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How to Have a Baby, Lose a Parent and Get Sober All in a Year

This is the post excerpt.

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(I’m writing this with our nine month old daughter crawling all over me)

Parenthood stops for nothing, not even death.

Which brings me to this blog. You see, I’m an orphan. At 35.

And one of my “things” is talking to psychics. I tell my husband, D, that its healing for me and he just rolls his eyes and says it’s a waste of money and “how many psychics can I talk to?”. So when I told him over dinner the evening before, that I had a call at noon the next day with a local psychic who was a friend of a friend, he just looked at me and did his ‘flicking crumbs off of his thumb with his fingers’ motion (which irritates the fuck out of me) which denotes he’s annoyed.

And we had the same exchange; healing, waste of money blah blah blah. But I told him this time that I was looking for guidance. He perked up a little. Earlier in the week, I confessed over a plate of Moroccan chicken and massaged kale with tahini sauce and diced potatoes (which was delicious and would not have gone to waste on any other day) that I had a drinking problem. And since then he’s been supportive and also trying to figure me out; depression and anxiety (yes and yes), boredom maybe needs a job (no thanks, I have two tiny bosses that dictate every waking hour of my life just fine), needs a hobby (ok, maybe), needs more friends (have we met? Anxiety plus two children does not a fun time Shannon make). We both decided that I should head to a psychiatrist about my anxiety since I was already on medication for my postpartum depression. But in the meantime, I had my call with the psychic to help calm my nerves and he liked the idea that this time I wasn’t trying to talk to dead people but was instead looking for a path to well-being, so he let the subject go.

The morning of my call, I woke up feeling fuzzy. I had yet another dream about my parents. This time I woke myself up by saying out loud “I don’t have hockey practice” in response to my dream moms question about what time hockey practice was. (I never played hockey growing up). Since I had quit the booze after my startling confession, I was no longer waking up every morning at 3am, anxious and regretful. Now I was sleeping the sleep of comatose. The same sleep I had when I was pregnant – which I’m not! Now I wake up around 5:30 to use the restroom and promptly go back to sleep until 7:30 when Tootsie, our nine month old, wakes me up. So the fuzzy headedness confused me since I’ve been getting much better sleep.

The morning was normal, Ds dad came over with breakfast, hung out with the kids. D went for a walk and when he came back I went upstairs to use the spin bike. Then D and our three year old, Mr. Man, went to Target while I got Tootsie to sleep. And before I knew it, it was time for the call with the psychic! I took Tootsie outside so she would have a new environment to explore and wouldn’t get fussy while I was on the call, which worked like a charm while I waited. Then, one of our neighbors decided right then and there it would be the best idea ever to start trimming up this dead tree that grew on his side of the fence in the corner between our houses. Tootsie was enthralled, the dogs, which I kept inside for this exact reason, started losing their shit – barking their faces off. And then she called. The psychic. And for whatever reason, I decided it was best to have her on speakerphone. Loud enough for my neighbor to hear and most certainly judge me for wanting to talk to dead people.

Day 46

What a week. D was gone for a conference for the second time this month. I’ve been holding it together on all fronts; kids, schedules, self care, sobriety, keto, working out and losing weight! Tootsie is teething so she has a fever and is totally miserable so this weekend we will lay low.

I fell off the Keto wagon hardcore last night 😂 I ate half a bag of chocolate eggs, Cheetos, goldfish crackers and a small sip of D’s wine – which actually gave me the shivers and tasted terrible to me.

———————————————–

When D moved in with me, my drinking slowed down considerably. I would have a glass of wine a few times a week, but only after 8pm, any earlier and I felt like an alcoholic. Ha!

We had so much fun; walks around the neighborhood every day, little weekend trips, on weekends we’d watch terrible reality TV, drink a ton of beer, take a cat nap, walk to get pizza and sleep in the next day.

We got engaged in July of 2011. D asked my dad for permission, and my dad told him “don’t ever do anything to hurt my daughter”, gave him his blessing, and some chocolate cookies and potato salad (D loved my dads cooking) and then two weeks later, dad died.

