Since getting sober at 24, my goal has been to stop surviving and start thriving. The life of a recovered alcoholic is supposed to be happy, joyous and free. If it isn’t, why not just get drunk? At least I had fleeting moments of blissful oblivion loaded.
This is why thriving isn’t only a goal, but also a necessity.
. . .
I’m on a plane writing this on my iPhone, since my iPad is now playing “Cars,” the only thing that successfully got my 16-month old out of the monster tantrum he was just sharing with rows 8 – 18.
And I’m grateful down to the bottom of my toes. This was the first time I’ve traveled with him without having countless episodes in the midst of an intense survivalism mode which was the only way I knew how to handle the unpredictability and insane responsibilities of being a mother out of my home.
Most of my with-baby trips went wrong because of my misplaced expectations – aka premeditated resentments.
Inevitably, I didn’t get the help I expected with the baby and my resentments festered. Or the people we were visiting hardly spent any time with the baby after the entire reason I sacrificed my sanity to visit them was me fulfilling their requests to see the baby.
Add lack of sleep to those resentments and you’ve got one crazy Courtney.
My last trip to Reno he literally woke up every 2 hours and I told him I hated him.
Not a proud moment. I said it, though, I didn’t yell it.
One of the worst things a bipolar person can do is go without sleep. Nothing throws me into blurry-eyed mania quicker than sleep deprivation.
Perfectly same people go insane without sleep, so the consequences to those of us with mental health issues are, well, gnarly.
And then, of course, I fueled all of this instability with nonstop sugar and caffeine. And spun, and spun, and spun.
I didn’t survive this trip. I thrived on this trip. I made healthy choices and I felt good about myself. Not to say there weren’t tense, stressful moments – there most certainly were – but the only person having tantrums this time was the baby.
And these changes, these rearrangements, were subtle, but they made the world of difference.
1. I used a yellow notepad for all travel related stuff and started preparing a few days before we left.
2. I packed according to my packing list, rather than throwing the world into my huge suitcase. Outfits were planned for each day and occasion.
3. I bought a portable DVD player (I didn’t know I was going to get an iPad for my Christmas bonus) for the kid.
4. I packed baby carrots, pumpkin seeds, pistachios and cashews to keep me from getting too hungry and keep my energy up.
5. I worked out every morning on the trip and on the flying days.
6. I woke up at the same time every morning, which is the same time I wake up in LA. I stayed on LA time as did the baby (there was a 2 hour time difference).
7. I drank no black tea or Diet Coke and ate no refined sugar, even though I wanted to really, really bad.
8. I napped when the baby napped and I needed every second.
9. I didn’t martyr myself and allowed my husband to take care of the kiddo a lot. This also took deflation of that “perfect mommy” ego crap.
10. I didn’t do the trip alone. It was Husband and me all the way.
11. I took herbal laxatives. Not a fun topic, but 90% of seratonin production comes from the lower intestine so elimination has a big part in staying sane. Many trips I’ve taken I’ve been so constipated that I won’t go potty until I finally get back home – sometimes up to a week later. No wonder I was sick.
12. I surrendered expectations and accepted that just because a person may not spend every second we’re in town with the baby doesn’t mean they don’t love him and appreciate our visit.
A few other added bonuses happened naturally I think from my stability. I used to panic when bebe cried on a flight. I was so scared someone would glare or yell at me. This time I really didn’t care – of course I did what I could do in my power to quiet him, but I didn’t spin out over it or even worse, get mad at my baby for being a baby.
I had much more stamina for the flights and car rides and tantrums because I was stronger physically and emotionally. My reflexes were faster – which by God they must be with a toddler!
To get sober and stay sober there are 3 indispensable principles one must live by: honesty, openmindedness and willingness.
Ends up the new “meds” my psychiatrist prescribed me come in 3′s as well: diet, exercise and sleep. I finally see these as doctor’s orders and not just idealistic suggestions. And guess what? He was right.
Then at the airport on the way back home I was detained for explosives. I’m chalking that one up to my dynamic personality as that sh*t can be detected from a mile away, riiiiight?
Seriously, I was sequestered and patted down and it was super funny. The poor woman doing the pat down was far more embarrassed than I was – as most of you know, I’m not prudish about much. I told her it was the most action I’d gotten in a week, of course, that was a lie (wink, wink).
In lieu of a cigarette, I had a post feel-up deep fried fish with tarter sauce because I wanted it really bad and we were pretty much done with the trip so I went for it.
In this first year of withdrawal and detox, my goal is to stay on course as rigidly as possible. From all I’ve read, this first year is crucial and I need to be diligent, but I felt passionately about that fish and since it wasn’t sugar and wouldn’t kick on major cravings, I did it.
And now, as I wrap this up, I’m just as happy as a clam sitting on a plane next to this small blonde boy now watching “Thomas the Train and Friends” on my new iPad with my incredible husband.
And I can’t wait to get home.