Posted in Addiction, alcoholism, family, friendship, happiness, health, Holidays, Learning, Life, mental illness, Musings, People, recovery, twelve step

Thanks-Giving

Hi, guys! I started to make this a post for my other blog, but quickly realized this one belongs here, where my story has played out over so many years. I have a different voice, and a different story, and a different history here, and this one should live here. So here goes:

I woke up this morning a little put out that I’d had time to clean the whole rest of my house, but no time to clean my own room- the one place that should be my sanctuary, right? I felt bad that I had put myself at the bottom of my own list. Dumb, but that’s just my brain, trying to find something to be unhappy about. I was feeling a little better about life once I sat down here, in my neat, clean living room, sipping a hot cup of coffee fresh from the sparkling clean coffee pot (I even remembered to run the coffee pot through the dishwasher! I’m so proud of myself!).

I hopped on Facebook to see what I’d missed since bedtime, and I happened upon a post from…the brother of a friend of a friend. We don’t know each other in real life, but we’ve been social media buddies for a number of years, and…over the past couple of years, I have witnessed a slow and steady decline. Posts that are cryptic, yet somehow also overly personal, alarming and worrisome, but no real information being given. About a week ago, he posted a video detailing his woes, and I wondered what was happening. Was it a mental health crisis?

Today, I saw his post and I understood. He wrote about his recent struggles with addiction. He has lost all hope. He feels helpless, lost, alone, worn out, confused about where to turn.

An hour after that post went up, he posted a check-in at a hospital. It didn’t say for what, but I hope that someone there can guide him towards help. Of course, once I knew what was going on, I could no longer just lurk around and keep quiet. I sent him a message, told him I knew exactly how he felt and what he was going through. I encouraged him to find an NA meeting and ask for help. I told him not to believe the things his brain was telling him, but to listen to his heart and soul, because they were crying out for help. And I told him “One year from this day, your life can be completely different. You can be whole and happy and surrounded by family again.” I told him to reach out to me and I would help if I could.

Boy, did that take me back. As much as I try to separate myself from that part of my life, as much as I long to leave the past behind me, it is part of me. My life, those years and years of addiction, were not just a small part of my story. That was who I WAS, that was my identity, for the bulk of my adult life. I was other things, too. But before anything else, I fed my addiction. Before my children, before my family, before my job, before my bills were paid, before I made any other decisions, I fed my addiction. I cannot tell you the number of holidays I missed completely or ruined by showing up. I cannot tell you the number of moments I lost or stole from others. I couldn’t guess.

I cannot tell you how grateful I am to be where I am now. Right here, in my fuzzy pajamas, on Thanksgiving morning, in my own, clean house. My mom sleeping in Camryn’s bed on clean sheets, Camryn sleeping in my bed. And me, clean. Not worrying about how much dope I have left or how I’ll get more or when I’ll be able to sneak off to use more. Not angry for no reason, not making everyone around me walk on eggshells to keep from setting me off. Not making everyone sick with worry, but afraid to say a word.

There are not words to describe to you how grateful I am to be whole and here. I have gotten far enough away from my old life to forget, sometimes, how big of a deal that is. I have wanted to get away from it. But at times like this, when I see that pain in someone else, when I remember precisely how that felt, I am glad to remember. It makes the things I was griping inwardly about seem very small and petty, and shifts my perspective to one of gratitude, intense gratitude, and joy.

It took me a long, long time to get here. I had to work very hard at it. I suffered so many set backs and failures along the way. But I never gave up. I kept trying, and it paid off. Perhaps I shouldn’t be so eager to close the door on the past. Perhaps it is important to remember who I was, so that I can appreciate fully who I am today. Today, at least, this seems to be true. I have never been more thankful to be me than I am right now.

Happy Thanksgiving.

If you are struggling with substance abuse or mental health problems today and need help, you can call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) for guidance.

There are also NA and AA meetings in almost every town in the world. You can google “NA world service” to bring up links to anyplace you might be, and you can find hotlines manned by members who can tell you where to catch a meeting today.

Don’t suffer a minute longer than you have to. Reach out. Someone has been where you are and understands. Trust me on that. You are not alone.

Posted in Addiction, alcoholism, Blogging, faith, family, happiness, inner peace, Life, Mental Health, motherhood, parenting, recovery, twelve step

Just…wow.

just wow
courtesy of lisalayden.com. 

Have you ever had one of those strange moments where your perspective shifts, and you suddenly…I don’t know…like, see your life? All of the sudden, your own reality hits you and it’s just mind blowing? And not in a bad way at all, but in the most incredible, blessed feeling way? Gosh, I’m getting tears in my eyes just writing this.

That happened to me last night. I was drifting off to sleep, and out of nowhere it hit me that I’m a mom. I have two daughters! And you know, of course I know this- one of them is a legit adult now, the other one is 8. It’s not like it’s something new, but…it just sort of hit me. Wow. I am the mother to these two incredible people, their mother. What an honor that is. How lucky am I?

