I felt weird when I walked out Dan’s office. It was one of those, I shouldn’t have said anything moments. As I walked down the steps, my mind went into default conspiracy theory mode.
What are they planning? What’s my next move? I better start looking for a job!
All he asked me was one simple question. By the time I got to my office I considered texting a colleague to see if any oppurtunities were available. Dan just has this way, of stating like two sentences and making a person reevaluate their entire existence. My insecurities flare up, and brain goes into spin cycle. I then become the CSI expert. What was his demeanor when he asked the question, and why was he peeling an orange while he asked it? I tell myself, everything is fine. Breathe. Literally nothing has changed since the time I walked to his office, and then back to mine. I breathe some more. The second question, “what are priorities?” was a left hook. I quickly fumbled for an answer as if on a game show with the clock expiring.
“Family, work, and that’s it,” I blurt out.
“What about recovery?”
“That’s implied,” I say.
“No it’s not,” he says.
I know it’s not. I tell my clients the same thing when they give the same generic answers for their discharge plan. However as I sit and wait for lunch, I still fill as I set the ball in motion for some kind of career change.
Getting in my head is still a dangerous place for me to be. I can make fascinating stories of being wronged or victimized, which unfolds a number of events of me once again having to walk through a challenge of my own making. I don’t know if that is ever going to go away. But I think idneitfying, and coping with it in a healthy, realistic manner is forward progress.
And after writing about this moment, I feel better.
Upon the New Year, I am not one to reflect on the past 365 days. Reflection for me, comes 13 days after. Six years ago, I was at my parents house, on the couch, slamming beers so I could come down off meth. I had $82 in my pocket, but nobody would answer their phone. Three beers were left, and I was coming in and out of consciousness. To put it bluntly, I fucked up again. With the seconds it took to hit a pipe, my life went straight back to were it had lived for the past two decades. My wife left me, again. The little job I had only worked one day at, I lost. And the insanity in my mind once again, woke.
I didn’t want to go back to treatment. But no one would take my call. Even drug dealers wanted nothing to do with me.
“You need help,” one said.
I even had to lie, to buy drugs. I had to convince one, that the drugs were for someone else. My options were this: 1) Die, 2) Go back to treatment. By the way, nobody should be in a place in their life where those are your only two options. That’s not normal. And yes, I actually showed up to treatment with $82 in my pocket, and three beers left in the fridge. (that’s the real tragedy!)
I hated treatment. I hated sober living. It was not fun going back. I was miserable. Again I had two options: 1) Die, 2) Work a program. So I gave it a shot.
I want to make something clear. I just didn’t wake up six years later, and have a family, career, education, sports broadcasting opportunities and most of all a life. Today my family and the people I have in my life along with the success Ive had at a career and education, are by-products of hard work in sobriety. Some days, I am so excited to go sleep, because I am so excited for the next day. Or, some days I want to stab my eye with a pencil. However, whatever kind of day it is, drinking and using are not an option. I woke up six years sober today, and I’m fucking proud of it! #stillSober
A friend was sharing when he believes he crossed the line in addiction. I thought it was an interesting phrase to use. Crossing the line is not “hitting your bottom,” or realizing that you have a problem. It is more doing something that you thought you would never do.
One time I was so desperate to get money for drugs I gathered my desktop computer, monitor, key boards and mouse in effort to go pawn. The only thing was that every component was a different brand. The computer a HP, the keyboard Del, etc. The pawn shop guy looked at me like I was crazy. To his point, he was correct. I was so upset that he rejected my stuff. Pawning stuff for me was definitely crossing the line.
Another example is when I needed a few bucks for beer. I felt like I was going to die if I didn’t get some kind of substance in my body. My daughter who was in elementary school at the time, had a piggy bank that I raided for change. Come to think of it, I believe I owe her a few bucks. But stealing from my daughters piggy bank for me, was crossing the line.
Knowing at the time, that I was doing something that I thought I would never do still did not get my to stop using and drinking. It actually gave me shamethat fueled my use. But today, I don’t even get anywhere close to that line.
What are some times that you felt you “crossed the line“ in your addiction? Please share!!
