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Shotgun of Strength

I hate to generalize, but I’m going to anyway: addicts love to justify, excuse, and rationalize their behavior. I know because I am one – now sober for over twenty years from cocaine.

My first marriage was to an addict.

I am, once again, married to an addict.

See a pattern? Yeah, me, too. Embarrassingly enough, it took almost a year of therapy for that tidbit to reveal itself. I digress.

My current husband is a recovering sex addict, and he’s been sober for almost a year. My first husband, who was also my high school sweetheart, was a cokehead like me; he’s deceased from a motorcycle accident 15 years ago.

I met “Senior” when I was 15 and he was 16 and we were normal, regular teens. We smoked a little weed, drank beer on the weekend, and every so often did a hit or two of acid or mescaline. No big deal when I grew up in the eighties.

This snippet comes from a time when I justified, excused, and rationalized like the addict I was and, instead of hitting rock bottom, embraced denial.

Senior and I shared a dilapidated house in a crappy part of town with Anthony. It wasn’t much of a home, but at the age of 18, it was mine and Senior’s and Anthony’s. Anthony was our roommate and a drug dealer, which was quite convenient, contributing to our demise and fueling our addiction.

Senior and I had an agreement: I would never, ever go to college high and he would never, ever go to work high. It made us feel as though we were in control of our drug use. Rationalization at its best.
Senior and I abided by this agreement throughout our drug use days. Somehow it made us feel superior to the people around us.

Trust me: we weren’t.

We managed to fit in more drug use in those short hours after school and work every single day than most other users did all week. Yet we managed to delude ourselves we were the “smart” ones of the bunch.

Anthony’s agreement with us was that he’d only deal weed and coke. He could stay with us for free as long as he supplied us with the drugs we wanted, as often as we wanted. It worked out great for all three of us for quite some time.

I was used to watching random people come in and out of my house. Some would stay for minutes, others for days. I recall some staying for weeks at a time.

However, the “vibe” of the house began to change. It became more Anthony’s house than ours. His paranoia was increasing: he had deadbolts installed on his bedroom door, he placed baby monitors outside doorways, and the smell coming from bedroom – well, it was unfamiliar to Senior and me. We tried to talk to him about it, but Anthony was high ALL of the time now. A strange, scary kind of high we couldn’t place.

I came home from school one day and saw Anthony’s door was actually open for a change, but noticed he had one of the living room chairs blocking the doorway into his bedroom. I figured he had someone in there with him getting high and proceeded into the bathroom adjacent to his room.

As I sat on the toilet, I noticed three small holes in the wall. It took a second or two for me to register that the holes actually went all the way through the bathroom wall and into Anthony’s room. I could see into his room through the damn holes!!

My gut knotted. Something wasn’t right.

I realized I still hadn’t heard anything from his room since I walked in.

Holes in the wall.


Could he be dead?

I peered through the holes and saw him on his bed, smoking a cigarette.

Whew, not dead.

Okay, then why the holes? They were definitely bullet holes.

I thought to myself, “Whatever it was, it’s obviously over, and besides, I can see he’s got coke on his desk.” I flushed the toilet, washed my hands and stepped outside the bathroom door.

Anthony was already inside his doorway, feet away from me as I stepped into the hallway. He had moved that quickly from his bed to the doorway – it took only seconds.

“Hey Ant, got a line?” I asked him, leaning over the green velvet living room chair that was keeping us apart. My eyes drank in his room and I could see where one of bullets ended up, in his closet door, on the other side of the room.

I glanced at the desk beside me, saw the coke, and the addict in me screamed. I looked back at Anthony, waiting not so patiently for an answer.

Fuck the bullet holes, I really wanted to push him and the chair out of my way and get to that mirror with the pile of blow on it and start shoving it up my nose! He’d probably been partying all day!

I’d been stuck in class all day, now it was my turn to party. I felt myself get twitchy from having to wait. The feeling of “it’s there, but not there, so close but so far.” If you’re an addict, you know it, and it’s awful.

I glanced back to the desk, back to Anthony, and I saw the pistol he used in the bathroom.
I figured he was waiting for me to ask so I said, “Why are there bullet holes in the bathroom, Ant?”

