It’s three o’clock in the morning and I’m awake. I’ve given up on sleeping tonight, especially if I hope to get up with my alarm at 6:45 and make it to work in the morning. I’m not awake because I’m not tired. I’m awake because I cannot sleep due to severe congestion– congestion that does not let up no matter what I do, and has left me mouth-breathing and sobbing in frustration after the umpteenth night of having to endure it. I’ve tried decongestant, humidifiers, breathing steam, Breathe Right strips, Tiger Balm under my nose, warm compresses, glycerine gel on my nostrils, and still no relief.
The bottle of nasal spray sits there, taunting me. I remember a time when I used to pick it up daily to relieve the congestion brought on by the copious amounts of cocaine I was consuming. It was the one thing that I thought helped me to hide my habit, so no one would ask why I was always “sick.” I know the nasal spray will work. Out of desperation and exhaustion, I pick it up and squirt it into my nose. As the familiar feeling trickles up my nasal passage, I cry. It tastes like sickness. I can’t– I won’t– use it again.
I sit, six months pregnant and sobbing. As I heave, I turn to my husband. “I don’t want to be pregnant anymore,” I tell him. “I’ve changed my mind. Can’t we make it stop?”
This isn’t the first time that pregnancy has reminded me of my active addiction. It’s just the most recent. During my first trimester, I had horrendous morning sickness. I vomited constantly, and each morning I felt like I was coming off a bender. It was, simply put, a mindfuck. Here I was, vomiting every morning, which I used to do when I was hungover. And then, I’d call out of work because I could not stop throwing up. I also used to do that when I was hungover. All of this sickness culminated in a visit to the ER for fluids due to dehydration– another favorite “hangover cure” of mine (which resulted in medical bills that I finally, after two years of sobriety, paid off).
Once the nausea and vomiting subsided, I was left with this lovely congestion, and have been stuck with it for over two months now. I sit, surrounded by a mountain of tissues, with a raw, sore, chapped nose. I flip from one side to the other as I try to sleep, draining the fluid from one nostril and then the other. Many of my old, sick physical symptoms have returned during this pregnancy and even though the reasoning behind them is completely different, it still feels very much the same.
When the behaviors that I associated with sickness came back, a lot of other parts of my sickness came back, too. I’ve started engaging in other old behaviors like isolating, canceling appointments, and sleeping all day. As you can probably guess, this doesn’t do very much for my mental state. I’ve been thrown back into the despair that characterized my active addiction. One thing that has not returned is my desire to drink– but the root of my disease, my depression, is back in full force. On another recent, frustrating night I said to my husband through tears, “I don’t want to die, I just don’t want to be here anymore. It’s just so hard. Everything is so hard.” This is the kind of thinking that characterizes my untreated alcoholism.
Part of me is angry that I waited until I got sober to get pregnant because that means that I have no relief from all of these feelings. I sometimes think that it would be so much easier if I was still active and pregnant. Because as much as I’d like to think I’d be one of those ladies that would be able to abstain from drinking and drug use while pregnant, I know very well that I would not be one of those ladies. Because my brain would say to me, “But people say that it’s totally fine to have a glass of red wine when you’re pregnant.” And so I would. Except for me, there is no such thing as one glass, and so I would probably finish off the bottle. And I would do this over and over and over again, and find a way to make it okay in my head. I also recently came across a thread on a pregnancy message board about how to safely use Adderall while pregnant and I know I would have been all over that, too.
But because I’m sober and pregnant, I don’t have any of those options for even brief relief from all of the crap that I’m feeling. And yes, I have tools in place to help me cope with this stuff, and I’m using them, but there’s only so long that one can feel physically sick before it really takes a toll on their mental and emotional state.
And so I sit here, six months pregnant, watching the clock hit 4:00 AM. And I finally drop to my knees in tears and desperation and ask God why this is so hard. I ask Him what I’m supposed to learn from this. I ask Him to show me that He loves me. And I ask Him to help me get through this, because I don’t know what to do anymore. I put my hand on my ever-growing belly and thank God that at least my baby is okay, because I know that’s really what matters. At least, that’s what I say to people when they ask how I’m feeling. “At least the baby is doing well.” Maybe if I say it enough I’ll start to believe it. Because right now I’m not sure that it’s worth it.