Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Real Reason I Don't Drink Anymore

Last weekend, I was at a poker party. Now, as some of you know, I have a hard time leaving my house, so this was huge for me. I'm not agoraphobic, but I do have some social anxiety - I tend to isolate.

Anyway, I went to this shin-dig and everyone there was drinking. When I first got there, I went to the fridge to get a Diet Coke and there was a twelve pack of beer. For the first time since I got sober, I thought, "Mmmm...beer!" Which is odd because I've always been a hard alcohol drinker. Beer was either just to chase the Jagermeister, or something I could take or leave. But I was irritated about some things that had happened that day and I was having bra-strap issues so I was feeling agitated. When I saw the beer, I thought how nice it would be to have one. Just to take the edge off, you know?

Someone told me that night, "If you want one, go ahead and have one." and for a split second, I considered it. Then I remembered that I have never wanted a beer. Ever. In my whole life, I've never even wanted a drink. I've wanted beers and drinks, but never a beer or a drink. Some, maybe most, people can have a drink and maybe not even finish it. I don't get that. Why bother? The way I see it, the only reason to drink at all is to keep having more drinks: to get drunk. If you're going to have just one beer, or one drink, why the hell are you bothering?!? Seems like a waste of perfectly good alcohol, to me.

Now, it has occurred to me in the past eighteen months, that my thinking may be skewed.

On my first day in rehab, my counselor asked me if I thought I could drink when I got out. I immediately answered, "Of course! My problem isn't alcohol. My problem is meth." (Actually, I didn't really think I was an addict at that time. I just thought I was really good at using drugs and rehab would be a great way for me to take a little break so I could catch up with the dragon I was forever chasing. Oy!)

Anyway, I know now that if I were to have a drink, I wouldn't stop until I was either drunk or the booze ran out. Most likely, the latter. And not just that. I know myself well enough to know that if my inhibitions are lowered, I would very likely go looking for meth. (or coke, or mushrooms, or acid, or...) I also know that if I were to jump on that ride again, I would probably never get off.

What I've told you here isn't just regurgitation of A.A. rhetoric. I know this within myself. I know that, for me, it's never about having a social drink (or line, or hit, or whatever). For me, it's all about escape. It's about altering my reality.

But so far, right now, my reality is pretty damn good.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Walker Center

In November, 2006, I went to the Walker Center in Gooding, Idaho for 30 day in-patient rehab for my addiction to meth. I had used drugs since I was twelve years old but it was because of meth that I ended up at the Walker Center.

For just over five years prior to going to rehab, I smoked meth every day without fail. All day, every day. Without exception.

A series of circumstances finally led me to admit to my parents that I was an addict and needed help. I looked at a lot of drug treatment centers before deciding on The Walker Center. There were several reasons for choosing this particular rehab center, only one of them being the cost.

What I would like to discuss here is a little known option for drug and alcohol rehab treatment - The Walker Center.

I researched numerous facilities and found the programs themselves to be fairly similar. The only noticeable differences were the amenities, prestige and cost. Most treatment centers cost between $50,000 and $100,000 for a 30 day stay. The same length of stay at the Walker Center is between $8,000 and $10,000. Why the difference? Fluff and prestige.

At a higher priced rehab center there will be amenities like fluffy down comforters on the beds, 600 thread count sheets, pools, spas, beautiful rolling hills surrounding the place, hiking trails beside trickling streams, swimming pools and topiary. As for the actual program, you will get individual and group therapy, drug and alcohol education classes, an intense family program, daily exercise and nutrition.

As for scenery, Gooding, Idaho is pretty flat and desolate, but surrounded by mountains and offering the most breath-taking sunrises and sunsets I've ever seen. There are no pools or spas and the sheets leave something to be desired. (although you can bring your own) The food, however, is exceptional. This is no small thing for addicts and alcoholics who, for the most part, are severely malnourished. (Many 'upscale' rehab centers I've heard about, from people who have been to them, have mediocre food and angry, underpaid cooks.)

The treatment offered at The Walker Center is first class. Although it was just the beginning of my journey, but I don't know how I would have achieved sobriety without in-patient rehab. I owe a lot to The Walker Center - and my parents who made it possible for me to get the help I so desperately needed.

Thank you (again) mom and dad.

Monday, September 22, 2008

A.A. - Cult or Cure? Part III

Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, Over Eaters Anonymous... and on... and on...

I've been on this rant now for three days. The reason is that I'm often asked why I don't go to meetings or why I'm not active in A.A. I suppose, then, that these posts have been my explanation, at least for myself.

