Tag Archives: alcoholism

National Recovery Month Poem: “Affliction”

Hello Recovery Writers. So the Story Project is almost over and I think it’s been a success! However, as you know, in months before WfR has done dedicated poetry. And you know me, I couldn’t resist- I had to include one poem for National Recovery Month! This is a poem I began quite a few years ago and just recently picked up again to finish. I hope each of you can identify with it a little bit. Take care everyone and as always, thank you for reading! Peace, Sarah

 

1/4/08

 

Affliction

 

I’ve spent most of my life doing battle

With this cunning and baffling affliction

 

It’s so common yet each one’s unique

The disease that we call addiction

 

What a tragic waste of a girl

Who had potential to do so much

 

To spend her young life believing

She needed a chemical crutch

 

Hers came in the form of starvation

Then puking and cutting and pills

 

It seemed there was never an end

To her frightening array of ills

 

What no one knew was the cause

The reason she had to stay sick

 

To distract from her internal pain

Nothing else did the trick

 

Everyone has their own reasons

We all started because we were hurt

 

We needed to numb the feelings

Make those toxic emotions inert

 

Whatever the substance is

The disease is exactly the same

 

It’s rooted in pain and dysfunction

In guilt and trauma and shame

 

Addiction does not discriminate

Anyone can fall into its grip

 

Before you know it you’re loved ones are gone

And all that you own has been stripped

 

 

This is so disturbingly common

Yet people don’t like to talk

 

Even though it’s a routine affliction

When I ask them to speak, people balk

 

I have asked for people’s stories

But so much shame comes with this disease

 

I have not gotten many responses

Who are we trying to please?

 

The more that we’re open about this

The fewer people will die

 

Addiction’s a fatal disease

I was fortunate to survive

 

I was given a second chance

So I’m doing all that I’m able

 

To spread hope for recovery

For lives that are happy and stable

 

 

© Sarah Ann Henderson 2011

 

 

 

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National Recovery Month Stories: Jim

Hello everyone! Welcome back to the National Recovery Month Story project here on Writing for Recovery. Thank you for joining me once again as I introduce another account from someone who works on the front lines battling addiction. Jim is the executive director of a counseling center specializing in addiction, dual diagnosis, and trauma. Every day he works to bring people to a deeper understanding of themselves in order to help them find their way to a meaningful recovery. He has a wonderful perspective on what it takes to walk that path- and how patients and counselors can work together to accomplish lasting recovery. 

 

My name is Jim and I’m a recovery ally. People in recovery from drug and alcohol abuse don’t expect me to be able to understand them. I don’t blame them one bit. I’ve never been an alcoholic and my drug addictions are limited to caffeine and nicotine. These are not exactly conditions that make a person’s life unmanageable, at least not in any short order. Worse, I am seen as less likely to understand because I am a professional in the addictions field. My friends in recovery have too often received poor quality of services, judgment, and been generally shamed by people in my line of work. This must stop. Being a recovery ally means that I seek to be part of the solution to all of the problems associated with the disease of addiction.

In general, if a person hasn’t walked a mile in your shoes it’s hard to believe that they can really understand what it’s like to live with what you live with. I have found that most folks who haven’t been an addict or at least been very close to an addict can’t begin to wrap their mind around what it’s like to be one. I know that while I cannot relate to a person whose experiences I have not shared; I can understand to the best of my ability what it’s like for them and support them in overcoming their disease. All that this requires is that I get my ego out of the way. I listen and listen well. I ask dumb questions and I show a genuine interest in what it’s like for them. The addicts and alcoholics I know tell me that they find this unusual and refreshing.

I love working with people in recovery because I like people who are exceptionally genuine, motivated, and who seek to make great changes in their lives. Normal people bore me. Normal people do not generally make life altering changes. They do not often become something far greater than they are. People in recovery inspire me. I love their candor, their accountability, their integrity, their humor, and their willingness to go to any length to become happy, joyous, and free. I am blessed because people who are willing to make this kind of commitment seek me out.

The recovery communities of 12 step programs are vastly more effective than any professional intervention or organization will ever be. I see what I do as merely a compliment to the work of AA, NA, Al-Anon and others. I am one person working in one organization. Self help programs total tens of millions of people all over the world who genuinely care about their fellow members. Being a recovery ally means having the humility to know that what I do may be important, but it will never be a fraction as important as membership in a self help program.

