Reality Bites

 

I promised myself I would never tell this story until my kids were grown and had no real need for me anymore. . . until the day when I became a grandmother and my secrets could be kept behind doors not as easily accessible.  But I forgot there were times in life when a person is alone with herself; when there is no hiding from what is real and what you have been hiding behind for all those years.  I am in such a place now – a place where my children have gone to college and my dog has died and I spend my nights staring at rerun after rerun of Law & Order hopelessly mired in my own muck.  It is not as impossible a place as I believed it would be.  You can be content with little.  You can make do with night after night after week after month when no one hugs you, when your skin craves touch and cringes from it at the same time.  I know.  The existence I so feared is now the one I live within daily – and I am living proof you can live to tell about it. The  constant   pain of Fibromyalgia and the breathing issues put me on Disability, but I can be of service by working part-time.  Nevertheless, the biggest and worst  of these health issues would be a whopper of an addictive personality.  If I could get addicted to Cheese-whiz, I would, no kidding.  The worst years of my life have been spent in the depths of addiction – in my late teens and early twenties it was alcohol; my forties brought with them an addiction to prescription pills.

It wasn’t like I didn’t try to live a clean life.  I had twenty years of sobriety before pain resulting from Fibromyalgia led me to believe my doctor that the only answer was prescription pills.  After five years of literal hell in the depths of despair and addiction, I nearly died and was given a second chance.  I knew I was in trouble but couldn’t get the help I needed.  No rehabilitation facility or hospital program wanted to take me – I was too big a medical risk.  When my system ultimately collapsed, I had a chance to get the help I needed.  I have remained sober since . . . not always the easiest of tasks.  Dulling the pain, checking out into numbness, fading to black, still have their lures.  It can be extremely seductive to be oblivious.  Nevertheless, the biggest and worst of  these health issues would be a whopper of an addictive personality.  If I could get addicted to Cheese-whiz, I would, no kidding.  The worst years of my life have been spent in the depths of addiction – in my late teens and early twenties it was alcohol; my forties brought with them  an  addiction to prescription pills.

It wasn’t like I didn’t try to live a clean life.  I had twenty years of sobriety before pain resulting from Fibromyalgia led me to believe my doctor that the only answer was prescription pills.  After five years of literal hell in the depths of despair and addiction, I nearly died and was given a second chance.  I knew I was in trouble but couldn’t get the help I needed.  No rehabilitation facility or hospital program wanted to take me – I was too big a medical risk.  When my system ultimately collapsed, I had a chance to get the help I needed.  I have remained sober since . . . not always the easiest of tasks.  Dulling the pain, checking out into numbness, fading to black, still have their lures.  It can be extremely seductive to be oblivious.

The hardest part was waking up and seeing what I was doing to my children . . . I had little care for what it was doing to myself.  My son moved 3,000 miles away to be with his father because I couldn’t cope with him in the way he needed.  He may have been the lucky one.  My daughter had to witness my decline.  She was the one who tucked me into bed at night and took food out of my mouth when I fell asleep sitting up while eating.  She had to call the ambulance on several occasions.  She was the one who saw me in a drug-induced coma for two days while I was at home, and didn’t understand there was a problem because she was busy living her life with school, sports and work and was too young to recognize the signs.  And she was the one who found me in the midst of a drug-induced grand mal seizure and sat beside me at the hospital while I went through four more.  She had to live with relatives while I was at rehab.  Little wonder she moved across the country to go to college – she deserved to put as much space as she needed  between us.  I was blessed with the miracle of a second chance with her and have been doing my utmost not to blow it since.

Each day I open my eyes and my consciousness floods in.  I remember my aloneness – even my dog is gone.  I stumble out of bed and head for the coffee maker. As my thoughts become clearer, it is a fight to rise to the surface, to not sink beneath.  Depression has made it’s thumbprint on me as clearly as digital code.  I know its intimate allure and ultimate danger.  So each day is an acknowledgment that I choose to celebrate life, that I will live it to the best of, to rise to the surface, to not sink beneath.  Depression has made it’s thumbprint on me as clearly as digital code.  I know its intimate allure and ultimate danger.  So each day is an acknowledgment that I choose to celebrate life, that I will live it to the best of my ability.

