Sunday, January 31, 2016

Addiction: the modern day leprosy?

The weather today has been absolutely beautiful.  I was driving through town with the windows down, my short hair blowing every which way, when I heard something that caught my attention on the radio.  The radio host announced that today is National Leprosy Day.  Did you know such a holiday existed?  Neither did I.  Leprosy is recognized on January 30th, or the Sunday closest to it.  While I was driving, I got to thinking (I do that a lot.  Might be why my van is always short one side-view mirror.)  We don't hear much about leprosy these days.  In fact, it isn't even called that anymore.  It is called Hansen's disease.  I began thinking about what I have learned regarding leprosy throughout my thirty-four years on this Earth, and I realized something.  Society often treats addiction like leprosy and the addict like a leper. 

I came home, did some research, and found an article by Dr. Alan Gillen that intrigued me.  I learned that leprosy starts somewhere in the central nervous system, outside the brain, and the effects spread like wildfire throughout the entire body.  What starts on the inside is eventually manifested on the outside as well, and is noticeable to the naked eye.  Addiction is much like this.  It often starts out where it can be hidden, but it eventually conquers the person's entire being.  As much as I hate the idea of determining that someone is an addict based on outward looks, the effects of addiction are also often noticeable to the naked eye.  Before long, it cannot be hidden, and rumors of the diseased person spread far and wide.  

But, here's the most interesting thing I learned.  This literally blew my mind.  Ready for this??  Due to extensive nerve damage caused by the disease, the leper cannot feel pain.  Wow.  After sitting in treatment with close to one-hundred different girls, one thing became clear...most of us had become addicted to cope with some type of pain.  The drugs numbed us from the pain, and, even though the pain was still there, we could no longer feel it.  In his article, Dr. Gillen wrote:

Some leprosy patients have had their fingers eaten by rats in their sleep because they were totally unaware of it happening; the lack of pain receptors could not warn them of the danger. 

Reminds me a bit of myself.  My addiction was changing me, tearing away at me and at everything I loved, and I just slept, blissfully unaware that I was being eaten alive. 

In the old days, lepers were shunned.  Most of them were required to live outside of the cities in communities made for sick people.  In fact, some were even required to live in the town's dump.  Why were lepers shunned?  Because people were absolutely terrified of this ravaging disease.  They were afraid to catch it, but probably even more so afraid that they did not know how to cure it.  They didn't know how to help, so they steered clear of these affected people.  Of "those people."  I cannot count the number of times I have heard addicts referred to as "those people."  The outsiders, those who need to be put on the outskirts of our safe little towns, the ones everyone should be terrified of, the ones no one seems to know how to help.  Romans 3:23 says, "For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God."  Guess what?  I am one of "those people."  And, guess what?  You are too.  We ALL are one of "those people", each in our individual way. 

Finally, as I thought about what I knew about leprosy, one crucial thing came to my mind.  Though the doctors in the old days didn't know how to treat or cure leprosy, one man arose who had the remedy.  That man was Jesus Christ.  With one touch, he healed the lepers.  He made them clean again.  The same is true in addiction.  Any spiritual program you find will point you to your Higher Power, God, to find freedom.  In fact, after Step 1 has us admitting of our powerlessness over our addictions, Step 2 says, "We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity."

There is hope.  There is a real and powerful solution to make us clean.  No matter what you think you know about addiction or addicts, remember one thing:  we do recover...even if we don't have any fingers left. 

Biblical Leprosy:  Shedding Light on the Disease that Shuns.  Dr. Allen Gillen.  Published June 10, 2007.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

The day my husband kicked me out

Today my husband and I sat side by side holding hands at our son's basketball game.  I looked at him and asked him if he knew that today was an anniversary for us.  He was caught off guard, and his eyes said what his mind was thinking. Oh crap.  What did I forget?  He thought for a moment and said he could not remember what the anniversary was.  He knew that we had started dating during football season, that we got engaged during Christmas, and that we got married on St. Patrick's Day (I love his strategy for remembering the important dates.)  I urged him to remember.  When he could not, I told him that the event must have had more of an impact on me than it did on him.  He finally said, "Just tell me what today is the anniversary of!"  I replied, "A year ago today, you kicked me out of our home."

January 30th, 2015 found me, once again, sitting in a treatment facility, away from my family.  Chad had dropped me and my suitcases at the door of this place on January 12th, in the pouring rain, with barely a good-bye.  He had made mention of me needing to move out of our home when I was released, but I thought he was bluffing, as he often did.  I went about the next couple of weeks thinking that things would go exactly as I planned for them to.  I would complete a 37 day program, get myself put back together, then go home like nothing had ever happened. 

A year ago today, however, I sat in a dark room and received the information (through my counselor) that Chad meant business about kicking me out.  He stated that even if I did complete the program, I needed to find somewhere else to live, that he and the kids could no longer be put through this.  Furthermore, he and the kids would not be visiting me this time around.  I instantly felt afraid, lost, betrayed, angry, and crushed.  I had never lived on my own a single day in my life, and I had always depended on Chad to take care of me.  I remember looking at my counselor and saying, "I would rather die than leave my house and have to live on my own.  I will kill myself before that happens."  Probably not the right thing to say to a counselor as I then had to sign a No-Harm Agreement.  Luckily, I ended up working through all of those feelings and things turned out more than okay, but that's a story for another day.

