So, I was sitting at my desk trying to figure out what to do next and it hit me like a baseball in the sun. Write about my journey through addiction and recovery. Not the whole thing mind you, parts are pretty boring, but some aren’t. The last year of my addiction and pieces of my recovery are insane, funny and downright heartbreaking.
I mean, I wrote most of my story once, but the whole thing in itself really isn’t fit for human consumption, so this time, on a second go around, I decided to share some of the gritty parts.
People love gritty parts.
Yes, it is called Poetry Through Recovery, but it won’t be all poetry. There will be some personal essays and some funny anecdotes. Just real shit that could maybe help a trainwrecked soul like myself. I did a survey a while back and most people seemed to want to hear about a piece of my life that revolved around living at a place called The Wagon Wheel when I was an eighteen-year-old pregnant mother of two with a crackhead husband.
Trust me, that story is coming. But for some reason, I feel like I need to write this other one first. There is kind of a parallel there, so to speak. When I lived at the Wagon Wheel, I was sober, but living among drunks, addicts, and absolute chaos. Fast forward ten years and it was the same old story, except now I was the drunk asshole. Stories like this – like my story – help people. Maybe I’ll lace Poetry Through Recovery with pieces of the Wagon Wheel. At this point, I feel like I have to.
It’s the only way it’ll all make sense. And sometimes, we need shit to make sense.
I got sober in 2006 and was court mandated to go to outpatient treatment despite my self-propelled thrust into the world of clean and sober living. At the time I had no job, was living in someone’s basement and has just had my kids taken from me. My choices were either get clean or put a bullet in my head.
I learned a while ago that suicide is not an option for me. I had three failed attempts previously so I took that as a sign that I am needed on this planet for something.
I still haven’t figured out what.
So, while going to this outpatient group, the topic one night was an odd one and I wound up arguing with the group leader about it. “If you could get high without consequences, would you?’ and I delivered a stern “NO.”
“But there are no consequences,” he said.
“Um, yeah there are.”
“But I am telling you there aren’t any in this scenario.”
“There is no scenario without consequences. I can’t think like that. I can’t pretend there won’t be addiction peril if I get high.”
Anyway, he let it go, but I think a few other people caught on to what I was saying. While there are some things we can pretend and day dream about, using drugs and drinking recreationally is not one of them for an alcoholic addict. There will always be consequences. Trying to imagine a life without them is deadly.
So, next door to this treatment center was a Pep Boys warehouse and there was a sign in the window:
NOW HIRING DELIVERY DRIVERS
I walked in, spoke with the manager for a few minutes, and was hired on the spot. 🙂
The highlight of that entire experience was that they wanted me to take a drug test. It may seem odd that I would be excited over something like that, but I hadn’t passed a drug test for three years prior to then for any job I went for except for a potential position at the IRS. Despite passing that drug test, I had used immediately following it and overslept for my first day of orientation for that keen IRS position that could have changed my life when I still lived in Philly.
So I got my job as an auto parts delivery person and my excitement was palpable. I got to drive for a living and even though I was only making two dollars over minimum wage at the time, it was liberating to work again and earn my own money.
That job led me to where I work now as an administrative assistant at an accounting firm. I have been here for ten years, and still get to deliver packages (paperwork) to clients. Still, I am eyeballing bigger ventures. I have been here eight years too long and it is time for me to take a leap of faith.
So when I get that urge to sneak out of the house in the middle of the night, and slink down to the bad part of town I avoid like the plague, I have to beat those thoughts back with common sense. I have to control them.
It’s not easy.
I blame so many people, places and things when the battle becomes exhausting in this never ending war on my sanity – my life.
I haven’t been to that place, that hell, that devil’s den of bad choices in almost eleven years.
Those thoughts blossom in my mind when I get comfortable and complacent. They sprout like sick weeds in a garden of naive flowers.
No matter how many weeds I pull or kill, new ones grow and wait, searching for that weak crack in my foundation.
