Tag Archives: Boundaries

Whose mental health are we talking about?

4 Aug

1:58 pm

Lately, I’ve been sort of offline; I just haven’t had the time or ability to wrestle with my thoughts too much these past few days…

A quick life update is that, no, I didn’t get the job I applied for–after a long series of interviews (gah!)–but, that’s OK since there are other jobs out there. I’ve been on the hunt in one way or another since mid-June, and um, I am at the point where I feel like it’s OK (slash, necessary for my mental health) to sit back and let it be for a while. Let it percolate. Enjoy the fact that I was fortunate enough to collect a bit of unemployment, remember that this is just a phase and the economy will rebound, and put some faith in my network. I have worked with a lot of great people over the years, many of whom are still looking out for me, I have no doubt.

Anyway, I’ve got some time to re-focus on this blog and my “e-book project,” which is simply, to compile my posts and self-publish a version of this blog. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a while, and it’s a way for me to sort of close one chapter, as it were. A lot of what I post these days–and will continue to post–isn’t really related to getting sober, and I want to re-read some of my past posts in order to get more of a grip on who I was then and who I am now. It’s a process–and there are probably a LOT more “important” things I could be doing right now and/or thinking about–so I will keep you posted!

What else has been going on? Well, as I think you all remember, I have posted about my parents’ mental health a few times. And, I remain committed to not writing that much about it and them on this blog since it’s not my mental health I’m talking about. However, not writing about it does not mean I don’t think about it a lot–especially as I watch my father devolve, as it were, into what seems to be a worsening mental health “situation.” I mean, if I knew nothing about his past and his personality, and was confronted with only his behavior today–I’d probably avoid him, and then I’d forget about it.

I know from my own experience with alcoholism that MOST people don’t want to know (or admit that they know) about your mental health disorder, or they oversimplify it because they can’t (and don’t want to) delve deep. I like to wonder, I like to ask questions, I like to look for patterns; MANY folks do not.

That being said, I just don’t know what to do about or for my dad–and, if I should do anything? He’s a grown man–in his 70s–yet…from what I can tell, he’s just getting worse. I have to assume that untreated mental health disorders only get worse as you get older. I fear that it’ll all come crashing down, sooner rather than later. Yet, you can’t convince him that there is anything about his behavior he should change–and, a lot does need to change. Lately, I’ve come to the conclusion that there isn’t anything I can do at this point; he won’t hear reason, he won’t hear truth, and even if he acknowledges that things need to change, he won’t choose to change. Yet…there is this feeling of, If something happens to him, well, it’s my fault, I should have done more.

It’s probably the feeling one has trying to get an addict into recovery before they’re ready to get sober–and then, who dies from an overdose or suicide. It’s my fault for not forcing them into recovery. I should have done more.

All I can do is let it go, let him go, let his mental health be HIS mental health. What more can one do? I probably think more about his mental health–and how he’s hurt me and others–than he ever will, which is sad, but probably true.

On that note, it’s time to get outside and enjoy some of this sun!

Socializing sober–there is no escape

26 Dec

11:27 pm

I hope all are having or had a good holiday.  We did, but honestly, I’m kind of glad it’s over, and I’m looking forward to a quiet New Year’s Eve with no plans (or obligations) and no cooking (or overeating).  Oof!  Back away from the chocolate, the cookies, the quiche, the chicken pot pie, DDG…

Maybe it was the move and all the work surrounding that both before and after, but I felt quite stressed this Christmas.  Like, I don’t have kids, I didn’t travel to family and so didn’t have to buy gifts for said family; it’s not like a have a ton to do–not like my friends who are parents, who have actual long lists of things they HAVE to get done and places they HAVE to be during the holidays.  I live on an island, for crying out loud!  Still, I felt like there was no down time, so when Christmas finally came–well, eve and day–I was kind of relieved when it was over.  Granted, I had a great time and am grateful for all of it:  we had some nice food, went to two sweet beaches, did a downtown event, ran into and/or hung out with some friends–but, I’m glad to be moving into a quieter week and a quiet New Year’s Eve.

I’ve taken a step back today, finally, realizing that it has been a LOT, our move, the holidays, the job; the unpacking and shipping and sorting and planning and pondering, ruminating on where to go and whether or not we should go there.  Now we’ve here, and it feels so good to finally be quiet enough, in mind and body, settled enough, to dream, to pause, to put thought to word.