“Fucking cockroaches. I hate ‘em.”

He reached over and grabbed the mirror off the desk and slid off a line for me. Finally! My body exhaled and tensed all at once. I felt my pulse quicken with anticipation.

I didn’t care about the cockroaches. They were a dime a dozen where we lived. Why he would decide to shoot them that day, in our bathroom, didn’t even strike me as being unusual.

I just wanted my fix, which he had in his hand still. I was getting pretty pissed by now. Just give me the damn line already! I just needed one to help get me started with my homework.

“What the hell Anthony, gimme a line!” I raised my voice.

“I will.” He taunted me with the cocaine. He passed the mirror before me. Right under my nose. Inches from my face. If I breathed too hard, or God forbid, if I sneezed, we were both screwed. Hundreds of dollars lost! It’d be at least an hour, maybe even two hours before it’d be replaced.

As he passed the mirror by my face I saw him move with his other hand but my eyes were glued to the coke. He put the mirror back on the desk and the knot in my stomach moved into my throat. The anticipation of getting high has turned into the fear of something unknown.

Anthony continued, “You’ll get your coke when you tell me where it is. Where did you put it?”
My mind began to race. I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about. My eyes scanned the room again.

There were two empty packets, not one. Why two? Think!!

There was also a needle on the floor by the bed with a tie-off. Okay. Someone had been shooting up in here. But shooting up what? Coke? Heroin?

Had Anthony started shooting up now, too? Was the second packet for heroin or did he do so much coke he’s just that fucked up in the head right now?

My eyes went back to the pistol on the desk. I’d been around guns for a long time. I’d been taught how to use them, so I wasn’t afraid to shoot someone if I had to. I didn’t think so, anyway. But, he was blocking me, and so was the chair.

Suddenly, Anthony screamed at the top of his lungs. Asking me where it is, where did I put it? Did I sell it? Did I use it? I was petrified (and remember thinking, even in that state, that I was glad I had just used the bathroom). It was then that he pulled the shotgun from the side of the chair, hidden beside the desk.

It was Senior’s .30-.30, his favorite hunting rifle. Anthony put the barrel of the rifle to my forehead (oddly, it wasn’t cold like I thought it would be) and he began yelling the same questions over and over again.

Instead of embracing the fear that was growing within me, I felt a sense of absolute calm settle over me. I knew with every fiber of my being that Anthony was not going to shoot me. He was not the one that would end my life. Not that day.

In a calm and rational voice, while looking him in the eyes (and his eyes were purely crazed), I told him, “I don’t have anything of yours. Think about it, Anthony, I haven’t been here all day. I just got home from school. Put the gun down and I’ll help you look for it.”

Sure enough, he did.

I found out later that he had been speedballing for weeks.

Unfortunately, this incident was not my rock bottom. I merely went into denial for another year. However, it made me realize I have the ability to reach inside me and find inner strength, even when times seem dismal and scary and beyond hope.

I have reflected much upon this incident. Although it occurred during a dark period in my life, it still brings me strength. I reach back to that person with the shotgun to her forehead quite often and remember who I am at my inner core.


New Year: Same Problems

It’s one in the morning on New Year’s Day. I’m alone in my room savoring the last taste of mini-chocolate donuts before my medicine kicks in. Once it does, I get so nauseous that all I can do is lay still and hope that I can sleep.

When the clock hit midnight, I was lying in bed watching a documentary about obese people on my computer.
I was alone.

The only “Happy New Year” wishes I got were two texts. One was from a wrong number. The other was from one of my friends that I’m in the process of losing touch with; I suspect it was a mass message to everyone in her phone.

My mom and sister were downstairs, but they made no effort to come see me. I’d snapped at them earlier, so they left me alone. My boyfriend didn’t say anything either. I haven’t heard from him since seven, when he said he was sorry for not coming over because he was tired and in a meh mood. I’m guessing he fell asleep.

I’ve spent most of that time crying on and off.

