Sunday, May 19, 2013
A low-bottom addict, I felt most comfortable in Narcotics Anonymous meetings with minorities and other ex-heroin addicts. Those were the people I used with and the ones I related to best in recovery.
One night I went to a meeting in Pacoima, in the gut of the San Fernando Valley, about ten miles from the cedar-lined guesthouse I rented in Van Nuys. It was a warm spring night and the meeting was packed when I got there.
The only open seats were on “Death Row,” the back line of chairs where most of the homeboys sat who were fresh out of the penitentiary or bussed from the halfway houses and treatment centers that littered the Valley. I took a seat next to a man I had never met and waited for the meeting to begin. I wore jeans, sandals and a grey sleeveless t-shirt with a scoop neck. Away from work, I never wore a bra. Still in my early 30s, my breasts were small but firm.
NA meetings are noisy affairs. Addicts circulate, hug and talk to each other like a scene from Final Exit. This night was no exception. I nodded to a few people and sat waiting for the speaker to begin, content to watch the "passing parade,” as my old friend used to call the constant flow of people in and out of the rooms.
The first Persian Gulf War had just begun and I had listened to the news in my Nissan on the way to Pacoima. I made a comment about it to the man sitting next to me while we waited for the meeting to start. “Truth is the first thing that goes out the window in war,” he remarked.
“Vietnam veteran,” I thought, since he was a little older than I was. It isn’t often I ran across people with much of an intellect in the low-bottom meetings I liked, so I turned to look at him.
"Romy," I said, holding out my hand.
“Robert,” he replied as he grasped my hand.
I leaned over to pick up something I had dropped on the floor, a hair barrette I think. As I sat back up, Robert reached over and adjusted my shirt, pulling the neckline up. “They are nice,” he said smiling, “but I don’t know you that well.”
I smiled slightly to hide my embarrassment. Despite hooking for a decade to support my heroin habit, I was not a woman comfortable flashing her tits. The meeting started. After, I watched him get on the Cri-Help van to return to his treatment center. “Crap,” I thought, “a newcomer.”
I noticed Robert at other meetings in North Hollywood and Reseda. He always took a seat next to me if one was open, or found me after the meeting to chat. He was Puerto Rican, dark-haired and very intense. He looked me in the eyes when he talked to me with his clipped New York accent and his soft voice stroked my heart.
White men did nothing for me; they still looked like tricks to me. At that point in my recovery, I could only be with men who were tough guys. Perhaps it’s the abuse I took at the hands of men during my addiction—it was brutal and still sits today in my gut almost 30 years later. Who knows why, I can only say I had a bottomless need to feel safe. Nice guys, small guys, guys who haven’t had a tough life themselves—they bored me. But there is a steep price for loving tough, yet despite knowing that, I was moving toward Robert like a freight train. I thought he felt the same toward me.
In NA, the women talk. We call it “NA PR,” short for “public relations.” Maybe it’s a survival mechanism because we’ve often been through so much abuse in our addiction, or maybe normie women do it, too; I don’t know. I asked a few women about Robert.
I didn’t like what I learned. He was a Vietnam vet, just as I suspected. “They call him “Fast Robert,” one said. He had been in and out of the program for years, another woman told me. “Do yourself a favor and steer clear of him,” they both advised me, each in slightly different words. We try not to gossip, but we hear from speakers and our sponsors to “stick with the winners.” How do we know who the winners are if we don’t ask?
I was dating another man, a Hispanic man I worked with, but it was a blind alley. His anger and inability to communicate meant we were off more than we were on. I began to spend time with Robert. More for Robert’s sake than mine, I thought, I told him that since he was a newcomer, I would not sleep with him. Robert said he understood, but that we could still be friends.
We did become friends. We took trips to downtown LA where he showed me the jewelry markets and the garment district and the delis where he hung out and had used. We sat in the balcony of a deli and watched the downtown dope fiends score from an old addict at a table on the first floor. He bought me single flowers from street vendors. He told me about shooting dope in the Bronx tenements and I told him about my years working the streets of Oakland in my teens and early twenties. We met at the NA fundraisers—the dances, the picnics. We hit meetings and spent a few afternoons lying on pillows on the living room floor at my house, listening to classic R&B, necking like high-school dropouts. We molded together, his hands on my breasts, my cooch scorched hard against his leg, kisses clean, deep and thrusting. I didn’t sleep with him, but it didn’t stop me from attaching and secretly hoping he would stay clean. I began to imagine a life we might construct.
He got out of Cri-Help and began to get some clean time. I was counting the days until he had a year. Although I held back physically, in my mind, Robert was my man. Just because we hadn’t slept together didn’t make it any less.
One night about 2 a.m., my phone rang. “Hello,” I answered sleepily. It was Robert and he was in a phone booth in downtown LA. “Come get me,” he insisted. His usually smooth voice was harsh and different.
“What are you doing down there?” I asked him, trying to wake up yet hoping I was dreaming.
He gave me some odd, rambling explanation. Some men were looking for him and couldn’t I just stop asking questions and come give him a ride because he couldn’t leave the phone booth until I arrived.
In the daylight at its best LA’s Skid Row scared me. I’d been down to speak at a midnight meeting once at Christmastime and it looked like a scene from Road Warrior, men standing around burning barrels and homeless dope fiends and bums shouting and running and fighting. There was no way I was driving there alone at that hour. Robert got himself into it and he could damn well get himself out.
