

It seems that my most effective/popular blog posts have been when there is a specific list to help change something in one’s life. Hey, who doesn’t like lists, right?

Six Simple Steps to Take Back Control

1. Question everything, and don’t be afraid of your doctor. When we lose or think we lose control of our lives, it’s not always with a crash and broken bones. It’s sometimes pretty subtle. For me, it starts with my doctor says that I need Prozac because I am in a major depression. I’m 27 years old at the time. I can say no, but he’s a doctor. If I didn’t need a pill, surely he wouldn’t suggest it? What I learned years later, something most of you probably know but I will share anyway, is this: doctors have to dx something in your chart in order for the insurance to pay. It’s not as important as Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life, but for some reason it scared me when he said that. So, being a little shell-shocked, I would have agreed to anything short of a lobotomy. Here’s the thing. Our doctors stumble in the darkness too. They aren’t perfect. Don’t be afraid. Honestly, I still get fearful, and have to tell myself over and over before an appointment: “He may have more medical knowledge, but I know myself better.”

2. Trust your instincts. I have been on psychiatric medications for over 30 years, and I’ve written before about trusting our instincts, especially with health concerns. I think I wasn’t absorbing for me what this actually meant. It means knowing how my body feels on drugs, identifying side effects you are absolutely not willing to live with, and letting that be okay. I’ve had two different reactions to my objection to side effects which made me so light-headed and clumsy that I fell twice in six weeks, once spraining my wrist. “You have to weigh the cost of living with the side effects on one hand or living with the symptoms of your illness on the other.” That was my psychiatrist.

I’ve gone on and on. Important things to ponder. I’ll cover steps three and four tomorrow.

Peace. xoxo

Christina

Feeling Helpless? Try This!

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helpEver feel helpless? When I feel that way, it’s usually because I’m feeling overwhelmed. Then I will remember one of these three things:

1. Breathe. Mmmm. There. Feel better? When I’m helpless, or when I get the thought in my head that says, “I’m helpless,” weirdness descends. Shortness of breath. My chest is tight. Constricted. It sort of feels a little like drowning. So I take a deep belly breath That’s what I call breathing through the diaphragm, because you have to push your tummy out–it seems confusing but it’s not. Do it as many times as you need until the world starts to make a little sense again. You’re not helpless, love. You have everything you’re supposed to, right now this minute.

2. Be in the moment. We are too much forward-thinking and backward-thinking and not enough right-now-thinking. Stay in the now as much as you can. If you’re reading this post, really pay attention. Read it out loud. If you’re reading it on a tablet, turn it upside down and read it that way. LOL When I was a kid and I was bored but couldn’t go to the library because I was grounded or whatever (who, me?), I would take a book I’d already read and read it upside down. 

3. Be your best self. Do the best you can and let it go. We all do the best we can with the knowledge we have at the time. When you know better, you can do better. But this is now.

Peace out. xx

A Rose by Any Other Name

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pink roseI’m so incredibly nervous writing this, and at the same time . . . feels like home. I have been completely overwhelmed by the positive responses to my last blog post. Just–flabbergasted, truly. Those lovely comments came on the heels of a little over seven months of severe depression and severe anxiety, which brings me to why it’s been so long since I’ve posted.

So many times, when one grows up in an alcoholic family, or any sort of dysfunctional family, it becomes all about the alcoholic for so long, or about the person or sickness that draws the most attention from the family–not that they don’t each have difficulties, but the alcoholic or whatever stands out like a fresh pimple. You see? It has been true for me.

It is time now for my recovery to be about me. There is plenty to talk about just in my case, trust me. I have blemishes beyond blemishes. I even am an imperfectly flawed person, which I hope makes sense to some metaphorically-inclined soul out there.

Recently, as recent as last Friday, I was finally dx’d with bipolar depression and told I was in a manic episode (not hypomanic). I had only been sleeping maybe 2 1/2 hours a night, and I was unable to focus on anything; not TV, not reading (I had five books going at once, but had not finished a book through since Doctor Sleep at Christmastime, very frustrating for me, a book lover); extremely irritable; and easily startled awake from a catnap during the day.

