Category Archives: addiction

It Comes From Inside

I went to see my therapist yesterday and I have to say that, quite frankly, she pissed me off!  I sat in the waiting room with my chest out and my shoulders back and a quiet smile on my face.  For reasons outside of my control it had been quite some time since I’d seen my therapist and I was so excited to tell her that I’d been winning the battle with my bipolar disorder daily, posting to my blog; I’d started it in 2013 but hadn’t done much with it until this year, and I was still celebrating having a year clean and sober.  I was all bubbles and sunshine inside while I waited to see that door open and her pop her head out and call me into her office.  For the first time in forever I was really ready for therapy.  Then it happened.  She did call me back and on the way to her office she asked, “How’s it going?”  I was beside myself with glee waiting to get started on how good life was going for me and how happy I’d been lately and then…she blew it.

I’d decided to downplay the sobriety thing and start with my mood.  I told her that things had been quite good for me where my mood is concerned.  I’d been able to use my CBT and DBT skills to keep me grounded and I’d been more positive than I’d been in a very long time.  She looked at me with a blank stare, shook her head and that was it.  Really?  Maybe she didn’t hear me.  Maybe her mind was someplace else, I don’t know.  This wasn’t what I expected or what I’d planned on.  This was supposed to just floor her and instead she just looked at me.  Fine. Okay. I decided to talk about my blogging.

I went into detail about how I’d been putting my feelings into the blogosphere about my bipolar disorder and treatment and my recovery from drugs and alcohol.  I knew she’d be impressed with me because I’d been in a horrible slump for so long not able to do much of anything and this was monumental for me.  I kept looking at her face waiting for the big smile to open up and let me know she was proud of me.  Nothing.  She just shook her head and turned around to her computer and began making notes.  Are you fucking kidding me!  What the hell is her problem; clearly she did have a problem.  Well, the last thing I had in my arsenal was my sober birthday and I knew this was going to get her.

After no response to my rambling about my good mood and my blog I was jumping up and down inside to tell my therapist I’d finally reached my first year of sobriety.  And I was right, that got a response.  “How did you feel about that?”  That’s what I got; a question.  As far as I was concerned it was a stupid question.  Wasn’t sobriety like this the goal of hours of therapy and training?  Anyway, I decided to bring attention to my blogging again and explain how I’d blogged about the bittersweet feeling of my year being sober.  I went into detail and made a very important point; at least I thought it was, about mourning my addiction like a good friend.  I thought this was really big and I thought that being able to verbalize it in such a way would surely impress her.  Nope.  What did she do?  I’ll tell you what she did.  She took the wind out of my sail like her certification gave her the right to just cut me down at the knees.  How dare she!  “Well, you’ve been mourning this for months, what makes it any different now?”  That was it; I needed to do some quick mental checking because I was on the verge of losing my cool.

In my head this woman was every name in the book but a child of god.  I thought about getting up and just telling her never mind for the session and walking out, she’d touched something in me that I knew wasn’t good.  My inner demon was coming to life and that never ends well.  In an instant I had to jerk myself back to a happy place because I was quickly going down the wrong road.  I could envision her calling security just like the social worker did in the ER when I came to the defense of my partner; I just hoped my eyes hadn’t turned the least bit red.  This just wasn’t going the way I’d envisioned and I was totally thrown off by her nonchalance.  Right then I had to decide whether to take the high road or to just show my ass.  Trust me, it was a hard decision.  All of this took place in a split second.

And then I came to the realization that, as much as I wanted my therapist to be happy for me and give me some sort of accolade, the most important thing is how I feel about what I’ve done and how far I’ve come.  My therapist’s job is to guide me down the road to being able to manage my mental illness and staying sober.  She’s not responsible for giving me my self-worth; that’s my job.

happy balls

So after I had this internal dialogue with myself I decided to let my therapist off the hook and go on with our session.  I reminded myself that I was there for therapy not ego stroking and, surprisingly, I was okay with that.