“Call your sponsor,” I said, and hung up. I lay awake until dawn thinking about him.
Robert was on a run and from what I heard from his sponsor, it never got any better than that night. I didn’t hear from him for months, only about him from his sponsor or one of my girlfriends telling me the 411. My life continued without a hiccup with work and meetings. My heart, though badly bruised, was not broken. I felt relieved that I hadn’t slept with him.
Months later, Robert called me. He was in the Veteran’s Hospital in Sepulveda. He asked me to visit him. I found his room with an oversized “Universal Precautions” sign on the door. He was lying in a hospital gown in bed looking torn up, but kicking heroin addicts always look like shit. We chatted a few minutes, I gave him some magazines and smokes I had brought, and I left. He was in and out for another year or so after that.
He got clean for a while and hooked up with a nice girl, a high-bottom addict, a beautiful young woman in her mid-twenties. He introduced me to her, asking me to give her some career advice since she worked in the same industry I did. I chatted with her and suggested some classes she might take. I never talked to her again. I did see her with him a few times at various Valley meetings. Robert and I would hug and I would smile at her and nod.
A few months later, Robert went back out. She went with him. One of my girlfriends told me that he turned her out, convincing her to turn tricks for him to support their heroin habits at the fleabag motels on Sepulveda Boulevard.
A few months later, I moved back to Oakland. I visited LA once on business, visiting a few girlfriends while I was there.
“Romy,” my friend Anne said, “I don’t know how to tell you this, but Robert is dead. He overdosed last year.”
I wasn’t surprised, but I remember I drew a sharp breath and blocked my tears. It is forever a punch in the gut when one of us dies from the disease. A 12-Step Fellowship is a tribe—we band together for our survival. When one of us dies from addiction, it’s like we’ve taken incoming for a direct hit on one of our own.
A few years later, Anne overdosed and died, and the man I was dating when I met Robert died from a heroin overdose. Robert’s sponsor relapsed after more than 25 years clean and had a terrible time coming back, perhaps his pride getting in the way. I don’t know what became of him. Usually relapsing after all those years predicts a short future; it is just too hard to come back. “The first time is a gift. The other ones you’ll have to work for,” they say in the rooms. The longer you stay clean, the more you understand—clichés are clichés because they are true.
Many of us find NA, but few keep trudging the road to long-term recovery. Feeling our feelings is just too real for some of us.
My close friends—my support system—and I joined the “No Matter What Club” years ago. We keep trudging despite what life throws at us. I’ve lost both my parents, my brother I was closer to than anyone, lost several more relationships, gotten fired in a very humiliating and public scene and traded my diseased liver for a new one. Yet I’ve managed to stay clean despite it all. It’s more Grace than it is anything I did. I never have figured out why some of us stay and some of us die.
I have a picture from a Fourth of July NA picnic in the San Fernando Valley. It was a hot day and Robert and I are lying on a blanket on the grass. I have on that grey shirt I was wearing the night I met him. The strap is falling off my shoulder. Robert has a sly smile on his lips and I have a look of unlocked sexual hunger. It reminds me that I was young once; full of sexual longing and still holding the flawed belief that someday a man like Robert would make me feel safe.
It wasn’t Robert and it hasn’t been any man since then. Now my safety lies in a faith in a God who leads me and keeps me sane and clean. Today I know not to expect more.
Tuesday, December 18, 2012
I thank God daily for the Grace that brought me to these rooms.
Saturday, December 08, 2012
One of the gifts a dysfunctional family often provides is that we become extremely close to our siblings. My brother has always been there for me and in fact, my parents abdicated much of the responsibility of child raising onto him, so in many ways he raised me. He was a constant in my life I could always turn to and because he dealt with serious mental illness, I was the constant in his life, as well.
Sunday I'll head back up to Eugene, Oregon, for the fourth and final trip to be with him as he transitions. It is one of the toughest things I will ever do but it is also the gift I can give him. The program taught me how to walk through this.
Thursday, September 06, 2012
Toward the end of the meeting, another young woman with six months clean spoke up. "I heard what you said about not being sure you hit bottom," the young woman said. "I know this: If I had used just one more day, I would have lost custody of my children. I got to choose my own bottom."
How powerful is that message, that we choose our own bottom? When I came to Narcotics Anonymous almost 30 years ago at the age of 27, most of our members were hardcore junkies who had hit a pretty horrific bottom. Some were old bikers who had done time in prison; some had detoxed in Lexington; others had lost everything. I knew when I got here and finally took that first step completely that there was nothing left for me out on the streets. Many of today's addicts are much different.
Many NA members today come to us through treatment programs or through the court system. Many are still in their teens, even their early teens. The old saying I heard when I got here, "I spilled more dope than you used," just doesn't ring true anymore. We all know it's the emotional bottom that finally gets us to seek help.
It's amazing to me to look around the rooms of NA today and see all the young faces, the teens, those in their early twenties, and those who used only a few years before they realized they needed help.
In a sense, I suppose I chose my own bottom, as well. There are times when things are tough, like they are right now as I work through post-traumatic stress issues, that using may be a remote possibility. I know, though, if I choose to use, what awaits me. There is no way I have the ability to survive long using the way I used when I arrived in NA. But using is always still an option, so I continue to attend meetings regularly and rely on my support system for help.