My dazzling doctor gave me samples of a new bipolar med which is not supposed to cause weight gain (a big problem–get it? I crack myself up, truly). It’s called Latuda, and since it’s only about six months old, there’s not a chance my insurance would pay for it, and it would cost about a thousand bucks to get filled. Yeah.  *respectful pause for that number to sink in*

I’ve been on it two days, and last night I slept 4 1/2 hours straight through. w00t!

There’s a lot more I have to say, about the last seven months, and a lot I want to say about the mental health care system in the U.S.A. and Michigan in particular, but I’ll stop here. I don’t want to bog you all down too much on my first day back in forever.

My gratitude bucket overflows. Peace out. xoxochange

 

Recovery Never Ends (long post, sorry)

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inspirational-quote-saying-no-claudia-blackSo sorry I have been quiet on here. I have another blog, another passion that has torn me away, Hooker With Yarn, Strings Attached, which is, as you may have guessed, about crochet and all things related to crochet. I have given up my first love, writing, because I’ve decided I’m not good at it, and why torture yourself to try to become something you think you should be? Fiber art is still creative art. It is simply a different medium.

But that’s not what this post is about. I just thought you should know that if you don’t see me on here, you might want to see what I’m up to over there. 😉

Lately, I’ve been struggling with my nephew, and by extension, his mother my sister. My sister is doing fine, by the way. She has been clean and sober for several months and is living in her own apartment in Ann Arbor. It just goes to show you though, that for the Al-Anon, recovery really never ends. I have to stay on my toes. Just because she’s sober (less than a year) it doesn’t mean she doesn’t still try to be manipulative, or lay guilt trips, or get selfish and narcissistic. I have to work hard at taking care of myself, and it’s a full-time job.

My nephew is a paranoid schizophrenic, and he usually comes over to our (my Mom’s and mine) house once a week to do his laundry. For two weeks in a row, each time he came, he was talking crazy. About parasites in the water, and people controlling his thoughts from on the street, etc. This hadn’t happened since before he was hospitalized over two years ago. I asked him if he was taking his meds, to which he of course answered yes he was. I asked him if he was taking them correctly (he sometimes runs out before the month is up, which means he’s taking too much of something), and again he replied in the affirmative. But he also admitted to drinking off and on.

My sister was visiting from Ann Arbor one of the weekends he happened to “go off the deep end.” She talked to him (or at least listened to him rant) for nearly a half hour in my car in the garage while he smoked. She then decided to call his psychiatrist and let him know the symptoms she had been seeing, as an FYI. I didn’t know you could do that, but my uber T. told me that was a very good thing to do.

But when my nephew saw his psychiatrist, he made his mother out to be the crazy person, saying she was “homeless” in Ann Arbor, a “drunk,’ and didn’t know what she was talking about. He had just been under stress. Since then, he has come over one time. I asked him beforehand how he was feeling, because if he wasn’t feeling well I didn’t want him to come over (I myself take anti-anxiety medication, and it really put me in a tailspin both times). He said he was fine. I asked him if he was experiencing parasites in the water. He texted me back: “Parasites? LOL No. No parasites.” So I let him come over and he was fine.

That was one week ago. Then, this past Sunday, the day before my brother and sister-in-law were due to arrive from SF for a week, he didn’t respond to calls or texts. I felt angry. I’m used to people having the common decency of at least calling if they are not coming over, especially if I’m the one who has to go and pick them up.

He didn’t call until the next day, and then it was to say he had been sick and turned the phone off. Whether he was hung over over well and truly sick doesn’t really matter. Don’t people usually call the person that’s expecting them to say they are sick? He called to ask me if I would bring him some cigarettes.

I said no. I felt a twinge of guilt when he said, “Oh, you’re concerned for my welfare, but only to a point, is that it?” He learned manipulation from a master, after all.

He texted me again yesterday to ask me to take him to the grocery store, that he had no cash on him. I know for a fact that grocery stores accept checks.

So I ignored it. I said no. 

It was a beautiful day yesterday, 65 for the high, and he lives right across the street from Meijers.

Was I wrong? What would you have done?

Peace out. xx

Take A Nap!

