Almost Two Years Sober and Counting…

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On Roughly May 30, 2019, I made a life altering decision to embrace sobriety and battle my previous five year addiction to drugs. This means soon I will be going on two years sober. I am not proud to say I dabbled in a little of everything prior to getting sober but my main addiction was smoking pot. I could not seem to live without it and no matter how hard I wanted to stop smoking up (towards the end of my smoking days anyways), I could not kick the habit.

The initial days of smoking weed, or rather the first couple of years, it was like the honeymoon phase of a relationship – everything was coming up roses. I managed to be more productive while high and creative in that it opened my thought processes to channels never explored before. I became a more relaxed version of myself I fell in love with, as I have struggled my entire life with being a Type A personality – everything, including me, had to be perfect and when things were less than that I would panic and freak out.

But like every honeymoon, it eventually ends, or at least for me. I began experiencing unusually long bouts of depression where I lacked all motivation (strange for someone who has been Type A their whole life) and spent hours, sometimes days in bed. I began taking risks like trying other, more harder drugs – FYI “weed as a gateway drug” is an actual thing. Weed relaxes you and puts you in a more open state of mind and I started to contemplate, “well what’s the harm? I tried weed and it seems to be going quite well for me so far.” I can tell you, if you couldn’t already tell, I was completely and utterly naïve when it came to drugs and their effects. Curiosity got the better of me, however, and soon I was falling down the rabbit hole of addiction. You know they say, “curiosity killed the cat” for a fucking reason! Well I fucking ran over that Tabby with all four wheels.

I had never even smoked weed until I was 18 never seeing the allure until curiosity got the better of me and I wanted to know why everyone was constantly stoned in my dormitory at University. I wondered “what the fuck is the big deal?” and I wanted to experience it for myself. I mainly tried it for the first time because I wanted to understand why my then serious boyfriend was consistently showing up baked off his face, to the point he’d be drooling almost. I’ve always had this insatiable need to know – to know why or how things worked.

The first time I smoked up, I was in a circle of about eight people from my dormitory who were passing multiple joints in both clockwise and counter-clockwise direction. I must have puffed over a hundred times and felt no different and grew frustrated when my closest friend at the time from my floor asked, “Are you high yet?” Because my answer was no. I more specifically said, “I don’t know if I’m high but I’m not really feeling anything to be honest,” to which my friend replied “then you are definitely not high. Here, let me explain how to inhale it properly and most effectively.” She then described to me the words I would live by for the next five years when trying to get high. I inhale, hold it in the back of my throat, inhale again before exhaling, hold that breath in as well until I feel the smoke ticking the bottom of my esophagus. I’ve always been a visual learner and to have the breathing technique explained in a more visual way sunk in better….and then I was fucking high off my face.

I can not explain that first high or the next ten, or thirty, but they all felt as if I was seeing the colour red for the first time in my life – my emotions were heightened tenfold and sensations felt well for lack of a better term – “sensational.” The thing that hooked me the most about smoking up was something so simple yet so beautiful to me. Music sounded like it was in surround sound regardless of how I listened to it, by that I mean the notes and melodies churned in my soul and surrounded me in a warm embrace I had never experienced before. Everything was better high, or seemed that way – Love, Sex, Studying, Partying, Writing, Drawing, you name it – everything seemed more epic while high.

As I mentioned earlier, it was all fun and games for the first few years but then, for me at least, it turned into things much darker. It turned into nights of blacking out, risk taking behavior like one night stands, a gradual progression into trying “new and more exciting drugs,” that led me to spiral faster and faster towards what would ultimately be my first serious mental breakdown, a psychosis.

It was a result of this psychosis that I would be diagnosed with bipolar disorder and the way I saw and related to myself would forever be changed. Many people with an addiction have a co-existing mental health condition such as bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder in its basic nutshell –  causes mood swings between intense emotional highs and lows. Although it’s not fully understood why, bipolar disorder makes people more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol. Drugs and alcohol often make the symptoms of bipolar disorder worse. People with no history of mental health issues can also develop bipolar disorder that were previously dormant as a result of drug abuse.

My drug abuse and my development of bipolar disorder at the ripe age of twenty-two begs the classic question, “What came first? The chicken or the egg.?” Did my abuse of drugs lead to bipolar or did my bipolar cause my drug addiction? And this one conundrum plagues me to this day because it makes me sick to my stomach to think I unintentionally caused the most traumatic experiences of my life from the abuse of substances I could of and should of just simply avoided (almost killing myself due to crippling depression, experiencing two manic psychoses in which I had hallucinations and delusions of grandeur). My biggest fear is that I have substance-induced bipolar disorder rather than it being a result of my genetic make-up.