Thank God I had the bottom that I continue to choose.
Thursday, July 19, 2012
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Sunday, March 11, 2012
So April 5 we start a meeting called "Because She Matters" for the families and friends of sex workers. This may be women or men who work the streets, strip, work in the porn industry, whatever path they choose deeply impacts those they love.
I'll post more details soon.
Tuesday, February 07, 2012
I like long walks, especially when they are taken by people who irritate me.
∞ Fred Allen
There has been plenty to irritate me lately. A new job and adjusting to a boss who I am sure has several planets in Virgo, at least Uranus. A sister-in-law of 32 years dying of cancer, yet we are not allowed to say our goodbyes. A brother who moved into my house after four months in the hospital who sits on the couch all day watching reruns of Law & Order, predicting the end of Western civilization, his comments punctuated by vomiting in a kidney-shaped emesis bowl. Yes, there is plenty to be irritated about.
But then, there is the wonder. Cool walks up North Mountain where I smile at Labradors and their panting owners. A steady pay check, health benefits and bonus checks when many of my friends are unemployed; the soft snore of my two German shepherds as they guard my bed each night as I wait for sleep. Wonder for my friends who post funny pictures on Facebook and poke me when I change my status to “pissed off.”
Yes, there are many reasons to be irritated. But there are many more reasons to breathe in, breathe out and say quietly, “Thank you.”
Thursday, November 24, 2011
Relationships have not been my strong suit in recovery. I was married at two years clean to a man I truly loved, but he was and still is not able to stay clean. At five years clean, despite the pain and uncertainty, I divorced him to move on in my life and to try to fulfill my needs for intimacy. I talked to him last week, and sadly, he is homeless in Austin, a good place to be if you're homeless, and his life is pretty unmanageable, at least by my standards.
At about ten years clean, I fell in love again with a non-program man. That relationship lasted four years, but ultimately failed when he fell for another (and much younger I might add) woman. I was devastated, particularly because we lived in a small town and felt everyone (except me) knew that she was pregnant and what was happening. (Our own minds manufacture much of the drama, of course.) However, the signs were there for a few years and I ignored them or left and returned, thinking "It will get better." It never did. Now I am grateful for him in my life, for I found my wonderful dog Romy, who entertained me and many of you readers with her refrigerator-raiding antics over the years. I also found that I loved the area where he lived and ultimately bought a house there, where I hope to retire some day soon.
Anyhow, about relationships. Here are some red flags I've seen and often ignored over the years.
Verbal abuse. What is verbal abuse? It is hard to define, but we often know it when we hear it. Statements like, "You didn't get a good education," or "You are too fat," or "You are not as smart as you think," can all be defined as verbally abusive. Unfortunately, I was clean a long, long before while I finally understood that he verbally abused me. I only know I felt small, not smart enough, fat and confused a lot of the time
Relationships with extreme "highs" and "lows." Relationships characterized by extreme "feeling greats" then followed by feeling "totally down in the dumps" are often abusive or harmful to us. What we strive for in recovery if we allow ourselves to take direction is a lack of drama and emotional stability. My favorite episode of The Simpsons had Lisa sitting in Santa's lap. When he asked her what she wanted for Christmas, she answered, "Some stability in my life and an absence of mood swings!" I so related it made me wonder what was wrong in my life. A relationship that swings from "I'm on top of the world" to "I can't believe how miserable I am" is often toxic.
A lack of common financial goals and differing money-handling abilities. The last person I dated was retired and received a pension. When I think "retired," I think "financially stable." Only after we had dated for awhile did I realize that he wasn't retired, he was underemployed. He had quit his last job and taken early retirement because he hated his boss, and was still fuming about that. He took odd jobs when he could find them, but basically this meant if we were going to be in a relationship, I would have to bear the burden of partially supporting him. I couldn't afford to and found that I was too far in to exit gracefully. I saw him last week at a clean-time party and he left the party rather than speak to me. While few of us discussed how to handle money in our family of origins, hopefully in recovery we learn the skills of discussing money and budgeting.
Someone who lacks friends and family support. When I first started dating my mid-recovery relationship, I noticed he had no friends. He was a dog trainer and knew tons of people in the town where I lived; however, he had only one friend who lived in another state. I later learned why. It was because no one could live up to his expectations and he ultimately either destroyed or judged away each potential friendship. Of course, since this was his pattern, I couldn't live up to his high expectations, either. That was a huge red flag I chose to ignore. I thought my friends would become his friends, but that never worked. He found them defective, as well. In fact, the woman who worked for me one day said when he sashayed into my office to drop off a dog to babysit for the day, "I don't know about him." I chose not to listen and it took another year or so to really understand the depths of his narcissism. It's important that we look for people with a support system around them so that we don't become overly burdened by their emotional needs.
People we "can change." I know I'm not the only one who has been attracted to someone who has "PR" as we say in the program, either for sexual promiscuity, gambling compulsions or other issues that scream, "Unmanageability." When I sponsor women who are at the peak of their sexuality, craving love and affection, and watch them gravitate toward the NA "Casanovas," I often have to hold my voice--restraint of tongue. I can only gently caution them to watch the men's behavior in the rooms and outside the rooms. If they are breaking hearts as they march through recovery, I ask my gals: "Do you want to be in that lineup? What makes you any different?" I have seen far too many people use over broken hearts to ignore the fact that the old timers told us, "Under every skirt's a slip" (or under every pair of boxers) for a reason.
