I posted some time ago, that my brother had asked me if I was “better” and that I had had a hard time answering. This subject came up recently in therapy, and my therapist said absolutely that I am better than the first time she met me, on trip #2 through rehab in the winter of 2007.
So I decided to get objective about it and write down a snapshot of what my life was like 10 years ago, then 6 years ago, and how it is now. A lot of the stuff I’m going to talk about, would not have been evident to my friends or family as it was stuff I kept private and didn’t talk about except in therapy and even there I didn’t talk about it fully. So here goes.
I was pretty much at the peak of my career, earning well into 6 figures. I’d just completed my CMA designation, and was starting my habit of annual trips to Europe. I had a cute red sports car, a 3 bedroom apartment, a subscription to the symphony and could pretty much buy what I wanted. That was the good part.
The bad part was every night I was picking up a razor blade and cutting my arm open. I was also a confirmed daily drinker by this point, however I hadn’t yet progressed to blackouts or drinking in the morning, although I was becoming aware that I was physically dependent. I told select friends about the cutting but minimized the extent. I told no one about the drinking. I didn’t have much of a social life because I was a workaholic and also starting to develop social phobia.
It was also a strange year career wise. I’d been appointed to a very prestigious cross business, international task force to oversee a global implementation of SAP. It was high profile, intense, and stressful. There was no budget for backfill for my job, so I was essentially working 2 jobs. I was spending every other week in NJ flying down Mon. morning and coming back Fri. night.
My primary memory of that year was sitting alone in a hotel room with a bottle of whisky cutting geometric patterns into my arm.
Things had fallen apart in a big way. I went through rehab #1 in the summer of 2006 and spent the fall of 06 relapsing worse and worse. I was finally offered the opportunity to resign from my job with a good severance package in Dec. 06. That precipitated a very ugly and dangerous 5 day drinking binge where I seriously endangered my life. I came to Christmas morning 06 in the early stages of withdrawal and knew I needed medical detox because I’d already had a couple of withdrawal seizures. I got my landlady to drive me to North York General Hospital where I walked into the ER and announced that I needed help detoxing.
I’d say it’s a 50/50 toss up as to who ER staff dislike more, self injurers or drunks and I was both. That being said I did receive excellent care aside from one Dr who said there was no point in treating me because I’d simply get drunk again, but they treated me. The hooked me up to all kinds of machines and put me on a saline IV for dehydration and started pumping me full of valium. I remember lying there with the machines beeping every 3 minutes because none of my vital signs were normal. My blood pressure and heart rate both spiked. The ER Dr. who was treating me, had given me 80 mg of Valium, and said he’d never prescribed that high before but my BP and pulse were still sky high and I was still awake, years of abusing Ativan had given me a high tolerance for benzos. I remember thinking it would be pretty pathetic if I died from alcohol withdrawal with none of my friends or relatives knowing where I was.
Ultimately they decided I was sufficiently sick to be admitted and I was in the hospital for 4 days where I was given a psych assessment and was thoroughly checked out, with the conclusion that I had a fatty liver.
They hooked me up with NYGH’s Branson Division’s Rehab program and that was the start of a journey and a relationship that continues to this day. I was rushed into their Core abstinence based program, and relapsed almost immediately. I needed a second medical detox, and then was put on Antabuse and returned to Core. I deliberately drank on Antabuse twice – that’s a measure of how sick I was. Core is a 10 week program, I was in it 12 weeks, and 30 days sober when my psychiatrist returned from medical leave took one look at me, and announced she wanted me in the hospital. That was psychiatric admission #1. I was in the hospital 8 weeks where my meds were tweaked and I slowly came out of the depression fog.
I still had the car, but it was bashed up from accidents incurred while I was hungover. I still had the apartment but this was the beginning of what I call my slob period, because I didn’t have the energy or interest in keeping it clean. My brain was so damaged from the years of alcohol abuse that it took me 9 months to get to the point where I could even consider looking for work. Thanks to my severance package I had money and was able to save some since I was no longer drinking, but I spent most of my time sitting sipping herbal tea and staring out the Window. Making it to Aftercare, AA, and a daily trip out for coffee was about all I could handle. I was relearning how to live sober.
Because I’d isolated and pushed most of my friends away when I was drinking, I didn’t have a lot of friends, but I’m profoundly grateful for those friends I did have who stuck by me. I relapsed a few times, and still cut occasionally.
The one positive I remember from 07 was learning to knit when I was in the psych hospital, and that year I made a number of scarves. Knitting has played a huge part in my recovery ever since.
I’ve been unemployed for 3 years since losing my last full time job in 2010 during a restructuring. I was fired from my part time teaching job in Feb. 13 because I was too depressed to run the course, and so just ignored it. I had to walk away from the post graduate retraining I was doing since I was too sick to go to class. I was sufficiently self destructive and suicidal that I was readmitted to the psych hospital for the 3′rd time and spent 4 1/2 weeks inpatient followed by 6 weeks of intensive outpatient.
I declared bankruptcy in 2012 and had to give up my apartment in 2012, but was lucky enough to get into transitional sober housing where I’m currently living. Had to sell the car too. I’m living off the savings the government will let me withdraw each year from my pension plan, and what I earn off the odd freelance job.
In short I’m broke and technically homeless.
But I’ve won the healthcare / therapy lottery. I have a fantastic psychiatrist, a great addictions Dr. and two psychologists. I’m doing intensive one on one therapy, as well as group therapy.
I’m sober and I’m not cutting myself.
I’ve made a deliberate decision to not look for full time work, and instead focus all my energy on getting better.
I have more friends than I have ever had. I’m active in AA and WFS. I’ve gotten into a great wellness recovery program after a 6 month wait. I’m on the wait list to start what is reputed to be the best trauma recovery program in Toronto, some time in the fall. My knitting has progressed by leaps and bounds, and now I’m knitting all sorts of interesting and complicated stuff.
I have a ton of coping strategies that don’t involve hurting myself.
But most importantly I’m rediscovering what happiness feels like, and I’m learning to love myself.
It’s not where I envisioned myself being at 44, but it’s me.
I’m an accountant, a writer, a student, a knitter, a harpist, a recovering self injurer, a recovering alcoholic, friend, sister, cousin, volunteer, and I’m starting to think that that’s ok.
So yes I’m better.