Shit Just Got Real
SHIT JUST GOT REAL
BY: TAMI HARPER WINN
I have fought a lot of demons in my life, some real and some imagined. Today however, I am battling a much different demon that is larger than any of the others I’ve faced thus far. I am in the fight for my life and the one that is endangering my life? Well, that’s me. I am the very demon I am trying to slay. I am battling my internal self. Yep, you heard me right. My own internal thoughts are literally trying to take me out.
SO WHAT’S REALLY GOING ON?
This blog will be a little different than the rest as I begin to expand on the word recovery and what that means to me now that I’m over seven years sober. Recovery is truly like an onion. It gets peeled one layer at a time. You see it’s no longer about the drink, and they tell me it never really was. Drinking was but a symptom. I get it now. It’s my brain that’s out to kill me. They weren’t joking when they said that and to tell you the truth, I’m not sure how many of them truly know what that means when they say it. I don’t think they know the depth and validity behind that statement. Well, today I do.
THE TRUTH OF THE MATTER
I do believe that my brain lies to me and tells me it will be okay to drink again one day. I believe it and for some if we do, we don’t get so lucky to come back and say they were right. We die. That’s the first part of how my brain is out to do me in. I think that old-timers get stuck there though and judging by some of their outward appearances in recovery, it shows. Recovery is about growing and moving beyond. Its about living out in the normal world with normal people without the dependency on chemicals to survive.
No, we will never be like those who can drink without impunity. But, we are normal by our standards. So, I don’t beat myself up with believing I can never be “normal” because normal is judged by the group or society you are a part of. Honestly, its not a true measuring stick to measure ourselves by. It actually keeps us limited when we do compare ourselves to others. There is no such thing as “normal”.
You see I am one of those that abused my ability to drink. I want to make sure that is established first. I do have a full and complete knowledge of my condition. I do not want to term it a disease any longer because for me it just continues to give it the power. I am done giving it power. But, I don’t want stay in the past either so let me tell you what the future of my sobriety has looked like.
LET’S GET HONEST
You can go over all of my blogs and see where it was good and where it has been a challenge for me. They are only snippets into my real life but they are definitely a clear indication as to the plus’s and minus’s of recovery. Writing for me is one of the tools in my recovery toolbox. Its where I can get honest with myself and others and is actually a form of therapy for me.
I had the chance to go through each of my blogs recently (and I’m happy to say that took awhile) but I got to see some pretty glaring truths when I did. I got to see patterns and signals that I didn’t recognize then, but am able to now. I am grateful for this gift and this opportunity to share it with others.
I can honestly say that I have experienced some amazing miracles in my short stint with recovery. I have experienced everything from graduating from college, to paying off my first car, to correcting my credit, to having my daughter graduate from high school, to my son graduating from college, to my other son graduating with his GED, to traveling outside of the country for recovery, making amazing friends, holding wonderful jobs, rides in hot air balloons, rafting rivers, loving deeply, beginning my blog, being able to be there for my parents when they passed and the list just goes on.
However, there is also the other side of the coin too that I need to look at. I want to be able to help others and by that I mean in all the ways I possibly can. Being sober ain’t for sissies. This is a very real truth I’m about to tell you. Shits about to get real.
As most of you know I have had some serious health issues arise within this last year. My body is simply crying out that it needs to be paid attention to. Its my warning bell that something is terribly wrong and if I don’t change it, then I will pay for it with my life. That’s the short version of this.
HERE’S MY VERSION
For years I have battled with depression and anxiety. I have had vision problems where my sight has needed a new prescription twice in one month and a host of other symptoms that are screaming at me daily. I have been saturated in stress for a very long time now and my body is beginning to show it both outwards and now internally.
It is true that these last three years I have encountered some serious traumatic events and managed to weather through them with what I thought was a shining badge of honor - I didn’t get drunk. But while that did help me to be able to handle what was coming down the line at me, it wasn’t what the only thing I needed to be focused on.
I felt that if I could stay sober through all the crap life was handing me that I must be some super human super hero. But that certainly isn’t the truth. Because while I may not have been killing myself with alcohol, I was still in fact killing myself in other ways.
Now, here’s the truth of the matter. When I said that it my brain that is out to kill me I certainly meant it in my case. When I got sober over seven years ago I walked into my doctor’s office and had her run every test possible to see what damage to my body I may need to repair now that I had stopped drinking. Surprisingly, I left the office with a very big shiny “A” on my report card given to me by a very surprised doctor. I was in perfect health. Years of drinking and drugging had not hurt me physically. What a miracle. I walked away so grateful that day, knowing I had truly been protected somehow.
Fast forward seven years now. That is not my story today. In fact, my health is continuing to deteriorate at such a rapid rate that doctors can’t keep up. In the last three years I have in fact aged more than I have in the last forty plus years of my life. I couldn’t get it figured out. What was going on?
SHIT JUST GOT REAL
Standing in the doctor’s office this time, after the third go around on my blood work, I faced another stark reality. As she explained that the next step was to complete yet another MRI, but this one on my brain, I completely lost touch with reality. Did I hear her correct? Did she just say that all signs were now pointing to the possibility of a brain tumor? What? This couldn’t be possible.