I think what I'm trying to say if you are thinking about romance in the rooms, go slowly. Who we fall in love with is often smoke and mirrors. We are always, me included, on our best behavior as we get to know a potential romantic partner. There is no magic number that outlines how long we should get to know someone before we decide to become intimate. The longer the better, though. One thing I am so grateful for in early recovery is that I knew that I didn't want to walk into a meeting and think, "I've slept with him and him and him." Believe me, I saw many women fall into that trap and many of them disappeared. They slept themselves out of recovery.
I hope your Thanksgiving (if you're in America) is wonderful. To my friends across the globe, Namaste. Feel free to add your own red flags.
Friday, November 11, 2011
Next month will be my 27th anniversary in Narcotics Anonymous. It amazes me that I have managed to stay clean all these years. For someone who drank and used the way I did, to stay clean for almost three decades is a miracle and one I thank God for on a daily basis.
On my anniversary I will speak my home group, Hip, Slick & Kool. I will give a brief drug-a-log, because newcomers need to hear you used the way they did—the heroin, methadone maintenance, cocaine, liberal doses of PCP—and I will share about some of the key things I have learned in my 27 years clean. Here they are.
The people you love may not always love you. Or, the way they can love you may not be the way you need to be loved. As painful as that was, once I faced the truth, turning it over and moving on has been my only answer. It takes time and courage, but admitting that I needed more and detaching with love has been the only solution that has worked for me.
Everyone is struggling with something. You may see people who you think “have it together.” Trust me, everyone, no matter how long they have been clean or how spiritual they appear, struggles with something. It may be food, it may be gambling, it may be an inability to be intimate, it may be how they handle money—but it is something. We each are gifted with our own personal struggles we wrestle throughout our lives.
My family often lets me down, but people in the Fellowship rarely do. I continue to be disappointed in my family members. I continue to invite them into my life; they continue to refuse. People in the Fellowship are happy to accept almost any invitation I extend. My friends in the Fellowship have become my family. I can call on them at any time and they will drop everything if I need help. They are always at the top of my gratitude list.
My God is always bigger. I have walked through very difficult circumstances in recovery. The death of both parents; a painful divorce (which is almost an oxymoron); very public humiliations; an almost fatal illness and subsequent organ transplant; the death of animals I have loved more than most people, to name a few. In all these instances, and when I thought I could not go on either emotionally or physically, my God has always been bigger than the problem at hand.
There were many times when I wasn’t sure I could stay clean. Whenever I ask myself: “Why am I bothering to stay clean, to suit up and show up?”—when I am at my wit’s end, considering that first drink which will lead me back to my drug of choice—that is when God inevitably sends me an Eskimo. It may be that newcomer I reluctantly agreed to sponsor, calling with some drama of her own. It may be my sponsor showing up at the door. It may be my phone ringing unexpectedly, the caller ID announcing a close friend. It may be a simple post from a Facebook friend that suddenly slips into that hole in my gut and clicks into place. These Eskimos tell me that, one day at a time, nothing is so bad that I can’t face it and that I never have to face it alone. There have been many, many Eskimos in my recovery. You may be my next one.
You really can’t take it with you when you die. When my doctor told me I had only a few months to live, I had a lot of time to think. I looked around my house at all the “stuff” I owned. I realized that at best, these possessions were just things that someone would have to dispose of or donate when I died. None of the physical things I owned mattered one iota in the end. What matters is how I live my life and how I treat others.
When shit hits the fan, and it will hit the fan, put on the blues and lean into the pain. There is no way around the pain—no shortcut, no detour, no avoidance. Just walk toward the pain to get past it. It will not kill you. It will feel like it will kill you, but I and others who have chosen to stay clean for years and years have learned that pain is not fatal. Beyond the pain there is new freedom. You will come out stronger on the other side.
What really matters is friendship. To have friends, you have to be a friend. Whenever I have problems in my recovery, my NA friends are there for me unconditionally. That is because I am a friend to them. NA taught me how to be a friend.
These are just a few of my thoughts about my years in the Fellowship. My dearest friend in NA, the love of my life I will never marry, sent me a card last year for my clean date. I think his words sum it up much better than I can.
“That you arrived was an act of Providence. That you stayed is a daily miracle. That you endure displays your courage. What you have accomplished makes you an inspiration.”
Those words can be said about almost anyone who stays clean in NA. We didn’t get here by accident and we don’t stay clean by accident, either. I thank God daily for the Grace that brought me to these rooms.
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Many of us see each other only occasionally, so the chatter took minutes to subside while we said our hellos and exchanged hugs. People in recovery are huggers, oblivious to how nervous it makes non-program people. When finally we quieted, Bob offered a poignant portrait of Bill, who died from throat cancer after a lifetime of smoking and occasional relapses on crack. Bob told anecdotes about Bill; about the time he was selected from the audience at the Renaissance Festival and pulled to the stage to “be king.” He made his wife come up to the stage and kneel before him. “That didn’t happen at home,” Peggy said. We all laughed. We know Peggy and we knew she wasn’t kidding. She definitely was the king of her household. Bill bowed to her wishes. Hers and crack’s.
