Well, I’m not really on my way- not quite yet, anyway. This time tomorrow morning, I will already be at the airport with Cam, at our gate, waiting to board our flight. But you and I both know our vacations start well before we ever walk out the door of our homes. My brain has been in vacation mode all week, work nothing more than a bothersome distraction.
Does this mean I’ve been busy packing and preparing? Well…no. Just by virtue of the fact that I know I need to do a bunch of stuff, I have felt less inclined to do any of it. I have gotten all of our laundry done. I finally started packing our suitcases last night. I have dishes to do and one last Target run to pick up the final items I absolutely have to have with me for this trip- like those little tubes of freeze dried Starbucks instant coffee? Those are 100% necessary when staying in a hotel with questionable coffee availability and family who do not wake up anywhere near as early as you do. So, I need those. I need at least one new phone charger as all of mine seem to have stopped working this week. I really need a new fitbit band, but I’m hoping this one will hold up at least until I get where I am going. But I might see if they have one at Target, I don’t know.
Anyway you crack it, I will be somewhere in San Francisco tonight, sleeping in the first of a series of unfamiliar beds, and the adventure will begin.
This morning, I sat on my cushion for my normal prayer and meditation, and I set my intention for this day and this trip. Gratitude that this is my life now- I am a person who can plan a trek across the country and follow through. I can have confidence in myself, for I am capable, smart, and strong. I will be patient, with myself and others, knowing we are all doing the best we can at any given moment. And I will enjoy myself, basking in the love I have for my family, and that they have for me, as we embark on this adventure together.
Am I nervous? I would not be me if I weren’t, but…I trust that all will be well. So, Bon Voyage, my friends! I’ll catch up with you all when I am in Maine- I’m sure I’ll have plenty of time to write while I wait for everyone else to wake up!
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. 🙂
Two thoughts have made their way into my head lately, and they are having a kind of profound effect on me. I don’t even remember where they came from, whether I read them somewhere or they just occurred to me on their own, but I can’t seem to shake them. The first one, I’m pretty sure I read it in a blog somewhere, and essentially it is “How will people feel about you long after you are gone?” Like, what is your emotional legacy, the emotional “fingerprint” you leave on the people you love and care for? The second one, which goes hand in hand with that is really random, but…it popped into my head yesterday, and I keep going back to it, and here it is- no one really knows whether they have more of their life ahead of them than behind. Well, I guess some people do- for instance, if you are 93, you can can be pretty sure you have more of your life behind you than ahead. But for average, healthy people, the point is, you don’t really ever truly know when it’s your time, or how much more time you have.
I am not particularly afraid of dying, and that’s not really what this is about, but for me, dying is not something I get too worked up about. I am not religious, but I have a lot of faith, and some pretty comforting beliefs. What I do worry about is dying before I am ready, before my children are grown enough, and before I’ve had time to become the person I want to be remembered as. And that’s where things get troubling for me, that last part- being the person I want to be remembered as- because…well, what in the world is stopping me from being that right now? If I really don’t know (and hardly anybody does) when this whole life of mine is going to end, then why am I not just being the person I want to be right now? Because it doesn’t cost money, and there doesn’t need to be a different set of circumstances for that to happen. It’s not about any of that at all.
What it is about, and what I’m learning that everything is really about, is my own behavior, my own attitude, and my own willingness to engage in my own life and the life of the people I care about, on a deeper level. How hard is it, really, to respond more lovingly? To have a bit more patience, to answer with a nicer tone, to treat someone a little more kindly? Well, when your deeply ingrained habit is to be terse, irritated, impatient and sarcastic, it can be pretty challenging, I can vouch for that. But challenging is not the same as impossible. Do I want my children, friends, and family to look back on all their memories of me and laugh about how difficult I was? Well, I mean, that ship has kind of sailed if I die tomorrow, but…it’s not too late to temper that with better things. It’s never too late to get better. I should know! I’ve been slowly improving all the time in these past few years.
