Weird work schedule + extra roommate = drinking and weight gain
November 20, 2018 10:12 PM   Subscribe

I find myself in a long, slow (but steady) descent into drinking too much, eating too much, avoiding exercise, and being pretty depressed much of the time. I think there are many reasons this began, but I think my work schedule (ten hour shifts, mostly nights), my long term house guest, and financial problems are making it harder than usual for me to pull myself together. I'm looking for books/articles/resources/suggestions/tips/etc. to help me move in the direction I want to go (less drinking, less sadness, more health).

The past year has been a difficult one for me. I started a very, very stressful job, then left that job six months later because I was exhausted all the time and began drinking pretty much daily. I started a new job that in most ways is great, however the schedule (night shift, ten hour days) isn't great. My boyfriend works an early morning shift and is usually asleep when I get home, and our only time together is on weekends or if I happen to wake up when he's getting ready for work. Those times are nice because at least we get to see each other, but it's usually difficult for me to get back to sleep and then I feel like crap when I have to work for ten hours later that night. My schedule also makes it easy to continue drinking too much.

Another difficult aspect of this year is financial. There was a period where my boyfriend wasn't working, and that caused us both to go into an uncomfortable amount of debt. We had begun working our way out of it and things were getting better until... his childhood friend moved in with us (for long and boring reasons, but basically he genuinely didn't have anywhere else to go and would be homeless if he wasn't staying with us). The friend has been with us for two months and has applied for jobs but hasn't gotten hired. As I said, we were just starting to get back on our feet financially, and supporting another adult has erased all progress we made. The friend is continuing to apply for jobs and is setting his sights lower, so hopefully he'll find something soon, but it's an actual financial emergency at this point.

I'm also an introvert who needs a fairly high amount of alone time. Even when it was just my boyfriend and I, I would sometimes encourage him to go out just so that I could be by myself for a bit. My schedule helped with that, but now that his friend is living with us I literally never have time by myself. Again, I hope this will get better when he finally gets a job and is at least out of the house some of the time, but for the past month I feel like I've been slowly going crazy from the stress of never being able to just chill at home by myself. Our apartment is two bedroom and the living room is the central hangout area. Because the friend doesn't work, he's up late and when I get home he wants to hang out, when I really just want to chill by myself and watch tv or whatever (the primary desire being to be by myself). I'm trying to come up with ways to create a private space for myself in my boyfriend's and my room, but it isn't really designed to make that easy. Also, our combined financial issues (he has zero savings and occasionally is able to borrow $100 or so from his family, but we have been paying for everything for him for a month and a half) mean none of us ever go out or do anything fun that costs money, and that leads to even more sitting around the house and drinking.

It's always been hard for me to consistently exercise, but despite planning almost every day to start at least going for walks, I haven't been able to actually do it. Despite planning almost everyday to quit or at least cut back on drinking, I haven't been able to do it. I've gained a significant amount of weight and I know I'm also emotionally eating, and again, despite planning to change these things, I haven't. I want to, and I need to. I know that continuing this way only makes me feel worse. Any advice, suggestions, resources would be appreciated!

TLDR - I've been drinking daily and in higher amounts than I ever have before, I weigh more than I ever have before, I haven't been able to get myself to start exercising, and I feel like I'm slowly going off the rails. Things in my life that contribute to these unhealthy habits - working nights, ten hour shifts. Financial troubles worsened by boyfriend's friend who has been living with us for a month and a half and has no money, also is unlikely to move out any time soon. Less time with boyfriend because of weird work schedule (and time with him is now also spent with his friend), zero time alone. I would be grateful for any suggestions for creating alone time/space in a shared home, dealing with drinking, emotional eating, motivation for exercise, and coping in general. Note - I do have a therapist and have started therapy again recently.
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posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (20 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Kudos for taking care of yourself on the therapy front.

It sounds like you are depressed, and it’s at least partly if not totally caused by your circumstances. I can relate. I have an anxiety disorder, so I’m already a little on edge frequently, and when my circumstances become really overwhelming, I shut down, and the anxiety turns into lethargy. Literally my body can’t take any more stress, so figuratively I turn into a lump. please don’t beat yourself up, because nobody can just bootstrap themself out of depression. It’s really not as simple as just “doing it.”

I didn’t hear anything in your ask about what you enjoy...what you are looking forward to, any hobbies, or even small pleasures. Or what gives you meaning in life. if you can’t even think of anything, that’s totally understandable, given the depression. It’s just that, it is not clear to me what your goals are.

For instance, if your goal is to lose weight, why do you want that? Is it because you can picture yourself fitting into a favorite dress again? Or is it because you actually enjoy the adrenaline rush from a good workout? Whatever it is, start picturing it in your mind.

