I live every sober day with the fear of relapse. It is always in the back of my mind. For all 333 days of sobriety, I have had 333 days of fear, fear of drinking again.
I often think that at this point in my sobriety, closing in on a year, I should not still be having cravings feeling triggers, or still be thinking about drinking, but I do and I am. This makes me nervous, and that translates into fear.
I am still aware of the drinking going on around me. I am not as hypervigilant as I was in the beginning, but it is still there. There are still certain visual triggers. Certain bottles of wine, names of vineyards, and family gatherings are all palatable trigger points.
I was at my home group meeting two weeks ago, and a gentleman shared a story. He was at a meeting where a man received his 19 year medallion. The holiday season was in full swing, and the man with 19 years disappeared from the weekly meeting he always attended. A month went by, he returned and picked up a 24 hour chip.
He had seen a holiday advertisment for Kahlua and coffee. He went out, bought a bottle of Kahlua, and proceeded to have just ONE. The next thing he remembers is waking up in detox.
I sat there flabbergasted. Thinking to myself, HOW DOES THAT HAPPEN??? WILL THAT HAPPEN TO ME?? WHEN WILL IT HAPPEN??
This past Monday night, I went to my home group with 12 the Hard Ways post, Back to Zero fresh in my mind. I was having a pre meeting meeting with one of the old timers. I was telling her about the blog post, and how it affected me, and how afraid I was that it was eventually and inevitably going to happen to me.
The meeting moderator asked for a topic for discussion, she threw COMPLACENCY and relapse on the table.
The discussion was enlightening.
I constantly hear the old timers say that staying sober has to be the number one priority of every day. I had listened to that so many times, but until Monday night’s discussion, I never really HEARD it.
My home group is mostly made up of old timers. The stories and the wisdom are fascinating. Everyone had a relapse story. Either their own or someone they had met along the way.
Each story ended the same way. The person in recovery stopped tending to their sobriety. They stopped going to meetings. They stopped doing their readings, they stopped meditating, the stopped tending the garden of sobriety. They stopped keeping it green.
Instead of getting up each day and doing the work, they told themselves; I got this, no problem. They became complacent.
As they were sharing, I began to think, great, more work to do. Then I realized, I am doing the work. I do it every day. I read sober blogs, my daily meditation, my Big Book, and my 12 & 12. I go to recovery websites, I read sober posts on Twitter, and Facebook. I text or talk to my incredible sponsor.
What I learned is I need to work at this program, come hell or high water. Whether my mother is dying, or my son is under- employed and living in my house, or I am knocked around by any of the other obstacles that life throws at me. I have to do the work to stay sober, every day. I can’t take a chance on thinking, I will do that work tomorrow, because that is the day I will end up drinking. I can’t become complacent.
I often wondered why my home group was filled with so many people with an amazing accumulation of years sober. Why did they still have to come to meetings? Aren’t they bored with the program after so many years? They may be but they can’t afford to become complacent.
I have worked very hard to get here. The fear of relapse is still there, but now I look at it as a positive emotion, it will remind me to do the work that will keep me sober.
I have to keep working, because it only works if you work it.
I have to keep it green.
I am back at home after having spent 5 days visiting with my dying mother. I am exhausted, emotionally and physically wiped out. I feel like crawling in bed and telling everyone to wake me when it is over.
We had a bit of a family reunion. Most of the immediate family was there. Amazing how we can all make time to see one another when the Grim Reaper is coming down the road. Life always seems to get in the way of making time, but death does not. It is the biggest oxymoron I have ever encountered, and we are all guilty of it. I will get there tomorrow, until there may not be a tomorrow.
Lung cancer is grisly, swift and vulgar. The oncologist gave my mother two months, even that is a stretch as we do not know where else in her body the beast is hiding. The hospice nurse was brutally honest when my Mom suggested she may have longer than the two month diagnosis, she said it was highly doubtful. That was two weeks ago.
During our 5 day stay, we ended up spending most of the day Friday in the hospital. Mom was short of breath, and had to have fluid removed from her lungs. This was the second time they have done a lung tap to remove the fluid. The first time they removed 600 ml, 2 cups of fluid. That gave her 14 days of good walking and breathing. 850 ml of fluid was taken out of her right lung on Friday, that is over 3 cups. By Saturday evening, she could not catch her breath after walking 10 steps.
