Guinevere Gets Sober

Recovery news, reviews and stories, by Jennifer Matesa.

Addiction And Self-Care.

The new puppy with my friend P, who's helping me train her.

This is the new puppy I adopted two weeks ago. Her name is Flo. She’s 10 weeks old. You want to talk about unconditional love—there’s nothing like curling up and having a nap with a puppy. I’d never experienced it before. It’s different somehow from napping with a cat.

So last week I had an emergency D&C because I was basically bleeding to death. I had been scheduled to have one this week, tomorrow in fact, but my GYN called last Thursday morning and scheduled it immediately: my hemoglobin was so low that I was on the verge of needing a transfusion.

Question: How could an intelligent woman with two degrees and an IQ north of 130 possibly let her health descend to that state? How could I allow myself to bleed to death and not take care of myself?

Answer: Self-care has nothing to do with intelligence. Neither does addiction.

Here’s a story for you. My mother had a hysterectomy at my very age: 47. I remember being on the phone with her from my office at my first reporting job: she had been having horrible long periods, basically bleeding to death, and she hadn’t had a pelvic exam in seven years. SEVEN YEARS.

In the Al-Anon books it asks us: are we taking care of ourselves? Are we going to the doctor, the dentist, are we getting haircuts?

I go to the doctor. I sometimes put off the dentist. I get haircuts every other month. But do I really pay attention to my body? Is it a place where I actually live?

A lot of the time, it isn’t. A lot of the time, I’m living in some alternative reality I’ve created in my mind. I was, after all, raised by a woman who ignored her body so effectively that she made it seven middle-aged years without a pelvic exam and had to have a hysterectomy because of the grapefruit-sized fibroid tumors that grew inside her in the interim. All the while, the rhetoric that came out of her mouth was this Catholic stuff about the body being “the temple of the Holy Spirit.” Some temple: the curtain in hers was rent, the cornerstone broken, by the time she was 58.

This was my model for being a grown-up woman.

And my dad: I won’t even get into how well my dad ignored his body.

Physical exercise helps me pay attention to my body. But still: I was bleeding for three weeks! I just told myself it’ll stop sometime it has to stop sometime just be patient just wait it out i don’t have time to deal with this so IT MUST NOT BE HAPPENING, and in the interim my hemoglobin dropped to 8.5 (the low-normal level is 11.5; the standard level for transfusion is 8.0) and I was feeling “a little bit tired.” Yeah. I believe this is called something like psychosis: refusal to acknowledge reality.

So I go in for the operation and they tell me it’ll be conscious sedation and I know what conscious sedation is, because G is a person who knows her drugs: conscious sedation (also known as “twilight sleep”) is Versed (the drug that makes you forget what’s going on) and Propofol (strong sedative: Michael Jackson’s favorite candy) and fentanyl (the drug I was on—on? I was as tall as the fucking Empire State Building on fentanyl in August 2008). I had to have these drugs because it’s surgery and they were going to open the hood and scrape me out, and I didn’t want to have these drugs because I hadn’t taken drugs in more than two years.

My sponsor said, “Sometimes we have to do things we don’t want to do.” If the alternative is bleeding to death, I guess she’s right.

I was scared because I’d had two surgeries while I was un-sober. The first was an appendectomy that was torture because they couldn’t control the pain, they wouldn’t give me the shitload of drugs I’d have needed to control abdominal laparascopic post-surgical pain, so I just put up with it. It was horrible. And then I broke and dislocated my elbow in a bike-fall in 2006, and during the conscious sedation to put the bones back into the socket the ortho guy told my husband he’d never shot so much fentanyl into one person in his life. So I was afraid I’d be in pain.

But of course I was in no pain, because I’m now what physicians and pharmacists call “opioid-naïve.” I woke up in post-op feeling as though God’s own sunlight was shining on my face, feeling sheer gratitude to all the nurses, telling all the staff how thankful I was for their willingness to take care of me. The surgery had gone well and I had no pain. And I was sent home with a couple doses of Vicodin, which I took because later when the fentanyl wore off, I had shooting needly pains below my navel.

And for a day after, I had a headache. My body getting rid of the drug metabolites.

And then on Monday it occurred to me: I had felt so good, so grateful, because I was high. I was high. Why do the drugs have to make me feel so goddam good?

“Every feeling passes,” my sponsor says. “All the ‘good’ feelings, all the ‘bad’ ones—they all pass.”

And this morning my husband goes to the dentist because he has pain in his tooth and the dentist X-rays his jaw and discovers an abscess, he prescribes Vicodin, my very favorite beloved awesomest drug on the face of the planet, especially since I’m “opioid-naive.” I just had drugs in my body last week, I can remember in my body how niiiice they made me feel.

