The universe is telling me that it’s time for change. Which is good, as change is happening whether the universe wants it or not.
On Monday, I noted to my partner that two years ago around this time I struggled to get out of bed in the morning. I was coming off a clinical depression that hit me in January 2013. I was trying to negotiate my life with panic attacks and without alcohol.
A year ago around this time, I found that I still didn’t want to get out of bed about three days a week. I changed medications to help with my depression, and I learned basic skills to cope with the panic attacks that still came and went. Still, I struggled with an identity as a non-drinker and the reality of learning how not to drink.
Today, I find myself wanting to get out of bed, and I have for a while now. I still am aided by a serotonin-upper, but I less regularly need medication to manage my anxiety and panic attacks. I struggle with calling myself a recovering alcoholic and the ramifications of that identity in practice.
In the fall of last year, when I made the decision to renew my health insurance at work, my spouse and I decided to keep the most expensive PPO because that was the only way I could retain my care team: a team consisting of my endocrinologist, PCP, psychiatrist and therapist. It was important to me last fall to make sure I had medical stability in 2015.
And then, in January, I discovered that my endocrinologist, who has seen me post-cancer since 2007, was leaving the practice. But I didn’t freak out. We ran my annual ultrasound [all clear!], took my labs, and agreed on a 12-month prescription of levothyroxine.
Monday, visiting my psychiatrist, I learned that he too is leaving – retiring to private practice and leaving the clinic. Again, I didn’t freak out. Instead, we made a plan for the next four months until I can transition into different care.
The pieces I’ve put in place are slowly shifting onward, but that’s okay because I am also shifting.
Tonight, I’m headed to dinner with a loved one. I had too little time before our meeting up to warrant going home yet just enough time to feel the desire to sit at a bar with a glass of fruity red wine.
It’s sleeting outside.
It was a long day.
My tights are tight.
I’m an alcoholic in recovery.
All the excuses.
Sometimes, I try to pretend I’m not formerly alcohol dependent, but then I’m reminded of the symptoms I experienced:
1. You cannot quit drinking or control how much you drink.
2. You need to drink more to get the same effect.
3. You spend a lot of time drinking and recovering from drinking.
4. You have tried to quit drinking or to cut back the amount you drink but haven’t been able to.
5. You continue to drink even though it causes physical problems.
Yup. Pretty starkly dependent.
And so tonight I stopped for my back-up: a venti decaf coffee with cream. I’m now sitting in my car after leisurely driving through the back roads of Brookline, relishing the quiet capacity I have to write and watch the world pass. My coffee is delicious and it helps me avoid the bar.
I have put new pieces in place so that I can shift onward.
I am not perfect. Some of my pieces include sugar and sleep in doses that are far from moderate. I may spend a wee bit too much money on fancy coffee in paper cups. Sometimes I avoid extra work by going on long dog walks before watching mindless Netflix television. I am not perfect.
My universe is changing, and many of the changes I have put in place.
Two years ago I admitted that I needed help, and in January 2013, I began to see a psychiatrist in addition to weekly therapy. In July 2013, I realized that I couldn’t stop drinking by myself, so I went to AA. I told close friends what was going on. I journaled and cried. I walked dogs and worked at a bakery. I slept – sometimes. By October, I began a new job in a position that allowed my focus to be on me. Not work. Not school. Not achievement. Not family.
In 2014, I learned to stick up for myself at work and in relationships. Last fall, I realized that I could apply to doctoral programs, and I did. At Thanksgiving, I said “No” to a glass of red wine at dinner and gave it to my Dad instead. In December, I recommitted to Weight Watchers: yes, going into the holiday season. And then I ate cake on New Year’s Day. [It’s about balance folks.]
In March 2015, I was accepted to Johns Hopkins and the University of Tennessee-Knoxville for PhD programs. And, while I wrestled with the Type-A Achiever allure of immediately choosing the #1 school, I took the time to explore and think about myself in a holistic sense. I chose the environment in which all faculty described their work-life balance to me as enthusiastically as their research. [I’m going to Knoxville.] In the past 4 months since recommitting to Weight Watchers, I’ve lost 15 pounds, and I still eat a fair amount of cake and chocolate.
And today. Today I’m sitting in my car with a venti decaf coffee, dictating this blog into my phone, and living out yet another of the choices that keeps moving my life forward. I chose coffee instead of the bar. I’m choosing to continue investing in my friendship even though I’m leaving. And yes, I will choose some sort of cake for dessert.
My universe is changing. I am putting many of the changes in place. And I am shifting – onward – because it turns out I’ve been changing all along.