Monday, October 27, 2014

I Used to be an Addict.............

Everyone wants a magical cure, especially addicts. That is the dream. We as addicts want not only a cure, but we want it quick and easy. After all, it I could be cured from my addiction than I could once again be just like everybody else. I could be normal. That would be amazing.

That is the promise from Passages, will locations in Malibu and Ventura. Their trademarked slogan is "At Passages - Addiction Ends Here." How comforting that must be, to know that all I have to do is go to one of their places and my addiction will end. How can Passages make such a lofty claim? Because Pax has been clean now for over a decade and was helped by his father Chris, who did self-help seminars to make people successful.

Based off of the experiences that Pax Prentiss and his father had with the addiction Pax struggled with, they have figured it out for everyone. I guess that when it comes to recovery, one size fits all. That is so good to know, that what works for one person can be "guaranteed" to help everyone else. Because of that, they claim to do treatment different from everyone else.

For starters, they have a cure for something that is not a disease. Passages states that after all of their research they have discovered that the entire medical and psychiatric field is wrong. Addiction is not a disease. Since it is not a disease, they have a cure. Unfortunately, all of the research I have read has stated that addiction is a brain disease. They base that off of the changes that occur in the brain chemistry and wiring using that pesky scientific model and research that can be duplicated.

Next, they claim that the 12 steps are antiquated, much like the disease model of addiction. Passages Malibu claims to have cured thousands. of people. The antiquated 12 steps, on the other hand, have helped millions find long-term recovery. I guess that you can make any claim that you want, warranted you are not asked to provide any research to back it  up.

I want to add that I don't disbelieve all of what Passages says and does. They use psychotherapy, or one-on-one individual counseling, as the core of their practice. I fully believe in that. Use evidence-based practices to treat the disease of addiction. They also state that the drug/alcohol is not the problem. Instead, there is another issue that drugs/alcohol are used to numb and escape from. I also agree with that.

In fact, that is the reason why people who go to 12 step meetings are expected to get a sponsor and work the steps with that sponsor. That is why all treatment providers that I know of do co-occurring, trauma, CBT, Adlerian, Gestalt, Psychoanalytic, Family and narrative therapies with their clients. These methods are all used to work  through the "why" of our use. It has been that way since the inception of the 12 steps Passages makes it sound like they invented it, but it has been done for quit some time now.

They also stress exercise, watching what you eat, meditating and taking better care of yourself. This is vastly important, because most of us while our addiction is active don't take very good care of ourselves at all. Add the anxiety, depression and trauma that most of us deal with and you have a perfect storm for unhealthy physical habits to kick in.

Passages is also big on activities such as Tai Chi, Yoga, Ropes, hiking and team sports that are obviously done all by yourself, because they don't believe in group therapy according to their website. I agree with all of these as viable modes of treatment, but all of these sound like what other places call group therapy. Why do other places call it group therapy? Because it is a form of therapy and it is done with other people, ie a group. Hard to have team building without a team.

Group therapy also allows you to find support and build accountability partners. The 12 step support meetings allow for us to do the same thing. Yet, according to the Passages website these are outdated and don't work. I personally swear by them, and I have met thousands of other people who have used them to find and keep long-term recovery. Many of them I have met have been clean and sober since before Passages started. Guess I should tell them the method they have used to attain multiple decades of sobriety isn't effective.  

The price tag of Passages is amazing. Last I looked it was about $65,000 at Malibu and $40,000 at Ventura..................a month!!!! Chris Prentice is good at making money, and he found a new hustle his son could enjoy so that he would no longer feel the need to hustle on the streets. Instead, they found a legal hustle that leads to the death and destruction of others. That scares me!

For as much as Passages says they are interested in helping others, they set many up for relapse if not death. You see, if I am cured, than I can use again. End of discussion. If I discover why I drink and/or drug by working through my past problems, than I can now drink and drug again without a problem. That will lead to relapse, and the next relapse someone has could very well be the one that kills them.