There is no real way however to really tell what caused my disorder. But as a person who is now sober and who can think more rationally (to an extent, I am still bipolar after all, haha!) that thought creeps in and bothers me from time to time, “Could all the heartache and trauma caused by my bipolar disorder have been avoided if I had simply never been so curious as to try drugs in the first place?” And I’ll be honest, after everything that I have been through this is a troubling idea.

So what made me get sober after years of abusing drugs (mainly pot)? The same thing that got me into that whole mess in the first place – curiosity. I was curious whether my depressions, which seemed to only be getting progressively worse, would be less extreme once off drugs for good. I was curious whether being sober would improve my mental health and rejuvenate my energy levels that always seemed to be lower than normal. I was curious whether a sober version of myself might be the better version of myself I had been searching for.

The thing that led to my eventual recovery and sobriety was a mixture of different actions I decided to finally take, instead of simply pondering how to quit I put into action a plan to end the co-dependence between me and drugs. I called an addictions counsellor through a non-profit organization and began seeing her for one hour sessions every two weeks to discuss why I was still holding onto drugs and what plan of action I should take in ridding them from my life. She suggested I slowly wean off and start by smoking less and less amounts of pot, however, each week I would come back with the same excuses as to why I smoked excessively that week and did not manage whatsoever to decrease my pot intake. My counsellor was patient however and kept strategizing with me regardless of whether I met my goals or not.

When I saw how invested my counsellor was in my case, demonstrating she genuinely cared, I shifted my motivation for quitting drugs onto her, in that I wanted to make her proud of my progress.  I decided randomly one week to quit cold turkey and test myself and see if I could come into my counselling session with the proclamation that I had done it, I had gone two weeks without dope! After months of what I felt was wasting her time (in hindsight though we were building the foundation for me to quit) I finally was able to come in  to my session with the boast that I had been sober for longer and longer bouts of time.

My main motivation at first was to make my counsellor proud but then it changed – to being able to maintain the positive changes I started to notice just four weeks clean of substances. In a blog post that I wrote at my four-week clean mark I write: “I am going on four weeks sober from quitting smoking marijuana and I’ve already noticed some changes. One of these changes is that I seem to be the Energizer Bunny with a shit ton of energy and inability to sleep. Prior to this endeavor I was napping constantly and having a hard time being awake and alert. I feel as though I am making up for lost time. I want to do the things I was unable to before and I want to do it all!’’

I also mention the following: “The most beneficial change and the one I’ve noticed the most is I have a much better accepting and positive attitude. I can accept where I am in life and have slowly made plans to make small changes in order to achieve the longer term goals I am now setting for myself. While smoking dope I was prone to commiserate on my current situation and smoked even more dope to deal with the commiseration. I want to be more active in my life both physically and figuratively.”

The farther I got away (time wise) from smoking dope and the closer I got to being the better version of myself I had envisioned, the easier it became to simply not smoke up anymore. I can honestly say almost two years later (of being sober) that I will never regret this decision nor will I ever make the mistake of lighting up again. I realize now I have an extremely addictive personality and there is no such thing as “Oh, I’ll just have one puff” because with my brain wiring I will always want it all, and will continue to cross the line in order to get it. I am now a much more clear- headed and rational person whose decisions are not based on where I’ll be getting my next fix. My life has so much more meaning and I am so glad that I am starting to figure it out once again – what that meaning is for me.

Russell Brand’s book “Recovery: Freedom From Our Addictions” was instrumental in my journey towards sobriety. I mention, in a blog post exploring this book, while actively in the throes of addiction still the following: “Brand mentions in the first chapter of his book that most of us are divided: “…usually part of us wants to change a negative, punishing behavior, whereas another part wants to hold on to it” (Brand 21). I want to change my drinking and smoking habits yet part of me wants to hold on to them. I like the way they make me feel in the moment but I feel terrible after coming down from my high. I do not want to crash anymore but is my drive to rid alcohol and drugs from my life bigger or less than my enjoyment of them? I have decided to test myself and ultimately find out. I will never know if I can live a sober life if I never try to live one.”

I continue to reflect on the possibility of sobriety and mention just starting counselling, “I think, no I know, that I deserve more credit. I believe I am fully capable of sobriety so why do I fight it and struggle so much against it? Addiction is a difficult beast and I am aware that there is a chemical dependency to drugs I am also fighting as well as my willpower to stay sober. My brain is at war with itself and I think it’s finally time to draw up a peace treaty. I will be seeking various support groups until I find one that fits me so to speak and am beginning addiction counselling this week. I am taking an active role in what I hope will be my recovery and will not sit idle hoping that by some divine intervention I will find the answers. I am trying and I think that should count for something.”