Never have I been so welcomed by any group of people as when I have attended AA meetings. My colleagues do not receive me one tenth as well. Even after I explain that I am not an alcoholic, I am frequently thanked for attending, for showing an interest, for offering support, and for showing respect to a program that works exceptionally well. Amazingly these folks do not hesitate to share their experience, strength, and hope with me. They speak the most intimate and painful details of their lives in front of me, knowing that all attending have the opportunity to connect, learn, heal, identify, and grow based on these experiences.

I came to work with people in recovery through a backdoor of sorts. I started out as a mental health therapist and found that many of the people I was serving also had problems because of drugs and alcohol. I quickly came to understand that as long as they continued to abuse drugs and alcohol, anything in mental health would be of limited value to them. In most cases I find the importance of being clean and sober as being foundational and of far greater importance than issues of mental health. Today I understand that depression and anxiety are normative experiences for a person who is active in addiction or who is in the early years of recovery.

Being a recovery ally means that I am an educator. I share what I know and I defer to those who know more than I. I am far more likely to refer my clients to people in local recovery than I am to refer them to professionals. I am able to do this because I know people in the local recovery communities. Being an educator also means that I acknowledge that as a society we are not effectively educating children, adolescents, and adults of the dangers of addiction.

The best recovery allies are advocates. We know that current systems fail to meet the needs of people in recovery. Punitive approaches to alcohol and drug abuse have consistently failed to deter or reduce recidivism rates. We need to bring attention to what works (self help, rehabilitation, abstinence) and challenge prevailing stereotypes (addicts and alcoholics as bad people, criminals, or only belonging to poor and working class). We need to demystify recovery (it’s not about religion, it’s not people sitting around just talking about their problems) through achieving direct knowledge of recovery. It’s not enough to encourage people to join self help. Having direct knowledge of local recovery means that we can share our experiences to motivate others.

The hardest part of becoming a recovery ally is learning not to enable. Those who do not understand alcoholism or drug addiction are often unwittingly helping their loved ones to stay mired in addiction. Enabling almost always feels like the right thing to do. It’s something we feel compelled to do. Not protecting our loved ones from harm is counter-intuitive. We had to learn that protecting those who abuse substances from the natural consequences of their actions is to do them a disservice. We learned that in general people stop using because they get sick and tired of being sick and tired. Suffering is a powerful motivator.

Finally, the most important part of being a recovery ally is the willingness to collaborate. The AA tradition of “principles over personalities” strikes at the heart of our lack of collaboration. We need all stakeholders to come together if we are to make a substantive impact on the disease of addiction. Too many of us as Adult Children of Alcoholics are afraid or disinclined to share what we know and what we’re doing. Agencies and groups often behave like alcoholic families. We compete with one another from the mistaken belief that there is not enough to go around. Sharing our knowledge of what works and combining our efforts will yield far greater results than we have ever seen.

Jim LaPierre, MSW, LCSW, CCS

Higher Ground Counseling Services


National Recovery Month Stories: Psych Nurse

Hello everyone, welcome back to to Story Project. This week we have a story from a treatment provider (who wishes to remain anonymous) and she has an interesting perspective on what it’s like to deal with addiction and recovery from the other side, to be the person who watches and guides patients through that process. I think her message shows that people who provide treatment really do care.

 

As a psychiatric nurse I deal every day with people who are trying to cope with anxiety, depression, OCD, PTSD, schizophrenia, or other mental illnesses. Many of them have been trying to cope with the distress of their illnesses by self-medicating. Some abuse prescription medications such as anxiolytics or pain meds, still others use marijuana and tell themselves it’s “not really a drug,” some drink excessive alcohol, and others take anything they can from LSD to mushrooms to crack cocaine to meth.

The one characteristic all these people have is that they come to treatment in pain. And just being in treatment doesn’t mean they are hopeful about being there. A large part of the staff’s job is to help the patients find that hope. Without it, nothing else progresses because the work in overcoming illness and addiction is hard.

