Getting Through Another Anniversary Date

I have to write about this before I minimize and rationalize it away. I slipped over the weekend. Friday night, I had 3 shots of Tequila — several hours apart from each other, not enough to get drunk — but nonetheless, a slip. I know what the triggers were.

April is full of trigger dates — rape #1 – April 11/12; my dad’s death – April 14; the child’s birthday, who I gave up for adoption – April 27. Also, I could include the suicide attempt on April 12, 1998, as it was the most serious attempt I ever made, and the period of homelessness from April 17, 2005 through May 1, 2005 after the move to Tullahoma, TN. There’s just a lot to process in the month of April, a whole lot.

In addition to the trigger dates, a good friend of mine gave birth to a baby girl last week. She and her husband are mine and KR’s closest friends. That’s saying a lot considering I don’t easily trust enough to make lasting relationships/friendships. I spent most of Friday shopping for a gift for the new baby. I struggle a lot with my inability to parent my own children. That reason, alone, is a source of great pain and loss — as well as guilt and shame.

Most days, I avoid the children’s sections of department stores like the plague; yet on Friday, I was determined to do something special for my friend to commemorate the new addition to their family. All I can say about this experience of gift shopping is that it left me with a crippling indecisiveness that bordered on insanity, walking the aisles of the department store for more than a few hours. Seriously — hours. However, I am glad I got through it. Gift giving truly is as much for the giver as it is for the receiver.

When KR returned home from work with his usual Friday night bottle of Tequila, I didn’t think twice about it. I took a shot to settle my nerves and calm my incredibly noisy mind. I didn’t even get a buzz because I spaced the 3 shots out over several hours. Quite honestly, I hate the taste of Tequila, probably the one saving grace that stopped me from drinking more than I did. I’ve been fighting the urge to go out and buy a bottle of Jack Daniels ever since.

I’ve resisted.

Sobriety is a bear of an opponent, especially when you have voices in your head telling you things like, “A few drinks won’t hurt anything.”

Or, “You’re not really an addict. Look at how long you can go without using anything. If you were truly an addict, you wouldn’t be able to resist having a drink every time it’s in the house.”

Or, “Complete abstinence from alcohol is as unrealistic a goal as any other form of abstinence. How is complete abstinence any different from other forms of ‘black and white’ or ‘all or nothing’ thinking? It’s a contradiction in psychology to say one form of exaggeration is okay while another is a cognitive distortion. How can that possibly work?”

So, I made it 100 days this time before I gave in to those voices. It doesn’t surprise me that I would, especially not at this time of year. I refuse to feel guilty about a slip. At first, I was a little disappointed in myself; but I know that I am doing the best I can, given my circumstances and life history. I struggle enough with self-blame not to tack on anymore over something I consider trivial compared to past experiences.

I didn’t cry when I held my friend’s baby for the first time over the weekend. I was worried I might, but I didn’t. All of the emotion was there, just below the surface while I gazed at that beautiful little face. I held onto my tears until I reached the safety of my home, crying myself to sleep that night.

That loss hurts every bit as much today as it did 17 years ago.

Relapse

I’m so glad the holidays are over — so glad. As a non-celebrator, I find it fascinating (and moderately annoying) to watch so many people rush around like mindless drones searching for that perfect deal on whatever senseless item they or their loved ones can’t live without this year. “That’s harsh,” a more compassionate part of me says. I’m not a materialistic person. I don’t understand our consumerist society or its need to waste valuable resources and time on pointless purchases. I don’t even want to understand it. The holidays are only a reminder to me that greed is alive and well in the hearts of many — not all but many — individuals who are preyed upon by even more greedy corporations who perpetuate the problem.

Enough of that rant, not the point of this post.

I visited my mom for a few days prior to Christmas. A couple of weeks prior to my visit I had a particularly vicious flu virus that stopped me dead in my tracks. A full month later, I’m still coughing up mucus and feeling worn out. Thankfully, I was over the worst of it by the time I visited Mom, but I still wasn’t feeling up to par. I was very worried about exposing my mom to whatever I had because her dialysis treatments leave her weak enough as it is. She was grateful for the visit. I was also; yet it makes me sad to watch her health deteriorate, much in the same way as my dad before he died.

