twice blessed

My first experience with the benzodiazepine I am currently taking, was back in 2011. A doctor – whom I trusted, and still trust – prescribed it to help me with the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, anxiety, and onset insomnia. He told me this low dose would help, and was very safe. He specifically told me it was a very low dose and I could take it for years with no ill effects.

I took the medicine, with some misgivings. It was primarily this faith in the doctor that kept me willing to dose myself with a nightly sleep aid – although I couldn’t deny it was very helpful. Even so, I worried. As I got, and stayed sober, my avocational work in a treatment center taught me a fear of pills that was perhaps overblown. I was brought alongside many, many people who were addicted to pill medications (those still using, and those who had successfully stopped). I heard story after story of the various medications people took in good faith – only to became addicted to. Some quickly, some slowly. Some ended up on heroin, some smoking pills all day long, some dumping almost anything into their system in any way – through needle, ingestion, snorting, smoking. Many people afflicted with prescription addiction end up doctor-shopping, or embroiled in even more unsafe activities – buying pills off the street, stealing, or hustling. One man I know would in goodnatured fashion offer to help older women with chores or yardwork – then tell a sad story about being cut off by a doctor who didn’t understand, so he could get what he needed. In the hundreds (thousands?) of addicts’ stories I have heard, the natural fear of self-poisoning and the desire to be good citizens was inevitably overcome by their body’s need for balance – to feel good, to sleep, to work, to feel okay, to feel normal.

On the one hand these stories scared me; on the other, my medication worked as intended, and I was conscientious. I took my medication exactly as prescribed by this good doctor. I discussed my medication with trusted friends in Recovery, who had experience with such matters. I met with my doctor every few months and brought up the medication, and my concerns at taking a medicine long-term. He assured me each time that this medicine was safe to take for years, and that I could quit any time without ill effects. He told me I was trustworthy.

After about a year, I stopped taking the medicine – cold turkey. I had some trouble sleeping at first (as I read in my journal), and then life continued on.

I didn’t take medication for almost two years.

But in late April this year I visited my doctor and told him my sleep problems had kept up these last two years, and seemed to be worsening. He prescribed the same medicine, and the same dosage.

Back to sleep. Night-anxiety – solved. Instantly. No more waking up after only moments asleep, with a feeling of panic almost impossible to describe. Relief – finally.

But my newfound regimen was to be short-lived. On June 1st I read an illuminating article on the use of benzodiazepines – an article that said, to wit, that many doctors are prescribing a powerful medicine for the long term, and that this is not wise. (The article is worth reading carefully; many people you care about – perhaps even yourself – are affected!) Even though I’d only been taking the medicine for five weeks when I read the article, I was already ready to re-investigate continuing this treatment. I looked further into this particular drug, and testimonies from those who took it long-term (by this I mean, any regular use over two weeks in duration). I became curious that perhaps some of my two years’ of sleep problems might be related to my original abrupt cessation of dosage – since I hadn’t known any better than to stop abruptly.

I have been tapering the medicine, in a conservative and responsible fashion, and with my doctor’s help, since June 1st.

It took about a week for drug withdrawal symptoms to set in. They are mild (especially compared to some!); nevertheless, they are unpleasant.

But – drug dependence is easier the second time around. Or it has been, for me. I know healing is possible, and I am patient. I am very grateful for this. I am not angry my doctor prescribed a medicine, and a course of medicine, that wasn’t right for me. He was not trying to harm me. He was trying to do the right thing.

One quibble. The article above is a good one, and may perhaps prepare people to be wary of these particular drugs, or be in a position to support those who decide to stop taking them. However I dislike the concept, or the phrase, “accidental addict”. I dislike the term “addict” anyway, unless self-applied (people first language, please!). And anyway – what bollocks! No one ever sets their sights on becoming an addict. We all use medicine. We seek alleviation from symptoms. We have a drink to relax. We start smoking to take the edge off our stressful day. And we use our medicine – “recreational”, “alternative”, self-prescribed or prescribed by a doctor, socially-supported or illicit – because we seek relief. One day we begin to know we might be overdoing it. But by then we aren’t in great shape. And the next day, overnight it seems, we find ourselves in a predicament. Our bodies are deranged; disabled. Healing – should we embark on the journey, should we even believe it possible – takes time.

