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.
We use that term when we speak of good deed doers, animal rescuers and people who keep their cool in Wal-Mart. But what about the saintly sinner? You know, humans that want to beat the ever living shit out of that asshole in Wal-Mart or impale the driver doing 35 in a 55 (this happened to me on my way to work today). Then maybe played the scenario out in vivid detail, and thought, “Is this jerk really worth ten years in prison with a seven-foot cellmate named Tiny?”
Saintly sinners are people just like you and me. They are not good deed doers per say, but they aren’t rotten bastards either. Saintly sinners are average people who go about their day not necessarily keeping tabs of all the good and bad shit they have done, but know that being a decent human – or at least trying like hell – can be a full-time job all its own in this day and age.
Saintly sinners are anti-heroes.
You know, those ten-dimensional characters like John McClaine in Die Hard or Snake Plissken in Escape From New York. Sure they’re mouthy, dirty bad boys who ventured onto the left-hand path, but we love them despite their sinner ways; they’re our angels of redemption.
On the flip side of that, some people pretend to be saintly but are really demon spawn at a sickening level. The technical term for that person is the sociopathic narcissist, and though I have dealt with one version or the other in my life, the evilest combination of the two was my ex-mother-in-law. She would gorge herself on the pain of others. Some people call them emotional vampires, others call them toxic, but I just wound up calling her a crazy b***h. The woman wasn’t happy unless she was witnessing/talking about/causing someone’s pain.
I won’t go into it because she isn’t worth the weight of her memory, but she is included in my memoir. Sometimes we need to speak the devil’s name so we can put her in her proper place.
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.
While the lowest point of my life was sitting in a recliner in someone’s basement doped up on pills, there were many previous disasters that dragged me to that point.
I had lost my job, then my house and then the final blow… I lost my children. Surely I could have taken immediate action and changed my ways ASAP.
But first I had to get high and oh yeah, get drunk too and let’s not forget going out to bars and to make bad decisions about people that put myself in serious danger.
What the hell was I thinking? That was just it… I was NOT thinking. I was too busy playing the victim and blaming my life on everyone and everything else.
When I first lost my job I could have probably done the following: FOUND A NEW EFFING JOB!
I could have done a lot of things… but that didn’t fit my ‘victim mentality’ and while I was playing the ‘damsel in distress’ I was really a disastrous damsel spitting hellfire and burning every bridge I crossed. That life seems a world away now. Thank goodness for second chances.
Disastrous damsel; wicked and free
Who is this angel you pretend to be
Blackness is your state of mind
Your screaming soul, so unkind
Is this really who you are
Or did your game go too far
Take your breath and suck it out
Breath back in without a doubt
Life really can be joyous and true
Have faith in love and have faith in you.
People really do change… they just need a really good reason to change.
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.
“Sometimes shit is going to go wrong in your life. Sometimes, you’ll feel like everyone is stabbing in you in the back and you can’t catch a break. These are the moments to take a step back. Step back and ask yourself if you are trying to make something work that wasn’t meant to work for you… Sometimes things don’t work out because that path you’re on is just that: a path… that path is filled with ‘Stepping Stones.’ Some of those stepping stones are big, some small, some slippery, some beautiful, some painful. Those stepping stones are part of your life journey… and when you navigate those big slippery stones that are painful… that’s the universe telling you that you’re growing and it’s time to take the next turn.”
I haven’t used drugs or drank alcohol in over seven years so I can’t say personally how Molly affects its users. However, after reading the description and watching the video, it seems Molly is a version of the drug Ecstasy (E as it was commonly called).
Molly is usually ingested orally or snorted and it gets the ‘happy feeling’ going for about three hours. And hey, don’t we all want to feel good (euphoric) for a few hours?
Here is the bad news… when it wears off, it leaves the user feeling highly depressed for hours, sometimes days. It depletes Serotonin levels which need significant amounts of time to replenish.
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 was forwarded an interesting article about relapse today and it got me thinking… When does relapse begin? The article is here if you want to check it out: 7 Habits of an Addict About to Relapse. If you’re interested, read the article.
In my opinion, the first sign of someone in recovery about to relapse is Withdrawal or Isolation. I notice it is at the top of the list in this piece, and rightfully so. Withdrawing from meetings, friends, family and/or activities is a sign of bad things to come. Often, the addict may not realize he or she just turned down a dark part of their journey.
Reaching out at this point is not on the addict’s mind. What is on the addict’s mind is getting rid of whatever demons were left unchecked while doing step-work or trying to suffocate a new demon. If we are not working our 12 Step Program, we tread on dangerous ground each day.
The other sign I want to touch on is being secretive. Maybe the addict got in touch with some old friends they once partied with. Maybe they are not being honest with themselves or others about things. They start telling little while lies. They start making excuses to go to the store… a lot. They start hiding their cellphone or running into ‘long hours at work.’ Whatever the case, deception is classic. As someone in recovery, I still remember my deceptive ways when I tried to use people for anything I could before I got sober.
These are the three ways to keep in check:
Each day I work my program, get honest and help others, is a day I won’t pick up a drink or a drug.
This post was originally called “Righteousness – The Road to Misery” but I changed it last-minute. Resentment and righteousness go hand in hand, really. After all, I can’t feel resentful if I am not feeling righteous. Not to mention, resentment is the number one thing that sends alcoholics and addicts back to a drink or drug no matter how long they have been sober.
I stated in an earlier post how angry I was as a child. This anger brewed inside me as the decades of my life passed. Realistically, anger for me was always resentment. I resented:
The list went on for pages. Then, when I got sober, I was still resentful at everyone and everything. Sure, I was floating on the pink cloud of newfound freedom from drugs and alcohol. It was great waking up feeling good – not hung over or dope sick. But I still had all that resentment and it was eating away at my soul like cancer.
After my pink cloud dissipated into the sun of real life, I was still left with all that resentment! What to do… how about a Fourth Step? The Fourth Step works and continues to work today. See, in all my resentment, anger, jealousy.. etc, I played a part! I couldn’t believe that. I mean, how the hell could I play a part in the way my ex-husband treated me years ago or any of the other “injustices” dumped on me?
It was simple and with the help of my sponsor I figured it out. These days, if I feel resentful I kind of sit in it for a little while (I’m a good alcoholic) but then I really have to do a quick inventory, give it to God and let it go. This makes for happier days.