What went through my mind today, thinking back to one year ago, was how I did not understand at the time why Chad was doing this. To be honest, I absolutely hated him when I heard this news.  That hatred dissipated into denial, while I secretly planned how I would manipulate him into changing his mind.  So many things continually ran through my head.  I wondered if he ever really loved me anyway.  After all, I was pretty hard to love.  I thought he was selfish, and I wanted to remind him of the vows he took with me before God.  He had promised to love me through anything and to never leave me.  Now, he was turning his back on me while I was at the lowest point of my life...the time when I needed him most.  I really just wanted to chase him down and throat-punch him (all in the name of Jesus, of course.)

Fast forward 365 days, and this is what I now believe.  I believe that his decision to demand that I move out saved my life.  I believe that it opened my eyes to how serious my addiction had become and how it was no longer affecting just me.  My whole family was being forced to participate in my insanity.  I believe that having very little contact with him during my second course of treatment forced me to fully rely on my Higher Power, God, and allow Him to do a complete work in me, while also allowing the people around me (staff, counselors, pastors, and other residents) to walk this journey with me and to support me.  Consequences are absolutely no fun, especially when it requires doing the thing we are most fearful of.  For me, that was being on my own...fending for myself.  

To those who are still held captive by addiction,  I want to remind you that sometimes the people who love us most are forced to temporarily turn their backs on us.  What I have learned is that this does not mean they hate us because of what our addiction has done to us and to them; on the contrary, it means that they love us in spite of what our addiction has done to us and to them.  They are willing to risk their relationship with us if it means saving our lives.

To those who love someone caught in the snares of addiction, thank you for doing what is hard, for doing what is almost unnatural, for holding us accountable and stepping back to let us learn for ourselves.  Thank you for standing firm and telling us 'no', even though you have to quickly hang up the phone so you can run to the bathroom, shut the door, and cry.  Thank you for refusing to allow this evil beast to further tear apart your family.  Thank you for firmly taking a us, and to it.  Because, even though we may feel like you have turned your backs on us, one thing is for sure...your hearts never moved.  

One year ago today, you could not have paid me to believe I would ever be thankful for the news I had just received.  But, I am.  As strange as it may sound, being kicked out of my home was one of the best things that ever happened to me.  So, excuse me for a moment, while I go chase my husband down.  Not to throat punch him (at least not today!), but to give him a big kiss on the cheek and thank him for saving my life...for turning his back on me when I needed it the most.   

To read about the day my husband took me to rehab, click here.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Rock Bottom: Psych Ward Part 2

To read Part One first, click here.

"Misty Monroe?"

I look up and see two women in scrubs.  They are holding plastic bags and metal wands and are beckoning me to come.  I stand up, hug my friends good-bye, and walk in a trance-like state toward them.  Nurse One swipes her badge across a sensor, and the wooden doors begin to open.  I consider turning around and running as fast as I can.  I want no part of this.  Instead, I follow them.  I am exhausted and I no longer possess the energy to resist.  I am spent...both physically and emotionally. 

They each scan me with a metal detector then lead me to a room and shut the door behind them.  I am extremely nervous.  I feel awkward, and I can't wait until they leave the room and I am all alone.  I like being alone. Nurse One steps closer to me and calmly says, "We will need you to remove all of your clothing."  Umm...what?  They didn't tell me this was part of the deal.  Nurse Two expounds on the command, informing me that they need to perform a full body search.  They watch me undress and take my clothing.  Nurse One says, "Now, turn away from us and put your hands against the wall."  I am overcome with utter humiliation, but I politely obey.  Nurse Two says, "Now turn around and face us."  Once they complete the body search, they begin searching the bag of clothing I brought with me.  They inform me that I can't keep my tennis shoes because they have strings, but I can have my flip-flops.  I can't keep my hoodie or sweatpants either because they have strings.  By the time they are finished searching, I am only allowed to keep some undergarments and socks.  Nurse One hands me a bright green pair of ugly scrubs and tells me I will be required to wear these scrubs at all times.  I can get clean ones when I need them, and they have a washing machine down the hall that I am free to use.  They both turn to leave, and I stop them.  "Uhhh...can I have my bra back?"  Nurse Two replies, "No, honey.  Sorry.  It has a wire and you can't have that."  I immediately break into tears.  I want my bra.  She tells me that I can call someone and ask them to bring me one with no wire.  There is a phone at the nurses' station that they will let me use.  Yes, that's what I will do.  I want a bra. 

I put the scrubs on and I start to look around the room.  There are two wooden platform beds with black plastic mattresses that resemble pool rafts.  My bed is closest to the door.  I don't think it's going to be very comfortable.  It doesn't appear that I have a roommate.  Huge sigh of relief.  I like to be alone.  There are no bags in the trash cans, nothing hanging on the walls, no curtains on the windows.  The room is very sterile.  Flourescent lights and drab, concrete walls.  I go check out the bathroom.  The door handles have a strange shape, and the bathroom only has half a door.  At least there is a shower in my room.  I sit down on my bed and look around.  It suddenly dawns on me that this room is a "safety" room.  It has been designed for my protection.  I am at a loss for words or thoughts. 

There is a wooden desk that sits between the two beds.  I open the top drawer and see a Gideon Bible.  I pick it up and sit back down on the bed.  I stare at the hard cover of the Bible, then finally open it up.  I NEED something right now.  Something from the Lord because I feel like I'm going to crack.  I turn to my favorite chapter (Isaiah 43) and read it.  It goes in one ear and out the other.  I thumb through the New Testament and stop on the book of Philippians.  I really don't know where to start, and then I get a thought.  Today is April the 7th, so I will see what Philippians 4:7 has to say (yes, a game of chance is about how deep my spiritual connection is right now).  And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  A brief smile escapes my lips, but it quickly vanishes. Yes, my heart and mind definitely need some peace.  Maybe I will one day find it, though I seriously doubt it.

