Category Archives: Drug addiction and recovery

Grieving the Desperation of Addiction

Grief has always seemed inaccessible to me. I haven’t wanted to feel the feelings of loss, desperation, helplessness, anger and shame. I’m not sure I’ve had much to grieve in my life. I’m pretty blessed. But, drug addiction in someone I love? That’s something worth grieving.

I think the chart sums up pretty well how I’ve gone about grieving. Depression, then the anger peeks out, then I decide the anger isn’t appropriate and I sink back into depression, then that pesky anger arises, and I tamp it down and find equilibrium in depression. The addiction issues arose even before my loved one actually started using drugs. And the denial was strong with me.

I grew up believing there wasn’t anything I couldn’t do. I had dreams of going to the Olympics for track and field. I thought I was going to be a psychologist who would pretty much cure my patients with a wise look. I believed my life would and should be smooth. I had an illusion of being in control of everything. HA.

When I had to face the fact of NOT being omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent, that. rocked. my. world. Talk about building your house on a foundation of sand. I had looked that sand over, proclaimed it solid as anything you’d ever want, and proudly built my entire edifice stone by stone, belief by belief, on that shifting, undependable base.

Apparently I didn’t get the memo that other people were not going to follow my prescribed plan for them. And by other people, I of course mean our children. Nope. They have their own dreams, their own plans, their own illusions of control. Who knew? Not I. And when my house started to crumble, I ran around shoring up this corner, applying useless repairs to that loadbearing wall, and imagining that my fixes were helping something.

But as time went on, I didn’t have enough hands to fix all the leaks and shore up all the crumbling parts. When the concept of illegal drug usage by my child came into my awareness, I simply could not comprehend what I was hearing. Surely it was a passing phase. Surely this child would be like me as a child and reject these illegal substances and activities. Surely this child would find his way in just a matter of minutes to a more wholesome, life-affirming way.

Instead, he found his way to addiction, arrest, jail, court, rehab, and lied about it all.

Along the way, I learned that me continually trying to fix this edifice I had erected was actually called “enabling.” Enabling is when you engage in behaviors that you think are going to help resolve a problem, and instead they exacerbate the problem. I think mothers are particularly susceptible to this. After all, we had this grown up addict in our wombs. We nursed them as babies. We held them and sang to them and walked slowly, seeing the world through their eyes.

Since his rehab days, two mothers I met there are grieving the permanent loss of their sons. Heroin is a horrible, horrible drug. Probably the rest of them are, too, but that heroin is the spectre of death disguised as a good time. I’ve been thrilled with every positive step our son has made toward recovery, toward sobriety, toward wholeness.

This is a child who loves his mama. He hates to see me sad. He grieves when he feels he has disappointed me. But no matter, NO MATTER, what I have ever said or done, it has not been enough to puncture the impenetrable wall of his grief and pain. Drugs have been enough, at least for short periods, but they of course have their problems as well.

To my utter bemusement, I have continued to speak affirmation, love, acceptance, and life, and he has continued to reject them for the short-term solace of an artificial high. Perhaps if I had ever been addicted, I would understand. I think I have a tiny window into the concept in how I have dealt with food at times. Someone thinks eating this food will eventually kill me? I don’t care! I want it now! Addiction is a liar and a thief and will not hesitate to take everything from you and those you love. Addiction also makes you a liar and a thief which then just perpetuates the problems. You get deeper and deeper into owing others for their attempts at mercy and grace. And while you’re getting deeper, you make choices that get you in even deeper.

We were under the impression that drug use was in the past. Denial is so easy to embrace. You want so badly to believe that the things you are seeing mean something other than that drugs are back in the picture. With our rosy glasses on, we chose to provide something to him, but this time, we said, would be the last. We wrote up a contract for repayment and behavioral expectations and consequences that would be real if he did not follow through on what he signed on for.

About a month after we all signed the agreement, at the end of December, I was presented with incontrovertible evidence that the agreement had been broken, that the lying was going on regularly, and that nothing we had said or done was enough to beat the lure of the drugs.