By the time I returned home, I was physically exhausted, emotionally overstimulated, and mentally worn out. That first night home, KR handed me a pipe and said, “Here, smoke this.” Oh, sweet heavenly nectar of the gods, my drug of choice — marijuana. I didn’t even think twice about it. I just smoked it, savoring the blissful change in perception. This went on for 7 days, until it was all gone. That first night without was a let down. That all too familiar feeling of, “Aww, back to reality.” That second night without, KR went and bought a huge bottle of Jack Daniels, my drink of choice. Yeah, I binged that night, skipped one night, and binged the following night. I don’t miss alcohol at all. At least weed doesn’t give me a hangover.

Why did I give up after 130 days sober?!

Just over 4 months clean and sober….

Why do I do this to myself?

Starting over once again….

One week sober, now, I’m questioning myself relentlessly. When I think back to all the times I’ve quit smoking pot or drinking alcohol in the past, rarely did I make it past that 4 month mark without giving in to one or the other. Why 4 months? Taking into consideration the many traumatic experiences of my adult life, it dawned on me that the two rapes in ’98 occurred exactly 4 months to the day apart from each other. Could that seriously be the trigger? Such a simple explanation for a seemingly complex lack of self-awareness. Is that realization enough to prevent another relapse? I don’t know. I guess I’ll see 4 months from now.

The Struggle of Introversion

What the hell did my sponsor say that shut me down on the phone? I was talking about how going to rehab could hurt my chances of actually getting SSDI should my disability advocate decide to appeal. He finally called me back to schedule a meeting next Thursday. I’m not hopeful. In most cases, judges look at addiction issues not as a disease but much the same as society views it, a character flaw that the individual has some control over. Where I understand that my use of alcohol was an unsuccessful attempt at controlling the symptoms of my mental illness thereby making addiction a symptom itself, a judge might not see it that way. Since becoming clean and sober, my mental illness symptoms have increased considerably, worsening as the weeks progress.

No. I’m not going to go back to using drugs or alcohol despite any urges to do the contrary. I’m done; no more of that chaos! I have no desire to give up my 114 day sobriety.

My sponsor told me that she needed my help in predicting the future and reading people’s minds since I could predict the outcome of my case and read the judge’s mind.

That’s why I shut down.

I have good reason to be leery of a judge’s scorn for having gone to rehab, especially considering the content of the 12 page decision letter that questions my credibility. I’m not an idiot, and I hate to be teased.

It’s been an all around bad day.

First, KR forgot his wallet; so I had to take it to him at work. Then, the washing machine quit working, wouldn’t spin out. I ended up having to spend over an hour hand-rinsing that load of laundry, still didn’t get all the soap out. It took nearly 3 hours for that load of laundry to dry. Ringing water out of clothes, especially towels and denim, is incredibly difficult. Midway through all of that, my disability advocate called and sent my mind racing through all the what-ifs of should I or should I not continue with my disability case. “Why bother?” kept creeping up like it so often does when I’m feeling overwhelmed and frustrated. Suicidal thoughts swept in; the urge to drink came immediately after; what the hell?!

I called my sponsor, broke down in tears after she teased and I shut down. She suggested going to the local NA meeting since there was no meeting tonight at our home group. I went. It was a candlelight meeting. I hate those because they turn out all the lights. It’s creepy. After one member was obviously using his cellphone during the meeting (glow of the screen), another member openly criticized him for it in a passive aggressive manner that reminded me of why I chose a home group nearly 45 minutes away from me in neighboring Cookeville rather than the one closest to my home.

I wasted no time in leaving after the meeting was over. Perhaps my foul mood today only fueled my disdain over tonight’s meeting, but I should have listened to my own instincts and stayed home rather than forcing myself to be around people when I felt the need to isolate and decompress. < This is the struggle of the introvert.