To get to have these two beautiful girls, so unbelievably different, so perfect in their own way. I have one who loves everything that grows- she plucked a giant mushroom out of my garden yesterday, and plopped it down on my butcher block, examining it like a scientist. She broke it apart, leaving a trail of dirt and possibly poisonous spores over every inch of my kitchen…but you know what? I’m so happy that she’s found something she’s passionate about- her seed packets, and all of the knowledge she has about soil and zones, water and sunlight. The way she looks when she is plucking a bean from a vine, or pulling a weed from the earth. As a parent, all you could ever want is for your child to grow up and find the thing they love most, and I think she has done that.

And then there is the little one- tender-hearted, kind, but absolutely self assured. She loves tiny, tiny things, colored pencils, blank pages, pencil sharpeners. She’ll drop everything to give me a hug, but then she rushes back to whatever it is that she is focused on. She’ll give up some of her time for me, but she is pretty clear about needing her own space, her own time. I feel like that will serve her well. She also loves jokes, loves to laugh, more than anyone I’ve ever known…and again, this will help her immeasurably in life.

I LOVE these girls. I love them so much. And it is such a miracle, such an unbelievable miracle, that I get to live this life I am living. For an addict like me to be living a life like this- gainfully employed, a real career, my bills paid, food in the fridge, these gorgeous kids, and I am CLEAN? Are you kidding me? When I think of how desperately I longed for this life, so many, many times. When I think of how little hope I had, how futile it seemed to even think about it. Because I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t stay clean. Except I did. I have. I continue to.

And because of that, I get to feel like this. Like my heart will just burst open from all of the gratitude and love and appreciation I have for my life in this moment. For the mother I get to be because I just kept showing up, day after day, and I stopped trying to change the way I felt by putting drugs in my body. I went ahead and felt my feelings instead. I went ahead and faced the truth about who I was and what I had done. I went ahead and dealt with it. And it was hard- it’s still hard sometimes. I have a lot of painful memories, painful facts about my life that I can never change. But you know what? I’m making a lot of new, really beautiful memories, too. And if I keep it up, someday they might just outweigh the bad ones.

For that, and for so many other reasons, I am deeply grateful this morning.

Posted in Addiction, alcoholism, anxiety, Goals, inner peace, Life, living, mindfulness, People, recovery, twelve step, women

Peace

peace

This morning, when I took my dog Lucy to the beach, I made a conscious decision to leave my phone in my pocket. I didn’t want to be taken out of the moment by my urge to take the perfect Instagram picture and then cross-post it to Facebook, and subsequently spend the rest of the day compulsively checking for likes. I grow tired of that cycle, but the truth is, it isn’t easy to stop. But I did it- left my phone in my pocket, resisted the urge. Picked up a shell or two, and enjoyed just throwing the ball for my dog. I also met a few fellow beach strollers- something much easier to do when you are looking up, being present.

After the walk, I dropped Lucy off and decided to hit a meeting. I’m embarrassed to admit that I hadn’t been to one in nearly a month! It was just what I needed today. I saw my sponsor, and a few core people that I really love and respect. What a message of hope you can find in those rooms sometimes…it really is amazing, when you think about it. Escaping from the life of depravity that is addiction is such a freaking miracle. If you know, you know. It’s incredible to me that I have somehow managed to stay clean, that I somehow have made a success of what was once a very sad, broken life. I’m very proud of this life I have given myself. I forget sometimes.

Here we are in November, and I am already thinking about the year coming next- what I want to work on, where I want to focus my energy. The theme going forward is going to be “Making Peace”, and by that, I mean with ME. As much work as I have done on myself, I still carry around a lot of guilt and shame, and so many upsetting memories from the past. I still have a lot of anxiety and worry around the future. The past is gone. The future isn’t here yet. I think I need to forgive myself and focus on today.

I was listening to a TED talk yesterday about how to be happy- I didn’t finish it, but something stuck with me: People are happier when they are focused on what they are doing. It’s when our minds wander that we begin to feel anxiety, dread, and unhappiness. This makes so much sense to me! Since then, I have noted when my mind was spinning off, and started focusing on where I was right in that moment, and I found almost instant relief. I think it’s going to take a lot of practice, but if I can master this one, I’ll be in business.

Anyway, I will not so much be seeking peace as I will be doing the things that I know bring peace to me, and doing less of the things that take peace away. I deserve to feel good about my life, to feel peaceful, content, happy. We all do. I encourage you to really think about the content of your life, what is working, what is not, and what you can do to bring your life closer in alignment to what you’d like it to be. This is not a dress rehearsal, and the clock is always ticking. I’m starting now. How about you?