At those times when my husband’s schedule and mine don’t synch up, and we don’t get much quality time together, I feel awful. I have worked very hard to create an ideal schedule for myself because it’s no longer something I am willing to put up with. Judging from my own experience, I think the #1 thing you can do to create some joy in your life, would be to carve out space for quality time with your partner. Either he changes a work shift around, or you do. My husband and I both decided we NEED the weekends off. I can no longer accept work shifts at those times, because the consequence will be, I will be grumpy.

I think you might talk to your partner and see if you can as a team work toward a schedule that would allow more time together. It doesn’t have to be instant, just have it as s goal you can take steps towards.

Also, as your extra roommate is your bf’s friend, it is his job to evict him. Your BF should have a talk with his friend about when he can realistically move out. If need be, give him an ultimatum— we need you out in six months, or three months, whatever. Is he doing more than his fair share of the cleaning and cooking? Seeing as he’s not paying rent, he really should be.
posted by shalom at 10:55 PM on November 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

I've been discovering lately that when I'm sad or depressed it gets harder and harder for me to escape my comfort zone. That's totally OK when you don't have the mental energy to cope with much more than sadness or stress - sometimes you just need to cling to what's comfortable and not treat it as a failure or beat yourself up about it.
posted by bendy at 11:07 PM on November 20, 2018 [3 favorites]

I don't think you need to be asking how to work out more. I think you need to be asking how you can get out of housing and feeding a relative stranger to your financial detriment for the foreseeable future.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:11 PM on November 20, 2018 [22 favorites]

planning almost every day to start at least going for walks

Do this. Just get out of there, listen to music and walk. Make them longer as you go. Then confront your SO tell him this situation sucks and makes you unhappy, and it has to change. On preview shalom has the grasp of my point. You and your fella need to have a talk.
posted by vrakatar at 11:22 PM on November 20, 2018 [2 favorites]

You sound overwhelmed, and I think you should pick the lowest-hanging fruit on this complicated tree: establish some boundaries with the friend. He can turn in early, so you can decompress in the living room after work and get a little of your "alone time" back. If you're not comfortable having that conversation, have his childhood friend talk with him.

You're an introvert, and you've pretty much drained your internal battery; start to address that, and then you'll find the energy to tackle your other problems.
posted by Iris Gambol at 11:26 PM on November 20, 2018 [8 favorites]

I agree that, as sad as it sounds, the friend is clearly a huge stressor. If I were you I’d have a talk with first your boyfriend, then friend:
1) establish the facts. You’re broke, he’s broke, but with you supporting him you’re all slowly going to crash & burn. So it cannot continue.
2) tell him the short term plan. a) you are an introvert and need alone time in the apartment, which means he needs to make himself scarce during days you have work. This means: he needs to shift his hangout time to the bedroom, not the living room, during your workdays. You like him, but it’s not about his personality- it’s about your needs in your home. If he’s in the living room and you want to use the living room, he needs to immediately start packing up his things to head to the bedroom. If he doesn’t, you need to tell him, “hey, I’m hoping to have some quiet solo time in the living room. Would you mind giving me some space in here?” And then he has to leave. B) he also needs to Spend the next 2 weeks coming up with a timeline & backup plan for where he’ll stay starting in ($timeframe, maybe 4 weeks, so 2 weeks before Xmas?).
3) long term, he needs to be out of your house in ($timeframe).

I’ve been in a stressful job and had my husband’s aunt & daughter move in because they were homeless otherwise. It was hard. They ended up staying 6 weeks before we set a hard timeline for their exit, and helped them find their next place to go. They were able to get a place and are now doing really well. The deadline helped light a fire to get them moving and we still have a good relationship. And my life got a lot less stressful once we had our house back to being just ours.
posted by samthemander at 11:54 PM on November 20, 2018 [5 favorites]

Can you reframe walking for exercise as the way you carve out alone time?
posted by carmicha at 12:16 AM on November 21, 2018 [11 favorites]

Also, your roommate needs to apply for any kind of assistance he may be entitled to and take whatever gainful employment he can get whilst searching for a job he may actually like. If all that’s between you and homelessness is the goodness of your broke friends who are getting into debt to help you, you are no longer in a position to be picky. There also needs to be a timeframe for this guy to become a rent paying, normal roommate or find somebody else to put him up for a while. If your boyfriend hasn’t had these conversation he needs to.
posted by koahiatamadl at 12:46 AM on November 21, 2018 [9 favorites]

I understand why you wanted to help this friend. But it’s not working out, and he needs to go. At a minimum, he needs to figure out how to feed himself and be gone during the day so he’s not up in your space all the time.
posted by snickerdoodle at 1:23 AM on November 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

Because the friend doesn't work, he's up late and when I get home he wants to hang out, when I really just want to chill by myself and watch tv or whatever (the primary desire being to be by myself).

