Navigating a Rough Patch

My last post may have left you with the impression that I had a good cry one afternoon and then everything felt better. That was not the case.

I did feel better for an hour or two, but then the tears would return unexpectedly and with intensity. A familiar tightening of my chest and throat emerged and remained for days; something I used to call “stress” because I was ashamed to say “anxiety”. These symptoms persisted but I knew what to do…

…I knew what to do because of this community’s raw, honest comments about their own experiences, such as the following from an anonymous reader to whom I express sincere gratitude:

Jean….please make sure you call your therapist and please make time for therapy to cope with this difficult time.

My dad passed away in February of this year after a long and courageous battle from Parkinson’s…

How I wish I had asked for help. I hit the bottle HARD to cope and it did not work. I drank because trying to remain present in the moment caring for a parent with Parkinson’s was just too damn hard for me at times and while I couldn’t change the situation I wanted an escape. Alcohol numbed the feelings because I felt emotionally trapped with nowhere to go.

You’re going to have a real challenge on your hands because this next journey is painful and all about having to respond constantly to the unexpected and being in crisis mode – you will not be in control. This alone is a major threat to sobriety and will be a cause for relapse. (Anonymous)

…I knew what to do because other bloggers like Anne of “A in Sobriety”, who has written so openly about her approach to mental health, work to shrivel the stigma and shame around asking for help.

…I knew what to do because nearly 50 years of “pressing on” and “being strong” when I’ve felt this way in the past caused me to embrace coping strategies that were ultimately harmful and self-defeating. I won’t make those mistakes again.

…I knew what to do, so I saw my therapist and my doctor and I told the truth: I am struggling. I have chest pain and throat cramps and I cry constantly.  They helped me to see that my body was telling a truth that I could not mentally register: I am grieving a parent who is not yet gone. I am ashamed of my sadness because it feels like I am wishing him dead, and yet I am dreading the indignities of witnessing my father further succumbing to Parkinson’s Disease.

He is literally half the size he once was. He needs help to stand or walk, and gentle coaching to find his way down the hall or perform simple tasks. He speaks in a jumbled whisper as his face and throat muscles have atrophied. This is my father and yet it is not, so the time I spend with him each week keeps the heartache fresh even as I grieve the loss of the man I knew.

In the past I would have drank to quiet these feeling and numb the pain. Now I understand that drinking would have made things worse, creating an illusion of comfort that would silently accelerate anxiety and stall true healing.

I have made slow progress these past weeks, patiently tending my routine responsibilities while waiting for the effects of my medical care and talk therapy to loosen the knots. Also I embraced the self-care I so frequently suggest to others and went for a massage, got a fresh cut and colour, went to yoga classes, switched my coffee to half-caff, and spoke honestly to my family and friends about my situation. On my doctor’s advice, I booked a week on the beach (choosing, of course, my favourite getaway: a She Recovers retreat in Mexico that miraculously had a last-minute cancellation).

My emotions are better regulated and my chest pain is dialed down by half.

Last night came a true test of my progress, serving as emcee at my niece’s wedding. Weddings are notorious triggers for people in recovery, and as the official host for the evening I could not rely on old standbys like slipping out the back door when things got uncomfortable.

Hosting hundreds of Bubble Hour interviews prepared me well for staying comfortably professional in front of a microphone while feeling deeply vulnerable and human and flawed. I focussed on my affection for my niece, the happiness of the day, and the script I prepared in an extra-large font for easy reading. I was in my element, in my body, and in the moment. I gave service by way of warmly hosting the proceedings, and felt grateful for the ability to do so.

My father was seated right before me as I spoke. He is no longer able to smile his big grin or laugh from his belly, but he seemed to quietly enjoy the festivities from behind his hazy gaze.

Now as I reflect on that scene – me at the mic and him in the audience –  I realize that I did not look to him for approval: he has none left to offer or withhold.

Maybe that is part of my grief too, knowing that something I spent my life striving for is officially off the table. The notion brings me sadness and relief. I allow myself to feel them both fully and move on.