As pictures of Bill, an accomplished photographer who was usually behind the camera, flashed on a screen, attendees shared their recollections about him. The memorial service lasted 45 minutes, perfect for a group of recovering addicts. Many of us still have a hard time sitting still. It was such a beautiful service that I approached Bob afterwards and only half-jokingly said, “I want to reserve you for my memorial service.”
That night many of us wrote about the beautiful ceremony on Facebook. “I booked Bob for my own memorial service,” I posted. Then I went to sleep.
My phone rang at 6 on Saturday morning. “Hello,” I said groggily. “Nancy, are you sick?” It was my sax-player friend Rayna in Central Missouri time, where I lived until I returned to Arizona in 2008. “No,” I said. “Why?” The fact that I had a liver transplant six years ago rarely occurs to me; but to my friends who watched me nearly die several times both before and after the transplant, that detail remains firmly fixed in their minds.
“I just read your Facebook post about your memorial,” she said. I started laughing. “No, I’m fine,” I said. “Thanks for asking.” I hung up and went back to sleep.
After I got up, I drank my coffee and updated my status on Facebook. “The reports of my death are highly overrated,” I posted. But are they? Are anyone’s? Did anyone who went to work at the World Trade Center on that warm day in September of 2001 expect to die? Does my brother, who is in the agony of three months on a feeding tube after esophageal cancer surgery, what is left of his stomach the size of a fist? Each time he eats he vomits into a kidney-shaped plastic bowl. Does my middle brother, raging in his alcoholism and denial, expect to die soon?
I think of myself as 25 or 30. It surprises me when young people treat me as “old” or talk around me as if I am not there. I was in the carwash a few months ago and a young cashier admired my copper jewelry, commenting on this piece and that piece. “You’re like a really hip grandmother,” she summed up enthusiastically. For a moment, I wondered who she was talking to. I went back to work in a huff, telling my older coworker what she said. I felt only slight better when my coworker laughed and said, “Don’t feel bad, dear; that’s why she will always work in a carwash.”
I am 55; solidly middle aged. I don’t feel it. I feel 30; that I still have a full life still ahead. None of us know when our hearse will arrive. As I waited near death for the liver transplant, not sure if I would be put on the transplant list, I was forced to accept that I might die. I spoke often to the God of my understanding, telling him how powerless I felt and how sure I was that I still had things to finish. “Of course it’s your choice, God,” I would say humbly. But I wasn’t humble. I wanted to live so desperately! I wanted to sit in my armchair in the middle of my five cedar-lined acres in Missouri and watch the squirrels fight the blue jays for possession of the feeders. “Carpe diem, squirrels,” I would say, laughing as they climbed up the most ingeniously designed anti-squirrel feeders. I wanted to live long enough to write a book. I wanted to see the newcomer women I sponsored stay clean and celebrate their victories—getting their driver’s licenses reinstated, buying a car, getting married, having children.
We don’t know which day we will die. As I have aged, I live each day with that fatal understanding that I am granted a tiny, daily reprieve. As my friends and family get sick and die around me, those days I contemplate dying. Most days, I live a life full of joy and occasional wonder. For each day, I am grateful.
Friday, April 22, 2011
There is not much to report as the heat begins to settle in for the summer in Arizona. I am busy writing, working, and riding my new scooter. What a blast.
One of the things I struggle with daily is to remain present. Riding this scooter, which gets 70 miles to the gallon, incidentally, I have to remain totally present. Much like living my life, I have to ensure I'm not in anyone's blind spot, that I keep my eye on the goal (the road ahead), and that most people at stop lights are friendly and curious and often want to say, "Hey."
I know I often take things personally. When people are rude to me, when they ignore me, when I don't get invited to a function, I often feel like I'm riding through life in other people's "blind spots." The reality is, most people don't wake up in the morning and say, "Gee, I think I'll hurt 2 Dogs' feelings today." When people step on my toes or ignore me, it's generally because I'm in their blind spot.
I struggle each day to remain present. I am struggling with eating mindlessly. I find when I must suit up and show up at work, I can barely sit at my desk for long. Instead, I get up and wander the office aimlessly searching for something to "graze" on. I am learning that I must sit with those feelings of boredom and frustration to avoid overeating. It is one of my lifelong challenges.
When you ride a cycle, if you look at something to the left or right too long, your bike goes in that direction. I've learned this firsthand. When I ride, as much as I may be tempted to lollygag along and look all around me, I have to keep my eye on the goal--the road directly ahead. This doesn't mean I can't look around when I'm stopped, but when I'm moving, I must focus directly in front of me and immediately around me. I find this is also true in life. I keep my eyes on my goals and try to focus on where I need to be, not necessarily where I think I should be, or where I could go if this happened or that happened.
One of the first things I learned as I road is that often, people talk to me at stop lights. It might be a carload of young vatos like last Saturday, or it might be someone just saying, "Hey." People long for connection. Many people have no one. We are so fortunate that we have the rooms where we connect.
There is much to learn in life. As I continue to attend meetings, work the steps (this time in a step group with a bunch of awesome women), and stay clean for the long haul, my life becomes richer each day. I have stretches of joy that make me grateful I am still alive and moving forward.
