Woke yesterday morning from a dream in which I found drugs and used them. In drug-dreams I hardly ever use, but after yesterday’s dream I was certain that I’d blown my sobriety, and I had to check my pupils in the mirror to make sure it was just a dream.
Went to my usual noon meeting at the university. There were only two guys there.
“Did you guys ever have a dream in which you were absolutely sure you used?” I asked. “As if it wasn’t really a dream, but real-life?”
“Pffff,” one of them said, unmoving.
“All the time,” the other one said.
I’ve been talking a lot at meetings about having found these drugs. And yesterday I figured out other reasons why I didn’t use them:
- My husband’s ultimatum that if I ever brought drugs into the house again, he’d leave me. I couldn’t use the drugs and then either lie to him, or tell him I didn’t give a shit about his ultimatum. Or try to get out of it by convincing him I didn’t “bring” them into the house.
- All the people who have helped me over the past 19 months. How could I go to them and tell them I’d used—or lie to them? I couldn’t.
- My fear of fentanyl. Fentanyl is ONLY for people who are opioid-tolerant. I’ve read about deaths of opioid-naive people who have used fentanyl.
So I’ve redeveloped a respect for, or at least a fear of, drugs. Or at least some drugs.
I’ve been feeling pretty spiritually blank lately. I still pray in the morning—the Third Step prayer, usually; or some version of asking the Great Mysterious for help—and I get on my knees several times a day. I think I have some pretty strong unhealthy default settings. One of the guys at the Thursday meeting quite often says he needs certain things to be “installed.” I need faith to be installed. I need surrender to be installed.
Intuition is installed, but without faith and surrender it’s hard to use it.
Someone said the other day that, when she came into the program in 1982—when I was starting college; the year I started to drink, in fact—her sponsor asked her where she lived, and she named a very dodgy neighborhood on a hillside. “Oh, my child,” her sponsor said:
Way up high
on that hill
behind the back of God.
That’s the way I felt as a kid. I didn’t live high on a hill or next to a slum. I lived in the generic suburbs, the deep white conservative Catholic suburbs, an aesthetic, cultural and spiritual desert. We were financially secure, but I never had access to money. I mean, never. Some alcoholic families work this way: they deprive the kids of what is available. I wonder: is it worse to have no resources, or to have them but not be able to use them?—we weren’t poor, but my mother behaved as though we were poor, and my father just let her do whatever she wanted. The people I know who grew up truly poor are at least able to spend money on themselves now.
I still quite often behave as though I am poor—financially, emotionally, socially, spiritually. I have money, but I can’t let myself spend it on myself. It has to be spent on other people. Default setting. Shortcoming.
In the summers I never saw any friends and I quite often felt as though I were living behind God’s back. I still have a tendency to “isolate,” as they say. Shortcoming.
I’ve felt the same way since finding those drugs. I cry spontaneously. I don’t call people. I feel blue, and I don’t know why. I can’t concentrate. I feel tired all the time. I’ve thought maybe I should take an antidepressant. I’ve thought maybe I should, in the words of songwriter Tom Waits, “Change my shorts, change my life, change into a nine-year-old Hindu boy.” Maybe I should—
“Should is not the solution,” my sponsor said:
“What now?” is the solution.
Been reading Didion’s essay on “Self-Respect,” published in 1961, three years before I was born. She writes:
Self-respect is something that our grandparents, whether or not they had it, knew all bout. They had instilled in them, young, a certain discipline, the sense that one lives by doing things one does not particularly want to do, by putting fears and doubts to one side, by weighing immediate comforts against the possibility of larger, even intangible, comforts. . . . That kind of self-respect is a discipline, a habit of mind that can never be faked but can be developed, trained, coaxed forth.
“Do you know why you want to use?” my sponsor asked.
“Because I’m sick,” I said.
“Oh, for godsake—haven’t you heard anything I’ve ever told you?” she said. “You want to use because you have feelings you don’t like.”
“I don’t like to cry every day,” I whinged.
“Why don’t you just let yourself cry?”
It’s a discipline to allow feelings to come out, without overindulging in them. Accepting them without overindulgence is humility. It’s Step 7. It’s a discipline to accept oneself for who one is, while also recognizing one’s shortcomings and doing what one can to overcome them—rather than beating oneself over the head for them. It’s easier to beat myself over the head. It’s what I’m used to. It’s the equivalent of taking a razor and cutting myself.
The more difficult practice is to accept myself. Even attempting to do this is a major amend.