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pooped Things can get pretty hurried and fast-paced during this time of year. Although taking a nap is generally a good idea under normal circumstances, during the holiday season it should be a rule. 😉 

I posted earlier this month about dogs, and how we should try to be more like them. Animals know intuitively when they need a break. Dogs are not far removed from their wolf ancestors, who needed to conserve energy for hunting and gathering. When I take my Lucy out for a walk, you would think she’s on a hunt. Her nose is constantly to the ground, unless she hears a noise. Then she has to see what’s going on. 😉 But when she’s not playing, walking, eating, or otherwise occupied, she sleeps.

I find it difficult to sleep during the day due to some of the meds I take for bipolar disorder and CFS. But this is what I do when I know I absolutely need a nap and I’m having trouble. I go into my bedroom, close the blinds, get a light blanket, and turn on a cd, maybe Sleepy Rain: With Delta Brainwave Pulses. I have other cds I listen to, including a Brahms Lullaby for babies. 😀 Hey, whatever works.

Just be sure to get lots of rest this holiday season. It helps your immune system fight off these nasty colds and flu that are making the rounds.

Peace out.

Making Change

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Making change is hard. It takes determination, focus, and trust in a Higher Power.

This morning, as I was sitting outside talking to my Super Sponsor on the phone, we made a date for tomorrow to have lunch, I hung and started to dial my sister to tell her about it. It took me almost a full minute to remember she’s in jail and I can’t call her.

MAKING CHANGE IS HARD. IT TAKES DETERMINATION, FOCUS, AND TRUST IN A HIGHER POWER. 

As I was sitting there, waiting for my heart to stop aching, an illustration came to me about making change: literally and metaphorically. See, I work at the Book Nook at my local library, and there are a few things we have to always do when we are on shift.

1. Get the envelope and keys for the drawers and cabinets from the front desk. That’s if you are the one to open the Nook. But it still applies for the purposes of this metaphor. When we’re making changes, we have to make sure we have all the necessary resources. If It’s a big change, like moving, have we done all our research ahead of time? Have we prayed about it, talked with all our support people? This is crucial, because no matter how hard we try, a key with “teeth” on both sides won’t open a lock that only accepts a key with teeth on one side and a smooth top edge.

2. Always make sure there’s fifty dollars in the till. If you don’t have enough reserve within you, enough energy, have been getting enough sleep and so forth, you won’t be able to make the change needed in your life. It will slip through your fingers like so much sand on the beach. These things I know. When I’m hungry, angry, lonely, or tired – which means I haven’t been keeping my own till full – I don’t have what I need to make enough change. I better make good on the till before I go about doing anything else.

3. Even if it seems simple, count it out. We charge a dollar for cloth-covered books and standard-sized paperbacks, fifty-cents for regular sized paper backs, twenty-five cents for children’s books, and anything in the special cabinets is marked. So it’s all pretty simple. STILL. I make it a point to count out the books in front of the patrons, stating the price out loud so no mistakes are made. Since making change in life is hard, all the more reason to state your goal out loud, even if it seems like a simple one. I will speak about myself positively today. If I catch myself thinking negative thoughts, I’ll stop myself and say something positive out loud. There. Like that.

4. Always say thank you. Thank your Higher Power, your sponsor, your friends, family, strangers, and anyone else who helps you on your journey. It makes them feel good, and helps keep you humble. We can’t do this alone.

Those are four small things that reminded me about making change, and I hope it helps you a little. It isn’t easy, but we can be gentle with ourselves through the process. Remember to laugh a lot along the way. It helps. 🙂

Love you lots. Peace out.

Willingness To Surrender – And A Note

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There is strength in willingness to surrender. I’m not speaking here of the surrender we might see when someone raises his hands at gunpoint, or even waves a white flag, although I’ve waved a white flag a time or two at God to let Him know I’m done fighting the point. 😉

I’m speaking here of surrender of thoughts and feelings. This can sometimes be more difficult than, say, surrendering a gun, or another action. My thoughts and feelings are my will, and that’s what I’m surrendering, willingly, or without objection, to God (my higher power).

No, it’s not easy. At first it was messy, and I didn’t do it gracefully. Then I used a slogan, bring the body and the rest will follow. I read about surrender and willingness as much as I could. I talked and talked about it with my super sponsor until I thought she might grow sick of me. I prayed the 3rd step prayer.