To his credit, he fulfilled his end of the agreement by moving out immediately. And this time, I knew that he had burned some serious bridges. I still love him and I always will. I no longer see it as my job to convince him that life without drugs is better than life with drugs. Nor am I trying to convince him of how valuable he is, how brilliant, how talented, how gifted, how beautiful, and how loved.

I’ve given up the last vestiges of imagining I have any control in the situation. So after years of the depression/anger/depression cycle, I have found some sort of acceptance. IT’S SO HARD THOUGH. I know that some addicts find their way out, and some do not. I long for him to find his way out of addiction permanently, to find a way of life that is fulfilling and brings his brilliance and his gifts to the world. And I’m at a place where I realize that HE is going to have to drive the vehicle of his own autonomy and agency on his own path.

The resources are there. He’s smart and has the capacity to be resourceful and creative. But those first steps of humbling himself, acknowledging the stumbling, coming to the end of his illusion of control, finding and celebrating the things he actually can control and then controlling them, taking responsibility, beginning to make amends for the damage he has caused to himself and others; the resources are there. He has what it takes, but he will have to be the one to discover that for himself.

The portrayal of the stages of grief here are misleading in their symmetry and equal length, but accurate in the content of each of the phases. I’m at the junction of dialogue/bargaining and acceptance and I’m experiencing empowerment, security, self-esteem and meaning more and more. I wish the same for my beautiful boy. ♥

Star Wars, Oh My Heart

You don’t have to be a fan of Star Wars to read this post. But if you do happen to intend to see the movie and haven’t, there WILL BE spoilers in here. One can’t really write about this movie without giving some things away.

I think I remember seeing the very first Star Wars in the theater. I definitely remember watching the first three at different times at movie nights at Wheaton. We would all gather in the chapel and watch a movie on a really big screen. Reminder: this was pre-I-can-watch-whatever-whenever-wherever days. Our options to watch a movie included going to the theater, and . . . oh, that was it. So, Wheaton offered regular movie nights for the student body, which were quite fun.

The hype surrounding movies these days is something to behold. Even I knew months ago that December 18 was the opening day for this latest installment in the Star Wars franchise. I figured I would see it, but I wasn’t on the edge of my seat in anticipation.

Here’s the thing I wasn’t expecting. I related to a character who was the mother of someone who had chosen the Dark Side. Although not intended, I’m sure, the son who had chosen the Dark Side was a perfect picture of an addict, culminating in this line of dialogue: “I’m being torn apart. I want to be free of this pain. I know what I have to do but I don’t know if I have the strength to do it. Will you help me?”

I had already started boohooing earlier in the film. When Han and Leia saw each other for the first time in the movie, I had such a deep sense of awareness of time having passed, of having been my young naive self when the first movie came out in 1977, and seeing these same characters, who had grown older just like I have grown older, brought the tears.

I will definitely see this movie again in the theater, maybe even more than once. I haven’t seen a movie over 2 hours in I don’t know how long that kept my attention like this one did. So, yes, I recommend it highly, to anyone who has an appreciation for the first three Star Wars movies. Do you remember Luke, Leia, and Han from a time when you “wore a younger [wo]man’s clothes” (to quote Billy Joel)? I do and I loved it.

Beauty in the Midst of Ashes

Here i sit in the anteroom of the Justice Center, waiting for my beautiful child who has lost his way I trust is finding his way.

I heard this song this morning and it captures perfectly the beauty that is here in the midst of the pain.


I pray you’ll be our eyes,
and watch us where we go
And help us to be wise,
in times when we don’t know
Let this be our prayer,
when we lose our way
Lead us to a place,
guide us with your grace
To a place where we’ll be safe.