Nurse One knocks on my door and peeks her head in.  She tells me that it is dinner time, and that I should come out to the dining room.  I haven't eaten all day and I am hungry, but I don't want to leave my room.  I tell her 'no thank you', that I will just stay in my room.  She returns just a few minutes later with a tray and tells me I can eat in my room...just this once.  I sit at the wooden desk and eat in silence.  It is dark outside, so I assume it's getting close to late evening.  I sit my tray on the floor outside my door, turn out the lights, and lie down in my bed.  I stare at the ceiling and cannot believe I am actually here.  This can't be me.  This can't be my life.  I suddenly hear a cry.  It starts out quietly, then escalates into a loud howl.  It is the most sorrowful sound I have ever heard.  It echoes throughout the room and penetrates my ears.  I put my hand to my mouth and suddenly realize...the cry is mine. 

I hear a knock on the door, the light flips on, and I open my eyes.  A male nurse stands peering down at me.  He wants to know if he can ask me some questions.  I don't really want to talk right now, but I don't think I have a choice.  He takes the wooden chair from the desk, turns it around to face my bed, then takes a seat.  He smells like aftershave and cigarettes.  He tells me his name and starts to ask me questions.  I answer them all with as much honesty as I can muster. I am tired of answering questions today.  He leans in a little and looks me straight in the eyes and says, "Misty.  I need you to be honest with me.  When you swallowed all of those pills, were your intentions to end your life?"  I tell him no...well, I don't think so.  He says, "Well, did you realize that taking that many of those pills could kill you?"  I think about it for a minute, then I begin to explain to him that I googled how many I could take without overdosing.  His eyes get big and he gapes at me.  He says, " mean to tell me that you trusted your life to Google?"  He gets a smirk on his face.  I tell him that when he says it like that, it does sound a little crazy.  I try to rationalize everything with him and justify explain it.  The look in his eyes tells me he is not buying all.  He continues listening to me, then interrupts me with this question:  "Do you want to know what I think?"  I really have zero desire to know what he thinks, but what else can I say?  I tell him 'I guess'.  He says, "I think that you don't believe you have a problem.  You don't think you are that bad off.  But do you know what I see? I see a full-blown addict.  I see a girl who nearly killed herself a couple nights ago.  And if you don't open your eyes and see the same thing, there's not a doubt in my mind that you will land yourself in the grave."  With that, he stands up, pushes the chair in, and walks out of the room.  He leaves more in the air than the scent of aftershave and cigarettes.

Nurse Two comes back to my room and tells me that I have a phone call at the nurses' station.  I am hoping it is someone calling about my bra.  A nurse hands me the phone through a window and I say hello.  It is my friend Jade.  She tells me that she loves me and that she is so proud of me for getting help.  She says that she will do anything she can to help me.  I give her the number of the pay phone in the hallway because that is what the lady standing there in the nurses' station tells me to do.  I tell Jade she can call me again, and she assures me that she will.  She keeps her word.  As I am out in the hallway, a male patient approaches me and invites me to come to the TV room to watch the UK basketball game.  I simply say, 'I'm from Ohio', and walk back to my room.     

I decide I'm ready for this day to be over, so I fall on the bed, close my eyes and try to force myself to go to sleep.  A bright light from the outside keeps shining directly into my eyes.  I ignore it for as long as I can, but it starts to really frustrate me.  I walk to the window to see where the light is coming from.  There appears to be a parking garage right behind this building, and a light from one of the upper levels is what is invading my room.  There are blinds on the window, but they are rolled up, and I don't see any type of cord to pull them down.  I move the desk chair over to the window, climb up on it, stretch my arms as far as they will go, and grab ahold of the very edge of the blinds.  I pull them down, maneuver them to get them to stay, move the chair back over to the desk, and lie back down.  I am in bed for a mere three seconds when I hear the blinds swiftly roll back up to the top of the window.  Forget it, I think.  I close my eyes and try not to think about anything.  I pretend I am not in a padded room.  I roll over to try to get comfortable, and the sheet slides off my mattress.  I put it back on, but every move that I make causes it to come undone.  My skin is sticking to the nasty, black, plastic pool float of a mattress.  Forget it, I think.  I toss and turn all night long.  As much as I try to push the images of my husband and kids out of my head, they will not go away.  I want to be home lying in my own bed, listening to the sounds of my loved ones breathing and snoring.  The tossing and turning continues, as does the wailing.  Just as I feel like I'm drifting off to sleep, I see a face looking down at me and I scream.  It is just male nurse.  He says he needs to take my vitals and apologizes for freaking me out.  He says that my blood pressure and pulse are still low, but that everything else looks good and I should try to get some sleep.  I'm pretty sure that's what I was trying to do before he interrupted me.  He leaves the room and I remain awake until daylight.  

I start to hear lots of hustle and bustle in the hallways and something smells good, so I open my door and follow the scent.  In the hall outside of the dining room, there are two carts with trays labeled by room and bed number.  I find my tray and pick it up.  I start to exit the dining room, and I see a sign that prohibits patients from taking food into our rooms as there has been an ant epidemic.  I ignore this warning, as well as the warning from my nurse the previous evening, and walk back to my room to eat in solitude.  After I eat, I take my tray back and put it on the cart.  I walk to the nurses' station and ask if I can have some things to take a shower with.  They give me a towel and washcloth, a cup with a little bit of shampoo/body wash, and a toothbrush.  I am instructed to immediately bring the toothbrush back to them when I am finished with it.  I shower, put on clean scrubs, take the contraband toothbrush back to the nurses' station, and go back to sit on my bed.  I try to read the Gideon Bible a little more, and then I attempt to take a nap.  I hear someone come into my room.  She is dressed in slacks and a button-up, and she asks if I would like to come play the Wii.  Umm...I am having the worst day of my life.  I think I will pass on the Wii.  She tries to persuade me to go with her by telling me that they are playing the fun game...the bowling one (as if that made all of the difference in the world).  I continue to lie in the bed. 

