I know 2020 is stupid so far. The past 4 months have felt like at least 4 years. I’m only glad that this virus showed up in 2020 and not in 2019. In 2019 my family moved my elderly mother from the home she had spent over 60 years in to one assisted living facility. Then we moved her into another one in a spectacularly failed attempt to make her comfortable her last days. So although it has been stressful to take a 40% pay cut only to work harder than ever at my every increasingly already difficult job and watch my adult son faltering as an unemployed high functioning autistic man, at least my mom isn’t dying alone.
That’s one score for 2019 and probably the only score as far as I’m concerned.
The family was just getting back on track at the end of 2019. Unfettered with the daily upheaval of caregiving and the tense communication with my siblings about my unhappy mom coupled with the thought of being able to get rid of Trump made this year start out feeling hopeful. I deep cleaned my house, got a good chunk of a screenplay written and decided it was time to quit drinking. January 31st was my last drink.
All last year, I felt that it was all that I could do just to get through the day every day. I was absolutely stricken in March 2019 with both strains of the flu that came on while visiting Seattle. I coped with the sickness the only way I knew; I rebooked a first-class flight home and drank continuously through the 4-hour flight. No way was I going to subject anyone in coach with my droopy ass.
I was sick through the last 2 weeks of March and then in April, my mom fell at her home and blackened both of her eyes. She refused to go to the hospital and would not consider home health with the old person grump “I’m not letting those strangers in my home…” Ok lady. Off to the home with you.
She died at the end of August after a two-day stint in the Geri psych ward. From mid-April until her merciful death, my life was spent flying home to try to help and then stressing that I was wasn’t there to help although NOTHING we did seemed to give her any relief. This is the price we pay leaving home. It’s knowing that your mom will be no longer popping in to judge your every life choice but instead that you will shell out $1,000.00 in planes, hotels, and car rentals for that privilege.
Other than my flu, the only medical professionals I saw in 2019 were the amazing chiropractic and massage therapist teams that attempted to get my lumpy body straight after night upon night of drinking and lots of sitting and staring at the tv (there was some amazing tv shows last year). My neck was in consistent pain, I was grinding my teeth nightly and had several muscle knots in my back and arms. I worked with several massage therapists, all who were able to work enough to keep me from being in constant pain. Bad posture, lots of driving and dehydrating myself with both coffee and alcohol made my muscles tense and sore.
I was drinking at least one handle (1.75 ml) of bourbon a week. I have been a daily drinker for about 15 years, but as I got older, I could no longer digest beer and frankly I’m just sick of wine so when I went Keto in 2018, I switched to Whiskey and soda water. A much healthier choice!
I never was much of a day drinker and saved my consuming until after dark…when I drank at least 5 shots of bourbon a night, every night. I never felt intoxicated, and I had about one night out of a week that I couldn’t get to sleep no matter how much I drank.
In Mid-January of this year, after a year of dealing with one particularly nasty knot in my back, a massage therapist suggested I try somatic therapy. This is body work therapy with a regular old therapist. Sounded good, I made an appointment and went. I’m no stranger to therapy as I have grappled with depression for over 30 years. So, I paid the co-pay, took off the mascara, got out the tissue and got ready for an adult to listen to me cry for 50 minutes.
She did listen and then promptly fired me. You need to be sober before you can see me, she said.
But but but…I’m an AMERICAN and I demand to get what I pay for! Fix me monkey-therapists! I’m not JUST a drunk! There is so much other fucked up shit to discuss. But Lady wasn’t having it. She gave me the business card for a six-week outpatient addiction therapy group I had to complete before she would see me.
I called the therapy guy, a kid. Fine. He told me that I needed to get a note from my doctor and needed to stop drinking and not drink to participate in his group. I made a medical appointment the next day.