Posted in Addiction, advice, faith, health, Life, Mental Health, recovery, twelve step

Patience in Recovery

meth brain

I was sitting here googling random shit this morning, as one does, and somehow “Why are some people naturally more kind than others?” morphed into “Long term effects of methamphetamine on the brain”, which, in my case, aren’t necessarily unrelated to one another. Basically, I was wondering if my inability to be as kind as I’d like to be could be linked to damage in my brain caused by years of INSANE quantities of meth in my body.

It seems like there is good news and bad news. The good news is that, by now, my brain has mostly healed from all the harm I did to it. There are certain parts of my brain that might never be okay again, but as far as my behavior, moods and that sort of thing goes, it’s all me at this point. As far as “they” know, anyway. The bad news is, this means I am just naturally a bit of an asshole, but I don’t think this is breaking news. And, unlike most of the assholes out there, at least I’m trying to change. Actually, I have no idea what the other assholes are trying or not trying to do, I’m just angling to make myself look good. Shocker. Also, thanks to my years of chemical dependency, I have a higher chance of dementia and Parkinson’s, which I’m not thrilled about, but what can I do?

One thing I did find really interesting, though, is that I now have scientific evidence supporting what I have been claiming for a long time- your brain needs ample time to heal after your cessation of meth. I mean, duh, right? But this is not something anyone was able to reassure me of after I first got clean, and I thought I was going mad. If I wasn’t using anymore, why did I still act so crazy? Why was I still so full of anger and rage? Why couldn’t I control my emotions at all? In short, why was I still exhibiting all of the behaviors I associated with my drug use, but I wasn’t even using drugs?!

Although I was seeing some progress in my life in these areas, it was incredibly frustrating how slow it went, and how terrible I felt. I didn’t understand. I thought maybe it wasn’t the drugs after all, and maybe I was just a horrible monster of a person. My doctor strongly recommended that I go on an antidepressant or something, but I was so turned off by the idea of using another drug, even one prescribed to me. I knew that something wasn’t right, but my instincts urged me to wait and see. And so I did.

It took between 18 months and two years before I saw a significant change in my behavior- enough so that I felt passably sane. At 3.5 years, I can tell you that I am probably the best I have ever been in my adult life. I used drugs for most of my entire adult life, approximately 20 years. For someone who did more growing up and less drugs, I expect the recovery time would be shorter.

The point is this: be patient with yourself. Not only do you need time to grieve the time you lost and the damage you did, not only do you have to relearn, or even learn for the first time, how to exist in the “normy” world, but your brain has to heal physically. Meth might not be considered physically addictive, but this does not mean it does no physical, quantifiable damage. It does. Look it up, see for yourself the pictures of a brain six months after cessation of drug use. Actually, never mind, I’ll just post the picture so you can see for yourself.

My advice to anyone in early recovery from methamphetamine is to be patient. The changes will come, but maybe not as soon as you would hope. Commit to stick it out, and before too long, you’ll see the person you had always hoped to be under all the bullshit. With a lot of work, love and faith, it’s never too late to become the very best version of yourself. 🙂

 

Posted in Addiction, adventure, alcoholism, anxiety, Blogging, Depression, faith, family, Goals, Life, Mental Health, Musings, recovery, twelve step

Reflecting on After The Party

party's over

Did you know that I have been writing this blog for 6 years now?

Sure, I haven’t been consistent…I mean, this blog is a lot like my real life in that way. As true to form as could be, I have been sporadic, I can’t follow a theme, I don’t stick to the subject at hand. I guess that is the one way I am consistent- by being totally inconsistent. Well, dammit. Now I’ve said the word “consistent” so many times that it’s started to sound weird to me.

Anyway, here it is. I have pretty much laid out my life and my truth here through a lot of shit over the past six years. I struggled mightily with my addiction, and I kept writing through it. I told on myself, sometimes I tried to make it look prettier than it was, sometimes I thought I’d succeeded, and then…looking back, the truth is pretty clear to me, what a mess I was. I don’t know if I had anyone else fooled. It doesn’t really matter.

What matters is that I kept going. That, throughout all of those years, I never stopped trying and I never lost hope. I was scared sometimes…I lost my mind many times, and lost myself, but I somehow never totally lost hope. I knew that I could do it, I just knew that I could. And look at me now…three years and some change into this latest foray into recovery, here I sit, still clean, still hanging in there.

It looks nothing like I thought that it would. In some ways, it is so much better, and in other ways, it’s just…underwhelming. It’s just life. I don’t wake up every single day ecstatic that I am not using drugs anymore, over the moon that I get to be sober another day. I wake up and wonder why I can’t seem to get my laundry folded, or why “other people” (whoever they may be) have their shit together so much more completely than I do. This is REAL life…and real life is not an Instagram feed or the things we post on Facebook, it’s not even the happy face we put on for the world. Real life is not the highlight reel, it is the piles of shit on the kitchen table, the lost keys, the sitting on the toilet and realizing there is no toilet paper and there’s no one home to yell to for help. Real life is what is happening to everyone, all the time, around and through all the beautiful moments. Because I am clean, I get to be a part of that.