My family and friends support me. My doctor supports me, and I support myself. I write here not because I think anyone in particular is owed an explanation. I write here because I write to be honest, and to be myself – and I tell my story, as long as I don’t harm others in telling it. I also write here because I know others who have these kinds of troubles, sometimes read my blog – and find hope, and support. I have received emails, texts, comments, letters, and phone calls over the years that tell me addiction and compulsion touch many, many lives. I can’t do much to end the stigma and shame of drug addiction, drug dependence, alcoholism, eating disorders, mental disorders, or any number of “invisible illnesses” that plague so many. But I can do a little, and telling my story is a part of that.

I am looking forward to being drug-free again; this time, without the horrid and longterm symptoms of cold-turkey cessation. Life is an adventure. Let’s see what happens next!

 

it’s so late it’s morning again,

and my son is quietly playing Legos a few feet away while I mess around with a few more electrons, sending out these last few bits of minutia and miscellany from my day, to God Knows Who and God Knows Where (I haven’t checked my analytics in months). My boy doesn’t realize in a few minutes I’m probably going to “make” him watch some incredibly bad “sci-fi” television and if that gets boring, I’ll pick up my thick-as-a-brick Dickens novel, before dropping off.

Last night I had twice-a-night sleep, which along with my Chinese herbs and cold remedy (raw honey and garlic) has left me refreshed today. This double-sleep, when it happens, dovetails nicely with my son’s growing-boy loonnnnng lie-in schedule – we rise at the same time for a peaceful (enough) morning of coffee and yoga then a shower when I’m finally fully awake. And at the other end of the day, in the late hours, it is pretty lovely to have the company of my son, all to myself. He makes me special origami, whispers harshly to me while we watch goofy Bigfoot documentaries (as his real-life Sasquatch father slumbers soundly on the other side of the bed), and makes conversation without the relentless questions and spirited talk that so characterize his daylight hours.

***

I am feeling a bit somber and a bit reflective, at the moment. As most who read here know for two-plus years I have been putting time in, on a volunteer basis, helping addicts and alcoholics new to Recovery. Tonight in my endeavors a man was brought into the meeting I was chairing; he was still dressed in a medical robe, so he was very new. He was shaky enough to be escorted by more than one of the personnel, and for a moment it looked like he was going to fall. Ultimately he was not well enough to stay, and he left again. I gazed upon him while he made up his mind and after he left, I returned to the business of the group. “Not feeling well,” I said quietly and the rest of the group murmured in compassion and shared pain.

When I left a little over an hour later I saw him again at the end of the hallway, receiving medication and some medical ministrations. As I walked down the hall I realized suddenly that I knew him, knew him by name, had known him while clean and sober and listened to him speak on several occasions. He had been entirely “normal”, entirely cheerful, entirely functional when I’d know him before. It had required two sightings on my part for me to recognize him.

As often as I’ve seen this very same thing, it still can be a shock.

My alcoholic career was about the briefest and most merciful that I’ve yet heard of. This is rather extraordinary because it didn’t feel brief while I was living it. But now I’ve had some experience and have seen so many living with the disease I know many drink (or drug) after it no longer serves them – usually for years, and often for decades (a dear friend of mine drank over sixty years before getting sober)!

Of course, this “brief” alcoholic career was a living Hell such that I hope you never see me belittle it in any way, here or elsewhere. I see others I know who seem to be living the same kind of low-level shit out – a private Hell they don’t even know they’re living, mostly because they hide their innermost selves and try to put on a good face. The autopilot, the anger, the stress, the driven-nature of their day in and day out, the blame and shame and victim-role – these things feel normal to them, yet somehow circumstantial, somehow just what life is like yet somehow someone’s “fault”. They have a list of bellyaches and resentments and sarcastic asides but deep, deep down… they blame themselves. Somehow … somehow.

I know it too well and I hope to never go back. I gotta tell you, living in that pit for even a few brief years was long enough to, figuratively, bitch-slap me awake.

I forget sometimes I am the Walking Dead, and that my path could have landed me elsewhere. Today I get to live a normal, healthy life and participate in my community, and with my family, and even give a little – sometimes a lot! – of time to “strangers” who suffer from this particular malady.

I don’t moralize addiction or compulsion whatsoever (well… I try not to!) and so tonight after I get over the initial shock of seeing this young man in the state he is in, I hold him in my heart like a cancer patient who’s very ill from chemo (another experience I’ve had). He is very ill and I’m sad to see him in the clutches of illness; moments like this my drinking doesn’t feel like a lifetime ago, it feels recent. At these moments my heart breaks open in compassion and if I didn’t have a husband and children and furry critters depending on me, I think I’d devote my Life to the care of these individuals.