It’s challenging when working with someone who is a couple of days clean from drugs and alcohol. That’s when the disease of addcition is most powerful. When someone is actively using and drinking, the disease doesn’t have to work hard. But when we collect a few days clean the mind will make up any excuse to rationalize a reason to use. Feelings and emotions begin to rise. The same feelings and emotions we use and drink over to cope. We have to get to the point to where we can sit with those feelings so we can make a choice. The choice is to use, or to get help. And that’s a decision that no one can make but the addict. I believe most addicts do not even reach that point. They feel uncomfortable in their own skin which someone once told me, “I feel like unzipping my skin from my body.” Which leads them back to rationalizing or justify return to use. Furthermore, when someone stops using and drinking, those feelings they use over don’t go away either, we just learn healthier ways to cope, rather than drink and use.
I remember when I got to that point. The feeling of misery and failure hit me hard. I was over 30 days clean and would rather stab my eye with a pencil than go to one more freak ‘in AA meeting. But for some reason that night, driving on I35 North I had enough and I battled with God.
I yelled, “WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME, I CANT TAKE ANYMORE!”
Suddenly night broke, and the Sun came with such force the ground began to shake!! So, that didn’t really happen, but I did go to a meeting and get a sponsor and have been sober ever since. But I needed to get to that point. And in addiction, family can take away or stop enabling which will help someone get to that experience, but the choice is still ours. There’s no “quote” I can read, or story I can share that will wake someone’s spirit. And even if there was, and even if they were ready for recovery, it’s just the first step, which is the most important step of all, at least in my recovery.
I told her she was going to die. And it’s the truth. She is going to die if she keeps drinking. But on the drive home and this morning it bothered me. I believe in meeting people “where they are at” and taking “whatever they are willing to do” to get sober. And creating a daily plan that is reasonable enough that they can achieve. But Jill isn’t 20 years old trying to get sober for the first time. Jill is 40 and looks horrible. She is six days sober, (so she says) and coming off another relapse. She’s experienced multiple seizures while detoxing this time as well. She has no money for treatment this time around, reason being she was in my group. I am not that “hard-ass , rogue-counselor that doesn’t play by the rules but somehow his tough love and unorthodox techniques for getting people sober work. That’s not me, however as I wrote that last sentence I admit that would be a pretty cool character on a YouTube Red series. I’m more of, “let’s work with what we got.” But I feel Jill is running out of things to help her get sober, the greatest is time. Jill is running out of time. That’s why I felt I had to be honest about her situation. And that’s why I said she is going to die, if she doesn’t stop drinking.
“I know, this isn’t my first rodeo,” she said.
“Exactly,” I said, “That’s why I feel this is not going to end good for you.”
So I doubted my approach. I mean, it could turn Jill into self-pity, and rationalize her to say screw it, I’m going to die I might as well drink. But I just feel that the sense of urgency and motivation to get sober isn’t there for her. She wants to put everything and everyone first. I feel like there is no time for her.
I hope I’m wrong.
*This story is real, however the name has been changed to protect our anonymity
I’m still learning my triggers to alcohol and drugs. What exactly it is, that grabs my attention and sets my mind and heart rate into a false reality. Then it prompts me to think, “it was fun” and it would “surely be different,” this time if I use and drink. The trigger or a trigger, basically sets my focus back to time when I was using and drinking. And it can be literally anything that sets it off, like a song, a smell, the morning dusk, or the darkness of night. For me, a couple of nights ago, it was a scene in a movie.
It was around dinner time and my wife’s sisters and mother were over for the usual after work meal. I’ve been practicing lately not watching television, because I’m trying to Knick away piece-by-piece at a school project. One of the biggest challenges for the project is the finding the time to write. So I few nights a week, just for fifteen minutes I elect to write instead of watching television. That day was no different, but I was home early from work so I fell into a patch of time that allowed me to relax on the couch.
I’m watching what my family has on…(you see there, I’m already assigning blame!), and it’s movie where the boss of a company throws this “end of the world” epic Christmas Party. I’m laughing and enjoying it. The water coolers filled with tequila and the DJ spinning records along with all the employees in a drunken stupor don’t bother me. But what happens next, does.
The boss gets into a huge fight, and leaves the party. The scene is now where he is at on a downtown sidewalk, drunk and high, and someone who he does not know, screams from a car, “hey you wanna go party?”
