As long as we’re being honest….

I’m doing my best to deal with the recent news. I don’t feel particularly sick right now and my strength and endurance are both pretty good.  Still, I’m aware that my body is waging war on itself and am a bit unsettled.  I have multiple swollen joints and nodules on my knuckles.  If not for those we probably wouldn’t have gotten the diagnosis for a long time.  I’m grateful for this but scared because everything I’ve read indicates that nodules are associated with a more aggressive disease mechanism. 

I’m not just going to take it lying down. I’m improving my diet, working out and staying active. I plan to ask my Rheumatologist what supplements I should be taking.  I’m not wallowing in self-pity or seething with a bunch of ‘Poor me! Why me?’ bullshit. Still, I have to admit that I’m a bit scared. This is one of those illnesses where the treatment can be as rough as the disease itself.

Again,  I don’t feel sick right now  and I’m not going to start soley based on a diagnosis. The prednisone has been giving me some relief and I’m not hurting too badly right now. I just figured this would be a better place than Facebook to get some things off my chest. 

Here’s what really frightens me: I was on SSDI for bipolar disorder for almost five years.  When my case was flagged for termination I appealed and took it up the chain of command. At the time I was severely depressed and struggling with mood issues. After over a year of appealing my medication was changed from lithium to Risperdal. The improvement was astonishing.  I began working and dropped the appeal. Then I got stuck with the bill for my benefits while on appeal (11790$ or so). I’m paying it back at the rate of fifty dollars a month.  My big fear is that Rheumatoid Arthritis will cripple me and I won’t be able to get any help. This is a thought that has been keeping me up at night with apprehension. Essentially I’m being punished for getting better.

My boyfriend is trying to get into law school.  Specifically to be a Disability Attorney.  I’m hanging on to the dream that he’ll be able to help me with this before something bad and RA related happens. The odds are not in my favor. According to Johns Hopkins website sixty percent of people with RA become disabled within ten years of being diagnosed. 

I am trying not to give in to fear and go about my life.  It’s entirely possible I’ll have great treatment results and go into extended remission.  I just don’t know and the future is intimidating the living hell out of me.

I was hospitalized frequently as a kid. I know the drill. I have to fight and keep fighting hard. This is what I keep telling myself when I want to cry, which has been quite a bit lately. I’m not going to use or drink over it and I’m not just gonna sit around and be sick. To hell with that.

I am in desperate need of some inspiration.  Pray for Thom please.

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Creeping gratitude

I just recently passed the one month clean mark and I must say that things are looking up.  Granted,  life is no less capricious than previously.  I’m still dealing with physical and mental health issues as well as trying to get my life in order.  It IS happening though.  Which is something I was never able to do when I was drinking and drugging.

First, I’ll delve into  the health issues a bit. My arthritis and tendonitis are still raging and my hypertension has come back with a vengeance. I had to discontinue my ADHD medication due to my pressure being dangerously high. I’m on meds and have leveled out, but I am no longer able to work as a busser and barback. The fatigue from the meds plus the pain in my hands and forearms was simply too intense to push through. I was getting vicious headaches and feeling like I was going to puke or pass out working in the heat. One day when my amazing boss came in and I felt like death I leveled with her and said ‘What do you think I should do?’. She was really cool about the whole thing and moved me to hosting. It’s less money but I’m so grateful to still have a job. 

The bright spot to all this is that I soldiered through it long enough to claw my way out of the financial hole I was in while I was using. My Doctor has been advising me to find a less labor intensive job for over a year so I’m sure he’ll be thrilled when I tell him about all this in two weeks.  However,  there’s more to the health issues than I’ve so far mentioned.

The pain in my hands has been getting worse and more frequent.  I’ve been screened many times,  but due to new developments  (morning stiffness,  nodules on knuckles on both hands) he ordered more blood work,  xrays and a referral to a Rheumatologist once again. I’m seeing both doctors on the 24th.  I’m not jumping to conclusions but I am a bit worried. I don’t know,  we’ll see.  As vague as that is it’s the best I’ve got right now. 

All these issues aside, I am enjoying life more than I ever thought was possible.  I’ve made some new friends in NA and have a great sponsor who’s really easy to talk to. I’ve begun working the steps and am finding it challenging but illuminating. I’m going to NA meetings every day and putting myself in the middle of it all. When I find myself alone and irritable I pick up the phone or read recovery literature. I’m building a support network and dealing with life on it’s own terms as well as I can. 

I’m trying to remind myself daily of how much love I have in my life and everything I’m grateful for.  Like Death Metal, my Boyfriend, our animals,  my family, my friends and most of all, the fellowship of Narcotics Anonymous.  Sometimes I can hardly believe any of this is real. This is not to say that I don’t have bad days or still think about getting drunk and high. I’m just getting better at managing my feelings in a constructive manner. I have a home group and am beginning to get involved in service.  It’s really awesome.  Next month they have me chairing a meeting.  How’d that happen? 🙂

I already had a decent relationship with a higher power but The fellowship has simply galvanized it. I feel it working in my life daily. Am I insane? Quite.  Doesn’t make me wrong. I have my life back and am not about to give it up.

Thank you, NA. Thank you for slowly but surely restoring me to something approaching real sanity.