La luce che tu hai
I pray we’ll find your light
Nel cuore resterà
And hold it in our hearts
A ricordarci che
When stars go out each night
L’eterna stella sei
Nella mia preghiera
Let this be our prayer
Quanta fede c’è
When shadows fill our day
Lead us to a place
Guide us with your grace
Give us faith so we’ll be safe

Sogniamo un mondo senza più violenza
Un mondo di giustizia e di speranza
Ognuno dia la mano al suo vicino
Simbolo di pace, di fraternità

La forza che ci dà
We ask that life be kind
È il desiderio che
And watch us from above
Ognuno trovi amor
We hope each soul will find
Intorno e dentro a sé
Another soul to love
Let this be our prayer
Let this be our prayer
Just like every child
Just like every child

Needs to find a place,
guide us with your grace
Give us faith so we’ll be safe

È la fede che
Hai acceso in noi
Sento che ci salverà.

This post is not about immigrants


I was just minding my own business looking at the business of my Facebook friends, when I saw this quote:

“In the first place we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here does in good faith become an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with every one else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed or birthplace or origin. But this is predicated upon the man’s becoming in very fact an American and nothing but an American.

“If he tries to keep segregated with men of his own origin and separated from the rest of America, then he isn’t doing his part as an American.

“We have room for but one flag, the American flag, and this excludes the red flag which symbolizes all wars against liberty and civilization just as much as it excludes any foreign flag of a nation to which we are hostile. We have room for but one language here and that is the English language, for we intend to see that the crucible turns our people out as Americans, and American nationality, and not as dwellers in a polyglot boarding house; and we have room for but one soul [sic] loyalty, and that is loyalty to the American people.”5

This is an actual quote from Teddy Roosevelt, not in 1907 as the Facebook post asserted, but in 1919, according to Snopes, and with a link to an actual copy of the letter. Before I get to the reason I quoted this letter, let’s just note that the actual letter doesn’t have Theodore Roosevelt’s signature or name anywhere on it. So, I can’t prove Theodore Roosevelt wrote this.

I spent the hours of 8am – 215pm today in the process of getting to court, sitting on the hard benches for hours and hours and hours, watching my son get handcuffed and taken to jail, and then coming back home. What a revolving door that jail has.

The reason I am posting the above is not because of immigrants. It is because of people who use drugs. This is how I would rewrite this to illustrate my thinking after my time in court this morning:

“In the first place, we should insist that if the junkie who gets sober does in good faith become a person who is committed to recovery and assimilates himself into the behaviors, habits, and decisions that reflect true recovery, he shall be treated just as a non-drug user. But this is predicated upon the addict’s becoming in very fact a non-drug user and nothing but a non-drug user.

If the addict tries to keep segregated with others who are either recovering or active addicts and keeps himself away from those who are in long-time recovery or even those who aren’t addicts in the first place, then he isn’t doing his part as a recovering addict.

We who do not use drugs have room for but one stance on drugs; do not use. We have room for but one language here, and that is the language of recovery, for we intend to see that the crucible of drug court and rehab turns out people who are CLEAN, who are in ongoing recovery, and not as dwellers in some non-specific wishy-washy boarding house where the boarders continue with the habits, thinking patterns, and choices that brought them to drug court in the first place. We have room for but one sole loyalty: loyalty to recovery.”

I’ve been to Courtroom 500 enough times now that I am getting familiar with some of the defendants. And even for the ones I do not know, the stories are familiar. “dirty drop,” “missed urine test,” “failed to report for probation check-in,” “got another charge having to do with drugs, OVI, DUI, driving on a suspended license, failure to control a motor vehicle.” Of the men who were in rehab with Eli, two overdosed this past weekend, and four more were in court today for various offenses.

Drug Court is a great idea, but I would love to see men and women only admitted to Drug Court if they demonstrated a desire for recovery, not just a desire to avoid a felony. And by demonstrated a desire for recovery, I mean they SHOW by their ACTIONS a willingness to BECOME A NON-DRUG USER.

What would some of those actions be?

