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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

2017 and percocet relapse

I was lying in bed last night, wishing I had a journal to write in. I have had journals, but I have stopped writing in them because my husband reads them. He reads them even though I have told him, “Hey, this is my journal, it is going to live here on my night table, please don’t read it.” I find this to be a huge invasion of my privacy, among many other things that I am not going to get into today, so I stopped journaling. I moved my current one to the car, which is not a convenient place to find time and put down thoughts. I would suspect writing in a journal while driving is up there in the don’t column along with texting while driving.

Being in recovery, I have discovered that NOT writing down my thoughts has not helped me process the thoughts, or get the thoughts out of my head and put them somewhere else so they no longer make such a racket. The noise keeps me up at night.

I remembered, in my early sobriety I used to blog. I never really enjoyed blogging, I always felt my writing wasn’t good enough, or I wasn’t being insightful, or I wasn’t posting frequently enough, so I shut my blog down. That was about 2 1/2 years ago. I was blogging for the wrong reasons. This blog will now be my journal, somewhere for those pesky, keep me awake at night thoughts to live. Somewhere that the husband won’t find them.

A lot has happened in 2 1/2 years. Of course it has, it has been 2 1/2 years. I am still sober, from alcohol. I have 1,179 days. I have been in AA, then quit AA, and now my road has brought me back to AA. (more on that another day)

I never disclosed in my prior blogs that I also am an opiate addict. I had a botched rotator cuff surgery, and my doctor’s answer to my complaints about getting worse instead of better, was a continuous supply of Vicodin prescriptions. I had the shoulder repaired again, and got more opiates. As time has gone on, there have been various injuries that have required prescriptions for opiates. I have never refused or disclosed my predilection for addiction.

I found that alcohol and opiates were the perfect combination to keep me numb. As long as I had my wine and a pill or two, I was happily high, and nothing bothered me. I could drink and drug and never have to bother with any of the myriad of bothersome, hurtful issues that life consists of.

I had a year of opiate sobriety until two days ago. I found my husbands percocets that he had gotten when he had kidney stones last year. I had previously requested that they be hidden, which they were, (which in itself is pathetic to me, but that is another post) but we are away, and they aren’t hidden well, so I found them.

Then life happened, which it has a habit of doing, so I took 2 percocets. Never one, always 2, 1/2 at a time, spread out over the evening. Naturally, the self loathing was there immediately the following morning.The sick feeling,and the abject sadness at having relapsed after having a year of sobriety with pills.

As I am sitting here, life is coming in fast and furious once again. Things are ramping up to a place where I have no control. Control is my thing, as I believe it is for every addict. I still know where the perocects are, so I am telling you. I am telling anyone who is reading this that I am thinking about taking a percocet to make these feelings go away.

I am also thinking about how shitty I will feel if I do that, so for this moment, I am not going to do it. I am going to finish this post, then go do fold some laundry, and get through the next moment, then the next, until this feeling passes.

And then when my husband gets home, I am going to tell him I found them, and to please hide them again. That is what I am going to do.

Not Drinking–The Superpower by Tommy Rosen

I haven’t had much to say lately, just living life on life’s terms and getting by one day at a time.

I saw this online today, and it really resonated with me.

I hope you all enjoy it.

A few years ago, my wife, Kia Miller, led a yoga retreat for about 30 people in Costa Rica. Six of us there were in recovery from addiction. Within a day, we kind of discovered each other, as we often do. It usually happens through certain telltale words and phrases that we have come to use as a result of our involvement in 12-Step recovery.

One night, we decided to have a meeting amongst ourselves and gathered around an out-of-the-way table. Another man in our group saw us together there and humbly asked if he could sit in. He had never been to a 12-Step meeting, but wanted to experience it. We were grateful to have him join.

One by one we briefly shared about our journey in recovery to this point. The shares were honest and powerful. There was a feeling of true connection. We were at once completely different from one another, yet so much the same.