In those two weeks, we had set the date, 11.11.11, sent out save the dates and put a down payment on the venue.

D and I then became the backbones for my mom. We shut down his business entirely by ourselves. I missed a ton of work meeting with dads clients to figure out arrangements for on-going projects, I was able to find his employees new jobs, we cleaned out his entire office in mere days. All the while my mom spiraled into a vicious depression. And I spiraled into drinking to numb it all.

For YEARS everything was “dad this, dad that, I miss your dad, if your dad were still here…” Every. Single. Day.

It got to the point where I didn’t want to talk to her. I was busy trying to plan the happiest day of my life and she was just bringing me down. It got to the point where I wouldn’t tell her anything about the wedding planning because she called my wedding “traumatic”. Like our marriage was what caused my dad to die. I could tell she was seething with jealousy. She would say the most biting and hurtful remarks about how NOT fun marriage is and weddings are a waste, no one is ever truly happy in marriage.

I’d tell her she needed to go see someone to help her through her grief and anger but her famous line was “I don’t need to buy a friend”. She’d much rather wallow in self pity and act like the martyr to her friends who would dote on her.

She acted like his death happened to only her. Like I didn’t just lose my dad. I was just there to help her through her grief and to hell with mine.

But that’s ok. I had D, our friends, and booze to help me through.

Day 44

Let’s jump back to 2009-ish now.

I took D’s invite to reach out to him. It was nice having someone who hadn’t known my situation up close and personal like my family and other friends. It was like talking to a therapist – a cute therapist, but also a currently engaged therapist.

I like to hold myself to a somewhat moral standing – I would never sleep with a guy who is (or was) involved with someone else.

But I went against that anyways. JUST ONCE.

THEY WERE ON A BREAK

(PS – it all worked out in the end, we are married to each other now)

Afterwards, D finally broke off his engagement, and we started hanging out more but he wasn’t quite ready to commit to anything. And neither was I. We both went our separate ways for a bit but when we did see each other, I kept him at an arms length – literally. I called it the “ten foot rule”. We’d just hang out with his roommates and watch TV; it wasn’t anything crazy but it was fun.

I also started to slow down with my drinking.

I lived a good 30-45 mins away from D’s place and I didn’t like drinking and driving and by the time I got home it would be late and I’d have work the next morning, so I’d go straight to bed without drinking. And then I’d start sleeping over at his place and I only ever drank there if the guys were having drinks or having a party, which wasn’t that often since we were all young professionals.

I finally decided to move out of my old apartment with bad memories to a neighborhood that was closer to the “young professionals” scene. But thats when my drinking started to ramp up again.

I was closer to bars, I was now very close to my place where I wasn’t afraid to drink and drive, I was closer to all of my single friends. And we could go out any night of the week if we wanted. So I did. A lot.

D and I were still friends and would keep in touch but I was busy going out with my friends (and my super high new found confidence, I’d lost 50 lbs and could finally fit into size 2s again!) and flirting with guys. And drinking.

Thankfully I never got into any trouble or did anything stupid when I was out. I feel like I had some sort of guardian angel watching over me.

After a while (ie: a trip to Brazil and another broken heart), D and I found our way back to each other again, this time for good.

Day 42

I didn’t realize I was a few days ahead in my sobriety! I finally got a tracker – which according to some is a no-no but I like knowing where I stand!

I’ve really been enjoying the taking care of myself aspect of this journey. Granted, I am incredibly fortunate that I CAN take the time and have the means to do so. And it’s very much tied up into my sobriety. I reward myself every week with a treat; mani/pedi, seeing my psychiatrist, a new outfit (I’ve been spinning and following the keto diet and am losing weight and inches so clothes are starting to get looser), a nice bath, a facial.

I’ve also become more structured and goal oriented. I write down three things I am grateful for every morning, what to-do’s are most important to me and how they will help me achieve my goal. Right now, blogging and losing weight are my most important goals. My hope is with blogging, I will be able to help someone feel not so alone on their journey. Even if it’s just one person.

Selfishly, I’m also using it as a way to find my purpose.