You see, the problem is that I’ve spent the last three days with a pain in my left side, and while it fades in and out, it’s been getting worse. Normally this wouldn’t bother me too much, but in the last three weeks I’ve been in and out of doctors’ offices. I started off with a Urinary Tract Infection (my third since May), and after being off of those antibiotics for a day, I developed an ear infection. While I had my ear infection, my allergies ran amok, and I had to get a special nose spray to allow some sinus tube to open back up. I just finished the antibiotics for the ear infection yesterday morning.

All of this would be overwhelming enough by itself, but this happened after almost an entire year when I didn’t go one week without something happening to make me stop what I’m doing and curl up on the couch and wait for it to go away.

All of this has happened because I have fibromyalgia.

I’d explain what fibromyalgia is to you, but I don’t even know myself – my doctors don’t either. They THINK it’s nerves over-reacting and sending out false pain signals. But if that were all there was, it wouldn’t be associated with so many other things. If you stop by any fibromyalgia website, you can click on a page and find a long list of associated diseases and ailments. All of them aren’t even listed.

As if the pain and stiffness weren’t enough, now I have Irritable Bowel Syndrome, chronic fatigue and insomnia, sensitivity to temperature and certain chemical smells, loss of concentration, and worse, anxiety. I hope that my reproductive organs function properly, because I want children one day (Even though I already know this might not be true. I’ve had one cyst and irregular periods so my doctor threw me on birth control a few years ago and that was that.)

So I have my pill cocktails for this thing and that thing, and I have patterns I need to follow or else something will flare up. There’s an even bigger problem with all of these things: I’m nineteen.

I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia at sixteen, and for a while it looked like it was being managed by medication. I was able to function and go to school and go out with friends. It would flare up every now again around my periods and during the winter, but it was still manageable…until January of this past year.

My doctor decided to switch me to a new drug for fibromyalgia. This drug was hardcore. It came in a trial in this little book container. I had to ease into it because it carried some potentially harsh side effects. It was hell from the beginning. I was nauseous from the second pill, but my mom and I decided to give it a chance.

By the middle of the trial, I was so nauseous and weak that it put my new part-time job into jeopardy. I sat through the orientation trying not to throw up. When I started having heart palpitations to the point where my heart stopped beating long enough for me to panic, we decided to take me off of the drug, but of course, I had to taper down because there was a chance of seizures from suddenly stopping.

Ever since, the problems haven’t stopped. I’m more than a semester behind in college because I’ve had to drop classes. This next semester, I will try for the third time to finish Composition 2 and Intro. to Sociology, and at this point, I’m not sure if I will be able to do it on this try.

I did online classes last semester, and this semester was supposed to be my attempt at real classes again. My anxiety has been right below the surface for weeks. I keep thinking, “If I can’t even make it more than a few days without something happening, how can I make it through classes? How can I live a normal life and have a job when I can barely function for more than a few days?”

I’m very aware of how much my parents spend on my doctor’s appointments and medications – it isn’t a small sum. My mom’s stack of doctor’s bills and reports is easily over six inches. I know my insurance runs out when I hit twenty-five, so I know I have a time limit to finish school and find a job, but I’m going to school to be a high-school English teacher. My starting salary will be somewhere in the mid thirty thousand dollar range.

I don’t want to have to admit that I will have to rely on someone to help take care of me, but honestly, on a teacher’s salary, I will be stuck at home until I pay off all of my student debts or I move in with a boyfriend. I refuse to live with friends because I don’t want them to have to take care of me when I get bad. I don’t want them to have to bring me things when I can’t get up. I don’t want them to have to sit with me when I’m curled up in bed sobbing because I don’t want to be sick anymore.

All I can do is hope that it will go back into remission or I can find a way to manage it because I don’t know how I can ever have a normal life with it as it is. I always have the fear that people are going to leave me because I’m such a mess. I tell my boyfriend that I’m a mess; that I’m falling apart, and he tries to reassure me that the rest of me makes up for it.

It angers me when people don’t take my illness seriously. My sister laughs at me if I tell her why I’m feeling bad. I’ve had people tell me it was all in my head or look suspiciously at me when I can’t give them an adequate explanation of fibromyalgia.

