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Addiction Recovery Resources

What Is Addiction Recovery?

It takes a lot of guts to face up to addiction – no matter what the drug of choice. Some people are addicted to drugs or alcohol, but other people may be addicted to things like gambling, sex, hoarding, or other types of behaviors. Many people feel completely overwhelmed by their addiction, powerless against defeating it, and feel like there’s no way out. Sobriety may seem like an impossible, unattainable goal, but recovery is never out of reach, no matter how far down you believe you have gone.

Change is scary, but change is possible, and you have it within you to kick the habit. Addiction is NOT a life sentence.

Step One Addiction Recovery: Decide to Make A Change

Deciding to make a change is usually the most challenging part for most addicts. Giving up the comfort of your drug of choice, facing a change, and realizing that many things will have to change to work the path toward recovery can seem daunting and scary.

Preparing For Change:

  1. Keep track of your reasons for changing.
  2. Write down specific reasons that you want to get sober: keep it on you all the time to pull out when you’re facing a trigger or urge.
  3. Set specific, measurable and attainable goals, like a quit date or dates that you’ll begin to cut down
  4. Consider past attempts to kick the habit (if applicable) and what about those attempts worked and didn’t work. Addiction recovery is not a one-size-fits-all treatment: what works for you may not work for another person.
  5. Build a support network of friends and family to help you through this change. If you’re alone, try beginning one of the 12-step programs as they are full of people who have been where you are and know how to change.
  6. Get rid of reminders of your addiction from your home, car, and workplace. Dump your pipes, throw out your cigarettes, dispose of alcohol, or dispense of other triggering reminders of your addiction. These are incredibly unique things that may not affect all addicts equally. Throwing them out can be incredibly difficult, but so very worth it.

Step Two Addiction Recovery: Treatment Options

Treatment should focus not only on your addiction but on any other problems and mental illnesses you may have. There is no single treatment that works for every person and therefore your treatment should be tailored to your specific needs. Treatment requires deep commitment and follow-through on the part of the addict as well as his or her family. Addiction is known as a family disease, which everyone playing a part. While you, the addict, go to treatment (whatever you choose), your family also requires treatment as well. Make sure they prepare and complete treatment before you’re sober.

There are many places to look for help for addiction treatment and recovery. Not every addict requires extensive detox and weeks in rehabilitation centers, but some do. Here are some options for addiction recovery – do remember that it’s not going to be a one-size-fits all problem – that you can try:

1) Inpatient Addiction Rehab: Many people first begin their addiction recovery in Inpatient Rehab. Inpatient rehabs do offer structured treatment programs that should be designed to address all facets of each person’s addiction and tendencies. During inpatient rehab, addicts in recover reside in a substance-free facility and receive around-the-clock medical care and therapeutic support. In the first part of inpatient addiction rehab generally involves detoxing under strict medical care provided by nurses and doctors. Inpatient rehabs may be the best option for people battling chronic addiction, as well as those who suffer from a co-occurring mental or behavioral disorder (example: anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder..

2) Outpatient Addiction Rehabs are another form of total addiction care and treatment. Outpatient programs may offer many of the same kinds of effective treatments and therapies as inpatient rehabs, however in outpatient rehab, you’re allowed to live at home during the addiction recovery process. You can continue working and caring for your families while attending scheduled treatment sessions throughout the week. It’s important to remember that outpatient rehabs do not take place in a residential facility; which means you’re at a higher percentage of encountering triggers and relapse. Generally, outpatient rehabs are a step-down from an inpatient addiction rehab; still providing the support and therapies associated with addiction recovery without the structure of an inpatient program. Outpatient addiction rehabs tend to follow a progression from PHP to IOP setting.

  • PHP or Partial Hospitalization Programs are generally the first step-down from traditional inpatient rehab in which people slowly relearn to acclimate from the highly-structured inpatient program in a much less restrictive ways. PHP programs tend to be much more involved in the therapy process, generally providing therapy 6 days per week about 5 hours a day. This allows patients to go home in the evening and be with their family. Partial hospitalization programs do not involve any sort of detox.
  • IOP’s or Intensive Outpatient Therapy generally involves using less and less restrictive types of therapy to allow people to slowly acclimate to their lives in a measured, controlled manner, with therapy 10-12 hours a week about 3 days a week. IOP does not include any type of detoxification process

3) Continued Addiction Therapy can include regular meetings with a personal therapist, attending group meetings, and working the recovery program you’ve learned throughout the rehab process.

Use a state by state (in the US only) addiction recovery treatment facility near you.

Step Three Addiction Recovery: Support Network

Make recovery support group meetings a priority. It can be easy to feel overburdened with the amount of meetings per day to attend, but they really are vital for continued recovery and sobriety. Look at it like this: If you had time to go to the bar or get high, you have time to make it to meetings. In meetings you can find many people who understand what you’re going through and how to best support you.

Having close family and friends is invaluable for someone in addiction recovery, providing you have some.

Make sure to build a sober social network to replace any non-sober networks. Until they get sober themselves, you’re going to have to cut those people out to prevent triggering. Don’t visit bars, old hangouts, or places you used to use. You don’t want the chance to relapse.