But because I wasn’t clean for so long, I am still, even at 43, even with all this time clean now, adjusting to this reality. I am also dealing with the weird personality tics- such as: low self-esteem, poor coping skills, boundary issues, people pleasing, isolating tendencies, anxiety and probably a little depression thrown in to spice up the pot- that most likely led me to going all in with my addiction in the first place.

Basically, I thought that getting clean would be the solution to all of my problems. What I have learned is that getting clean was the first major obstacle I had to clear to start dealing with a bunch of other problems. My addiction is just a symptom of other, much more deeply rooted bullshit. And now I am trying to fix myself.

This past few years have been HARD. But, on the flip side of that, they have also been, hands down, the best years of my adult life. Easily. I mean, I could just cry thinking about it. I have healed so many relationships that were deeply wounded. I am so close with my mom, and so incredibly close with my daughters. I can look anyone in the eye, at any time, and not feel ashamed of who I am. I have stopped being so angry. I have learned how to hear myself, sometimes even before I speak, and my words don’t have to hurt people anymore. Because I am not in pain on a deep, soul-level anymore, I don’t have to lash out and make sure everyone around me is hurting, too. On the contrary, I spend a lot of my time trying to show the people I love that I love them. I think about ways I can make their lives better. And if you understand addiction at all, if you’ve been there yourself or if you’ve witnessed the destruction wrought by an addict that you love, you understand how monumental that is. I no longer hurt or destroy everything that I touch.

I no longer hurt or destroy everything that I touch…I needed to say that again. Because I don’t ever want to be that person again, and yet, even knowing what I know, I have been STRUGGLING lately. I have wanted to give up. To quit being in recovery, to quit going to meetings, to just have one fucking little drink. Because I want to relax. Because I feel like I need something outside of myself to help me let go a little bit. Because alcohol was never a problem for me, so why can’t I just have a glass of wine? Or a beer? Or maybe a shot of tequila for old times sake? I just want to be NORMAL.

But you know what? I am not “normal” in the way I think of normal being, and I know this. I know that if I have a drink, it might be just a drink for now…but eventually, it would turn into something far bigger than I could even try to control. And you know, next time, I might not be so lucky. I might not make it back. So, here I am, reminding myself of one of the overused but oh-so-appropriate NA sayings…just for today. Just for today, I can not drink, right? I don’t have to think about forever, or even tomorrow. Just today. I know I can do that.

I started this blog because I wanted to write something funny and relate-able and real that other people in my position could find themselves in. I wanted it to be a success story, and an inspiration, and most of all, I wanted to be honest. I think I have done that. I’m not about to stop now, whether 500 people are reading, or only two. My life isn’t always pretty or fun, but I can promise you that it has been much, much more meaningful after the party ended. And let’s be honest- the party was over long before I ever found my way home.

 

Posted in Addiction, alcoholism, anxiety, Depression, health, inner peace, Life, Mental Health, misinformation, People, recovery, twelve step

Fear, Shame, & the Stigma of Addiction

stigma

Something I am really riled up about right now is the stigma and shame around drug addiction. SO MANY people do not understand what it really is, what it is really like, and how it feels when you are in the grips of it. They get upset that it is classified as a disease, and they say that it is a choice…which…I mean, even drug addicts themselves feel guilt and shame around this. Trust me, I was one of them. For a long time, I thought it really was my fault, and I didn’t understand why I couldn’t just quit, why I insisted on making my life so much harder than it had to be.

Well, news flash! It might start off as a choice- a BAD choice, obviously- but lots and lots of young people experiment with drugs. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that a really healthy chunk of the population has, at one time or another, tried drugs. Lets not forget that alcohol is prevalent almost everywhere, and it is one of the most highly addictive and destructive drugs that exist- why do you think AA started WAY back when? It wasn’t just a friendly, old-timey social club. Anyway, not everyone gets addicted. But for some of us, for whatever reason, our brains get a little hit of that euphoria, and from that moment on, we just want MORE. To our detriment. As our lives crumble, as our dreams wither up, as our families cry and beg for us to change. And we promise to try, we promise to pull it together, we want to get better, but…

It’s not a choice anymore. Something has us in a grip so massive that we can’t stop killing ourselves. So maybe it isn’t a disease the way that cancer is. I will give you that, if it hurts you to think of it that way. But what about OCD? Bipolar disorder, or other mental illnesses? Would you judge someone harshly for having something like that? Because to me, addiction is a mental illness (and usually not a stand-alone one, either) and it’s no more my fault than it would be if I had…say, an ulcer. Or maybe diabetes that I controlled with my diet and lifestyle. Other people might do the same things that I did, and be okay. But some people aren’t, because something inside of them is different.

