Guinevere Gets Sober

Recovery news, reviews and stories, by Jennifer Matesa.

Tag: addiction (page 2 of 18)

Days, One Day At A Time

“This limbo is killing me,” my husband said this morning at 4:50.

None of us are sleeping well. … My father-in-law was experiencing labored breathing yesterday, what they call Cheyne-Stokes respiration, and my sister-in-law the nurse told my husband yesterday afternoon that she expected him to die in the night. He has had Lewy body dementia for years. … My brother-in-law and his eldest daughter are up from the South to stay with my mother-in-law until he leaves this world. My brother-in-law told my husband this morning that his breathing had calmed down. You just can’t know.

//

The call just came in. He has gone.

//

He taught me a lot. Gave me a lot. He and his wife. For which I’m grateful.

//

My husband asked me last night if I would sing a song with him at the service. “Days” by the Kinks. In it, there is a line that goes, “But I’m not frightened of this world, believe me.”

“I grew up not frightened of the world,” he said.

“You’re fortunate,” I said.

I practiced the harmony this morning.

//

Want to stay sober through all this. Not just clean but sober. Remember C’s words: The best thing you can do for this family is to stay sober. If you use, you will abandon yourself, and you will be unable to be present for them, which is a great service in and of itself.

I owe them that much.

//

“Grandpa dying makes me miss Greenie,” my son said two nights ago. “Greenie” was our name for my father, who died very quickly and fearsomely in 2007 of the consequences of his alcoholism.

“I miss Greenie, too,” I said. “When Greenie died, it made me miss Mommo” (Mommo was my son’s nickname for my mother before she died—he was just 18 months old) “and now that Grandpa John is leaving us, it makes me grieve Greenie all over again.”

My son cried a little bit. He’s 13 but he still cries occasionally, he still sits close to me and hugs my arm sometimes, he says he loves me. He also tells me to shut up at choice moments (which I don’t allow him to get away with), and mouths off to me on a daily basis.

We will leave for the UK in a few days.

“I’m afraid to go,” he said. “I’ve never seen Granny cry, or Daddy’s sisters, or even Daddy very much.” He thought for a moment. “But I’ve seen you cry, and your sister.”

I laughed. “Well, think of it this way,” I said. “Maybe your dad’s family doesn’t have as much to cry about. And also, maybe they just handle stress a little differently.”

“Yeah, that might be true,” he said.

“You can help Granny,” I said. “I can help you. Then we can both help your dad. That’s the way families work…”

Been working on a sketchbook. Portraits of my family, and people who have helped me in my recovery. He asked to see it.

Guinevere's father

He also cried at this.

Guinevere's grandfather

“I LOVE THAT BOOK,” he said, standing in the kitchen, tears running down his face. “What if we could make that stuff stop with me and turn things around, Mama? Wouldn’t it be great?”

See you soon.

Reverb10: Beautifully Different

[Until 31 December I’m participating in reverb10, a month-long challenge to get bloggers to respond to writing prompts designed to help themselves and their readers take stock of the past year—conduct the year’s final inventory—and to imagine possibilities for the coming year.]

Today’s prompt: Beautifully Different. Think about what makes you different and what you do that lights people up. Reflect on all the things that make you different—you’ll find they’re what make you beautiful.

When I was a kid I focused on the outward things that made me unfortunately different. I was fat; my teeth were abnormally crooked; my eyes were black and my skin olive-colored, Gypsy-style—in fact, it appears I have Roma in my heritage. And there were other differences. Whereas other girls spent recess on the playground jumping rope or doing hopscotch—being social—I read books and drew by myself. By the time I was in high school, I was making all my own clothes. I was a real oddball.

Also, I didn’t know how to get along with other kids. I was naïve; the mean girls got over on me, and I had one date in high school.

When I moved to college, my braces and that whole Geek-Squad reputation came off, and the dudes decided I was hot stuff. They liked my dark eyes and dark skin. They noticed my legs. They liked my sharp mind. Geek Catholic Girl Turns Instant Hot Chick. I didn’t take advantage of this because in my mind I was still a geek.

