It’s My Life

A middle-aged man bends slowly down to pick up a pair of well-worn sneakers from the bedroom floor. His greying hair is dangling slightly and gently brushes against his forehead as he places the shoes in a white 'hefty' bag. He looks up. Twenty-four hours ago he couldn't have imagined he'd be in the center of this room and in the middle of the worst day of his life. His wife is no more than three feet away from him. Her eyes betray a suffering that is unfathomable to all but her. Her baby, who she carried, nursed and loved beyond all measure, is gone forever. The sound that she made, that they both made, when they first heard the horrific news is practically indescribable. It was neither a scream nor a cry, but somehow a more guttural and heartbreaking combination of the two.

His parents will never be the same, and his siblings won't either. A hole that big in any life can never fully heal. The holiday gatherings won't be short by merely one. He was a son and a brother twice over. He would've likely been a husband and a father as well. They'll all be missing from future family celebrations. The entire family will miss his children, who now must remain unborn. All of the family’s hopes and dreams for him have been crushed. Eventually, the stabbing pain of this tragedy will probably subside enough and the family will carry on the business of living and loving each other. They will all create new memories and a new life, without him. But the memories of his life and death may remain persistently and painfully pervasive. 

Of all of the multitudes of lies that an addict tells themselves and others, the most egregious is: “It’s my life and how I live it only affects me”. It’s easy enough to understand how some addicts can end up feeling that way. After so many broken promises and horrible drama, the addicts loved ones get upset and let them know it. Many addicts become estranged from their families because the family can't bear to watch the addict’s slow-motion suicide any longer. Rather than seeing the depth of the pain they are causing, the addict chooses to play the victim and decide that his family, friends and even the world at large are all conspiring against him or her. Then they can feel justified doing whatever the hell they want because ‘nobody cares’.

If you've ever heard the shrieks of despair, watched parents pack the shattered remains of their family into bags and have seen the anguished looks of suffering on inconsolable faces, you know exactly how delusional an addict can be.

Well, THIS is awkward

Why is it that an outside observer can see that an addict is in trouble so clearly, yet the sufferer can’t, doesn’t or wont see it? The reason must lie somewhere in the many apparent aspects of the disease of addiction. There are physical aspects to addiction. Things like: Changing your brain chemistry by consistently subjecting it to different chemicals, Withdrawals and PAWS. Post-Acute Withdrawal-Syndrome is especially pleasant. Its symptoms are: mood swings, anxiety, irritability, tiredness, variable energy, low enthusiasm, variable concentration and disturbed sleep. Welcome to recovery! Then there are mental characteristics to the disease. Things like: Obsessing over the mind-altering substances, various rituals (searching, procuring, preparing and finally using) as well as Co-occurring or Sequentially Comorbid conditions. There are plenty of social aspects as well.

Don't sell the social pressures and fears short. When getting high is the normal thing that happens, it’s difficult to put into words just how uncomfortable being sober feels – in pretty much every situation. Take the simple case of hanging out at a local bar with friends while in early recovery, and drinking a can of pop while they casually have some cocktails. If you're honest, you'll admit you can feel the pull of the drink. Drinking may not even be your thing, but the pull may be writhing in your gut just the same. That desire may not be very strong, but it will still be present. Why, when you have made a decision to be clean and sober, would you feel this way? There could be many reasons. One might be, you’re watching friends do something you may have done innumerable times. They don't seem to be having any problem with it. If you're a certain kind of addict and you have that drink, it may be ‘off to the races’ or the nearest dope spot. As an aside, I'm not saying that anybody with a substance abuse problem can't learn to moderate his or her intake. Oftentimes however, its many repeated failures at moderate ones’ intake, which precedes a decision to be drug and alcohol free. That leads right into the next social reason to drink, feeling socially awkward. People generally seem to have a strong desire not to appear any ‘different’ than their friends. In this situation at the bar, you’re going to look and feel more and more different as the hours and drinks tick by.  

Wanna go see a movie? Better smoke some weed so you can really enjoy it! Wait, it’s a 3-hour movie; Make sure you have some Norcos (painkillers) to get you through that one. On and on it goes.