Hi Ted, thanks for agreeing to do an interview with me. First off, I want to congratulate you on your clean time. It is a rough road I know personally, but very rewarding. It is people like you that inspire addicts and alcoholics in recovery to keep that glimmer of hope alive, no matter how dark it may get.
1. I read your press release and you said, “After I got clean, I thought ‘What am I going to do with my life?” I can relate to trying to transition into a life without drugs and alcohol. Was it difficult for you to find something to do immediately?
I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to be creative without drugs or alcohol and I’d almost made the
decision not to play music anymore! My thinking was that my creativity was too closely linked to my
drug use. Fortunately, the Universe had a different plan and opportunities in music presented
themselves more abundantly than they ever had before! 2. What brought you to the United States from New Zealand?
I moved to the United States when I had around 18 months clean as guitarist, co-writer and
backing vocalist with popular NZ artist Greg Johnson. I had started playing in his band and he
asked me to accompany him for some showcases for Record Companies. He ended up getting
signed, and we moved to L.A. to make an album..
3. What was your darkest moment while out there (using)? Was that enough to get you to wake up and realize you could die?
I had a few brushes with death while I was out there. I think one of my darkest moments was getting
the news that my friend and fellow musician Matt had died from this disease. I was devastated and
although I had OD’d several times myself, it still took me over a year more to go back into detox and
try treatment again. He was so talented and it was such a waste, but I knew it could be me or any
one of those ‘smart, talented’ addicts I was using with.
4. What has been the most amazing part of your journey through sobriety so far?
There have been so many wonderful moments. I feel like all the great things that have happened in
my life have been since I got sober- getting married, traveling the world playing music, seeing all the
art I’d only ever seen in books, making albums.. Using provided me with a very limited view of the
world but recovery has expanded that view by putting me back in contact with human beings! Every
day can be an adventure if I can keep an open mind and remember to be grateful.
5. Now that you are clean and sober, do you look at people differently? Like, do you have more tolerance?
I really had to learn how to deal with people again because I was just so used to being loaded all the
time and that had been my point of reference for so long! I think I’m more tolerant these days simply
because I feel more a ‘part of’, but it’s still a challenge (especially on the freeway!) 6. I actually love driving on little country roads, it helps me reconnect with my Higher Power and regroup when life keeps being life. How do you relax these days?
I meditate, I read (for entertainment as well as for inspiration). I have 2 cats and a dog and I find
them to be a great source of relaxation! ( I never had pets growing up so it’s still a novelty for me). As
I said, I love art so going to museums and galleries is something I love to do.
7. Tell me about the song, “Bringing my Past Back (But Not To Haunt Me).
This is really a song about the ‘steps’ and the work that’s asked of me if I really want to get the most
that recovery has to offer. Sometimes that work is tough- messy and painful but if I’m prepared to do
it (and I never have to do it alone) I’ve discovered that the benefits are incredible. The trick is, that I
have to keep doing it if I want to experience growth.. 8. Did you ever think that you’d be living the dream today? Getting to do what you love?
I don’t know what I thought when I was in active addiction! Mostly “getting, using and finding ways to
get more”. I always thought that I had the wrong life, that it, “wasn’t supposed to be like this”…my
fear was that I would die from my using. Every day surprises me!
9. Do you have any words of advice or wisdom for addicts and alcoholics still struggling with addiction?
Anyone can get clean, lose the obsession and find a new way of life. But you need to have had
enough and of course that ‘rock bottom’ is different for everyone. One thing I know is that we can’t
do it alone, I tried many, many times. The disease of addiction is cunning, it will give you many
reasons why you’re different, why recovery won’t work for you, but it’s working for millions of people
all around the world every day! It’s important to just jump in feet first! It’s scary, but so is using..
10.I did not get to hear the song, “Looking for Home Down Hallways.” But it immediately gave me a chill as I thought back to the days when I was so alone and just wanted to be loved. Can you elaborate on this song?