You can find sober social networks throughout your meetings. If you don’t know where to find meetings, ask in therapy or consult your therapist.

Consider living in a sober-living home (especially if you don’t have a stable, safe, drug-free home environment) during the recovery period – this time is absolutely vital to your recovery.

Step Four Addiction Recovery: Manage Stress

Drug use, abuse, and addictions (of many kinds) may be triggered initially by unhealthy attempts to self-medicate with drugs and/or alcohol to relieve stress. To combat substance abuse and addiction, one must learn other ways to manage stress. Some of these include:

  • Exercise – which releases endorphins (the bodies “feel good” hormones
  • Yoga and meditation
  • Calming music
  • Deep-breathing
  • Petting your animal
  • Tell someone close that you’re feeling stressed
  • Go to a meeting
  • Go for a walk
  • Soak in a hot, relaxing bath
  • Try smelling fresh flowers, extracts, or coffee bean

Step Five: Controlling Cravings and Triggers

Controlling Addiction Triggers may include:
  • Avoiding bars and clubs.
  • Breaking up with old drug or other addiction buddies.
  • Telling any medical professionals about your history of drug addiction up front so you can work together to find an alternative means of controlling any type of pain or discomfort.
  • Using prescription drugs, especially those with a high potential for abuse (sleeping pills, painkillers, anti-anxiety medications) with extreme caution, make certain your doctor knows your history of addiction before you start to take these medications
Handling Addiction Cravings
  • Talk to someone about your craving while in the middle of it.
  • Change your thoughts and challenge formerly held beliefs. It’s easier to remember the positive aspects of drug use and not the negative ones. Make a list (or look at a list) of benefits and consequences if it helps to remind you of why you quit.
  • Urge Surf – imagine yourself as a surfer riding the wave of a drug craving, staying on top of it until it crests, breaks and turns into foam, generally cravings only last 10-15 minutes
  • Distract yourself while in the middle of a craving.
  • Read a book, go jogging, focus your attention on something else until the urges subside.
  • Don’t resort to junk food as an alternative – it will only add stress and pounds.

Step Six Addiction Recovery: Build a Meaningful Drug-Free Life

Now that you’ve overcome your addiction, you may find that you have a lot of free time and emotions that you’re not used to having. At first, it can be helpful to go to recovery meetings (12-step or other) as often as you can to gain a sober support network but eventually, you’re going to have to recreate your life. This time, you can do it the way YOU want it to be done. That’s not to say it’s easy, but it is worth it. Here are some ideas for building up your life again:

  • Adopt a pet. Pets are wonderful at making you feel loved, needed, and wanted.
  • Find a new hobby – it doesn’t have to be lame.
  • Learn about the things you (sober you) enjoy. They may be markedly different than things you once enjoyed.
  • Give yourself some time to reenter the real world and understand that it can be incredibly difficult at first. That’s okay – just keep going.
  • Get involved in your community – replace your addiction with other wholesome activities. Volunteer, join a club, or become active in your neighborhood.
  • Take care of your health.
  • Get rid of the people in your life who are not good for – or to – you. You deserve better.
  • Practice great self-care
  • Don’t be too hard on yourself
  • Learn to forgive, it’ll help you and everyone around you
  • Take stock of what your biggest strengths are and see if you can find something to do regularly that showcases the things you’re great at, those that you enjoy, and those that make you feel good and accomplished
  • Set meaningful, attainable goals to work toward rather than the end goal – it’s much more satisfying to accomplish things at once rather than focus on the bigger goal.

Step Seven Addiction Recovery: Relapses Happen

Relapse is a very common (albeit frustrating and discouraging) part of the recovery from addiction and abuse. Consider it an opportunity to revamp your treatment plan and learn from mistakes. It doesn’t mean you’ve lost everything, only that you need to try again. Relapse is incredibly common, but no less discouraging. Understand that you can get sober – and stay sober – once again. Now, you’ll have the advantage of having been through it before. Don’t let anyone else cause you guilt or shame for relapsing – only an addict knows an addict.

Relapse does NOT mean you failed. Get back on the wagon, call your sponsor and your therapist, go to a meeting, check into rehab, and don’t beat yourself up for it.

Common Relapse Triggers:

  • Physical discomfort
  • Anger, sadness, trauma, or stress.
  • Feeling happy – oddly enough, once things are going excellently in your life, you may feel like “celebrating” with your drug of choice
  • Testing personal control – “plenty of people can have one drink, why can’t I?”
  • Urges, triggers, and temptations – these are a challenging part of an addict’s recovery: urges, triggers, and temptations can sneak up out of the blue. If you can remind yourself that this is a temporary thing, most urges only last about 10 minutes. Try focusing on something else
  • Fights and conflicts with others – if you’ve always coped with conflicts by using your drug of choice, this can be a struggle. Try to remember all of the reasons that you opted to get sober in the first place
  • Social pressures – well meaning people are often guilty of pushing an addict to “join in the fun” or “get with the party” without knowing that he or she struggles with addiction. Enough social pressure can cause someone to feel as though they really can still use.