After a while, getting high is normal. It’s being sober that feels like the altered mental state. It may sound like it was only a habit, but once you get into the addict territory; it feels as much of a ‘habit’ as breathing does. Think about that for a minute. The alcoholic / addict is giving up their number one coping mechanism / social buffer, suffering from PAWS and walking into social situations feeling incredibly awkward, raw and unprepared to deal with whatever is in front of them.  

This is why there seems no ‘one answer’ for addiction. It appears that recovery from addiction is far more likely to happen if the sufferer uses more than a single resource. Here is a list of some well-known recovery resources 

·      Inpatient Treatment

·      Professional therapy

·      Intensive Outpatient

·      Aftercare

·      Sober Living & Halfway Homes

·      Support groups

·      12-Step or Evidence based recovery programs

·      Increasing your Sober Network of Friends

Addicts and their family members sometimes have a false sense of security due to the belief that simply by going to Treatment or a 12-Step program, the sufferer is ‘better’. Unfortunately, this illusion may be shattered by a relapse or even worse, a funeral. Think of it this way. If you needed quadruple bypass heart surgery would you consider only bypassing one artery? Given the varied aspects of the disease of addiction and all of the treatment modalities available, why wouldn’t you take advantage of as many as possible for as long as possible?

Below is a link to some of these resources that someone wanting to get sober may need:

http://www.bridgessoberliving.com/recovery-resources/

Which River In Egypt?

Denial.

It’s the word that many people in and around recovery use to describe the state that an Alcoholic or Addict is “in”, when they're actively using instead participating in a program of recovery. Often times that term is casually followed up by the phrase, ‘You're gonna die!!’ When I was newly sober, some of the people with long-term sobriety taught me that this is what the new-folks needed to hear. So, I went on to use that one-two punch myself. I used it on the most hopeless class of people I know, the suffering alcoholic/addict (a/a). I remember feeling very justified when I verbally body slammed these people whom I barely even knew. It didn't seem at all inappropriate because people were dying. I had been to their funerals. Surely these newbies are in denial, aren't they? I mean, come on! They were sitting in hospitals, treatment centers or dank church basements; things that most people didn’t do unless they absolutely had to. Somebody had to tell them the truth!

Or did they? Was that even the truth? Those are two very good questions that I never dared to ask others or myself in early recovery. Since those fears are long gone, let’s have a look at the second question first.

Were these people in denial about having a problem with drugs and alcohol? It’s not always as obvious as it first seems. There were plenty incidents in my life that should have indicated to me that I might have a problem with drugs and alcohol. Unfortunately, these events preceded by far my ability to honestly or deeply examine them. Also, the possibility that I truly believed that I was still in control of my chemical intake or that drugs and alcohol weren’t really affecting my life, needs consideration. It seems to me that a delusional person can’t also be in denial about the same issue. Next it had to understood that just because a person doesn’t feel like talking, doesn’t mean they are guilty of denial by default. After all, other people couldn’t accurately say that I was in denial simply because I didn’t, wouldn’t or couldn’t talk to them about my life.

Now let’s have a look at the first question. Do we really have to say to someone; “You’re in denial”? Suppose we have thoughtfully evaluated all of the above and had a great deal of conversation with the other person, so we are now confident that the other person is actually in denial. Is the 'denial' talk really the most effective dialog to have? Obviously, I don’t have a special porthole of truth that I can gaze through and see ‘the right answer’ for everybody – or anybody else, really. However, I do have a great deal of experience talking to patients in various stages of treatment. I have also given a great deal thought about how I have handled and should handle these situations, so I’ll share my perspective.

When talking to a person whom I may be of assistance to, I ask myself a couple of questions. First, I ask myself; “What is my intention?” My answer to that question is always “To offer the most support and help to this person that I possibly can”. Next I ask; “If it was a younger version of myself that I was speaking to, what approach would I have most likely responded to positively in this situation’. The answer is always “One with a humble, respectful attitude.” My answer never was; “One with a confrontational and judgmental manner.” As I mentioned earlier, I used to employ this challenging tactic years ago. Clearly, I hadn't fully considered what it meant to be ‘of maximum service’ to these suffering people – MY people. If my agenda was only to make sure they heard what I believed the ‘the truth about their situation’ was, then that more combative approach fits the bill. It’s not hard to imagine why an antagonistic style is so unpalatable and ultimately less effective. This method is being used on a person who is already unwilling or unable to either acknowledge or discuss their situation. If a person feels like they’re being attacked, it will probably provoke in them a defensive posture. If that person is an a/a who feels like they’ve been condemned or cornered, their defense may look a lot more like a full-on counter attack! To avoid that adrenaline pumping, time-wasting battle, I long ago began to opt for a different strategy. One that highlights something the a/a probably hasn’t thought about much in their fairly recent past.

