(I haven’t been here for months, will you all forgive me? Truthfully, I talk to you all in my head on a near-daily basis, so it was something of a shock to log in and discover that none of those words have made it into print. )
About two months ago, a huge stack of identical letters arrived in my mailbox, all bearing my old address. I opened one. It was a fine for $1100 – apparently my car registration had lapsed and I’d been driving unregistered without knowing. $1100, and it was dated three months earlier. My hands started to shake. I opened another, and another, until I had a stack of fines totalling well over $10,000. I sat on the floor because I didn’t think I could stand for a while. There was a lot of noise in my head.
When I told Lovely Husband, he was not. Lovely, I mean. He was distant and then angry and then hostile and then distant again. I cried a lot.
In the morning, I dragged Little Girl from government department to government department, trying to sort it out, and by the end of the day I thought it was under control. I could legally drive again; some fines were paid; others were in abeyance pending review.
And then six weeks later, a police car pulled me over in the school yard, lights flashing, siren on, because there were more fines, ones I hadn’t known about, and I no longer had a licence. Another day of sorting things out, another assurance that everything was under control.
This time, I didn’t tell Lovely Husband.
And it just kept spiralling. I’d get a letter telling me that my payment plan was in arrears, when I didn’t have a payment plan. I’d ring up to address one letter, and be informed that something else was now overdue and another fine levied. Every time I got back up, another surprise would knock me down. I no longer felt safe driving my children to school. I dreaded opening the post. I burst into tears several times a day, for no reason. I snapped at my children. I couldn’t sleep.
So I went to my GP, and I asked if he could give me anything for the anxiety. Something very temporary, I said, and I added a caveat: I’m in recovery from a drinking problem, so I don’t want to take anything that will be problematic from an addiction point of view.
He wrote down Has a drinking problem.
No, I said. I do not have a drinking problem. I don’t drink. What I have is a history of addiction, so I need help but I don’t want to risk anything potentially addictive.
I can prescribe you Diazepam, he said. It mimics the effects of alcohol, so you’ll feel more relaxed, maybe a bit sleepy or just silly and euphoric, but like alcohol it can also exacerbate the feelings of depression if you’re struggling with that.
In the event, he instead wrote me a prescription for a series of therapy appointments, so now I’m in therapy, about which I am deeply fucking conflicted, thank you for asking, but I’m going anyway. Report back here for my extremely interested musings on What Is Normal Mental Health Anyway. But in the meantime, here are some things I have learned:
- CHECK YOUR CAR REGISTRATION BECAUSE SERIOUSLY
- Government departments suck
- I mean so do I but mostly them
- This whole thing has really, really sucked. Like, I could write you an entire novel about this. It has left such serious bruising in the tender flesh of my marriage, and I’m still working through how to deal with that and move on. Also the original issue, re: the fines, is still at large.
- Doctors could maybe do with some training about non-active addiction because really?
- But, and this is important, I have ROCKED this shit. That might sound ridiculous, given that I’ve just talked about bursting into tears constantly and stress-induced insomnia. But I used all the tools I have at my disposal, doling out doses of sunshine and knitting and uplifting books like medicine. I accepted that part of working through this was just going through it – the feelings were bad, but they were just feelings, and I sat with the anger and the terror and the sadness for a long time. And when I could no longer function on a daily basis using my own resources, I went and asked for professional help.
- I see no reason at all why I would ever, ever drink again. Alcohol would have been the perfect solution to most of this situation. But it hasn’t really been an option for me, not because of the dire consequences but because…it’s not one of my tools. It’s not something I do. It is astounding to me, this total absence of something that was once so important, but it is completely legitimate nonetheless.
Anyway. So, that’s what’s happening in my life. It’s not over. It’s not yet a funny story from my past. I’m not entirely sure that it won’t white-ant my marriage. But I’m still here, and I’m still sober.