Guinevere Gets Sober

Recovery news, reviews and stories, by Jennifer Matesa.

Tag: sober (page 2 of 4)

Words to say when someone gets sober

We’ve had some interesting search terms this past week:

Want to help my mom get sober

Letters of encouragement for a young addict

Words to say when someone gets sober

Addiction can be a prickly subject

Recovery from addiction can be a prickly subject

I love “letters of encouragement for a young addict.” I love all these, actually.  I think the best recommendation I could give is just to be as present as possible.

Being present: that means giving full attention. Having few expectations.

I just heard a 21-year-old woman tell her story a week ago as a way of celebrating her first year sober. Twenty-one years old: think about it. If she can stay sober, she has her entire life ahead of her. She’s still at university. Her story completely rocked… she gave up binge-drinking, pills, eating problems, everything.

I remember having coffee with her when she was about six months sober. She was afraid she was going to drink again; it was the middle of winter, all her friends were out partying on the weekends. What we talked about was faith. She was interested in my Quaker meeting. I let her ask me questions.

We talked about discernment, and about the idea that we could discern the spirit moving in silence—because Quakers hold silent worship meetings. My encouragement to her (more as somebody old enough to be her mother, rather than as someone with “more sobriety”) was to follow the intuitive guide that resides in all of us, that is our birthright. The big book talks about it:

What used to be the hunch or the occasional inspiration gradually becomes a working part of the mind. . . . We find that our thinking will, as time passes, be more and more on the plane of inspiration. We come to rely upon it.

That’s page 87.

The other night I drove a young woman home from a meeting. She couldn’t have been more than 25. I’ve seen this young woman from time to time at meetings. She’s tried to get sober for the past two years (maybe for more—I’ve only been coming around the rooms for two years); she’d put together a month or three months, then go out and drink. At this meeting, she said she had 30 days and was in an intensive outpatient rehab program. She said it very reluctantly because she was afraid she’d drink again.

Note well: both these women were afraid they’d drink again.

For family members who are wondering how to encourage their loved one in rehab or in outpatient programs: if you are afraid they’re going to drink or use again, multiply that fear by 1,000, and you’ve got the fear that your loved one has. They are more afraid than you are that they will drink or use again. Which is why we need to be present for our loved ones, and have low expectations. Piling expectations on top of fear just creates more fear. My AlAnon sponsor always says: High hopes, low expectations.

On the way to her apartment, the young woman said she wasn’t sure about how to choose a sponsor. I hear so many women say this. I had three sponsors in my first year—long story for another post—and my experience about choosing a sponsor is this: Look for someone who lives freely. And look for someone who has what you want.

“I really wish Q could be my sponsor,” she said with passion.

“There you go—that’s your intuitive voice that the big book talks about,” I said. “Q rocks. She works a great program. She’s free.”

But I’ve asked her before,” she said. “She said she has too many sponsees.”

A good sign: a sponsor who knows her limitations, I said.

“What about asking her one more time?” I said. “And if she says no, ask her for the names of some of her sponsees… Because if you like what Q has, chances are her sponsees are gonna have some of that. Or ask her for some names of other people she would recommend. This is a way of inviting the spirit into the situation.”

What words do you say when someone gets sober?

Sober life: Step 12 and helping others

Sometimes I don’t think I have anything to offer others. One of my shortcomings is a belief that I can’t really help others, that all my efforts are for nought. I wrote the following down in a meeting recently… it was spoken by a mid-40s woman with 20-some years sober:

If you can stay sober for ten minutes, you can tell someone how to stay sober for ten minutes. If you can stay sober for a day, you can tell someone how to stay sober for a day.

staying sober starts with baby steps“Helping others” in recovery might start with small steps… Just like helping ourselves often starts with small steps…

Chewing Vicodin Was The Start Of My Problem.


Top-5 search term: Vicodin. People land here wanting to know how to “maximize the effects of Vicodin,” curious about what “chewing a Vicodin” will do. Important topic. I remember being at the beginning of my addiction, chewing one pill per day, unsure of what was happening to me, uncertain whether I even really Had A Problem, and clueless as to where to turn for answers.

So of course I just kept doing it.

Vicodin is compounded with Tylenol, so virtually the only way to “maximize its effects”—short of building a chemistry lab to separate the acetaminophen from the hydrocodone (the opioid drug in Vicodin)—is to chew it.

(BTW, for those active addicts out there who land here curious about “maximizing the effects of Vicodin”—it is NOT GOOD to snort Vicodin, because the Tylenol and fillers are destructive to mucus membranes and lung tissue. Don’t do it.)

What chewing Vicodin will do is to crush its components into a powder and thus make it a bit more readily available to be absorbed into the blood by the digestive tract: in other words, whereas it takes time for a pill to dissolve and gradually be absorbed, chewing does away with that wait-time.

However, here’s what I didn’t know when I started chewing my pills: it’s insidiously dangerous, not only physically but also psychologically. Physically it’s dangerous mostly because of the Tylenol. Most cases of acute liver failure are due to acetaminophen toxicity.

If you beat the physical danger and manage either to avoid or survive liver failure (surviving it is rare), you then come up against the psychological dangers, which are formidable. And those are the illusion of control, and the alienation.

In active addiction, we always think we can control our use. This is a distortion of reality. The reality is, chewing our Vicodin is outside the physician’s instructions. Can you imagine your doctor instructing you to chew your pills?—”Chew 2 P.O. on empty stomach q 4-6 h.” NOT. Doing it this way is taking it “in a manner not prescribed,” and therefore it qualifies as “abuse.”