You see, I have worked through the abuse of my childhood and multiple other intense traumas. I have worked through the memory of dying more times than I can count on one hand, gong to jail umpteen times and finally going to prison. I have forgiven and accepted all that I have done in the past because it makes me the person I am today. I define myself today not by  my addiction, but by my recovery.

That said, I never want to forget my past. Not only did it make me the person I am today, it gave me knowledge of my limitations. I have a disease that makes me unable to use drugs and alcohol like "normal" people. I will always have that inability. Some call it an allergy, but based on science it is a disease and it has no known cure. However, I have found that through the 5 Pillars it can be managed!

The 5 Pillars
  1.  Higher Power - Find something bigger than yourself that can give you acceptance, love, respect, forgiveness and validation. The only thing I have found that works for me is Christ. I have seen others use the fellowship. 
  2. Meetings - Find a place where you can get support and feedback from peers. I get the most hope from speaker meetings and Celebrate Recovery testimony nights. 
  3. 12 Steps - Find a game plan to change the way you live your life. I use both the 12 steps and the Bible, as they compliment each other in many ways and both lead me to a richer and more fulfilling life. 
  4. Sponsor/Mentor -  Find someone who has the life  you would like to have in 5 years and ask them to teach you how they got there. This is the person who will help you apply the 12 steps, kind of like a coach teaching you a game plan for success.
  5. Accountability Partners - Find people who you can depend on who are not afraid to call you out when you are falling short, support you when you are struggling and encourage you when things are going well 
There is one thing I would add to the 5 pillars that many people are missing, and it makes all of the difference, community service. Community service puts us back into the communities we live in, and instead of taking them for all they can give us we instead are giving all that we can back. It helps us reengage with our community and once again feel a part of it. Service work is very important for my sobriety, community service is vital for my recovery. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

One Day (A Poem)

One day I saw a falling star
Remembered that I had a wish
To be with you til my dying day
While I'm away to be missed

For you to think of me while I'm gone
Missing me more every minute
Thinking how lonely life is
Without me there to be in it

Than I remembered dreams are for kids
I've never had one that came true
I shook my head wiped away a tear
Tried to sleep but thought only of you

This was my mindset when I was younger. I lamented the past and dreamed of what might have been. This poem was written about the girl I left behind. Her name was Britt. I lived in Illinois and realized that I was not good for her. She is a major reason I moved my senior year to Missouri. I was afraid that I would corrupt her. Moving broke my heart, so I wrote this poem.

I did not realize then that many years later she would have a beautiful family and so would I. Neither of us would have the families we have if things had not played out the way they did 25 years ago. I learned a lot from that. Today I live with no regrets from my past, no thoughts of what might have been because life has taught me a lesson that I would love to pass on to you.

Things don't always work out the way we want them to, but they always work out the way the are supposed to. Every time I look at my wife, my son and my daughter I thank God for that!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Meth Takes One More..........

17 years ago, I met a sweet, innocent 18 year old fresh off the farm from Arkansas. She was from a town of about 100 people. She was raised with a strong work ethic, and a strong faith. Her family was church of Christ and they were pillars of their church. She was a really good kid. When she walked into Mesquite Charlie's, which was the restaurant I was currently the server manager and trainer for, she was like a shiny toy I wanted to make mine.

I was 25, had been out of prison for a couple of years, and was an alcoholic/addict involved in the manufacturing and distribution of methamphetamine. I was a functioning addict, if you want to call how I was living my life functioning. I worked 80 hour weeks a week. I worked open to close doubles 6 days a week and trained new servers as they came into work. I would wake up Tuesday morning with a shot of meth, go to work and not sleep again until Monday morning. I slept a day a week.

That was the person I was when she met me. She did not see that. After all, I was a chameleon from years of practice. I had learned how to read people from a very young age, and I took her inventory as soon as I met her. She was a little shy but extroverted and had pretty low self-esteem. All I had to do was show her positive attention and tell her she was pretty and she was as good as mine.