Sure, now that I know better and I have it under control, I can manage it by avoiding the things that would make me sick again, and by taking my “medicine” (meetings, therapy, watching what I eat and how I behave and paying attention to my thoughts and feelings). Just the way someone with diabetes has to monitor their diet and their glucose and all of that. I know that if I don’t do those things, I am putting myself in danger of a relapse. I am now responsible for my continuing health. But I was not responsible for the way my particular body reacted to the substances I foolishly tried.

Here’s the thing, though: People get sick and they aren’t afraid to go to the doctor and ask for help. They are not judged by their doctor when they show up sick. They don’t generally fear repercussions from their employer if they are ill. But do you know how many people walk around every single day, desperate for help with their substance abuse problems, but terrified to reach out because of what might happen to their lives? Not all addicts are the people you see on the streets, acting crazy. It isn’t always that obvious. Many of us are high functioning professionals with a LOT to lose. And asking for help is terrifying.

I stayed sick for a really long time because I was afraid to tell the truth, afraid of what would happen to me, and to my family. I was lucky.  I got the help I needed and I got to keep my job, I got to tell the truth to my boss, and she was compassionate and concerned. That is not everyone’s story.

But I really think it should be. We don’t throw people away like garbage because they aren’t working correctly. You don’t KNOW…you don’t know what kind of beautiful human being is there, underneath that illness. The addicts I have known in my lifetime, and there have been LOTS of them, are not garbage. Not even when they were using. Even the worst people I have known had redeeming qualities, and intelligence, and loyalty, and very, very few of them did not dream of getting better. I can’t think of one person out of hundreds that didn’t want to lead a better life.

We should be able to ask for help when we need it. When someone asks for help, we should help them. When someone is sick, even if it makes us uncomfortable and afraid, we should help them find their way to help. Addiction is stealing the lives of our friends, our family members, and our children, many times over, every day. Addiction is destroying the lives of not only the addict, but the addicts parents, and the addicts children. It is a disease of loneliness and disconnection. It might help a lot to end the stigma and remove the shame. It’s a terrible life to be stuck in. When someone is reaching out, we have to reach out, too.

And that’s what I am thinking about this morning.

1-800-662-HELP is the number for SAMHSA, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Call someone if you need help, or even if you just want to know how to help someone you love.

Posted in Addiction, alcoholism, anxiety, family, Life, recovery, twelve step

Things I Forgot to Remember

Death has been an unrelenting presence in my life over the past year, which is very, very unusual for me. Beginning with the loss of my beloved friend Joe in August of last year, then his dear friend Che, just a few weeks ago- Che, who spent countless hours on the phone with me after Joe’s death, listening to all of the stories I have to tell about Joe, that I suddenly needed to re-tell to someone who knew him… and sharing his own with me. Then, in the late hours of July 5th, or perhaps the very early hours of July 6th- we don’t know for sure yet, but oddly enough, every member of our family found themselves awake at 3:30 in the morning on July 6th- my darling uncle, Louis Earl Fulton, passed away. His life was not an easy one. One day, I will tell his story properly, but I want to do it right, and I want to have all of the facts straight first, though I will tell you this- due to an accident with a drunk driver when he was just starting out into adulthood, his lot in life was hard. He suffered, for the bulk of his years on earth, with a busted up body and what I would guess as being trouble from a traumatic head injury. Over the past several years, his health seriously deteriorated, and he had many falls, broken bones, and other injuries. He suffered from seizures, and I think he even had a stroke recently, but honestly, there was so much going on that I would have to ask my mom to be sure. The fact is, he wasn’t doing well. So you would think that his death would be less of a surprise, and maybe in some ways it wasn’t shocking, but…when someone just dies at home, and they haven’t been in the hospital or particularly sicker than usual, it really is a shock.

This blog is not going to be about him, because like I said, I would rather honor him by writing his story correctly, and I can’t do that without getting some help from my mom-she was alive when his accident happened, and I was not yet. I will tell you this- his given name was Louis Earl, but I haven’t heard anyone call him that since my grandmother was alive. His nickname (one of them) was Fizzle, because he was born on the 5th of July (get it? He fizzled out! My grandfather had a strange sense of humor) and, coincidentally, he died, near as we can tell, on the exact same day, many years later. There will never be anyone like him- there will never be anyone like any of the people I have lost this past year- and nothing I know brings a person into sharper focus than their death. And nothing slaps you out of your own miserable funk like the loss of a life that belonged to someone precious to you.

