Int’l Overdose Awareness Day

As someone who has attended too many funerals due to overdose, I am asking you to share this image. How many people do YOU know that would give anything to hold their parent or child just One. More. Time? 

As long as we continue to share our stories and educate our world as to the truth about drug addiction, there will be hope. 

If you are one who’s had a loved one taken by addiction, please don’t stop speaking out. The less condemnation an addict feels from those who could instead be helping them to learn how to live again…the more likely that addict is going to be to actually ask for help. 

Outside of recovery – which is available as long as there is life – addicts only have three choices for their tomorrows: 

Jails

Institutions

Death.

Contempt and disgust haven’t worked to spare any addicts life, so let’s try love and compassionate action. What can it hurt? 

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And the tears come

Every month, for the last three or so, someone whom I cared about has died. I can’t even remember further back than that, but it seems to be pretty much on the reg, now. It’s a part of life, right? People die. People are born, and then they die. The Bigger Big Book says that each person is given about 60-70 years to live. Maybe more if you’re a truly amazing individual. But that’s really not the norm for the kind of people that I am acquainted with. The folks in my Tribe usually don’t make it past 40 or 50. Out of the last three to die, one was in his mid 40’s and the other two were right around 50.  

So, here’s the thing that prompted me to write about this: I don’t feel much of anything. I mean, one of these folks was a fairly close relative, and the other two had been important in my life at different times. Shouldn’t I feel…sad? I think intellectually I know I am sad, but emotionally I’m pretty well distanced from that pain. 
When I entered Treatment, I was all up in my head. I had a full-on case of Analysis Paralysis.  Someone told me that I did that to avoid feeling anything unpleasant. It took me a little while to become more aware of what I was actually feeling, and I think part of that lesson involved noticing the signals my body gave me. For example, when I’m initially anxious or stressed, my stomach aches. If I ignore it, the stomach ache moves on down my digestive tract. When I’m afraid I get tensed up and instinctively begin looking for an exit. I had come to distrust myself (and wear a mask) so much of the time, that I completely ignored these signs of my mental upset.  


I was in my teens I think, when I decided that I wasn’t going to cry anymore. I didn’t know it then, but I’d been depressed and struggling with PTSD for years, so crying had been part of a normal day for me. So, I concluded at this time that I wasn’t going to let anyone make me cry. God knows how, but I didn’t cry for more than a year. People died, relationships came and went, but I did not cry. I felt like I had grown callouses around my heart. Eventually I did allow the tears to escape, but even now, they are more difficult to access. There have been times when I was terrified and grief-stricken, but the tears only came for about 15 minutes at a time. Then they stopped. 


This concerns me.


It’s no secret that I have been taking medication to alleviate the depression for many years. I have been grateful to escape the darkness that lurks in my mind via Medical Professionals and pharmaceuticals. I remember telling someone who was considering trying meds for depression that they made me feel “appropriately”. As in, when it was a sad occasion, I felt sad, and when it was a happy event, I could smile and laugh. 
Before the medications, if it was a sad time, I was sad, and if it was a happy time, I was slightly less sad. Eeyore was of course my spirit animal.

I try to keep in mind that there are always many factors to consider when trouble-shooting my emotions. The biggest factor I can come up with now is that I’ve become more aware of PTSD symptoms when they crop up. I’ve figured out several scenarios where I am very much going to be uncomfortable and that I need to try and avoid. That awareness is helpful. It also makes it easier for me to see when others may be having the same issues.


So, in the process of self-examination, each time I learn of someone who has been important in my life dying as a result of this disease, I don’t really feel anything.  The last person, I was shocked at first, but that was just because I thought she’d dodged so many bullets already that she’d never die. And then when I thought about times that we’d been together – and there were ALWAYS shenanigans involved – I couldn’t really work up any feelings.  Same basic situation with the person before her, but we had been friends during childhood…nothing. Before that was my Uncle. 


Brett was a couple of years younger than me, and for as long as I could remember, up until I was 16 or so, I would spend at least a week with him on Grandpa’s farm. We were very much like brother and sister. We swam in the lake, fished, caught nightcrawlers for said fishing, climbed trees and even cleaned out an old pig house (like a very small shed) for a fort.  Brett was where I learned the amazing skill of rolling off of the top bunk directly onto the bottom bunk. Those were the days. As I think back, I miss that period of my life. I miss the carefree time out in the country, being as much of a tomboy as I could stand, and knowing that I was a part of
I’m not sure if that all even has anything to do with my uncle, necessarily. I am saddened to think of my innocence then, and how far I ran to the opposite extreme in my active using…years. Maybe it was the fact that I could count on, every summer, getting that break from my reality.  


