Category Archives: twelve step

Two Years Later

butterfly

 

No, this isn’t a reference to how long it’s been since the last time I posted, although it does seem that way. I just checked, and my last post was a mere four months ago. It was about election related stuff, though, and unrelated to what my primary goal of this blog claims to be- stories about a woman with a drug problem, trying to get her shit straight. If you go allll the way back to the beginning of this blog (I’m not recommending you do this, there is a lot of embarrassing stuff in there that I don’t even like to read) you will see that I have had lots of struggle with addiction, times when I had the upper hand, and times when drugs were kicking my ass. It’s all there. One thing no one can accuse me of is shying away from the truth. What I can almost always guarantee you is that.

I spent a LOT of time writing through the bad times, but for some reason, I slowed way down when things got better. I have been thinking lately that that isn’t fair. Everyone who struggles with addiction knows how it feels to struggle. Not everyone knows what life on the other side of that looks like. Here, I have the perfect opportunity to share my story with people, and I have been keeping it all to myself. Maybe no one gives a shit, I don’t know…but maybe one person will read this and feel a little more hopeful, and a little less like giving up.

After years and years and years of yo-yo recovery (she’s clean- nope, she’s relapsed…wait, clean agai-noooope, etc.), this past May, I picked up my two year coin. Over the past two years, I have struggled with many things, but the desire to use drugs has never been one of them. I have thought about drugs- I think about them in a myriad of ways, probably daily- but I have never wanted to use them, not once. I am going to just go ahead and admit right now, though, how little this has to do with my likelihood of using them. Many times I have relapsed with zero desire to use, but, finding myself in a particular state, gripped by the need to feel something other than the way I currently felt, I have, against my own will, gotten high. I know how crazy this sounds, but that’s kind of how you know you’re an addict. Your whole life is a series of events where you keep doing shit you have no desire to do, or even a burning desire not to do them. That’s just another fun filled day in the life of an addict.

So, as relieved as I have been to no longer have the desire to use, I had to change a lot of other stuff so that I didn’t find myself in that particular state that made me likely to use against my will. What are the things I had to change? Oh, just everything I hated about myself. No big deal. With no idea how to go about it, or even what it was, exactly, that I really hated. I had a few things to go on- one thing I finally realized the last time I got clean was that my behavior towards others, and even towards myself, was keeping me sick. Every time I screamed at my kids or tore down my ex, every time I looked at myself with such loathing, I was perpetuating a terrible and negative cycle that was keeping me sick. I wish I could say that I had this epiphany, and BOOM! I changed over night. That isn’t really how this works.

What I did do was, I stopped giving up just because I “failed”. Can you imagine if everyone gave up on everything the first time they didn’t get it right? Yeah, that’s not how most humans operate. Except, I’m an addict, always looking for immediate gratification, so this did not come naturally to me. But I kept at it. In the beginning, to be honest, there wasn’t much improvement besides the fact that I wasn’t high as a kite anymore. That’s because my drug of choice is a neurotoxin, and my brain was…how can I put this delicately? Fucking fried. I was still yelling at my kids, finding it hard to cope with life, unable to manage my finances, overwhelmed by things that came easily to other people. But I had hope, and I kept trying. Eventually, I started to be able to hear myself, and catch myself, and stop myself before the trouble started. Let’s not get the wrong idea, here. I still have a temper and a mouth that is faster than my rational brain, but it’s much, much better.

It took the better part of a year- maybe longer- for my brain to heal adequately so that I could relax and start really enjoying my recovery. Of course, I felt incrementally better month after month, I didn’t wake up one morning and discover I was human again. Recovery, in whatever form you do it, takes time. During that time of learning to manage my behavior, I was also dealing with the immediate wreckage my drug use had caused in my life and the lives of those I loved. Rebuilding trust with my kids. Dealing with my own guilt and shame. Learning how to move forward in spite of the pain I carried- and maybe will always carry- around with me.

But there is more, and I suspect, there will always be more. You clear away one layer of debris, and there is so much more work to be done, a whole new layer underneath. The most significant change in all of this was my attitude. Because I learned, through trial and error, and through working with my sponsor, that it feels so good to deal with the issues popping up- I find myself willing and eager to keep at it.

In the past year, I have started dealing with other things- my finances, my credit, my household, my parenting skills. I am learning how to have boundaries, and how to respect myself. I have even finally learned, at 42, how to take care of my body (not, like, shower. I have always done that, thank you), as in eating healthily, and exercising. I continue to work on my meditation practice, and pray daily. I go to meetings, and I have a support group I can turn to outside of meetings.

