Category Archives: Creative Nonfiction

One Year

I’m officially one year and 6 days sober.  A year ago I was in rehab– scared and completely miserable.  I didn’t want to get sober, I didn’t want to be there, but, on some level, I did want my life to change.  The last year of my addiction, even though I wasn’t ready to call it that yet, had been pretty messy.  I hurt a lot of people that I cared about and I stopped caring about myself.  For someone like me to make it to a year of sobriety– and not be miserable(!)– is kind of a miracle.

My life is so much better than it was a year ago, but that’s not to say that my life is easy today.  I still think about doing drugs and drinking on a regular basis.  The difference is that now I know that I don’t have to act on every impulse I get.  I know that no matter how bored or how bad I’m feeling, drugs and alcohol will not solve my problems.

The biggest difference in my life is that today I have hope and the capacity to be grateful.  I’m also reasonably happy most of the time.  Which, if you knew me before, is also a bit of a miracle.  There are friends that I lost in my addiction that I don’t think I’ll ever get back.  Losing people because of my bad behavior during my addiction still makes me sad.  There are two friends in particular that I really miss.  But getting sober doesn’t magically bring everyone back.  And that’s okay.

Getting sober has been my hardest won accomplishment and it’s the thing that’s most important to me today.  And for that I’m grateful.

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Green

“Can we get some food?”

I’d been at the Werewolf’s house for two days.  It was mid-afternoon, my least favorite time of day, and the drugs were gone.

The house had seen better days.  The Werewolf lived in an old house painted hunter green with a substantial front porch.  We never spent much time outside when I was there, preferring instead to hide from daylight inside.  I always hated watching the first rays of dawn come in through the blinds in his bedroom.  Watching the early light creeping in through the cracks in the blinds always put an awful damper on our bender efforts.

Inside, the house was unassuming but functional.  There was no glamour to the place.  The wood floors were scuffed in some places but were a considerable upgrade from the ugly dark green carpet that used to rest atop them.  The walls were mostly bare, although there was a large map of the United State somewhere in the house.  The Werewolf never was much of a decorator.  There used to be two deep green vinyl couches in the living room, adding to the overall greenness of the place.  Those couches were replaced by a thoroughly comfortable neutral colored couch.  It was impossible to get comfortable on the old ones.  No matter how carefully you sprawled yourself on them your skin always stuck to that vinyl.

The dining room was empty except for a basic wooden table, compliments of Walmart. There was bench along one side of the table while chairs lined the other three sides, all equally uncomfortable.  At the beginning of a bender, the table was close to immaculate and bare.  By the end of the episode, it would be littered with ugly drawings, take out containers, dirty dishes and sticky cups.

The kitchen was never a good place to find yourself.  Cramped, cheap, and empty of a dishwasher, it was not a place I liked to be.  There was usually a mountain of dirty dishes in the sink, sometimes accompanied by a small army of fruit flies.  The peeling plastic linoleum had seen more sanitary days and the cupboards were generally empty of any kind of sustenance.  The fridge, however, was usually stocked with Gatorade, champagne, and leftovers with some kind of whiskey stored in the freezer.

We’d been up for a few days and I hadn’t really eaten since we started partying.  The drugs were gone, the sun was out, and it was a weekday.  I needed food and I needed to go home.

“I’m not getting any fucking food,” the Werewolf announced.

I was tired, cranky, and coming down.  I snapped and left.  And that was the last time I saw him.  I doubt I’ll see him again.  Our lives are moving in opposite directions in different parts of the country.  Without the drugs, we never had much to talk about. When I was using I had no interest in sober people. Now that I’m sober, I doubt that he’d have any interest in me.

When I got home I looked in the mirror.  I was green.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_writing_challenge/the-settings-the-thing/


A New Diagnosis

This update is long overdue but bear with me. It turns out that the most ironic thing about my time in rehab was probably the simple fact that the diagnosis that catapulted me into recovery– bipolar disorder– was removed after I transitioned into sobriety. I’m not bipolar, I’m an addict. After being clean for some time the psychiatrist decided that my mood disorder was drug induced and at almost six months sober I haven’t had any recurrence of symptoms.

Initially, I had mixed feelings about the change in diagnosis. Just when I started to accept that I was bipolar I had the rug pulled out from under me. Addiction hasn’t been any easier to manage and they don’t make pills to treat it. It’s a different diagnosis but one that I’ll nevertheless live with all my life.