-Thom

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The Reconstruction of Thom

I’m plugging away with getting my life in order.  Caught up on bills. Credit card nearly fully paid off. This Tuesday will make thirty days clean, which is something I didn’t believe that I could do for the longest time.  Aside from that I’m just doing my thing, sewing some new stuff to my vest later today and doing some NA literature reading daily.

My program is working fairly well,  though I’m still new to this constructively dealing with my problems thing. My emotional state has been highly variable as well as my health.  The arthritis in my hands as well as my tendonitis have both been getting more severe and getting through a day of work is getting steadily more taxing.  Due to hypertension coming back I’ve had to give up my ADHD medication. It’s whatever.  I’m choosing to look at it as one less thing to have to cough up money for. I could stay the course but my blood pressure meds would be totally pointless and I don’t want to have a fucking heart attack so I just decided to let it go and deal with the fog as well as I can.

Back to the issue of my hands, I have to go to a Rheumatologist soon.  My pain is getting worse and I’ve developed nodules on the knuckles of both hands.  I’m so stiff in the mornings some days that I can barely pour a cup of coffee.  Whatever happens I’ll deal with.  My Doctor seems to think it may be something more serious than simple osteoarthritis hence visiting the specialist soon.

Aside from that,  I’ve been my usual beaten down but determined self. I am salvaging the wreckage of my life, making new friends and doing the best I can.

Not much else I can do, methinks. 

On recovery

Well, it’s been fifteen days since I’ve had any drugs or alcohol.  At first it wasn’t that big a deal.  I felt way better all around and thought it would be a cinch.  Deep down I knew that this would not be the case.

I AM a lot better all around,  make no mistake.  I’m eating way better, sleeping better, have more money and am in general functioning at a significantly greater level. For the first week or so I wasn’t even really thinking much of using.

However,  reality is setting in. This is both a wonderful and terrifying thing. My brain is working much better than during the twenty-some years I was stoned, drunk and otherwise altered. Sounds awesome,  right? 

Not entirely. I am finding myself absolutely flooded with emotion and anxiety of late. As long as I keep busy I’m fine. I’m going to NA meetings every day, talking to my sponsor regularly and beginning to do step work. It’s when I stop moving that the floodgates open wide.

All the mental turmoil I’ve drowned in a haze of substances is bubbling to the surface whenever I get down time. I’m doing my best to develop some real coping skills but it’s harder than I thought just to relax and take a breather.

The day I decided to give it all up everyone seemed to want to sell me drugs. I’ve been strong so far and kept my distance.  I’m trying to ‘Run with the winners ‘ as they say. If I have shit on my mind I pick up the phone and call someone who is committed to staying clean.

Still, I feel exhausted. My body hurts and my thoughts are scattered about when I stop moving. I have issues with chronic pain and used opiates in various forms for many years. I thought I was self-medicating but what I was really doing was murdering myself one dose at a time.  Suicide in slow motion barely articulates the hopeless routine of self-destructive behavior I was locked in to.

I kicked the poppy derivatives and thought I had myself under control.  After all,  I never lost a job to drugs and always paid my bills, albeit badly and barely. No matter how well I was doing I simply could not stop drinking and smoking weed. I never had a spare cent to my name and frequently went hungry in the name of maintaining a buzz.

Today is my fifteenth day of complete sobriety. I’ve caught up on bills and noticed many positive changes in my life. It’s scary, though.  It’s as if I’m learning to live all over again from point A or square one or whatever.  I’m having issues with anxiety mainly as well as some depression.  My meds are keeping this stuff fairly well in check but psych drugs can only do so much. I’ve thoroughly convinced myself of one ironclad truth: I WILL NOT GO BACK TO LIVING LIKE THAT.

I’m tired of hurting my family, my friends and myself.  I’m simply sick of being sick. One of the things that has really stuck with me is something I read in a recovery related book: Your bottom is wherever you choose to stop digging.  I didn’t ruin my life as badly as many people do. I am certain, however that I could and would have if I had stayed the course. 

I have a somewhat strange concept of God or whatever.  But the night I made the decision to change my life was the first time in years that I honestly through bouts of sobbing asked my deity for help. I don’t want to fucking do it anymore and I can’t do it myself.  Trying has nearly killed me too many times to count. 

Lo and behold,  little blessings are already revealing themselves to me. I made a Metalhead friend at the groups,  which is something I haven’t had in ten years.  I have food in my fridge.  My job is so much less of an ordeal to soldier through.  Little by little,  I’m rediscovering the friend in myself that I was sure I had exterminated.

I’ve seen recovery work genuine miracles for friends I was sure were going to die from their addictions. It’s time to work on my own.

All systems go. Today is the first day of the rest of my life and in spite of all the crazy shit in my head I am cautiously optimistic .

If you know me personally,  just be aware that I haven’t been myself for longer than I care to remember.  You just might find yourself getting to know me for the first time.  I don’t think that I’m a bad guy, just a little dark and messed up.  But I’m working on it. 

That’s a promise.  I  leave you with a photo of one of my favorite bands of all time. Napalm Death. I’ve seen them live three times and plan to do so many more.

Your humble narrator –

Thom

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