I don't know if A.A. is a cult or not. I know there are very strong viewpoints on both sides about it and for that reason, there will never be a definitive answer. It's like arguing religion or abortion. The opposing sides are arguing with different sets of facts, so the argument becomes moot.

For me, it took a lot of work on myself to become sober. To maintain my sobriety is an ongoing process. Every day I make a conscious effort to have gratitude for the life I have now. I use what I've learned in Cognitive Self Change to help re-construct my thinking errors. I try not to isolate and I've found ways to fill my own personal void. I'll always be working on these things, knowing that my life is a thousand times better than when I was using.

Without these tools, without finding a new way to fill the emptiness I've always felt, I don't know how I could not want to go back to drugs.

So my unease with A.A. is not due to resistance or rebellion. I simply find that, for me, it's not something I need. Though it's a good starting point, I've just found too many inconsistencies, closed minds and hypocrisy in A.A., which are the same things I've found in most organizations.

Just because I think A.A. is not right for me doesn't mean my sobriety has any less quality than any other sober person.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

A.A. - Cult or Cure? Part II

Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Over Eaters Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous...this list goes on and on. Hard core members of A.A. swear by the program citing the Twelve Steps as the be-all end-all for sobriety. But is A.A. itself responsible for the sobriety of the addicts and alcoholics who fade in and out of the organization?

Before I go on, I want to make clear that I believe A.A. is a powerful program that helps keep people sober. I have attended many meetings and functions that have helped my sobriety. I do not, however, credit it for giving me or for maintaining the healthier, happier life I now live, nor do I continue to attend meetings.

I do agree with the theory of the 'dry drunk'. (or the smokeless, powder less, pill-less addict) My belief is that while a person can get sober through sheer will-power, that doesn't bring any more happiness or fulfillment as a human. They are simply sober with no 'tools', or chemicals, to ease the pain of being human.

I owe my sobriety, and my life, to the changes I have made cognitively and spiritually, aided by in-patient rehab, ongoing therapy...and A.A. All of which had played a part in giving me the tools I needed to bring myself out of my head and into the world around me.

In the rooms of A.A. I have found, at times, peace and acceptance, blind faith, hypocrisy and little, if any, critical thinking: the same things I have found in organized religion. My intent here is not to bash or discredit A.A. My intent is to take an objective look at the program.

The AA GSO (Alcoholics Anonymous General Service Organization) has, for years, conducted surveys every three years. They count members and ask about length of sobriety. A document was published by the A.A. world services, for internal use only. (Document number 5M/12-90/TC) Below are the findings of those surveys showing staggering drop out and relapse rate of newcomers.

81% are gone (19% remain) after 1 month;
90% are gone (10% remain) after 3 months,
93% are gone (7% remain) after 6 months,
and 95% are gone (5% remain) at the end of one year.

Do these numbers add up to success?

The principles espoused by 12 Step Programs manifest in in such universals as The Golden Rule and the Ten Commandments. Without listing all twelve steps here, the basic tenants are: realize there is something greater than yourself, adhere to rigorous honesty in all aspects of your life, admit when you're wrong, make amends whenever possible, take responsibility for your actions, get out of your own damn head in order to give back to others what you've taken and have gratitude for what you have in your life and the world around you.

Does lack of membership in any organization deem someone incapable of these qualities? Is A.A. the only way to come to this realization?

(to be continued...)
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Thursday, September 18, 2008

A.A. - Cult or Cure?

Alcoholics Anonymous. Narcotics Anonymous. Cocaine Anonymous. Gambling Anonymous. Over Eaters Anonymous. And on, and on, and on...

A.A. has been touted, since it's inception in 1934, as being The Way to quit drinking. It has since expanded to include all kinds of deviant behaviors. (Telephone Scatologia Anonymous?) Every rehab facility that I know of utilizes the 12 Step model. Every person convicted of any crime related to drug or alcohol use or abuse is court ordered, in some way, to attend some form of A.A. (Anyone who has ever been to a meeting knows what the 'green card' is.) Employers send drinking or drugging employees to A.A. as a requirement for continued employment. Parents send children, children send parents and spouses send each other.

There is no shortage of people in "the rooms" as the meeting places are referred to. If we suspect that someone has a substance abuse problem, the immediate and universal advice is, "You need to go to A.A. - get a sponser, work the steps." Social workers, counselors, doctors, nurses, bosses and shrinks use that phrase without thinking. It's like a safe haven in a storm: when all is hopeless and you don't know what to do... push 'em toward A.A.! The cornerstone of the program is that, "It works if you work it..." and if it doesn't work, well, that just means you're not ready. "The program," A.A. veterens say, "will work for you when you're ready. If you're not ready, that's on you. The program always works." Well, maybe they don't say 'always', but the true believers claim a staggering 80 - 90% success rate. Astonishing? YES! Accurate, well...