I could not have imagined, at the beginning of all of this, that I could have come this far in just two years. When I finally waved the white flag the final time, all I wanted was to stop hating myself, to stop letting that hatred spill out on the people around me. That was it. What I wound up getting was so much more. I might not always adore myself, but I am certainly not ashamed of myself on a daily basis. I don’t lay in bed at night filled with regret over everything I said and did in the day behind me. I am more loving, more patient, more aware of what I am putting out into the world.

So, if you are just starting out, keep going. Two years is not that long, in the bigger picture, to get your life back and then some. And the journey is amazing. Keep going. As they say- Don’t leave five minutes before the miracle happens.

Wasted

broken heart

 

There are few things that can bring the past back to me quite as viscerally as music can. Memories I might grasp for another time come sliding back to me, unexpected, with the right (or wrong) song playing in the background.

When you have the kind of past I have, it can be painful, sometimes- even the happy memories. Today, we were listening to the Dixie Chicks, a CD that once had permanent residence in my old Camry’s stereo. Cowboy, Take me Away came on, and I remember driving around, with the song turned up loud, the windows down, the sunlight streaming in- and this little tiny dark headed girl in her car seat in the back, singing along with me.

She’s all grown up now. Our lives were such a mess back then- well, my life was, and hers, by association. Any happy memories I can find, I cling to, because there just aren’t that many of them. It was a dark time for me, and I was very, very deep in my addiction. I didn’t know how to be a mother, or what it meant, or what, exactly, I was robbing her of. Oh, if only I had known. You know, my heart will very probably never heal from that. I know, I know- we are supposed to learn to forgive ourselves, to leave the past in the past…but I think there is a part of me that honestly doesn’t feel like I ought to forgive myself.  Like maybe punishing myself for the rest of my life is my penance for robbing my daughters childhood of the joy that was hers by right. I don’t know, but I do know this: However it is I feel, I won’t be talked out of it. Trust me, it’s been tried.

Heartbreak Town. I remember listening to that on our way to Reno, where I ran off to, to escape myself. There she was again, that little person in the back seat…always in the back seat. If you are curious, I didn’t fool myself into being someone different just because I crossed state lines. I was still me, still sick, still not a mother anyone should have had. Sometimes I try to imagine what it must have been like for her, but when I do, it hurts too much.

It is only recently- maybe just since she has been sort of a “grown-up”, or maybe it is because I am raising another daughter now, in such a completely different way- that I have started to sincerely wish there were some way I could go back, and do things differently. I know that kind of thinking is useless and foolish. I know I would be better off trying to make my amends to her now, by being the best mom I can NOW, and I do that, I do…but still. If I could just go back, just for one measly little day, and be tender with her. Give her my undivided attention. Just hold her, and love her, and do all the mommy stuff I have learned to do now…I would just really like to do that, that’s all.

This is a lot of stuff to carry around inside of one small heart. The memories, and the worry about what you may have inflicted upon another small heart, one that you created. To look back and see all of the time, and the chances, and the love you wasted. It doesn’t feel very good. I’m glad to say I don’t sit in this shit every single day, but when I do, I don’t even try to deny myself the opportunity to cry about it anymore. It’s a sad and terrible way that I chose, and if it didn’t make me cry, I guess that would mean I haven’t changed much, wouldn’t it? But I have. So at least there is that.

Safety

safety

 

As an addict, no matter what your drug of choice is, no matter whether you are using or not, one of our commonalities is that we generally crave safety. We crave it as much, really, as we crave whatever we are putting in our bodies, or whatever fucked up thing we are doing to change the way we feel. Because any addict can tell you that, eventually, you don’t really get high anymore. Nope, that rush from the beginning flees quickly. What we really want is safety. Distance from our feelings, some space from our self loathing, to shut up the voice inside of us that will not let us be- the one that tells us how stupid, and useless, and lacking we are. We just want some relief from whatever it is that haunts us, and the addict knows the fastest way to get there. Of course, this is WAY oversimplifying it, but in essence, this is the truth- you don’t want to hear about brain chemistry, genetics, and compulsive disorders, anyway, I bet. And if you do, you should probably talk to someone else, as I am just a drug addict with some experience, not a doctor.

