It has been several weeks since I’ve been to an AA meeting. Ever since the incident with my sponsor (see this post about vulnerability to learn more), I haven’t been able to convince myself to go back. The good news is, I’m not having cravings or thinking about drinking or anything like that. However, something happened today that made me think that maybe I do actually need AA in my life:
Today my shrink told me that my life is “chaotic.” It’s hard not to take that offensively because well, it is my life we’re talking about. I’m not saying she isn’t right – I realize that there is some chaos in my life. But I do try really hard to keep things stable on my end: steady income, weekly routines, setting aside time to take care of myself, etc.
In the past several months, the instances where I have been really dysregulated have correlated with periods when I haven’t been able to set aside time to take care of myself. This past week though, I was easily dysregulated on a couple of occasions, and I think it stemmed from being so emotionally drained after several weeks of trauma work. Trauma work sucks the life out of you. It really does. I was having this conversation with a friend over the weekend who does EMDR, and we were talking about how literally everything seems so much worse when you’re working on trauma memories. It’s like the every day shit in life becomes magnified to the extreme. Your brain struggles to process it and categorize it correctly. Moderately bad things feel like a frantic emergency. I’ve probably said it on my blog 50 times now, but I’ll say it again: Trauma work is hard. It literally takes all of my energy and healthy coping skills. It makes it so hard for me to cope with life on life’s terms because every ounce of healthy coping that I have goes towards getting through the memories and the work.
There are also a lot of things that fall into that category of “chaos” that I don’t have control over. For example, I have a sister with a chronic illness and we got some really bad news last week. Totally out of my control. I addressed an incredibly vulnerable topic (see here) in marriage counseling that brought up really bad flashbacks last week. I wasn’t able to stay as present as I normally would. Actually, I got so stressed out in the session that I went to the bathroom and sobbed – I’ve only ever cried over trauma stuff one other time in therapy. When I’m not emotionally exhausted, I now have some control over my flashbacks and anxiety (something I didn’t have prior to starting therapy). However, after weeks of trauma work, that control starts to dissipate as well. Finally, my marriage is like a giant roller coaster – I never know what kind of husband I’m going to get: compassionate and helpful, or mean and bitter. Last week he went from one extreme to the other between Wednesday and Sunday. Wednesday it was, “Oh I see you’re really struggling, I’ll pick up our daughter and you can go to Starbucks and do what you need to do to take care of yourself.” Sunday it was all yelling, refusing to talk about finances, hiding in bed for half of the day, and not being helpful with our daughter at all. That alone is enough to royally fuck with my emotions. I never know if I’m going to have his support or not…or if he’s going to throw things back in my face at a later date. The instability in our relationship makes my anxiety skyrocket.
So yes, my life is chaotic.
AA meetings spend a lot of time discussing accepting the things we cannot change and having the courage to change the things we can. I tend to forget about that acceptance piece when I’m emotionally distraught. I forget to leave some space between my emotions and the situations that are out of my control. I forget to put a bigger emphasis on my sobriety and mental wellbeing than the chaos going on around me.
I am trying so hard to just be ok. Today in therapy though, I felt like I must be failing miserably at everything that my therapist asks or expects out of me. I worked so hard last Wednesday to communicate when I was getting dysregulated or starting to not become present. I worked hard last Tuesday to take care of myself after a scary dissociative situation. I worked hard this past weekend to keep my mind focused on self-care instead of self-destruction. I work hard so that I can be the best mommy possible to my daughter; I work hard so that I can learn to love myself; I work hard so that I can be present in the world around me. Hearing that my life is always chaotic, and basically that I’m not doing a good enough job of prioritizing that chaos and responding to it in a healthy way, was like being kicked in the stomach. I wish my life weren’t chaotic. I am not one of those people who fabricates shit to make things seem more interesting or whatever. I have a friend who does that and I really struggle to understand why anyone would want to live the way that I do. All I want is for my life to be “normal.” However, I cannot control life on life’s terms.
I am spending some time in the Big Book tonight. It will be another week or so before I have the opportunity to make it to an AA meeting, but I definitely plan on listening to some AA podcasts on my way to work this week. The thought of seeing my ex-sponsor at a meeting makes me really anxious, but I know I need this program to help me keep things in check when life becomes chaotic. I need this program to remind me that it’s ok to not have control over everything; it’s ok to put space between myself and the chaos.
PS: I’m happy to report that I haven’t done any work on trauma stuff in about a week, and I’m looking forward to hopefully having another week off. I’m not avoiding it, but I’m focusing more on self-care and getting my mind and body back to where it needs to be. With that said, look for more fun posts about yoga this week 🙂