Challenge

I have torn my labrum, along with a slight tear in my rotator cuff, in my left shoulder. I have no idea when it happened, as I exercise regularly and do a lot of heavy lifting on my own. It let me know last Tuesday night at 2:30am that something BAD had happened in my left shoulder. I woke up with excruciating pain, and I could not raise my left arm above waist level. Having had two rotator cuff operations on the right shoulder, I knew from the pain, it was something bad. I also knew that I was heading into dangerous territory.

It was the first two back to back shoulder surgeries that led to my addiction to opiates. The first surgery was not done right, after, I was still in immense pain every time I moved my right arm. Physical therapy put me in agony. Each time I went back to the surgeon, he wrote me another prescription for Vicodin. I was taking them daily for close to two years before I had the corrective surgery. The next surgeon was equally as giving with the pain medication. This was 10 years ago , prior to the opiate epidemic we are facing today, but it was enough to get me hooked. There was nothing more relaxing than a pill and a bottle of wine. This combination numbed the world away, brought it all to a manageable blur.

The morning following the sleepless night of pain, my husband, the retired doctor, and I went to the E.R. Ex-rays were taken, pain pills were given, along with a prescription for 24 additional, and we were off to the orthopedic doctor who had fixed my right shoulder. He gave me a steroid shot, and set up the MRI, which gave me the results of the tear.

This all did my head in. I was closing in on six months of sobriety from the opiates, and here they are front and center in my life again. Part of my long term recovery plan for the last 3 1/2 years since I quit alcohol, was running and exercise. Now I was sidelined with one of my worst enemies sitting in a little yellow bottle on my night table.

I know my limitations, and I desperately do not want to go down this ugly road again, so I handed the bottle to my husband, the retired doctor, and asked him to manage them for me. To only give me one at the end of the day if I asked.

On day three, when I returned from an AA meeting, I asked husband for a pill. I had worked all day using the arm, which of course one uses their arm, it is an ARM. I was in pain. Husband had been drinking, and when I asked for a pill, he came out and HANDED ME THE WHOLE BOTTLE!! His comment was, here, you manage this.

It felt like someone had gut punched me. I was devastatingly hurt, as well as completely flabbergasted that he could be so cavalier, unsympathetic and show no empathy.  I felt like I was living with a stranger.

He has been with me through this struggle for the last 4 years. He knows I have stolen his pills whenever they have been around. He knows I have gone to Maine, to help my father, and have stolen all of his left over pain medicine. He knows I am an addict, yet here he was, handing me my drug. I just couldn’t understand in, nor believe it.

I called my girlfriend and asked her if I could drop the bottle off with her. She was leaving for the weekend, so I kept 3 for the days she would be gone, and I got them out of my house.

When I handed them to her, I told her I would not need them again. I had given myself the deadline of Monday to figure out how to deal with the pain without taking the pills. I did end up needing the three I had set aside, but it has been Tylenol since Monday.

I am still gutted by my husband, the doctor’s, actions. I am so angry, and hurt, I have yet to address it with him. I don’t understand how he doesn’t understand.

 

 

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Rigorous Honesty and a Day Count Reset ☹️

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I have finally owned up to the fact that I can no longer say that I have 1213 days of sobriety.  This has been a tough one for me.  Since I quit drinking on 11/30/13, I have taken opiates four times, an addiction I don’t readily own up to. I took them for the same reasons I used to drink, to not feel something that was painful.  It is the same behavior as drinking to mask my feelings,  I took the pills to make something less of a THING. To make it go away, however briefly.

I have gone back to AA and am giving it 100 percent effort this time around. When I first got sober, I did it online for the first three months, white knuckling it with the WordPress sober community.  I then decided to try an AA meeting. I found one where no one asked anything of me. No coffee making, no greeting, no commitment. Also no offers of sponsorship, nor did I asks. I just went one night a week, sat in a chair, said nothing, then went home. Just going through the motions.

I had a sponsor, but she lived in a different state, so we weren’t connected geographically, and were unable to attend meetings together. We weren’t able to get together in person and discuss my new sobriety the way I can with my new sponsor.

My current sponsor is tough, she expects a daily telephone call, and she expects me to show up at meetings, regularly. No half assing it this time.  I have been doing that, because there has been a hole in my sobriety. Without the meetings, I was back to white knuckling it, and just going through the motions. I wasn’t drinking, but if given the chance or the opportunity, I would happily gulp down a pain pill.

What I have found by attending meetings for the last three months is that  I was missing was the rigorous honesty. When you don’t have to be accountable for your behavior, you give yourself a pass and rationalize away anything.  And I have. I have done that four times when I have chosen to take opiates.

I have attended a lot of meetings in the last few months. I have been listening, and I have heard people tell on themselves repeatedly. I kept hearing the phrase rigorous honesty. It has stirred something deep in me, I have not been honest with myself, or within the program, and now it was time to own up to it.