I am proud reading this old blog post because I didn’t just try to quit drugs, I succeeded. I have been almost two years sober and the most common question I get from my friends who still smoke and seem to think this is a temporary part of my life (a phase so to speak) is, “don’t you miss getting high?” To that I reply, “Never.” I know without a doubt I am leaving weed behind me and I consider it a part of some former life I barely recognize now where I was WEAK. In a blog post two months into sobriety I wrote the following, “Being Sober is Scary cause you’re painfully aware of what is lacking and you don’t have a substance to fill up that space so you have no choice but to confront…confront your life and start conquering it.” I was weak before, using weed as a crutch for all the negative thoughts and feelings I was struggling with and trying to come to terms with. My brain was a constant war zone constantly trying to hit the self-destruct button and instead of grappling with why that was the case or how I could change my thoughts to be more positive – I self-medicated.

There reaches a point in your journey when a fork appears in the road, and you can continue on the same path you’ve been travelling in hopes it one day changes for the better or you can take the road you’ve yet to explore. You’re not quite sure if it will yield what you hope for but at the very least it will assuredly offer something new and different. After a long couple of years of misery, I decided I was either going to continue down the path of substance abuse mindlessly covering my internal wounds with essentially band-aids, or I could be brave and choose a new path – one where I struggled, got sober, and came to terms with myself honestly and authentically.

Consider the road that challenges you the most when these forks appear on your life’s journey. I can tell you from personal experience, they are more rewarding and you learn that you are truly capable of whatever you set your mind to. Set your mind to exploring, exploring self-growth and you will never regret it. Each day I come closer to understanding myself a little better and I know now I am extremely susceptible to becoming overwhelmed with emotions and thoughts that do not serve me. I keep this in line by keeping my wits about me since (as I can attest) drugs just add to the chaos. I want to fully appreciate and interpret my world without dulling it or numbing it on some whim. I want to feel…everything. I no longer wish to hide behind a substance as a way to cope with some shit reality. I intend to create my own, better reality.

“Don’t you miss getting high?”

To that I reply, “I am already high.”

ALL My Love,

Still Sober,

xoxoxoxo,

BiPolarMania

Anxiety And The Dentist

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If you read my blog regularly, then you already know about my fear of the dentist and the horrible shape my teeth are in from battling years of depression where I simply could not even get the energy to brush them. You’ll also know that I avoided the dentist until two months ago for over a period of five years. Now you can imagine the state my teeth are in! I have a bazillion cavities and have, I guess now past tense “had,” a crack running across my front tooth. Because I was able to face my anxiety this past month and actually show up to my appointment  instead of running (which I considered and people can testify), I now have flawless front teeth!

The dentist filled a cavity that has been limiting my smile for years today. Literally, if you scroll through my instagram account and look at selfies I have taken, you’ll notice I do not smile very big. No more! And above is my first selfie (on snapchat to my best friends) with a genuine and big smile. I no longer have to be self conscious about that moment when someone says “Say Cheese!” and snaps a photograph. Now I am going to own it and maybe even work it. But let me tell you it was not a easy process to get me there to here, as in, in the dentist chair. I had to work through some real anxieties and even had to get sober first to realize my health comes first – oral included.

When I was getting high every day I was pushing down and bottling my emotions about everything, including the nagging sensation that I should go to the dentist. When I was high I didn’t care what state my teeth were in and even was able to cope better with the inevitable toothaches. This was not a viable solution to my problem because over the years my teeth became worse and my toothaches more frequent. When I made the decision to become sober and ultimately I did (almost 6 months sober today), I could no longer cease the constant thought processes that my teeth were fucked and something felt seriously wrong about them.

I faced my anxiety one appointment at  a time and that’s all I can really say for those of you who have a lot of dental work looming. Take it one day at a time. I talked myself into going to the initial exam by saying “You’ll be alright. It’s just an exam. They aren’t going to do any actual work that requires pain.” But after my exam and the results came in, I could not put blinders on anymore. He laid it out to be plainly that I had one too many cavities and my wisdom teeth need to be pulled. He confirmed my reality that my teeth were ACTUALLY as fucked as they felt.

The second appointment which was to be my first cleaning in five years, the dentist told me he would have to freeze half my mouth. The panic set in. Needles! I kept thinking over and over about needles for a month until my appointment. Each day I would ruminate about how many and how painful it was going to be. I almost rescheduled but called in the big guns, A.K.A., my dad. I told him about the appointment and how “I know, I know I’m almost 27 but please come hold my hand!” He obliged and it held me accountable because I did not want to look like some giant pussy literally running away from the dentist and my appointment.