Have a great day.
Monday, January 10, 2011
I have had some health issues the past month, a tooth problem with subsequent infection that kicked my butt, and now a cold. It is critical that I remember when I am sick, any medication I take can impact how I feel not just physicially, but mentally.
When my tooth became badly infected (can you spell "procrastination?), the doctor prescribed pain pills. If I have to take pain medication in recovery, I make sure a trusted friend in the Fellowship is aware of what I'm taking and I'm accountable to that person. In this case, after a few days while I waited for my appointment, I became very depressed, feeling almost suicidal. One night I was lying in bed feeeling overwhelmed and it suddenly hit me: "Oh, pain medication. Depressant! Duh!"
I have been through major illness in my recovery, including a liver transplant five years ago. I understand how much pain we can withstand without pain medication, because once they stopped my morphine a few days post ICU, they never prescribed anything stronger for pain than a huge aspirin thingie, which gave me a huge resentment. The pain was intense. But guess what? I did not get loaded.
Over the years, I have seen many of my fellow Program members relapse, and some die, on pain medication. We must be ever vigilant if we must take pain meds. However, we do not have to suffer because we are addicts.
Additionally, just because you tell your doc or dentist you are an "addict," YOU must take responsibility for the pain meds you accept from prescribers and those you take once you fill the script. The initials "MD" or "DDS" after a name imply little training on addiction. So buddies, it is up to us to remain vigilant against relapse.
I shall exit my soapbox and tell you I am glad to be back openly blogging. The professional issues I had earlier forced me to close my blog, and it is now back and steaming along. I may not post too frequently since I am very busy living a full and rewarding life.
If no one told you today they love you, I do.
Friday, November 19, 2010
When the event was over (and I got all dolled up as the theme was vintage, wearing my mom's old mink stole), I went to a late night meeting where the topic was the Tenth Step.
You know what I struggle with the most, it seems? Being consistently nice. There are times when I get so frustrated by life on life's terms--bounced checks, people who don't act "right," always having a bit less money than I would like--that I can get pretty difficult and sometimes, downright hateful. That is what I struggle with today.
This weekend I'm doing a weekend intensive thing, sort of EST-like, I guess, for those of you old enough to remember EST. It's mostly program people and I'm hoping for some breakthrough, because I feel stuck.
I'll keep you posted on how it goes. Until then, as my sponsor used to say, "God is the answer, now what was your question?"
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
The reason I shut the blog down a year or so ago is no longer relevant so I am able to "come back out." I missed blogging and missed talking with you all, even if it was only in cyberspace (except Meg, whom I actually met).
My life is incredibly busy and fulfilling. I am crazier than an outhouse rat currently, perhaps because I'm coming up on an anniversary and am on Step 3. I want to get my 4th done by my birthday in December.
I hope you are all doing well. I haven't much profound to say except that the longer I stay clean, the more I realize I have a lot to be humble for.
Friday, October 22, 2010
I haven't posted in awhile. There is so much happening in my life, but the most difficult is that my beloved Romy went to be with Dallas and my parents. It has been several months and I still can't stop crying when I think of her.
She didn't suffer hardly at all. She was playing with Oz when her front leg broke, probably from bone cancer. She was brave right until the end. On three legs, she marched up the ramp into the truck.
It made me realize how she was the center of my life. There just wasn't much room for anything else.
Oz is doing well, although I think he misses her. He is even more affectionate now.
I hope you are all doing well. I'm hoping soon I can make the blog public again, but for now, I'll keep it private and hope you still check back from time to time.
Hugs and happiness.
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
When I was coming back to Arizona to try to get my liver transplant, I met with my young sponsee before I left and told her that when "it gets hard, and it will get hard," she will have to walk through it. It has gotten hard for her and despite her initial response, which was to say "Screw this," she stayed clean and buried her husband and did the right thing to be there for her children. They need her.
Life is hard. We go through so many adversities. To those of us who, for so many years, chose to use rather than face life on life's terms, walking through the difficult times isn't easy.
There is no way around the pain; the only way around it is through it. I hope, no matter what life throws at me, I can continue, one day at a time, to stay clean and be present for both life's disasters and the joy.
Saturday, February 20, 2010
Next week we will no doubt memorialize a man who threw away almost 18 years, a family who loved him, a wife who probably cannot support herself, a business, and the love of his friends in the Fellowship in search of a bag of heroin. He found it. He went on a one-man crime spree robbing banks and ended up in what can only be called a "suicide by cop."
There is my dear friend who has been around as long as me and has been in and out for years, always using her "mental illness" as the excuse to use. I don't judge her, but she breaks my heart and the hearts of those who love her. She is the funniest person I know. She called me the other day and left this message. "I'm done with NA; there's just nothing left for me." So I called her back and told her about our friend in the first example and said, "Yes, there is something left for you." Our literature tells us in every meeting only too clearly: "Jails, institutions and death." That is the grim, grim reality.
Then yesterday, my ex-husband calls straight out of an overdose and loaded. It's everyone's fault, as usual: his loveless marriage, women who hit on him because he's such a babe after 40 years of drug use, his hard work. Whatever the excuse, he always has one. What can I tell him that I haven't told him before?