The newcomer shared last and by this point he had heard a lot more than I think he was ready for. Hesitantly and with an apologetic demeanor, he stated that he drank regularly and had no intention of stopping. He explained further that he drank pretty much every evening. Sometimes he would get good and drunk. Other times just a little bit. He did admit that he was a bit concerned about the frequency and amount he was drinking, but despite his concerns, he was adamant that drinking was a normal part of life and he mostly enjoyed it. With each sentence, as he further bolstered his position, he kept apologizing for himself while the rest of us encouraged him to simply state his truth.

When the meeting was over, he took me to the side and said, “Tommy, I’m so sorry for what I did.”

“What did you do?” I asked sincerely.

He said, “You all are not able to drink and here I am, a guy who is stating that I can drink. I’m rubbing it in your faces. I can only imagine that this must be hard for you all.”

There was this awkward moment where I realized he thought we were jealous of him. I felt terrible for him in that moment. From his point of view, a life without drinking alcohol could not be a good life and anyone who HAD to stay sober must be terribly jealous of those fortunates who could happily imbibe. He could not conceive of the idea that we were truly happy and content NOT to be drinkers. He could not imagine that we would not change places with him under any circumstances.

This was a profound exchange for me. I saw through this man’s perspective how most of our society thinks. The majority of people in the United States drink alcohol regularly. Most people who drink think that people who don’t drink are, at best, missing something and, at worst, are living in what they imagine to be a depressed state of sobriety. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I have not had a drug or drink for 23 years. When I first gave up those things, I, too, was in a deluded state of mind where I could not imagine life without alcohol and drugs. How would I get through the day? How would I connect with anyone? What would I do to pass the time? What would I do to cut my anxiety? The life I had known and built for myself revolved around drugs and alcohol. Thus, it was impossible at that moment for me to know what a life could be without those things.

I remember what it felt like to be in the “in between” phase. I knew I could not continue to live the way I had been, but I preferred to try to make it work than surrender to the idea that I had to let go of my way of life (read: my precious drugs and alcohol) and build something new.

This is the great challenge for anyone who gets sober. One must build a new way of being seemingly from scratch without knowing in advance what this is going to look like and how it is going to feel. To get clean and sober is to build a new identity, one much more rooted in truth and presence than illusion and avoidance. At first it is challenging, but ultimately it is immensely rewarding. And I believe this would be the case for nearly anyone, not just alcoholics and addicts who have to give it up.

I was speaking with my friend, Grant Johnson, recently who a little over a year ago, decided to stop drinking alcohol. Grant does not consider himself to be an alcoholic, but he did not like the overall effect that alcohol was having on his life. He let it go and now has had a year of experience with a different approach. This is not a person who, quietly desperate, counts the minutes till he can drink again. In fact, he is not thinking about it. He’s just out there living his life and reaping the benefits of a person who happens not to drink. Grant told me that to not drink is such an act of strength that he actually considers it to be a “superpower”. I just love that.

If you are like me and had to get sober, you may come to know that “in between” phase. It might just suck for a while as you develop a new life for yourself. Hang in there and allow yourself to develop. It takes time and therefore patience. It takes action and vigilance. It takes support and love.

While there are those people who unfortunately get stuck in recovery and do not grow beyond their misery, this is neither the norm, nor necessary. Do not fall prey to the mistaken idea that people in recovery and others who simply decide not to drink are miserable and longing to drink again.

The emphasis has to be on well-being. My recovery mantra is: “Don’t just survive addiction. Thrive in recovery.” I believe people in recovery must work toward the great shift from staying sober out of fear and necessity to staying sober out of love for the life they get to live as the result of staying sober. Once a person has made this shift, it is very likely they will excel in life.

My story is different than Grant’s. I had to stop because drugs and alcohol nearly killed me, but today, Grant and I share something in common. We have developed a superpower. Neither of us drinks and we are not concerned about whether we ever do again.

500 DAYS

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That is 500 bottles of wine, give or take a few.  That is $5000.00, give or take $10.00 or $20.00 bucks.  That is something I never though I would see or be able to do.