I know I don’t look sick, but I like it that way. If I looked sick every time I felt bad, I’d always look awful. I get mad when I see all this research money being thrown at all these other manageable diseases or anti-ageing products when fibromyalgia has the potential to systematically destroy people’s lives. It doesn’t matter that it’s not deadly: if a disease has a potential to confine you to bed, it deserves funding.

My plans for my future are very tentative. Even if I’m only planning a week in advance, I have to add “I think” to the end of it because I have no idea if I’ll be up to it. I’m sick of having to add “I think” to all of my plans.
I want to have a job. I want to go to school full-time. I to live on my own. I want all of the things people my age complain about. I want these things because they’re normal. I want to know that I can be normal. It hurts to hear people complain about this stuff – I want so badly to do it all.

My political views are becoming more liberal. I’m okay with universal healthcare when we can afford it. I need it. I’d gladly pay extra taxes if it means I don’t have to pay for outrageous doctor bills or ridiculously expensive mediation because I react badly to certain generics.

I support abortion because if I were to accidentally get pregnant, I’d have to choose whether to put my body through excruciating hell and lose all functionality for nine months, or abort. I’m not even fond of the idea of abortion, but I still want that option.

I recently started supporting medical marijuana because my body is being worn down by pain medications. I get upset when people try to oppose me on that one. My favorite argument is that America doesn’t need more high people because people with chronic pain are already high all the time. People in chronic pain take pain pills to function, not to relax. (Also, the people who actually would need medical marijuana hate the people who want to abuse it just as much as you do.) I’d gladly eat a pot brownie instead of taking a pain pill that’ll leave me nauseous and weak for six hours and for half a day afterward because my body is already worn down.

Do I need to repeat that I’m only nineteen?

And all I can do is just sit, wait, swallow some pills, try to exercise when my body lets me, try to eat healthy when my stomach lets me, and hope that I can get everything into a manageable state.

I’m starting to feel it’s too much to hope for it to just go away.

I Am Complicated

I am neglected.

I’m the product of parents who didn’t know how to fulfill my emotional needs.

I alternate between believing both that “my parents gave me everything; I had a happy childhood; I don’t have any reason to be this messed up,” and “my parents emotionally neglected me; I had an awful childhood; no wonder I am this messed up.“

I fantasize about being in the hospital because that seems like the ultimate (and only) way that people might finally see me and care about me. Logically, I know that it’s not true, but my emotional brain is convinced that being sick or hurt is the way to get the love, attention, and care that is not present in my daily life.

I am ashamed.

I’m a 22-year old who is still desperately attached to my mangled childhood stuffed animal, Lambie.

I surreptitiously, but uncontrollably, pull out my own hair. I know have trichotillomania (and dermotillomania while we’re at it), but it’s one of my most shameful “secrets.”

I eat spoonsful of Nutella straight from the jar, and sometimes that will be the only thing I eat for the majority of the day.

I am depressed.

I am pained getting out of bed in the morning. It’s hard to relate to people who casually say, “Yeah, I didn’t want to get up this morning,” but may not understand the gravity of depression. It hurts to the bone.

I have trouble taking my daily antidepressants because a hidden part of me doesn’t believe I’m worthy of feeling better.

I am obsessed with filling my brain with as much information about mental illness as possible. And yet, no matter how much I read books, articles, and studies about eating disorders, depression, anxiety, or impulse-control disorders, I struggle to control my own mental health.

I have a hard time with “I’m depressed.” Maybe because I don’t believe that the real me is just buried under mental illness. It’s more like “I’m a person living with depression.” It has taken so much of my personality and soul out of me, but without depression, I am a lively, joyful girl.

I am taking care of myself (or I’m learning to).

I practically begged my parents to see a therapist, nutritionist, and psychiatrist, when I was only 15 years old. It certainly wasn’t easy, especially because we didn’t talk about anything “emotionally charged,” but I knew that it was a step I had to take in order to alleviate my pain.

I reach out to others when I need it most. Even though I isolate, too, I also know that in moments of desperation, I do instinctively ask for help and support from those I trust.