My younger brother took her to the hospital again today. They have decided to do a procedure called a pleurocentesis. She will be in the hospital for 4 days. Her oncologist discouraged this procedure when she gave us her diagnosis, as it can be extremely painful. The pulmonologist is like a crack dealer, he keeps pushing it. He finally got her to consent when he offered up this tidbit, “It will give you two to three months of good breathing.” I question the validity of this statement, but all she heard was TWO OR THREE MONTHS.
Saying that to my mother was like throwing a silver lure out into a bunker of blue fish, she bit. He had her at hello.
My brothers and I are trying to allow my mother to map out this journey for herself. The problem we are having is she changes her mind like the wind changes direction. We have a family meeting and agree on a medical course of care, and then suddenly a shiny diamond is presented, and we have changed direction again.
I am to far away from the situation now to be directly involved. I do the thing that feeds my need to control and feel involved, I make telephone calls. I call the doctors for more information. I called the oncologist and asked her opinion on having the procedure done. She was not of the same mind as the pulmonologist. The pulmonologist called me to answer my questions also. As he was speaking, I could understand why a dying woman would grasp the life line he is throwing her.
I have my reservations. It is difficult to reconcile when trusted doctors blatantly disagree.
I called my mother last night to just give her the facts of what both doctor’s said. It is her journey, her decision to make. The only advice I gave was that she should take a little more time to make up her mind. She did not have to rush in to the hospital at 8:30 this morning just because the doctor was available then. I urged her to think about it.
I called her at 8 am this morning. She told me she was ready to go, her bag was packed. Her reasoning is that she feels the pulmonologist has more experience than the oncologist. The same oncologist she was going to trust to restart her chemotherapy two weeks ago.
I am scared to death. I hope she has made the right choice. I hope the outcome is positive. I hope I don’t have to live the rest of my life with the regret of letting her make her own decision. I hope she makes it through this procedure, the anesthesia, the recovery, and gets back home. I pray there are no side effects. I pray this is not the thing that kills her.
The procedure is tomorrow.
P.S. I did say to my son that I would like a Vicodin, to make this all a little softer around the edges. Not wine, vicodin, a very strange craving. Much harder to come by as well, so I have that going for me.
I would estimate that I have had the worst two months in my entire life.
In August my mother was diagnosed with Stage 3 multiple myeloma. I went and spent close to a month with her to get her chemotherapy started. We did a half a cycle, and she quit.
I then worked with my brother to get her moved to an assisted living close to him in St. Louis, MO.The timing was perfect, and the move went without a hitch.
During my time in Virginia, I attended AA meetings, and when my mother decided to have wine, I respectfully declined. I also did not comment about her drinking even though she had been told not to, or to limit it A GLASS if really necessary. I let it go, and let her be.
Mom moved in to her new place and began to get used to her new lifestyle. She seemed to enjoy the constant attention, the meals in a dining room, and especially not having to cook!! I began to think things were turning around for the better.
I had been informed by my husband, the doctor, that my mother’s multiple myeloma would not be the thing that ended her life. It would take a be something else, such as pneumonia, or heart failure, as the disease would continuously compromise her immune system.
Two weeks ago, I could tell from talking to her that she was beginning to get a cold. I suggested she speak with her attending nurse to get her the nebulizer breathing machine to ward off any potential lung issues. Unfortunately, it took four days for it to get ordered and into her hands. She started using it, but was still having difficulty.
I spoke with her again last Thursday, and she informed me that she couldn’t breathe while lying down. She had to prop herself up on a pillow to get comfortable tobe able to breathe well enough to fall asleep. My husband was adamant she get to a doctor immediately. He felt that she either had pneumonia or was beginning to have heart failure.
My brother got her to her oncologist last Friday afternoon. They walked her from their office to the hospital room where she still is.
The last week has been a nightmare. I understand the process of testing for A to rule it out, then continuing on to B, etc. Unfortunately, again, living with someone who has practiced medicine for 35 years, and has seen everything once, I was getting too much mind-boggling information to fast.
Every time a new symptom was discovered, my own doctor knew the cause, the effect, and the eventual diagnosis. Although, he always added, I may be wrong, I haven’t seen any her or her chart.