Everyone at work was told that she was mine, so she was treated with a "hands off" approach from the people we worked with. They listened to me, because I was the person who supplied most of them with speed and weed. She made it through the training class and was my star pupil.At Mesquite Charlie's, we were given call names. Mine was Desperado, and her call name after she passed the training class was Santa Fe.We went on our first date the day she graduated the training class.

Needless to say, our lifestyles were polar opposites. She was small town and I was big town at the time. She was a small fish in a small pond and I was a big fish in a bigger pond. Everywhere I took her, people knew  me. Every party we went to, people sucked up to me. That tends to happen when you make a lot of money and always have a pocket full of dope with access to all the other drugs people could possibly want.

I made drugs and the addict's lifestyle look very attractive, and she bit. It started slowly, with a couple of wine coolers. From there she moved up to marijuana, and then ecstasy. She enjoyed everything she ever tried. After being told how horrible and evil drugs were her whole life, she was finding them to be quite pleasurable. The hook was in.

She was a really good server, but wanted to be able to work the hours I did so she could make more money. It was impossible to work the way I did without meth, so about a month after working at Mesquite's she tried meth for the first time. As soon as she took her first line, I knew she was like me. I saw her eyes go glaze over and that smile of pure joy play across her face. She was hooked from that first bump.

For the next couple of years, we remained a couple. She went from snorting to smoking it while she was with me. Although I was shooting it at the time, I  never let her know it. I did not want her to ever get introduced to the needle. Back then, that was one of my last vestiges of humanity. If you had never shot up, I would not be the person to do it for you. I also put out the word that if anyone gave her a shot of dope, they would never get dope from me or any of the guys slinging dope for me.

We had our problems, that much is certain. I broke up with her twice before the final time. She met another dope cook, who happened to give her that first shot of dope during our first breakup. I still would not let her shoot up around me. I knew what shooting meth had done to me, and I didn't want it to happen to her. The damage was already done. Shooting dope changed her.

She got violent after her first shot of dope. I can still remember the first time she got violent with me. I pride myself on never having hit a girl, and she punched me. I was spun out, and I laughed at her. She punched me again, and I laughed again. She reached up and yanked my ear ring out. I looked at my shoulder, saw the blood flowing down it, and froze. I knew that if I moved I might hit her, so I just locked up.

That infuriated her, and she started screaming and punching me. One of our friends was walking by and heard the commotion. He had my sister who lived down the hallway unlock the door, thinking I was hurting Santa Fe. They walked in to find me covered in blood from my ear and my  nose with her still screaming and punching me.

There were other times, I would be sitting on the floor playing games and she would be on the bed coloring. I would be so zoned into the game I would not hear her talk to me, and she would kick me in the back of the head.She would fly off of the handle and start yelling about the littlest things, always starting fights with me. She started hanging out with the dope cooks I had nothing to do with because of their moral standards. These were the 30 year old guys who would give a 14 year old her first shot just so they could get their hooks in.

That was the person meth turned her into. I watched her change in front of my eyes. She went from one of the sweetest people I had ever met to a girl that was angry and trusted almost no one.

I did nothing about it. I could have cared less, honestly. I egged it on. The night that she ripped out my ear ring Santa Fe went down to Brian's apartment with Brian and my sister. They talked to her for several hours to calm her down. I slept with our next door neighbor, who Santa Fe was friends with.

The last time I broke up with her, I wanted it to stick. I slept with the person Santa Fe cared most about in the world, her sister. Santa Fe then promptly hooked up with one of the kids who I had slinging my dope, and just like that she was out of my life. When I broke up, I liked clean breaks. Generally I would make sure that I did something that guaranteed they would be out of my life for good. I still saw her boyfriend on occasion, as well as her sister, but she was gone and soon forgotten.

That was, until this Saturday.I was contacted by one of my friends from back in the day with some news. Santa Fe was dead. She had died due to complications from an infection from IV drug use. She had gotten that infection from  her husband, who was the kid who used to sling dope for me years back. He also is deceased from the same infection. I guess that they had gotten married, and it had been chaotically every after. That is what drugs will do to your life.