This song is about looking for salvation. From a person, a drink, a drug, money, a location.. Anything
outside myself that I think might be the thing that’s finally going to make everything ‘O.K.’ The pursuit
of that ‘fix’ is what nearly killed me and it can manifest in recovery as well, even without the drugs
11.When it came time to make amends to people, were you excited to get it out or nervous to reach out to people you had wronged?
When I was new, the first step I noticed on the wall was #9 and I thought, “Oh no, I’m never going to
be able to do that!”. Fortunately the steps are in order so I didn’t have to make amends until I got to
that step. I did however try to make some amends before I got there and without my Sponsors
blessing- needless to say it didn’t go so well. The steps are a gentle slope, so even when I’m
apprehensive I’ve been able to move forward..
12.What is in the future for you and your music?
We just completed a beautiful clip for the song “Love Is..” which is due to drop on
10/15. I’m working on songs for another album as well as promoting “An Unwide
Road” The future looks musical!
I started drinking at an early age. It became a way for me to stomach myself each time I looked in the mirror or engaged with other humans. I never thought it would come full circle and the thing that gave me ‘people power’ would take that power away along with any perceived power over every other person, place or thing in my life.
Getting clean and sober was not an easy task for me by any stretch of the imagination (is it easy for any of us?). I made a decision to go cold turkey. I locked myself in my basement apartment for roughly a week only going outside to walk down to the Walgreen’s to get cigarettes (I also drank gallons of water). I was dizzy, sweating, cold, hot, felt nauseous, had wicked stomach knots and the shakes just to name a few symptoms of opiate withdrawal. I became a skeletal recluse for those seven or so days and it was the best thing I ever did for myself.
Now, I’m not saying going ‘cold turkey’ is the best way – and I didn’t go cold turkey – but for some, it isthe best way. I weaned myself until there was nothing left but me, my coffee cup and lots of cigarette butts. I pretty much glued my ass to this chair in said basement and just eked it out. It was fucking hell, lemme tell ya. I mean, at the height of my addiction, I was consuming about 1000 mg of Percocet a day along with one or two Fentanyl pops and not to mention all the 80 mg Oxy’s I was crushing and snorting. Yeah, I probably should have been dead a few times.
I read so many horror stories about people who use methadone or Suboxone to wean off opiates. It makes no sense to me as an addict. Seriously. Why would I want to stop using one drug only to become addicted to another? It made zero sense to me. I did go to an outpatient center, they asked me how long I was off pills and I told them. Now, I was off for about a week or so when I called this place. They actually suggested these two drugs to me. I was like, “NO EFFING WAY.” I didn’t go through hell in my basement for that time only to revisit a different level of hell. Thanks, but no thanks.
I belong to a few groups on Facebook centered around recovery and hope. This is where social media is truly awesome. We get to share ideas, thoughts and a lot of memes. I have been reading about methadone and Suboxone use in opiate withdrawal. It seems like a double-edged sword. On one hand, an addict is getting off the hard shit or fist fulls of pills. On the other hand, they are creating a brand new addiction that is equally gruesome.
I read a lot of statements that go something like, “I have been clean for three months, well, really two days because I was on Suboxone all that time. I feel like crap and I want to use.” Seriously?!
Please understand… I judge no one. I am no better than anyone, period. I just don’t understand. So I guess in a sense, I am asking: if anyone using either of these for opiate withdrawal or using something else for opiate withdrawal could explain to me why this is a choice, that would be great.
Yes, the basement was hell. I may even write about it one day in a memoir because I feel like people should know how fucking awful opiate withdrawal really is.
Looking back, I am glad I did it that way. I may not have survived if I became addicted to something else.
When I first got sober it was in late May of 2006. I immediately found some meetings to go to and when a person goes to meetings, they find out about picnics. My first thought was, “How the hell does a person go to a picnic and not drink?”