He then had a conversation with the lead doctor on her case. That night he spent quite a long time drawing me pictures, and explaining what was happening, and telling me what the outcome was going to be, without REALLY telling me what the outcome was going to be. I got it, I have spent the last 72 hours crying off and on, crying and waiting.
I waited for the tests, for the doctors on site, for anyone, to prove him wrong.
Sadly they did not.
They called a family meeting to discuss the diagnosis at 3pm today.
This afternoon the oncologist confirmed what my husband painstakingly drew, described and diagnosed on Monday evening.
My mother has Stage IV lung cancer, untreatable, incurable, lung cancer. Now she has two types of incurable cancer.
Tomorrow she will turn 79 years old, in a hospital room, knowing she only has months to live. Happy Fucking Birthday.
As for me, I have run the gamut of emotions. I have spent days crying off and on. Feeling like I may vomit at any moment. I have had my issues with my mother. Our relationship was always tenuous at best. I have never asked her how she felt about it, now I never will. As I stated in August I have let it go, it doesn’t matter anymore.
I called her today and told her that no matter what, if she needs me, I will be there. I will bring my blow up bed and move in and do what ever she needs. I promised to stay with her until the end, if that is what she wants.
What I know right now, this very minute is this. If there was a bottle of wine in this house, right here, right now, I would be at the bottom of it.
I know that alcohol never solves anything, or makes it better, in fact it makes things worse, way worse. But I would love to numb this pain away for an hour or two. Right now I am hanging onto my sobriety by my fingertips, white knuckling it, all of those cliche sayings, I am living them. I actually feel like I DESERVE a drink for having to go through this.
Thank goodness I don’t keep wine in this house, and thank goodness the closest liquor store is over 20 minutes away. I don’t have the physical or emotional energy to go get any booze. Thank goodness for that too.
I will make it through this night, and tomorrow will be another day where things will probably not be better, more time will have gone by, and this urge may be gone. If not, I will spend the day in my safety spot, my bed.
As my sponsor said, what would booze solve anyway?
As always, she is right.
My mother is going to die, and I want to drink.
One moment at a time tonight, one stinking fucking rotten gut wrenching I may vomit moment.
I still can’t believe it.
Some thoughts about sobreity so far:
- I can’t believe it is day 290. In the early days if someone had said I would be sitting here still sober, AND in AA, I would have said something to the effect of…yeah right, sure, no way, and I AM NOT and alcoholic
- I never believed that it ACTUALLY DOES GET EASIER. Not all the time, not every day, but if I step back and look at the big picture, yes, it is easier.
- I white knuckled the first 73 days, but who was counting? I spent a lot of mental and emotional energy deciding to go or not to go to AA. Back and forth, back and forth. It was one of the scariest decisions I have ever made, but one of the best. I am still befuddled by a lot of the God and Higher Power stuff, but I am working MY program the only way I know how.
- Trying to find a sponsor was SO hard, but I found one right here in sober blogging land. We both took a leap of faith that this would work, and it has, beautifully. She is one of the most amazing, graceful, knowledgeable, and wonderful people I have ever met. She has helped me in ways I didn’t even know I needed help. I got very lucky, and as Paul would say, she is a God Shot, for sure!
- I worry about relapse at least once a day.
- I still have immense cravings at random times, overpowering, almost crippling, and they bring me to tears, because I want them GONE!
- I have my day count typed into my Google Calendar, it is the first thing I see on my phone every morning. It is the push I need to know I can get through one more day, I need to see one higher number the next morning. It is my reminder that it still is one day at a time.
- I am filling my God box with little slips of paper, but still somehow forget that I need to accept the things I can’t change. Then I realize the things I want to change are things I can’t change, even though I am working hard to get them to change. So that whole serenity thing is still an elusive butterfly I am running around the backyard trying to net.
- I am strong. I never would have used that adjective about myself, but now I do. I have been through so many things this summer where picking up a glass of wine would have been so easy. Yet I didn’t. I have tools that have made me strong, and they make it possible for me to fight against those urges. I didn’t feel that way 290 days ago, so I have that going for me.
- I am still working on the chronic people pleasing, and the self loathing. It is a daily thing, some days are better than others.