The next scene shows him now at a underground shady-dark club, sitting on the couch drinking and doing lines of cocaine. There is music and club-goers, (ha..I’ve never used that word, “club-goers” im getting old!) all around and he has know idea where he is at, and doesn’t really care.
That was a gut check. I didn’t see it coming. That scene triggered me into a frame of reference like it happened yesterday. I felt as I was 1 day sober, instead of the 5 years that I am. My heart raced making my body warm, which caused my palms to sweat. The uncomfortableness caused me to fidgeted my body. My mind spun off, and for a split second I was in the club. Shaking the moment off, was no problem. My son was there, my daughter and wife were there along with her family. And just to note, this why we are told not to have alcohol or drugs in the house or hang-out with old friends in old places when we are getting sober. For moments like these. If I was at bar watching that movie, or with my old friends, this might be another blog topic.
So I went to a meeting. No, I’m not that Super AA person, It just happened to be meeting night at my home group. So I shook-it-off, grabbed my 12&12 and left. When I a came home it happened again, the one-two punch. I went to the bedroom to find my wife watching some movie. And like always, I got ready for bed and because I’m trying to have boundaries with Facebook, I start watching the movie instead of grabbing my cell phone. And this was this scene I fell into:
A romantic night, in a fancy hotel room and the lavishly dressed girl, downs an orange juice and vodka in front of her date. The guy said, , “Whoa, slow down.” The girl then grabs his drink and downs it the same. The she said, “what, that’s how I drink!”
So that just hit me square in the jaw. Same symptoms, accelerated heart, sweating palms, my mouth salivating and my mind inside the glass licking the ice cubes with my tongue.
Here’s the solution:
I pointed out to myself why did I stop there? Why do I allow my mind to play the first half of the fantasy only. I never went to a party where drugs were free and everywhere, then I realize it’s 11:30, so I shoot for the door, and pick up something to eat on the way home and I wake up on time for work in the morning and have a fun memory to share of the night before. That never happened.
Never, have I had only two drinks, like the girl in the movie. I’m just not that person that can have half-a-glass of wine, bite into my medium-well steak, while enjoying the spring breeze off my balcony in the hill country. For me it was always, two-drinks, phone call to my drug dealer and disappear for three days.
I never went to a party and went home any earlier than 3 days. It was never a fun and clever night of jousting between parties and people only to end up all with a big laugh, when the night is done. It just doesn’t happen like that for me.
So when good memories of you drinking and using pop-up, play the entire night out, and see where you end up. Because, well, that’s where you end up.
The news on any platform feels so overwhelming today. It’s like politics has blended itself in every category of the media as possible, sports, Hollywood and social media. It’s hard to listen and take seriously especially when the “extremist-rant” is followed up by a money advertiser mention about Keri’s Berries. It’s actually quite comical.
So I think to myself how do I even make a dent, in a time when America is extremely-split on every topic imaginable, while the fingers point in both directions. Maybe I need to do more than just be sober.
But what? I had to start somewhere, so I decided to create my platform on “I have absolute zero control over the world and everything in it.” That right there gets me off-the-hook on a whole lot of issues. However I do have a responsibility, to someone or something, right? So I put my right arm out in front of me, and turned my body to a complete 360 degree angle. And that space right there, is where I start, and what I can control.
It’s a very small space compared to the world. So I started praying to my higher power to fill that small space with people who need help. And he did.
Andrew came in my life, and for the first time he has over 2 months of sobriety, after a dozen relapses. For the first time, he called me when he felt like using and drinking, and he remained sober. Nikki was having a nervous breakdown and her first day on the job at a local breakfast place. I took a second to tell her she was doing great, and with watered eyes, she said thank you. Brody called me and after a recent relapse after 15 months clean, he said he needed to get back in treatment, he couldn’t stay sober. Jessica called and after leaving treatment 2 months ago, she relapsed and wanted to go back. Then there was Vince, who literally got out of jail yesterday and says he is 6 months clean and if I would be his sponsor. And Mark, he showed me the scar that took up most of his forearm, and with a 24 ounce beer in his other hand, simply said, “I’m not ready yet.” Then picked up his wheel barrel of junk he has collected throughout our neighborhood and strolled down the street. It’s his journey, not mine.
You wanna change the world, start by waking up sober. Then help the people that your higher puts in your life. Action.