In the brief time I spent attending a support group for families of alcoholics, I learned a lot about the coping mechanisms in place that they use(d) to manage their loved-one’s condition. There was a significant amount of faith required as well as determination, courage and strength.
Perhaps this is why I struggled to find the peace they had achieved.
Faith, courage and strength are in short supply right now. Which means that the little bit of determination I have to pull out of this dive, is fighting hard (and lonely) at the controls to regain stability.
One of the slogans the support group used was “Let go and let God”. This never made an awful lot of sense to me. I can’t simply let go and hope that everything will right itself. If it were that easy, everyone would be doing it.
But the world works in very peculiar ways. Sometimes, terrible events must happen to act as a catalyst for other, wonderous things. Any type of disaster, whether it be natural, social or vehicular, usually become causes for policy change, advances in technology and/or more robust systems for protection and prevention.
Look at how parts of the world now have the ability to forewarn about severe weather events like tornados. How commercial aviation has advanced to the level that it has. How car travel and even motorsport is now protecting lives more than ever before.
All of the advances were driven by the need to prevent further disaster. A lot of good came from an almost insurmountable amount of bad. If you’ve been keeping up with this series of journal entries, you’ll know just how bad things were for me just a couple of weeks ago. I honestly didn’t see a whole lot of good coming from it.
And then today happened.
It was a rough, mostly sleepless, night and a long slow morning with not much to do. Early afternoon saw me meet with the consultants to discuss my progress. I was still a little anxious and nervous, but I was told afterwards that I seemed less-so this time around than in previous sessions.
It was agreed that I would stay on the ward for at least another week while they increase my dosage of the new anti-depressant and continue to monitor its effects on me. The light-headed sensation and the nausea remain fairly constant companions for now, but I’m assured this will ease as the drug beds in and the positive effects will follow in time.
Then as soon as that meeting was over, I was getting ready to head off-site for the first time since I arrived at the hospital a week and half (or so) ago. I had a visitor… And since I’m an ‘informal’ patient and not under any part of the mental health sectioning system, I’m allowed out unsupervised. The only proviso is that I do actually come back at some point in the evening.
And this brings me back to good coming from bad. I think, especially in the modern – Facebook – era, all of us are guilty for letting some friendships fall to the wayside a little. So long as someone can see the odd update, or ‘like’ on Facebook, that still counts, and we can consider everything as safe.
But it isn’t really. What makes a friendship ‘proper’ is when you can connect intellectually, share a laugh, support in times of need, but most importantly, spend time together. An old friend I first met some twenty-two years ago, but disconnected from in the winds of time as households moved, dynamics changed and schedules misaligned, got in touch with me shortly after I arrived on the ward and offered to come visit.
And today, she did. We went back to my place, emptied my overflowing mailbox and then chatted. Caught up on a bit of some of the madness that is life, the things we missed in each other’s lives over the last few years, and chewed over some of the here and now with regards to my current struggles.
The thing that’s hitting me the hardest now, writing this, is thinking about just how long it really had been since we last spoke, and how effortless and easy it was to pick up and talk again now. I think that speaks volumes in itself about the quality of a connection.
We have promised to stay in touch more regularly now. I get to look forward to reconnecting with her husband and meeting their two children for the first time. I get to look forward to having more great friends again I know I can count on, and I hope will be able to count on me too once I’m not a shredded bag of nerves.
Had I not had this catastrophe, would this reconnection still have happened? Who knows? But it has now, and that’s all the really matters. It’s given me something to smile about. It’s given me something to shed a few sad but happy tears as well. Sad it had to take so long and that this had to be the catalyst, but happy that it’s back on.
In a way, this whole hospital experience is about me letting go of the controls and handing them over to someone else. I may not be letting God pick things up for me, but in lieu of that, I have an array of medical professionals who are all having a go at setting me back straight and level.
And by letting go and letting this happen, and by keeping this journal and posting these updates, it’s prompted something to happen to give me something else to hold on to. I’m still feeling horribly low, I’m still struggling to see a future where I’m not a broken mess, but I have yet another voice in my corner shouting words of support and encouragement.
Another voice that feeds that tiny shred of determination I have left to find some way to recover from this. To shine some light on path ahead of me and guide me to somewhere easier, warmer, brighter.
It’s still really hard for me to accept compliments. It’s still confusing for me when people enjoy my company. But that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate it all and value every moment of it. My social anxiety sometimes makes it hard for me to mix with people, even those I know well on occasion. This is part of why I tend to be a bit of a shut-in.
I’m recognising more and more, perhaps with the benefit of hindsight in the post-covid-lockdown era, that my approach has been entirely wrong. Instead of succumbing to my anxiety and hiding, I ought to be confronting it and venturing out.
I was doing this for a while last year and at times it even felt quite exhilarating. On numerous occasions, however, I was secretly screaming for help and wanted to hide somewhere dark and quiet where nobody could find me.
The challenge going forwards, will be to find the balance between challenging the social anxiety without overwhelming it. Holding on to the things that are important and letting go of the harmful elements.
This will almost certainly mean more time with special friends; old, new and re-connected. This will probably mean attempting to meet some special interest groups in my local area… A small writer’s group, maybe photography too if I feel confident about sharing my pictures again. This could also mean giving up some gatherings. Whilst the support group I mentioned earlier was a welcoming and supportive environment that did its best best to make me feel as welcome as it could, I’m not sure how healthy it was for me.
My father’s death, while a very raw and troubling incident for me, may have to remain an undiscovered country for a while longer. If I’m mentally stronger in the future and I’m still troubled by the effects of his alcoholism, I may seek to reengage with the group.
But a new friend that I’ve made since my hospital admission, is a man who’s no stranger to the matter of addiction. He, like me, has admitted himself to this place to try and displace the darkness in his mind and to find a more peaceful and happier future.
It could be that his years of suffering with addiction could the bad that helps bring me some clarity and understanding to my world. Maybe my experiences with Dad will be the bad to help me to support him on his journey as he tries to stay clean and sober.
Our past struggles paving the way to a better future? Doesn’t sound too implausible, does it?
Something else worth holding on for?
Sod it… Let’s give it bash!