This disease is breaking my heart. But it isn't exactly the disease, it's the casual discard of the lifeline by people who should know better that hurts so much.
I am tired of burying people; of losing people through their own cavalier, "I don't give a fuck, I'll show them" attitude.
Today we will go celebrate a woman's 25th birthday and I will be surrounded by the NA winners. Those who have gone through difficulties in their lives yet chosen to stay clean one day at a time. And it will feel healing.
Monday, December 14, 2009
Yesterday was my 25th anniversary in Narcotics Anonymous. It amazes me that I have managed to stay clean for a quarter of a century. I remember turning 25 at a drunken party where I felt good the next day because I had managed to control my drinking enough not to black out. But to stay clean for 25 years, that is a miracle and one which I thank God for on a daily basis
I shared on my birthday at a meeting at St. Luke’s, the treatment center I went through about 27 years ago. I gave a brief drug-a-log, because newcomers need to hear you used the way they did, and then decided I would share on some key things I have learned in my 25 years clean. Here they are.
The people you love may not always love you. Or, the way they can love you may not be the way you need to be loved. As painful as that is, turning it over and moving on is the best way. It takes time and courage, but admitting that you need more and moving on is the only solution that has worked for me.
Everyone is struggling with something. You may see people who you think “have it together.” Trust me, everyone, no matter how long they have been clean or how spiritual they are, struggles with something
My family often lets me down, but people in the Fellowship almost never do. I continue to be disappointed with family members. I continue to invite them into my life. They continue to refuse. People in the Fellowship are happy to accept almost any invitation I give. My friends in the Fellowship have become my family.
My God is always bigger. I have walked through very difficult things in recovery. The death of both parents, a painful divorce (which is almost an oxymoron), very public humiliations, an almost fatal illness and subsequent organ transplant, the death of animals I have loved more than most people, to name a few. In all these instances, and when I thought I could not go on either emotionally or physically, my God has always been bigger than the problem at hand.
When it hits the fan, and it will hit the fan, put on the blues and lean into the pain. There is no way around the pain, no shortcut, no detour, no avoidance. Just walk toward the pain to get past it. It will not kill you. It will feel like it will kill you, but it will not, I have learned. Beyond the pain there is a new freedom.
You can’t take it with you when you die. When a doctor told me I had no more than four months to live, I spent a lot of time thinking. I looked around my house at all the “stuff” I owned. I realized that at best, they were just things that someone would have to dispose of or donate when I died. None of the physical things I owned mattered one iota in the end
What really matters is friendship. To have friends, you have to be a friend. Whenever I have problems in my recovery, my NA friends are there for me unconditionally. That is because I am a friend to them. NA taught me how to be a friend.
These are just a few of my thoughts of my years in the Fellowship. A friend sent me a card and I think his words summed it up much better than I can.
“That you arrived was an act of
Those words can be said about almost anyone who stays clean in NA. We didn’t get here by accident and we don’t stay clean by accident, either. I thank God daily for the Grace that brought me to these rooms.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
The lack of a dictionary was another major impediment. The first word he tried to spell was “eco.” We both said that was a prefix and he couldn’t use it. He argued quite loudly that it was most certainly not a prefix, after asking, “What is a prefix?” The second round went no smoother, and he took his tiles and dumped them, and quit.
While she and I played on, he continued to watch and read the rules and correct us loudly at about every move. She beat me soundly, by twice as many points. I am a type A and if I can make a two-letter word and move the game forward, that is my strategy, which, of course, is a strategy only for a sound arse-kicking.
We bedded out finally about midnight and went to sleep, their two German shepherds asleep with them in the great room, mine locked in my bedroom with me, since Oz was being a bit snotty to their male, Bernarde.
This morning the dogs barked when they got up. I think Romy forgot we had overnight guests. They went for a walk and I slept in. When I finally got up a few hours later, they were at the kitchen table playing, you guessed it, Scrabble! There was less argument because she was allowing him to do some phonetic spelling: “genre” was spelled “janre.” Really, that’s how it is pronounced!
As we ate oatmeal with brown sugar (his with three egg whites and one cooked yolk on top), I helped him lose his first game. As they were getting ready to leave, he noticed a wall plate I have, where the entire world, instead of continents, is renamed things like “the Ocean of Love,” “Sea of Deceit,” “River of Revenge,” and “Peninsula of Procrastination.”
“That is where I live,” he said, pointing to Procrastination.
“I would, but I never get around to it,” I responded. We all laughed.
They packed up the car and the dogs and drove off to California, first routing their trip for me on their atlas. A few minutes later, my phone rang. “We left the peaches,” he said. “They don’t look good, but they are delicious.”
“I’ll eat them,” I told him. And I said two more things.
“Be careful,” and “I love you,” because I never want to let friends leave anymore without that reminder. The world is an unpredictable place, and I want them to know how I feel, just in case. In that matter, I no longer procrastinate.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
My friend is awaiting a liver transplant and I have been trying to help him get out of the house whenever possible, so last night we went to the speaker meeting and dance and later with another friend went to eat. The speaker got clean with me about the same time and her best friend, who died of brain cancer, was a good friend of mine, as well, so we have a lot in common. Also, we shared a sponsor for many years, although we have both moved on to new sponsors.
