What exactly is recovery? From an illness that is. Most likely it means different things to different people. It is very personal. It usually is not a one off affair. It takes time and with setbacks. And there can be the added problem of needing to recover from more than one illness, which in turn, can have added problems with which to deal.
My first real encounter with an illness was with alcohol. I never intended to become dependent on drink or to make my life, or indeed that of my family, unmanageable. But it happened. There was never an issue. I was almost forty three years of age. At which period I was stressed both with work and life. It was suggested by a friend that a ‘wee dram’ would do the trick. It certainly did. Within two weeks I was drinking a bottle of whisky each night. I was addicted, yet still thought I could cope. Certainly, I wasn't ready to consider that I was an alcoholic. And yet by this moment, I had begun to lie and hide my bottles in devious places. In other words, I was in denial. I continued my work, a high senior position, assuming I was performing more than satisfactorily. Strangely, I have subsequently learned that I was exemplary, in particular with the well over a hundred staff under my control. This went on for seven years until just before Christmas of the late 1990s; I crashed my brand new car. I was well over three times the alcohol limit. I was banned for eighteen months and fined £500. But worst of all, I was let go from my job…a very senior post from which I was expecting a top promotion shortly. Self-pity and bitterness imbued my thinking and I became a raging alcoholic. I almost destroyed myself, but worse still, I nearly annihilated my family. They were bewildered at first. But then this turned to animosity and frustration. As well of course, the profusion of humiliation I heaped upon them. I became an in-patient six times in the local alcohol ward. But I always drank after discharge. And then later I lost my driving licence again. On one drunken binge I fell into a pathway and nearly froze to death. But was found, covered in frost as well as excreta, and urine by a man walking his dog at one am, . Police handed me over to my still dutiful wife, who cleaned me, not for the first time. I became a completely lost person. An empty shell with no emotions, totally dependent upon alcohol and had a family who expected me to die soon. In all this time, I had a faith in my God, but now, not only did I blame everyone except myself, but I damned God most of all for allowing this to happen. To me of all people. And henceforth, I totally rejected God and lost any faith which I had. A few weeks after this resolution, out of sheer desperation, in 2005, I decided to go to Alcoholics Anonymous. I didn't have any yearning for this move as I did not really think I was an alcoholic and was in fact just hoping for some amelioration. Sufficient for me to return to some form of controlled drinking. At first I abhorred the meetings, but unusually, persisted in going. And yet, I still did not accept I was a real alcoholic and that some form of souped up controlled drinking may still happen. I pretended and said I was an alcoholic. But I was unhappy and hanging on being sober. And then my son had a serious family problem. He phoned me to say he didn't want any calls etc. A female addict friend told me to go anyway. Next day, I drove the eight hour journey to my son’s. I was very anxious, assuming he would be angry, especially as it was me that had gone. When he approached me at the gate I was in dread, unsettled and even scared. But instead of being annoyed, he hugged me for the first time in so many years, And at that moment, I accepted what I was, an alcoholic in need of guidance. And perhaps more importantly, God came once more into my life. My recovery had begun. With my God’s help, my Sponsor and others, I embarked on the 12 Step Programme. I try my best to still practice what is said. I now think, behave and live differently and respect others. It is only now that I realise it was not just alcohol, but fear, self-loathing, pride, ego and resentment which had permeated my thinking. I have been in recovery for over ten years and take it one day at a time. My wife, son and daughter have slowly been on their road to recovery too. It feels so special to have the love of my family. I am so grateful.