I have a new nurse now.  She smiles at me often and she smells like flowers.  She encourages me to get out of bed.  She says that she will put clean sheets and covers on my bed while I am up.  She is so sweet that I cannot possibly tell her no, so I leave the room and walk down the hall.  I notice that the majority of people are gathered in the dining room, so I head over to the nearly empty TV room.  I see a puzzle box, so I pick it up and start working it.  As I'm doing this, I have to keep killing ants that are crawling all over the table and onto my puzzle pieces.  It becomes evident that this puzzle is missing lots of pieces, but I continue working on it.  The people in the dining room are laughing and appearing to enjoy themselves.  It doesn't take too long for them to get up and migrate to the TV room.  I am not happy about this.  I don't look up or make eye contact hoping that they don't speak to me.  After a couple of minutes, the UK guy from the night before asks me my name.  I look up and see him and the shaking boy from the waiting room yesterday sitting in front of me.  I tell them my name then feel obligated to ask theirs.  They make small talk and tell me they have each tried unsuccessfully to work my puzzle.  The room continues to fill up until every seat is full.  It seems as though people are coming out of the woodwork.  They must be waiting for their turn at the puzzle.  I hear a cart rolling down the hall, and a nurse walks into the room yelling "Med Call".  Now I know why they are all here.  Everyone is excited to take their meds, and when the nurse leaves, they spend the next ten minutes comparing what they each take.  UK guy asks me if I "got anything good", but I prefer to keep that information private.  Everyone else finally gets up and leaves the room, while I continue working my puzzle.  I think back to what I have just witnessed and try to fool myself by saying, "Well at least I've got a little bit of dignity left."

The payphone rings and everyone instantly gets quiet and waits to hear who the lucky recipient is.  It's always the same lady getting the call.  She sits in the metal chair directly in front of the payphone and argues with anyone in her house who will argue back.  I listen intently.  I am bored out of my mind and her conversations are intriguing.   I wish the payphone would ring for me.

A worker yells out that a game of Bingo is getting ready to start in the dining room.  UK guy leans into the TV room where I am still working my puzzle and asks if I would like to come play Bingo.  He says it's really fun.  I politely decline.  However, the longer I work the puzzle with the missing pieces, the more frustrated and bored I get.  The Bingo game is already underway, but I decide to join in.  I get a cardboard Bingo sheet and some opaque red circles to cover up the spaces.  This is a legit Bingo know, the old metal kind with the cool handle you crank.  The man who is calling out the numbers looks familiar.  Way too familiar.  I look around and it seems that none of the other players are having much luck.  "B7", he says.  He has to repeat it several times, because, for some reason, no one can quite grasp what he is saying.  He calls out several more numbers, and before I know it, I have gotten a Bingo.  I am both nervous and embarrassed to yell it out.  I finally meekly say it.  He tells me 'good job', that I have won a candy bar and asks me what kind I want.  I explain to him that I have given up sweets for Lent.  I notice a pleasant yet pitiful heavy-set older lady looking at me.  I ask Bingo Man if she can have my candy bar.  He says 'sure', and gives it to her.  She looks at me with the biggest smile on her face and thanks me.  I'm pretty sure she could have played Bingo all day and never won a candy bar.  It now becomes my goal to win her as much chocolate as possible.  

When I get to treatment, I will tell this story to my counselor.  She will stare at me for a full thirty seconds before we both explode with laughter.  I will realize how crazy it is to be sitting in the psych ward due to a relapse with a nearly fatal ending, turning down a chocolate candy bar for religious reasons, while inwardly applauding myself for showing such restraint and self-control. 

Oh, the irony. Oh, the insanity.

As I heard someone say just yesterday, "Being crazy is not the same thing as being insane. Insanity is when we are crazy, and we don't even know it."  

This insanity is to be continued...   

To read Part 3, click here.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Rock Bottom: Part 1 (alternately entitled--My trip to the psych ward)

This is the hardest thing I've ever written, and it's even harder to share it and let you all in on this little secret.  Even most of my closest friends and family don't know the full truth about what I'm getting ready to tell you. 

So, I told a little bit of a lie in a previous post.  Well, maybe not a lie, but I definitely skewed the details a bit.  I didn't spend time in a Detox unit.  It was actually the psych ward.

I will start by saying that being completely transparent and vulnerable is a crazy scary feeling. It's like knowing you can't swim, yet jumping in the deep end with no floaties. However, being "fake" and living a double life were killing me.  There's zero chance this could be any worse.

There is so much to this story that I will eventually piece all together for you, but I believe telling the worst part now will make the rest seem easy.  I have actually given that advice before:   Do what you dread doing the most first, then the rest is cake.  Not literal cake, but you know what I mean.

Here goes.  Deep breath.   (If you know me well, you can probably envision me telling this story...covered in hives.)

On April 7, 2014, I walked into a detox facility because the residential treatment program I was entering required me to do so. However, after a lengthy assessment by a clinician, I was not admitted to the detox unit.  I was, however, admitted to the mental health unit, also known as the "psych ward".   I was also placed on suicide watch.  Most of that experience is a big blur, but I have memories from those four days that still shake me to my core. And...I possibly still have the bright orange bracelet that reads S U I C I D E   R I S K.  Or maybe I threw it away.  Anyway.