- Negative thinking is never going to get me where I want to be. I have to constantly remind myself of that. It is so easy to get pulled into that rabbit hole.
- I am learning to keep my head where my feet are.
- The best for last: MY HUSBAND HAS STOPPED DRINKING TOO!! It is so much better this way. I don’t know if it will last, he is a “normie”, but I like it, and it feels like solidarity. Our relationship has improved immensely since I quit drinking, and it has gotten even better since he has stopped as well.
I still haven’t gotten my 9 month chip. I guess it will have to wait until my next visit with my home group. My sponsor passed on hers, which is awesome, but I would like my own. (My home group ones are cheesy poker chips, but still.)
75 days to one year.
I was so thrilled when the stars seemed to line up in regards to moving my mother. My younger brother found an assisted living center we could move her into on 9/2. My brother began his drive, hauling his trailer from St. Louis to Fredericksburg. I went to Lowes to get packing supplies, and the machine began to roll once again. He arrived Friday 8/29. We began the moving process once again, one year to the day that we moved her from Massachusetts to Virginia. Wrap, pack, load.
My Uncle and Aunt drove down from New Jersey to spend Saturday afternoon and evening with us, and to be on hand to say goodbye on Sunday morning. We had a fantastic afternoon, and dinner out. I only had a few uncomfortable moments during “cocktail” hour, but all in all, I weathered the drinking without a craving or trigger.
My brothers and I had done a lot of task assignment to make the transition from independent living to assisted living as seamless as possible. Everyone had their tasks.
Advanced Medical Directives were written, with an assist from my husband who is an MD. They were to be taken to Missouri for notarization. Task completed, or so I thought.
Medical records were collected and filed for transfer to the new physicians in St. Louis.
The codicil to Mom’s will was added, cremation and burial details. A cremation outfit was picked out.
My younger brother lives 6 miles away from the assisted living center and will be the on site person for her immediate care.
My older brother and I are taking charge of her finances. No need for her to worry about money at this time in her life.
Then the proverbial shit hit the proverbial fan. Money, medical care, hospice, and alcohol all became hot button issues. Items that had already been checked off the “to do” list were being brought back to the table, questioned, and being redone.
The emails began to fly, Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.
The cohesive team that had gotten her moved halfway across the country in a weekend was tearing apart at the seams.
It was so reminiscent of my father and his brother fighting over the care of their 97 year old mother. They emailed their way into never speaking to each other again. My Grandmother died at the age of 100, and they still don’t speak.
There is a lot of ego involved in all of this.
We still have many hurdles to overcome.
I hope that these initial interactions are the exception to what the future will bring.
As time goes on, my mother is going to get worse, and we will need to work together. We will need to be able to talk, be reasonable and come to agreement on many, many things, bigger things than what we have faced so far.
We need to get it together. We need to set aside our egos, we need to all get back in the huddle, and head toward the goal line together.
That goal is to get the best possible care for my very sick mother, we also need to remain a team.
There is no I in team, but there is in WIN.
I have discovered hundreds of reasons why I never went to nursing school. I would have to say empathy is not my strong suit. It is a definite shortcoming, and I am not sure it is curable.
So far, my mother has rejected her diagnosis. She wants nothing to do with chemotherapy,she has stated she has no desire to live, that her time is up, what is the purpose of it all, and maybe she should just do herself in.
My brother and I have talked her into trying one cycle of chemo, and the nurse practitioner promised her she would feel better. She agreed. But, with my mother, what she says is not always what she means. One story for one person, another for someone else.
I have spent two weeks working on spreadsheets of medications and timetables of treatment, which seem to change daily. I have gotten hooks, and hung the sheets next to her cabinet where she keeps all her medications. I have written and printed them in 20 point font so that she can see them, as her eyesight is going.
She has yet to look at anything related to her course of therapy. I have made the directions so easy a 10 year old could follow it. Every time I hand anything to her, she says she just can’t do it, makes a noise of disgust, and chucks the papers on the floor.
I am trying to PP (practice patience), trying to give her space and time to wrap her head around this news. That said, I have limited time here, and I need her to get engaged in this so that I will feel comfortable leaving her alone. I need to feel sure she will take the medications at the proper times so as not to interrupt the treatment schedule.