In the period of being a patient at the Hospital alcohol, ward, I also spent a few months in the Psychiatric Ward there. I had, what later turned out to be, a severe period of manic high. No idea what caused it? I was simply manic. After a lengthy period the Consultant Psychiatrist diagnosed me as bipolar. I had no idea what this was. She told me I would always be manic high, but to expect periods of manic depression. And that it was likely that I had been bipolar for many years beforehand. I was prescribed 800 mgs of Lithium to be taken each night. I thought no more about it. But my family and close friends were very aware of my very frequent ‘manic high moods’ which came on without warning. I was also, as a result, taking risks in my life. But my first serious episode of manic depression hit me four years down the line. And it was with little warning. It was as if I was in a black greasy tube from which I was unable to extricate myself. I was very scared and didn’t know what was happening to me. I also wanted to drink, but I remembered, in time, to phone two good AA friends. They listened and guided me through this. I have had several more such episodes as well as many more of the usual manic high. I try to live with this, but it does create problems both at home and in situations such as neighbours, AA or with close friends. But they are extremely understanding for the most part. But in other social events I can be embarrassing. I have to be patient with this illness. If I become aware of an oncoming episode, either through my own, or family enlightenment, then I can take a limited controlled avoidance to minimize the consequences. But at other times it can be both difficult and disconcerting. But I realise that I can’t help this illness and try to help my recovery on a daily basis. I find that focussing on something, gardening, repairing a wall or the like can help. Just one problem. Bipolar has led me to become obsessive and at times I find myself working too long. My wife is good at pointing this out to me. I have to attempt to become aware myself. A difficult illness, but one, I and my family and close friends, have proved most understanding and helpful. Unfortunately, many people don’t show empathy at all. Stigmatise it. But I have to learn to ignore them.
This may well be linked to bipolar. But despite having a number of manic depressive episodes, the severe depression I now have only hit me around twenty months ago. At first I thought I had a bug or flu. But this heaviness in my head, like a sponge filled with water, made it impossible to think or focus. I didn't want to be with people. I stopped writing (which I had done over the past many years); I lost interest in everything…gardening, walking, and eating. I couldn't and still can't watch television. I saw my GP and was referred to a Psychologist and Psychiatrist. The Psychiatrist basically takes the line from the Psychologist, prescribed citalopram and nothing has changed. Yet I am grateful for his time.The latter has been a kind of discord. Sometimes extremely helpful and other times onerous. In the beginning it seemed that she was looking for someone to blame. The psychologist’s approach caused upheaval in my vulnerable state. Yet the situation recovered in time. I find that when my depression is on me, I try to rest a while, have herbal tea. Listen to a ‘Relaxation’ cd. And then I attempt to focus, as best I can, on work…gardening, wall repairing and the like. It helps a lot. But on occasions I can only retreat and put up with it. Withdrawal is a constant companion. Stigma and a lack of understanding are close cousins I have to try and contend. Recovery is a slow process which is taking time to learn. My family and close friends try to understand, but it is difficult for them too. Patience, sensible action and taking my depression a day at a time is my only solution.
This illness came at around the same time as my depression. It is usually, for me, a worse illness with which to cope. I have found being with people, even friends and family, at times difficult. I have avoided travelling to my son and daughter’s or elsewhere. I used to love going to the cinema, out shopping with my wife, and relaxing together with a coffee. But now I can’t. I find it difficult to be at AA meetings, but have managed to attend only my local Group, with the help of the members who have been very supportive. I get very anxious in most social occasions. This is where my Psychologist has been doing her best to help me…to deal with anxiety in these moments. I have begun to take pregabalin which has helped. But my Psychologist, want’s more self-progression and self-resolve to lead to my self-recovery. I feel that this combination of medication and my own efforts is the best route. I appreciate my Psychologist's efforts. So far there has been some recovery. But, there is a long way to go. Again, it is one day at a time.
I have had a tremor for about ten years. But in the past twenty months months it has become a shake. It is debilitating as well as embarrassing. I find it difficult when eating, pouring, or any action with my hands. I am seeing yet another Neurologist. I have recently had a further Dopamine scan. Am awaiting the results. My anxiety can exacerbate the shaking I have no idea how or if this illness may be eased or sorted. Recovery feels impossible. Some people are very kind, but it feels patronising. Others stare. I can only live in the day, but it is difficult.
I have found that my Faith and prayer helps me to cope better. I am not expecting a miracle cure, but I feel soothed after praying with my God.
This is the first piece of writing I have done for nearly two years. It has helped with my confidence, self-worth and as a reminder that I can still do it. I have written this straight off without a pause. I have not checked it over. This exercise has helped me with my illnesses and maybe in recovery.
- This Moved Me
- Thanks for Sharing
- This Helped Me