Coping with an anger management issue is already a complex and arduous struggle, but when combined with substance abuse, it feels impossible. Whether anger led to your addiction or addiction led to your anger, the two fuel each other in a dangerous cycle. You can’t address one and not the other, but learning to overcome your anger while in addiction recovery doesn’t come easily.

The Connection Between Addiction And Anger:

Though many don’t realize it, substance abuse often co-occurs alongside anger, aggression, and violent tendencies.

Sometimes, the anger comes first and leads to addiction:

  • Anger issues lead to problems at work or home, leading the afflicted person to cope by using substances
  • Rage becomes so overwhelming that a person seeks to numb the pain with substances
  • The many stresses fester, leading a person to take out their anger and frustration by indulging in drugs or alcohol

In other cases, substance abuse preludes and leads to anger:

  • Cocaine use in particular can cause aggression and violent behavior
  • The resulting problems from increased drinking or drug use such as DUIs, relationship turmoil, financial stress, work conflicts, or job loss can create a deep-seated anger, especially if many events occur at once
  • Dependence on a substance can create anger and resentment in itself

The presence of anger in general isn’t the issue — all of us feel angry, sometimes even enraged, at one point or another. It’s an unavoidable fact of life, and common in addiction recovery. When that fury lasts for days at a time, reemerges frequently, escalates into violent behavior, and/or consumes a person completely, however,  it becomes dangerous.

Perhaps the most alarming part of the anger and addiction relationship is that many don’t even realize they have an underlying anger issue; it tends to be written off as only a symptom of their substance abuse, and assume that once they’re sober, their anger will fade away. For some, the anger may fade. However those with a true anger disorder, it isn’t that simple. To truly heal your body, mind, and spirit in recovery, you must address your anger as a separate — and equally important — issue.

Anger and resentment can sneak up on you in recovery. When things are going well, it’s a lot easier to reaffirm your choice to be sober. It’s the times that stress pops up — a long day at work, arguments with loved ones you’re trying to rebuild relationships with, lingering financial problems from old habits — that it’s hard not to feel angry over all that you’ve lost. Just because you know drugs and alcohol aren’t the solution doesn’t change the fact that they used to be your crutch amid life’s many struggles, and looking ahead to brighter, sober days can feel frustratingly overwhelming.

Meditation and Anger in Sobriety:

Meditation helps to focus and ground you in the present moment — not your regretful past, not your sober future. Meditation lets you stop and really let go of your worries, even if it’s just for a few moments. Best of all, it can be done just about anywhere at any time, no special skills needed.

There are many online options for guided meditations, but don’t be afraid to conduct your own meditation sessions. It’s much simpler than you might think: clear your mind, focus on your breathing, make a conscious effort to relax your body, and just let go. Your problems will be right where you left them, but you’d be surprised at how meditation can bring them into perspective. Often, dwelling on problems makes them seem more colossal than they actually are, and even just a few moments of peace can shift your attitude on overcoming them.

Exercise For Anger Management During Sobriety:

Exercise isn’t just good for the body — it’s excellent for your mental health, and some experts even consider it vital to a successful anger management program. It can be especially effective if you’ve had violent tendencies in the past because it acts as a healthy, physical outlet for your frustrations.

An anger management exercise routine work any way you’d like, but it’s important to keep in mind any physical limitations you may have as a result of your substance abuse. Take it slow at first; yoga is a great place to start as it combines both meditation and exercise, and can be adapted for various intensity levels. Incorporate it into your weekly routine, but don’t be afraid to throw in an extra session anytime your anger is getting the best of you. Going for a quick run or swimming a few laps in the community pool is a great way to burn off stress and work off all the things you can’t say or do in your new life. You’ll walk away feeling tired, but likely rejuvenated, with much less angry energy swirling within.

Creative Expression to Channel Anger:

Creative expression can be used as an outlet: perhaps your overwhelming anger made you lose appreciation for the beauty of the world, so you use photography as a way to capture it. You can write out your frustrations with your recovery journey, create a story about the life you hope to leave one day, or write letters to loved ones that you’re hoping to mend fences with. Dancing it out while singing along to your favorite songs is a cathartic, albeit unstructured, way to vent your frustrations.

Even if you’ve never been the “creative type,” don’t be afraid to explore that side of yourself.

Counseling For Anger Management:

Your sponsor is a great place to start when it comes to talking through your anger issues, but unless they’re trained in anger management, their ability to help you is limited. Bear in mind that though you’ll certainly want to explore and discuss, but the two issues must be addressed separately.

Find a counselor in your area who has experience with anger management techniques, especially if you can find one who’s familiar with addiction recovery. Be prepared to dig deep to really get to the root of your rage; one of the trickiest parts of anger is that often you only think you know the cause.

Your partner, siblings, children, or others may want to join you for a few sessions for insight on when your anger seems to flare up the most, when it’s most detrimental to your relationships, and how it’s affected not only your life, but theirs, as well. Your therapist can also help facilitate and guide conversations with your loved ones so that you can effectively — not angrily — resolve issues and begin to rebuild together.