But there is always more that you can do. If you are lucky enough to live to be 100, there will always be another thing to work on, another thing you can improve. It never ends. I have been actively trying to spend more time with the people who matter to me, in ways that THEY enjoy, and as a bonus, I try not to whine about it the entire time. What I am finding out is that I can enjoy myself quite a bit when I stop listing all the reasons why everything is stupid and sucks, even if I’m only doing it internally- so if you do that, just stop it. Just relax, just go with the flow, just see what happens. Because guess what? No one ever died from doing something they find mildly unpleasant, and when you keep an open mind, you might even (gasp!) start enjoying yourself.
Recently, I cleaned off the catch-all surface of my kitchen table, and started insisting that Cam and I sit down at it at least a few nights a week to eat a meal together. At first, she was confused and upset by this-“But WHY?! And why does the TV have to be off, I’ll be BORED!”- but now that we have done it a few times, I think she kind of likes it. It’s just the two of us, sitting face to face, eating dinner and having no choice but to talk to each other about…whatever. Sadly, at first, it was a little awkward- I mean, the first five minutes, but still, it seemed longer to me. All I could think to ask was “So, how was school today?” A question that all kids in every part of the world just relish being asked, you know. But really quickly, we forgot that this was different for us, and we just started being our normal selves, and now we both really enjoy it. It was important to me to do this thing with her, this normal, family thing, and now we are doing it, and it is nice. Little changes, big rewards. This is something that she will remember.
Every morning, before she wakes up, and every day before I pick her up from school, I have a little talk with myself. I remind myself to be patient, kind, and loving, and to treat her in a way that will make her feel happy and loved. I know this sounds like a no-brainer, but for me, someone who’s natural state is a little more snappy and self-absorbed, this is important, and it helps. Last night, I was craving a dark chocolate pecan turtle, and I asked her if she wanted to go down to Fisherman’s Wharf and visit the candy store and maybe take a walk around after dinner. Of course, she was into it, so after we sat together and had dinner, we did just that. It was a chilly, overcast day, but we got our candy, and we wandered around in the shops, and then we took a little walk down the bike path and watched the otters play and the seals zip around in the harbor. We took lots of rests, because she is not much of a walker, but it was okay, we didn’t have anywhere we needed to be. And on the long walk back to the car, she held my hand and gave me a million hugs, and told me what a fun time she was having. It wasn’t a big night I had planned- it was just a dumb thing I thought of last minute, a tiny outing. But it was a happy moment, and we were happy in it together. These are the things I want more of in my life. This is the way I want to be remembered.
I am having the hardest time ever with this post right now. This is the third blog I have started, and I am determined to finish this one, no matter how much I may hate it. Here’s the thing: I am having a shit time right now, for a number of reasons. None of them are big things, but a bunch of little things strung together, causing me stress and a general feeling of unease. I don’t feel comfortable with my life or in my body right now, and it’s bumming me out.
Here’s the thing, though. I understand that this is temporary, just like everything always is. My face has erupted like Mount Vesuvius, but…it is going to go back to normal. Eventually. I had a bunch of unexpected expenses come up all at once, but…they are going to be dealt with. Financial ruin is unlikely. I haven’t had time this week to buy groceries or get to the gym, and it sucks, but I will get back on track. It’s not the end of the world.
In my addict mind (and maybe in normal minds, too, I have no experience with living in one of those) everything is extremely black and white, all or nothing. Every time I get off track, I feel like I have failed utterly, and there will be no coming back for me. Which is ridiculous- I have millions of examples in my own life where that has not ever, not once, been the case. And yet, I persist with this wrong thinking. My mind often works against me, and it can be exhausting.
The solution? I believe it must be to just acknowledge that my wrong thoughts exist, be aware of that, and then work around them. Sometimes, I can think myself right into a corner, wedged so tightly that I can’t even move. Like, moving a muscle seems impossible, seriously. That is when I need to find the strength to haul my ass up anyway, and get some shit done. If I let myself sit in my mess for too long, that is when depression comes calling. And if you’ve ever dealt with depression, you know how hard that can be to get out of, and how scary it feels when it’s breathing down your neck. Inaction is not my friend in this situation.
