Help With Addiction
I have a friend with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA).
My mom has it too.
RA is an invisible illness. People with invisible illnesses have no visible symptoms, so many folks don't understand why they can't do all the things that most people can do. There is some sort of spoon theory that they use to try to explain it; long story short, people with these invisible illnesses only have so many spoons to get through each day. They have to think about how they are going to use each spoon because they can't go get more spoons at the spoon store, and I can't give my mom or my friend some of my spoons to get through the day.
I found out my friend was thinking of a project involving spoons; she's real crafty and creative like that. I made it my mission in life to go find my friend lots of random spoons. I went to the local flea market hoping to find some spoons. I found a bunch of random spoons and bought lots of them for my friend's project. This made me happy.
Then, I got sad. I was sad because I can't give my friend any of my metaphysical spoons, even though I often have more than I need to get through my day. I would gladly give up some of my spoons for my friend or my mom, but I can't. That isn't how spoon theory works. Maybe some day, science will have the answer to that conundrum, but right now that is still "fringe science"; I get enough fringe science from my Sunshine, as he studies the neurophysiology of addiction.
I sat and thought about spoons, and I was sad that I can't give my spoons to those who need them. Then I had a moment of extreme giddiness over the saying we have in recovery about how "spoons are for stirring coffee." This is especially funny to addicts, because we have some insane uses for spoons.
Then I remembered that movie The Matrix. There is no spoon. This has the potential to take me down the paths of fringe science, but I get enough of that from Sunshine.
So rather than be sad about not being able to share my metaphysical spoons, or travel down the path of fringe science, I went shopping.
I went to an antique shop, and I bought some spoons. I bought some really neat, rather fancy, really random spoons. They are my gift to my friend.
See, I sat in a meeting last night with other recovering addicts, and I realized that the fellowship is all about the therapeutic value of one addict helping another. We addicts share our experience, strength, and hope with one another. We share our metaphysical spoons.
While I may not have an invisible illness that leaves me debilitated on some days, I do have a disease that can't exactly be seen. The treatment for my disease involves sitting around with other recovering addicts and sharing our spoons with one another.
While it may not help my friend get through her day better (physically) for me to send her some fancy antique spoons, I know that it will make her heart smile, and that's what helps her get through the bad days - just like another addict's experience, strength, and hope helped me get clean.
Today, y'all are part of my circle of recovery. Y'all share y'all's spoons with me, and that's some awesome shit.
And until fringe science catches up with us, we'll keep stumbling along the best we can. And I'll keep buying up random spoons for my friend.
I spent a lot of years in active addiction, wearing yesterday's clothes and grime. When I first got clean, I did a lot of dressing up so that the outside looked good, in hopes that you wouldn't see past the facade to realize that the inside was a fucked-up, shitty mess.
Today my outside is more of a reflection of what's going on inside. I feel whole, I feel worthwhile, and I feel good, therefore I try to look good.
There's something to be said about the feel of a well-made cashmere sweater or pair of silk sweatpants, or even an uber-comfortable cotton t-shirt that fits like it was made for me. There's just something nice about wearing fancy pants and fancy shoes to go grocery shopping. I lived too long in the filth and desperation of addiction to deny myself some little luxuries today.
Now, looking good doesn't have to be expensive. Yes, I wear a lot of high-end brands because I'm worth it, but here's a secret--I never pay full price. There is something thrilling about finding a pair of Armani pants on a clearance rack for $25 (yes, it happens). Must be endorphins, because it's quite pleasant like a good buzz.
Well, today I am riding one serious endorphin-based high. I got new shoes. Not just any new shoes. Jimmy Choo shoes. Nude patent leather sandals on cork platform wedges. Brand New In Box. For $85. And? They feel really good on my feet--great arch support, heel and ball of foot cushioning, and light as feathers. My first pair of Jimmy Choo shoes!
Tell me that's not a dose of happy.
Here at The Band, we believe in kicking stigmas to the curb, flinging glitter, and shining a light into the dark. And now?
Your bandmate needs a sounding board.
It's time to Ask The Band!
I quit drinking seven months ago.
Actually, it was 217 days ago if you want to get specific.
I wasn't a fall down drunk all the time. I reserved my drinking for the evenings and the weekends. I usually waited until my child was in bed. I usually drank with other people.