For the past month, or maybe even longer than that, I have been struggling like crazy with myself…upset about things like: hating my job because it is boring, hating myself (low-key) because I am not perfect, wishing I had better friendships, wondering why I am still single, wishing I could connect in a more meaningful way with my youngest daughter, and…this is the one I didn’t even want to write about or admit out loud to anyone who could talk some sense into me…wanting to quit being in recovery. I wanted to quit. I wanted to start drinking again, and I was really, really close to throwing the towel in. Closer than anyone but me knows. I felt like I was missing out on something. That my life wasn’t fun enough because I couldn’t go out and have a drink. That maybe it would be easier for me to deal with men if I could just relax a little bit, like everyone else does.

My uncle died on the day that my daughter was going out of town with her father for the first time in over a year- so I was already incredibly anxious without the addition of a death in the family. I took the rest of Friday off, and I cried and cried and cried. I cried so much that by the time I went to bed, my head was pounding. I woke up on Saturday morning with eyes that looked like they had been bitten by mosquitoes, or injected with saline. But I had made plans with a girlfriend earlier in the week to go hiking and hit a morning meeting, and she is notoriously hard to pin down, so there was no way I was cancelling. I pulled myself together, worried that I would be too somber to be any fun, but I went anyway. I needn’t have worried. We had a nice hike, and plenty to discuss, and it was just what I needed. We almost didn’t go into the meeting afterwards, but we did, and again, it was perfect. I came home afterwards, ate a massive amount of food, and fell asleep the way you can only when you are grieving and exhausted- face down on the mattress for four solid hours. When I woke up (which took a good hour of just sitting, staring into space) I knew instinctively that being still would be a bad idea, so I grabbed my dog and went for a long walk on the beach. That night, I went to another meeting.

Over the course of my 48 hour weekend, I managed to hit four meetings, hang out with two good friends (one of them twice), go to the beach two different times, and take two solid naps. I did something I had never done before in the course of my recovery- I doubled down on what was good for me, and sidestepped an almost inevitable relapse. I was reminded that both life and recovery require my active participation in order to work the way that I need them to. I can’t just sit here and cry about what isn’t working- or, I can, but it isn’t going to do me any good at all.

I’m sorry if this is sort of all over the place- I don’t feel like I am explaining myself well at all, but there is so much to what I am feeling, and it’s all jumbled up. The bottom line is, my uncle’s death helped me to remember what I had forgotten- that life is so precious, that while I am here, I need to rejoice in the gifts that I have been given, and they are many- my health, my beautiful children, my job which provides so well for me, and my recovery which is the only reason I have all of the other things. I will not dishonor myself or my wonderful life by giving up on that. I have all of the ingredients, but it is up to me to make something worthwhile out of them. Today, I will choose to do just that.

Posted in Addiction, alcoholism, anxiety, escape, Life, random, recovery, twelve step

Slip Slidin’ Away

slippery slope

Sometimes, I forget who I am. I get a little too relaxed. I walk around my home without seeing how incredibly blessed I am to get to live here, in a house I can afford, where my daughter has her own room, and I get to have my dog, and I have a big old yard, and TWO bathrooms. I just get caught up in living my life without seeing how amazing it is. Same thing goes for my career- I can be whiny about my job, I get lazy sometimes, completely oblivious to the fact that the rash decision I made 13 years ago to go to night school, the credentials I gained, and the amazing opportunity I was handed when I was hired at the hospital where I still work today, changed my life. Completely transformed it. I’m not saying this is unusual- no one walks around in a state of constant gratitude. At least, no one I know.

But one thing I would do well to remember is the reason I get to keep the wonderful life that I have. The one thing that would save me, should the house go away, or the job wasn’t mine anymore. That thing is my recovery, and I haven’t been doing much for it lately. I really need to remind myself that if I didn’t have all these days in a row of not just being clean, but being clean and working on the person I am, working towards steadily getting better than I was before, I wouldn’t be sitting here, writing this right now.

Life can and will keep changing right before your eyes, and it is easy to get swept up in this thing or that thing, and let your focus change. I think that during those times, it’s pretty normal to stray from the path and wander off, but…do I think it’s a good idea? Nope. I think, in reality, when you feel yourself getting off track, you need to double down on the things that anchor you. I do, that’s what I need to do. I should be specific here, I am talking about me, about my life right now. I need to be closer than ever to my program of recovery, not just saying the words, but actively.

Listen, I am not in any imminent danger, but…my thoughts have been a little squirrely lately. Which, of course, is how it always begins- right in your head. I have been wishing for something to take the edge off, or blur the edges at least, just a little bit. I want something that will make me less…less worried about how ME I am all the time. Because I am messy and nervous and insecure, I think way too much, and take things pretty seriously, believe it or not. And my brain has been telling me stories about how much more fun I could be, how easy it would be, the exact way that I could lay all this heavy shit down and just fucking relax already.