"I'm so sorry, when I come home these days I'm really beat and just need some alone time in order to recover from work. I hope you understand, nothing personal!"
posted by sunflower16 at 1:53 AM on November 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

Of all the issues you list, the one I'd be treating as the highest priority to fix is working a job that's at odds with your body clock.

Chronically messed up sleep is about the worst stressor we can inflict on ourselves. There's a strong tendency to treat it as Just One Of Those Things, or something that Surely I Should Be Used To By Now, but sleep when your body actually needs it is fundamental to health, and the lack of it has strongly cumulative effects. Consistently deprive yourself of good sleep and the everything-else-slipping-out-of-control feeling that you're currently experiencing is pretty much par for the course.
posted by flabdablet at 3:08 AM on November 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

Your house guest needs to work a Christmas job at the mall or whatever, immediately.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:10 AM on November 21, 2018 [3 favorites]

Assuming you're doing your drinking at home, it might help to just stop buying booze. There have been times when I've decided I needed to cut back on the beer, and I've found that while I'll pretty much drink beer most every night if I have it in the house, I can easily just not stop at the liquor store on the way home from work. And then once I'm home, I don't want beer enough to go out and get it.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:35 AM on November 21, 2018 [5 favorites]

As others have said, you need to tell the roommate that you're tired after work and just want to watch TV alone to decompress before bed. You also might consider asking him to vacate the apartment a couple set times per week... one day when your boyfriend is working so you get the place to yourself, one day when you and your boyfriend are both home so you get time alone together. He can spend four hours at the library or whatever.

Is this work shift permanent for this job? If so, and if there are no creative ways you and your boyfriend can realign your schedules to spend more time together, one of you should consider finding a different job so your schedules mesh.
posted by metasarah at 4:58 AM on November 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

There is obviously a lot going on right now, but when I highlighted the word "drinking" in your post and zoomed out from the rest of the details, it seems like a common thread that is distressing you and appears in almost every paragraph of your post. When I imagine how your life would change if your drinking were under control, I feel certain that other problems you are dealing with would disappear or improve significantly.

There is no one right way to address a drinking problem. A lot of people really like AA. It is free, easy to access, and you can explore it without commitment. Many meetings are "open" meaning that any member of the public can attend to see what it's like, whether you identify as "an alcoholic" or not (I've attended meetings many times as part of my medical training). Treating alcohol use is part of the scope of practice of any primary care physician; if you have access to a PCP, you can make an appointment with the goal of coming up with a strategy to address your drinking.
posted by telegraph at 5:59 AM on November 21, 2018

I do not think drinking is your problem. I think drinking is a symptom of the huge amount of stress you've been under. I don't think you need to go to AA or see a doctor. You don't have a drinking problem, you have some life problems, and I think Anticipation... probably has it in that if you just don't keep the booze in the house, you won't drink it.

Also, as Darling Bri says, your roommate needs to get a job, any job, ASAP. Christmas is coming and it's an easy time to find work as a result. I've been in some awful situations before and I can't imagine leaning on friends to that extent for more than a week or two, even less so if it was actually driving them into debt.

And need to tell the roommate you just need to chill. As others have said, I hope he's at least pulling more than his fair share around the house?

I really think your boyfriend needs to have a talk with the roommate and establish some boundaries.
posted by tiger tiger at 6:47 AM on November 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

This one really depends on on where you live, but it seems like you and the roommate need to get out of the house more. Separately. The suggestion above for him to go to the library is an excellent one.

As for you and your alone time and happiness: is there any appeal in being "alone" in public, i.e. taking yourself out to a cafe to read a good book and have some tea? Or going to a movie, or a yoga class, or an art/crafting class, or a museum? You write about financial worries, which are legit! But it sounds like you're living in more of a survival mode than might be strictly necessary. In the short term, before the roommate moves out and before your work schedule changes, it could be really beneficial to carve out $5-20 once or twice a week and treat yourself to a solo date out of the house.

If you're busy with other things that you enjoy, you'll probably find that your drinking and emotional eating will decrease. The "treat yourself" method is also a good incentive to not spend $10 on alcohol and shift it to your movie/yoga/pottery budget instead.
posted by witchen at 8:02 AM on November 21, 2018 [3 favorites]

Inform the room mate that you need two hours to yourself alone, every day, at home. He can go out, or go into the room where your boyfriend is sleeping, or if he has a bedroom of his own, stay in that. It's not an unreasonable request.

If you are going to drink anyway, tie your drinking to things that you want to be doing to improve your health. You can drink but only while exercising. You can drink, but only after you go out and do something life enhancing. You can drink but only if you count the calories in the alcohol and subtract them from the food you are eating.