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Coming Clean on Getting Clean

Today I reached a milestone; I have one year sober.  I’m sure I should feel some kind of way but, surprisingly, I don’t.  Instead of feeling totally celebratory I feel quite introspective on this day.  I’ve spent the entire week leading up to this day thinking about the journey I’ve been on to get to this point.  I remember when it all started.

I was active in my addiction to alcohol and powder cocaine and not taking any medication for my bipolar disorder.  I was a walking train wreck and a health hazard to myself to the nth degree but I refused to believe or accept it.  I didn’t know whether I was coming or going and my body was beginning to cry out that something was wrong but I just kept abusing alcohol and drugs; I’d added pain killers to my repertoire of addiction at this point.  I was staying up days on end, playing my music louder than I would normally be able to stand, rambling on with my grandiose ideas, going from one thing to another never finishing anything, etc., etc., etc.  I was a classic bipolar addict mess and I’d been that way for several months.  I thought I was living the good life being drunk and high and all over the place but I couldn’t have been further from the truth.  I was on a fast track to destruction.  I’d chosen to deceive myself into believing that I had it all under control.

When I’m active in my addiction I’m what I like to call ‘functional’.  I’m still able to do normal things without much difficulty.  I fool myself into believing that I’m not some run-of-the-mill addict; I tell myself that I’m better than other  addicts who use alcohol and drugs and neglect life altogether.  How ignorant does that sound?  This couldn’t be further from the truth.  An addict is an addict regardless of how the addiction may manifest itself in a person.  One day something hit me and I realized that I was living a life of complete insanity.  I knew that I was out of control in my addiction and my mental health was at an all-time low and my health was truly suffering.

I don’t know exactly what happened but something deep inside of me wanted a change.  I was ready to get help and, truthfully, as much as I loved my addiction I was sick and tired of being sick and tired.  I sat down and made the call to a local mental health facility and went for an intake interview.  That same day began my journey down the road to healing.  I remember the seven days I spent at an in-patient hospital detoxing and starting the process of getting regulated and back on my bipolar medications.

The beginning was hell.  I had trouble sleeping, I had the shakes; I was hot then cold then back again, I was extremely irritable and my skin felt like it was crawling with bugs.  I felt like I was losing my mind.  These things are a normal part of getting clean but I’d forgotten about them and I didn’t like it one bit.  I spent most of those seven days thinking I must have been crazy to have wanted to clean up my act but I was determined to stick it out.  Getting sober isn’t easy and don’t let anyone tell you it is.  It’s hard and it requires a lot of will and determination.  I had to constantly remind myself why it would benefit me to be sober and why I needed to have my bipolar disorder under control.  Trust and believe addiction wreaks havoc on mental illness.  As much as I kept telling myself I was okay, I was not okay.

At first I would count my sober time by the days, then I was elated to be able to count the weeks but the real victory started to show when I could start counting months.  Still, I had to put in work.  I was in therapy several days a week and I had to learn to change how I thought about addiction and mental illness.  I had to see a psychiatrist on a regular basis and I had to stay committed to staying sober.  That is the hardest part of the journey; commitment.  Today I’m committed to staying committed about staying sober.

When I got to six months sober I began to see so many positive changes in my life.  My complexion was better, I was learning to eat healthier, my mental faculties were getting back into alignment and my sleep was more productive.  My favorite part of being sober was, and is, the fact that I was regaining my artistic self.  I used to believe that I had to be under the influence and off medication to be creative. Wrong!  Addiction is a full time job and a jealous lover and it robs you of everything, even who you really are.  I learned this the hard way and I’m glad I know better now.