(to be continued...)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Weighing In

All my life I have struggled with my weight. I've been on diets, joined gyms, bought exercise equipment and consumed disgusting liquids, all with the hope of attaining some golden number on the scale. I struggled with, and finally sought treatment for, bulimia for over thirteen years. When I was about 27 I looked fantastic. I worked out about three hours a day, five or six times a week, doing step aerobics and pyramid weight lifting. I sometimes wonder where I got the energy and motivation to maintain a program like that - and then I remember: I was at the peak of my cocaine addiction and taking prescription diet pills at the time. No wonder I had so much damn energy!
Sometimes I look at pictures of myself then and wonder if, at age 40, my body could once again withstand a diet of phen-phen and coke. Probably not.

After a lifetime of dedicated drug use (cocaine being only one in a sea of drugs for over 20 years) and the near equivalent of that time devoted to an eating disorder, I have now royally destroyed my metabolism. (And my parents said I never accomplished anything!) I am heavier now than I have ever been in my life and I really don't eat that much. I try to eat lots of fresh vegetables and drink lots of water (I've also done a number on my kidneys over the years) and while I have an affection for carbohydrates, my eating habits certainly do not constitute the number I see on the scale.
Actually, the number on my scale bounces around a lot. While I'm standing on it. This is because I've kicked it into the wall a few times too many and it's not exactly in the best shape.

I have a pretty good idea of what I weigh, hence the ritualistic 'kicking of he scale' and it's too damn much. I no longer reward a two pound loss with a box of Twinkies, but it hardly seems to matter. I have parked myself in a fat suit and am uncomfortable living in my own skin.
I know that the only way to fix this is through exercise - and lots of it. But I'm so embarrassed being in public, let alone attempting to move quickly while other people are watching, that it's hard to get started again. I bought a bicycle and rode it to work for about a week, but I was ashamed to be seen peddling and sweating in commuter traffic. I keep it in my house next to front door. (It makes quite a unique coat rack.) I bought some weights and keep them in the living room as a visual reminder to use them, but after tripping over them so often I've developed animosity toward them. I have a brand new mini-trampoline that sits in the middle of the living room - again as a visual reminder. This, I actually use. I step on it every time I go to put a DVD in the player. (I just love movies!) I bought a complete set of workout DVD's featuring Jillian Michaels from The Biggest Loser and I've watched them all. I also have a membership to a gym. The little plastic tab given to me for checking in and out of the gym makes a stylish key ring accessory.

I've been thinking, the past couple of days, that there may be a better use for all this extra furniture/exercise equipment I've invested in. I mean, for God's sake! I have a coat closet right next to my front door. It has hangers in it and everything!

So I'm going to 'go for it'. I'm going to 'just do it!' I'm made a plan and am starting tonight, by God! Now that I've publicly plead guilty to my sin of apathy, I'm hoping... no, GOING to kick it into high gear, so to speak, and give this exercise thing a decent try. (Of course, I'll have to get a new scale so I'll know if it's working.)

Wish me luck! I'll keep you posted.

Our Deepest Fear

I have something that I keep on the wall next to where I write and also at work on a bulletin board by my desk. A counselor gave it to me when I was in rehab. The first time I read it, I cried. It just really hit home...and made me think about what it is that most holds me back in my life. I would like to share it with you here.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful
beyond measure.
It is our Light, not our Darkness, that most
frightens us.
We ask ourselves, "Who am I to be brilliant,
gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God. Your playing small
does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so
that other people won't feel insecure
around you.
We were born to make manifest the glory of
God that is within us.
It is not just in some of us; it is in Everyone.
And as we let our own Light shine, we
unconsciously give other people permission
to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear, our
presence automatically liberates others.
~Marianne Williamson.

Using Dreams

I've always had vivid dreams. All my life I've had trouble distinguishing my dreams from reality - at least when I first wake up - because they're so real. I dream in technicolor. I can smell, touch, taste and feel. They're as real to me as sitting here now, writing this post. So imagine what my using dreams are like. Loading my meth pipe from huge bags of crystal...lighting it...breathing it in...(although, as I write this, I'm realizing I never feel the high. Hmmm. I hadn't really realized that before.)