Your Support System is Vital:

A solid support system is vital, but you have to be willing to ask for help. Talk to your partner, friends, parents, siblings, members of your religious organization — anyone you know you can turn to for a listening ear and shoulder. Your counselor and/or sponsor are excellent resources and certainly play an important role in your recovery, but you’ll want to have people close to you as well.

When you’re tackling the darker parts of yourself, it’s important to stay connected to those who know all parts of you, both the dark and the light.

If your anger or addiction issues have caused many of your loved ones to keep their distance, even now that you’re sober, first know that with time and hard work, your relationships can be mended.

In the meantime, talk to your sponsor or counselor about local support groups. If you’re in Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, or the like, make it a point to speak up at meetings. Introduce yourself to others after the meeting, or see if someone wants to grab a cup of coffee. Suggest a group outing to the park for some fresh air and sunshine. It’s tough to get back out there and meet new people, especially early in recovery, but meetings are a great place to meet people who will truly understand your struggle; even if they don’t have an anger management issue specifically, they’ll be judgment-free of your past and will be the first to cheer you on for every step in the right direction.

In fact, they’ll be able to appreciate the gravity of even the seemingly smallest progressions in a way your loved ones can’t; that kind of understanding can make a world of difference.

Reasons To Stay Sober:

I know that this transition period is not unique to me. I’m sure many of you can knock back a few and move on with their day (or night?). That’s not okay for me. Okay, well, I could make it an option to me, it can ALWAYS be an option for me. I make the choice NOT to drink or abuse drugs.

But how does Sober You continue to abstain well the party continues? We all (should) have our own lists of why we quit our substance of abuse. I keep it with me, and you should write one too. What if you need a little more push? The following may help

1)You’re someone’s hero: While you may not know it, someone likely admires you for your choice to be sober. More often than not, your story has affected someone more than you know. Don’t shatter that by giving in to stress. Be the hero.

2. Your life is actually better this way. If you got sober, it was because your life was not what you wanted it to be. If you pick up a drink or drugs you may BAM return to addiction again, and quickly. Don’t let stress and uncertainty take that away from you.

3. Opening the door to one addiction leads to another door and another addiction. Luckily, I only ever dealt with pills as an addiction, thinking it would alleviate the pain. It didn’t.

4. You’ll want to remember this time later on. Even though it seems like life is kicking your ass, you’re probably gaining some valuable lessons, insights, and information for down the road. Drinking or abusing drugs yourself into oblivion would undo that. A few weeks (months) down the road, you’ll be glad for the chaos and stress of this time because it taught you to be stonger, as life has a way of doing.

5. A hangover will kick your ass. Hangovers make everything worse. Everything. If you’re already stressed out and overwhelmed, a pounding head and turning stomach will not help. In fact it will do the opposite—it will just make everything seem less achievable.

6. You’ll avoid making stupid, drunken/high decisions. If you’re sober, you’re no stranger to a past where you woke up in the morning with major regrets from the night before. When life is already kicking your ass, the last thing you need is additional stress created by choices made while intoxicated.

7. Your emotions shouldn’t dictate your life. Yes, this is easier said than done. But really, being stressed out and uncertain about points in life is normal. There is nothing unique about it, it’s just something you have to push through and feel. Numbing won’t do any good because the stressors will still be present, waiting to be confronted.

8. You’ve worked hard for your sobriety. Actually, I can’t speak for you. But I’ve worked harder for these two years of sobriety than I’ve worked for most things in my life. The last thing I want to do is throw that all away so that I can de-stress for a few hours. Because that’s all it would be—a few hours—and then back to reality. It’s not worth it.

9. You won’t have to explain yourself. Again, I can only speak for myself, but I know if I were to get wasted again, it would be in front of about 50 people who know I am sober, including my friends. I would have a lot of justifying to do, which would just result in shame and guilt. I kicked shame and guilt out of my life a long time ago, and they can stay out for good now.

10. If you were strong enough to get sober, then you’re strong enough to get through this, too. (Whatever “this” may be.) Getting sober hard. Therefore, this chaotic time of my life has got nothing on it. Nothing. If I can get and stay sober, then I can make it through this stressful few weeks without losing that sobriety. I can, and I will, one day, one hour, one minute at a time.

Additional Addiction Recovery Resources:

Alternatives to 12-Step Groups:

While many people do find great help and fellowship in the 12-step programs, others may not find it helpful. Here are 4 other addiction recovery resources (we do not claim that these organizations are any worse or better than others)

1) Women for Sobriety: is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping women discover a happy New Life in recovery from Substance Use Disorders.

2) SMART Recovery: To support individuals who have chosen to abstain, or are considering abstinence from any type of addictive behaviors (substances or activities), by teaching how to change self-defeating thinking, emotions, and actions; and to work towards long-term satisfactions and quality of life.

3) Secular Organizations for Sobriety: is a nonprofit network of autonomous, non-professional local groups, dedicated solely to helping individuals achieve and maintain sobriety/abstinence from alcohol and drug addiction, food addiction and more.