Lucky for me this dentist actually uses numbing jelly before applying any needles in the mouth. My previous dentist unfortunately did not spare me any pain and would proceed sans jelly. I barely felt any of the needles except the one on the roof of my mouth. But I talked myself through it, “Brittany, this will be like 30 seconds of your life that is painful. Bear with it. Your teeth are so very important and you are worth it.” This actually helped and soon I found the freezing was over. And within an hour and a half my appointment was over.

Today was the first appointment with fillings (I had two cleanings with freezing) and I had anxiety all month about how I wouldn’t be able to cope and that the needles would somehow hurt more and I would feel the fillings acutely. Boy was I wrong! In a good way! The dentist walked in on me basically almost in tears and informed me that it would be less freezing this time and therefore less painful. I also had the pleasure of holding my boyfriend’s hand during this dental appointment. I had no clue though that in an hour and a half my front teeth would look so vastly different! The crack on my front tooth – I thought he could not fix and wasn’t going to be – was gone! That thing has been haunting my smile for years and I thought was going to be a forever thing.

I am so thankful to this new dentist who makes me feel super comfortable and is very understanding of my anxiety. The two things, however, that help me with my anxiety prior to a visit in the dentist’s chair are talking things through with myself and practicing being in the present moment. When I get anxious about an appointment that’s like three weeks later than the present time, I practice a few deep breaths to ground me in the moment and try to reflect on my five senses and enjoy them. I also tell myself “You’re not going to die but you will feel some discomfort. It is worth it for healthy teeth. YOU ARE WORTH IT! This may hurt in the meantime but in the long run it is necessary for your oral health.” And this generally calms me down to the point I can move on with my day until the next bought of anxiety which I then just repeat the process mentioned above.

I am so very happy I made it to my dentist appointment today for I now know the joy of lovely front teeth. I also am proving to myself that I am capable of more than I think. The above selfie is a testament to my new smile but also my new attitude to stop avoiding things and start tackling shit. I got this! I can finally say I truly got this.

2 Months Sober and Counting…

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It’s been two months since I’ve smoked the reefer which as Ive mentioned in previous blog posts is the longest time I have gone without in over five years. I so far have experienced no side effects, however, I did notice just recently within the past week I sometimes feel depressed in the morning and on two occasions it overwhelmed me to the point of staying in bed til late afternoon. I think this has more to do with my fear of the day because I honestly don’t know what to do with myself.

Before when I was smoking dope I did not care that I was jobless or lacked goal-directed behavior. I only really ever thought about my next high and where it was going to be coming from. Now, I am sober and painfully aware of the goals I had been neglecting like to get my full license and return to school. Unfortunately due to erroneous amounts of debt I owe I would need a steady job to even consider these goals. So I decided to get off my ass and meet with an employment counsellor and have started applying to jobs which I have not done in about two years! Being sober has really cleared my mind and made me able to see and plan a road map to achieve my goals. Getting a job is a first really good start to achieving these goals and is a goal in itself – to be employed.

I am proud of myself for even thinking of returning to the workforce because as a person with a really inhibiting disability it is honestly no easy feat. I am now more aware of my limitations after having worked in customer service for over 8 years (for example I could never be a waitress again….just can’t do it!). I have real bad anxiety when working, constantly paranoid that I’ll be fired to the point I just end up quitting before I believe they’re gonna let me go (I know this is my bipolar spiralling). I will be looking for these anxious red flags and doing some CBT to work through them. I need to look at things objectively and not be so harsh on myself which is easier said than done, I know!

Another thing I would like to work on and am painfully aware of now that I am sober is my finances. I would like to start writing a budget and challenge myself to actually stick with it each month. But unfortunately new expenses each month keep popping up like the new medication and eyedrops I need for my allergies. I’ve never had allergies in my life and then I get them so bad to the point no over the counter or  covered allergy medication works so I am stuck paying out of pocket each month for that. I realize I am making excuses with my spending habits and justifying spending money on senseless shit. I will admit I am a bit of a brand whore and am a little materialistic. But I am going to start documenting everything and everywhere I spend my money to at least be more hyper aware of what I am wasting my money on and what I think is so much more important than saving for driver’s ed.

The point of this post is to discuss what two months sobriety feels like and I’ll be honest it feels a little like hitting a wall. You’ve sobered up enough to realize what you should be doing but you’ve been high so long avoiding doing anything that actually getting going again feels impossible. I am taking very small steps to get where I need/want to be and getting sober which actually the biggest step I took to achieving my goals because now I am in the right headspace to work towards and build up goals. Being Sober is Scary cause you’re painfully aware of what is lacking and you don’t have a substance to fill up that space so you have no choice but to confront…confront your life and start conquering it.

All My Love, Your Sober Buddy and Confidante,

BiPolarMania