  1. Wonderful post, Jean, and so helpful. I’ve had many Day 1s, and feel confident I’m on the right path, now that I have more tools. I’ve been reading your posts, and Belles, both so helpful. I’m taking care of my Dad part time, who’s 99, and has much dementia. It’s the most difficult thing I’ve ever done, seeing this amazing man become another person. I used to drink wine to cope, and now know it only makes it harder. It’s taken me a while to get past wine o’clock. Thank you for sharing, it SO helps. Sabrina, Day 3


    • Sending love and strength, Sabrina. Sobriety is a secret weapon when it comes to these hard things. Be good to yourself in new ways, ways that boost your power instead of draining it. You are doing a great thing.


  2. Thanks for this beautiful blog Jean. I have 10 months sobriety at age 66 after about 10 years of alcoholic drinking. I am a trained psychotherapist and am able, fortunately , to put my own struggles aside appropriately to help clients identify their own hurts and bumps in their journeys. When I got sober ( I read your blog the day I stopped!) I was shocked to realize how much unresolved pain I had numbed and buried with Chardonnay. I have to work daily on this. And I let the tears cleanse. I currently facilitate a Care Giver support group for women who are caring for their husbands who have Parkinson’s . Usually the group is abuzz with the latest methods of care and the progress ,or lack of ,in their husbands. Last week, as usual, I gently nudged them to stay with themselves . Where do they hurt? What are they doing to care for themselves? Interestingly , several laughed and said they drink wine ( and take walks, call friends). Without projecting my own needs and journey on them, I have to help them look at their elevated risk for their nightly glass of wine to become so much more. We talk about grieving someone who is still with us. You did all the things to take care if you that I try to teach my group and adopt for me! Thanks so much for your inspiration.


    • Oh wow, your group must be so helpful for those caregivers. Thank you for sharing your insights about how you help people in our situation, it is validating and appreciated. And congrats on your beautiful, strong sobriety!!


  3. I’ve post both my parents. My father instantly – a heart attack and he was gone. My Mum had Lymphoma but her decline was slow then rapid and she was still very conscious mentally just before she went. In many ways I feel cheated that I lost both of them (esp my Dad I was only 22) earlier than I would have wanted. However in many ways the fact that I was talking to them hours or a day or so before they finally went and they were still them and I didn’t have to watch them disintegrate in front of me is really a blessing.

    I lost my Mum barely 2 years into sobriety. I was angry, confused, sad etc. I however finally experienced grief in the way I needed to which I never did with my Dad as I just blotted all that out with booze. Now some 10 years further on it was a privilege to go through that with her – I know that may sound odd to say but it is how I feel now


    • It doesn’t sound odd at all – it is lovely that you could appreciate being fully present for your mother through all of that. What a comfort you would have been for her. That is beautiful; it’s what life is all about. That is wholehearted living!


  4. Oh boy Jean, you have a heap on your plate. My parent’s back-to-back illnesses and deaths are what plunged me into my final stretch of major drinking. It is a tough, tough time and believe me, drinking made it much worse. Sending you hugs and prayers.Glad you are going on the retreat, it will be so good for your soul.


  5. Thinking of you at this hard time Jean. I’ve also had to up my self-care as my mother has just begun treatment for breast cancer and I’m due my 2nd baby in a fortnight. In my 18 months of sobriety this has been my biggest challenge yet and I hadn’t a clue how to access or process my feelings. Back to therapy, upping my Yoga (by downloading YogoGlow and not letting lack of time get in my way), long walks and sleep, lots of sleep. I know you will get through this as you have done so much work on yourself in sobriety and have shared what you’ve learned so selflessly with all of us too x


  6. Successful recovery mandates you must identify and not ignore those emotions or physical signs that manifest when we try to ‘stuff’ things we would rather hide from. I so admire your courage to write about the not so pretty side of sobriety. I drank myself silly during my father’s illness and 4 years after his death. I am so glad you have the opportunity to experience your dad during this transition in his life, facing it with coping tools that do not include alcohol.