  1. Submit a written overview of their financial situation. Include photocopies of bank statements, wage garnishment orders, credit card statements, letters from creditors.
  2. Show someone in charge their cell phone contacts, and explain who each and every one is. Make lists of the ones who bring out the best, and the ones who pander to the worst version of the addict. Delete immediately anyone who is part of the drug life.
  3. Be willing to answer to the best of their ability questions about their family situation, their own understanding of why they use drugs, their own words about why they wish to become a non-user, and a personal mission statement regarding the intentions for recovery and how they plan to fulfill those intentions.
  4. Create, with help, a plan for how to pick up the pieces when the addict fails in any particular area. Everyone makes progress at different rates, and relapse is nothing to be ashamed of, but it’s also nothing to ignore or take lightly.

And before any one of the above actions is required, the staff crafts a mission statement on what it means to be trustworthy. Without trust, relationships cannot be repaired. The leaders in rehab and recovery must have an extremely clear description of and reason for being trustworthy, if they expect addicts to trust them.

Give each addict a week or two to get into the recovery process and get the drugs out of their system, but then get serious about recovery.

Other things that need desperately to be addressed with these men and women:

  1. The importance of creating and living by a personal conduct code which includes being in integrity. Oh, they don’t come from a world where people are in integrity? Well, fine. Teach them how to do it no matter where they come from.
  2. Helping them discover why they might want to learn how to do what they say they are going to do, or not make promises they cannot keep.
  3. How to take care of their physical bodies. Why it matters what you eat. What sleep does for you. What a lack of sleep does to you. This doesn’t have to be polemic or political. Treat them like the intelligent people that most of them are; give them the data. Let them make their own decisions, but also help them be clear about why they are making those particular decisions.
  4. Why it might be possible to believe that there could be something better than taking the easy way. Structure the rehab or recovery program so that they have opportunities to do the hard things for reasons other than they might get kicked out.
  5. Release the punishment mentality and get into a reinforcement mentality so addicts learn what POSITIVE things get them reinforcement. What I have seen is that the worst guys get the most attention; the bad behaviors make the biggest splash; and everyone is focused all the time on catching the addict doing something wrong.

I tried to do these things in my own situation. I taught about taking care of oneself, being willing to do the hard things, doing what you say you are going to do, and lots more, but without a clear demonstration by a person that they do want to be in recovery, the same attitudes and actions recur again and again.

YEAH, I KNOW hella addicts use because of personal pain, often times pain they aren’t even able to articulate. So what? We all have personal pain, and we all deal with it in different ways. For the addict, it is true that if they are in drug court, they have chosen a path that is going to lead either to prison or to death. That is where drugs lead. Of course I realize there is some percentage of users who use without getting into legal trouble and who use while maintaining a life that they want. But the VAST majority of users are not in that situation.

“Fake it till you make it” and “Attitude follows action” are two of the most powerful concepts I know of that advocate for doing the right thing before you feel like doing the right thing.

My basic gripe with the system is that it perpetuates situations where people will comply with rules only because they are punished. People who use drugs can’t even comply with the rules under threat of punishment because they don’t have anything else to think about or do that seems remotely as appealing as getting high. So when is “the system” going to look at helping these men find something that is remotely as appealing as getting high?

Although education is incredibly important for addicts, it isn’t enough to know the steps that happen before you use. It isn’t nearly enough to say the words without meaning them. (exception: fake it till you make it means that sometimes we keep trying to get there by saying the words and doing the deeds until we really feel it) It isn’t enough to have a few minutes of different experience where you feel the positive vibes that come from saying thank you instead of taking things for granted.

How in the world the court personnel come to work day after day and say the same words to the same people over and over again, I do not know. How I can make a difference in the life of even one addict, I do not know. Tell me where the arena is and I’ll get into it. But don’t just expect me to get in the ring with the lion who has no intention whatsoever of doing anything other than biting me in half.

Hours on a hard bench in a courtroom are never fun. Knowing that I am there for an entirely preventable reason can make me irritated and angry.