My entire family also still saw me as the Geek, and it remained absolutely boring and lonely at home. And in order to manage my increasing unhappiness about my family (which I never even realized was an alcoholic family until I was in my 30s), and to keep my feeling secret—especially my feelings of appreciation about myself; and to keep them secret not only from everyone else but also from myself—I started drinking.

I drank, in Steve Martin’s ancient words from the 1970s, to Get Small. And this morphed into a painkiller penchant when I started getting my headaches treated in my late 20s. The penchant turned into a full-blown addiction in my mid-30s.

I drank and used because I needed to make myself quiet. I am at my most uncomfortable when I am empowered. I come from a long line of chronically unhappy, unrealized housewives.  One of them, my grandmother—my mother’s mother, the wife of a violent alcoholic—is in a nursing home right now, dying of kidney failure. She is 97 and has, as far as I can tell, never been happy, never achieved any power over her own life. And has spent her life complaining about it.

This is the image I know, and the image I feel most comfortable with: the woman at home, taking care of everybody else, complaining about it.

One thing that made me get sober was my urge that I was damned if I was going to carry on that way. Being the martyr. I wanted to be different.

I am different. Today. One thing that makes me different from those unhappy dead and dying people in my family is that I’m getting help… And for that I’m grateful…

Identifying myself as a “sober person,” as I do whenever someone offers me something alcoholic to drink, marks me as different. I’m able to do this because I’ve gotten help, and because of that help I maintain contact with a power greater than myself that keeps away the obsession to numb-out.

For a long time (for a loooong time) I did not like identifying myself as an alcoholic or an addict at meetings—or anywhere—because I thought this set me apart from humanity and made me “different” in an ugly way. The word “stigma” means “to brand with a stick,” in essence “to mark with shame,” and that’s how I felt. I’ve been poked with sticks before, in that old childhood playground, and I’ve bloody well had enough.

Guinevere and son

Being Sober, being awake: Me and my son on Tower Hill, London, June 2010.

But when I began to meditate as part of Step 11, and brought my experience into the present moment, I looked around and had to admit that nobody was poking me with a stick anymore. When I identified myself as an addict or an alcoholic, I was saying what was true. This gave me a chance to share my experience in ways that might help other people. And guess what—more than 6 million Americans are abusing prescription painkillers. So there are a lot of people to help.

Today I’m five-feet-five, 120 pounds, olive-skinned, black-eyed, and brown-haired with a bit of gray. I’m a mom, a wife, a sister, and aunt, a friend. I write and make art. I play tennis, ride my bike, do yoga, and garden. And I’m a sponsor, a sponsee, and recovering from addiction.

Reverb10: Community

[Until 31 December I’m participating in reverb10, a month-long challenge to get bloggers to respond to writing prompts designed to help themselves and their readers take stock of the past year—conduct the year’s final inventory—and to imagine possibilities for the next.]

Today’s challenge: Community. Where have you discovered community, online or otherwise, in 2010? What community would you like to join, create or more deeply connect with in 2011?

Oh my God (I mean omg). Where haven’t I found community this year?

I started the year with a relapse. I took a Vicodin on 2 January. I was busy with the demolition derby of comparing myself with other people… the surgeon-mom, the epidemiologist-mom, the professor-mom, the university-administrator-mom, the stay-at-home-with-four-kids-mom. Every mom in my neighborhood was a better mom than I was. Cooler, richer, fitter, better dressed—or dressed “less well” than I, but happily oblivious, or happy with it. In other words, they knew who they were.

A photo of me, just before I detoxed off fentanyl in August 2008. Pale, very skinny, and you can't see, but my pupils are absolutely pinned. Still: I couldn't let appearances down, and my hair was curled and sprayed into place.

And then, on the other end of the spectrum, there was my cousin Amy, whose kids were taken away from her by the court, and who couldn’t stay out of trouble. She was killed—beaten and strangled to death—by her drug-dealer and another guy 18 months ago. When I saw her picture on the second of January at my aunt’s home, and when I thought of all the other folks in my family who had died of the consequences of addiction—including both my parents—I felt enormous grief for this community I’d been born into. The anger and despair I felt were as sharp as the razorwire designed to keep certain people inside certain places and out of others. On that day, standing on the edge of that sharp fence, I stole two Vicodin. I ate one, and I put one back.