The day started when two friends drove me to this hospital and sat with me through an excruciating and lengthy process, which began with an evaluation at the Emergency Room to ensure I could physically handle the detox process.  If you know me, you know that I handle things with humor, even when humor is the awkward, uninvited guest who hasn't yet realized it's time to leave. I vaguely recall barely scratching my leg on something and yelling for a morphine drip--I thought that was hilarious. I was still making jokes and making my friends laugh, even though I could tell by the looks in their eyes that they were scared to death for me.  They knew it was not a joking matter.  How can a life or death situation be a joking matter?  The ER doctor ran some labs and cleared me to proceed to the Detox unit.  He assured me that I was making a wise decision by doing all of this. I, however, wasn't so sure.  Part of me still thought that maybe I didn't need help, that everyone else was just overreacting.

But...the thing is....just two nights prior, I had swallowed a "significant" amount of sleeping pills.  That's not weird, right??   I mean I clearly had a grip on things.  I had taken a little too much of something that had totally amped me up, then when it was time to finally try to get myself to come back down and go to sleep, I thought these pills would do the trick.  It didn't sound dangerous to me at all.  In fact, I began to wonder why I hadn't chosen a profession in the field of prescribing medication.  I was a prescription drug genius.  

I opened the bottle and poured out the prescribed dose into my hand....then a little extra, just to be safe.  And then maybe a little more to be extra safe.  I gave it ten minutes, and when nothing happened, I took a little more.  By this point in the night, I was lost in the hopeless/helpless thoughts that had become so familiar to me.  I began thinking about what I had done earlier that day, and shame and remorse flooded me.  I swallowed another pill.  I thought about how I had rocked my daughter to sleep that night with my phone in my hand, searching on Topix for a dealer in my town.  Another pill. She was in her favorite pajamas and she smelled like Baby Magic, yet all I could think about was getting high.  She deserved someone so much better than me.  Another pill.  How could I have done this to my family again?  Another pill.  There was no hope for me....I would never change.  Another pill.  Once my husband started putting all of the clues together and figured out what was going on again, he would be done.  He had already told me no more chances.  Another pill.  I am such a hypocrite.  Another pill.  

At this point, I fell asleep, only to wake up a few short hours later.  I attribute this to the unrelenting grace of God.  When I woke up, I honestly can't tell you if I was relieved or not.  I remember thinking that I was probably pretty lucky that I woke up, yet I was still not sure how I could make it through another day of this misery.  And if I had any inclination of what the next four days would hold, I probably would have laid back down in that bed and closed my eyes.  But, I got up and forced myself to get in the shower so we could go to church, you know, to act like nothing ever happened.  I felt like a total zombie.  It was hard to think, talk, or even move.  I got the kids all dressed up (like I did every Sunday), and we headed to church.  I still felt like I wasn't even in my own body.  I absently sat through church, then we headed out to lunch.  One of my good friends tagged along with us, and as we sat eating, she questioned my odd behavior.  She suggested she and I "take a ride" and let Chad take the kids on home.  I agreed, and we left.  This ride ended up turning into a continuation of the intervention they had held with me just a few nights prior.  I really wasn't up for this that day, and I was starting to feel really ill.  I listened to all of their reasons that I should go to treatment:

Misty, you are going to kill yourself.  You nearly did last night.

You are going to lose your family if you don't get help.

It doesn't matter that you will miss your kids or your kids will miss you for the next few months, you are going to miss their graduations and weddings, and they are going to miss you being there.

You've proven you can't do this on your own.  You need some help. 

The reasons continued for what felt like days.  I knew everything they were saying was true, but I didn't have any desire to go to treatment, and to be honest, a part of me still didn't really believe that I needed to go.  My friends had already found a place for me to go in Kentucky, and they showed me pictures, told me my insurance would cover it, and, once again, begged me to go.  Reluctantly, I finally said yes. 

Then came the hard part.  They told me I had to call my husband and tell him what had happened and that I had agreed to go to treatment.  I refused.  (To this day, I regret that decision and wish I could go back and change it).  So...our former pastor drove to our home while I sat at my friend's house and told my husband, Chad, who was dressed in boxers and a t-shirt for his Sunday nap, that his wife had relapsed and was going to treatment.  Surprisingly, he didn't handle the news as well as I had hoped.  Chad called my friend and told us to meet him at the church office.  I agreed, even though I was so afraid to face him.  Just a couple of months before this incident, I confessed of yet another relapse, and he had initiated project Tough Love.  He told me he would no longer sit by and watch this happen, and that it was my last chance before he would be forced to make me leave our home.  I knew he wasn't bluffing when he told me this, but even the fear of that couldn't make me stop.  Thankfully, we got to the church before he did, and I went into the office and sat in a chair in the corner.  I don't remember much of the conversation, however I do remember him walking in looking extremely angry, making me make some calls to check about treatment for myself, then crying and hugging me, telling me to go get the help I needed.  Everyone involved decided that I needed to go get my bags packed and head out immediately before I backed out.  My friends offered to take me, and they were instructed to not let me out of their sight.  I am usually a fairly neat and organized person, but in my addiction, my life had become a mess, both inner and outer.  I had to dig through piles and piles of clothes to try to find things to pack, and I knew for certain I didn't have everything I would need.  They assured me someone would bring things to me later on.  I threw everything in a bag and we left. 