I never imagined on 11/30/2013 when I decided to quit drinking that I would still be sober 500 days later.  I had had enough.  I was tired of feeling crappy, hating mornings, hating my relationships, hating the world, hating myself.  I was sick of sitting on the couch night after night, deep into a bottle of wine, wondering what “normal” people do.  I was tired of looking at people doing wonderful things,being successful, and questioning whether they drank a bottle of wine every night too.  I was sick of myself.  I was sick and disgusted at what I had become.

I have no idea what clicked in my head on that day in November, or why I have been successful this time around.  I often spend time trying to put my finger on the catalyst.  Why this time, what was different?  I still do not know.  I imagine the Universe had a different plan for me, and decided that it was time for it to begin.

The past 16 months have had a lot of challenges.  Life is challenging, but it seems as though mine got more so once I got sober.  Maybe I was just more aware of it because I was sober.  In the past I would have used any challenges life threw at me as an excuse to drink excessively, but I didn’t, I stayed sober.  It wasn’t easy, it still isn’t at times, yet here I am, still sober after 500 days.

That being said, and hopefully not to be too boring, here is another list of the things I have learned thus far:

  • The first three months of sobriety suck.  They really, really, really, suck, suck suck.  At least that is my personal experience.
  • The above is what helps keep me sober.  I do not want to have to EVER feel that way again.
  • I have to BELIEVE.  Believe that it gets better, because it does.  Believe that AA works if you work it, because it does.  Believe that life is better sober, because even when it isn’t, it really IS.  I continue to listen and believe, because so far everything I have been told has been the truth.
  • I don’t have to drink when bad things happen.  I may WANT to drink, I may think I NEED a drink, but I really don’t.  Drinking never made anything bad better, it actually made the bad things worse.  It is just easier to see that now with a clear head and heart.
  • If you go to AA, you really should read the Big Book.  I read most of it in early sobriety, not all of it.  I thought is was outdated and couldn’t help me.  It may have been too soon in my sobriety to have seen it, but the book has a lot of important information in it.  It is all how you interpret it.
  • Sober people are some of the nicest, most giving people out there.  That said, be careful who you choose to confide in,and get close to, not everyone is pure of heart, and it hurts real bad when you find that out.  Especially after sharing intimate details of your life.
  • What you hear hear, does not always stay here.  That sucks, it is shocking when you find out you are being talked about outside the room.  Unfortunately this happened to me, and I still can’t get my head around it.
  • Life is a marathon not a race, and so is sobriety.  Cliche, I know.  I am a runner, so I am always about racing to the finish line, getting it done, being first.  I can’t do that with this process.  Things have unfolded over time, on its own.  It doesn’t matter how much I want it, it comes to me when I am ready for it to be revealed.
  • I often wonder if people who aren’t addicts work on themselves as much as addicts do.  Or do they already know all of this stuff?  Do they have this life thing figured out?
  • I am much more sensitive to people being assholes than I was before.  Probably because I was an asshole too.  I am far from perfect, but at least I am trying.  When I find that I am being and asshole, I apologize immediately.  Something I have learned in sobriety.
  • Sobriety is like a see-saw.  It has its highs and lows.  Anything else is unrealistic.  I was unrealistic frequently.  I thought, I am now sober, bring on all the great things.  It doesn’t work that way.  It is still life.
  • I started out being a non believer.  No higher power, no spiritual guidance, nothing, just me, powering through it all, all alone.  That has changed.  No one is more amazed by this than me.  I still am not comfortable with some of the verbiage,especially the word God, but I sincerely believe that the wind that is in my sails is not by chance.
  • Having an attitude of gratitude is a much better way to live.  Instead of negative thinking, I work hard at finding the good in any situation.  (Although I am still stymied by the fact that my mother is dead, I have found nothing good there.)
  • I freaked out my home group when I told them I wanted to drink.  I didn’t really WANT to drink, I wanted to not feel the way I was feeling, and the go to has always been to drink.  It was nice to know how much they care about me, and how much support they really give me.
  • I don’t know if I put my sobriety FIRST every day, I am not sure what that really means.  I do have a sobriety counter on my phone that greets me each morning with how many days I have been sober.  That has worked for me so far.
  • I am still uncomfortable with sober firsts.  I guess that will continue until there are no more firsts to be had.
  • I no longer need pats on the back or accolades about how well I am doing.  The only person I am doing this for is me.