I chewed the one I took—ground it between my molars, always my left molars. The pills were always bitter; they made the saliva run. My saliva runs now just writing about it, this is how Pavlovian drug addiction is. … I downed it with a big draught of water and about 20 minutes later I could feel the drug hit in the well of my belly. Five milligrams of hydrocodone.

I remember how numb and unplugged just that one 5mg pill made me feel. Still amazes me to think I took at least 100mcg/hr of fentanyl for several years. Strongest painkiller on earth. How did I not die? How was I not divorced?

Drugs and addiction wreck community. Shame wrecks community. Abuse wrecks community. They unplug it, undermine it, infest it, carpet bomb it, aerial spray it with agents that numb.

“Give yourself a limited amount of time to beat yourself up,” my mentor said, “and then get on with the work.”

The work being inventory. Stock-taking. Why I Did It, and What I Wanted Instead.

One thing I wanted instead was connection. To be plugged in, to have many friends, to help others.

Community.

My belief that I deserve or could have community had waned over the years of addiction.

But: I was already hooked into the fabulous detox community at Opiate Detox Recovery. So I started this blog with my ODR pseudonym. And the hits started coming in. People started writing, and lo and behold I was building another community. I was writing to other sober-bloggers, I was finding other people. People helping people—this is the nature of recovery and healing. It’s also the nature of community: the word comes from the Latin, cum = with, or together, and munus = gift.

I’ve re-established ties with my spiritual community, my Quaker meeting. I was asked to serve on the committee that looks after its spiritual welfare. I’m helping to bring in Eileen Flanagan to speak there early next year to strengthen the community.

A small cadre of women within the community are thinking of forming a women’s group to help keep each other accountable to our spiritual principles in our personal and professional lives—in our communities.

I’ve joined an exciting new book group, and I’ve formed a writer’s group of my own.

I can hear a cardinal singing outside my window…

What I imagine for the next year, what I hope, is for the ability to accept my own flaws and vulnerabilities more easily. I’ve met people for whom this is possible. I’ve read about others. I hope to talk to some people who study the ability to do this. … For these people, community is the human race.

On Oprah Today: Big News—Addicts Engage in Denial!

Oprah and Paris Michael Jackson

Oprah talks with Paris Michael Jackson.

So Oprah has scored interviews with Michael Jackson’s mom and all three kids (Paris, Prince Michael I, and Prince Michael II, affectionately called “Blanket” by his father).

In the interview with Katherine Jackson, Oprah discovers that Michael Jackson actually DENIED that he was an addict.

omg!! I totally cannot believe an addict would do such a thing as lie. Personally?—I NEVER lied about my addiction. j/k

Oprah, for godsake, tell me some news.

Denial is just fear. … I was in a meeting last night, the topic of which was “fear.” Pretty good meeting. Went around the circle, lots of recovering people talking about how fear means either

Fu*k Everything And Run

or

Face Everything And Recover

Also how fear motivates some people to move into the danger zone, to become more active and work harder—or, in the words of one guy I enjoy hearing, fear motivates us to sit on the couch watching “Doogie Howser” and avoiding making a simple professional phone call. “There is no reason this phone call would be threatening,” this guy said, “there is absolutely no danger in picking up the phone and making the call, but when I’m in my fear, I am hanging with my internal addict, and he has me watching ‘Doogie Howser.’ It’s pathetic.”

He calls his internal addict “That Motherfu*ker LeRoy.” Because he heard someone else at another meeting call her internal addict “That Motherfu*ker LeRoy,” because someone else called his internal addict that once… and so it goes.

That Motherfu*ker LeRoy: the one who tells me I can’t make a simple phone call.

The one who tells me I’m worse than everyone else out there trying to accomplish anything. Even if I’ve done some fairly cool things. Like, for example, scoring 13 Grammy Awards, 26 American Music Awards, and the best-selling album of all-time. No matter what, if I’m in my addiction, I am The Piece of Shit Around Which The World Revolves (with thanks to my friend Jacques for this saying).