    • Thanks for this. I am seeing from these comments that this phase is par for the course – losing a parent is something we will all go through and we can share our insights and be stronger together.


  7. Jean I just finished reading the book Shoot the Damn Dog by the late Sally Brampton and she talked about experiencing throat cramps similar to what you describe. It is known as Globus hystericus and she swore by acupuncture. The Chinese call it ‘plum stone’ apparently and she found that two weekly acupuncture resolved it for her. Maybe this would be something to add to your self-care routine. Just a thought and big hugs from across the pond xx


  8. Sending love Jean. That must be so difficult and painful grieving your dad every time you see him. Keep taking good care of yourself. And enjoy that retreat- Taryn’s classes will be so good for your soul. XO

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Jean,
    My mother passed away last month after a long fight with Copd and diverticulitis. Thank you for helping me to understand why I was coming unglued all summer. I finally called a therapist and he helped me to navigate the morass of feelings I was avoiding, but were leaking out ALL over the place.

    I didn’t manage to stay sober for her passing for a number of reasons, but of course: “I liked the effect of alcohol.” So here I am again with 2 weeks under my belt and at least I can go to her funeral on Saturday sober!

    Thank you for all the hours I have listened to the Bubble Hour as it has provided me with endless support on this journey.



  10. Oh Jean my heart goes out to you. I see many friends and relatives struggling to care for aging parents. I cared for my mother for 30 years before she passed away, she suffered from Multiple Schlerosis and i became her care giver at a very young age. I struggled thru my childhood and teen years while taking care of her. It is only now at age 54 and alcohol free for three years that i know i looked to alcohol to save me from the stress and anxiety that i could not cope with. You are so right seek assistance and go to counceling and lean on other adults that are able to offer care giving assistance. Care giver stress is very real. In this and so many other things, you are not alone.
    PS so happy you are back with TBH podcasts, i am a faithful listener 🙂


    • I have to say it is my mom who is bearing the brunt of the 24-hour care, and my sisters and I take turns in the afternoons to give her breaks. So many have commented here to share similar stories, I can see the lessons in the common experience of losing a parent. Your story is different – you lost your childhood to your mother’s illness and lost your mom to it – that is a heavy load. I am glad you rose up and found your freedom from alcohol. That is a beautiful triumph.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Such a shitty time. I nursed my mum through terminal cancer and it wears you down. It’s a time for so many mixed emotions and you’ll need to go so easy on yourself especially as a person in recovery. But you are here and present and feeling not hiding and squashing down feelings with booze. You are doing all the right things and as always helping others with your honesty and by sharing your story
    Sending you hugs
    Carrie x

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Crying right now after reading your post. Last December my father was diagnosed with terminal cancer I was sober only 14 months. 6 months later my father was gone he died on June 23 at 9:07 pm I was there holding his hand. It was the hardest thing I have ever experienced and by the grace of god I was able to stay sober. I wanted to run I wanted to avoid I wanted to check out and I knew in my heart that was no longer an option. We can get through these excruciating and painful experiences sober. Thank you for sharing you are in my thoughts and prayers.



    • My heart goes out to you – what a comfort you must have been to your father. And an inspiration to us here for getting through it sober and strong. Being fully present is the surest way to get through the hardest things.


  13. Hi, Jean. This is super shitty, I’m so sorry. My mom had early onset Alzheimer’s and she hung on for 10 tears unable to walk, speak or feed herself. You may not believe this but eventually the grief passes into grim but manageable reality. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Haha! Glad you reached out for support!


  14. Big hugs. Losing a parent is hard enough on its own. Watching a parent deteriorate with a disease like Parkinson’s makes it even harder. I’m sorry you have to go through this. Your heartache is palpable. Stay strong, you sound like you are doing all the right things.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Jean,
    I am very sorry.
    It’s a horrible disease.
    My father also had Parkinson’s disease and it was very hard to watch him deteriorate.
    I found it helpful to remember all the things my dad was before it got bad.

    Liked by 1 person

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