It is 8:30 AM and I’m sitting in my office at work, reflecting on the morning at home. It was a typical morning, nothing unusual (for us), but maybe that is unusual within itself.
My mood is flat and I am feeling very stressed. We are not saints, but like most parents, my husband and I work very hard, to keep our household going. I work full-time on the other side of town (a long commute) as a psychologist in a school with adolescents (I am always booked out!), and my husband runs his own very busy and stressful business from home 24/7 – A multi media production company. Currently we are stretched to our limits and find little time for individual or relationship self-care.
Our 19-year-old son is still jobseeking, our middle daughter is currently doing her year 11 exams, and our youngest daughter in year 7 is having more and more autism meltdowns at home. Autism spectrum disorder is just one of her many challenging diagnoses.
This morning we were trying to get our youngest ready for school. She has a walkathon today and we could not find her school hat. This of course, threw a huge spanner in the works for her, but we problem solved around it. She only just made it to her bus, but missed it when she realised she had left her locker key at home and had to return home to get it. My husband had to drive her to school during a day where every minute of his time was already accounted for.
In the meantime, we are all nursing my beautiful mama-in-law, who I love with all my heart who is dying of pancreatic cancer. As a family, we are taking turns to look after her at home. Having lost my mum some years ago, I am very close her and dread the day she passes. I am grateful for every minute I get to spend with her.
The house is like a bomb has hit it! Shit everywhere! I don’t even know where to start. The visual chaos creates so much stress for me. I am constantly on sensory overload.
I try to go to at least two meetings a week, however I know my sponsor would like me to do more. Right now this is impossible with everything going on. Each day I try my best, but on some days I feel it is just not good enough. I am left feeling that no one understands the commitments and challenges in my life.
My mood ebbs and flows like the weather, and I need to keep it in check due to my vulnerability to episodes of depression and anxiety. I struggle to keep things in check and in balance. Let’s face it, moderation is something I have never been good at! Not uncommon for those of us who struggle with addiction issues!
I remind myself to pray and hand over these daily challenges to my higher power. The AA slogans that got me through this early recovery process like “keep it simple”, “easy does it”, “One day at a time” and “let go, let God” … And of course the Serenity Prayer come to mind.They are soothing and helpful as I realise I cannot control or change some things in my life.
This also includes dealing with my alcoholic narcissistic father who I love dearly but who constantly pushes my buttons. I have to practice and enormous amount of self-care when I speak to him (he lives interstate). I constantly receive the message from him that I could be doing things better, as he likes to “preach” at me over the phone especially after he’s had a few. I have tried setting boundaries, asking him several times not to ring me when he’s been drinking, but this seems to fall on deaf ears. I can tell if he has even had just one drink, as his personality changes. Not unlike me in the drinking days. But I still struggle, as anger rather than compassion for him, becomes a fire in my heart that burns, when the belligerent, mean and judgemental side of him dominates our conversation. I have had to hang up numerous times.
Reflecting on these goings on, the stress I feel I am under and my feelings of overwhelm, I am confronted with the words “Radical Acceptance”! I am sure this is a message from my HP! When my life gets chaotic, I am forced to remember Tara Brach’s words:
There is a moment of reaction ….”How the fuck am I supposed to do that?!!” Then, still talking to myself (luckily no one was walking past my office door at the time as they would think the psychologist has finally gone mad!), I pause and remember the words of Victor Frankl in his book Man’s Search for Meaning”:
“JUST PAUSE PENNI” I say to myself.
So…. I pause…..I breathe….. I focus on the physical sensation of breathing in and out of my abdominal area, which is where all of my stress and anxiety is sitting at the moment…I connect with it…. Allowing it to be there, creating space around it with the in-breath to soften and loosen it, and release it with each out-breath…. “Just relax” is my mantra…
I do this for about 10 minutes.
Throughout the day, I had to do this several times, but it worked. It worked to get me through a very busy day. It worked to allow me to be present and compassionate with all of my clients today, not distracted and disconnected. It worked by allowing me to “respond” not to “react” and lose my shit admist the stress. It worked to enable me to handle other unexpected events in the day. It worked to keep me sober today!
It’s times like these that used to drive me to drink. Even with the added stress of a cardiac problem with my husband this afternoon which landed him in hospital! By practicing “radical acceptance” I am learning to hand over my thoughts, feelings, and events that happen to my HP. I am learning to accept “life on life’s terms” and this got me through today…. Sober! It’s a miracle!
It’s during times like these that I feel all of the hard work I have put into my recovery has come together. All of the meetings and the honest words of wisdom heard shared, my 12 step program, the plethora of books I have read, my daily practice of mindfulness, meditation and prayer, my close connection with others in recovery, the unconditional love and guidance from my Sponsor… It’s ALL important and it ALL DOES come together.
Life is not perfect, but life is good. We are a collection of works in progress, and recovery is possible, but it only works if we work it. So, tomorrow I will get up and do it all again, but with the knowledge, wisdom and faith that my HP has always got my back.