So, yeah. I wonder about my lack of feeling. Is it a result of having had so many painful and traumatic experiences, that I’m just not (yet) able to open up that part of my consciousness? Is it the old standard “IDGAF” that I programmed into myself for such a long time? And then when I ponder these things, there’s the part of me that says I need to suck it up, remember there are many people who would LOVE to have my problems (I do, and feel terrible for not being more thankful), and make a gratitude list. Gratitude lists are EXCELLENT, by the way, but they’re not the end-all and be-all for overcoming these things. 


I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about this sort pf thing, primarily because I’m not sure how to remedy it, and you know the old saying “You can’t think yourself to sober living. You have to live yourself into sober thinking.”


Do you have any experience with this all-encompassing numbness? Do you “know” the right feelings for situations and yet not have them? Do you think this is part of the whole “children of alcoholics watch others to see how they should feel” thing?


I don’t have the answers, and thank God I don’t have to, today. 

P. S. 

Moments after writing this, I was informed that my only friend in this state died this afternoon. It was an overdose. She had a son that was friends with my son, and another who was 4. I am feeling now. 


Written in my cabin in the mountains.

It’s a “We” program

No matter how many times I hear about someone I know dying from the disease of addiction, it still feels like a punch in the gut,  then as if the heaviest, darkest storm cloud has descended and is following my every move. 

I found out this morning that a woman with whom I’d been inseparable for a time in early recovery had died…as a direct result of her addiction. 

I remember her as being friendly, outspoken, tons of fun, and unable to stop the slow suicide that comes in a bottle, or a baggie, or… whatever. 

Back when we hung out, she carrried around with her a 64 oz.”polar pop”- EVERYWHERE, including meetings. At some point, I can’t remember when, exactly, I discovered that there was much more than Pepsi in there. 

Then a few years later I discovered that my friend was struggling to put together a few days sober. I made sure she knew that I was there for her.

When a newcomer at the Women’s meeting we both attended mentioned that this same friend of mine was Sponsoring her, I asked her how long her Sponsor had been sober and she said “a couple of years.” The truth was, it hadn’t been a week. My friend was so much like every other addict… We’re so “smart” that we outsmart the part of us that wants to LIVE. I prayed that she would find a Higher Power that could remove the obsession. 

My friend could recite the Steps, Traditions, and How it Works from memory. She knew how to welcome the newcomers, and the not-so-new comers. She made people feel “a part of”, and she was generous to a fault. 

I’m so sorry that she never won the fight. She really was a fighter, too. 

Sometimes one has to die so that others can live. At least that’s what they tell me. I’m so tired of grieving. But it’s the price we pay for loving. So I guess I’ll get used to it. ❤ May we learn from everyone whose path we cross. 

Time marches on.

Last week I wrote about the  3 tragic words I never want to hear again, and the phone call I got from my Aunt, about my Uncle’s impending… expiration.
Today I got another call, saying that he’s not expected to last the rest of the night. I felt, well, nothing at first. I suppose that’s my go-to, when situations come along that provoke strong feelings. I get kinda numb, then I process what I’m feeling, and how I’m going to get through it.

Family Disease
I want to call and talk to him, but I haven’t talked to him in years… so it seems kind of, I don’t know, wrong? It’s not that we ever had a falling out or that we cared less about each other. We just began to live in drastically different ways. I guess it began when Dad got sober, really: the line was drawn in the sand. This Uncle and my Grandpa were going to drink until they couldn’t, and to hell with anyone who tried to tell them that they ought to stop. (a la Nick Cage in “Leaving Las Vegas”). I have another Uncle, for the record, who is just the opposite of the others of us. I’m not sure he’s ever been drunk, and his life is the stuff of magazine covers.