Depression nibbles at the corners of your consciousness, settles over you in a suffocating blanket, pulls you into the nothingness of its embrace.  For the addict, Depression is often a constant companion – it is for me and I suspect it will always be.  However, I am learning, albeit slowly, that I can choose to be happy, and grateful, and willing to grow spiritually and emotionally.

There are so many, like me, who live in the folds of life, in those creases where the sides are pressed so tightly against each other there is no room to breathe.  They are the ones everyone would like to forget, but can’t.  They are the ones who take up too many support services, escalating medical costs.  They are the ones the family hates to come home to, would love to escape, desperately want a safe place to put.

That guy stumbling erratically down the side of the road, his shirt on backwards, trying in his confusion to make it to the bar where he knows he can get free drinks? . . . He is one such as me.  The Eleanor Rigby type with hair haphazardly pulled into a pony tail, wearing a ratty bathrobe that hasn’t been cleaned in quite awhile, curled up in a corner of her couch, downing more than a half gallon of wine a night?  She is my best friend.  That one in handcuffs, the police are putting into the back, I know him well..

How could you, you say?  Nobody chooses this path – it chooses you.  It is seductive, subtle, insidious, and mysterious.  You start off more or less like everyone else, using drinks or drugs as they present themselves.  They are recreational, an added pleasure to enhance an experience.  For the socially repressed, shy and insecure, it is the ticket to fitting in, for repressing feelings you would rather do without anyway.  To those who live in fear, for those few moments, peace comes.  The chemicals abate, just a little while, the pain of insecurity and the fears and tortures which fill your life.  If you don’t feel like the conquering hero, you at least feel you are like everyone else.

Trust me – when you are an addict, you never, ever feel you are like everyone else.  You are a blight on the landscape of life.  You fill your days with rancor and your nights with self-hatred.  You are an accursed virus maligning all you touch, all you hold dear.  All you want is to hide from those feelings for just a little while.

And then there are the reactions of your family and friends to your addiction.  They try so hard to understand.  They think their love and well-meaning will make all the difference, at least for the first hundred times.  They pack the addict’s bags and send them to rehab, assuming responsibility for the addict’s life – paying bills, caring for children, making repairs to broken furniture and damaged property, covering the cost of rehab when insurance doesn’t, searching the home for every last ounce of drug or alcohol hidden away.

One father bought a brand new car for his freshly sober daughter, thinking since she had gotten help in rehab, she wouldn’t be having anymore accidents.  My mother spent over $10,000 paying bills that were far overdue.  She bought me a newer car, replacing the one I ran into the ground.  My ex-in-laws drove across country to pick up my daughter and bring her to California for the summer while I was in a rehabilitation center.  My condo was sold and I moved to a more manageable apartment.

 The day I woke in the hospital, hallucinating, seeing spots on every surface, nurses seemingly moving like automatons; mostly I was completely confused.  I had suffered  brain trauma from the drugs and seizures – but part of me was vastly relieved.  I was in the hospital 10 days, rehab 3 weeks, and the Partial Hospital Program at the hospital to deal with the Depression.  It had ended.  There would be no going back.  That chapter of my life was over.  I had so far to crawl before I could begin to walk but the nightmare was over.  I was terrified and ashamed, racked by guilt, but I had a chance now.  I could barely look at my daughter, but I had an opportunity to make-up for my mistakes.

As I crept back into the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous, I was very embarrassed but I would do whatever I had to do to recover.  Luckily, the people in those rooms are generous and full of heart.  They knew of shame, they themselves felt they had invented it.  I was befriended and supported until I could begin to support myself.  I had done it before for alcohol, I would do it again for drugs.  It didn’t come easy.  It’s been many meetings since and I have begun to feel like a human being again.  I am profoundly grateful . . .  too many have not been able to reach and maintain sobriety. – things could have been so much worse.  My personal life of shame is ending.  I no longer have the need to trot it out and tote it around, its imprint leaving deep grooves in my back.

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