In my almost 48 years on this planet, I have had to recover from a lot of things. We all have, right? When you think about it, we are all recovering from something at any given time. My two biggest recoveries have been healing from a broken back and conquering my addiction to alcohol.
A new challenge that showed up for me this month has given me the most incredible opportunity to put into practice one of my greatest lessons in recovery, one that I find myself revisiting from time to time when I am called to shift my energy. It’s the practice of saying yes to less. For me, that has always meant saying no more often. If it’s not a “Hell yes,” it’s a “fuck no,” right? For the most part, I embrace this mantra daily. Even so, I can always say yes to less. We all can. The past three weeks have reminded me of that.
Every day, I am grateful for my sobriety and the work I have done to recover from alcohol addiction. Every day, something reminds me life could be so much different without recovery. Every once in a while, that something is a little bit extra and hangs on for more than just a day or two. Every once on a while, that extra something invites us to explore ways to find more “no” so we can have less, but far more meaningful, “yes.”
On July 1, I began feeling ill. My check engine light came on and I tried to ignore it. Today, what started out as suspected Lyme disease has now turned into what feels a little bit like my own private episode of House, complete with the biggest asshole ER doctor I have ever met in my life — so convinced was he that there was nothing wrong with me that before my test results even came back he told me sometimes women of a certain age and a certain weight simply begin to experience sudden edema in their lower legs and need to wear compression stockings for the rest of their lives and find a line of work that doesn’t require them to sit at a computer; such a jerk was he that he did not return to tell me my test results (which indicate there is definitely something wrong with me) but rather sent in another doctor and, today, a week later, he still has not completed my chart with the test results.
I spent most of last Saturday in the emergency room as directed by my primary care doctor after a test indicated the possibility of blood clots somewhere in my body. I needed to be evaluated. The good news is there are no blood clots. We looked. Everywhere. However, what we found in the process remains the largest source of unrest for me as we still do not know why I have my current symptoms and why tests showed what they did. We’re waiting on additional results. And, I suspect there are more tests in my future.
At this point, I feel my best when I kick back with my feet up. Resting provides the relief I seek from myriad symptoms; specifically, if I do not keep my feet at a level higher than my heart, my ankles fill with inflammation. So fast. And the longer I keep my feet below heart level, the more inflammation there is and the further into my feet it travels. It’s absolutely insane.
As you might imagine, this situation presents a bit of challenge. As a public relations consultant and a life and recovery coach, I spend a lot of time at a desk. I spend a lot of time standing when I have events I need to run. As a mom of two kiddos whose summer activities are not local, I also spend a lot of time driving. That’s not to mention my other responsibilities as a wife and adult member of a highly functioning household. And, that’s not to mention my recent recommitment to a physically active lifestyle where I was working hard to walk several times a week and lift weights and work on my core and dedicate myself to yoga in a deeper way than I previously had.
Basically, to feel better, I have needed to become what I’ve always looked at as a slouch or a couch potato. A lazy ass woman who should feel guilty for not doing anything. Last week, I canceled two recovery-centric events. One was a group coaching call with my Reinvent Your Wheels members and the other was the July SHE RECOVERS Hartford Sharing Circle I had very much been looking forward to. Ironically, the topic of the Sharing Circle was “Saying Yes to Less.”
I don’t cancel things. Ever. In fact, I think that is one of the biggest, most beautiful changes about me since I stopped drinking. In active addiction, I used to bail on people right and left. Whether I actually canceled meetings or showed up late or hopped on conference calls after a few drinks. I did not show up for things, for people, for myself. Today, I show up. I thrive on showing up. I live to show up. For me to make a conscious decision not to show up, to actually cancel something that other people are counting on? Not my thing. Because, you guys, I show up now. (Well, except for PTO last year, but that’s a whole other story and a huge lesson in saying yes to less, among other things.)
The only reason I was able to make those decisions to cancel was because of what I have learned in recovery about taking care of myself and listening to others’ wisdom when I can’t find or hear my own. After a few days of my check engine light flickering, I checked in with medical providers a couple of times (that’s HUGE for me). But, even with treatment, the light didn’t go off. “Ain’t no one got time for this,” I thought and I kept driving. I will be forever indebted to a very wonderful person in my life who texted and talked me through all of this and spoke these words to me last Saturday morning: “Stop. Just stop. There is something significant going on inside your body and that is your only concern right now. You need to stop.”
She was right. 100%. We still don’t know exactly what it is that’s going on but, yes, it is significant. And, as I do with so many of my recovery experiences these days, I am sure I will share here when I know more. Not for attention. Not for kudos. But for the same reason I have always shared my story and made my journey public. Because someone else is dealing with this. Because someone else needs to not feel as alone as I feel right now. Because someone else needs to know that it is more than OK to ask for help from friends, a spouse, siblings, parents, their own children, and anyone else available to lend that support. And, selfishly, because I could use some prayers and good thoughts if anyone feels called to offer them.
Have I tapped into all my resources? No. Not yet. But, I have utilized enough of them that I have been able to adjust the way I function on a daily basis. As a result, I have moved myself out of a space of complete and total terror that I would lose my livelihood (so there, ER doc!) and I have identified ways to continue doing the work I love. In fact, I welcomed two new coaching clients this month … because I said yes to less. I found ways to partner with my symptoms, working with not against them, even as they randomly and without warning or explanation decide how severe they want to be on any given day. I have learned to be good to myself while continuing to do the work I love. It has not been easy. I have had to say “no.” A lot. Where I am often the one picking up the slack, I have been creating a lot of slack to be picked up. I have not gotten through the last three weeks alone. I can’t. Luckily, I have good people whose love and support has allowed me to continue doing what keeps my spark lit.
Last week I had to cancel a trip I’ve been looking forward to for months. Special time with my folks on their turf. Just me. Morning walks on the beach, some family business meetings, great food, a sunset boat ride, and a fishing excursion. Last Sunday my mom said, “You are handling all of this really well,” which made my mouth say, “thank you,” my heart cry, and my head say, “recovery.”
There’s been lots of crying. And that’s alright. Because in recovery I’ve learned sitting with your emotions and feeling your feelings is not a weakness. Stuffing them down is not an indication of strength. Pretending they don’t exist doesn’t make them go away.
So, as I sit here in a tub of the hottest water humanly tolerable (on the hottest day so far of 2019) filled with the most beautiful Epsom salts, I find peace in knowing I have crossed enough off my to do list this week. For the first time in two weeks I feel I will persevere. As exhausted as I am from fighting the fatigue and pain and learning to listen to my body, I am empowered and I am alive and I am confident that whatever this is I will crush it. Hard.
My current symptoms began, no joke, on July 1, in the very strong pre shadow phase right before Mercury went into retrograde. Coincidence? Gosh, I really, really hope so. How cool would this be if this all just went away on August 2? Stay tuned … this feels like the start of an interesting story.
Disclaimer: This post is not a request for assistance. It is not an attempt to diagnose my illness in a public forum — as you can see, I have not provided nearly enough specifics for that to be possible, nor will I. It is not a soapboxy “look at me, feel sorry for me” broadcast. It is me in my purest form sharing my experience with the power recovery has given me. It’s me expressing gratitude for the gifts I have received on my journey. It’s me acknowledging I’d have tried to drink this away just six short years ago. It’s me having hope and believing in the future. It’s me choosing to win. Again. No matter what. This is the first time in three weeks I have seen my ankle bones.