500 days sober.  All strung together in one row.

And on I go.

RECOVERY ACRONYMS

F.I.N.E.
[I’m] Frustrated, Insecure, Neurotic, Emotional

F.E.A.R.
F
ace Everything And Recover

N.U.T.S.
N
ot Using The Steps

E.G.O.
E
dging God Out.

D.E.N.I.A.L.
D
on’t Even Notice I Am Lying.

H.A.L.T.
[Don’t get too] Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired.

H.O.P.E.
H
appy Our Program Exists

H.O.W.
H
onesty, Open-mindedness, Willingness

S.P.O.N.S.O.R.
Sober Person Offering Newcomers Suggestions On Recovery.

G.O.D.
Good Orderly Direction

B.I.G. B.O.O.K.
Believing In God Beats Our Old Knowledge.

S.L.I.P.
Sobriety Losing Its Priority.

A.C.T.I.O.N.
Any Change To Improve Our Nature.

P.R.O.G.R.A.M.
People Relying On God Relaying A Message.

S.T.E.P.S.
Solutions To Every Problem Sober

K.I.S.S.
Keep It Simple, Sweetheart

BIG BOOK STUDY

I have been attending AA meetings for about a year.  I have 15 months and 14 days of sobriety yet I still don’t feel the serenity. I am not happy, joyous and free.  Life has been a little rough the past few months, and I have maintained my sobriety throughout, but am I just white knuckling it, or am I truly sober?

I have yet to read the Big Book of Alcoholic Anonymous from cover to cover.  My rationalization for this is because it is too dated.  When I went to my first meeting, one of the men said to me, get the Big Book and read the first 164 pages.  I may have read the first 64 pages, then it went to the bottom of the reading pile.

I still took the book with me when we went away last summer, and to Florida this winter.  I did not open it once.  It could actually double as a paperweight right now.

Two weeks ago, an interesting “old timer” came to our little home group meeting.  This person is intriguing,has very long term sobriety and that sense of serenity surrounds him.  I was drawn to him, I needed to find out how he got that and has maintained it for 24 years.

We became Facebook friends, and immediately started using the chat feature to discuss alcoholism, AA, and the Big Book.  I outed myself, and told him I have not read it.  I got the usual reaction when I tell anyone from AA that I haven’t read the book; WHY NOT?

I knew the only way I would actually pick it up and read it is if I was held culpable.  I suggested we do a Big Book discussion group, all two of us.

Yesterday, we got together to discuss Chapter 1.   I was explaining to him that I still have not found a Higher Power, nor can I really commit to the concept of a Higher Power, the whole process seems to still illude me.  I have moments of YES iI think I have this, but it is not a constant ribbon running through my life. I do not feel it daily.

I then disclosed, that frequently when things get to emotionally painful, my go to thought is : DRINK!  Or DRINK + PILLS!  That was when he said, maybe you aren’t done drinking yet.  Followed by, frequently people need to relapse to really be ready to embrace this program.  There was also discussion about putting my sobriety first every day.  Do I do that?  I don’t know.

All of these months of ups and downs with being sober, and maybe I need to relapse to get this program?  How does that make sense?  Is relapse a prerequisite for finding serenity and letting a higher power guide my life?  Will I find the answers to all of this in the book that I have been using as a paperweight for over a year?

I guess I will find out.  Chapter 2 on Monday

.

ANONYMITY IT’S PERSONAL

imagesThe topic at Monday night’s AA meeting was anonymity. There are two schools of thought on this subject in recovery.  You either want to be anonymous, or you don’t.