In my mind I had kept my two addictions in separate places, never admitting the pills were as bad as the alcohol. I was sober because I didn’t drink. I kept up my day count. Nothing was going to stop my streak. Somehow, I discounted the pills, they weren’t my REAL addiction, so I kept going after each pill relapse as though nothing happened.

Except this time it was different, I had a new sponsor, I had to tell on self. That is what we do. When I first asked her if I should reset my day count, she said she felt that I was a bit too fragile and new at the program to do that, and we could let it go. But I can’t. The more meetings I go to, the more I realize that I have to reset my sobriety date. As I have relapsed, not once, but four different times. The pills and the alcohol are the same, they are both an addiction and they belong in the same bucket.

This morning I told my sponsor that I felt I needed to reset the date. The continued talk of rigorous honesty was getting to me. I am not being honest, I am a liar. I have not been sober for 1213 days, I have been cheating.

It is time to own up to it. I don’t want to, in fact it makes me cringe and cry. I can’t even think about getting another 30 day, 60 day, 90 day chip, it just makes me so sad. I am told I will feel better once I admit this. It will be a weight off, it will be the beginning, again, this time with rigorous honesty.

 

 

 

Opiate Relapse, Story #2

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I relapsed with opiates was in December 2015.

Christmas Day of 2015, I received a call from my step-mother. My father was in ICU in Bangor, Maine with pneumonia, can I come please? The next morning, I caught the first ferry off the island, and headed to Maine. Along the way, I stopped at Logan Airport to pick up my brother who had gotten the same call, and had flown in from Saint Louis.

For most people, pneumonia is not a deadly disease. For my father it is. My father is a two time cancer survivor. In case you were ever in doubt, smoking does cause cancer. The cancer first started in his mouth, under his tongue. He had radiation, which killed all his salivary glands, and compromised his jaw bone. In later years, he lost a lot of his teeth. Two years later, the cancer was back, in his lungs. The doctor’s removed the top lobe of his left lung. They caught it early, so he didn’t need any further treatment, and has been cancer free for 20 plus years.

That being said, pneumonia is deadly for a person who has a compromised immune system and has diminished breathing capacity to start with. The doctors also could not identify the strain of pneumonia, so they had no idea how to treat him. My step mother thought he was going to die. Both my brother and I went to Maine.

My brother was also suffering. He had fallen off a ladder and had done something horrific to his neck. He was using the neck hanging traction apparatus, but was in a lot of pain.

When we arrived at my father’s home, my brother said he was in agony. He had taken the last Vicodin that the doctor had prescribed him. I said, “I know that Dad has some pain pills, he never takes them after an operation.” I strapped on my running shoes and made a bee line to their bathroom, lightning speed.

I took a couple of pills out of the bottle and handed them to my brother. I took the 3 bottles I found there, and stashed them in my room.

I was in Maine for a week,  most of the time alone. Spending time in the ICU, and spending a lot of time at my father’s house. I popped pills like a mad woman. Every night I would watch TV, have my seltzer, and take a few pain pills. Every morning I would wake up, feel like shit, and tell myself to flush them down the toilet. Yet, every night, I would repeat the previous evening’s cycle.

When it was time to head home, my true addict surfaced. I emptied the bottles and put the pills into a baggie, which I hid in a compartment in my bag. I threw the empty bottles into my handbag. As I headed south, I stopped for a coffee and bagel. Along the way, at a rest area, I took the empty bottles, put them in the bag of trash from the coffee shop and threw them in the trash can at a rest stop along I-95.

I was sneaky for sure. At the time, it all seemed perfectly normal, in hindsight, it looks like what it is, a drug addict, stealing drugs from family members.

After a few days at home, I came clean to my husband. I had flushed the remaining pills down the toilet, and had, once again, determined to get sober from opiates.

I made it a year and a month.Last week I relapsed. My problem was, I didn’t get help. I did what I always do, I stay sober through sheer determination. I am a competitive person, even with myself. This worked until last week.

In December, I had a realization that I can not power through my addictions by myself.I was struggling, mentally. No matter how many miles I ran to clear the noise from my head, it kept coming back. I needed help.I half- assed a few AA meetings in November. In December, I got serious, I got a sponsor, who I speak to every day. I am a work in progress. I am working on rigorous honesty, with myself and my sponsor, who had no idea how deep my opiate addiction was until last week.

This is the first time I have told on myself about this side of my addiction. This has been my dirty little secret that I have not acknowledged to anyone, and most importantly myself.

Now it is out there, it is with my sponsor, and it is with you. Rigorous honesty isn’t always pretty, this is down right ugly, and it has made me completely uncomfortable to share. I was just getting used to calling myself alcoholic, now I need to add addict.

