I am glad to be seeing the end of 2019. This was a very tough year. It is almost funny, the number of awful things that happened this year. So many, in fact, that (counterintuitively) one very good thing came out of it: I decided to stop drinking.
The first thing that happened was that my mom suddenly couldn’t live alone anymore. My mom has had memory problems for the last ten years. Her disease cruised along as a mild cognitive impairment for a long, long time, but about two years ago, it crossed over into mild dementia (probably Alzheimers). Now, my mom is a fiercely independent woman. She and my dad have been divorced since I was little, and she LOVES living by herself in her own place and driving herself around in her own car to do her own shopping. Until the last decade, she was the most competent and organized person I ever met. She knew how to do EVERYTHING by herself. All of this means that she refused to believe that there would ever come a time when she would not be able to live by herself.
Well, a day came when she forgot how to drive her car. So, I (as her only child) had to take the car away. A few weeks later, I received a telephone call from her. She was unable to communicate what she needed. My partner rushed over and found her extremely confused and disoriented. He took her to the hospital, and we discovered that she had somehow drank so much water that she had given herself a severe sodium and potassium deficiency. When she was discharged, the doctor felt (despite my misgivings) that she could go back to her apartment. Several days later, her neighbor called, in a panic, to tell me that mom had left the stove on AGAIN (it was the third time, apparently, but mom had sworn the neighbor to secrecy the first two times) and almost burned down her building. And that was it. Until her long-term insurance kicked in (which, thank heavens, she had been organized enough to buy), she would live with me. It took six months to get the insurance organized and all of the requirements met so she could move into an assisted living apartment. During that time, she was either inconsolably sad or ragingly angry (with me) much of the time. And I also alternated between being extremely pissed off and grieving the loss of the mother I knew.
Meanwhile, I went to see my doctor for a routine checkup. My blood work came back with the wrong number of blood cells. Nothing like this had ever happened before. My doctor said there were a number of things that could cause this problem, and over the course of several months, I was tested for one condition after another, including various cancers after other weird things popped up as she tested me. Every time I had a new test, I would wait by the computer and grow ever more anxious until she finally would email the result. Always negative. Until, finally, a genetic test came back that confirmed a mutated gene. I had a rare blood condition. It would require monthly monitoring for the rest of my life, would put me at significant risk for a “serious” cardiovascular event, and could potentially morph into something much worse. And I couldn’t tell my mom, even though she was living with me, because she wouldn’t be able to process it properly and it would cause her extreme distress.
Luckily, my dad and my stepmother came to help out, and my partner helped a lot. Needless to say, however, having my mom in the house put a huge amount of strain on our relationship. Things were tense, and anxiety was running high.
Just to put icing on the cake, my car was hit, not once but three separate times within the space of three months. Each time, it was innocently minding its own business, parked on the side of the road. The last time, I had it back from the body shop for maybe two or three weeks when a driver, wildly under the influence, came speeding the wrong way down the one-way street outside of our kid’s school, smashed into the car (while my kid and my mom were in it) and forced by partner to dive out of the way onto the sidewalk, narrowly missing being killed. Everyone was fine, thank heavens. But the car was totaled.
I have high baseline anxiety to start with. During the course of these events, I did what came naturally: I drank a very large amount of booze. While working full time, taking care of my mom, moving her out of her apartment, dealing with multiple insurance companies, and keeping track of all of the school deadlines, etc. It wasn’t working. I felt like shit every day, probably smelled like alcohol at work a few times, and constantly felt like something serious could fall through the cracks AT ANY MOMENT.
I finally got a chance to breathe after my mom was settled in her new place. It’s a great place, and she is safe and well taken care of. I looked at my life, and realized something had to change.
So, here I am. Taking charge. Life is too short to waste time, energy and creativity drinking buckets of wine. People need me. I need me. Time to take care of myself!
xoxo Ms. NL