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Tuesday, November 8, 2016

A secret behind the smile.

Shhhh... I have a secret.  Can you keep a secret?  Actually, most of it hasn't been a secret in a long time. But for the real secret, you need to read this whole post.

See this face? (Okay that one looks a little manic, but you get the idea, right?  I'm smiling.)
And this one?

            What about this                   one?

So most of you who are reading this probably already know the first part of my secret.  I'm a recovering alcoholic.  It's been almost 17 years ago that I had my last drink. It was my last drink only because my husband had grown wise to the fact that I had a problem.  So he didn't let me have the car keys and he left me at home. My mom had stopped keeping beer in her outside fridge because she had gotten wise to the fact that I was sneaking down and taking it at night. It was awful.  But if I'd have known that the last time I drank a beer was the last time, I'd have found a way to have more than one. A week or so later I was in a town 3 hours away from my home and my children, in a recovery center. It was a lifesaver.  I had contemplated suicide, divorce, abandoning my family because of the miserable life I was subjecting them to.  Luckily someone forced the issue and I headed to a recovery center. Two weeks there saved my life. I learned a lot in that two weeks.  I wish I could tell you that fixed everything.  It didn't.  Of course, it took years for me to get that bad and it's taken years without alcohol to make it improve. Not drinking has been the easy part.  I'm lucky.  I go into a local watering hole and hang out with friends and don't have any cravings. 

 Briefly, I'm going to give you a little history.  My father was an alcoholic. I don't know about his family history of alcoholism, but I can tell you that he was pretty hardcore. I don't remember much of the early stuff, but my mom divorced him because of his alcoholism.  Mom tells me he went to Shick Shadel's at least once. They prescribed him medication that made him pretty dang sick to his stomach if he drank while taking it. Heck, my dad wasn't a wussy, he just drank anyway and probably puked through it all. Fortunately I don't remember it.  He received I don't know how many drunk driving tickets and had a couple minor accidents, never hurting any one thank goodness. He died 27 years or so ago. We found alcohol and beer bottles all over his apartment. He'd been dead a few days before anyone realized they hadn't seen him. We weren't close, I have issues and I'm not gonna go into details. My maternal grandfather was also an alcoholic. As a little girl I remember laughing because we had to load him into the wheelbarrow more than once to get him home after a holiday dinner. Not funny now that I realize what was happening. I wish I could have talked to them both and asked questions. What were you hiding from? What caused the pain that made you become an alcoholic? Were you sad? Did you feel restless? and on and on and on... If I could ask those questions, maybe I'd have been a bit more prepared about who I am.

I have managed, over all these years, to hang on tightly to my sobriety, because honestly, there are days when I feel that being sober and not drinking are the only things I can be happy about. This is where the darkest part of the secret comes into play.  Are you ready?

Along with being a recovering alcoholic, I also suffer from depression. As in right now, today, this minute. That might not make sense to you.  Because every time you see me, I'm smiling?  I appear happy and content, right? And I don't want to brag, but I get compliments on how positive I always appear to be. Let's talk about that for a minute. It takes a lot of energy to keep the smile on some days. That positive outlook that I show you?  I don't know how I pull it off, but I'm grateful I can. Luckily, life has gotten so much better. But it took me awhile to accept that depression is simply a part of who I am. I have been on a mild anti-depressant since before I quit drinking. Of course, my physician didn't know that I was self-medicating with alcohol (which is also a mood depressor, so it made it worse).  After I quit drinking, I went off my medication, several times over the years, with very bad results.  Why did I go off of it? There were a number of different reasons. 

1. Since I was no longer drinking, I convinced myself I was better. I faked it good enough at all the counseling appointments that I had come to believe it myself. Whoops, big mistake. 

2. I had a few family members and friends who didn't believe in depression or taking medication for it. I felt like I wasn't as good as them because I had a "problem" (along with being in recovery).

3.  I'd get mad that I was "broken". After all, I had quit drinking already, so this depression stuff was BS. I'd show myself. I'd just quit the meds and be more positive.

4.  I had daughters and I didn't want them to see me as a failure. They were a huge part of my recovery but the depression had a different tone to it, in my mind. 

There are other things that would trigger my decision to quit my meds, but you get the point.  After a few years of ups and downs with my depression in early recovery, I finally got on track.  I accepted that I had depression and that this one little pill would be a part of my daily life. Life is good today, for the most part. I feel good about myself and about where I am. I worry about my children and what their life holds for them. They don't have the greatest family track record. That's why I make sure that they know what I have gone through. They know about the past (the good, bad and super ugly). I try to be honest with them, without being a downer. I want them to learn from my mistakes and not be embarrassed.

One other thing, just so you know. I learned a long time ago to talk about what is happening to me, because if I don't, I'm basically lying, both to myself and to others. I've been in the middle of a down time lately. I realized a few weeks ago that I was showing signs of depression (going to bed earlier than normal, becoming a hermit (not answering phone calls, messages or e-mails, hiding at home after work, etc), and feeling kinda worthless. I spoke to my doctor who told me she thinks I have a good handle on what I am feeling. I'll get through it (without a drink or any other self-abusive behaviors) and I'll be okay. But my point is, you never know what's going on behind that smile, so be nice to people, okay? 

And by the way, be nice to yourself. That's the most important part.

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