Saturday, March 18, 2017

Can I just be real with you?


"Girl, that mask is going to kill you. If you don't take it off, you're gonna wear it straight to the grave. And guess what?  I'm not holding your hand the whole way there."  

Those were the words said to me by my counselor, Tif, the second time I went into treatment.  You see, she had continued to be my outpatient counselor between my two stays in rehab. For two months, I had sat across from her in the pretty office with the comfy chair and told her how great I was doing. I talked about anyone and anything but myself. I couldn't tell her I had relapsed. She thought I was strong and she believed in me. She didn't know that I was weak and couldn't believe in myself. So, I spent the time to make the hour and fifteen minute drive to her office, spend an hour in counseling, and drive an hour and fifteen minutes back home.  Three and a half hours just to sit in an office across from someone I completely trusted and respected......and bold-faced lie. I planned my visits so that I could pass a drug screen. I knew how many hours/days the drug would show up in my system, so I carefully calculated when I could use. If I 'accidentally' used too close to an appointment, I would reschedule because I 'wasn't feeling well.' I was always a nervous wreck when I screened, even when I knew that I had planned it correctly. The lady who drug tested me is one of the sweetest women I have ever met and she just breathed life and hope into me the entire time I was in treatment. I would screen, slide the urine cup through the window in the wall, then discretely look over her shoulder to see what she was writing down....and to see if the drug I had been using was specified on the screen. I would walk to my car and feel so dirty and disappointed in myself. I just wished that I could change.

It's so hard to get real with people. It's so hard to admit that we are struggling. Believe me, I know. I'm certain that a large portion of my relapses happened because I didn't tell anyone IMMEDIATELY that I was struggling. That was my first mistake. When I got clean, I initially thought that I was supposed to be perfect. If I admitted my struggles and temptations, I would appear weak. People would be disappointed in me and they would just worry that I was going to relapse. So, I didn't tell anyone. I white-knuckled cravings, and then I relapsed. I look back so many times and wonder what would have happened if I had asked for help, opened up, or confided in someone as soon as the struggle began. But, I can't change that. However, what I can change is what I do from this point on.

I still struggle. I may go a few months and never think about using or have any cravings; and then I have a few days where they seem to come a mile a minute. That's how recovery is. It has ups and it has downs. It has easy days, and it has harder days. The days where I find myself with a desire to use do not make me weak. Rather, getting through those days without picking up makes me stronger.

How do I get through those days? I tell on myself. I try to stay real. Sometimes it's easier than others and sometimes I convince myself not to talk about it. The past couple weeks have been rough, and I found myself wanting to isolate rather than to open up. I made it through, and I eventually reached out.  And you know what I received in return?  Love, encouragement, and support. All I had to do was reach out. Sounds so simple, doesn't it?

Staying clean is hard. If it wasn't, everyone would be clean and sober. So, what I have learned is that I have to out myself at the first dangerous thought/behavior. Sometimes it's something one might consider 'silly'. Like cough medicine, perhaps. Yes, cough medicine. Last week I came down with one of the nasty bugs that has been spreading like wildfire. After feeling rough and coughing all evening, I decided to take a little bit of cough medicine before bed.  The thing is, I hadn't taken it in over two years.....not since the days of drinking whole bottles through a straw. I poured the liquid precisely to the two teaspoon line, making sure to not let one extra drop reach the cup. I swigged it down, and as soon as the bitterness hit my taste buds, my stomach churned...not necessarily because of the taste, rather more because of the memories associated with it. Somehow, that led to my brain craving a high, and I caught myself saying, "Well, I do feel sick...I should take some more." Luckily, at this point in the game, I'm pretty aware of when that part of me tries to start making decisions, and I shut her down with just a little bit of resistance.  That, however, does not mean that the thought completely and instantaneously disappeared.  It did not, but I continued to fight it, and I eventually reached out to a couple of my support people. I did the next right thing.

What I'm here to tell you is that you HAVE to tell on yourself and you can't wait until the needle/bottle/pill is in your hand. Tell at the first thought.  It's not an option. It holds you accountable and keeps you out of denial. If you are a recovering addict and you are struggling, tell someone! Message me and tell me. Tell your sponsor, accountability partner, or friend. Go to a meeting and speak out.

This doesn't just apply to drug addiction. If you clicked on that site you know you shouldn't have been on, tell someone. If you talked to that person you shouldn't have talked to, tell someone. If you ate that piece of cake you weren't supposed to eat, tell someone. If you are having trouble forgiving someone who hurt you, tell someone. If you blew your paycheck/maxed your credit card on yet another shopping spree, tell someone. If depression ruled your week and you didn't get out of bed for two days straight, tell someone. If you are sad yet pretend to be happy, tell someone. If grief is overwhelming you, tell someone. If your anger got the best of you and you cussed someone out in the Wal-Mart parking lot (hey, it happens), tell someone. Whatever it is.....tell someone.  Do me a favor and lose the phrase "I'm fine." If there is one phrase that will kill you, it's that one. If you have people who care enough about you to ask how you REALLY are, take advantage of that and tell them how you REALLY are. Let's face it, denying how we are feeling doesn't change our situation, it merely keeps us trapped there longer.

It's time to get real. Time to lose the facade. Time to quit trying to appear okay when you aren't. Time to destroy the mask. Because guess what? You will wear it straight to the grave.....and I'm not gonna hold your hand the whole way there. Let's get real, folks.

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