Yesterday, in what I perceived to be a brave effort to continue understanding and ‘working’ my recovery, I decided to ‘out’ myself at my AA meeting and ask for a discussion on relapse. Of course, I made several unintentional errors of form, but once the meeting got going, it was dogpile on Margaret. Jeez! You want to cause waves at an AA meeting, ask about relapse! Holy cow!
It was one of the longest hours of my life (at least while not actively dying). Everybody took turns beating me up verbally up one side and down the other. I did everything wrong. I didn’t use the phone numbers. I didn’t pray. I didn’t do this, I didn’t do that. Well, duh! Most people at the meeting seemed absolutely terrified by the topic and refused to speak, but those who did ate me alive. Moreover, those who spoke seemed threatened by what they perceived as my own nonchalance toward what happened. One guy told me that if it was him, he would have been too ashamed to even show his face there let alone tell people he did it! Now, somehow that doesn’t seem like a healthy attitude, but whatever.
Only one man spoke in kindness and said he saw how brave it was for me to come anyway. He told me that more importantly, I need to remember this, so one day, when someone else shares the same thing and is sitting in my seat, I can tell them how I survived it.
All this led to a very stressful day as you can imagine. Ugh! But I can say that I stayed clean after that. As the physical symptoms of withdrawal returned last night, I did not redose. For now, I have resigned myself to putting up with it, dealing with it with what few tools I have, and continuing on. It’s been about 30 hours since that last dose (as of right now) and I feel pretty horrible, but not as bad as I know I’ll feel in a few days.
And that’s rather the problem.
But first, let me say, that one of the people at the meeting yesterday who took particularly vicious interest in my relapse was a gentleman of about 60, completely bald, missing part of his jaw, and is about 20 years sober. He ate me up one side and down the other for relapsing and, as he saw it, not giving a shit. You see, this dude has terminal cancer. He has lost part of his jaw, is going through chemo, and is actively dying — and still, he is not drinking or using. I don’t know how he’s doing it, but you know what? That dude had the right to chew me out because he was right when he said that I’m truly not getting it. Among the many caustic bon mots he spat at me, “You’re in a room full of miracles and you don’t even see it!”
And he’s right. I don’t. I don’t get it. I mean, I see all these people. I have heard their stories. I hear them say they have 20 years sober, 10 years, 6 months, but I never see myself among their numbers. I feel like an outsider, always. He’s absolutely right that I don’t appreciate the chances I’m being given. Part of it is, I don’t understand this whole higher power thing. I can’t turn over to God, whom I have such trouble believing in, that which I cannot acknowledge that I myself have no control over.
To me, at the end of the day, I am the only one deciding whether or not to pick up that loperamide again. Or the Vicodin. Or, you know, whatever. I have to walk through hell — pretty much alone whether I use the phone numbers or not — and wait for it to get better. These days, I’m so incredibly busy feeling sorry for myself and half-expecting others to sympathize with me that I forget that nobody is going to pity me nor my position because they already did it. And they’re sticking by their guns to boot.
Because of the loperamide thing, I often find myself thinking, “Nobody understands what I’m going through because THIS drug is different.” Well, yeah, that’s true, but who cares? I still have to do it. I still have to stop, and, as they say in AA, learn to live life on life’s terms.
I have to move on from this.
Which brings me to my second point: the withdrawals. While it’s true that nobody in that room understands that loperamide (in the doses I’m taking it in) is not making me high but simply taking away the symptoms of withdrawal, that doesn’t make it any more safe for me to use it. That is where my particular addiction is coming into play. It will kill me if I keep using it. As one of my doctors said, it’s a game of Russian Roulette — already two chambers have been emptied; how many more do I have before that’s it? I am using a drug that will kill me if I keep taking it. That’s the bottom line. Whether my case is different from the others is virtually irrelevant. No matter what the cost, I need to stop.
Pharmacologic intervention nor all the AA meetings in the world won’t stop me from going back to my old habits if I myself am unwilling to try.
Another thing that the bald cancer guy said was, that if I fail, “We’ll miss you. We’ll mourn you. But in two weeks, we won’t even remember you. That’s how many new people come and go in this room.”
Ain’t that the truth.
I just don’t know where to find the motivation though. It’s easy to be motivated in the face of an EKG showing severe cardiac arrhythmia. But once all that stops, and my skin begins to crawl, I can’t sleep, and I feel all jelly-bellied and ready to collapse, it’s VERY hard to say no to the one thing I know will work for sure for the next 12 hours.
They tell me to pray. How do you pray to a God you don’t believe in for help in a fight you think you’re going to lose anyway? I just don’t know.
Part of my renewed anxiety has to do with returning to my apartment on Wednesday night. I need to make sure all things here at my house-sitting job are in order before I go — a task larger than it may seem because of the fatigue from withdrawal. The prospect of going through withdrawals in an apartment with no heat (I have a propane room heater, but it’s still pretty cold) and no electricity and to have to return to going back and forth to work without a car actually frightens me. I figure if I can get most of the prep work done today, by the time the withdrawals worsen on Wednesday, all I’ll have to do is go through the motions. My NP appointment is Wednesday as well, so I’m hoping to have everything in order by then and maybe get some more effective pharmacologic help from him.
Until then, I will return to the AA meeting today at noon, so long as I am able. I don’t want them to think they broke me! I have officially re-earned my 24-hour chip. Bald guy also said that instead of “sharing” at meetings, I need to simply shut up and listen (when asked to speak, I am supposed to announce myself and say that I have nothing to share instead of talking) so I have a feeling that under those conditions, my meeting attendance will drop precipitously. Especially if I’m too tired to attend those 8pm meetings (which, after Wednesday, will be the only ones available)! In the meantime, I will go.
I hope to stand firm enough to not go backward, and yet not go forward fast enough to wreck the country’s cause. — Abraham Lincoln