4) LifeRing: is an abstinence-based, worldwide network of individuals seeking to live in recovery from addiction to alcohol or to other non-medically indicated drugs

Recovery 12-Step Groups:

After detox and recovery, most addicts find they benefit from continued recovery and sobriety support. The most common support program for recovery from many addictions and other mental issues is based on the 12-step (Anonymous) programs. All 12 step programs are based on the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) program, founded in 1935 and based on the premise that the only way for a person to overcome his addiction to alcohol was to reach out and talk to other people who are struggling with recovery. In 1953, Narcotics Anonymous was granted permission to use the AA format and after that there was an explosion of groups that tailored the 12-step program to their particular type of recovery. Today, the 12-step programs (also known as the Anonymous Programs) cover almost every addiction and mental condition. If you or someone you love is struggling with an addiction, you may find help or advice with one of these programs. The websites for each program typically includes various useful information about the disease, the program itself, and links to local meeting schedules.

Here is a list of programs with links to their websites where applicable:

Other 12-step support programs for friends and families of people in recovery:

Last audited 11/2018

I’m Glad She’s Dead

I said it and I meant it.

And take heart, this isn’t one of those “She was in so much pain–” (she was) “– and now her suffering’s ended!” kind of stories, (even though the suffering’s ended, but more on my end) or “It was her time,” “God has a plan”, “It was meant to be,” or any of the other ridiculous platitudes that etiquette has taught us to say when someone is in pain.

By the by, all of those last few statements are damaging. They’re not even worthless, they’re Express Delivery Pain, and they wreck a person who is grieving. Better to say nothing when you don’t know what to say. Moving on.

Naomi was an artiste.

She participated in yoga, dance, performance arts, stage combat and renaissance festivals. Naomi practiced with a few religions and philosophies, loved to read and visit museums. She had a very exotic look (she was born in Russia, and her heritage is of Rom descent), and her tattoos were beautiful. I loved how delicate her skin was, and how her hair shone in the sun. She always managed to look glamorous, no matter what she was doing. Her face was the embodiment of Resting Bitch Face.

Only a few years older than me, but she had some mileage on her. As a teen addict and rape survivor, she’d managed to gain herself a steady income, decent living arrangement, clean and sober (apart from cigarettes; cloves, especially, were her vice). She was very ‘jaded’, as one might say (if one doesn’t have more depth than a teacup).  Naomi was ever so much more than jaded; she was downright grisly. She was overripe with experience. Her font of knowledge was brackish water from a sewer system. Naomi had truly seen the underbelly of American Life as a runaway, and it stayed with her.

And yet we became friends. Fast friends, actually. I was only just twenty-ish when Naomi steamrolled her way into my world via social media. We talked for hours sometimes, and both of us liked to draw Tarot for the other. It became a regular thing for me to travel out to the East Coast to see her. I was the maid of honor at her wedding, and her ex-husband (they divorced shortly after, but remained friends) still keeps in contact with me. I met several of her friends, two of whom I have also now flown out to see, separately from Naomi, although we would send selfies to her.

The thing to keep in mind, though, is that over the years, Naomi never put away That Habit that some broken youths just can’t kick: the need for drama.

It makes you feel significant. You feel like you’re at the center of a play that’s only interesting if you’re speaking or being pandered to. When there’s drama, you feel important and like your life is far more tragic, amazing, complicated, full of hardship or whatever else is on the agenda for the day. Cultivating drama and seeking it out in what would otherwise be considered (by many, not just me) very normal, everyday encounters– that’s an addiction for some kids that have fucked-up backgrounds.

I should know. I am one.

Naomi was the kind of person that, if I was sound asleep in the spare bedroom, she would come into my space unannounced, and flump onto the mattress beside me and sigh. LOUDLY. I fell for it the first couple of times, but after she complained that an author friend of ours (who’d allowed us to stay at his home while we were visiting the township together) hadn’t made a move on her, even though she promised to fulfill his every wish, I’d had enough. I needed sleep. So I pretended to stay asleep. She bounced a little more, took off her shoes and said, “I just need to sleep in here tonight.” I made a quiet noise and turned over. “But I guess you’re asleep and not up for talking, huh?” Naomi said this at normal volume, full of petulance. With another anguished sigh, she picked up her boots and stomped to the couch.

One of the many things we talked about, as the best of friends, was nutrition and dietary specifications. We liked to experiment with replacing ingredients to either cut carbs, help out with digestions, etc. Herbs and supplements were never far from our mind to reach for, rather than a bottle of Aleve. We’re not hippies (hippies don’t hate the way we do), but we try to listen to our bodies and respond to small cues. We exhaust other avenues before seeking out a doctor.

She’d had a hard time kicking a bout of thrush, and had had no real success with a limited-ingredient diet. One morning, she called and said, “Uh… my skin is orange?” and I knew, immediately, that she was extremely ill. “Go to the hospital,” I breathed out, “and call me once you’re there.”