There is a movement to take anonymity out of recovery.  The premise is that remaining anonymous is synonymous with shame.  If recovery has faces attached to it, people will begin to realize that addiction affects people in all walks of life.  There are 23 million people in recovery.

The “old timers” and “Big Book thumper’s” stand by the 11th tradition of Alcoholics Anonymous:

“Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and film.”

My home group consists of mostly old timers.  Most have double digit years of sobriety.  There is a lot of knowledge around the tables in that room, and I have learned so much.

A year ago, a newly sober man started to attend the group.  Within a week or two, I had named him Blow Hard.  He came into the rooms with an air of “I got this”, he has never asked for help or a sponsor.  My opinion is he is a lurker, counting days, and sporadically attending meetings. In my opinion, he never really adds anything, and always makes some self serving comment about himself so that we all get that he used to be “somebody”.  I am not enamored, and prefer it when he doesn’t show up.

There are a lot of men at this meeting, and only a few women.  One of the ladies is absolutely lovely.  Very gentile, very southern, loves to bake, and is the go to desert maker for any sober birthdays.  Intuitively I knew that she regards her privacy, sobriety and anonymity as sacred.  Unfortunately this was not clear to Blow Hard.

Blow Hard broke the cardinal rule of AA, he opened his mouth and broke lovely ladies (LL) anonymity.  Blow Hard shared LL’s story with his wife, who then approached LL at church and regurgitated it word for word.  LL was devastated and angry to say the least.  LL shared this story with us two weeks ago.  Blow Hard had not been at a meeting in weeks, so LL thought that the breach might have made him find a new group.  Nope.

We have another gentleman, X,  who sporadically comes to the Monday night meeting.  I have been intrigued by him since the first time I heard him speak.  I knew he had a lot of sobriety, and was very knowledgeable about the Big Book and AA.  Each time he had attended the group, he had added a unique perspective to the discussion.  I always felt there was more underneath and wished he would attend more often, so I could get some more of what he had.

The planets aligned Monday night.  Blow Hard, LL, and X all were at the meeting.  I could see by LL’s face that she was quite agitated that Blow Hard was there, and seated next to her.  Just as the meeting began, X came in the door.

The moderator began, and asked for a topic for discussion..  X immediately seized the moment.  He had just seen a post  on Facebook from someone announcing their 6 month sobriety.  He was incensed that the 11th Tradition had been violated. This set the topic of discussion.  Anonymity versus personal disclosure.

As the discussion continued, I could see LL getting more agitated. She eventually blew her stack.  She let it all out, she called him out on it, and then went on to warn us all to be very careful about what we shared in that meeting because it could happen to any one of us.  Our private stories could be broadcast to anyone by Blow Hard, he does not understand the anonymous in Alcoholics Anonymous.

I do not broadcast that I am an alcoholic or that I attend AA and am in recovery.  I share the information with people I trust and I am comfortable with, people I choose.  I blog anonymously, but there are some bloggers who know who I am, and a little bit about me.  I believe it is a personal choice, and I get to make it  I also know that if all bloggers were anonymous, I would not be sober today.  This is where I came to get sober, so many people helped me anonymously and personally, with names, emails and telephone numbers.  I thank each and every one.

I can also understand the “old timers” adherence to the Big Book and the 11th tradition.  It has worked for 75 years, why change it now?

The choice should always be your own, no one else should get to do it for you.

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.

SIXTH STEP

6th stepI am slowly making my way through the steps.  I started AA about a year ago.  It took me quite some time to find a sponsor.  ( I did not know you had to ASK someone, I thought someone would just offer.  FYI to any newbies.)

My year has been complicated to say the least.  We have been up and down the east coast numerous times.  My son moved to Illinois in January, and two weeks later my mother lost her battle with lung cancer.  To say I have been distracted would even cover half of it.

I have been on the precipice of the Sixth Step for months, but every time I started, another distraction would arise, and it would get put on the back burner.