They left behind 4 children, from the ages of 2-10 years old. What is sad is that the children may actually be better off without them, if they were unable to find their way out of addiction. At least the kids have good grandparents to live with that will allow them to stay together, from what I hear.

What I am reminded of  now is how our choices have long lasting effects. That, and there are two ways to live our lives once we get sober: abstinence and recovery. I chose recovery, and I will explain what that means.

As I reminisce on Santa Fe's life, I am reminded that if not for me she would not have been introduced to meth and the dealer's lifestyle. I have talked to multiple people, and they all tell me the same thing, "It's not your fault." That is then followed by several other statements, "If not you it would have been someone else" or "She made her bed" or "It was the disease, not you that caused you to make the choices you did back then." I abhor all of those statements, so I will address each of them in turn.

  1. If not you it would have been someone else - That might be true, but the fact is that she did get her start from me. It wasn't someone else, it was me. She got her first taste of the lifestyle from me She get her first taste of drugs from me. She met her husband through me. I turned her out, and the drugs turned her into someone she never was.  
  2. She made her bed - Her choices were all hers, and I can agree with that. My choices, however, were also mine. I chose to introduce her to the drug that would ultimately be her downfall. If she is responsible for her choices I should be held responsible for mine. 
  3. It was the disease, not you that caused you to make the choices you did back then - I can't blame it on the disease. I know a lot of addicts that did not make the same horrific choices that I did back then. I ruined people's lives, and I knew what I was doing. I knew that once I got my hooks on someone they were seldom the same, and I chose to do it anyway.
Ultimately, I have found that holding myself accountable for my choices and actions is the reason I stay sober. I have what I consider to be great recovery for a completely different reason. I have made my life a living amends because I hold myself accountable for the collateral damage my past choices and actions have incurred. Because of that, my recovery is fierce. I refuse to go back out and use again because I don't want to hurt myself, the people who care about me, other people and the people that care about them. 

One of the best things about recovery is that you get your feelings back. One of the worst things about recovery get your feelings back. I am glad that I feel, and no one is going to take that away from me. Although everyone ultimately makes their own choices, I also made all of mine. Because of the damage those choices made both in my life and the lives of so many others, I care about outcomes now. I have a heart. 

I have a heart for the addict who still struggles, the person who has just started using but is not an addict yet, the individual who has yet to use but will as well as the former addict who faces stigma every day. I know the choices we make today come back to haunt us. I made a decision 17 years ago and today 4 children don't have a mother or father because of the damage that decision caused. 

Will I beat myself up about it forever. No, but I did for a day. Then I remembered that the louder my message of hope, the more people will avoid the dangers of drug use. When they say, "Not even once" they are not kidding. Drugs take no prisoners. In my addiction, I did not make friends; I took hostages. I will never live my life that way again. 

I know firsthand the dangers of addiction. I have been in and out of jails and prison, died more times than I can count on one hand just to be brought back. I also know secondhand the dangers of addiction. I have lost more friends than I can count on my fingers and toes either to addiction or the violence that comes from the addict's lifestyle. Because of that, my voice guiding people towards a different lifestyle is loud. I am tired of losing people I cared about to this disease millions of us share. 

If you have started using, there is still hope. I am living proof! There truly is a BETTER LIFE IN RECOVERY. Join me and BLiR as we share the dangers of drug use and the victories of recovery. We are TRANSFORMING LIVES THROUGH RECOVERY!!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Not Feeling Well, but Your Life Can Be Better (Just follow these 8 steps)

My blogs generally go out on Mondays, and this Monday I could not sent out an email, as I could not type. My fingers, wrists, elbow, shoulder, knee, ankle and neck were all sore. Most of those joints were also swollen and the pain was actually pretty intense. It was bad enough that I went to urgent care yesterday, were I got to spend about 5 hours of my life.