But in fact it is. I am now sitting alone with the fear of the unknown yet again. Now, lets get down to the even dirtier truth of this. Let’s call it coincidental that it involves my brain, but I’ll let you in on my thought – its not coincidence at all.
When they say my brain is out to kill me they were right in more ways than they could possibly conceive. Where the tumor is believed to possibly be has to do with my hormones and one in particular, the stress hormone cortisol and also prolactin. There is no known reason yet for why these types of tumors form, but they have reason to believe that stress plays a very large part in it. In other words, how I think about things – how I handle things internally.
My body is fighting itself and I have been told this for some time now. Ask anyone I know, including people who barely know me and they will tell you that I take more on my plate than most people do or more than they should. My counselors concur. I don’t believe that. In fact, I believe that we all have a lot on our plates. So, I don’t give myself permission to believe I am any different than anyone else. They tell me that’s where I am running into the wall. I don’t allow myself any kind of compassion or understanding.
They tell me that I don’t understand the amount of trauma I have recently experienced in these last few years. I know I have experienced some significant loss. But who am I to compare my loss to another? They tell me that again I am sinking my own ship with those thoughts. My inability to give myself permission to grieve these losses is compounding my physical issues. My lack of love and kindness for myself is baffling to them. They say I don’t give myself the same loving attention that I give others.
They tell me that I have not forgiven myself for my past transgressions to the point I am subconsciously punishing myself by denying myself any simple pleasures or being able to enjoy happiness for any sustained length of time. What are they talking about? I am scrambling to find the answers. I have to. I don’t want to die.
ARMED WITH THE TRUTH
So I began to do my research. Most of the answers I have found are in my own writings. The tell-tale signs are there. Call it the writing on the wall. My body is fighting against itself and it has everything to do with how I think about things. My thoughts are literally producing a hormone that in its design was meant to save me, but is now turning against me and wants to kill me. I am over saturating my body with the stress hormone cortisol and it is depositing all over my body making me sick in every vital organ I have.
Now, please understand that first of all I am not terminal. I believe everything that is going on with me is reversible. I believe there are solutions and I am very much a solution-based person. So, I believe I will get this figured out.
The point of me telling you all this should be pretty glaring by now. How I think about things is the root of my condition. My thoughts and my thinking are literally producing a physical response that is creating more damage to my body than when I was drinking. Now, here’s where that piece of knowledge gets scary for someone with my condition. My brain, (remember, its out to kill me) tells me that at least when I drank I wasn’t dying physically, perhaps spiritually, but I was healthier. My brain says that its because alcohol quieted my brain and allowed me to not stress out so much. Do you see where I’m going with this?
My brain tells me things like, being sober is more deadly than drinking ever was. I now have proof of it. Well, it may be right in pointing out some facts about the matter, but its my brain and right now I can’t trust it. It’s a sneaky little devil that doesn’t have my best interest in mind.
If in fact I have this tumor, it would explain the prolonged depression and anxiety. It would explain some of the physical problems I have encountered and why I am rapidly losing sight in my eyes (changing my prescription twice in one month was shocking to my doctor). It would finally be an answer to all the long drawn out issues I have had to live with for some time.
SO, WHATS THE SOLUTION?
Now, if it can be treated then what’s next? Its an overhaul of my life. It’s retraining this old dog with new tricks. Its going back to the drawing board and figuring out how to live life on life’s terms. If I don’t figure out how to get my brain under control, I will surely suffer some grave consequences. Even if they don’t find a tumor, my mind will figure out a way to produce one ultimately producing my own death. It’s a sick thing.
Being sober ain’t for sissies. This I know. Being sober is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I want to live, but without alcohol I obviously don’t know how. Getting sober was the easiest part of this journey. It’s the living sober that gets us every time. Its our brain. In one way or another it really truly wants us dead. I have to teach it to love me and to protect me. I have to teach my brain how to be kind to me and to do what’s best for me.
This is the next stage of my recovery - recovering from sobriety. You heard me right. I have to now go into recovery for my sobriety. Its my new way of looking at this. My sobriety hasn’t been the healthiest in more ways than one and its time to recover from it. So, as I learn more and more about my condition I want to take you into a deeper understanding of your own. This isn’t just about not drinking. Its now about living.
This is just the beginning. Over the next few months I plan on exploring what it means to live life on life’s terms. I plan on discovering what healthy recovery looks like at a much deeper level than I have already begun to uncover. Each new blog I hope will shed a little light on how to live in recovery happy, joyous, and free – sincerely. Stay with me.
I began this journey at the beginning of this year when my doctor told me what she did the very first time shit got real for me. I took her serious then and I am still very much hearing her loud and clear. Being sober today affords me the opportunity to listen to my body and pay attention to what it is telling me. Simply put, I just need to discover a new set of tools to deal with recovery so I can live happy and healthy and hopefully help another to not get caught in the trap we call our mind. Let’s begin.
~ Tami Harper Winn ~
The story written here is solely the work of the author’s. Any use or reproduction of this article is prohibited without written consent of the author or credit to the author through works cited.