Hope.

There is hope. For you! If think you might be an alcoholic/addict, there is a way out. It’s a group of processes that have worked for me and many others. If you do think you’ve got an alcohol or drug problem and you’re willing to take advantage of every resource of help that is available to you, you almost can’t help but to get and stay clean/sober. If you combine: Inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment, professional therapy, aftercare, sober living, a recovery program, sober network of friends and the support of family and all who love you (and anything else you can think of) – I think you’ll have the very best odds for achieving long-term and contented sobriety. By the way, past failures you may have had at earlier attempts to recover don’t necessarily sentence you to another defeat this time around. To the contrary, if you change your approach based on the lessons learned from any mistakes you may have made, your odds are even better that you’ll succeed now!

Do you think you might have a problem with alcohol or drugs? What can I do to help you?

The Belly Of The Beast

FEBRUARY 8, 2015 BY DREW 

Imagine your eyes beginning to sting as they slowly open. They’re bloodshot red. Sunlight is blasting through the shadeless living room windows, adding some shock to the sting. It’s 10:30 am on a Tuesday and you’re late for work. Well, you would be late, if you were going to show up at all. You were pretty sure that you weren’t going in when you started drinking last night. You knew for certain when you finished the bottle of Capt. Morgan at 1:30am and smoked some sativa. Your head started spinning and you passed out.

Now awake, you swallow some Valium, because you want to eeeease into your morning. You smoke some more kind, pop a fistful of Norcos and grab some coffee to start the day. The phone rings and… paranoia. You’re not answering that shit. There’s a knock at the door and… more paranoia. You’re not answering that shit either. You light up a smoke and go to the computer to start killing the day. There is a bright blue sky overhead, but you’re not going outside. You don’t want to deal with “people”.

Your friends and family are increasingly worried about you. Either they think you have a problem with drugs and alcohol or they think you have a problem with them. Falling off the face of the Earth will do that to relationships. All you ever wanted was for everyone to leave you the hell alone. Now that they have, you find that your self-imposed isolation does have one companion. Crushing loneliness. Your drug addled brain is now free to twist and contort your life’s reality far beyond anything resembling its actual truth. You come up with two solutions to the mess that your life has become. The first one is familiar. Get high(er). Then you can stop thinking about this existential crap. The second idea is morbid. Just end it.

I don’t have to imagine that scenario because I lived it. If you’re an alcoholic / addict you probably won’t have to imagine it either. You’ve lived that story, or maybe suffered an even harsher version. Maybe you’re wondering why I didn’t list a third solution. You know, getting Clean or Sober or whatever phrase you want to use to describe not drinking or taking drugs anymore. For me, quitting didn’t seem like a realistic option. I had already tried various methods of quitting; Switching alcohol for drugs and vice versa, using only on the weekends, quitting some drugs, seeing a psychiatrist, reading self-help books, etc. The funny thing is, I ended up doing just that – I stopped using. I became alcohol and drug free not too long after I lived the above day back in the very early spring of 2001. I have since remained that way. This may lead you to ask a few questions:

A) How did I get free of the compulsion to take alcohol and drugs?

B) What do I do to remain free?

C) Can you do it too?

These and many other recovery related topics are what will be discussed in-depth here on the Bridges Sober Living Recovery Blog. The short answers are:

A) I honestly asked for help. Then with the help of many good people, I took new and different actions that guided me towards transforming my life.

B) I continue to live that reshaped life in a way that keeps on moving me forward.

C) Yes, YES and YES! If you are willing to take advantage of any and all resources that are available to you and are willing to do honest, thorough work. Almost anybody can change their lives despite their current circumstances.

 

Comments and discussion are encouraged!