I graduated both high school and college with honors, all while drinking. People knew I attended classes hungover but no one ever said I had a problem. I have successfully held down jobs all while drinking. I had more than my fair share of liquid lunches and still managed to not get fired. My happy hours after work went on too long and by sheer luck I never hurt myself or someone else or had a run in with the law.
I stopped drinking when I found out I was pregnant. As soon as I was done nursing I started drinking again. I was sober for about a year. Aside of that year, I hadn't been sober that long since I was 14 years old.
Last summer, I made a complete ass of myself with my drinking.
I took risks I shouldn't have. I drank alone often. Most mornings I'd think about how long it would be until I could drink again. I'd wonder if I could drink during the day and be okay to pick my son up from day care. I came dangerously close to drinking at lunch. I arranged sitters so that I could drink to excess and not have to worry about parenting getting in the way.
I started to scare myself.
I thought about drinking and wanted to be drunk all the time. The only thing that stopped me is the shame of everyone finding out that I'm an alcoholic. I can barely type those words; I have yet to say them out loud to anyone. But it is who I am and it was getting really hard to keep hiding it.
So I quit drinking. Cold turkey. Just like that.
But I miss it.
I miss being drunk. I don't know if I can do this for the rest of my life. I want to drink so badly tonight it hurts.
I don't know how to live sober.
I'm afraid to tell people just how bad my drinking was because they will think I'm a bad mother, a bad person. Or they won't believe me because I seem put together. Or I'll be held accountable and be judged if I slip.
And I really, really feel like I'm going to slip.
I thought I'd be less scared of myself if I got sober.
Why am I still so scared?
When is this going to get easier?
Alcoholism can completely change a loved one's personality and put stress on the entire family as a result.
This is her story.
Life's not fair, I know that. I don't expect fairness from the world at large. But I feel like - and maybe this is me being a spoiled only child - we should try to be fair to those we supposedly love.
He's an alcoholic, I know that too. He tells me so all the time, whenever I complain about his behavior or his attitude. Or whenever he feels bad. He's trying to fight his demons, he says.
But I'm angry. I'm supposed to be the bigger person and I am so fucking angry.
We made a decision about today's schedule last night. Last night when he was perfectly sober, I must add. Today I followed that schedule and it turns out he is mad that I did. He feels like I left him out, even though that's what we decided last night.
But I'm the bitch. I'm starting the fight, because I wanted to know why he'd called me so angry. He is mad that his family wasn't there when he woke up.
The decision wasn't even 12 hours old, but he changed his mind and is resentful that I didn't know that, that I didn't follow his new wishes.
I fucking hate that. I hate not being able to make plans, not even 12 hours in advance, because he doesn't know what kind of mood he'll be in. He might change his mind and he will be a resentful fucking child if he's committed to something and then changed his mind about it. Or he'll be mad at us if we've gone somewhere without him, because he told me he wanted to sleep late.
I don't feel like I have a partner, I feel like I'm being bossed around by a petulant child.
I know that he is hurting. I know that he is trying to get better. I know that in a few hours, he will be my real husband for a while - the one who doesn't act like a petulant child. But then nighttime will come, he will have his five drinks after the kids go to bed - and he will be perfectly nice at that time too - and then in the morning he will be an asshole.
It's like I live with two people and one of them is a total dick. We can't afford counseling, rehab, or to live apart, really. I don't even know what's actually wrong with us. Are other men so resentful if they don't get to wake up whenever they choose? I know he has insomnia, which is his reason for drinking, but it just seems weird for someone in his thirties.
He gets resentful if I'm not available for sex whenever he wakes up, but he's also resentful if I wake him up early to have sex before I have stuff to do. He's resentful whenever I'm on the computer, but that's a big source of our income right now.
It's like he doesn't know how to be a grownup anymore.
I've been on the path toward recovery most of my adult life. Of course, it wasn't always defined as recovery. I just knew I had problems that were considered "secrets."
When I was younger, if you mentioned you were "in recovery," the person you were talking to would've stopped and said, "Recovering from what?" No one understood the aspects of alcoholism, love addiction or recovery from the torture of a narcissist or an abusive spouse.
"Recovering from what?" That's one heck of a loaded question. I'd already read every self-help book on the market.
At nineteen years old, I first sought spiritual counseling. I'd come to the enlightened conclusion that I was in a horribly abusive marriage and was now pregnant with our first child that He Did Not Want!
I'd been married less than one year.
In desperation, I called my Narcissistic mother, not knowing that she was a major part of my problem. She advised me to meet with a local Pastor at a very conservative church for spiritual counseling.