(I can hear some people saying Jesus Christ, it’s not like I’m shooting them, it’s not a big deal)

There are good reasons that the doctor doesn’t want us to chew our pills to “maximize the effects.” One is, when we get used to “maximum effects,” we build physical tolerance, and psychologically, we always want more.

But chewing a pill, when we’re doing it—when it occurs to us—doesn’t SEEM so very far outside the realm of what the doctor prescribed. Who’s there to make us accountable?—no one knows whether we swallow that pill whole, or put that pill between our molars and crush it to powder, then wait for it to hit. It’s our secret.

The waiting alienates us. We might be sitting there having a conversation with our partner or our kid, but what we’re really doing is waiting for the drugs to hit.

We’re slowly and surely alienating ourselves from the rest of the world. To be sure, it doesn’t FEEL that way as it’s happening, and the myriad distortions of addiction use all sorts of rationalizations to help us feel OK about it, but it’s real: we’re turning into aliens. Eventually we will wind up in a room, by ourselves, using (and probably in a manner far gone from chewing a pill).

I used to do this, folks. I used to dread getting out of bed. I couldn’t wake up without Taking Something. In the early days it was one Vicodin (Lorcet, actually), before I even got out of bed. Yes, I chewed it. I don’t even remember when I started chewing them, it occurred to me so long ago. I rationalized: it was Just One Pill, I was working, I was a mom, I was a wife, I was a professional, I interviewed the staffs of Congress and governors’ offices to get source material so godalmighty I wasn’t really an Addict. Addicts—well, everyone knows they don’t have kids, spouses, houses, jobs, everyone knows they Lose Everything.

Let me just say Chewing One Pill progressed to much worse compulsive behavior before I finally detoxed and got free from fentanyl, one of the strongest opioids known to medical science, in 2008.

Today I get to live differently. Today I woke up at 5:30 and drove my husband to the airport: first act of service, of getting outside myself, of the day. Hit a 7 a.m. meeting on the way back into town and saw four people I knew. Scheduled two courts to play tennis with my sister and her kids for 90 minutes. Then came home and made a lunch so appetizing that every last bit of it was scarfed up.

Did some work; now I’m here writing to you.

Which brings me to another search phrase that brings people here: “Did Eminem get sober with AA?”

I dunno. But Eminem seems to be living in some kind of solution to his problem.

Whatever works for you, is the thing.

How did you get sober?

Sober life: How Eminem stays clean and sober

The New York Times put the question straight to the rapper—“How do you stay sober?”—and here’s what he said:

My kids, and also I see a rehab counselor once a week. I’ve been clean for two years.

I don’t know Eminem’s work. But I’m interested in how people stay clean, and it seems to me the interview gives other clues as to the things Eminem might be practicing to stay sober… • He says he has given up the idea of touring for this album—a huge ego trip—because “Touring is hard on the body. It used to be a big trigger for me with drinking and drugging.” (surrender) • He says he’s “calmed down a bit” from the boy who called women “bitches” and “hos”—he admits that he once felt those things at one time, but that his “overall look on things is a lot more mature than it used to be.” (awareness of character defects) • He says that he saves and invests his money: “I try to treat all the money I’m making like it’s the last time I’m going to make it.” (responsibility) • He sloughs off the interviewer’s compliment that he’s been praised for his “complex rhyme schemes” and demurs when asked if he reads poetry, saying, “I’m not really book-smart.” He also says he “felt like Bugs Bunny in rehab” because people were stealing his stuff and pestering him for autographs, “and I couldn’t concentrate on my problem.” (humility) He’s also able to call himself a good dad. He does this in “Not Afraid,” the first song he released from the album (watch the video here). Humility is knowing what you are and what you aren’t. The root of the word “humble” is the Latin word, humus, the soil—or close to the ground. Just like he’s able to say he’s “not book-smart,” and later in the interview that his music goes back to his “white-trash roots,” he’s also able to admit now that he’s earned the rank of “Good Dad.” Cool.

Sober life: Roger Ebert on recovery and AA.

A very cool blog post by film critic Roger Ebert on getting sober and what Alcoholics Anonymous is all about.

For those who have questions about whether AA is a “cult,” and what a “higher power” is, Ebert provides some perspective that I hadn’t heard before:

The God word. … Nobody in A.A. cares how you understand [God], and would never tell you how you should understand him. I went to a few meetings of “4A” (“Alcoholics and Agnostics in A.A.”), but they spent too much time talking about God. The important thing is not how you define a Higher Power. The important thing is that you don’t consider yourself to be your own Higher Power, because your own best thinking found your bottom for you. One sweet lady said her higher power was a radiator in the Mustard Seed [a Chicago meeting place], “because when I see it, I know I’m sober.”

The column is great, and so are the 1,300 (!!) comments, to some of which Ebert takes the time to respond.

Reader: I am a dyed in the wool atheist. I do not believe in anything remotely concerning a higher power, and I find the concept of submissions to a bogey man impossible to swallow. Hitchens and Dawkins are on my bedside table. How can there possibly be a place for me at an organization like AA?

Ebert: They’re on my bedside table too–symbolically, anyway.

I do not believe in God. I did not submit to a bogey man. But my own best efforts always ended in drinking. I needed to learn from those who had my problems, or sometimes much worse, and were staying sober. For me, the meetings accomplished for me what I could not do on my own. At any meeting, I welcome and applaud whatever Higher Power works for any other member. I value their sobriety. If they disagree with me on theological matters, that is truly insignificant.

Lots of interesting links under the column… check it out.

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