Turkey Run State Park 042

Turkey Run State Park

Summertime in Indiana

I’m remembering things we did as kids, when I’d spend at least a week every summer on the farm…like the sleepovers where I learned how to flip from the top bunkbed to the bottom without touching the floor. Oh, yeah, that’s a trick you NEED to try!
Or the tree-climbing where we tried to see how far down our spit could go before hitting a limb below us. Then there were the times we had rock fights while standing, oh, about 5 feet away from each other. (Did I mention that I was kind of a Tomboy?) Come to think of it, I’m positive that he wasn’t trying to hit me, because he was a tough, sports-playing country boy, and I KNOW he could have if he’d wanted to. And there were the times after it rained, when they lived in town and we would go worm-hunting…we fished by the pond in the back yard, and swam in the rock quarry…

kids-climbing-huge-tree-9657018

Kinda like this, but poorer & dirtier

We talked about music and life, and whatever important things kids talk about when adults aren’t around…

And, I wonder if he’s ready to go, now. I’m sure he hadn’t planned on dying this soon. We were alike in many ways, not wanting to grow up, being but one. So, I pray for my Uncle Brett. May God rest his soul.
I wonder if I’m the only one who finds it harder to feel the heartbreaks, as time goes by. I was thinking of it earlier, and I think it’s like having thickened scar tissue. After so many traumas and heartbreaks, the scar tissue is so hard that the pain doesn’t really sink in, to where it ought to go. It goes…somewhere, and I don’t feel it. It doesn’t go away, mind you. It just doesn’t stay where I can feel it.
I read recently that it’s been scientifically proven that you can die from a broken heart. (Once again science proves something humanity has known forever.) I believe it. I somehow doubt that it will happen to me, considering that they also say that stress gives you gray hair. Really? Hm. Something at a very foundational level is different here, I guess, because I’ve got oh, about 8 gray hairs. SERIOUSLY. I’ve earned a butt load more than that. Eh, I guess it’s some consolation that it causes folks to think I’m younger than I am. (I’m not so immature, I guess, if I’m actually quite a bit younger than I am.) 🙂
My least favorite part of growing older, hands down, is people dying.

So, where was I?
Sad. Old. But not gray.
Meh. I’ll take it, I guess. Life is good, today. And I am grateful.

3 tragic words I never want to hear again

It was a good day! I got to sleep a couple more hours than usual, and then my husband and I walked to the local Farmer’s Market. The weather was just about ideal: sunny skies and low 80’s. We chatted about becoming “that old couple” that people would see walking around town. He said they’ll say “there goes that fat old guy and the hottie.” I love that man.

At the market, we looked at the yummy baked goods and the fresh produce. There were a few tables with jewelry for sale, and -my favorite part- a six-week old pygmy goat!
image
After purchasing a pie and some local honey, we walked back home and had some lunch. I had a leisurely but productive day planned: go to the library to use the computer, read a book I began yesterday, and get to bed early. I went to the library and then came home to read. After about an hour or so, I got a call from a number that I didn’t recognize.

A call from back home

It was my Aunt in Indiana. I’d only seen her a couple of times in the 26 years that she’d been with my Uncle. He is my Dad’s youngest brother, and a lot like my Dad.

We chatted a little, and I caught her up on how we’d moved to Virginia last year,and how my sons were doing. She told me about how her home-based business has taken off and is doing well.
She told me about my Uncle’s health, which I’d known had been poor, years before. My Uncle was a chip off the old block, and like his brother, and his Dad, (and his niece) he had been a voracious drinker. Grandpa instilled a strong work ethic in his sons, and at the same time, a strong thirst for whiskey. I guess my Uncle’d stopped drinking 4 years ago, but not before it had taken a serious toll on his health.
She began talking about having a nurse come in to help with bathing him, and a hospital bed being placed in the living room, and palliative care…and that’s as far as my mind went.

Wait. What?

I told her I must’ve missed something. The last time I saw my Uncle, who happens to be 2 years younger than I am, he was as health as any 40-something man who’d lived on a farm for most of his life. But she was talking about Nurses coming in to bathe him??
She told me “He’s dying from End Stage Cirrhosis.” He is unable to get to the restroom unaided…

So, my Saturday ended on a much more somber note than any in recent memory. It’s the sort of thing that really makes me grateful for so many days that I don’t have to learn that a relative who used to be my childhood friend -like a brother, really- is nearing the end of their life.

The tears will come

So, here I am, thinking about my Uncle. When we were young, we climbed trees together, shared secrets, swam in the pond together, and we even turned an old delapidated hog shack into a, well, less delapidated fort-like thing.

Today he is a broken man, raised with so much childhood pain, so many battles to fight…now in hindsight, I see in him one more victim of the disease of alcoholism.