On Monday, she expressed a desire to end her life in front of the oncology nurse. This has been a theme in her life since my father walked out 35 years ago. We, her children, are so used to her threatening to “drive into a bridge abutment, stick her head in the oven, just end it all”, that none of us take it seriously. I had planned to discuss her change in tone about suicide at her next General Practitioner appointment. Her comment on Monday saved me from having to have that awkward discussion. The oncologist called in a prescription for an antidepressant. She started on that today, which leads me to the bottom line of this post.
My mother is a hard core alcoholic. She has been for 50+ years. She drinks copious amounts of anything, mostly bourbon and wine, nightly. The hospitalization stopped that for a week and two days. Right before chemotherapy, she drank. She drank 3/4 of a bottle of wine. Pretty heavy coming off a week of iv’s, blood thinners, anemia, and partial kidney failure.
During our first chemotherapy session, I inquired about alcohol intake. The nurse looked at me like I had two heads, there was a long pause, and then she said, yes she can drink, but VERY LIMITED.
I have been shocked by my mother, she seemed to take it to heart. I have yet to see her have anything alcoholic.
Until last night. I was in my little room, reading a book, when I heard a glass being filled with ice. It was after 9 pm,unusual, unless she is drinking alcohol, she doesn’t drink anything after 9 pm. I made a mental note to check the wine bottle this morning when I got up.
I was elated to see I was wrong, no wine was gone from the open bottle in the refrigerator. Never happier to be wrong!
As I ran this morning it hit me..the bourbon. I forgot to check the bourbon bottle. Sure enough, it wasn’t facing the way I had left it when I was in that cabinet looking for something, and some was gone.
I now know what people mean when they use the term blinded by rage. I was. I immediately texted my sponsor with the question, should I confront her? Of course I didn’t wait the 30 seconds it took for her reply with the answer, NO. I asked her, AND SHE LIED!!!
Of course she lied, she is an alcoholic. I lied, you lied, we all lied. It is what we do.
Now I am once again sitting on a mountain of resentment.
All of the hours behind the wheel of a car, all of the planning, all of the scheduling, all of the emotional and physical energy we are ALL spending to keep this woman alive, and she is drinking. SHE IS FUCKING DRINKING WHILE TAKING CHEMOTHERAPY!!! WTF is the point?
Why have I put my life on hold, why is my brother working so hard to find her a place near him, why are we emailing, talking and texting constantly about this woman? Why is this our only topic of discussion, our sole focus of the energy of our lives right now?
I can make it impossible for her to drink for the rest of the time I am here.
I have taken away the Ambien and dispense one nightly so she won’t swallow the whole bottle.
I have added the antidepressant to her medication list with bold letters stating DO NOT DRINK WHILE ON THIS MEDICATION.
I have laid out the chemotherapy treatments on a daily calender, and spreadsheet. I have added them to a Google calendar and linked it to both my brothers as well.
I leave on August 30th. What happens then?
Why are we working so hard to save her, when she wants nothing to do with being saved?
I know I am doing the right thing, but I have big, huge, woolly mammoth sized RESENTMENTS!
I resent the fact that both my brothers lives are going along as normal. One went out to dinner Friday night, and then went to a vineyard yesterday.
The other one, who lives overseas went to a farmer’s market, the playground with his two year old, and out for lunch and drinks.
I know I am doing the right thing, but I am MAD!
I was supposed to go to a medical staff party on the beach, go to a friends summer cottage on the water for the weekend, and run a 5k road race today.
I know I am doing the right thing, but the RESENTMENTS keep closing in.
I went to a meeting yesterday, it was a woman’s meeting. It was awesome, they give out monthly chips, I got an 8 month one! On 8/30, when I am STILL HERE, doing the right thing, I will collect a 9 month one. So, I have that going for me.
My husband, who I often feel is an emotional vacuum, got up early and went to the check in at the road race and got my shirt for me. He called me first thing this morning to tell me. I cried, and then felt a huge RESENTMENT about being here, and doing the right thing.
Today is 260 days. I always try to do something special for myself on days that end with zeros.
I am going to an aerial silks class at 2 pm. Something for me. Something to get me out of this apartment, alone. Something fun. Something that may help to take away some of the detritus of these major RESENTMENTS.