Thankfully, I know my brain to be a liar. I know my brain, sensing discomfort, will do just about anything to make that feeling go away. I mean, my brain has been lying to me for yeeeaaars. So I don’t have to listen to any of it. I know there are no shortcuts in recovery, and there are certainly no days off. Not even when you could really use a drink or two. As a matter of fact, all these years that I have put in? This is sort of what I’ve been training for- the day when I really longed for an escape, or an easier way. This is the test I’ve been studying for this whole time. I’m not about to fail, not now.

I made a choice, I made a commitment, a long time ago, knowing there would be times in the future that it would be hard to keep that commitment. There have been these times in the past, and I kept at it, and I wasn’t sorry. There are always two paths, and I know where one of them leads me- I’ve been down it about as far as a person can go and live to tell the tale. The other one, well…the other one I don’t know as well. But I have a feeling that the woman I want to be is somewhere along it. So I think I will stay on that path. I think that is the wise thing to do.

slippery

Posted in Addiction, anxiety, faith, inner peace, Learning, Life, Mental Health, recovery, spirituality, twelve step

In The Middle

the middle
Photo courtesy of Google and Simplereminders.com

In April of 2015, I unwittingly started out on a journey. I thought that I was just getting clean- that I would stop using drugs, get right in the head, and live happily ever after. I could foresee nothing but sunshine and better days ahead of me, and I blindly forged ahead, completely unprepared for what I was getting myself into.

Don’t get me wrong, I am 100% sure that I am right where I am supposed to be, and that I have never done more important work than the work I am doing on myself today. But I am right in the middle of it right now, and it is hard. I am tired. I have peeled away so many layers that I spent years and years building up, all to protect this fucked up little heart of mine, and now I feel…over it. I want to retreat. I don’t want to use, never that, but I just want to go back. I want to go back to being oblivious and unaware of myself, back to just living my life and not thinking so hard about who I am, why I am the way I am, who I want to be.

I had no idea what a mess I really am. None. I didn’t know I was insecure, I didn’t know I didn’t love myself, I didn’t realize I was constantly seeking outside approval to feel validated. I didn’t know how much of my self worth was wrapped up in my appearance, I didn’t know that I had no idea how to exist in a healthy relationship, and I didn’t know that I was so terrified of being vulnerable that I had essentially cut myself off from everyone who tried to get or stay close to me. I thought I was a really awesome girl who just had a drug problem.

So this is the hard part. Now I know all of those things, but I haven’t figured out how to fix them just yet. I have to sit here, with all of this painful knowledge, and I haven’t learned yet how to heal, how to repair it. My suspicion is that it is a process, and that it will take time to get to a place where I can feel okay again, and this is the worst news possible for someone who loves instant gratification as much as I do. When something is uncomfortable for me, I will go to great lengths to feel better again- which might be why I poured drugs into my system for such a long time. I didn’t know it was a band-aid over a gaping wound. I didn’t even know I was doing it to hide a problem. I thought the drugs WERE the problem, and that the problem just happened to make me feel really good. For a minute, anyway.

I have heard people talk about the agony of waking up to the truth, and I thought they were being dramatic. I thought the truth they were talking about was something else- the way the world around us is, or something…else. But waking up to who you are, who you REALLY are, is terrifying. I mean, unless you somehow managed to make it through life without hiding parts of yourself away and losing other parts, and realizing you missed some pretty important bits of information. If that is who you are, this blog probably won’t make a lot of sense to you. And I realize that not everyone has to tear themselves down to the dirt and start over. But I had to. And right now I feel pretty raw, pretty exposed.

So, here I sit. Tired of feeling all of these feelings, but pretty sure I have to do it. Coming to terms with the fact that the only way forward is through. Trying hard to have faith that I am on the right path, even though it is scaring the shit out of me presently. I can’t un-see what I have seen in myself. I can’t ever go back, so I have two choices- I can stay right here, or I can press on. And the thing is, right here is not sustainable. Have you ever lost a filling in a tooth? You know how it feels when that nerve is exposed to everything, even air? Yeah, it hurts. It hurts so much that you get over your fear of the dentist pretty quick, and figure out a way to get that cavity fixed. Well, that’s a great analogy for my life right now. I dug out that bad filling, and even though I needed it gone, it was making me sick, right now it is painful. I just want to fix it the right way this time.

I am not without hope. I have the benefit of my recovery program, I have a few people who really love me and understand, I have a sponsor who guides me when I let her, and most importantly, I have myself, willing to do the work to get better. No, most importantly, I have unshakable faith that God, or The Universe, or a spectacular combination of all of these benevolent forces, has brought me here for a reason. That there is no way for me to fail at this, but I must be patient. I must be willing to sit here, in this uncomfortable, painful place until I have learned what I need to know. And then, I can begin to put myself back together again…or maybe that is what I am doing. Maybe that’s what all this really is.