We drove into the town where the treatment facility was located and learned we would have to get a hotel and wait until the next morning.  When I woke up the next morning, my friend was on the phone with the facility, and when she hung up, she told me I would have to go to detox.  To say the least, I was not happy, and I cried and told her I wouldn't go if it meant going to detox first.  She talked me through it, and we headed back out.  We were told I had to go to the Emergency Room first to be seen by a doctor and cleared to go.  I checked in, had my vitals taken, answered some questions, and went back to the waiting room.  I sat down in the waiting room, looked up, and noticed a sign that read, "Be still and know that I am God" Psalm 46:10. My eyes then focused in on a security guard near me, a gray-headed elderly man who seemed pretty nice.  He kept staring at me.  He would look down at his newspaper briefly, then his eyes would be right back on me.  It started creeping me out.  A younger guard walked in, and it appeared that he would be taking over for the creeper.  Shift change, thank goodness.  As the older man started picking up his belongings, he leaned over to his replacement, pointed at me and said, "Keep a close eye on her.  She's suicidal."  It was very surreal to hear that, and I sure wished he had known how to whisper.

I made it through the ER process, and we headed on to the detox unit waiting room for what felt like hours.  I did an initial assessment with the lady up front, then sat in the waiting room.  I watched people come and go and began to get extremely nervous.  I watched a boy who was probably close to twenty years old, come in looking frantic.  He sat down across from me and was shaking violently.  I was miserable just looking at him.  Finally, the lady in charge called me back.  She asked me questions about every substance I had ever taken.  She did an in-depth assessment, and, when she was done, informed me that she did think that I needed admitted for detox, however she was concerned about my incident with the sleeping pills and wanted me admitted on the mental health side.  At this point, I was exhausted and just agreed.  A nurse evaluated me again, and they sent me back out to the waiting room.  I informed my friends that I would, in fact, be admitted, and they heaved a sigh of relief in unison.  I sat and waited.  And waited.  And waited. 

Then I heard my name called.  "Misty Monroe".  I looked up, and two ladies stood at the ominous looking wooden door entrance with metal detector wands in their hands, and beckoned me to come with them.  I stood up and began walking toward them in what felt like a trance.  It appeared my nightmare had just begun. 

To be continued....

Read Part 2 here

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

What will people think?

When I was a little girl, I used to dream about the future.  I drew pictures of what I thought my life would look like.  I can see myself as a little girl--brown hair, blue eyes, dressed in the same color from head to toe (I threw a fit on my mom if everything I wore and used that day didn't match--down to my plate and cup!) drawing this picture.  I'm pretty sure it looked something like this:  cute little house with a chimney, a fence protecting the lawn, a little flower garden, and a yard full of kids, several of them playing on a swing set.  I couldn't wait for my story to unfold.  Oh how grand it would one day be. 
What I didn't envision was that somewhere in that pretty little house with the pretty little children in the yard, was a woman who was lost.  If I had drawn the scene, it would look like this:  She lays in a dark bedroom, shutting herself out from the rest of the world.  She is numb.  Numb to pain, sadness, trouble.  But also numb to love, happiness, laughter, and purpose.  Her life is defined by defeat.  She has lost herself to sickness, depression, and a pill bottle.  She possesses everything the first picture described, yet she is blind to it.  She is hopeless.  She is lost. 

Man.  That is not the story that I ever would have written for my life, yet it is exactly where I found myself. 

After I decided to publicly share my story, people started telling me how brave I was.  Let me tell you, brave is the last word I would use to describe how I feel.  This is the scariest thing I have ever done.  I absolutely did not want to expose myself in the way that I have.  A person would have to be absolutely crazy to do that...especially on the internet.  I live in a small town where everyone knows everyone.  What in the world would people think about me?  Preacher's daughter, former PTO member, worship singer....secret drug addict?  I imagined all of the things people would say about me. 

Don't let her hold your baby.  She's a drug addict.  It might rub off.

No, you can't stay the night with [insert child's name here].  His mom's a crackhead!

Don't ask Misty to work Secret Santa.  You can't trust her around the money or the kids.  She's been on drugs.

I had reason after reason why I couldn't/shouldn't do this.  Why would anyone ever want to read my story?  I am so insignificant.  But, you see, the Lord didn't accept my excuses.  He gently reminded me that He had brought me back from the grave and that He simply wanted me to tell people about what He had done for me.  I still argued with Him, but I went ahead and started working on a website.  I even started writing and journaling things that came to mind.  In the meantime, I hoped that He would change His mind and maybe decide that He had a different plan for my life, like being a personal shopper for the rich and famous.  No such luck.  I still sat on it.  Then, as time started to tick by, I started getting antsy and restless.  I couldn't sleep or even relax for thinking about this thing He had asked me to do.  That's what happens when God asks you to do something.  He doesn't take no for an answer.  So, with more fear in my body than I can possibly describe, my trembling hand finally pushed the "publish" button on a post that was written eight months prior.  Turns out, sharing my story was much easier than sitting on it. 

The excuses don't matter anymore.  Yes, there are people who will steer clear of me because of the things they have read or heard about me.  That's okay.  Not every one will be so accepting of the person I was then or the person I am now.  That's okay as well. I am finally comfortable enough with who I am to realize and accept those facts.  This is my story, and I own it...cover to cover.

Ever since I could put pencil to paper, I have loved to write.  I've always kept journals, and writing down my thoughts and feelings has always been a coping strategy.  But, somewhere, tucked deep in the long forgotten recesses of my heart, lived a dream.  A dream to one day write something that other people would read.  A story about someone's life.  I just never dreamed that the life I would write about would be mine.   

I'm just going to be real here.  The next several posts I'm going to be sharing are tough.  They were tough to write, and they will probably be tough to read.  I had actually planned on sharing the first part of those today, but this was on my heart, and I needed to write it, probably more for me than for anyone else.  I think we all need to be reminded from time to time that some stories have a bad chapter, and that it often gets much worse before we ever get to see the happily ever after, or as I used to say as a little girl, the "hapty epter apter."