If someone arrives still under the influence of drugs/alcohol they have to go through detoxification. We use medications to try to ease them through that process, but it is still not an easy one. However, almost always after detoxing the patient is much better able to consider other things on which to focus and be able to stay focused on those things that form the steps of recovery.

During treatment, other means of coping with stress need to be found for each patient, and better habits of responding in a new and less destructive way. The lucky ones find the right person with whom to explore, process, and resolve their underlying issues, particularly trauma. Without that process, relapse is all too common.

I admire anyone who makes that first step and starts some kind of treatment. I use the analogy that everyone has a little red wagon and we pull it around, carrying our emotional baggage. In treatment we try to help the patient unpack some of that baggage, put it in the right storage, or maybe even discard some of it, making the wagon a little lighter to pull.

Treatment is available but you may have to look for it. Some people are fortunate enough to be able to afford wonderful private facilities. Others have to hope they are lucky enough to find good care in a public system. Keep looking. Ask for guidance, but seek help if you are dealing with addiction or any mental illness. I have seen life-changing results from getting the right care. Best wishes in your recovery.

Anonymous, RN-BC, MSN

 


National Recovery Month Stories: S.

Hello everyone, welcome back to the Recovery Month Story Project. This week’s story is brief, but extremely powerful. It was written by a woman I think of as part of my family, a woman who treats me like a daughter, a person I love dearly. What her family went through with her son’s long addiction to drugs was painful to watch, and I probably made it more painful at times by being another person they loved who was a sick addict, even though I wanted to be there as a comforting friend. For that, I can only apologize, and try to be better now. I can also tell a little bit of their story, in hopes that it might help another family.

 

We went to my aunt’s 90th birthday party last month, a jolly occasion with lots of laughter and excellent speeches. Then we noticed a cousin who has cocaine induced schizophrenia. He is now in his late 30’s and I hadn’t seen him since he was a bright, fun loving, enthusiastic and interesting teenager. The contrast between that full of promise for a rosy future lad and the zombie with necessarily over medicated shaking hands and spittle escaping from the corner of his mouth is truly terrifying, and for the very first time since our son died aged 22 from a heroin overdose I felt that yes, there are worse outcomes than death. I felt grateful that our son has been spared the twilight life that young man has to endure.

– S.

 

 

 


I Am Your Disease, I am your Recovery

Hello everyone, I hope you’re having a good Recovery Month!. I wanted to share with you a piece that I wrote quite awhile ago, and I didn’t even think to share for this month, but I was reminded today by someone who posted a link to a memorial site on the WfR Facebook page. Under the description of the site is a fairly well-known piece of writing by Sumeet Gunti entitled “I Am Your Disease.” It’s kind of a resume for addiction; it describes how addiction “thinks” and what it wants. It’s disturbing, appropriately so. What I’ve never seen, however, is an answer to this. A resume for Recovery. So, clearly, I had to write one. Here are both pieces, Gunti’s and mine, back to back. I hope I did an adequate job of telling Addiction where it can go. 

I AM YOUR DISEASE

I hate meetings.

I hate Higher Power.

I hate anyone who has a Twelve Step program.

To all who come in contact with me,

I wish you death and I wish you suffering.

Allow me to introduce myself.

I am the Disease of Addiction.

Cunning, baffling, and Powerful.

That’s me.

I have killed millions, and I am pleased.

I love to catch you with the element of surprise.

I love pretending I am your friend and lover.

I have given you comfort, have I not?

Wasn’t I there when you were lonely?

When you wanted to die, didn’t you call me?

I was there. I love to make you hurt.

Better yet, I love when I make you so numb you can neither hurt nor cry.

You can’t feel anything at all.

This is true Glory.

I will give you instant gratification and all I ask of you is long term suffering.

I’ve always been there for you.

When things were going right in your life, you invited me.

You said you didn’t deserve these good things and I was the only one who would agree with you.

Together we were able to destroy all the things good in your life.

People don’t take me seriously.

I do not come uninvited.

You choose to have me.

So many have chosen me over reality and peace.

More than you hate me,

I hate all of you who have a 12 step program.

Your program, your meeting, your higher power:

All weaken me and I can’t function in the manner I am accustomed to.

Now I must lie here quietly.

You don’t see me.

But I am growing, bigger than ever.

WHEN YOU ONLY EXIST, I MAY LIVE.