Jealousy

Saturday morning, I woke up triggered, paranoid, too. I must have had some pretty bad nightmares that night judging by my mood and the alarm bells going off in my mind, voices yelling demands. They told me to lock the bathroom door while I showered — argued about locking the bathroom door. “Keep him out.” “He’ll break down the door.” The argument went. In the end I must have left the door unlocked despite thinking I locked it. They told me to be cautious of KR despite the fact that he wasn’t even awake or out of bed yet.

I awoke Saturday morning to KR rubbing my back. “This is code for ‘he wants sex.'” I vowed I wouldn’t have sex with him again after he told me about his “flings.” I broke down over a week ago and did. At least he used a condom. Touchy subject, sex.

We spent Thanksgiving day with friends of his. How do I write about this without naming names? I’ll call KR’s friend C, C’s mother SH, and SH’s on-again-off-again boyfriend AT. Hoping this doesn’t get too confusing. The day after KR told me about his flings, I read his emails on Facebook. I’m not proud of this, and I know it breaks all kinds of boundary issues to do so; but for my own peace of mind, I needed to know more since he really wouldn’t open up about it. There were at least 5 or 6 women he was conversing with, even sending pornographic photos of himself to, just on Facebook. I don’t know for a fact that he had sex with any of these women, but the conversations were certainly disturbing enough given their content.

One of these conversations was with SH, his friend’s mom whose house we spent Thanksgiving. She’s the same age as me, friendly, yet not someone with whom I would wish to have a close relationship. It’s an instinct I picked up on the first time I met her — fake. Rational or irrational, I don’t know. Given the extent of what I read in the conversation between the two, my caution is very much warranted. On Sunday, KR told me that SH told him that AT was asking if anything was going on between KR and SH. KR played it off (not even sure why he would tell me any of this) as if AT is the jealous, paranoid one, acting as if it was absurd to consider it a possibility.

Oh my god, writing this out makes it sound like petty high-school bullshit! Drama I want no part of. Drama I didn’t even tolerate in high-school, let alone at 43. I really hate nonsense.

Yet, I have the exact same suspicions as AT — for good reason. I no longer trust KR. I feel no emotional connection to him. He severed it. My suspicions of KR and SH having a couple of one-night-stands together are the primary reason why I desperately did NOT want to go over there for Thanksgiving dinner. The fact that alcohol would be present was a secondary reason (No, I didn’t drink). “Why did you go, then,” you ask? Honestly, I was curious how they would both handle it. Hell, I was curious how I would handle it. Also, I went because it was expected of me — expected to go, expected to be polite and courteous, which I was despite that gnawing urge to go all Madea on their asses.

Given SH’s avoidance of me throughout the day and even KR’s avoidance, my suspicions increased 10-fold. Why would she have even invited me?

What made Thanksgiving even worse was the fact that November 26th was mine and KR’s 9 year anniversary which KR didn’t even acknowledge.

That tells me this relationship is over, that and a thousand other things.

refuse to feel jealous. Really, I’m not jealous, not even in the slightest. I choose not to give in to that emotion. Never have. Never will. Jealousy is a weird emotion. Rather than feel it fully, as soon as I notice even a tinge of jealousy, I move right into indifference because, well, this quote from the movie Anna Karenina sums it up best:

I consider jealousy to be insulting to you and degrading to me.

Jealousy does neither party any good.

Crazy Dreams and Fly Paper

I got to play a “real” piano today, a first in many, many years! I should go to the daytime NA meetings at St. Michael’s more often just for that incentive. I woke up feeling like I needed a meeting, even though I didn’t speak up during the meeting. I had some crazy dreams last night. Didn’t I just say a few nights ago in IOP that I never remember my dreams? I should have said, “I rarely remember my dreams.” Last night’s dreams were “user-friendly,” meaning I dreamed about using drugs, not alcohol but cocaine of all things, something I haven’t touched for more than 11 or 12 years. Why on earth did that pop into my subconscious?