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The day I woke up an addict

One of the age old questions regarding addiction is "how does it happen?"  How does a somewhat seemingly normal woman go from being a good, productive member of society, to drinking their daughter's Tylenol with codeine through a straw?  It's so hard to explain.  It's like a slow process that happens overnight.  Doesn't make sense, does it?  That's the funny thing about addiction.  It makes no sense at all.

I previously mentioned that I had only ever minorly dabbled with drugs and/or alcohol. When my classmates and friends were smoking weed, I really didn't get what the fuss was all about.  Didn't do anything for me.  I refrained from ever getting really involved with substances in my teen years.  I had a couple of surgeries in my early twenties (C-section and gall bladder) and I can remember throwing away bottles of pills that were nearly full.  I didn't like the way they made me feel.  But, all of that soon changed.

Late 2005, early 2006, I started getting really bad headaches.  I was pregnant with our third child, and working a more than fulltime job.  I spent most days puking my guts out and sleeping on the side of the road to get through the day.  I thought this was all pregnancy related and didn't think much about it.  I went to a routine eye exam, and my optometrist noticed some swelling in the backs of my eyes.  I was then referred back to my OB who referred me to a neurologist who evaluated me, and then sent me for a spinal tap.  My spinal pressure was extremely high and I was diagnosed with intracranial hypertension, AKA pseudotumor cerebri, which translates to false brain tumor.  My body was under the impression that it had a brain tumor, yet there was none present.  Hence, the headaches, vomiting, memory problems, and vision loss.  Up until this point, I had been a fairly healthy person.  This diagnosis ended all of that. I was pregnant, but we needed to save my vision, so we began treating the disease with medication.  After I delivered a healthy almost 9 lb baby, we began a more aggressive medication routine.  I still struggled with headaches, and a specialist encouraged me to talk to my family physician about pain management.  At this point, I was put off work on long-term disability, I couldn't drive, could barely be alone with my children, and I was in a depression so deep I didn't think I would ever see my way out.

I remember the day so well.  I drug myself into the doctor's office at the absolute end of my rope.  I told him that I couldn't live in this kind of pain anymore, that I couldn't even function, and  I asked if he could help me.  He explained to me the dangers of narcotic pain medication, with one of those being dependency and addiction.  I shrugged it off because I couldn't imagine myself ever becoming addicted.  I would never be a drug addict.  I would have more control than that. 

In treatment, one thing I learned was that most addicts have a very clear recollection or memory associated with the first uses.  My experience was one of those.  I got my prescription filled, took the first dose, and began a two day marathon of watching Jon & Kate Plus 8 (don't judge!) and taking pills.  From early on, I took more than was prescribed.  If one made me feel good, two would be even better.  As they say in Narcotics Anonymous, one is too many, and a thousand is never enough.  The pills made it easier to cope with what I was going through and not really care about what was going on around me.  I truly believed I had found the answer to my problems.  If I was going to be this sick, at least I would have something to get me through it.  I needed something to take ALL of my pain away. 

At this point, I still thought my use was innocent.  I had a serious, life-altering disease, and I had found something to help cope with the pain, that just so happened to be mood-altering. I started taking the majority of my pills within a short time of getting a prescription filled. 

Then, something strange happened.  Every couple of weeks, I started getting this stomach bug.  It was so strange.  I had chills, intestinal issues, body cramps, and I couldn't sleep.  I would have to stay in bed for days at a time, because it hurt to even move.  When the virus came back a second time, I was a little surprised, but when it started visiting on a routine basis, I began to think something was seriously wrong with me.  Maybe I had cancer.  Yes I probably did. Stomach cancer.  Everyone would feel so sorry for me.  Hadn't I been through enough?  But, I started to notice that the times I would get the "virus" were the days that I had run out of pills.  I randomly googled if not having pain pills could make you feel sick (yes, I was that naïve).  I was astonished to read that I, in fact, was experiencing opiate withdrawal.  You guys, I HAD NO IDEA.  In that moment, I'm pretty sure my status went from physically dependent to full-blown addict.  I began to fear feeling that sickness, so I decided I would take my narcotics as prescribed.  You know, I could be a responsible addict...that way I would never run out. 
It, however, was not that easy.  Any addict can tell you, when we are in active use, we have zero power over the amount we consume.  It's like walking into the face of a powerful, unstoppable, imminent blizzard, and telling it to only snow an inch...because we can handle an inch.  Or handing an armed intruder a five dollar bill and thinking he will be satisfied with that and leave.  When we think we can successfully do that (or successfully manage our use), we are the saddest of fools.    

I could not control my use, because my use controlled me.

I believe, at this point, I became a slave to the prescription. It became my top priority and took precedence in my life.  I did whatever it took to get it.  I lied.  I manipulated. I faked illnesses.  I got caught trying to fill multiple prescriptions at a time.  I researched.  Who knows the state law for at what percentage during the prescription life it can be refilled?  I do. 

Eight years.  For eight solid years, I rode this vicious merry-go-round, pretending I would get off at the next stop, but, deep down, knowing that even if I wanted to exit the dizzy, maddening monotony I found myself in, I could not.  For I was completely fear and hopelessness, but most of all, in secrecy and shame.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

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They call me an "unlikely" addict....but what does that even mean?

I cannot count the number of times that people have been shocked to learn that I am a drug addict.  I repeatedly hear things like "You don't look like an addict", or "I never in a million years would have dreamed you were an addict!". In fact, just yesterday, someone in the mental health field was taken aback when I told her my story.  She said, "When you were walking down the hall, all I could think was that you were a girl who really had something...that you had it all together.  And such cute boots!"  But, addiction is not really something that can be stereotyped.  You see, an unlikely addict is an addict nonetheless.  So...I guess I am an unlikely addict.