All that being said, the holidays didn’t pass without some sober angst.  Sometimes, I do want to drink; I just want “my” down time, “my” escape.  It does get to be a slog, having to constantly be sober.  Of course, I am better at redirecting my thoughts and feelings, resetting, moving forward, but I do wish I could drink now and then (without the drama, the hangovers).

Anyway, when I was getting sober, the holidays were such a big deal:  I wanted to impress everyone, I stressed out a lot about how I was going to “navigate” the socializing with people who were not sober in any way, shape, or form (there is no avoiding socializing with people who are drinking or doing drugs down here, unless you make a point of only hanging with your AA or sober friends).  It was exciting, to move past and over those hurdles; now, it feels a little stale.  Like, I know I can do it, but why choose to do it?  Why not choose social interactions with people who are purposefully present?

Like, I know I can socialize with basically anyone, in any situation; and that is sweet relief.  It’s because I’ve had to practice working with, through, and around the awkwardness.  I think most of us have some form of anxiety around socializing and making small talk with strangers or people we don’t know that well; but, I don’t think most people have been forced to endure it and practice getting through it–instead, most people still use (drink or drugs) to escape the pain of having to be and feel awkward.  It’s not easy, and I totally understand why you’d choose escape over the reality:  sometimes, the entire conversation should just be trashed after it happens; but, you keep practicing having these conversations over and over again because you have no other choice as a sober person.

These days–and particularly on Thanksgiving and Christmas days–I noticed that EVERYONE around me was drunk or high.  I was like, wtf?  This is just irritating me!  To me, as someone who totally knows why one would use booze or drugs while socializing, it’s just an escape.  So, that begs the question, am I that boring that you need to escape by smoking weed?  Are you that bored out of your skull in this social situation with me that you have to do ecstasy at the table?  I mean, come ON.  I am ALL for freedom of choice, but, really?  It’s SO inconsiderate; not that they’re drinking but that they’re escaping, and from what?  Me!  The situation!  And, they don’t even realize it, which is something that someone who is not sober would, of course, not realize.  ARGH!

It’s not that big of a deal; here, there is always a deck to watch the boats from, or a beach to go swimming in when I feel the need to escape what feels almost burdensome, being the ONLY person sober in the group.  It’s something I wrestle with:  am I enabling them by not saying this to their faces?  Should I just hang out with different people if it bothers me that much?  For the most part, these peeps are friends and most don’t overdo it; but, it’s this thing and it bugs me–still, after all these years!

Anyway, we had a good holiday but I’m looking forward to some quieting-of-mind time the next few days, hiking the hills and smelling the grasses and tropical things, listening to the sounds of the night, and letting some of these thoughts go.  I don’t know what this year will bring, but I know I have to start emptying my mind of the negativity that is circular and eats away at all things expansive; I know I want to–and I hate to say it but it’s true–divest myself of the negativity in my life.  I HATE using that dreadful phrase–get rid of the toxicity (am I a toxic person?  you bet I am, just like you, but that doesn’t mean I should be gotten rid of)–but I really do want to focus on the positivity, on getting my fire back, on myself, frankly.  I know this year is going to bring some solid changes, and I think I’m finally ready for them.  I think I’m finally ready for the fruition part to happen…

On boundaries and saying ‘no’

7 Apr

12:40 pm

So, this morning, as I was scrolling Facebook, I became frustrated:

Why do I have to care about you?  Ugh, I should have gone to that thing last night–why am I so lazy, why am I so antisocial? 

And, on and on and on.  I saw in the early years of my sobriety just how much I could overthink and overanalyze, and how this contributed to my unhappiness and dependence on wine to escape my thinking.

It got me thinking about something else, too:  here I was, on a beautiful Sunday morning, and what was I doing but berating myself because I had let my Facebook feed intimidate me!

In getting sober and staying sober, I have come to realize that creating boundaries and saying ‘no’ are essential to my peace of mind.  There are a LOT of things that caused me to binge drink and drink alcoholically, and I never made the connection between that reactive behavior and the bullying forces in my life until I got sober.

In fact, there are a lot of bullies in everyone’s life–whether your friends, parents, or coworkers are consciously aware that they are being bullies is up for debate, though.  And, until I started to understand the concepts of boundaries and saying no–that there could be emotional bullying, and that this is far more prevalent than actual, literal bullying–I didn’t get that I could both say, No, I will not do that, and say no to taking on other people’s stress or expectations of me (or themselves).