But every time I have these dreams, the same thing happens: I suddenly realize what I've done and then it's like, "Shit! I just blew everything!" I get a horrible, panicky feeling and know that I can't undo what I've just done. I've ruined it - I've fucked up my sobriety and now I have to start all over!! And in my dreams I always try desperately to find a way to get the meth out of me. Then, when I wake up, the feeling lingers and for a few moments I'm filled with anxiety and the horror that I've thrown away everything I've worked so hard for. (and didn't even feel the high! Damn!)

The feeling fades after short while, and then I'm filled with gratitude that I didn't actually ruin everything. I'm still sober. I still have all that I've fought so hard for. I don't know if this kind of thing happens more with meth addicts or not. The using dreams have lessened as I get more sober time, but they still happen occasionally, and always with less power. They're upsetting to me because, just as in my last post, my biggest fear is that I'll never escape the thoughts and feelings associated with meth... that I'll never live a 'normal' life... that I'll be forever haunted by crystal and glass.

But, as I've said, as time goes on, and my sobriety strengthens, they begin to fade. I think that especially in my early sobriety, they were a good thing. The relief I felt upon waking and realizing I was still sober filled me with gratitude and strengthen my desire to live my life without meth.

What's in Your Bucket?

I loved the movie “The Bucket List”. Not only because two of my favorite actors were in it, but because of the idea of having a bucket list. I think that to really live life requires going beyond merely living a day to day existence. It’s not the moments in life, but the life in those moments that make life worthwhile. As long as we’re all kicking it on this spinning rock for however long we’ve got, we might as well get everything out of it we can! What do you want to do? What excites you? What do you daydream about thinking to yourself, “someday…” Wouldn’t it be fabulous if everyday were ’someday’?
The owner of the company I work for decided, somewhere around the age of thirty, that he wanted to be an MMA cage fighter. So he began training hard. His goal was to eventually get good enough to be allowed to be locked in a cage with a sweaty man and just MMA’ing the crap out of him until one of them tapped out or died - whichever came first. Suffice to say: Senor B. kicked some wimpy guy’s butt. He set a pretty difficult goal for himself and achieved it!
True, some people have pretty bizarre ways of getting all they can out of life, but who am I to judge? Besides…this writing thing hasn’t quite taken off yet and I enjoy the benefits of full time employment.
But let’s get back to mere mortals since that’s the category the rest of us fall into most of the time. Why wait until that elusive ’someday’ to come along to grab the proverbial brass ring? What do you want to do? Climb Mt. Everest? Swim with dolphins? Fly a plane? Have two babes at your beck and call 24/7? I say GO FOR IT!

My own list is short right now.
1) I want to raft the Grand Canyon
2) dress up like Janis Joplin and sing “Cry Baby” at a Karaoke joint
3) live on a houseboat for six months

Oh, and one more thing. My dad told me when I was a little girl that someday I could have a pony. He still tells me that, ”someday isn’t here yet…just wait!” Wow… my very own pony! I’m so excited!!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Taking Back My Power

As much as I hate to admit it, I still get cravings for meth. I've been sober now for seventeen months and I sometimes wonder when they will stop. Unfortunately, I don't know if they ever will. Oh, I'm sure that with time, they will ease. I know they already have for me. It's just discouraging.

About six months ago, I decided I was doing well enough to start looking for my own place to live. I would go look at apartments and houses and leave extremely upset because as soon as I walked in , all I could think about was where I could use. "This room is great because no one can see into it from the front door." Or, "Now THAT'S a great stash place!"

These thoughts would just blindside me. It wasn't that I wanted to use meth. It was just these uncontrollable thoughts and feelings would smack me in the face like an icy brick.

In rehab, they would always talk about cravings. "Do you have cravings? What triggers your cravings? What will you do when you have cravings at home?" I thought they were crazy. I always thought of cravings as something like the way I feel when I get my period and I NEED CHOCOLATE. Like you can taste it and it's all you can think about. Then I realized that's pretty much the way I thought of meth for a long time after I quit using.

I know other addicts must feel the same way, and I know it's all part of the recovery process. It just scares me when, out of nowhere...BAM! I'm blind sided and feel like I'm regressing instead of PROgressing.

One thing I have learned, though, is that by expressing these feelings instead of keeping them to myself out of shame, the power of the thoughts go away. That's why I'm writing this blog: to take back my power.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Meth Addiction, Recovery and Sobriety

This is a brand new blog, created by me for the purpose of talking about all things recovery. I am a recovering meth addict - clean now for one year and seven months. (as of this post) I hope to write about how my life was affected by meth addiction, my own recovery and continued sobriety. This will be humorous, and insightful. I hope you'll come back often as I plan to post every day.

Thank you for stopping by!