My Uncle never chose to be born to an angry, violent alcoholic. He learned from his dad how to fight, how to run away, and how to destroy anyone who got too close. He learned to hurt those he cared for most, by watching his Mother’s abuse. And in the end, as is usually the case, he learned from his Dad how to progressively kill himself.

Tomorrow’s another day

And it’s about 3 hours later than I’d planned to be going to bed. You know what they say, “if you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.”

Posted from my cabin far away from home.

Triggers & other purple things

Usually, when people talk about “triggers”, they’re referring to things that cause a sudden, undeniable desire to drink or use. A trigger may be a sight, a sound (like a certain song), a place, a smell, a taste, or even a physical touch. Here’s a definition:
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TRIG-GER
ˈTRIG-gr

verb
1.
cause (an event or situation) to happen or exist.

“an allergy can be triggered by stress or overwork”

synonyms:precipitate, prompt,elicit, trigger off, set off, spark (off), touch off, provoke, stir up
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Often a trigger for alcoholics & addicts to want to pick up may be an unhappy or tragic memory. It can sometimes be easy to determine what’s triggering the reaction (conscious awareness), or it can at other times be something more diffucult (subconscious). The thing is that often, a triggered epidose feels like being “blind-sided”, and the only warning is a sudden, bad, feeling.

In the mornings at my place of employment, staff usually turns to Youtube on the flatscreen tv, and everyone walks or exercises to whatever music is playing, for 30-45 minutes.
The staff are a diverse bunch of people, so the musical selections can be just about anything.
Recently, I had a rather disturbing reaction to the morning tunes…

Someone wanted to listen to Prince, (his death still being so recent) so we watched his videos for close to an hour.

I loved Prince. I loved his music, I loved his mystique, I loved his dancing, and I loved how beautiful he was to look at. 😚 He was a musical genius, he was eloquent with words, and he was charming. I discovered that day, that his music triggers me.

I tried to sing along (I know more of his music than I don’t), and I watched him singing and dancing, and I felt…not great. To say I was surprised would be an understatement. It had been many years since listening to Prince’s tunes, and I do not recall having that kind of response, ever before.

It took me a few minutes to figure out what was bothering me -during which time I alternated between paying attention (I mean, IT WAS PRINCE!) and trying to distract myself, as the uneasy feeling grew in my gut.

As far as I can tell, this is what happened:
I listened to Prince Rogers Nelson from the time I was in high school until about the time I got sober, during which time I ingested a whole lot of drugs and alcohol.
The saying in those days was “sex, drugs, and rock’n roll.” Those 3 things were the whole point of life, as far as I could tell, and while I doubt anyone would categorize Prince’s work as “rock ‘n roll”, in my experience, there was a ridiculous amount of the other two going on.
During this period, his music really was like the soundtrack of my life. Most any song you could mention of his, even ones who were made famous by someone doing a cover, from (about) 1979-1993, will bring back a ton of memories. The problem being that there are a lot of those memories that I really don’t want to remember.
You might not realize this, but the life of a female addict tends to be essentially, one fearful, chaotic, and sometimes traumatic situation after another.

Apparently, on a deeply subconscious level, Prince’s music is synonymous with that time, for me…now, to clarify, I’m not saying that this situation brought up feelings of wanting to use, cos that’s not the case. If I hadn’t spend such a long time focusing on self-care, it surely could have been like that.

I felt uncomfortable that morning, even moreso seeing how everyone else appeared to be greatly enjoying the music, dancing, etc., and not knowing exactly what to do. I really wanted to leave, but equally didn’t relish the thought of explaining myself to my Supervisor. So, I prayed; I forced myself to think of music that was almost the opposite of the melodies playing, and I took a bathroom break. (And repeated)

Yes, I’ve been working with PTSD for most of my “adult” life. I don’t talk a lot about it because a), it’s become more of an undercurrent when it comes up, as opposed to the tsunami it’s been in years past; and b), I feel like the majority of (Normies) don’t put much stock into non-war veterans really having post-traumatic stress disorder. I know better, but I’m not looking to invest my emotional energy into arguing about it with ignorant folks.
So, that’s my recent “trigger” story. I know that music effects many people strongly, so I wanted you to know that it happens to many of us.

image

Long live Prince

Posted from my cabin far from Paisley Park.