Of course there are no easy answers to these questions, but maybe there are some simple adjustments we could make if only we could find the leadership to do it. How can I be part of that leadership? Believe me, I’m thinking about that question.


Thoughts from this side of Recovery

Talk about unoriginal! I must be the millionth parent who has stepped right into the trap of working their loved one’s recovery way harder than the loved one does.

There was a point in this process when I was desperate, when I didn’t know if I would ever see the door close behind me regarding drugs and all the chaos that go along with them. During that climb up the hill of trying so hard to make everything better, I HAD to share my feelings.

The first time being in the courtroom, thinking MY son was different, thinking that *I* had resources and experiences and education that the other parents didn’t have, and therefore *I* would be able to effect a different outcome for my son. (Poor little maroon, as Bugs would say.)

However true it may be that I have resources and experiences and education THAT lady over there doesn’t have, it’s really not about my resources, experiences and education, except from the point of view that I have to work MY OWN recovery using those resources, experiences, and education.

Then came the big R, REHAB. Again, you’ll excuse me if my optimism and naivete stayed intact during that process. I secretly thought that if I just said the right words, thought the right thoughts, provided the right provisions, asked the right askings, and boundaried the right boundaries, MY son would come into his own as the beautiful, talented, articulate man that he is.

All is not lost. I will not share the details at this time so as to protect the privacy of my family, which I haven’t really worked too hard to protect in the process of blogging. My purpose in writing today is to acknowledge that I had a “come to not Jesus” moment over the course of this past week when I really realized I am working WAY harder on this than my loved one is.

In seeking to discover what it means to respect his journey and his path, I have to be less “nice” than I am inclined to be. I have been picking up the slack in an area for him and told him last night that I would no longer do that thing, but that I would still be glad to help if he asked for it. He did not ask and the consequences were just as I expected they would be. (Maybe that’s another post in itself, looking at what I am expecting from him if I’m not there to guide his every step.)

The hardest thing in the world is to watch someone who doesn’t believe in themselves repeatedly reject offerings of love and opportunities for empowerment. And yet, that someone is in charge of their own life. I AM NOT IN CHARGE of anyone else’s life.

I am writing today partly to acknowledge myself for sticking to what I said I would[n’t] do. It is healthy for me to respect the person and allow them to walk their own path their own way.

This is an unsettled place to be for me, but I believe it is the right place to be.

Huh, upon closer examination, it looks like I am actually RAPPELLING off the mountain.


Yours very truly,

Ninja in Recovery

Eli Writes

(I, Susan, am sorry for the delay! My last post indicated that I would post this the following day, but the Life River was just roaring by too fast for me to find a rock to climb up on and take the time to put this up.) So, without further ado …

So it’s 18 months later and here I am, beginning IOP all over again.

For the third time.

Essentially, our dear revered Honorable Judge got sick of me dropping dirty for opiates on my drug tests and remanded me to the custody of the Talbert House.

Now, 104 days later, I’m clean and sober for the longest stretch of time since…well…oh, 2010 or so. I will never forget the fateful day around 4 years ago where I peered in the medicine cabinet at our house and perused the pharmaceuticals, pausing at the label which boldly proclaimed “HYDROCODONE/ACETAMINOPHEN 7.5/325.” I remember scrolling through posts singing its infinite praises, and I figured anything that commanded as much of an austere religiosity as a pill had to be worth checking out. I still wonder what made me pop 3 of them into my mouth, merrily guzzling down a glass of water and retreating to my room with my girlfriend.

Oh, what a night it was! I remember saying to her, “if there is a heaven, now I know what it feels like.” We watched movie after movie, although we were much too distracted to pay one second of attention to the screen. We had passionate, deep conversations, opened up more to each other than either of us had done with anyone in our entire lives. I felt no judgement from her, no shame, no pain, no guilt, no inherent feeling that there was something wrong with me. I breathed many sweet, slow sighs of relief that night. I was home. All the self-loathing and paroxysms of rage escaped out of my spirit that night in a cleansing that absolutely felt like the purest baptism the New Testament had to offer.

