Dealing with what’s in front of me or ‘First Things First’

A careful read, between the lines and otherwise, will reveal in this blog my history of alcohol abuse.  I have also, for periods of time (two significant stints of ten and seven years of continuous sobriety) included myself in the fellowship of self-described recovering alcoholics.

While it could be argued, and rightly so, that I am juggling a lot of plates one of the more pressing issues at the moment is the rapid cycling I have been experiencing with my bipolar disorder imbalance ride which has brought with it poor adherence to my medication schedules. This fuels my guilt, which helps nothing.

I seemed to reach a nice plateau when I discovered connected the dots, at least in part through therapy, between the post-traumatic stress I was experiencing after my 2003 accident and other traumas I had survived from younger years.  It’s a phenomenon an attorney friend told me his colleagues sometimes refer to as the ‘soft head syndrome’.  Trauma unleashes trauma.

So, on an intellectual level, I felt a great deal of relief in going through the exercise of explaining, to myself at least, why I had conducted myself the way I have from elementary school days.  I felt such relief, and even found a way to absolve myself of a lot of guilt, that I foolishly thought I might be able to handle things which had previously given me trouble, such as drinking, with new insight and restraint.  And for awhile I did quite comfortably.

When it became abundantly clear that I was bipolar I again felt some relief and, in fact, could see how it had been an issue probably years and years before the depression which came with the post-accident PTSD.  As I drank I did so moderately, and maintained my course of medications both for HIV/AIDS and bipolar – carefully avoiding a drink too close to bedtime when my bipolar med (Seroquel) is taken.

This was working well.  All signs were good.

When Craig’s accident devastated our family this spring I carried myself well, abstaining from alcohol during the weeks I was with family members, and taking my Seroquel faithfully.

Then I came home.  Alone.  Well, except for my cat Emma.

I began to drink a little more than I had been when things were going okay before Craig’s fall.  Therefore I was careful not to take my Seroquel when the drinking went into the evening.  In other words my priorities had reversed themselves.  Such has been the case most nights for the past few weeks.  I’ve been missing proper meals and my meds, both my antiretrovirals and my Seroquel, for the sake of the elective drug alcohol.

That, whether or not with all my health issues it makes it number one, becomes a major presenting issue in today’s circumstances.  So long as I drink too much, foregoing my medications, I put my life at risk – whether it be in the medium or long-term.  It just would not be wilful suicide.  Small comfort.

This is no way to pay tribute to Craig.  I am filled with shame, not helpful to be sure.

I certainly do not want Mom to have to bury another child, nor my sisters another sibling.  Not while I have the potential to get back on track.

So, whether or not alcohol is my number one problem (and arguments can certainly be made either way)  it is the number one presenting problem which prevents me from addressing the other ones.

I will be seeing my HIV specialist next week to receive my most recent bloodwork (which was done while I had forgotten, completely, one of my HIV meds when I was away and while I have been missing other meds since my return to Toronto).  If we can salvage a workable drug regimen out of the results it will be the second time I will have dodged the drug resistance bullet in a couple of years.  I hope, if things are okay, that I will have learned my lesson.  For good.

It is perfectly obvious to me, regardless of my prideful misgivings about A.A.’s alcoholism-as-disease model, that seventeen years of sobriety over the last twenty-one years were among the best and most friend-filled times of my life.

If I can summon up the humility to get back on the wagon, and do what has worked so well in the past, then I will be doing myself a huge favour.

That will take willingness on my part which, for the sake of the memory of Craig at the very least, I know I must summon.

Whether that comes before or after one more Pride party obligation, it will come.  It must if I am to survive.

Childhood trauma —-> isolation —-> adolescent trauma —-> isolation—-> sobriety —-> adult trauma —-> isolation—-> PTSD/bipolar —- >

Sobriety.  Recovery.  That must be my path again.  Regardless of the chicken-and-egg questions and the ranking of issues I need to get back to what has worked.  The past is the past, and insights learned are helpful, but not worth anything if I squander my life either physically, mentally or spiritually.

Whether alcoholism is a disease, my disease, or not matters little if I do not survive bipolar and HIV/AIDS.  Yet to do that I must again stop drinking.  That seems abundantly clear.

I went to a meeting Monday night.  It felt like home.  I am going again tonight.  The willingness is slowly returning even if I am hauling a load of stubbornness and pride behind me.

If blogging this is my first attempt to be accountable again, then it is with that hope that I publish this entry today.

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5 thoughts on “Dealing with what’s in front of me or ‘First Things First’

  1. Kenn

    I want one of those t-shirts!!

    One day at a time… Keep it simple
    Live – Easy – But – Think – First


  2. Just wanted to say that you ARE important to people.
    I hope and pray that your blood work is stable(if that`s the right term) and if not I hope things can get back on track.

  3. Thank you, my two J’s 🙂

    Hey Jeremy…I got the t-shirt from Paul Kidd (in my HIV links). He used to sell them directly from his site; don’t know if that’s still the case.

    And Jamie…thanks for being here! Que sera, sera. I’ve come through a time of non-adherence to my meds before…hopefully I will again.

  4. It’s so hard to juggle all this stuff at once, I’m really glad you figured out the alcohol piece for yourself. I wish they had a real equivalent to AA for cigarette smoking, it’s the vice I can’t give up, especially since I am able to tell myself it won’t make any difference since I most likely will never get a transplant. But I could possibly stay off dialysis longer if I quit and I could definitely make things easier for my heart and lungs if I quit and if I live longer than I expect, well, I’m going to be sorry I didn’t quit like Eubie Blake said :).

    But all the best to you with your medication holiday and the abstinence, I bet you will do great.

  5. Hey Alison,

    Thanks for the support. Have you googled smoking cessation support, or something like that?

    I managed to quit smoking a few years ago with a combination of the patch and some on-line support. It is so great to be free of nic. 🙂


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