I treat myself to occasional manicures, special purchases (a dress, a pillow, some art supplies), and a lazy Sunday. As much as my brain tries to trick me into thinking that I am worthless and unlovable, I try to actively do things for myself that remind myself that I deserve care.

I am brave.

I share my story with very few people, but when I do, it is the most rewarding experience. Sharing real experiences and thoughts is how I create deep connections with people.

I moved to Denmark for my first job out of college. I don’t speak the language, I’ve never been away from home for more than four months, and I left my entire support network at home.

I am working full-force in therapy at facing the demons and insecurities I have hidden for years. I am taking charge of my life by learning to be vulnerable, accept my flaws, and love myself in spite of them, and find happiness for the first time in my life.


Dose of Happy: Not A Zombie (But I Do Like Brains)

As I’ve gotten older (read: 29 for the first time), I’ve come to realize something.

Family is what you make it. I have a fuckton of blood relatives – aunts, uncles, cousins I can’t even name or recognize on the street. This is because we don’t live anywhere close to them. I have two sisters I rarely see because we can’t always be in the same room with each other without wanting to hurt someone. And, again, we don’t live in the same state.

When I got married, I got a whole new family – Uncle Sam’s many minions. Again, we don’t all live in the same state, but we have that one thing in common: our significant other is a military member, and we deal with that in the best way we can. Some of us handle it better than others. Whatever. We’re bonded. We know. We speak our own language.

This past September (ish – I don’t remember if I got dressed unless I look down), Aunt Becky put out a call on The Twitter. She was looking for some peeps to help with behind-the-scenes here at Band Back Together.

I’ve been a long-time reader of Aunt Becky’s and read all of her posts, then jumped on the bandwagon when she started this site. I love this site. I’ve loved it from day one. I’ve read all your stories. So when AB asked for help, I thought, “Heh, how hard can that be?” So I sent her an email and said “I’M IN!” And I got a new family.

Actually, I kinda got two. I got to be a part of the amazing people who submit, and I got to be an official member of “The Brains.” (Kinda sounds like its own band!) Seeing the front-side of the site for so long, I kinda thought I’d have a hard time finding stuff to do; it seemed to run so smoothly and without many hitches.

Boy, was I (mostly) wrong.

Behind the scenes is a WHOLE ‘nother world. Editing posts, scheduling posts, coming up with awesome Carnival and World Tour ideas, writing resource pages, commenting, social media teams, plus all that stuff that the IT crew takes care of that I have NO CLUE about. (Side note: I grew up in an IT-savvy family. I’m not computer illiterate. That crew talks about stuff I have never heard in my life.)

There are so many e-mails everyday, I almost can’t keep up. But, this is my new family. One I take with me everywhere I go. I’m waiting for the day when I’m wearing my “With the Band” t-shirt and someone gives me that knowing smile. Because they KNOW. They know what an awesome thing this site is.

I can’t speak for the other Brains, but we’ve saved lives. Mine, most especially. Both my kids are in school and when they started, I thought, “Finally! I can do whatever I want all day!” There’s only so much daytime television I can watch. The house can only be so clean (okay, I don’t clean – quit judging me). Job hunting was going nowhere. My depression was starting to rear its ugly head. I needed something to make me get out of bed in the mornings.

So now, I spend my days reading, commenting, promoting, writing, and laughing. Oh, my Brains make me laugh. And cry. It’s like a secret club that anyone can join. Because we are none of us alone. We are all connected (in the great circle of life).

And, ’cause I’m not too proud to beg, and I know Aunt Becky hates to do it, go nominate us for a Bloggie. It’s a small thing that would mean so much to our AB. ‘Cause without her, The Band wouldn’t be here.

And I’d like to keep my triangle skillz up.

Ask The Band: Sick and Tired, and Postpartum Depression

My fiancé and I have been together for over three years. We have an almost 1.5 year old daughter. I have chronic illnesses.

I have good days and bad days, as well as post partum depression.

Why do I always feel like he’s going to be sick of me being sick and leave? He’s fully supportive at all times, and I rest when I need rest.

Will I ever feel good enough!?