For the past week, I  have allowed my sorrow and depression about my mother to flow through me.  I have done nothing but go to the gym, shower, put my pajamas back on, get in bed and binge watch “Shameless”.  Between episodes I was working on an inventory of my character defects, and contemplating my progress moving through them and working toward spiritual and mental health.

My life is so much better sober.  I am amazed every day at how the things that used to derail my piece of mind are easier to handle.

So here it is what I have done in the past year of clear headed sober thinking.

Letting Go:
I think my biggest accomplishment to date is letting go of all of the emotional junk that I had been carrying around about my mother.  It was freeing to forgive her, and realize that she did the best she could with the limited tools she had.  I have also realized that my perception of our relationship was completely different than anyone else’s.  I never thought she loved me, but talking with my brother and seeing the realtionship through his eyes, I was very wrong.
I am working very hard at letting things go.  This includes arguments with my husband, son, daughter, actually most everyone.  It gives me a sense of lightness.
Perfectionism:
This is an ongoing challenge.  I am making an effort at not being so rigid in having and doing everything MY way.  It was a lot easier in Florida because it was not my house therefore I had no emotional investment in how it appeared.  I am find it more challenging here at home.  I am making small steps.  I have stopped cleaning up after my husband, no matter what mess he leaves.  I just look, shake my head, and walk away.  I am changing up the days that I change the sheets.  I used to always be Saturday, now I am moving it around, I still haven’t gotten beyond a week without new sheets, but baby steps. (This is very uncomfortable).  Wearing mismatched running socks, and not ironing something before I go out.  Taking myself out of my comfort zone as much as I can, just to what I can do and if I can do it.
Criticism and Negativity:
Thinking before I speak.  Big one.  Trying not to pick apart everything and everybody.  When my mind whirls into negative thinking, I drag it back, tell it to shut the fuck up, and remind myself of something good and positive.
Now:
Keeping myself present.  Not worrying about the past or thinking about what might happen.  Again, when I find myself thinking that way, I drag myself back to where I currently am.  I am hoping it will soon become a habit.  It helps that I don’t have as much to worry about anymore.
Higher Power:
This one still amazes me, and causes me wonder.  I am still slightly skeptical, but I am leaning more toward being a believer of some guiding force.  Too many things have happened that I was praying for. My son got a real job before the February move out of the house deadline, and seems happy.  My mom lived to see the Patriots win the Superbowl.  She died quickly and painlessly, just as I had prayed for.  She has sent me two signs that she is okay.
 These two things happened so quickly, and almost simultaneously, and I didn’t drink.  I wanted to when I was moving my son, I actually planned it out.  I was going to drive from Illinois to Tennessee and drink the entire liquour cabinet when I got home.  The 9 hour drive home gave me plenty of time to roll that plan around, and I decided to finish out my day sober, and reconsider it the next day.  A good nights sleep, and seeing things with less emotion the following day erased the thought completely.
Drinking never crossed my mind when my mother died. Not once.  I would suspect it was numbness and shock, my brain wasn’t really functioning with any emotion other than abject grief and shock.  There was no room for booze.
 In fact, since I have been back from Florida, the triggers and cravings seem to have disappeared. I am sure one will come again, but for now, having all this other emotional stuff going on, it is kind of amazing to me I haven’t had the urge to pickup a drink.
Some of the little things, I am working on.  I am learning to sleep with light in the room.  I know that doesn’t seem like a big thing, but for me it is huge. Having suffered insomnia as a child, I have created all these rituals and complete darkness is one of them.
I am relaxing about not exercising every day.  That used to get me very agitated. I am trying not to micromanage my sons life. I make suggestions, but not frequently.  I am not micromanaging my husband as much either. (This one is hard.)  I am leaving dirty dishes in the sink OVERNIGHT!!  And in the month of January I did not buy any shoes, I have had an epic fail since then, 3 pairs in one weekend.
I spent last week in bed every afternoon.  I was upset/depressed about my mother.  I decided on Sunday, enough was enough.  She is still going to be dead, and my lying in bed in my pajamas isn’t going to change that.  I have determined that I am going to get back to my usual routine, and if I get sad, just go with it, not crawl into my hidey hole.
I still have a lot to work on.  When I think about this program, I realize, that we are the only humans walking around that are actively working, every day to be better people.  I still have a lot of work to do.
My associate sponsor asked me to chair a meeting.  So I think I will do that, in two weeks.  That is outside my comfort zone.  I get hives when I have to speak to “large” crowds, but I already have a topic in mind.
 Progress not perfection.