Naomi had a very rare form of neuroendocrinal cancer. It essentially starts in your brain and blooms into a tumor in a random part of the body. And the cancer was choking her pancreas. The mass was inoperable, but it responded to radiation, and we hoped to direct the radiation to shrink the mass away from this badly-needed organ just enough to allow for a surgeon to cut away the cancer. Instead, it started to shrink right where it was, and after a shunt was implanted to allow her pancreas to work, Naomi’s body threaded a new artery *through* the tumor, and several other veins as well, so the pancreas could still receive blood flow and remain intact and functional. It was almost as if her body wanted to hang onto the mass, regardless of malignancy.

Once the tumor measured at about the size of a tennis ball, they began chemotherapy. I would fly down to be with her during the week at the suites, and we would lounge with the television for hours together. I’d make her curry, she’d help me craft mocktails, it’d be a nice time. But every single time I visited, she and her husband were fighting. Once, in the middle of a dinner with another friend at the beach, she called me to say that they were getting divorced and she needed me to take my things and go to a hotel. But by the time I arrived home, they were quietly ignoring each other and behaved normally with me. Everything was apparently fine. They divorced shortly thereafter.

When it came time for the annual oncology review, the tumor was still present in the same position, but it also wasn’t getting bigger. As most of her organs were functioning perfectly fine in spite of the tumor, she was cleared to move up the coast to Brooklyn. She invited me to her parents’ house in the country, but I declined. I had just become pregnant with my daughter, and I didn’t want to travel. Naomi said she understood, but there was an edge to her voice.

Within a few months, I can tell you what the vast majority of our conversations were about:

-NYC is filthy
-her roommate is awful
-there are no pretty, single goth boys
-cancer is stupid
-practicing Santeria
-hating her bosses
-hating her job
-hating her new roommate
-hating how she has to beg for attention from a guy she’s dating x6
-hating that nobody is nice to her
-hating the new job
-hating the other roommate, but only slightly less than the newer one, and never saying a thing about it to either of them

There was a notable shift in who she was as a person, and how she interacted with me, after I became pregnant. Perhaps it was because I was no longer available and had had her linked with my Emergency Contacts so my phone would always ring if Naomi called me. At some point, I broke my phone and never set up the Always Ring contacts in the new one. This lead to many impatient messages on the morning after, increasing in resentment the longer it took me to respond.

When my darling baby was born, cheerful and healthy, Naomi asked to be called the witchy godmother, and cooed at my wobbly infant. She sent me pastries from her favorite Jewish bakery, and shipped blankets with chewy spots for the baby. One day she told me that she felt much more attached and close to me and my child than she did her own sister and nephew.

Therein lays our friendship, at its core. We admired and adored the other from a distance, and shared intimate details of our love lives and inner feelings. I had been friends with Naomi for so long, when it became more one-sided, I chalked it up to the cancer and let it go. But I realized that it was just who she was as a person. She would always be the victim, the one who has it worse, who hurts more, who feels things so deeply no one could possibly understand what she’s going through. I began to avoid her questions of, “Do you have time to talk?” and only respond later when I could be more attentive, but by then, the moment (and the drama) had passed.

Finally, when my daughter was 4 months old and I was at the peak of my exhaustion and postpartum depression, Naomi’s gall bladder turned septic and she had to have an emergency surgeon to remove it. I knew she’d been at the hospital for about a week, and her boyfriend was making updates as best he could, but if I’d ever felt the energy to start texting or talking to anyone– not just Naomi– I would always stop before the first sentence left my fingertips. I wouldn’t have time for a conversation, or the energy to listen. I was pretty broken, and my gurgly baby was delightful and adorable and easy to handle but… postpartum depression is a monster. Perhaps I was wrong to think our friendship could survive a month without contact. Maybe I should’ve just sent the one or two-sentence text messages, just to let Naomi know that I was thinking about her.

But I didn’t. And for the better part of 6 weeks, neither of us reached out to the other.

And then she messaged me one day out the blue, opening with, “I am upset and I need to tell you what I’m feeling.” So I settled into Best Friend Mode and prepared myself for an hour or two of new/old complaints with minimal commentary on my part. But I was not prepared for what happened next.

She was pissed. Naomi was so angry at me.

“I almost died!!” she raged, “and you couldn’t even pick up the phone! But I’m just expected to remember every stupid detail about your kid!” and that’s about when she lost me. I’d heard about other people saying crazy things when their cancer gets to late-stage terminality, but I had also become (unfortunately) too experienced with people fighting cancer and then dying. And I don’t find this to be true.

My kid had nothing to do with this fight we were about to have. I tried my best to shelve the comment and look for what was underneath: she was in pain, she had no way of expressing it beyond rage and lashing out. I tried to commit to this conversation with everything I had, and I am still grateful that my kid was napping at that precise moment in history.

I listened and took in all of her words. I filtered out some of the hate and attacking phrases, and sent back a heartfelt apology, with a promise to do better in the future and to at least keep Naomi abreast of where I was emotionally. I apologized again, and said that I would understand if she needed to stay mad at me for a while, but I just needed to say the words “I’m sorry” first.