 

 

 

 

 

 

ADDICTION KILLS

Leonard Nimoy, Dr. Spock from Star Trek, died yesterday from COPD; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.  Smoking tobacco is the most common cause of COPD.  Smoking is an awful addiction, just like alcohol.

Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of disease, disability, and death in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cigarette smoking results in more than 480,000 premature deaths in the United States each year—about 1 in every 5 U.S. deaths—and an additional 16 million people suffer with a serious illness caused by smoking. In fact, for every one person who dies from smoking, about 30 more suffer from at least one serious tobacco-related illness.

Leonard Nimoy took to social media after his diagnosis to let people know how bad smoking is.

Smokers, please understand. If you quit after you’re diagnosed with lung damage it’s too late. Grandpa says learn my lesson. Quit now. LLAP.

When I was addicted to cigarettes I ignored good medical advice. Addicts have lying ears. LLAP

Cigarettes don’t make anything better. Nicotine taken in any form is addictive. Look into mindful meditation instead. LLAP

Breaking the smoking habit is tough. Worth the struggle. Save the lungs. Living with COPD is no joke. LLAP

Nicotine is the hook. Smoke is the dagger. LLAP

My mother was diagnosed on October 2, 2013 with Stage IV lung cancer.  She also had chronic heart failure, emphysema, and COPD.  She was a smoker for 60 years.

Over the years my mother had a series of surgeries.  I was with her for intake processing for each one.  When the nurse would get to the question of smoking, my mother would get irritated, and answer in an unpleasant tone; “Yes, I smoke, but not much, three or four a day.”  This was a lie, a big one.  My mother smoked close to a pack a day for 60 years.

As with most addicts, my mother lied constantly about her smoking. I could hear her smoking when we talked on the telephone, I would question her, “Mom, are you having a cigarette?”, she would always say no.  My children and I lived with her briefly in 2007.  We walked in after school one day, and the place stunk like cigarette smoke.  I said, “Hey mom, were you smoking in here?”  Once again she denied it, even when I told her I could smell it, and the kids found her hidden stash of cigarettes.

She never smoked in front of me, but she would in front of my older brother.  He stayed with her two years ago, and told me her condominium smelled like a bar after closing time.  I guess she thought she could hide it from me, as though my brother and I didn’t talk.

When my daughter and I packed her and helped her move in 2013, everything was coated with cigarette smoke dust, especially the curtains.  It was awful.

She finally quit smoking when she moved to Virginia at the end of 2013.  It was too late. As she had never had any preventative testing because none of her doctors ever knew the full extent of her addiction, we had no idea how much damage had been done.  Not until the horrible day In October when we received the news of impending death.

I hid my sobriety from my mother for almost a year.  I glossed over it by saying that I had to get some blood work done, and was taking a break for a while.  Even when I stayed with her in August, she didn’t know I was attending an AA meeting every Saturday.  On Saturday mornings I would tell her I was going for a long run, I would run to the meeting, and run back, I was sweaty, so there were no questions asked.

In November, I went to visit her in her new assisted living apartment in Missouri.  It was the visit before I left for Florida for two months, I thought it might be the last time I saw her alive -it was- so I finally told her the whole truth.  Yes, I have quit drinking because my liver enzymes were elevated, but there is more to it then that, I have a problem. I drink too much, I consumed a huge bottle of wine every night.  I told her I was going to AA, I showed her my 3,6,8 and 9 month chips.  We had a long discussion about our family history of alcoholism, and how I had the bad luck of having genetic markers on both sides.  It felt good to finally tell her the whole truth.

As we discussed addiction, she shared with me that if someone walked in the door right at that moment and offered her a cigarette, she would want to smoke it, and probably would.  Even knowing that she had ravaged her body with the killing effects of cigarette smoke, she still felt the pull of that addiction, and the certainty of giving in to it.  I understood completely.

During one of our last telephone conversations, she told me that she was so proud of me for admitting I have a problem with alcohol and doing something about it.  She also mentioned that she had really cut back on her alcohol consumption as well.  I choose to believe that was not because she was so sick, but because she was making a conscious decision to make a change.

As my brother and I were undertaking the horrendous task of cleaning out her apartment, I asked him where her wine and bourbon were, she always had one she was working on and a spare.  It was very noticeable that there was none there.  He told me he had gone over very early that morning to remove it all, just in case the devastation of her death caused me to decide to pick up. I was overwhelmed with his thoughtfulness and thanked him for that.  He then shared with me that she really admired what I have done, and he felt that if she had lived a bit longer, she too would have quit drinking.  We will never know.

Cigarettes killed my mother on February 4, 2014.  If I had continued to drink, alcohol would have killed me.

Addiction is horrible, addiction kills.  I choose to live, no matter how hard sobriety is, it isn’t harder than no longer having a mother.