But there is some hope. People do recover from addiction. And I’m not a slave to my medications anymore. It’s been almost five months since I’ve taken any kind of mood stabilizing medicine and it feels good to be back to myself. That’s not to say that taking psychiatric medicine is bad– if I was really was bipolar I would certainly need to be on my meds and there’s no shame in that.

Shame is a funny thing and it runs across both diseases– addiction and bipolar disorder. And I’ve been learning that one of the most powerful ways for me to eradicate my own shame is to be open about my recovery instead of hiding behind it. Silence in addiction is deadly. By sharing my struggles and showing that recovery is possible I can spread the message of hope and try to help other people find the recovery that I was so lucky to receive.


One Year Later

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A year ago I was back in the psych ward.  Fifty one pills of Lorazepam taken during a blurry three hour window and a 911 call from my roommate at the time effectuated my return.  And I was angry.  Angry to be back there less than six months after my first stint, angry because I felt like no one was listening to me, and angry because I felt like no one believed me.  And even though I wouldn’t admit it, I was probably angry at myself.

Looking back, it’s amazing how near-sighted I was.  The 911 call that my roommate placed probably saved my life.  But that was the last thing I was going to admit back in April of 2013.  Kicking and screaming all the way to the hospital, I was convinced she was the crazy one.  But in the year that’s elapsed since I took that ambulance ride, a lot of details about that night have come into a sharper focus.  A few months ago, when I was still in rehab, I remembered a detail about that night that night that my denial had conveniently suppressed.  When the cops came into my apartment to escort me to the ambulance I was in my bedroom, ready to call it a night.  My roommate and I had gotten into a screaming fight and I was ready to surrender to sleep and forget about it all.  On my nightstand there was a bottle of Nyquil waiting for me.  Not my preferred brand of cough syrup at the time, I preferred Robitussin because, unlike Nyquil, there usually wasn’t any alcohol added to it.  But that night all I had was the Nyquil.

When the police walked in I was sitting up in bed, in the dark, with the bottle in my hand.  And had I drained that bottle, as was my habit at the time, I probably wouldn’t be here today to write about it.  The dose of Lorazepam I took, fifty one milligrams, is pretty close to lethal by itself.  But add alcohol to the mix, like the alcohol in the Nyquil, and I probably never would have woken up.

Thank God my roommate cared enough about me to make that call.  She told me that she had decided she’d rather lose my friendship than lose me.  There’s no doubt in my mind that I’m where I am today because of the courage and strength of the people in my life that cared enough about me to save my life even if it hurt my feelings.  A relationship can always be mended in the light of day but I might not have made it to dawn if she hadn’t picked up the phone to make one the hardest phone calls of her life.

It’s strange to be able to look back on this night with the clarity of five months sobriety.  So many things in my life have changed, a lot of things didn’t turn out the way I wanted them to, and I lost a lot of good friends along the way.  But now I can look back on that night and be grateful for all the ways that I was saved. 

Looking back is certainly bittersweet, like a lot of things that have come with my sobriety.  The year between April 15, 2013 and April 15, 2014 hasn’t been an easy one.  And there are still a lot of things in my life that I have to make right.  For now, all I can do is pay it forward, and thank the people in my life who were stronger than me, by staying sober—one day at a time.

 

 


Sluggish

As it turns out, my life didn’t become magically wonderful as soon as I got out of rehab.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s great being out and a lot of things are better now that I’m sober.  But being sober is not easy.  They say that getting sober is the easy part– it’s staying sober that’s hard.  Well, for me, both are pretty fucking hard.  Getting sober was miserable.  I went to rehab kicking and screaming, counting the days until freedom.  But freedom’s not so easy either.

Cravings are such a bitch.  Thankfully, I’m being drug tested by the Bar which really takes away a lot of the temptation to actually go out there and use.  But the thoughts are still there, tormenting me until I wrap my brain around something else to try to rid myself of the obsession.  And work has been painful without the Vyvanse.  Ironically, when I was in rehab all I wanted to do was go back to work.  And now that I’m back, I’m miserable.  The hours drag by and my ability to focus without the Vyvanse is compromised.  I spend the day fantasizing about leaving early and dreaming up excuses to go home.

And when I actually do leave early, I just laze around at home, griping about not have anything to do.  My brain is sluggish.  I struggle to summon the motivation to do anything creative or even just to get out of the house.  I’m constantly resolving to exercise but I lack the drive to put on my running shoes and walk out of the front door.