Now, I know what I have said- that addicts are seeking safety- sounds completely the opposite of what an addicts life looks like. I realize that. But think about this for a second…all the stories of the way addicts lie, the way they manipulate everything in their environment. Yeah, that is terrible. And by the way, it’s exhausting, too. But what is that really, more than an attempt to create a world where we have some semblance of control over our surroundings? Sure, it is misguided and horrible, but when you are so helpless in every other way, the only thing you can do, out of desperation, is to try to create some type of order out of the chaos. To know what to expect. To have some feeling of safety, we manipulate. You have to remember, an addict in the trenches of their disease is desperate, and desperate people on drugs do not have the ability to see how insane their actions and choices are. They literally are not in their right minds. They just want to survive.

Now, here’s the thing: It doesn’t start off like this. No one starts off in this desperate state. I always, when thinking of my own story, refer to my disease starting up at the age of 19, but that isn’t even true. The truth is, I discovered my drug of choice at the age of 19, but I started putting drugs in my body long before that- sure, it was just smoking weed and drinking, but I was 13. I had low self esteem, I had a weird life, and I just wanted to fit in. The best idea I could come up with, having a limited set of options, was to get high. And it worked for me. I found no shortage of kids just like myself with whom to surround myself, and I created a persona out of all of that, so that I could fit in somewhere. I had no idea what kind of game I was playing. How could I have? And not everyone was destined to wind up like me, either. That’s the funny thing about it- you are rolling the dice, and you don’t even know it. Many of my friends were able to put it down and walk away. But a lot of them- a lot- were not.

Because I was so young when I started down this path, I had no experience with the way “normal” people lived. I didn’t understand how controlling I was, whether I was clean or not, or how emotionally volatile I was. I had no idea that my behavior was a major issue, preventing me from being happy, either on or off of drugs. I can tell you this, though- the minute I realized that my drug use had become nothing more than a symptom of a far bigger problem, my life changed. It took me a really long time to get there. A really long time. I went through treatment, well into adulthood, twice, and had years clean (after which I relapsed again and again) before I got it. On drugs, my behavior was terrible. Off drugs, my behavior was terrible, and it lead me back to drugs, to make me care less about my terrible behavior. I had to come to this understanding on my own. I just wasn’t hearing it from anyone, or any place else. I am not saying it wasn’t taught to me, that no one ever mentioned it. I just wasn’t able to hear it.

This is still a struggle for me. Even knowing what I now believe to be true- that my own behavior can make or break me- I struggle to break the old habits, to find new ways to deal with my feelings, ways that are not so damaging to me, or to others. I spent a lot of years being one person, so it makes sense that being someone else is hard. But I know it is vital that I do. I don’t want to use drugs anymore, but I still behave like an addict sometimes, whether I show it or not. That person is sitting inside of me, commenting on far too many things. I am, and will always be, a work in progress.

Addicts are also very contrary people. We know what we want, and we do the opposite. Our intentions don’t always match our actions. We want to do right, but often find ourselves doing wrong. We have huge egos, and low self esteem. We say one thing and do another. We are often very smart, and live stupidly. We dream of a safe, happy life, and do everything in our power to make sure we never get there. It makes no sense to you, and it makes no sense to the addict who is living it. That is the terrible truth.

Addicts, whether we are clean or not, want what every breathing person wants. To be safe. But our fight is a little different. We carry our biggest obstacle with us everywhere that we go. The face that looks back at us in the mirror is often our greatest enemy. The battle we fight is with ourselves, over and over and over.

You may wonder why I come back to this subject again and again, why I identify so strongly with this part of me. And my answer is- because this is still the biggest part of me. Even though I am clean, the fight is the same. The person I am fighting, and the thing I fight against, and all of the little flare ups I have, they all come from the addict in me. I have a voice, and I want to explain it to the world, so that maybe you can understand an addict in your life, or yourself, a little better. But I am no longer afraid, and I am not sad, and I don’t feel sorry for myself. I feel glad that I have named my enemy, and, even if it is a life long fight…at least I have the tools I need to do my work against it.

And that makes me feel a little safer. I sleep better, knowing that.

 

Over November

november rain

 

I am here, finally, to report that I made it through fucking November. You probably don’t even know why this is such a big deal, and quite frankly, neither do I- all I know is, for whatever reason, November is a HARD month for me. I seem to backslide a lot in November, and if you follow my blog at all, you know what I mean. If you don’t…sigh…I’ll just say it for you, but you really should go back and read some of my other stuff. It’s pretty entertaining. Anyway, I have a tendency to suffer terribly with addiction in the month of November. Actively, if you catch my drift.