I don’t really remember the specifics of the dreams last night, just lots of people around using the drug itself, me as well, standing outside of my body watching myself as I so often am in my dreams. The act of using is what actually woke me up, startled and confused. I’ve heard others in recovery talk about this sort of thing, so I’m guessing it must be fairly normal. I seriously didn’t expect a dream to leave me feeling so vulnerable, though.

In other news, last night I was determined to reorganize the living room. The clutter gets on my nerves worse this time of year for some reason, probably because I begin considering placement of a holiday tree. That determination was soon lost after I caught my hair in fly paper while trying to remove something from a high shelf in the spare room. My hair is very long, like 27 inches long. The fly paper literally ripped a chunk of my hair out! My scalp still hurts. Plus, I had that gooey, nasty glue all in my hair!

I immediately jumped in the shower, trying to wash it out. I spent the better part of half an hour to 45 minutes washing, crying, re-washing, still crying, rinsing, crying more, conditioning while combing under water, all cried out — until the water began to cool. I conditioned it again this morning, but it still felt weird. I was scared I would have to have it cut off. I stopped by to get my hairdresser’s opinion this afternoon. She reassured me that I got the worst of the glue out and that my hair looked fine. She trimmed it up (minus 2 inches) and recommended a good leave-in conditioner to help tame the area that is damaged (right in the back).

It took me 10 years to grow my hair this long! Long hair is a spiritual practice in my mind. Perhaps a holdover from my childhood Church of God days, but more so a Native American tradition I admire. My hair is one of the things I actually love about myself.

Needless to say, no organizing got done last night! I seriously doubt I could make room for a holiday tree anyway even if I tried. It’s been a weird couple of days, but I’ll take weird over drunk or suicidal any day.

~ 100 Days Sober ~

I’m kinda proud of that! 😉

The Things I Can’t Say

I keep trying to make sense of the last couple of weeks to no avail. With everything KR told me and then the unfavorable Social Security decision, I kind of lost it — paranoia and suicidal thoughts that bordered on serious “plan-making.” This resulted in another 5 day stay at the local crisis stabilization unit. After 7 years of refusing psychiatric medication, I finally broke down and allowed them to try me on a low dose of an antipsychotic medication called Latuda. This is the first medication I’ve ever taken in which I have to eat at least 350 calories. More stress over eating and food. I’m still panicked with every dose, paranoid about the thing that’s supposed to help with the paranoia, not to mention I feel like I’m simply substituting a prescribed medication for the self-medicating effects of alcohol. I thought the goal of sobriety was to actually “cope” with reality “sober.”

I’m told it’s not the same.

Yet, nothing feels “real.” This feels like some crazy nightmare from which I cannot awaken or like I’m reliving a past nightmare because truly I am. History is repeating itself. I still feel lost. My emotions are raw. I fluctuate between feeling perfectly capable of handling what I need to get done and doing it, one moment, and feeling like an emotional, helpless mess, the next, or worst still, contemplating every possible outcome should I make one choice or another to the point of feeling frozen in fear to do anything at all. All the while, everyone’s asking, “Are you okay? How are you doing?” And all I can answer is, “I’m fine. I’m doing good.” The funny thing about pretending everything is okay is that once you’ve mastered it, there’s no turning it off. That mask goes on without even thinking about it.

Grow up.” Why is this so hard? Why can’t I just “human” like everyone else? KR made this observation. So many people over the past two weeks talked to me about going back to work. “Just get a job.” Of course that’s the answer. I’m not stupid! I know I have to get a job. I know I have to support myself. My irrational mind says that I would rather starve to death and be homeless than work a job that I felt wasted my time. My time is my most valuable asset. I can’t imagine having enough time to work a full-time job and do everything else I do on a regular basis. Memory serves to remind me of the sheer chaos of working even a part-time job and trying to manage the rest of “life” at the same time. This is precisely one of the reasons why I’ve had 4 suicide attempts in my past! Maybe it is petty and childish, but the thought of working again fills me with dread and despair should I consider compromising something I find so dear — my time. Yet, I feel I have no real choice in the matter, as if proving I can face this fear and handle it all is my only option, regardless of the outcome.