Finally, I’m able to give it up to God. All of me and others in my life whom I love that I can’t take care of (which would be everyone – lol). He’s so much bigger.

NB: I will not be posting until probably Monday. My sister is being incarcerated on Tuesday and I’m going through a normal grieving process, watching her struggle with depression. It’s very hard for me to try to think of things to post that might help others when I’m struggling to stay above water myself. Please take care of yourselves, stay close to your H.P. . . . be good, and stay out of trouble. 😉

Peace out.

 

Courage to Change the Things We Can

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Remember way back when in April or maybe the end of March some time when I talked about cleaning my car, Tweetybird?  Yeah, I never did.

Not until yesterday and the day before, until I was backed against the wall and we were going to take my sister to her court date. But I did it! She’s beautiful again. 🙂 And I am SO SORE, from bending over and picking up empty iced tea bottles and cans, Coke cans, etc, and putting them in trash bags (no, when I’m in full-on clean mode like this, I do NOT recycle, sorry).

The only thing I have left to do is vacuum and get my baby washed. THEN you are in for a treat, because I’m going to post pictures. I would’ve taken before/after pictures, but I was just too embarrassed to let you see my baby before. She was sooooo sad.

Yes, courage to change is also about little things like this, and how much better they can make us feel. I may be sore in body today, but I am soaring in spirit. 🙂

Peace out.

Dog-Tired

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I’m exhausted; tired down to my bones; dog tired. I have not been sleeping well the last couple of nights. I know why, and it’s because I haven’t been praying enough, and haven’t been “letting go and letting God” when I am afraid.  I shouldn’t even be afraid, if I’m working my program right. 

Well no, I take that back. Feelings are feelings. They come and go, like thoughts. There’s not much we can do about them. 

In other news, I finished reading “Eat, Pray, Love” finally. I loved this book. It’s not a book I would have picked up on my own, you know? I mean I didn’t even see the movie. But Paula Balzer, in her book Writing & Selling Your Memoir suggests several different memoirs to read if you’re writing your own. I’ve read this one now, and Drinking: A Love Story, which I also loved, for different reasons.

They are about different subjects, for one thing. “Eat, Pray, Love” is about a woman who, after her divorce goes on a pilgrimage to discover what she wants for herself and spends a year divided equally between Italy, India, and Indonesia. She eats her way through Italy, prays her way through India, and loves her way through Indonesia. It’s a funny, serious, charming, and informative book. 

Liz Gilbert also has a totally different voice than Caroline Knapp, of “Drinking: A Love Story,” which I had finished just before I started Liz’s book, so that took a lot of getting used to. Caroline’s story is starkly honest, and is exactly what the title says. It’s about the love story between a woman and wine and other alcoholic beverages, but her first love is a crisp, white wine. 

Caroline takes us on her journey with candor and also wit, but pulls no punches, and we are led all the way through to her struggles in rehab and through that to living life sober, to making friends soberly, shopping for groceries stone-cold sober, going to a party sober, etc. Highly recommend both. 

Now I’m reading Lighting Up: How I Quit Smoking, Drinking, and Everything Else I Loved In Life Except Sex. It’s another memoir, not recommended by Paula Balzer, but I’m reading it because I read it once a long time ago, and with chronic fatigue syndrome I can read things a second time and it’s like reading it all over again for the first time. 

Susan Shapiro is seeing a psychoanalyst to quit smoking. Her voice is wry and emotional, and the book is hard to put down. 

I pray I sleep well tonight, and that you do too. What do you do when you don’t sleep well? How do you help yourself sleep?

Peace out.

 

Asking For Help With H.A.L.T.

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I'm Mrs. Lonely

After being in Al-Anon a while,  I learned about the acronym H.A.L.T., which teaches us never to get too hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. 

I’ve been rolling along all right, I guess, with the hungry and tired part . . . you know, eating enough (while not correctly) and sleeping enough. But I’ve been slipping in the anger department lately.

And I’m devastatingly lonely. There, I said it. I don’t have any real/life friends other than my sponsor, and– Oh God, that sounds absolutely pathetic. But it’s really not. Because for the most part I enjoy my own company and have been perfectly fine spending time alonewhich is different by far than being lonely.