I’m not quite sure what it is about having two little ones – both of whom won’t be of school age for a few more years – that makes EVERYONE I talk to ask me what I want to do when they’re in school.

Huh?

I didn’t know I had to immediately go back to the workforce as soon as Tootsie was in Kindergarten.

My mom was a stay at home mom. For my entire life. 34 years my mom was always there and I knew I could always depend on her being just a phone call away. On the other hand, my mom wasn’t very happy with her life, from what I could tell. She never outwardly said it, but I knew. Before me and before MS, she was in the insurance agency and did very well for herself. She was independent, sociable, funny and everyone loved being around her. And then she had me and a year later was diagnosed with MS. And she allowed the MS to be her get out of jail free card; she stopped working (leaving my dad to be the sole breadwinner), she stopped seeing friends (she’d only talk to them on the phone and would make a million excuses why they couldn’t come over), she stopped cleaning the house (leaving my dad to take care of everything around the house), she stopped taking care of herself (she’d barely bathe, smoked like a chimney and only made an effort if there was a school function to attend), she never played with me and complained like there was no tomorrow if she had to go to one of my recitals, races or anything school related). But damnit I could call her at any point in the day and know she’d be there to listen.

So as hesitant as I am to jump back in to working and not being 100% there for my babies, I am also 1000000% terrified of ending up like my mom.

And thus, I am trying to find my purpose.

All signs lately; conversations, things I’ll read, things I happen to hear, are pointing towards finding purpose lately. So I think I’m on the right track.

Day 40

After I ended our engagement, I started throwing myself into my work, losing weight (I was still in the weight loss study after all) and drinking heavily.

Working out was great for me. I was able to lose myself in the music and think about my next moves in life. I was also cutting back calories during the weight loss study to save them for booze. I joked with my friends that I was “drunkorexic”. I would come home from work, heat up a lean cuisine, go walk for an hour, shower and then grab the handle of Jack from the freezer. I’d pour a shot and sip that (since I could easily determine how many calories were in a shot glass) while I watched my guilty pleasure of Laguna Beach re-runs. And then that would lead to taking a few more shots before I’d head to bed.

Work was tough. I’d be hung over in the mornings and I’d have to be nice to clients. I was also trying to muddle through avoiding everyone’s questions about my broken engagement. My boss at the time was the town crier, and the industry was small.

But, because I had lost my appetite over the stress of the break up and cancelling wedding plans, and working out to focus my mind, I was losing weight quickly.

I was starting to get my confidence back. I was fitting into sizes I hadn’t seen since high school. I went and got a haircut from a super expensive salon. I was on my A Game. But I was still drinking by myself at home (and smoking cigarettes).

I was so proud of my weight loss and I knew I was one of a few study participants that had lost the most weight (I’m competitive). I had to go in for weekly weigh-ins and a group session. It also helped that the guy who did the weigh-ins was super cute.

So I’d always wear my cutest outfit on those days and we’d joke during the weigh-in, and I’d always get a chuckle over what he’d write in my food diary that I had to hand in every week.

He was the first to notice my engagement ring was missing from my hand and pulled me aside to ask if I was ok. (I still remember what he was wearing – is THAT weird?). I broke down crying and he genuinely seemed concerned so he gave me his number if I ever wanted to talk because he was going through a tough time with his fiancĂ©e at the time as well, so he understood how I felt.

In the meantime, I was now going out every single weekend with friends from high school, new friends and friends from work. I was skinny, single and LOVING my freedom to do what I wanted, when I wanted and no one would question it.

Day 38

38 days sober. I’ve been feeling amazing. I’m exercising, I’m sleeping SO much better, I’m taking better care of myself. I also saved two baby doves today from imminent death from a snake and I feel pretty damn good.

There’s been quite a few occasions where I’d most likely want to drink, but I’ve held strong; D being out of town, the one year anniversary of my moms death for example.

It’s nice to approach everything now with clear eyes and a clear head.

——————————————–

I realized I never finished my story about the ex-fiancée.