Choice — my counselor said I never took back my “choice” after the rapes. I would argue I never had a choice to begin with. Choice implies one has the conscious ability to make good decisions, and I don’t think I do. I only have brief moments of conscious awareness. I’m lucky, very fortunate, if I can remain present long enough to make a decision or accomplish anything more than what I routinely do. Forcing me to remain present longer than I’m able only creates more dysfunction to the detriment of  my “self.” My personality seems to morph into whatever the person in front of me needs, like some screwed up mirror. Half the time I don’t know whether or not what I’m feeling is mine or the other person’s “stuff,” the dilemma of overly sensitive empathy. Again, why can’t I “human” like everyone else?

Is it any wonder why I value my time alone?

My fragmented “self” seems to capture bits and pieces of each interaction with others. Every part of me is in constant chatter, differing opinions making it very difficult to concentrate. Some screaming at me, some tantruming, a few encouraging, others pouting, singing, or carrying on conversations of their own — it’s all I can do to keep from yelling back at all of them, “Shut up!” I recognize that their anxiety is my anxiety, and it’s best to treat each with the same care and compassion that I would another “real” person. Stress in my life makes this much, much worse! Yeah… all of this is going to make working a true pleasure <sarcasm> — just like last time. 

I know the risk in sharing with anyone, especially anyone in the mental health field, about such things as this. “Do you hear voices?” is a common question I get asked, one that I never know how to answer. When I think “voices” I imagine hearing a voice, audibly, outside of myself; so in that respect, the answer would be “no” because most, if not all, of this takes place inside my mind. When asked, rarely do I give too much detail because, well… stigma. I don’t know what’s “normal” for other people, but this is my normal. Part of my fear of medication is that it will take away these voices, for lack of a better word, and take away my creativity along with them.

That’s why I guard them with my life.

And then, there was tonight. My counselor said I remain in this relationship with KR because it’s the easy thing to do. I guarantee you there is NOTHING easy about staying! The past 3 years of this relationship have grown intensively worse (obviously the past 4 years for KR); yet I don’t feel like I have a choice but to stay, frozen in fear of leaving because I know how bad it is to be homeless with no way to support myself. I’m fucked no matter what I do. There are no easy choices here, and I resent anyone telling me otherwise.

Heartbroken

On Tuesday night KR confirmed my suspicions that he has been having “flings” (his word, not mine) on the side.

After dinner, we stepped outside for a cigarette. KR asked, “Can I tell you something without it starting an argument?” Thinking to myself, “Yeah, that would be great,” since we really haven’t talked much lately, I simply said, “I’m tired of arguing with you, so yes.” He then proceeded to tell me that he had a fling about 4 years ago; and she recently contacted him to tell him she contracted an STD, trichomoniasis. (Red flag — 4 years ago?!)

At first, KR tried playing it off as something that if he has this STD, he (and “she”) probably got from me, another remnant from the rapes in ’98 or the promiscuous years that followed. The problem with that theory is when I was diagnosed with HPV (Human papillomavirus), a direct result of the second rape, the doctor tested me for everything. HPV was the only positive. Also, shortly after I moved in with KR, I had my GYN doctor test me again because I was worried that my ex-boyfriend might have given me something since he had been having an affair. Those tests were also negative, though I can’t be certain for which ones that doctor tested me.

All of this rapidly went through my mind Tuesday night as I tried to comprehend, then, process what he was telling me. I made these same points to him; yet he seemed unfazed, telling me that this STD is extremely hard to test for, going so far as saying it is really hard to diagnose trich in men and he would only get treated if I came up positive. When I called yesterday afternoon, the local health department told me that these were lies. It’s an easy test; yet unless there is an active infection, the test could be a false negative. The nurse I spoke with told me to urge KR to come in to be tested and treated as well.

At first, KR refused to tell me with whom he had this fling. He finally told me a name, whether or not it’s the truth, I can’t know for sure. Obviously, I can no longer trust him. I also asked him how many of these flings he’s had since we’ve been together. He wouldn’t give an exact number, only admitting to more than one.