In the car, off on a date with my daughter and husband, it takes me a while to shake off the work I do. I am glad to be Me and glad to live my life, more glad than you can probably know!, but my heart is with those who suffer because I know that although I can Help, I cannot Cure. Sometimes I get mixed up and think somehow I’m supposed to be Curing, supposed to be Fixing. It’s incorrect, but nevertheless it’s a powerful and compelling illusion, and it is often quite disconcerting.

We drive down the hill and toward the cheerful lights of the grocery store, past boarded-up windows, past prostitutes out in the cold, past sadness and cheerfulness and want and need, and onto our errands.

My husband tells me: “You look mad. You look beautiful, but mad.”

“I’m not mad,” I tell him.

Thank you for that experience.

At the bus stop:

TWEEKERS
SUCK
then, clearly added later,
YOUR
[BITCH]
TITS

It’s cold as hell and the bus “shelter” provides no respite. I tap on my phone and look online expecting to see the bus here any second; instead I find we will have to wait fifty more minutes and I’m like, stunned with despair.

I want to cry. My serenity vanishes and I am completely pissed. I will spare you the details; it’s ugly and trifling, but yeah I’m angry and I’ve already figured out how everyone is to blame. And with every ounce of self-restraint I do not say or do anything shitty out of this mental place and instead I zip my coat and I walk alongside my husband and I tell him, “I’m very cold.” He’s a cheerful bastard and has his metabolism so in a single-layer cotton hoodie he’s fine. He and my kids, I’m telling you. Their bodies ramp up and they are like hot little bread loaves in the bed at night, ask me how I know this. But I’m cold, cold, always cold.

A man gets on the bus and then another, and I recognize them from Treatment. They perhaps don’t know me or are too busy. One looks good though like he might not be drinking. Last time I saw him he was all yellowed up even in his eyes.

One thing about being wet and cold and out in the elements, we’re finally home over an hour later, and I am so pleased to be back inside. My daughter brings me a blanket and a pillow and asks if she can remove my shoes, and I’m so grateful and she blushes, pleased with herself she could make me so happy.

My daughter. This morning, first thing she said to me, she pulled me in close while she was still in bed and whispered her good dream she had. It was the most stunningly beautiful handful of words I’ve heard in a while. And I knew it was a secret only for me the moment she told me. It brought tears to my eyes; the dream and its sweetness, and amazing thing that she shared with me because she trusts me.

Things were different for me when I was her age. It’s hard to believe in something better, even when it’s right before my eyes.

I wrap up in blankets and I rest. A friend picks me up and takes me home, later. Simple things, those little things that help me. I am very grateful for these.

***

I haven’t been posting too many links lately, but I wandered across this today and I got some good laughs, mostly from the rebuttals. Like “Dave”, and SOYFUCKER omgggggg lolz

***

Ralph’s project this evening:

the best kind of supernatural

I’ve been volunteering at a local drug and alcohol treatment center twice a week for quite some time. So twice a week, unless I’m in the hospital or out of town unavoidably, I’m there no matter what. Tonight the group I addressed was very large and I did not have any of my helpers so I did a lot of talking. It’s a very odd feeling telling a group of people your very goriest stories. I wouldn’t do it at all except there are very, very good reasons for doing it (and no, not to be the center of attention, by the way).

I’m always struck by how circumspect the addicts and alcoholics in the rooms are. I think years ago I would have guessed a treatment center meeting would be rowdy and scary. Or lots of drool or lots of cussing. After logging hundreds of hours I can say every time I leave I am incredibly impressed with the people I meet. They are kind, considerate, intelligent. Weighing heavily in their psyche and their spirit are some of the events that got them there, and some of the behaviors they’ve participated in that still bring them shame. Many carry wounds and wrongs committed against them that are very grievous indeed.

I talk about forgiveness a great deal. There can be no fully-lived life without forgiveness. Unforgiveness is an anchor and a sickness, a terribly destructive force that eats at us like cancer, whether our anger is directed at supposed big or small events, whether against people we live with or those we hardly know or those who’ve died, whether regarding incidents peripheral or central to our lives.

I like to talk about nonforgiveness but then I usually assure people I am not there to lecture them about how or who to forgive. Not my business. I’m there to tell people that if they know they can’t forgive (including themselves), “Don’t Panic!” I’ve been there. And I can talk about what it was like, and what it’s like today. I laughed pretty hard tonight talking about a terrible thing my husband did to me once, a terrible thing that I used to think I would take to my grave. I laughed so hard I almost couldn’t tell the story for a minute. What some people will understand, and some won’t, is my laughter is a joy that I no longer live the way I used to, and my laughter is delight at the nature of forgiveness. Because I test it and find it intact every time. Like a flower you examine it from every angle and it remains pure and beautiful and perfect.