She was a crystal meth addict and pointed out that when she came into the program, NA was mostly junkies, which included me. Today I find when I share my story that unless old timers are in the audience, I am not sure that people can relate much to my using. So I try, unless it's a speaker meeting, to focus on recovery and the desperation of my feelings when I got here.
I am sharing the Sunday morning meeting at a big camp out in Colorado later this summer. I have to laugh, since the Sunday speaker is generally the "spiritual" speaker. I think maybe they have the wrong person (?). As I have blogged before, I still struggle with anger so much that I find it hard to call myself a spiritual person. But I keep chugging away.
Last week I started therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder, something I probably should have done years ago. A few months ago someone came to my house in the middle of the night and started ringing the doorbell then kicking the door. I called the cops and a helicopter was here in about three minutes then the police in about ten, but in the interim, even with 2dogs going crazy and me in the hall with a handgun, I was terrified.
For several days I was in "reactive" mode and was so devastated I finally figured out perhaps it is time to deal with the wreckage of my using. One of the original pains of my early using has been coming around lately to haunt. It's the image of the man I loved from 15 until my mid twenties who was twenty years older than me and willing to put me on front street to run his drug dealer business. What kind of men do these kinds of things?
Of course, once I made the decision I talked to my sponsor and immediately began berating myself for "waiting 24 years to do this." She calmly pointed out that to do anything at all at anytime in regards this was "brave" and to not beat myself up. That is the value of sponsorship. Sponsors help us see what we cannot see, often right in front of our faces. While I would have told a sponsling of mine the same thing, I couldn't remember to tell myself what she told me. Thank God for sponsorship.
I have also started a blog that will cover the social justice aspect of prostitution and the unsung victims who are either dead or trying to leave the life. I have been putting some energy into that and I am please with my efforts to far; however, more remains to be done and it is time consuming.
I did one other brave thing, or perhaps it was done to me. I am not going to write many of the insurance columns I've been writing and instead will focus on writing and keeping my copyright. It may mean money is funny for awhile, but I am tired of that rat race and dealing with corporations that are too slimy to be believed.
It is pretty simple today to self publish and this is the route I think I am going to pursue.
Until I blog again, I hope you have a great day. Hopefully at some point I can go public with this blog again, but not now.
Sunday, May 03, 2009
Last night I drove up to north with a friend to my sponsor's to her husband's 25th birthday. She is a pet lover, and as I was walking around in her house, this CAT came out of the laundry room. What do you think? I couldn't resist adding her to one of my favorite sites, www.icanhazcheezburger.com.
The party was fun and it was good to see many of my friends I haven't seen in months since I've been so busy with school. Ciao for now.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
I really cannot pick one event that is the funniest event in my life. It may be the time I encouraged my at-the-time boyfriend to burgle a Photomat booth with a large rock. Here is my hit on it--if he was stupid enough to listen to me, of all people, he deserved the broken ribs he got when the rock he heaved bounced off the safety glass and hit him in the chest.
Or perhaps it is one of my favorite former blog entries about the time my friend Roy o.d.'ed in a Mexican bathroom and I dragged him out by his boots and loaded him into the car to drive him back to Phoenix; then, after almost dying, insisted before we got to Green Valley that I stop the car so he could use again. Now that, folks, is funny.
I was at lunch with three females coworkers and for some reason I was in the mood to share about my teen years. They don't know I'm in recovery, but I am pretty open that I don't drink but used to in my "younger, wilder" days. I shared about why I left home at 15, how I moved to this house in Berkeley typical in the early 70s with one lesbian, a married couple one of which was a self-described warlock, one college student, the lesbian's lover (they often got drunk and smacked each other around), and me, who watched it all with 15-year old wide eyed wonder.
Anyhoo, I wrote a letter to my mother at that point in my life and told her the house we shared had so many roaches, they'd furnished us each with a roach clip. Now my poor mother didn't know a roach clip from a hash pipe, but someone eventually told her. My coworkers had a good laugh and that was the end of our lunch.
There are times I feel I live a double life still: I can't really talk much about my past among the people I spent most of my time with at work and in various professional organizations I belong to, and in fact, am afraid of having to explain certain details. I spent time with my sponsor yesterday going over that very issue. There are a few things I still need to have closure on and am working on that today.
But the funniest event in my life? Maybe it was my birth, because except for the years of my addiction, I've been laughing the whole time.
Until I blog again, may you be surrounded by light and love. I know I am.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
Two puppies remain, two wonderful sables and the litter picks according to Pat, who is the mom's owner and has forgotten more about dogs than I'll ever know. One shipped to Missouri yesterday. She is the black and tan cutie.
On May 7th I should receive my masters, but I don't think I'm actually going back to do the graduation ceremony. Not sure why except money and I'm tired of traveling. I got on the flight yesterday from Phoenix to Denver. No sooner had they shut the doors when the pilot came on and said we had a one-hour delay before we even would know when we would fly. I had the beginnings of an almost immediate panic attack, wishing desperately I could take Ativan before a flight. Things worked out because he agreed to let us off the plane if we insisted, but a few minutes later they cleared us. I hate being so powerless and still have a good bit of claustrophobia from the transplant post-issues, I think.
Well, it is 1 p.m in New York and I am going to get dressed and get out of the motel room and go exploring. I'll let you know how the deposition goes. I hate lawyers. I love the food in NY.