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Last Day of the Stay-Cation

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Today is the last full day of our 2 month Florida get away.  Tomorrow I am heading home.  We are leaving a day early, because my beloved Patriots are in the Super Bowl, and I have to be back and settled to really enjoy the game.

The month of December was really difficult for me.  I could not relax, and had frequent triggers that made me want to drink.  Being at the beach, who doesn’t associate sitting on the beach with a cool alcoholic beverage?  Being bored, a classic drinking trigger, this one happened a lot..(I watched 4 seasons of Gilmore Girls, if that doesn’t say boredom, what does?)  Walking into the only two stores that were in the area, CVS and Publix, which both have a large wine section.  (Supermarkets in Tennessee do not have a wine or liquor section, yet.)  Both of these stores had displays at the end of every aisle of beautiful bottles of wine.  It was wine-a-palooza in every aisle.  Ugh.

Then came Christmas.  My kids were not with me, and I was not with my mother, on possibly her last Christmas.  It was awful.  This lead to thoughts of Christmas past, red wine and roast, and the tradition of drinking Bailey’s on Christmas Eve.  Christmas was a let down, a huge let down.  I hadn’t even had the forethought to pack the small Christmas tree so at least we had some decorations.  All I wanted was the day to end.  It was a wretched way to spend Christmas, I was sad and sober, a mentally miserable combination.

December ended and I started to come out of my funk.  I still had not quite found my groove.  I was attending AA meetings, but not feeling any kind of connection at any of them.  I attended a Smart Recovery meeting, and was just as confused about that program after the meeting than I was before.  I felt like my boat had been untied from the dock, and I was bobbing around without oars.

January came.  New Years Eve was not an issue, as I have never enjoyed it, amateur night, as I always called it.  In the new year, I was determined to be more present in my life.  To try to focus on the NOW.  Each time my mind went forward, or back, I dragged it back to the present. I finally began to feel a settling of my angst.  I was trying to relax and a times having success, I was hitting a stride, I was getting used to my environment.  I was running everyday listening to inspirational, funny and alcohol related pod-casts during my runs.  I was working on just being, not feeling like I had to be doing something else.

Then something happened, my son got a job.  I suddenly had a purpose, and more importantly a TO DO list.  The timeline for him moving from Tennessee to Illinois was short.  Flights were booked, a U haul was rented, hotels were booked, moving was completed, and I was once again back in Florida. I arrived back in Florida with a huge case of the jitters, and more cravings to drink.  I have been back in Florida for a week ago, and have yet to find that fleeting sense of peace again.

Tomorrow we leave.  We have committed to another two month stint next year.  I hope to be more comfortable in my sobriety,more founded in my spirituality, have a better ability to let go, and be present in the now.  I hope to be able to relax, and enjoy daily life, not what is behind me, or what is going to be in front of me. I hope to find peace, to be able to relax without having to work so hard at it.

Even though I had difficulty with this stay-cation, I am extremely grateful for many things that have happened over the last two months, so I will end this post with my gratitude’s.

The ocean, beach and sunsets were beautiful.      DSC_5651

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My son got a job!

My mother is still alive, and I will have another chance to go visit her. and my husband and I got along great, in a very small space.

I am still gratefully sober, even with all the emotional,mental and physical torture I put myself through, I am still here watching the day count go up.  I still have work to do, and I am willing to do be happy, joyous and free.