Anyway, that didn’t happen this particular month. I think, this time, I was prepared for the weird onslaught of less desirable feelings I am beset by when the days get short, and it gets cold, and everything seems so hard to deal with. I basically gave myself permission to slack off in every other area, as long as I could just get through the month okay. That was my mantra- “Just Get Through This Month”. So, knowing what to expect, and cutting myself some slack, it seemed to do the trick.

It didn’t really hurt that I spent a week of that dreaded month in beautiful Maui, where November, apparently, does not hang out. They just double up on June over there. So I had an extra week of summer, which may have sustained me. I have been trying to figure out how to get back there ever since I have been home. I am not even kidding.

But now, sitting here, safely ensconced in December, I realize that, hard as November may be for me, it has also been a learning month for me. I have finally learned that this month is hard for me, and if I don’t want to be in big trouble, I need to formulate a plan to avoid it. Not the month, the big trouble. I have learned that I need to talk about it to the people I talk to these things about, and recognize the thought processes within me that lead me to dangerous ground.

November is a teacher, and this time I aced my exams. But still, I am glad it is over.

I know it has been a long time since my last post, and I feel really bad about it- especially since writing is, like, the best thing I know how to do. But sometimes, it’s just necessary to do what you have to do for yourself. That is what I have been doing. Hopefully, I am back for a while. 🙂

Are You Going To Have Faith, Or Not?

faith

For the past month or so, my life has really been sweet. My recovery is good and strong, my life full of all the things I want and need- meetings, and new friendships, movies and walks and books and laughter. My spiritual life felt robust and I felt connected to my God in a way that I hadn’t in such a long time. Meditation was really getting easy and enjoyable for me, and I felt my days slipping by with the kind of grace and ease that I had longed for forever.

Then, last Tuesday, two days before pay day, I found myself completely on empty, driving to my therapists office, with not a single dollar in my pocket. I was flat-ass broke, and I had to figure out how to navigate life for the next two days with no gas and no money. Now, let me remind you all- I am a drug addict! We are some of the most resourceful, crafty people in the world, when it comes to getting what we want, would you agree? And yet, in that moment, on my way to my therapist, and then my favorite NA meeting in the world, I had more than just a moment of panic, more than just worry. I was in full on assassin mode.

What I mean by this is, I was, internally, berating myself for my stupidity. It wasn’t just that I had run out of money two days before payday…it was “How could you be so STUPID? What kind of forty year old person doesn’t have a savings account? Why are you so messed up that you don’t even have a credit card? How can you be trusted to raise children when you can’t even afford to drive?” Yeah, it was bad. And just like that, all that good stuff I had been feeling, all that positivity, that connection I had been feeling…it faded out, like a dark cloud over my world. I was really down.

Now, what you need to keep in mind is- all of this happened in the space of one fifteen minute drive. I can do a lot of damage in a short time, trust me. But then, what happened was, just as I was turning the corner to my destination, this other voice popped up in my head, and it said “Courtney! Are you going to have faith or not? Because you either do or you don’t.” And, because this voice ALSO belonged to me, I knew what I meant- that I had lived through much worse times than this, and that, no matter how many times I had been down, no matter how far down I had been- I had always, every time, without fail, been okay again. Was I really going to let a matter of a few dollars reduce me, and my opinion of myself, to this?

And as I turned that corner and pulled into the parking lot, the answer was no, I was not. All of my hard work wasn’t for nothing, and my connection to the Universe was still so good, and I was still really proud of myself, and my life was still good…it was just that I needed a few bucks until payday. And I was going to have faith that everything would work out, just like it always does. And it did.

Since that day last week, I have come back to that thought- “Are you going to have faith, or not?” Again and again and again. Today, in just a few minutes, I am going to wake up my beautiful four year old for her first day of school ever. And I am terrified. Excited and thrilled, of course, but mostly, I am terrified. It is my job, as her mother, not to show this fear to her, so I will pull my shit together, pray, and I will choose faith this morning. Faith that God pays special attention to precious children and their crazy mothers, and faith that many other parents are feeling just like me this morning, and they are getting through it, somehow.

So the question for you today, my friends, is this- are you going to have faith, or not? Because you either do, or you don’t. I hope you do. We all need it. Have a wonderful day, and send some good thoughts over to this crazy mom, please.  🙂