Turns out, there are a lot of ways to have fun that do not involve drinking or drugs. Here are some of the ways I have had tons of fun all while being sober:
going to a meeting
walking in the woods
walking on a main strip in a small town
going for a long drive (like… really long)
listening to music
shooting pool at a pool hall (not a bar!)
making a craft
going to a book store
going to the library
going down to the river
antique shopping (or browsing)
going to lunch with a friend
going to lunch alone
starting a scrap-book
journaling (I wish I would have documented my first year of sobriety)
and yes…. sober picnics!
These are just a few of the things that I had (and still have) a ton of fun doing while trekking through sobriety. Do you have any to add? Please share!
Okay, so I’m an alcoholic. I was probably born one, but didn’t catch on until my late twenties. Further, I didn’t do anything about it until my early thirties. I tripped, stumbled, blacked out… did all the crazy things that alcoholics do and then some.
The one thing that got me tripped up all my life was… me. I am so damn hard on myself! I can go down my list of “nots” and really spiral into a dark, lifeless hole.
I am not pretty enough; smart enough; talented enough; GOOD enough. It seeps in like a cool November breeze and before I know it I am sitting there shivering with rage. I cry, curse at myself. Hell, when I was a teenager, I even used to hit myself if you can imagine that one. I just hated myself so much. I hated me, I hated my mother for giving birth to me and I hated God for allowing my birth. Surely, it was a mistake. Why on Earth would He put someone as pathetic and ugly as me on the planet?
Yeah, ugly. I suffered with my self-image for a long time and still do… sometimes. I was picked on all through school as a child and then a pre-teen and a teenager. I was even made fun of as an adult. I resorted to violence to fend off the teasing when I was younger. When I was older, I just drank more. Surely the alcohol would numb my self-loathing.
I guess I felt, “hey, if I can’t be pretty, I’ll be a brute.” Even though I weighed maybe seventy pounds soaking wet when I was thirteen. At five feet seven, that right there my friends is a ‘bean pole,’ as I was called.
There were much worse names.
I was picked on in junior high school because I didn’t “fill out” like all the other girls. I was so flat chested, I didn’t even wear a bra. One time, some boys were walking down the hallway behind my friend and me and they grabbed at our backs to snap our bra straps. I found out later they did that to prove I didn’t have a bra on because I didn’t have breasts. They laughed their asses off that day. I ran in the bathroom and cried.
I felt worthless. I felt ashamed. I felt soooo ugly.
So yeah, I became violent. I started getting in fights with other girls and I started beating up boys. Beating up boys! Not so much beating them into a bloody pulp, but I got the best of them for sure.
Now, you would think that after all these years, and all my years sober and all the step work I have done and all the resentments I have talked about with my sponsor and all the shit I have let go, that this would be the big one I wanted to let go, because, after all, who the hell wants to hold onto a big pile of shit?
I just don’t know how to let it the hell go! I am so mad still (sometimes.) I am not mad all the time, but sometimes I just get mad. Sometimes, I look in the mirror and still see that skinny, flat-chested girl who used to get picked on. The girl who boys didn’t like. The girl who boys didn’t ask to go to dances and when she was at dances, they certainly didn’t want to dance with. The girl who never got put on the “list of girls.”
A lot of people say, “Darlene, get the hell over it. That was a long time ago. You’re beautiful!”
Yes, there are times that I feel beautiful. But there are other times, usually when I am watching television or I am on the beach or at a big concert or something, that I just get way lost in the hoopla of what is defined as beauty today.
For the record, I don’t watch much television and I rarely go to the beach. I listen to a lot of music, do a lot of writing and I do my readings everyday because a small part of me knows it is all in my head. A small part of me sometimes sees something beautiful in me.
I never think of drinking over this. Hell, I can’t remember the last time a drink entered my mind. Thankfully, I have a lot of women in my life and a pretty good support system. Thankfully, I have the rooms and the literature I read.
Thankfully, most times I recognize it is all in my head.