I’m not sure how everyone else on the planet receives apologies, but for me, all I want to hear is:

-acknowledge the pain that was caused, without excuse
-empathize as to how this could have affected you, were the tables turned
-admit fault, apologize sincerely
-have a plan for what to do differently next time (and/or how you intend to make it up)

Pretty sure I’d checked off all those boxes in my reply, but apparently, that’s not how Naomi liked her mea culpas, especially without a genuflection. I had ended my letter with love, but she instantly shot back, “Spare me diplomatic bullshit.”
I bristled, but was more hurt that she thought me insincere.

“I can see you are still very angry,” I responded, “so I’ll leave you be for now.” I was trying to just give her space to be angry without being more hurtful to me, and I thought I had conveyed that it wasn’t in my intention to block her out or turn away from her. I hoped my words had been received with love on some wavelength. That’s not what happened.

“I’ll leave you be for now.”
“what else is new”

That was over a year ago, in May of 2019. A lot has happened in the last 18 months.

Last week, I discovered that Naomi had been found dead in her bedroom by her parents. The cancer had progressed, she had had another emergency surgery, and she succumbed within a month. Her fight was finally over. Our mutual friends were sharing stories and crying over the loss of such a beautiful person, and what must I be feeling, as the very best friend of olde?

Well.. I felt relieved. I felt a tremendous weight fall away from my body.

Ah, yes, yes, I’m a horrible person, I know. Luckily, I also don’t care what anybody else thinks.

Was it surprising? Yes, of course. I hadn’t been in contact with Naomi for over a year.

Was *I* personally surprised? No, not at all.

Part of being the Best Friend meant helping her plan her will, her final wishes for rites and burial, for palliative care and, in case the worst of it came to pass, her plan for suicide. I had promised to assist. More than once, she used the phrase, “I don’t want to live like this anymore,” and I would comfort her as best I could, without asking if she was ready to die. One day, she told me she was ready, because the pain had become too much. I asked her to give me a day to get my affairs in order, and I’d get on the plane to NYC. By the end of the night, she’d messaged to say not to bother coming out, that she was fine.

When I found out Naomi was dead, I felt a deep pain in my heart for the relationship that we had shared. For the actual friendship, the late night talks, snuggling with her dogs, sharing costumes and garb for holidays and vacations. We loved each other, truly. But not everything is made to last forever.

As I scrolled through the memorials and testimonies that people were contributing in her honor, I felt mildly amused, thinking, “I doubt Naomi ever told these people the things she told me.” And it hit me– I’m glad she’s dead.

No more drama.
No more unnecessary calls.
No more seeking out the worst-case scenario and *betting on it*, in every situation.
No more shrieking, no more “Okay, but just five more minutes–” stretching into an hour every time.
No more pity party the size of Houston.
No more of any of it.

As it would have fallen to me, eventually, to untangle and sort through the mess of feelings she’d stirred together and dumped on me in that final conversation, and try to make sense of our friendship going forward, it still wouldn’t have been enough. Naomi always needed grandiose gestures to make her believe that a person was being honest and truthful. And I have never been the person to do that.

It would’ve been my job to fix that mess, because that’s the way it had always been. Helping her to see another’s perspective, and not assuming the worst intention of her lovers. Reminding her to breathe before she speaks, and never say the first thing that comes to mind. These are behaviors that every grown adult must learn to master for themselves, so they can be contributing members of society.

I was 35 years old before I realized that Naomi was completely dependent on me. I had never realized that our friendship had taken that turn, but looking back, it was so obvious.

I’m so very grateful that she is no longer suffering from migraines, nausea, aching all over and weariness. I am happy that Naomi has passed. Her body was terrible to her. But the emotional hellscape in which she lived, every single day, was the real demon, not the cancer. And it was largely her own doing, because she could never back away from being the center of attention. She had to repeat everything she heard or suspected about a person. There was no irritation too small that she couldn’t launch a full-scale critical review, complete with scathing commentary. If nobody had told Naomi that she was pretty at least once a week, she would post a new selfie with a comment: “felt cute might delete later” and then praise every person who complimented her. The reason I know she did this intentionally is because she told me.

I’m glad she is dead. I am relieved that my friend has died. I am happier because she’s dead; a tremendous burden has been lifted from me.

I don’t even know what her family intends to do with Naomi’s remains, but I’m not going to call them and ask, or insist on carrying out her final wishes. That was a promise I made to a friend. The woman who called me names and vilified me at my lowest point is not my friend.

I’m not obligated to fulfill anything on her behalf. I’ll never have to unravel another one of her messes ever again. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I’m glad she’s dead.


Post Script: if this kind of thing truly makes your insides twist, I am pleased that there are still people out there who have only experienced wholesome relationships that are full of goodwill and reciprocity. But since finding my voice about this and learning to say how I feel without needing to justify it, it has been made clear to me that many, many other people feel this way about now-deceased people from their pasts, and for far worse reasons than the ones I claim against Naomi. So to those people who’ve only experienced equitable relationships, I salute you. For everyone else, go ahead and say it out loud. I give you permission to say “I’m glad they’re dead,” and then reflect on any good times you may have shared, or at least share why it is that you are glad they’re gone. It has given me tremendous closure. Maybe your family or mutual friends don’t or won’t understand, but that’s okay.