The difference has spiked I think because many of my close circle of online friends are experiencing personal stressors of their own, or are extremely busy, or are in general freaking out. sigh It’s a sign of the times, you know? Life is precarious at best and a thin, delicate thread at worst. Striking a balance within that is like trying to draw polka dots on a King Cobra. A bit scary and breathtaking.

So, after I prayed, and cried, and prayed some more, then cried as I drove to the meeting, I did something quite uncharacteristic for me. I asked for help.

I shared that I’d been ignoring the L. part especially of H.A.L.T., and talked about how that was SO not working for me. Then – before my hands could shake too much – I passed around the sheet of paper and asked if, you know, they wanted to be friends and, if that was they case could they write down their number for me so I could call them and ask them out for coffee or something? lol

I DID. That’s exactly how I said it too. There were five women at my table, and I got four numbers.

I’m so proud of myself. I’m going to do it at tomorrow’s meeting too. 🙂

Is it hard for you to ask for help? When was the last time you did, and were the results surprising?

Creativity muscles: A-Z blog challenge

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Tomorrow starts the A-Z blog challenge. As of right now, there are 1,498 people signed up, which sounds really exciting to me! I haven’t written in my blog for over two weeks, so looking forward to a daily ritual.

My theme will be something I talk about as part of my blog on a regular basis, “Taking Care of Ourselves,” and I only hope and pray I can make it interesting enough for anyone who reads. 🙂

It took me a while to get to that theme. I was going to do something entirely different but chickened out at the last minute. 😛

So, who’s with me? Are we all excited?

On the Brighter Side

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On the brighter side

On the bright side

It took me a while to get to the place where I could even write today. I had to remind myself of my main destressor: knitting. After I’d knitted for a a good hour and still felt unequivocal and persistent self-pity, I searched the Kindle for something in my Daily Reads category that might kick me out of this gloom and doom.

While this is not a book review, I do want to note Amy Spencer’s Bright Side Up: 100 Ways to Be Happier Right Now, since I’ll be drawing from that for the rest of this post. When I read the chapter “At least you’re not . . .” that’s when light dawned, and a better, healthier perspective appeared before me.

Last night, I found myself screaming over a passed-out, drunken nephew on my sofa. Not my proudest moment. Also wrenched my back trying to help him “wake up” and get in the car so I could take him home with his mother.

This afternoon, after Aleve, a hot soak in the tub, some time knitting, and a shot in the arm from Amy, I wish there were do-overs. But there aren’t. He’s home now, sober. I’m here, feeling better.

At least I’m not living with zombies, after having been abducted. I heard one was sited in our neighborhood the other night. At least I’m not so poor I can’t even pay attention (sometimes). At least I’m not boring or unlovable. At least I’m not shoveling snow off the driveway. At least I’m not dog-less, without my Lucy.

And, with Amy, I had to recognize how blessed I really am. Sure, I hurt my back. But today, my head doesn’t hurt, my hands and feet are both functioning perfectly fine, my legs get me around without any trouble. And the Aleve really helped.

Maybe there aren’t do-overs in life. But I can always learn from what happens in my life and do better next time. Next time I can stop and take three deep breaths. I can walk away. Pray the Serenity prayer. Count to 100. Smile. It’s hard to scream when you’re smiling. 😉

Oh, life is a good thing. 🙂

Peace out.

Book Review: Sober Siblings: How to Help Your Alcoholic Brother or Sister – And Not Lose Yourself

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hope If you have a sister or brother struggling with the disease of alcoholism, and need help, look no further. Sober Siblings, by Patricia Olsen and Petros Levounis, M.D., M.A., provides some of the best help out there on the subject. In fact, it is the only book I have encountered so far in my search on alcoholism that addresses the difficulty of the sibling relationship.

Through Patricia Olsen’s own personal experience, along with personal stories throughout the book of other siblings of alcoholics, as well as supplemented by the experience of Dr. Levounis, Sober Siblings offers practical tips and advice on several topics.