WHEN YOU LIVE, I ONLY EXIST.

But I am here.

Until we meet again,

If we meet again,

I WISH YOU DEATH

AND I WISH YOU SUFFERING!!

By Sumeet Gunti

I am your RECOVERY

I love life

I love beauty

I love joy

I love anyone who supports my existence in you

To all who come in contact with me

I wish you health and happiness

Allow me to introduce myself

I am RECOVERY from self-destruction

Alive, wonderful, empowering

That’s me

I have saved millions, and I am overjoyed

I love to hold you in reverie

I love to be your friend and kind attendant

I have helped you learn to comfort yourself

And you do not feel alone anymore

We are one on your path to life

I am here

I love to see you smile

I love to hear your voice

Better yet, I love to see you feel a full range of emotions, knowing that you can handle them

You can feel and love deeply

This is true Grace

I will give you contentment and all I ask is commitment

I will always be there for you

When things were going wrong in your life, you invited me

You said, I DESERVE GOOD THINGS and I agreed with you

Together, we are able to create all the good things in your life

When you are fully committed to me, you will be taken seriously

Like self-destruction, I do not come uninvited

You have to choose me

So many have chosen me to find reality and peace

More than you love me

I love all of you who support me

Your love, your faith, your kindness

All strengthen me and I work better than I thought possible

Now I must reach out to you

You will see me

I am growing, and self-destruction is fading away

Only when I exist will you live

Only when you live, may you thrive

I am here

I’m not going anywhere

I wish you strength and inner peace

And all the joy the world has to offer

By Sarah Henderson


Your Recovery Month Stories

Hello Recovery Writers! So next month, September, is National Recovery Month, celebrating those in all stages of recovery from addiction and mental illness. It’s about spreading the message that treatment works and recovery is possible! Instead of doing a poetry series, I’d love to feature YOUR stories. If you have one you want to share (any story with any outcome, not just those who are recovered) please e-mail me at write4recovery@aol.com. I can’t wait to see what you guys have! For more information on Recovery Month, check out the link below. ♥ Sarah

SAMHSA National Recovery Month


Voices: “Places to Hide”

So here we are at the end of our third week in our series. So far I’ve mostly discussed the experience of mental illness, particularly depression. I haven’t so much mentioned the often self-defeating, self-destructive ways that most of us cope with mental illness and the factors in our lives that have contributed to it.

The vast majority of mental illness stems from a combination of genetic predisposition and environmental triggers; most commonly addiction, abuse, and/or trauma. Those experiences along with unstable families don’t allow for the development of self-esteem or healthy coping mechanisms, so a lot of us turn to things like drugs, alcohol, eating disorders, and self-harm to deal with unmanageable feelings. This was certainly what I did. In order to cope with growing up in a violent household, years of sexual and physical trauma via my father, a stranger rape at 16, my undiagnosed bipolar, and posttraumatic stress disorder, I did all of the above. I nearly died of anorexia and bulimia several times during my 16-year ordeal with the disease; I have scars in every place imaginable from all the cutting; I broke my own bones at times because I beat myself so hard with a ceramic curling iron; I abused vicodin, valium, klonipin, ambien, and other pills. Through most of the years I was doing these things, I really believed I could never live without them.

Thank God I was wrong.

I had a therapist who used to tell me, before you can give these behaviors up, you have to honor what they’ve done for you. Don’t get me wrong, they’re killing your body. But these behaviors are protecting your mind. Respect that, and thank them for that. And then let them go.  

7/1/03

Places to Hide

 

Between the lines I carve in my skin

At the edge of a blade that gently glides in

Afloat on the streams of blood that will follow

Once filling me up, now leaving me hollow

I trace the path of my freshly split vein

Twining up to my heart, the center of pain

And just below there, my eternal friend

The stomach that’s empty, shriveled, sunken

The best place to rest and perhaps disappear

A place that I’ve turned to for so many years

One among many places I’ve found

To be safe on my constantly turbulent ground

And then there’s the throat, bloodied and bruised

From the battering in-and-out cycle of food

And my pill bottles carefully lined in a row

A disturbingly fun pharmaceutical show

So many places I created to hide

From a self that I simply cannot abide

© Sarah Henderson 2003