I used to believe there were things so terrible one couldn’t forgive them, but today I know forgiveness is possible and it’s one of the most wonderful things I’ve ever found. I share about it in case there is anyone else out there who knows how much their nonforgiveness hurts them, and is starting to want things to be different.

“You may have to declare your forgiveness a hundred times the first day and the second day, but the third day will be less and each day after, until one day you will realize that you have forgiven completely. And then one day you will pray for his wholeness…” ― W. Paul Young, The Shack

high as a kind of crumbly, low-flying kite

I’m quite suddenly on a few medications for my kidneys: Percocet 5/325, an anti-nausea to combat the effects of this painkiller, and a prostrate medicine (tee hee!) to help my body pass stones. I also continue to take potassium citrate – I’ve been on this chemistry-correcting salt since fall last year. Oh, and finally in the world of What I’m Up To, I get to strain my pee on a little stone-finding mission, so they can analyze the stones. It’s like gold panning, but not so glamorous.

I was reluctant to be on pain meds and had quite the discussion with the friendly be-ponytailed physician yesterday. He convinced me otherwise, and an ER trip for pain management is uncool in my book for several reasons, so I came home and started dosage. But Recovery seems to have affected me physiologically, not just mentally and emotionally. Because even at the minimum prescribed dose of Percocet I am nauseated and high. More nauseated than high. As in, I can’t move around too much or ride in a car, or I feel I’m going to throw up. Boo. Because let me tell you, when I’d get some pain meds I used to enjoy the effects – and drink on the effects – and I never, ever got sick. So a little over a year’s worth of Recovery has left me intelligent with regard to prescription misuse or abuse, but with a staggeringly low tolerance. I suppose I’ve known this about myself for some time, I’m pretty sensitive to drugs. Probably one reason why I didn’t end up an addict or even an abuser. Yet. I hope never to end up there.

It is a bit difficult for me to rest most the day. I mean a lot of resting. Take a shower, rest. Then get a ride to a meeting, briefly. Then rest. Rest and more rest. Bad vampire television, and rest. Eating ice cream and steak, drink cup after cup of tea, and rest. Yes, I know many would love a day off like this, but this is hard for me. I have a sewing project I’m wanting to get to, more than anything. It would be a mistake in so many ways, to try to do it. At this point I’d like the relief of doing dishes or going thrift shopping. It’s funny how only two days of inactivity is hard for me. But, there it is.

I am fortunate because I know this is temporary. Isn’t everything? Soon I will likely feel better, and I’ll get to sew. And that will feel wonderful. Today I tried to reflect on enjoying my life today. Not waiting to enjoy it, not enjoying it ONLY if I felt better. Whatever handicaps, whatever setbacks I might have: can I enjoy my body, my mind, my family and friends?

The answer today is “Yes”, and I’m glad that’s true for me.

spaceship earth, circa 1983

In part in response to my previous post, a friend sent me “The Bitter Homeschooler’s Wishlist” from secular-homeschooling.com.  I must admit I laughed a bit (although in general I do not consider it a part of my mission to spread snark) which was then replaced by fervent noddings at numbers 21, 22, and 23. In reading this I also felt quite grateful to be surrounded by friends and family who are generally supportive and don’t say too many silly things regarding my kids’ exemption from school.

Oh and:

From the archives: I grew up in a bus.  I used to call myself “So Cal hippie trash” before I decided I should not use the word “trash” to refer to anyone, my own roots notwithstanding.  My parents smoked pot and sort of parented all groovy (which means: assily), but they fed us and loved us pretty good.  So here I am, rockin’ the raspberry beret and breaking the hearts of my brother and some other boy we met at Yosemite Park.

El Autobús Mágico

It’s hard to see, but beneath the white wave-like motif on this bewheemoth drift the words “Inner Space”; this must be before my mom added planets as well.  Yes, that is a real wooden door with stained glass (my mom handcrafted that too).  Click on the photo if you’d like to read a bit more about our exodus from sunny CA to rainy WA.

ETA: Ralph told me this post made me sound like a hippie who was kind of proud of being a hippie.  I pulled out my cloth menstrual pad and slapped him across the face. And then I went and ate some bark, or something.