A few weeks ago, my goal of 90 days sober felt incredibly ambitious. So it’s good to stop and recognise today that I am half way there. That’s a big deal.
It isn’t like the past 45 days have been easy. I’ve wanted alcohol at some point during each and every one. Some days that craving to dull my feelings was all I could think about. When I have to sit with how I feel, I get scared and frustrated and angry. This massive energy builds up and I end up wanting to rip my own skin off to escape from it.
Everything I was drinking to escape from is still swilling around inside me. I lie awake at night seething with self loathing, replaying every conversation I’ve had during the day and feeling waves of shame break over me. Every night, I think of my brother and how he abused me. I get hopeless and furious and disgusted with myself. And now that his wife has cancer I think of that too; I imagine how the rest of my family is rallying around for them, and how they probably speak of me and my refusal to discuss her treatment or ask after her. I then flip between anger at the situation and my family, and the deep feelings of failure and not being good enough that the young parts of me hold.
There’s a great deal of anxiety in my system since I’ve been sober. Alcohol depresses my mood, for sure, but it also works brilliantly to keep me mellow and out of that hyperactive, hypervigilant state I hate so much. Aside from five days of being knocked sideways by a flu bug, I’ve not stopped with my busy obsession in recent weeks. I have to keep moving and doing and working and pushing until I completely run out of steam and crash. I notice I’m doing it, and I feel out of control because I can’t force myself to call it a day before I’m exhausted.
Being back at work this week has exacerbated that problem. Now I need to be up early to walk the dog before I go to the office. I’m only meant to be there for three hours but that’s difficult to stick to. And I feel myself getting stressed while I’m there that I have all these jobs to do at home and I might not finish them before my wife gets back from work. Which is nuts, because hardly any of it is urgent and she wouldn’t care at all if she got in and I’d done nothing but watch TV all day. She’d probably be quite happy if I did.
This habit of avoiding myself through being busy / totally exhausted is one I tend to slip into during therapy breaks. And it’s been over two weeks now since I’ve seen J. I was managing better than usual without her up until Boxing day. That was a kind of turning point, at which the feelings floodgates opened and I collapsed into the trauma and loneliness and despair I’d been almost keeping a lid on up to then.
I’m struggling to pull myself back out of that. I keep getting dissociative and feeling the lonely fear and sadness of my younger parts. It’s hard to find anything that feels like a comfort. It’s then that I really, really want a drink. I get desperate for anything that might feel soothing, even if only for a few minutes. Sometimes a cuddle with my wife or my dog works, or a warm bath, or wrapping myself in a blanket belonging to J. But those things haven’t felt enough in the last few days.
In the past couple of therapy breaks, I’ve tried hard to leave J to her time off. I know I’m demanding and that working with me must be draining. I’m aware I’m not supposed to worry about how J feels, and whether she’s OK, but I do. I have anxious dreams that she burns out and it’s my fault. So despite the fact that it’s painful, I have avoided contacting her during her holidays. I want her to have a break from me.
That was my plan this time too, but as we approached two weeks into the break, I couldn’t stand it anymore. After dreaming that J abandoned me to provide therapy for my sister instead, the insecurity and fear of disconnection became too much. I caved and sent her an email. I berated myself for it, but it felt like the lesser of evils. I needed to know she was still there and I will definitely see her next week. I was relieved and comforted when she replied. But it still feels like a century between now and Tuesday.
I’m not feeling very capable of doing any ‘adulting’. Today was challenging, because I was meant to go to an appointment at the psychiatric hospital where I was recently an inpatient. I’d been dreading it all week. The thought of going back to that place, even just for an hour, made me feel sick. And after my horrible experience with the eating disorders assessment a few weeks back, I couldn’t bear the thought of meeting and having to open up to yet another strange new person who probably wouldn’t offer me any support.
I’d usually push through that and force myself to go anyway, because I know it’s the right thing to do. But this time I just couldn’t. I don’t have the strength right now to put myself though that. I’m scared of the impact it would have to feel patronised, ignored, or rejected yet again. So I bailed. It felt like failing. It felt like letting down my wife and J because they both want me to engage with the community mental health team. I’m ashamed I couldn’t face the fear, but I wasn’t willing to take the risk this time.
I’m going to finish by trying to recognise the positives this week. I’ve managed to get myself to the office four days in a row, and that’s the most I’ve done since October. I had a very nurturing reflexology session yesterday, which enabled me to get some decent sleep last night. I’ve been through the contents of our attic and basement and loaded up the car with junk to hopefully get rid of at the car boot sale this weekend. And I’m still sober. I promised myself I’d get a new tattoo if I reach 90 days, and it feels like I could maybe start working on that design now.