I suppose I’m getting a little dose of reality.  Rehab doesn’t magically change your life, you have to change and that change takes time.  There are a lot of things I’m working on but constantly working on myself gets tiresome.  I have a lot to be grateful for and I try to remember that during my low moments.

These days, I’m just feeling sluggish.


The Best Worst Thing

Well, I’m finally free!  90 days of intensive inpatient rehab and I made it out alive.  And it’s great to be back.  My last week of treatment was kind of rough– those last few days simply crawled by.  Stupid things annoyed me.  And I was fucking sick of that food.

But in all honesty, going to treatment was probably the best worst thing that’s happened to me.  As it turns out, I do have a drug problem. I’m an addict.  But I never would have dreamed of admitting that if I hadn’t been pushed into rehab,  I had been happily swimming in the river of denial for years and probably nothing short of true catastrophe would have broken me out of it.

I was a high functioning addict, which is a blessing and a curse.  A blessing because I was able to skate through law school and pass the bar even in the throes of drug addiction.  But it’s a curse because being high functioning allowed me to stay in denial about my problem.  Loathe as I am to admit it, getting pushed into rehab by the Bar probably saved me from a lot.  In a lot of ways, it saved me from myself.

I’m happy to be back and to be sober.  A lot of things in my life have had to change but I’m looking forward to my new, healthy life.


The Upswing

I feel like I’m on the upswing.  I’m over 60 days into rehab (finally!) and things are starting to get easier.  Sort of.  I spent the weekend at home on a therapeutic leave from treatment, which was absolutely divine.  Once you’re about two-thirds of the way done with rehab you’re eligible for one of these leaves.  Some people are crazy and don’t take one.  I’m crazy but not that crazy — I was ready to get the fuck out of dodge, even for two days.  

Unfortunately, I’ve now reacquired the itch to leave.  During my first few weeks here I was (almost) literally itching to leave.  My life outside of rehab was all I could think about and was the only place I wanted to be.  After awhile, however, Stockholm Syndrome set in.  Things got easier, and institutionalization started to feel normal.  I got used to the fact that I was going to gain at least 15 pounds.  I got used to travelling everywhere in a white 15 passenger van.  I got used to spending my days cooped up in a big old house with 20 other women, crying and talking about our feelings.  

But with that little taste of freedom, 48 hours at home with my family, I reacquired that itch.  It’s not unbearable — I know that the end is in sight — but it’s enough to make me malcontent.  I just want to fast forward through the next month of my life.  I’m ready to get back out there, armed with the tools I’ve acquired in rehab.  Because rehab has killed my desire to use.  I’m ready to end that chapter of my life.  I’m tired of feeling crazy, of numbing myself to anything painful, and of missing out on life.  I’ve been living in a fog these last few years and I’m realizing that I like what sobriety feels like.  

So I’m trucking along.  I came in kicking and screaming but I’m finally starting to reach a place of acceptance.  I’m just ready to get my freedom back and start living my life again on the outside.  I’ve still got some time left here though.  And even though I’m starting to get that itch, I can tell I’m on the upswing.  


The Same Old Fear

Running over

the same old ground

But have we found

the same old fear?

Wish you were here

— “Wish you were here” Pink Floyd

 

It comes in waves.  These waves, tall and violent, crash into my brain like it’s a rock.  My brain takes the hit but unlike the rocks that waves usually crash against, my brain absorbs their force.  However, there’s a price for this flexibility — my brain avoids the damage of a direct hit but my thoughts do not.  They are flooded with this fear, this fear that comes to me in waves.  My thoughts are the ones that are in danger of drowning.  They are the ones that have to swim.  

So, in my thoughts, I swim through this crashing fear, this fear that comes in violent waves.  The crash of the impact reverberates through my body and I know my thoughts are in danger.  I start to sweat.  And then it comes, that physical feeling of fear.  

As my thoughts try to swim, I catch the glimpses of the substance of the fear.  I’m 18, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25.  I’m deep into the past but then I crash close to the present.  The places change, the people change, I change — but that feeling, the fear, remains.

I’m not paralyzed but I’m not free.  I’m back in purgatory, where I live my life.  Stuck between heaven and hell, happiness and pain, life and death.  The fear remains.  My thoughts start to take shape, to solidify and tell me what’s wrong, tell me what I’m afraid of.  But they’re beaten back with the crash of yet another wave.  

I want to learn to float, to ride out the waves and look the fear in the face.  I want to identify it, classify it, analyze it and tuck it away.  I want my mind back.  I want control.  Control floats to the top.  And control starts to build a wall, a seawall, to the waves at bay.  