I managed to remain calm during this entire discussion — never once raised my voice. After we came back inside, he asked, “So you’re not mad?,” I guess because I was so calm about it; but in reality, I think I was simply shut down mentally and emotionally. I replied, “I’m more hurt than mad; but yes, I am a little angry.”

NO. There’s no “little” about it. I feel positively livid deep inside — enraged by his lack of commitment — this infidelity that shows no loyalty to me whatsoever. I feel infuriated by his disrespect and fiercely bitter of his deceitfulness. I’m utterly disgusted to think of what all he has exposed me to — all while guilt-ing me into feeling like I was at fault for trying to cope with my past to the best of my ability. Yet, I am also hurt, humiliated, and disappointed in him for the very same reasons.

And I’m scared.

I’m scared because ALL of this is triggering the same insanity and fears that I struggled through with both rapes and the break-ups of both my marriage and my last relationship. I’m scared because it takes me back to that dark place….

My counselor was correct in stating this is a toxic relationship. It’s felt “toxic” for a while, now. I had no idea just how toxic until Tuesday night. KR endangered my life by exposing me to STD’s, an act of betrayal like no other. This is precisely the type of behavior typical of addicts. I recognize it as such because it’s that same careless attitude of indifference I experienced during the most dangerous phase of my own addiction, while working at the beer bar and dating PI. No excuses. I was as selfish back then as KR has been these past 4 years! He can’t love me because he’s too caught up in his sex addiction, let alone the drugs and alcohol he’s been using to numb his guilt.

Maybe, it’s Karma.

I suspected KR’s infidelity for most of the last 2 years. I “chalked it up” to irrational paranoia, caused by PTSD induced flashbacks, nightmares, and anxieties. Maybe, it was the other way around. Maybe, my gut instinct was telling me “something’s not right,” and the PTSD symptoms were triggered as a result rather than the cause. That compulsion to shower immediately following every time we had sex and my aversion to sex, in general, makes me wonder, now, just how powerful the subconscious really is.


 

My appointment at the local health department to be tested for STD’s was this morning which meant I had to face yet another fear — my fear of doctors.

I tossed and turned in bed from 10 pm until 6 am, barely drifting in and out of a restless sleep. I got up an hour earlier than planned exhausted. By the time I arrived for my appointment and the nurse checked my blood pressure, I was in such a panicked frenzy that my BP was 166/95! I was also on the verge of having a severe panic attack, gasping for every breath. The nurse was so sweet and kind. She tried to calm me prior to checking my BP again by saying, “Go to your happy place. Take a few deep breaths.” It lowered a little, 152/?, but still much higher than normal.

I am so glad the nurse practitioner I saw is female. I told her everything from why I was there today to everything about rehab and my mental healthcare to my past experiences including the rapes, HPV, and Lupus. I just kind of blurted everything out, unable to stop myself after I began. I apologized. TMI. She said, “No, no. It’s helpful to know.” Or something along those lines. I really liked her and felt comfortable in her presence. I’m so thankful for that.

She didn’t actually test for trich. She said that since I was exposed to it from a known infection, it was best to simply treat it with a megadose of the antibiotic metronidazole just to be on the safe side. After we talked for a while, the NP ordered blood work and a urine sample to test for Hepatitis C, HIV, Syphilis, Gonorrhea, and Chlamydia, as well as the thyroid panel to check on that issue. She postponed the Pap Smear for 2 weeks in order to give me a little more time to get used to the idea and hopefully less stressed out about it. That was very kind and understanding of her. That will also give the tests time to come back so she can discuss them with me.


For so, so long, I felt like I deserved all the bad stuff that happened to me, so worthless, like sex was all I was good for. Last night at IOP after telling the group about all of this, my counselor told me I deserve better. Do I? Do I really? I don’t know how to believe that, but I would like to. He spoke at great lengths about self-worth, asking each of us how we determine our self-worth. Honestly, I don’t know how to answer that right now. I just know that before I can figure it out I need to feel safe, and I no longer feel safe with KR.

And that breaks my heart.