 

Posted in Addiction, advice, alcoholism, Goals, Life, People, twelve step

The Next Right Thing.

next right thing

When I was still in active addiction, my choices in life were pretty limited. As a matter of fact, I came to the conclusion at one point that being an addict is like having a real handicap- you just cannot live a normal life at all. Simple things, like going to the grocery store, are a major life event- there’s a fine balance between being way too high and not high enough, and lets face facts, I was terrible at finding that balance. Of course, it’s all just a bunch of lies that your fiendish mind is feeding you, 24/7, but when you are in it, it seems very, very real. So, if going to the store is a big deal, things like going out to dinner with your family or flying somewhere on a trip out of town are just off the table, pretty much. I mean, unless your drug of choice happens to be alcohol, because that shit is EVERYWHERE. I’m sure that comes with its own set of challenges though- I can only imagine the bargaining and idea of moderating that must go on for alcoholics who are still using. I’ve often said I have a deep respect for alcoholics who can stay sober- I don’t know how in the world I’d stay clean if amphetamines were sold at every 7-11 and Safeway I frequented. As usual, though, I digress. My point is, life is very limited for the addict in active addiction. “Well, what about the choice to just not use?” You might ask. And to that I say- “Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha! You don’t get it, do you?”

Not using is less of a choice and more of an event in the life of an addict. It is something we dream about, we begin to think about constantly, it’s a promise we make to ourselves, and it usually goes something like this- “Tomorrow, I am going to stop.” “After this last _____ I am definitely done.” Or, “Just one more, just one more, just one more.” It can seem hopeless, and the more hopeless it seems, the more we obsess over it. For me, personally, I knew that I needed help on many occasions, but I was so scared to ask for the help I needed. I was afraid of losing my daughter. I was afraid of what people would think of me. And later on, when I was well established in my career, I was terrified of losing my job. There is a huge stigma attached to addiction, and this can make it nearly impossible for an addict to reach out for the help they desperately need. I know it did for me. What finally pushed me into getting help the last time was the realization that I better beat “them” (them being HR/ the police/ any and all government agencies that my paranoid brain was living in fear of) to the punch line- if I asked for help FIRST, I was safe, right? Well…actually, kind of, yeah. My addled mind got it sort of right. Had my job intervened on my behalf and sent me in for a friendly pee test, I would probably be writing this from the backseat of the car I live in. Luckily for me, I took some initiative, and despite my overwhelming fear, I faced up to the fact that I couldn’t do it on my own, and checked myself into treatment.

So, what happens when the dust settles, and you find yourself living an entirely different kind of life without drugs? Well, for me, the first two-plus years I spent still dealing with my behavior- the very thing, the impetus really, that drove me to be desperate for help in the first place. I hated myself. I thought if only I could be done with the drugs, I would be back to my “normal” self, and life would be good. Unfortunately, I didn’t account for two things: One, that my brain was truly fucked up- those years of assault with heavy drug use had made a mess of me, and my emotions and thinking were distorted and volatile. Two, I had been using for so long that there was no “normal” me. From the time I smoked my first joint at 13, until the last narcotic entered my bloodstream at 39, with very small stretches of abstinence interspersed throughout, I had missed out on everything. I had no idea how to live like an adult, act like an adult, or even how I was supposed to cope with an adult life.

I spent a good chunk of time just climbing out of the rubble pit of my own mind. Once the residual drama and conflict and chaos of active addiction started to fade, I found myself with So. Many. Choices. Oh my God, you guys, the options I have today! I am not exaggerating when I say that I can do pretty much anything I want to do, within reason, if I so choose. The choices are so varied that it can be downright…paralyzing, if I’m being honest. Where do I want to go? What do I want to do? What kind of person do I want to be? What kind of parent? I basically bulldozed my life and started it over, from the foundation up. It is both incredibly liberating, and terrifying. I don’t generally know what the hell I am doing, and yet I recognize that it is imperative that I make the decisions for myself. I can ask for help and advice from trusted friends and family, but ultimately, I must choose the life that works best for me. And that is so scary, because I could mess up. I could RUIN EVERYTHING. Just look at where I came from! I have no business running ANYTHING.

Yesterday, I had an epiphany. I don’t have to worry about the bigger picture all the time. I just need to have a general idea of where I’d like to be, and in the meantime, in my daily life, here is what I need to do: Act With Love. Choose kindness over impatience, whenever possible. Even in traffic, when half the population of this town appears to be driving with their heads up their asses. Practice the Golden Rule- treat others the way you want to be treated. Will they reciprocate always? Of course not, but I’ll try to do it anyway. It feels good. In NA and AA they often use the saying (among billions of others, trust me) “Do the next right thing” and this is what I am choosing to do- I may not be able to see what lies down the road ahead, but I can figure out the next right thing. I can do that. And yes, I have larger goals and bigger dreams, but…in the day to day struggle just to like myself and feel good about who I am becoming, I think acting with love is a really good place to start from.

**But don’t take my word for it, because I have almost no idea what the hell I am talking about, most of the time. LOL. **