It still makes me feel angry when I delve into this aspect of long-term sobriety, and I feel like this is something that will never go away completely because almost everyone out there (including myself) is engaging in some form of bullying–whether it’s dumping their emotional baggage on you, manipulating your weaknesses, or just using your reactions to make themselves feel better.  I have to remind myself, almost daily, that it’s ME who is in control of how I perceive and receive people, and how I react and interact with them–that ultimately, bullying is a two-way street.

Some real-world examples:

Facebook/social media–Before I got sober, I would scroll relentlessly, and I would allow everyone’s story to affect me.  I would internalize my feelings of “not good enough” and “guilty” and “should have, could have, would have” without realizing that one, I didn’t need to feel any of that, and two, I had control over who and what I let into my worldview.  These days, when I feel that coming on, I try to remember that social media is not real life; people posting to social media are not trying to offend me, personally; and if I want to not care, I can choose to not care and close the app.  I don’t have to feel guilty about not really interacting with my so-called friends; I have friends in the here and now, and I can interact with them–and this is healthy, and it is good enough.  These days, I would much rather engage people offline, in the real world, and not on social, email, or text.  And, some days, it’s as simple as closing the app and moving on with my day–and not judging myself to be a bad friend, somehow, because I have chosen to be a spectator on social media and not a player.

Parents–You know, before I got sober, I didn’t have as much frustration toward my parents for their mental health issues as I do now.  I knew that my mom’s difficulty setting emotional boundaries and my dad’s bullying behavior definitely contributed to my drinking, but I didn’t know exactly how.  In any case, I internalized my mom’s pain, and I always tried to please my dad–two things that I have to work very hard at today, every time I talk to them, to NOT do!

These days, I don’t know if I’ve figured out exactly how these family relationships have made me who I am, but in getting sober, I have learned that calling my parents less is OK, that not allowing them to control how I feel is OK, that putting up boundaries and saying no to their projections and expectations is OK–I wish it was different because they are in their 70s and “should know better,” but…

My mom has a lot of health problems these days, and so, our calls are always quite long and tedious. I feel like she feels slighted that I don’t call often, and I feel almost unconsciously judged for having become an alcoholic drinker and for not having had kids; but none of this matters when it comes to me needing to say no to taking on her bad mood or her feelings of helplessness.  In part, I think she wants me to share my own health problems, but I refuse to go down that road because it’s almost as if she relishes that; simply put, I DO NOT relish it.

My dad is an entirely different beast in that the family believes he has multiple actual mental health disorders, and his entire way in the world with everyone has always been about manipulating other people to do what he wants them to do for him, and expectation (I am hard on myself and need to prove my worth, so you should be, too).  I have simply come to the frustrating conclusion recently that nothing will ever change in our relationship except the way that I deal with it.  I have decided that while our conversations won’t change, and while I’ll never likely be able to directly say no to him, I can say no to his expectations–I love our life, and I don’t have to let him lead the conversation toward accomplishment as a measure of success.

Job and school stress–It took me getting sober to see that I was putting a TON of unnecessary expectations and pressure on myself for many, many years.  And, that I don’t have to respond to stress the way people around me are either responding to it or worse, telling me how I “should” respond to it.  It’s like, I don’t have to keep up with the Joneses by wanting that house, or that car, or that “bigger” job–likewise, at work, I don’t have to stress out just because my boss or coworkers are stressing out, necessarily or unnecessarily so.  You don’t have to stress out to care, or to prepare; stress will not help you have fun.  You can (and should!) take long showers, eat nice dinners, go to your yoga class, or hey, even hit the beach (man, I miss it!)–AND get your work done, and be a careful, caring employee who is worthy of her paycheck.  This mentality is really hard to push back against, but I have to push back–if not just in defense of my health, but in defense of my sobriety.

Exhale.  We all have to set boundaries and guard them fiercely, no matter if we’re getting or staying sober.  Likewise, we all get to say ‘no’–and that is a beautiful thing.  I think that is the most empowering aspect to my sobriety, and to my evolving life and lifestyle these days.  As recovering binge drinkers or alcoholics, saying no is essential to our happiness, to our joy, to our continued sobriety.

So…just say no (sometimes)!

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