The trip to the general practitioner was humbling. It’s frankly embarrassing to be 52 years old, fat and a drunk. Especially when you go (on principal) to a clinic where you are first seen by a medical student, someone young enough to be your daughter or son, someone who has not yet had the hope smacked out of them, yet. She looked at me and said, “ok, so you know you can’t stop drinking now, right?” Uhhh no. Clearly this young person believes that I am exaggerating the amount that I am drinking (because, duh…drunk!) and thinks I’m a Van Morrison song character and not an actual grown up. She orders me blood work and has the attending, a REAL doctor, come in who looks at me and says without one ounce of irony “you can’t just stop drinking”. Oooookkkkkkk….
Now I’m scared. I’ve lived enough and been cool enough to know a few drug addicts who have said, to an addict, that watching someone withdrawal from alcohol is worse than any heroin withdrawal they had ever seen. I begin to think about the sweating I had been experiencing in the morning that I always passed off as hot flashes at work that were clearly withdrawal symptoms. I was thinking of a beloved family member who had passed a few years back that experienced the DT’s and how frightening it was for their family. I did a lot of internet searches; I drank a ton of water and I decided to taper off.
I was already scared then the 6-week therapy program would not take me even though I had been medically cleared. Their doctor stated that I needed to do an inpatient stay before they would see me. They immediately suggest a psychiatric hospital to detox. Now I’m freaked.
I’ve worked in social services in one or another capacity for many years. I have seen these psych hospitals. I though about the homeless people I had taken to psych hospitals who were delusional and living under bridges. I thought about how these people smelled. I thought about sitting in the mandatory group therapy with them. What if I saw some of my old clients? Jesus, I know some of the staff…. all I ever did was complain about them. The very last thing I want to do is check myself in.
Then it hit me, I have pretty good insurance, I’m lucky. What if I call around, shop around a bit, and see if a place can take me for, like a 4-day detox? That seemed reasonable. The results of my bloodwork came back and there were no issues and I was within normal limits for everything! I wasn’t so bad off, right? I called a few places. It was clear to me that since my insurance paid for 28 days that I was definitely going to a 28-day detox. 28 days, not 4 days. No one did a “work friendly” detox.
I don’t know about you, but choosing an extended medical leave and not showing up with a leg brace or a new set of boobs or a baby or something just screams REHAB and I have not worked with this company a rehab appropriate amount of time. My bloodwork seemed fine, I didn’t need to drink to function, but I’m not a medical professional so I took the list of rehab places that my insurance company recommended and started calling again.
The last company I called included the prescreening with a kid named Chad, or Kyle or some nonsense and lots of questions about my medical history and asking for my SSN and the usual. They were directly referred by my insurance company, so they are legit…right? Then about 40 minutes after Kyle/Chad I’m transferred to Brock or Damon or some other former addict’s name….and then I get the SHAKEDOWN.
This dumb motherfucker gives me the hard sell. Like we are closing on the last Mercedes to make his monthly quota. As with all the other places, I tried to instill him the trepidation I had with a 28 day leave of absence. He told me that no one is FORCED to stay and could check themselves out at any time, against medical advice of course. I couldn’t leave early…. the whole reason to go to detox was to go to outpatient rehab so I could see this somatic therapist! Duh! Besides detoxing without a medical team was very dangerous, he said. I would hallucinate, he said. And he said I would definitely have a seizure.
The phone conversation with Damon/Brock ended up with me telling him that I wasn’t spending 28 days in rehab and him telling me that I would be a dry drunk and never overcome the reasons I was drinking in the first place and would probably die alone in a pile of regret and despair.
I was petrified of the DT’s but just as scared of going to rehab. I already hate meeting people and spending more than 1 hour with the same group people. There was no way I could face a room full of losers with enough insurance to keep them out of the psych hospital, losers like me. Plus, I’ve seen people having seizures, I’m pretty sure that they are scarier for the people watching them than the people having them. So, I took a week and tapered off drinking. I was lucky enough to have a friend stay with me when my husband had to work to keep an eye on me and I made it through the week. So far, I haven’t had a drink since Jan 31st.
Some people just can’t drink. Am I an alcoholic? Maybe but I kind of don’t care. I miss drinking and I miss my nightly drinks. Sure, I’ve replaced the rituals, but it will never be the same. I may go to outpatient therapy and I’ll go to personal therapy. I’m still a shit show. A loveable shit show, but a shit show just the same.