The one who tells me I have to hide in my house, endanger my kids, lie to my own loved ones.

The one who tells me not to accept affection, even as my son comes to hug me and say, “You’re wonderful” (as he did just now). Accepting affection: too dangerous.

My 13-year-old son heard me being interviewed by someone the other day. This person was interviewing me about my addiction and recovery. He heard me answering questions honestly about being “a drug addict” who had “gotten sober” and was now “changing my life” and “trying to help other people”—stuff like that. I thought he couldn’t hear me—I was in the kitchen making dinner (multi-tasking—trying to walk and chew gum), and he was in the living room playing his electric guitar.

Later on, after his soccer practice, he sat down next to me on the couch to watch a show about Jimi Hendrix on TV.

“Mom,” he said, “I heard you talking in the kitchen before.”

That Motherfu*ker LeRoy stuck a needle into my heart and told me to be afraid, Be Afraid Right Now, told me to lie and say it didn’t really happen. It was fleeting, but he definitely spoke to me. Instead I just sat there, breathing. (Meditation really does help)

“Yeah?” I said, watching the ruffles on Jimi’s shirt dance as he played “Hey Joe” and fiddling with one of my son’s fingers.

“Yeah,” he said, “and I just wanted to say that I know how hard it is for some people to do what you’re trying to do, and I’m really proud of you.”

Dude.

Sayings from the Rooms: Take What You Like and Leave the Rest

In AlAnon they say:

Take What You Like and Leave the Rest

In AA they say it a bit differently:

Take What You Need and Leave the Rest

(AA’s version, characteristically, incorporates a bit more desperation)

The idea is, we help each other in meetings by sharing from our personal experience—who knows about alcoholism and addiction better than those who have experienced it, or have lived with it?

From what I’ve heard over the years, the AA version is said less often in AA than the AlAnon version is said in AlAnon. Why?—I think it’s because in AA, the feeling is, we’re trying to save our lives, and in order to do that, we’ve gotta do as we’re bloody well told. We feel like we can’t afford to give people the idea that we can pick and choose anything.

In AA they also say,

Take the Cotton Out of Your Ears and Put It in Your Mouth

Listen

I’ve heard it said that this saying is for the kind of drunk/addict who drank or used to enlarge herself—participate in the grandiosity of addiction. But because I used in order to make myself small and shut myself up… because I came to The Rooms with a throat packed with cotton, my sponsors have encouraged me to do the opposite: spit out the gag, speak up and develop my voice. (Thus, dear reader, this blog)

Sometimes the pendulum swings too far in the other direction.

Went to an AlAnon meeting a while back. It had been a month or two since I had been to AlAnon, and I came home a bit irked. (red flag, anyone?) Told my partner that I disagreed with a few things that were said. Particularly the idea that no one should identify herself as an alcoholic in order to protect the idea that “AlAnon is Spoken Here.”

“I mean, there’s a difference between identifying oneself as an alcoholic, and saying ‘Last week at my AA home group we talked about XYZ, lemme tell you all about it,’” I said. “Don’t you think that there might be someone in The Room who might actually be helped by knowing that there’s another person there who’s an alcoholic, considering the fact that lots of us adult-children-of-alcoholics drink and use in order to numb out painful childhoods?”

“I would think—” he began.

“And somebody else called his wife his Qualifier!” I rambled. “I mean, WTF!! I never labeled my dad my Qualifier. I never even called my asshole gun-shooting grandpa my Qualifier—”

He sighed impatiently and waved his hands in my face.

“What part of Take What You Like and Leave the Rest do you not understand?” he said. “It’s not, Take What You Like and Fuckin Argue With Everything Else!”

AHHH-hahahahaha!” I yelped, collapsing on the couch as though he’d nailed me with a pea-shooter. “You got me, babe!”

Mouth

What writing tons of inventory has shown me: If I’m criticizing other people, I’m probably being twice or three times as critical of myself.

Time to let up on everyone…

Today I’m going to

Listen and Learn

(AlAnon’s equivalent of AA’s cotton-in-mouth saying)

Also paint. Also write.

It’s a wild life.

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