David Foster Wallace once said, You think you’re an atheist, you think you don’t worship anything?—let me tell you, everyone worships something. Listen to the way I talk about Vicodin.

So I call my sponsor and tell her: I don’t want to use the Vicodin that is now living in my house. She says, You know what you have to do. I say, Yes, I know.

Part of that is writing it here. The truth.

The truth is, if I listen to my body, what it really wants is not drugs.

What it wants is love.


  1. G., I so relate. Someone once asked me what heroin feels like, to which I replied, “Heroin feels like love should, but doesn’t.” Unfortunately, (or fortunately, depending on your outlook) addiction eventually feels more like slavery than love. Good on you for staying honest and accountable. I wish you a speedy recovery.

  2. …which is what dogs are all about, G

  3. Yep. Honesty is the key. I’ve had three separate episodes in sobriety of needing pain killers. I have to say, it is difficult. I have to be SO aware. Because there is ligitimate use of painkillers for the relief of pain and the healing of my body and by then the voices are talking to me and they are SO LOUD!! I talk. I call people. I make a date with someone to watch me flush what’s left of any prescription.
    You should have heard the conversation in my head when the surgeon asked me if I needed my pain meds refilled on my second follow up visit for hernia surgery. NO I DID NOT. But that was not my first response. So he gave it to me. I had someone watch me burn it. Cause there is a part of me that wanted that very much. But I did not need it. And there is also a part of me that wanted to keep what I had enough to ask for help. I hear ya sister.
    Much love. And Flo is adorable!

  4. My dear friend, Guenivere, this post is brilliant. Your words speak to me from across the world. I am sending you prayers of healing and light. The post brought up some “feelings” and woke me up to some important truths about taking care of oneself (which I am woefully inadequate at), and the permanent nature of addiction.
    And Love. How amazing for you to realize that. Cuddle time with your pup and have your husband remove the Vicodin from your house. Seriously.

  5. my point exactly, Doc. x

  6. To keep from using I have to remember how enslaved I was at the end. It was fucking miserable. Pardon my french. I suppose I still haven’t learned how to love myself. No one else can do it for me, unfortunately. Or, as you say, perhaps fortunately, depending upon your outlook. Thanks for being here, tippi girl.

  7. I once burned a script for fentanyl with my sponsor watching. Helps to remember I’m capable of that. Thanks Marjie.

  8. Yeah, he’s in pain though. I need to be able to be around this stuff without needing to take it. It’s about spiritual fitness. Alcoholics are around booze all the time and don’t need to drink it.

  9. Guinevere What a beautiful written post and your honesty that your write in this blog is something really special As far as the pain meds for surgery I try to prepare myself for the exact same thing but until one goes threw that we never really know what to expect it a scary thing but it just that something that we go threw and still stay sober I think that makes sense your dog looks totally cool !!!

  10. I did not mean he could not have pain control. Not at all. What I mean is perhaps there is some way he could have the pills on his person. I understand being spiritually fit but I also am aware of the phenomenom of craving that is not within our control. And by our…I mean us addicts.

  11. I can hardly even believe I’m a dog-owner. I always thought I had “CAT” written on my forehead in some kind of invisible ink only dogs could see. But this one loves me.

  12. I am so grateful for your writing and sharing honestly. I got part way through, stopped and made 2 phone calls – one to primary care doc for annual, and one to nurse-midwife for pap-pelvic. I too have this weird relationship with taking care of myself.
    My daily Anne Lamott Prayer answered HelpMeHelpMeHelpMe. ThankYouThankYouThankYou

    Oh, and Flo is gorgeous, and it is so freaking sweet that you have P to help you with learning how to be a dog mom!
    best, rdk

  13. Wow. And I can identify. I got straight and clean before vicodin was invented. Just ask me about Quaaludes though, so I was opiate naive when I had vicodin Rx’d for a root canal…and I used it as the prescription said, and then had withdrawal, for awhile. Not overwhelming, but noticeable, and had I had more of it, I might have taken it. Not something to mess with. Workouts and good sweats helped me get it out of my system. Keep doing what you are doing. Mike

  14. This is me G, I see my doctor monthly because of the car accident injuries and they had to inform me it had been 7 years since my last PAP smear. Avoidance much?

    Praying for you sister

  15. That little puppy is adorable. Glad that you are taking care of yourself. I have found that I may not like to have appointments with doctors, but it is much better to have preventive care than to have a condition that means I have surgery or be in the hospital.

  16. Wow…! If I still had feelings (endorphins) I’d be feeling amazing! That sounds very familiar, I feel a self examination on the horizon. Thanks G! 🙂

Comments are closed.

Visit Us On FacebookVisit Us On Twitter