I could insert joke about urgent here, but they were really busy and they got me back to a room pretty quickly. Then they sent me to a lab so they could draw 5 vials of blood from me for testing. Some of those tests we got back quickly, one we will not get back until today and the others we will get back in a week or so.

What we found is that I had pain in multiple joints and swelling in my hands and wrists. I had a low white blood cell count, elevated sedimentation rate, elevated liver enzymes and low globulin. Another test showed that I was normal for Rheumatoid arthritis, but my doctor said that could happen and me still have it. Finally, I get the connective tissue diseases results back today and the tick studies will be back in up to a week.

What I know is that I have a doctor from rheumatology I will be seeing, as soon as they call to set up the appointment. I have a follow up with a PCP (this stands for Primary Care Physician, not the drug phencyclidine) once his office calls to set it up. The doctor is leaning towards either a tick bite or rheumatoid arthritis at this point with the test results he has seen so far.

I also have a procedure next Friday for my internal problems I have been struggling with. None of this is said to concern you, but at the age of 42 I am pretty certain that I would not be having a lot of the issues that I am currently having if not for 2 plus decades of substance abuse and my lack of consistency with a healthy diet and exercise currently.

So, if you have not yet done drugs I encourage you not to. I had to get all fake teeth put in at 30 due to rotting all of my teeth out from my methamphetamine use. I have horrible internal issues that act up most times I eat anything. I have a son and daughter that I might or might not get to see grow up, because of all of the damage I have done to my body.

If you are doing drugs, I encourage you to quit now. Most of my old running buddies are either dead or in prison for 10 year plus sentences. I am working and get to spend time with my wife and children and play at the park with them. Trust me; this recovery thing is everything they tell you it is. There is a better life in recovery, and I am living proof!

There are some requirements to recovery, and I would say that everyone can benefit from them whether they struggle with addictions or not. Here are 8 of my requirements to living a better life. I start with my 5 Pillars and add a few more:
  1. Higher Power – Find something bigger than you that gives you validation, forgiveness, compassion and love. I use Jesus, others use their home group. Find what works best for you and latch onto it!
  2. Sponsor/Mentor – Find someone whose life you would like to have in 5 years (family life, finances, spirituality, faith, sobriety, etc.) and ask them to help guide you in that pursuit.
  3. Accountability Partners - Find people with similar goals, for themselves and for you, and give them permission to call you out. This could be people you work with, live with, go to church with, go to meetings with or just meet once a week for coffee.
  4. 12 Steps/Biblical - Find a plan that can guide you in the way you want to live your life and just do it. I wholly believe in the 12 steps and have seen people use them for so much more than just drug/alcohol addiction. I have seen them used to work through depression, anxiety, eating issues, divorce, pornography, codependency and a lot more. They can cure your hurts, habits and hang-ups.
  5. Meetings/Groups – Find groups of people with similar struggles who are trying to overcome them. If you cannot find a group that fits your bill, than start one. These can be anything from Alcoholics Anonymous to Celebrate Recovery to Support groups for survivors of cancer or suicide to small groups that give education on having a happy home life and everything in between.
  6. Drop the Zeroes – If you have friends that are not trying to better their lives, and they don’t support you bettering yours than lose them. You are either for me or against me, there is no middle ground. This is no different than a team letting players go to insure it can be successful. Stick with the winners and win with the people who stick around, keep coming back and consistently do and say the right thing.
  7. Meditation/Prayer – When life is going great or it is going poorly, these two will always make the day better. Focus on positive things in your life, express your gratitude and ask to do and be more! 
  8. Community Service - Give back to the community you live in by getting involved in something that focuses on making your community better. Service work is vital, but community service work is so much more fulfilling. It gave me a sense of accomplishment and I actually felt that I was a part of my community again. Try it and you will see what I mean!

There is a lot more, but this is a great start. I have never seen someone who committed themselves to these 8 things fail in their sobriety. It is just too hard to find time to mess up. Put the same amount of effort you put into your addiction into your recovery and watch it GROW!!!