If I keep saying it over and over, maybe my attitude will change:
I know I am doing the right thing, I know I am doing the right thing, I know I am doing the right thing….
My mother was diagnosed with Stage III multiple myeloma last week, it is a form of leukemia.
She had started to feel crummy when I left two weeks ago, but we both thought it was just a bug. She went to urgent care a week ago Monday, and the rushed her to the hospital in an ambulance as she was beginning to have kidney failure.
As I was geographically closest to her, being in NY, I immediately offered to get in the car and drive to Virginia. She said no, that she would be home in no time. What I wasn’t aware of was that she had hypercalcemia and that caused her to be slighlty demented and she had no idea what she was saying. I stayed in NY awaiting a diagnosis.
She was in the hospital for a week. She had renal distress, anemia, elevated calcium, lesions on her bones, and blood cell counts. While in there, they discovered that she has bullous emphysema from smoking for 60 years. (That means she has large “holes” in her lungs.) On Wednesday they had the diagnosis, at that time, I was told she needed to be kept a few more days. I began to make my plans.
I was in constant contact with her doctors, nurses and anyone and everyone involved in her care while she was hospitalized. I spent hours on the phone setting up follow up appointments and making the arrangements to begin her chemotherapy. Additional time was spent dispelling the nonsense she was telling me, which I thought was the truth. I am sure the nurses on 4 South were never so happy to see a patient and their annoying health care proxy leave.
I left NY very early Monday morning to arrive by the 4:30 pm discharge time. (So close, I got there at 5 pm.) 9 hours in the car for a 6 and 1/2 hour drive while she wore my phone out tracking me down route 95.
I got her home, unpacked her belongings, did her laundry and got her situated. On Tuesday the prearranged home health nurse came for the initial visit, I took her prescriptions to be filled, and went back to the hospital to pick up things that were left behind.
Today, we had a two hour meeting with the staff at the oncology office and set up her plan for treatment, which will begin on Friday. I have held her while she cries, talked her out of her ridiculous decision to just throw in the towel and talked her into just giving a round or two of treatment a try.
Needless to say all or this has been highly stressful. I am not sleeping because of my own personal crazy; the room isn’t blackout dark, and my brain knows it even though I am wearing a sleep mask.
There have been land mines in my path every hour of every day since I arrived on Monday. All of the mines have a beautifully chilled bottle of sauvignon blanc attached to them. I have dodged and weaved them all while holding tightly to my sobriety. As always mother’s fingers are firmly planted on every single button as they always have been.
Since she got home on Monday, my mother has not had an alcoholic beverage. I have been amazed, and slightly impressed. That was one week in the hospital alcohol free, and two nights at home.
I asked her about it today, and she told me that the alcohol just isn’t tasting good to her right now. I was jumping up and down in my head, I was so happy to hear that. I was thinking that this situation may not be so bad after all. I can probably handle the anger, passive aggressive comments, and nastiness if she isn’t getting shitfaced every night on top of it.
I jumped too soon. Tonight around 6 o’clock she announced she wanted a glass of wine and asked what I thought. I told her to do what she wants, it is her body.
She then said, “Well they are going to start poisoning me on Friday, so I am going to get smashed tonight.”
Spoken like a true alcoholic with a truly sick alcoholic brain.
I ate dinner with her, and immediately retired to my 6 by 12 room, and my blow up bed. (Yes, the bed almost touches that sliding glass door.)
I may have to be here to hold her hand, calm her head, and take care of her if the chemo makes her ill, but I do not have to watch her get shitfaced.
I have begun my journey back north. I am currently in Virginia at my mother’s, I will be here until Sunday. She is a heavy drinker, and a serious trigger for me.
Day 1 is done. (well really only about 5 hours, then I went to bed, so I guess that doesn’t count.)
My sponsor told me to keep my side of the street clean. That is my goal while I am here. Off to have coffee and practice being a better person. I am trying to remove those buttons she so readily pushes.
I listened to this AA speaker on my way here, he is fantastic. Get a pen and paper, he is the King on the acronym.
These are two I caught while trying to drive:
SPONSOR: Sober Person Offering Newcomers Suggestions on Recovery
ANONYMOUS: Actions Not Our Names Yield Maintenance of Unity and Service
I hope you enjoy him as much as I did, and if you get any of the acronyms, please share.