“Now, I don’t want you to freak out…” my boss said as she walked into my office on Monday morning, my 21st day at this new job.
As if there’s any other possible thing to do after hearing that.
As if I hadn’t been hanging on by a thread to begin with.
Luckily, I’ve become rather good at stuffing down my emotions over the past few years — I mean, it’s not really a “good” thing, given the effect it’s had on my digestive health, but it has kept me employed and more or less free of conflict in my personal life since I quit drinking — and so I only cracked a little bit when my boss told me she’s leaving the company. I only shed a few tears when I learned that, despite taking this job largely because I liked this person and felt comfortable working for her, and then relying on her to help ease my transition into an unfamiliar industry and whole new set of professional duties, I’d have to adjust AGAIN to working for a completely different person before I’d even settled in to my role.
Inside, I was absolutely freaking out, but I managed to keep my composure within the walls of my workspace. I kept showing up and hanging on to that thread for four more days.
Every morning during my commute, I repeated my go-to mantra, the pep talk I’ve been giving myself every time I’ve hit a low spot during my nearly two years of sobriety: “You’re OK. It’s not that bad. Just get through the day. You can get through the day.”
Then came the weekend. And the thread snapped.
I fell apart.
I barely even made it to my therapist’s office on Saturday morning for my regular scheduled appointment. In fact, while driving there, I contemplated the possibility of driving to the liquor store instead. So, I thought, there would be consequences. So what?
All my “give a shit” was gone. I had used it up, constantly trying to convince myself everything was OK, every day for a month.
In reality, I have not been feeling OK. I’ve been feeling really bad. And after all those pep talks and showing up and hanging on, expecting the skies to eventually clear, my mood just continued to plummet. This latest bad news was a breaking point, and making it through the week took almost more emotion-stuffing than I could handle.
I felt myself starting to lose it on the drive home Friday, giving in to road rage as traffic crawled down Almshouse Road in the rain. Sitting behind the wheel on an even drearier Saturday morning, my situation seemed completely hopeless. It seemed like nothing would make me feel better, except…maybe…
In hindsight, the very best place to be headed when you’re in this kind of a hole — depressed, triggered, exhausted, done caring — is therapy.
Sitting across from an objective yet empathetic ally who tells you it’s OK to feel like shit when work is rough, it’s OK to mourn the death of your expectations, and it’s even OK to do nothing but cry and sleep for a few days, as long as you give yourself a deadline for getting back up and into the fight…well, it works!
No, I didn’t magically feel better. But I also did not drive to the liquor store. I did not drink.
I basically slept and ate and cried — and watched “The Sopranos” all the way through for the 550th time — through the entire holiday weekend, leaving the house only to go for a very slow morning jog (because today was my deadline.) I rescheduled a COVID vaccine appointment and begged out of fancy dinner reservations with my husband, much to his consternation, and I ignored text messages and voicemail messages from family members…but I did not drink.
When I get up tomorrow to head back to work for Day 26, I am going to be 23 MONTHS ALCOHOL FREE.
I am going to be one month away from the two-year milestone, and I’ll tell you what else I’ll be: Confident.
If this shit I’m going through now can’t break me down and “make me drink,” nothing will.
If I can find the strength to push through this kind of not-OK-ness, rather than medicate myself into oblivion — and plummet back into the abyss of addiction — I know I will be OK again, eventually.
Needless to say, I’m extremely grateful the holiday weekend arrived when it did, and that it happened to coincide with my biweekly therapy appointment. I needed a chance to freak out, some safe space to lose my composure, and most of all, help remembering: I am strong enough to handle life sober.
If life would like to maybe take a holiday from throwing job-related changes in my lap? Gotta be honest: I would not hate that.