But where does the story of an unlikely addict begin? 
Naturally, it should begin here:    

The unlikely addict grew up in a Christian home. She definitely had to have been sheltered from the corruption of the outside world. When kids at her school were singing, "Ice Ice Baby", she wondered why in the world these pre-adolescents were singing about frozen infants.  Whatever...she felt sorry for them. She NEVER said curse words, just in case cussing was, in fact, the unpardonable sin. She would not dare watch a PG-13 or R rated movie. Secretly, she imagined armed security guards standing inside the movie theater, arresting, handcuffing, and booking those under the age limit who dared enter in.  She loved to go to church, to memorize Bible verses, to sing, and--because her dad was a preacher--she loved to go to the empty church with her friends and just play church. She would sing, testify, and even sneak down to the classrooms and play with the flannel boards.  If you grew up in an old-fashioned, Sunday School teachin' church, you know exactly what I am talking about...aaaaand you are probably jealous that I had free reign of flannel Baby Jesus, the manger, Pharoah, David, the sheep, Lazarus, and the  E M P T Y tomb. At 12 years old, her best friend (who was 1/2 her size) taught her how to swim.  She stood on a diving board with swimmies on her arms and a float around her waist, believing her teeny-tiny blonde friend would "catch her" when she jumped. She was that innocent and naïve.  

During the evenings and weekends, while her friends were out diving into their newfound freedom as teenagers, she found herself happily babysitting and playing house.  As she fed babies and kids, washed dishes, and bathed dirty toddlers after an evening of playing, taking walks, feeding the ducks, and pushing tiny humans on little swings, she told herself this must be what it was like to be married and have children.  Easy.  Peaceful.  Simple. Amazing. She just knew her life would be picture-perfect. She would rock her children to sleep at night, probably singing a Carpenter's song (maybe Close to You?) while a gentle breeze blew through an ever so cracked window. Said baby would sleep through the night, and would not awaken until she was finished making a homemade breakfast for her husband who was leaving for a long day at work: all of this before the sun had even decided to wake up. (Geeezzz...where did she come up with this stuff???...she couldn't get out of bed til noon!!!) Nevertheless, life would just be one grand fairytale.  She was sure of that.

She entered into high school, and was a pretty good kid.  She rarely got into trouble, except on the rare occasion that she did.  She tried smoking and drinking a couple of times, but she was instantly filled with remorse so strong that she knew she never wanted to feel that red-hot shame again, that shame so strong she was sure her sins were written on her face. She fell in love with one of her best guy friends, and began a high-school romance that most only dream about. Her weeknights were spent talking on the phone until well past her curfew, when her dad's voice would come on the line telling her it was time to end the call.  She and her boyfriend would giggle, all the while arguing over who was going to say the final good-bye (after all, it would be atleast eight hours before they would hear one another's voice).  Her weekends consisted of shopping, dining out, going to the movies, and driving around in a convertible, probably singing "Oh, How I Love Jesus" in perfect harmony. She got engaged her senior year, and they married the following Spring.  She was young, naive, and she thought life would be perfect.

But, she was also judgmental.  She thought the struggles that so many people faced would never come anywhere near her family, let alone affect her personally.  She bought into all of the stereotypes of a drug addict.  She would look at an old beat up car and naturally think it belonged to an addict.  She would pass a young mom with a baby on her hip and a cigarette in her mouth and feel deep pity for that poor child of a drug addict/prostitute.  While she shared her condemnation and judgment with any passerby, one thing she did not share was the love of Christ or the gospel...or any sense of compassion. She was just glad she was not "one of them."  

As she grew older, addiction hit very close to home, in her husband's and her immediate families.  She just didn't get it.  She believed that the families should just turn their backs on the "black sheep", because, after all, being an addict was a choice that he/she made.  It was all a choice. A choice.  These drug addicts should be able to quit using just by seeing the pain they caused their family members.  It couldn't be that hard to quit, right??? She did not get it. Unfortunately, she would one day get the unwanted opportunity to live the constant hell of addiction...for herself.

So, I've told you where the story of an unlikely addict begins.  The middle is so full it can't be disclosed in one setting.  Now, where does it end?  Well, the story is far from over, but I can tell you where she has stood.  

She has stood on the brink of death.
She has stood in a pit so deep that she nearly took her own life.

She has stood silently in the middle of the night at the bedside of her precious, innocent children  watching them sleep and vowed that she would never pick another bottle up as long as she lived.
The following morning, she stood in front of the medicine cabinet, once again, powerless over the stronghold this addiction had on her.

She stood in shame and willingly swallowed that bitter death. 

She stood in front of countless doctors, seeking sympathy from them to get what she wanted.  

She stood and lied to her husband.
She stood in front of sponsors, counselors, friends, and asked for help, not really sure that she wanted it. 

She stood staring in the mirror at herself, wondering how this had become her life.
She stood and watched her life going down the toilet.
She stood in some places and situations that she would be humiliated to tell you about.  

She stood and idly watched her family fall apart. 

She stood on stages and sang about God's love and grace.  

She stood and told of the struggles in her life.  

She stood in a detox unit finally ready to put an end to the madness.  

She stood and walked into the door of a beautiful treatment facility on the top of a mountain. 

She stood and held the hands of girls who became sisters fighting on the same side against the same enemy.  

She stood.  

And she is still standing. 

She is coming out of hiding; out of shame.  

She is standing up to tell her story. 

To tell His story.