I keep thinking about how, four days ago, I wrote a post about laughter, and how weird it may seem to any attentive readers that I am now writing about something quite the opposite of that. Maybe you will think I am nuts…hell, maybe I am. But here’s the thing- life doesn’t care how great I felt last week. Life just shows up, and does what it does. What I have learned in recovery is that I am supposed to be living life on life’s terms, meaning I deal with what life serves up, to the best of my ability, without taking anything to change the way I feel. This is harder than it sounds sometimes. Not the part where I don’t take anything, I’ve grown used to that. It’s the part where I cope with it well that eludes me sometimes.
I get nervous. I get scared. I feel like a lot of people depend on me, and I don’t know if I am up to the task. I retreat. I close up. I shut down.
But I always, always, always (so far) pull it together in the end. I always find a way to come out the other side of my feelings intact. I have a 100% success rate so far of not destroying my life completely, as long as I stay clean. I may not be feeling my best today, but tomorrow…who knows? Hell, later today I might feel better. You just never know. My job is just to hang in there, do my best, and wait for things to change. Because they always do, for better or worse.
I am not proud of this. In fact, it is a truth that has plagued my life for such a long time, I am pretty sick of it. I have written about it before, but I always wrote about what it WAS like for me, in the past. Today, I want to talk about what it has been like for me, presently.
I am clean now, but the past few years have been a roller coaster ride of relapse, recovery, the highs of beating down my affliction once again, and the lows of allowing myself to get caught up, yet again. In Narcotics Anonymous, and more and more in the medical world, they consider addiction a disease. This has been a struggle for me to accept completely because I know wholeheartedly that there is an element of free will involved. At least, at first there is. After a while, saying no and stopping is much more difficult, but still possible. So the conclusion I have come to is that it is a disease of the spirit, because that is what addiction seems to paralyze- your essential spirit, the great stuff that makes YOU who YOU are.
When I am using, I do not write on this blog. So you can probably go back and, just by seeing when I was writing and when I was not, get a pretty fair idea of how often I have been clean. Now, don’t freak out- I also sometimes stop writing just because I am busy or I have gotten out of the habit of it, so it’s a FAIR representation, not exact. I have struggled with the idea of writing this particular topic for a while, but I want, more than anything, to tell the truth (because it is liberating) and to let other people know, maybe, that they are not alone, or that what their family members go through, perhaps, is not as easy as you think it ought to be. If you are a non-addicted person looking at an addict that you love, you may wonder why the hell they don’t just knock it off. Well, they don’t know either, but I can promise you, their lives are a kind of hell you do not know, you cannot see from where you sit. What goes on inside of a person in the midst of their addiction is a suffering that reaches every place. The thing is, only that person can make the decision to pull themselves out. And what I have learned is that sometimes, that is a decision you have to make again and again. If we knew why, the puzzle would be solved, wouldn’t it? Then we could tell the world, swallow a pill or whatever and be cured. It doesn’t work that way.
When I am using, I won’t talk to my mom. If my friends ask me if I am getting high again, I lie. I don’t want to lie, but I don’t want to tell the truth either. When I am using, I live in fear every day of losing my job, my kids, my mind. I have come precariously close to losing my job and my mind, not so much my kids (Thank GOD.). BUT…when I am using, I am not a good mother. Even when I do every single thing the exact same way that I would do any other time, there is a disconnect there, and a sharpness about me that takes away the softness that being a mommy brings.
I am clean now. I have been for a while, but as I said, it has been hard to hold onto. In my mind, I made it a lot harder to get to than it needed to be. So if you are in the midst of that hell right now, I encourage you to push yourself a little to get out of the mess you are in. If you can survive weeks, months, years of misery with drugs, surely three or four miserable days, or weeks, without them, knowing there will be the reward of your life back at the end, is doable, right?
And if you are not someone who has never been through this- or even more so, if you are someone who HAS, and who has become intolerant because you have forgotten the reality of what that pain is like, I would just ask that you practice patience and tolerance. This is not an easy road, and most of us would not have taken it, had we known. We would have gotten off if we’d known how.
This was not easy for me to write, and it won’t be easy to post. So please…just be kind. Thanks.