Control and it’s wall protect my thoughts.  I recover my bearings and connect with my mind.  The flashes stop coming, the feeling leaves me, and the fear goes away.  

Control jealously guards the walls, keeping fear at bay.  That’s what the fear, always the same, always different, that’s what the fear runs from.  I don’t have to swim anymore, I can walk freely beyond the seawall.  I stay away from the sea and that same old fear.  

But I see now what I didn’t see then.  I traded the chaos for control.  I built a wall to escape the fear.  But in doing so I fashioned myself a cage of my own design — a cage of control.

So here I remain.  But in the calm I remember the fear — the same old fear.  Unnamed, unformed, violent and wild.  

I don’t know which is worse — the calm or the chaos?

Is the chaos worth the cage?


Peppermints and The Lights

An old lady is passing out peppermints.  

“Oh, I don’t think I can have that.”

“Oh, do you have a young child?”

“No, it’s just me.”

Silence.

I didn’t refuse my peppermint.  When I passed by the old lady, I saw the bag of peppermints. I glanced around furtively.  Was there staff nearby?  Was there someone who would see me?  Was I breaking the rules? 

She offered me a single peppermint.  I hesitated.  And then I snatched it up.  I tore open the wrapper and tossed that peppermint into my candy deprived mouth.  

Bliss. It had been four weeks since I’d so much as tasted candy.  I’d been fantasizing about it almost daily, dreaming of skittles and kit kats while longing for freedom.  And peppermints aren’t that great.  But that peppermint on that night was fucking delicious.  

We were on a rare outing — seeing the Christmas lights in the less-than-glorious town I’d landed myself in.  The peppermint fear was wide spread.  After passing the peppermint point, a group of us huddled together.  We were afraid to speak louder than a whisper.  The wrong person might hear.  Maybe we’d get in trouble, maybe we’d be forbidden from going on all outings.  Rehab makes you paranoid.  Trivial things are magnified and made scary.  That’s life when you’re living under a microscope.  

Some girls hadn’t been brave enough to take that peppermint.  The peppermints were a point of great concern.  People on the outside can’t fathom the power that a peppermint, a five cent candy, can formidably wield over paranoid and powerless patients.  

The staff member who was supervising us found out about the peppermints.  She didn’t give a fuck.

At least we could rest easily that night.  The peppermints had lost their power.  But we held on to our paranoia, we prisoners, sentenced to 90 days.  


Crackers

We’re sitting in the TV room.  Me and a fellow patient.  I’m knitting and she’s working on assignments because it’s not TV time — TV time starts at 7:00 and it’s only 3:00 in the afternoon.  As I’m knitting away, only sort of miserable, she gets up and starts moving around.  She’s looking for something, checking behind the couch.  

And then she finds it.  A crumpled up cracker wrapper.  It’s a townhouse wrapper, made of translucent plastic, the brand name in green and red.  It looks dusty and the creases in the crumples look like they’ve been there for a long time.  This wrapper means trouble.  

She approaches me.  We don’t know what to do.  In anywhere but rehab this wouldn’t warrant a moment’s thought.  But this is not anywhere, it’s here.  In the tiny microcosm of rehab; where the walls have eyes and snitching is the standard.  In rehab, the rules are tyrants.  Break them at your own peril and fear the consequences.  And one of the rules, the many, many rules, forbids all patients from so much as thinking about taking food outside the kitchen.  We eat at meals and taking a morsel of food an inch out of the dining room door triggers the penalty.  

Therefore, in rehab, taking a package of crackers beyond that door is almost criminal.  And, as a finder of the evidence of such a heinous crime, you have to snitch or be snitched.  No secrets are sacred — they can be exposed by the confidante or confider at any time, in any group.

We decided that we had to tell.  We had to report the evidence of the crime — the lone crumpled and dejected cracker wrapper.  Once discovered, this inconsequential bit of trash had power over us.  It’s discovery demanded disclosure.  The wrapper taunted us and we were torn.  In our regular brain, the idea of doing anything but throwing it away, seemed ridiculous.  But our tyrannical rehab brain screamed that this was a crime, that someone had broken the rules.  And, in rehab, breaking a rule means you’re on the slippery slope to the dreaded Relapse.  

So we told.  I drank the Rehab Kool-aid.  And that shit is spiked with something strong.  Maybe it’s time to stick to water.  


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