This is part of the mind fuck a NPD Parent causes their adult child. She, my NPD Mother, seemed very empathetic, loving and helpful.
Now I know that she hated having someone else controlling me. We all know how she LOATHED my NPD misogynistic husband.
So there I sat, across from a judgmental, older man still married to his only wife. She appeared so beaten down that when she opened the door to their home, I seemed able to see right through her.
My instinctive antennae, threw up a huge red flag. It screamed: DANGER AHEAD! DANGER AHEAD!
Of course, being a good adult child of an alcoholic as well as being trained for marriage by my mother, who had narcissistic personality disorder and Munchhausen Syndrome, I ignored my instincts and plowed ahead.
I can never forget how translucent the preacher's wife had become under his abuse. He'd turned her into a non-person.
She was me in twelve years.
In walks a willing victim - I'd asked to see him, after all. Boy, did he slam me.
After I told him about my marriage of 14 months, he said, "Either you are a terrific liar or you're in a hopeless situation." Huh.
But what does that mean?
Well, according to the good preacher, I needed to become "a better wife.
"Read this portion of the Bible EVERY day for 30 days - model what a good wife is and he will be a changed man.
No. That definitely did not work. My husband LOVED my new attitude. How submissive I'd become, how I subjugated myself to his every whim, completely under his control.
I tried harder to be a better wife for a man who'd never, ever appreciate my efforts. He'd simply find new, more creative ways to abuse me.
It took ten more years, two more babies, a dear friend dying way too young, before I fell apart again.
I started with cigarettes, with the intention of pissing off my husband. He smoked, so I smoked.
There's a saying in one recovery group, "Eating poison and waiting for him to die." Starting to smoke cigarettes in my thirties is pretty close. He didn't give a shit.
Next, I took a handful of Vicodin and washed it down with a Budweiser. Yeah. Now THAT helped me.
I was able to make a lovely dinner, care for my delightful children and thought I may even be able to endure sex with my abusive husband at bedtime.
Thus began my love affair with alcohol and prescription drugs. My children were destroyed, confused by the radical change in their mother.
My husband, however, never said a word.
Alcoholism is a genetic disease that may be successfully managed by total and complete abstinence. This is a medical diagnosis, a fact, and not up for personal debate. Like diabetes, if you got alcoholism, you have it.
If you want to live a long life as an alcoholic or diabetic, you have to follow a plan to stop the advance of all the devastating problems that arise as the result of improper management of the disease.
I researched alcoholism until I came to believe that I would die if I didn't cease drinking. My body could only take so much abuse. I couldn't hold my liquor, but I could take enough pills to kill a horse. Aahhhhh.
Plus? You can't SMELL PILLS! Yay! I'd thought I was tricking everybody. Turns out, I was only bullshitting myself.
My path to recovery was long and hard for those who loved me. I'd had no idea how much hurt I'd caused the people in my life.
I'd begun to abuse my prescriptions to avoid feeling the pain; the anguish of what my life had become. I was dangerous, desperate to escape the pain.
As my children got older, I was stoned for every event in their lives. I'd be wasted by the time we got to each planned event.
They'd become more ashamed of me, while I obliviously believed I was acting normally. My children began to give me a "field sobriety" test before we left the house.
Of course I'd pass...then. But by the time we got to our destination, I'd be an inelegant, clearly-altered, nicely dressed, stoned mess.
My children were mortified, angry and powerless is protect themselves.
Back To School Night was forbidden to me by the kids.
My kids tried humor, tears, anger, recriminations, reenactments and shame. The only thing that made a dent was when my youngest daughter asked for prayer at our church.
I tried the good codependent guilt trip by telling her,"Don't EVER tell anyone what's going on in this house!"
At a sage fifteen, she told me, "Mom, you're the alcoholic, YOU NEED PRAYER."
I entered treatment after my oldest daughter got married - I have little-to-no memory of her wedding. She knew better than to ask me to help her with the preparations since I was as dependable as a cool wind in August. More shame.
We finally discovered a herd of pink elephants in our living room. We've only just begun cleaning up the enormous piles of elephant shit. Thank God it's pink - easier to find.
Who knows how long it will take to finish up the recovery? Every time I believe I've run off the last one, a rogue elephant stampedes through the house.
I never do know what it'll look like, smell like, or the damage it'll do. I just know that I have to deal with it, no matter what.
I earned it.
The good old fashioned way.
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