He got a job with his dad, which was matching up loads with truck drivers. I was hopeful that this would be a permanent deal. One day, I came home from work (I still remember what I was wearing – is that weird?!) and I walked into the apartment to find his sister. I was confused. And the only thing she said to me was “everything is going to be OK” and left the room. The ex sat down in front of me and admitted that he was addicted to opioids. He’d tried to go through withdrawal on his own but it was too much. He needed professional help, he was going to rehab. AFTER he worked out a deal with the judge because all of those jobs he was getting fired from? – yeah – he was stealing money from them. And me. My savings, drained. That money he “borrowed” – gone.

I told him everything would be ok, we would make it through all of this. After all, we were getting married in a few months. But in my heart (and head), it was done.

He went to rehab and we’d chat on the phone when he was allowed. I’d assess the situation each phone call, and then I’d call his family to see how they were holding up, and then I’d call my mom – she was the only one who truly cared how I felt.

While he was in rehab I started making moves; cancelling the wedding, selling my dress, selling the ring (which was fake, btw) and packing his shit.

I asked his family to come get his stuff. But I was keeping the cats.

I know, you’re probably reading this thinking “how did she not know he was addicted?!”

Because I was naive. I was a super sheltered only child who lived in the suburbs and went to a private school. My mom would rip out any “risquĂ©” articles out of magazines. I. Was. In. A. Bubble.

And after my world came crashing down, I did what any inner teenager does – I rebelled.

Day 1…again

In my challenge to stay sober I have tried a few different avenues.

1) Acupuncture: wow. I didn’t expect to feel so AMAZING afterwards. The doctor treated me for depression, anxiety and drinking. She gave me an ear seed for anxiety and some magnesium for before bed. The ear seed lasted a week and I didn’t notice any big difference. I have yet to try the magnesium. But I’ll definitely back to do more acupuncture coupled with reiki.

2) Back to my psychiatrist. She upped my Celexa to 40mg to see how I do with that before moving on to other options. I’ve been having increasingly vivid dreams where I wake up and feel like I can’t breathe or I wake up having a major panic attack. And two weekends ago I went to the ER with weird symptoms; a crinkling in my chest, nausea, left arm numbness. It came on all of a sudden in the checkout line at Target. Which worried me because Target is my happy place. I didn’t want to have a heart attack at MY Target and never be able to go back and have to trek to a different Target. Not today, satan. So off we went to the ER because better safe than sorry. My dad died of an apparent heart attack, as did my maternal grandfather so I’m a little wary. After an EKG, X Ray, CT and labs; nada. Everything looked completely normal. But D and I wondered if maybe it was a panic attack. Even though my head and thoughts were calm, my body was still reacting. And then it happened again this past weekend while I stood in line at Starbucks. Again, my happy place. Not today, satan. Not today. So I chocked it up to anxiety and will just press on when I feel the crinkling feeling come on.

So far, the 40mg of Celexa has been great. And I’ll be making an appointment for acupuncture and reiki for next week!

I’ve also started the 30 Day Sobriety Solution. And I’m LOVING it. But more on that later!

Day 10

My visit with my new psychiatrist was amazing. It was everything I ever wanted in a visit with a mental health provider. She asked all the right questions, didn’t need to hear long explanations, no “how does that make you feel?”, she cut right to the chase. I had no wrong answers, she made me feel as if anxiety and depression is the norm.

Moral of the story is she diagnosed me with panic disorder and agoraphobia. Plan of action: just up my Celexa by 10mg! I’m so glad she didn’t layer. And with getting my anxiety under control I should see an improvement with not wanting to drink to deal with my anxiety. But it’s also in how I decide to distract myself and find healthier ways of coping.

I’m so excited to see how my body responds and to move forward.

As I write this, I’m enjoying a brunch with Tootsie who is asleep at my fave brunch spot and I’m loving the alone time. We hired a nanny service as well, which normally would send me into a tailspin of worry and anxiety but I’m so tired and desperate for alone time (Hi, my name is Shan and I’m an only child) that I’ve gotten to the point of fuck it. Thankfully, Mr. Man loved the nanny and now we just have to get Tootsie onboard (stranger danger) so D and I can have child-free date nights again! For a couple of hours anyway.