Get your house guest and your boyfriend to go no alcohol with you. If you are supplying the house guest with liquor you are not helping him and someone, probably several someones are alcohol dependent. Who is buying the booze? If it's the guys the have to stop. If it's you, reward yourself every time you don't buy booze - it doesn't matter what the reward is. You could ask your boyfriend to reward you with a massage, or with some cuddle time, or anything that makes you feel better.

Make a list of fun free things you can do: gallery hops, free concerts, walks in the park, dog walking with a friend who has a dog, re-purposing things you already own in creative ways, such as sewing toys from old clothes. Use your food budget to have fun cooking; you are already going to spend the money, but do some research to find things that it would be cheap but fun to cook, put on some music and dance, get into writing a shared story with someone on line... there are tons of possibilities. If you are poor enough the Y in some areas gives you free membership.

Spend some time job hunting for the house guest. Does he have enough coding skills to get work tagging images? Can he pick up that skill in a week? Can he go do unpaid volunteer work at the local food bank? He also needs a life if he is glomming onto you when you get home.

Do you have a sun lamp or fluorescents? If you can set up a place that resembles being outside in the sun, do so. You may be able to borrow the lights, and get some cuttings from other people's plants to grow. You are missing day time, so it might help if you get some more artificial day time.

Drinking is a depressant. If you are not depressed drinking regularly will ensure that you become that way. So get some books from the library on treating depression and figure out some strategies that work for you, such as journaling, or watching comedy movies (also borrowed from the library, or old movies that are free to watch). If you have any friends in the area, see if you can get together with them for some social time, with them providing transportation and picking you up - a girlfriend date to go out to the library, or to help them with Christmas cleaning and decorating or baking, anything like that to get you out of the house and where there is no booze. If they pick you up then you won't be out the transportation costs, if that is a financial hardship.

Figure out how much is being spent on booze, and start recording every drink you don't have as money not going out of the household, Your account could be - This week I didn't have four drinks, so save eight dollars, which is the cost of all my sandwiches and fruit lunches this week. Or this week I had two bottles of wine instead of three, so that saving is.... which is half the interest on the credit card this month, so if I can drink two bottles next week instead of three, it will cover all the interest.
posted by Jane the Brown at 1:09 PM on November 21, 2018

Can you lend you housemate your car and let him start driving for Ubereats or Amazon or one of the other miriad of delivery apps? There are insurance implications (he might not be covered), but it'll get him out of the house and he'll be making some money. He really needs to A) get out of the house, and B) make some money.

Or, give him your booze money and tell him to go to a movie. It'd be worth it. You need some alone time.
posted by kjs4 at 4:14 PM on November 21, 2018

I've been in a similar situation, and my therapist recommended Wellbutrin, which provided enough of an emotional & mental boost so I could start exercising, journaling, and generally moving forward out of my black hole. Perhaps a short-term course of anti-depressants may help you. [Added incentive: you cannot mix alcohol and anti-depressants, so being on medication cuts out the drinking, too.]

Regarding your roommate/"friend":
"he genuinely didn't have anywhere else to go and would be homeless if he wasn't staying with us"
contradicts this:
"he has zero savings and occasionally is able to borrow $100 or so from his family"
Now I'm making some assumptions here, but: If he's able to borrow money from his family, but he's not welcome to live with them while he gets back on his feet, that's a huge red flag about your "friend's" character, discipline, and sense of responsibility.

"The friend has been with us for two months and has applied for jobs but hasn't gotten hired. [...] The friend is continuing to apply for jobs and is setting his sights lower, so hopefully he'll find something soon, but it's an actual financial emergency at this point."
combines poorly with this:
"Because the friend doesn't work, he's up late"
Again, drawing conclusions on info scraps - but why is he up late? Why isn't he setting a regular sleep schedule so he can be up early to progress on his job hunt? Suggests he's not very serious about his job hunt and perhaps doesn't consider the situation an "actual financial emergency" in the same way you do. I think if he was fully cognizant of what financial pressure he was adding to you and your boyfriend, and *cared* about that issue, he would be doing whatever he could to (a) bring in money and (b) make his presence as unobtrusive to both of you.

Such considerate actions would include: not being picky about the job type (Seasonal job or temp work should be engaged ASAP!!), working constantly to locate and apply for jobs, getting any kind of social assistance available - is he eligible for Unemployment insurance payments? Food stamps? Eating at a soup kitchen? , cleaning the apartment and doing the cooking to make your lives easier, and respecting your need for alone time by either vacating the apartment or secluding himself in the other bedroom.

If this "friend" is as completely destitute as you say, there are social programs available to help him if he really wants help. HE IS NOT YOUR RESPONSIBILITY, nor your boyfriend's responsibility. Look closely - is your help really "helping" him? Or is he taking advantage of you & your boyfriend's good nature and generosity?
posted by Ardea alba at 8:22 AM on November 23, 2018 [2 favorites]

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