As I got more together I started looking forward to my sober anniversaries; nine months, ten months, eleven months, until finally today’s big event…one year sober.

sobriety

Like I said to start, I’m not quite sure how I feel today.  I am happy and proud of myself and I feel so very accomplished but the day is a bittersweet one for good reason; I’m also mourning the loss of my addiction.  This may sound strange but it is a very real part of getting sober.  My addiction was such a big part of my life and letting it go was hard, my addiction was my friend.  Who wants to let go of a faithful friend who’s been there throughout the years, through thick and thin and good or bad?  Certainly not me but I had to come to the realization that sometimes we have to let things go out of our lives so that we can grow.

These are the struggles and triumphs that got me where I am, and for it all I can say I’m truly grateful.

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Back To The Drawing Board

Back in IOP (Intensive Outpatient) therapy…oh joy.  This will be my lot three days a week for the next sixteen to twenty weeks.    I walk in the room and come face to face with a motley crew of alcoholics and addicts who have committed to staying sober and working The Steps.  The facilitator is a slight red-head who reminds me of Shirley MacLaine but she is slightly disheveled and majorly unorganized.  I have to correct her about my name and that immediately makes me feel some kind of way.  My initial reaction is that I’m in the wrong place.  I’m a bit anxious and I feel out of place but, ironically, I start using DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy)  exercises; the nature of the group, to calm myself and find my niche in this space.  Twice we are interrupted from getting things going by the late arrival of two people and this aggravates me like nails on a chalkboard.   After everyone has finally settled in Teacher, what I’ll call her, announces that there is a binder of information we are responsible for and she hands me a white binder with a stack of papers that go inside.  She apologizes for the incompleteness of this wealth of information, none of the papers have holes punched in them, telling me that there is no three- hole punch in the building.  Ugh.  Really?  I’m at a loss for words.  This isn’t starting out good at all.  I keep telling myself to give this all a chance because I know the routine all too well; I’ve been in four other groups over the course of nearly a year.

Group begins with a check-in consisting of going around the circle and giving our names, announcing our addiction(s), how much clean time we have and what kind of mood we’re in.  Surprisingly I’m calm with the fact that I will soon give my story to a new group of strangers.  The eye contact that I get from the other group members as we go around the circle puts me more at ease and when it’s my time to introduce myself I’m confident and strong.  Teacher starts things off and my apprehension starts to creep back to the surface.  She’s speaking but it’s as if she really doesn’t know what she’s supposed to be doing.  I feel like I’m balancing on the edge of my seat in anticipation of her next word or instruction because she just seems so hesitant to take control of the meeting.  I want to jump out of my seat and snatch up her papers and her spiral guidebook and just teach the class myself.   Finally the ball gets rolling, albeit slowly, and we dive into the skill for the day.  Not even five minutes into this I discover that my stack of papers is missing the literature for the topic.   This is yet another speed bump to slow our momentum.  Teacher apologizes profusely and excuses herself to go make the necessary copies having to get originals from one of the other attendees.   She returns and we try this once again.

Class seems to creep by so slowly and I feel like I’m in another state of consciousness.  The information is helpful and informative but Teacher just seems a bit off-key to me.  Everyone else seems to be comfortable in a homey kind of way and I envy the way they seem to be able to abandon any judgement of the entire situation, they seem to be completely at ease.  Am I missing something?  We keep it moving and finally one of the other people speaks out of turn and asks Teacher isn’t she ready for a break.  A collective sigh of relief goes around the room and we all start putting down papers and heading for the door even before we hear how long break is going to be.  Maybe my observation was wrong about how the other groupies feel about the whole thing.

We all return from break grateful that there’s only thirty minutes left of this haphazardly conducted meeting.  Though we trudge along and play the game I can tell that I’m not the only one frustrated with how things go here.  I try to keep from watching the clock when one of the gentlemen brings to our attention the time and I perk up and see that time’s up and group is over.  Before Teacher is able to fully give ending instructions we begin packing up our things and preparing for our ending circle to recite the Serenity Prayer.

Wow, it’s over and I made it through and I’m actually glad I came.

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