From the Introduction, “To love an alcoholic is to watch in despair as that person sinks to a level he would never willingly choose.” (p. 1) To me it’s like Patricia Olsen really gets it, and I sensed that more from her personal knowledge than anything else. I mean, no one wakes up and thinks, “Gee, I think I’d like to be an alcoholic when I grow up.” But some people still believe it’s within one’s control and willpower to choose. In this book, Olsen and Levounis make it clearer than ever that alcoholism is a disease that robs one of willpower, self-respect and many other things before it’s through.

But what’s also clear is it’s important to take care of ourselves if we are a sibling of an alcoholic. It’s important to know what is our responsibility and what is theirs; to decide what sort of relationship we would like to have; creating and maintaining appropriate boundaries (even to know what a proper boundary looks like); to honor our feelings; and find help and support for ourselves.

There are wonderful examples of how to communicate effectively with our alcoholic sibling. Real examples, with actual scripts to practice. I found this very useful.

Family interventions are no longer thought of as a useful tool, as they are too confrontational to the alcoholic. It’s considered more helpful to confront the alcoholic on a one-to-one basis, one family member at a time.

It’s not an easy read. There’s even a section which discusses cutting off all ties with the alcoholic if it’s too difficult to maintain a relationship. This is as a last resort sort of effort. The authors are not at all judgmental, and provide stories of people in the book who had to do just that. It’s all very individual, as all alcoholics are different and all sibling relationships are unique.

All-in-all, I highly recommend this book. Professional expertise interwoven with personal experience and stories from other siblings make for a very well done work.

Taking Care of Ourselves

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self care

Who do you think about first thing in the morning or last thing at night before you fall asleep? Who do you feed first in the morning? Remember the airplane instructions about putting the oxygen mask on yourself first before you put it on your child or even the hurt person next to you? There are reasons for those.

When I was a kid coming up in the world, the last thing I thought about was myself. Sure, there were a few times that were carefree, like I remember playing Red light, Green light; Red Rover; Hide-and-Seek; Say-say-oh-playmate; Mother May I; all those games that kids play in their neighborhoods or towns growing up. But underlying it all was that elephant of drunkenness, anger, and violence. Towering over the elephant stood the giraffe of secrecy.

On the outside we had to look the part of perfect normalcy. Very proper, well-cared for, every hair in place, not a bruise showing, no tears no tears, mustn’t let the world think you are anything but absolutely ordinary. No, more than that: extraordinary. After all, my father was an officer of the law. If his children couldn’t be expected to behave in public, whose could? Our outsides, of course, terribly mismatched our insides. We hurt, we ached, we carried bruises (some physical, some emotional) . . . we carried secrets about drunkenness and violence, secrets in the words only our childlike voices could tell.

In Al-Anon and in therapy I’m learning to take care of myself – not better care – but to actually take care of myself for the first time. Dori (my sponsor) helps me to see my limitations and what I can and cannot do, before I actually hit the wall of exhaustion (as I’ve done). There is a whole chapter in the Al-Anon Big Book, How Al-Anon Works: For Families and Friends of Alcoholics called -oddly enough- Taking Care of Ourselves. Hey, is there some plagiarism going on here? How did they know I was going to write this blog?

What’s best about the Al-Anon Big Book, for me, is it’s simple enough that I can understand it when I’m distressed. Because when I’m in a situation and I need it, if the language were too complicated or flowery, I wouldn’t be able to absorb, intelligence not withstanding. Intelligence goes straight out the window when one is panicked and in distress.

There is a strong connection, in many ways, between the techniques taught in the Al-Anon and in the AA Big Book. For instance, I was pleasantly surprised to read under the SETTING PRIORITIES AND LIMITS section of this chapter, the acronym for H.A.L.T., which is usually often discussed in the AA Big Book.

This reminds me of my doctor’s appt yesterday for a re-evaluation of my chronic fatigue syndrome. I’ve been feeling much worse, dragging all the time, and lots of “brain fog”, which is upsetting. Well, the nurse took at least 20 vials of blood and I have to go back in a week to get more blood for a cortisol draw, since that needs to be done in the morning, and to go over the results of the lab tests thus far.

Here’s hoping they’ll have some answers for me. Even the slightest hormone mishap can cause a lot of fatigue, and if that can be corrected, I’m all over it. Taking care of myself is one of my number one priorities right now! 😉

How about you? Are you taking care of yourself?