You can say it to me, here, or you can write about it on your own, or you can tell it to The Band. We are here for you. But either way, go ahead and say it, see if it helps free you the way it did for me.



I’m Blue…

I am depressed. Very depressed. So depressed that I would like nothing more than to stay in bed all day drifting in and out of sleep.  Thoughts of suicide have flitted across my mind. But don’t worry, I am in no danger of staying in bed all day or committing suicide. I have children – two little boys that I love very much.

My children are the reason I get out of bed every morning. They are the reason that I will never commit suicide. I get up partly because I have to go to work, that place that sucks forty hours from me every week and ensures that I can support my children. The other reason that I get up is because I usually have a small (almost three!) child yelling for me to do so. He’s rather hard to ignore.

The reason I will never commit suicide (other than my dislike of knives, guns, ropes, and overdosing on meds) is that I want to watch my boys grow up. I want to see what kind of men they will become, the people with whom they will fall in love, what kind of babies they will have. I also realize that the only person that suicide “helps” is the person who committed it. Everybody that cared about that person is affected. I don’t want my little boys to grow up without a mom.

So, I’m not going to stay in bed all day, and I’m not going to commit suicide. I’m glad we covered that. So how else could my depression manifest itself? Cutting? Nah – I don’t like pain or blood. Anorexia? Nope, unless giving up all food but cheesecake and chocolate counts, and then I might reconsider… Bulimia? I can’t make myself throw up, but tequila helps (please know that I believe eating disorders are very serious, and am in no way making light of eating disorders or people who have them, I’m just trying to explain why I would not go down that path). And speaking of tequila, what about becoming an alcoholic? I have enough liquor in the house (I think my husband is trying to tell me something). While I have gone out drinking due to depression in the past, I was young and single. I didn’t have children who needed me sober. So that’s out, too.

So what do I do, other than just be depressed all the time? Well, I’m very irritable, I’m tired all the time, I lack motivation to do things I used to enjoy. I want to spend all my free time clicking mindlessly on Facebook (hey, my frontier/city/cafe/island/farm/mafia are all extremely important, they need me). I have stacks of magazines and books I haven’t read. I’ve gained weight. I’m uninterested in sex. I get headaches a lot (including two migraines so far, which are a new development).

I’m exercising and counting calories. I’m depressed that despite my hard work, the scale isn’t really budging. I’m on medication, which I don’t think is working. I see a therapist every other week but I haven’t really delved into my issues, and instead focus on my relationship with my oldest son (which is material for at least a few posts).

Nothing seems to be working. I’m depressed and it isn’t getting any better. There’s nothing in my life that is really a cause for my depression. My marriage is fine, my children are healthy and smart and beautiful, I have a good job, a nice house. So why, why am I so unhappy?

It could be the fact that it’s hereditary (special shout out to my parents). It could be the fact that it’s winter, and a lot of people get depressed this time of year. It could be that despite nothing being really “wrong” or “bad” in my life, nothing is really great, either. The one bright spot is my youngest son, who is totally a mama’s boy, and his hugs and kisses and love is often the only highlight of my day.

I’m so tired of being depressed. I want to be happy.



Ask the Band : Alcoholism & The Family

Dear The Band,

I have a couple of questions about alcohol and the family.

ask band

My spouse recently divulged that they drink much more frequently than I was aware of. They’re drinking including drinking regularly at work, in a parked vehicle.

I’ve been concerned with their drinking for a couple years, but it seems they have also become concerned with their drinking now – they said they don’t feel they can just “cut back” on their alcohol intake.

They’ve never lost a job or been arrested, but they spend most of their waking hours at home drinking beer; I’m concerned about the effects it has on their health, our budget, and our family.

They are drinking or asleep or grumpy most of the time and they don’t seem to be enjoying any of it.

They aren’t interested in doing anything aside from drinking, working, or sleeping.

I know I have zero control over if they actually quit or get help.

We’ve been together for well over a decade and we have young kids.

My spouse is a wonderful fucking person – that’s why I married them, and I know they can recover from their addiction if they commit to it and get help, I’m just not sure if/when quitting is going to happen.

To be fair I drank a lot too, when we first met, but I quit binge drinking after college and only drink rarely or at social events.

Here are my questions:

Is it possible to have a healthy family life with a functional alcoholic?

How do I help my spouse and not become codependent?


You are here.

Technically, we all are here, but that’s not the point. You are here, you are on the struggle bus, you are in good company. Today’s post is literally just links to a bunch of our glorious resource pages. Feel free, encouraged even, to share this post far and wide. We’ll start with mental health:






Next up, Feelings:






Maybe you or someone you love is struggling:

Domestic violence



Child neglect

Child abuse

Maybe you or someone you love is losing, or has lost, their battle:



Suicide– If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide please call! 

Parent loss

Partner loss

Child loss

Pet loss

We love you. We are here for you. If what you need isn’t listed above, please let me know at and I will do my level best to fix it! Stay safe, wash your hands, stop licking hand rails.