There are no visions driven by hyperbole in my accounts, no attempt to sweeten the other side of the grass or exaggerate what the drugs did for me. As soon as I experienced that particular high on that particular night, I was utterly hooked.

The remaining 20 or so in the bottle (from a leftover dental surgery) were gone within the next 24 hours, and from then on I purchased painkillers whenever I could. I would pay $1/mg for those little white and yellow pills, which meant oftentimes I would pay upwards of $80 to be high for 6 hours. They fulfilled my desires and needs instantaneously, wholly, magnificently. I would go weeks on end beaming from ear to ear, driven by the tantalizing promise of more painkillers.

Pills did to me something that I don’t think they do to everyone. They didn’t numb my emotions (at least, not at first). They didn’t disorient me. They didn’t even make me throw up (the #1 side effect of opiates). They made me feel emotions more strongly, like I was more connected to the universe around me than ever before. They made me notice the little, beautiful things in life, and with my newfound vision colors would actually look vibrant, sound held a mellifluous facet. It was like the world around me was opened up, and without the aid of anything messy like therapy, meditation or education I simply was flung into a gorgeous, boundless universe and instantly became the person I wanted to be. Opiates gave me energy and made me sociable. I was a better salesman, a better student, a better son. Eli 2.0 was born the night I swallowed those Vicodin for the first time.

A year went by and painkillers got too expensive. The $1/mg deal absolutely wrung me out like a dishcloth, but I wasn’t ready to give up the experience. Far from it. I didn’t know if I ever would be ready. Browsing the internet one day I found a forum where one could contact people in one’s area for connections to drugs. After several weeks of communication, I decided to meet up with someone in the inner city area to try some heroin, as it appeared to be much cheaper and, according the all-knowing internet, it was essentially the exact same thing that came in my little round tablets, only not regulated by the FDA (this wound up to be much more of a significant factor than I remembered).

I drove my parents’ minivan down the road to meet with someone I knew only online who called himself Devon (names changed). My friend Brad and I went, having no idea how dangerous of an idea it was to set up a heroin deal online with a stranger then pick them up in my parents’ car.

Unfortunately, the deal went swimmingly, without Michael Phelps anywhere in sight. Devon couldn’t have been nicer and all he asked was for a pack of cigarettes in exchange for getting me heroin. I let him leave the car with $200 and he came back with the drugs and two syringes, warning me about the dangers of shooting. I actually listened to him and gave the syringes back, we dropped him off and drove back to loveland. I felt proud I had rejected the needle (a “junkie” thing, it seemed to me) and I was just snorting my heroin.

Well, most people know the rest. As soon as that vinegar-tinted scent hit my nostrils I recoiled a bit but soldiered through, and barely 10 minutes later I was so high I couldn’t see straight.

I absolutely loved it.

The next year is a blur. I was high all the time and only avoided getting addicted to heroin physically by switching drugs every few days – heroin, cocaine, ecstasy, and LSD was generally my weekly menu. The new world I stumbled into was glorious and I couldn’t get enough.

One night I snorted my third line of heroin and didn’t wake back up. My girlfriend at the time called the police and they brought me back with Narcan. I caught my first charge, a felony possession of heroin, in my boxers in my bedroom at home.

The next year was a mess of therapists, court, outpatient programs and failed attempts to get clean. Shortly after I turned 18 I got kicked out of my house, and since all my friends had either left me to my drug obsession or gone to prison or died, I lived in a hotel for several weeks where I stopped my heart again (doing too much heroin again), attempted a breaking and entering, and stayed drunk all day because my existence was too miserable to be sober. I was arrested for the first time at a Red Roof Inn in late August of 2014. This was when I got my first taste of jail.

If drugs were my newfound heaven, jail was my newfound hell. Sleeping on a bitterly cold concrete floor that threatened to sap every extra Fahrenheit out of my already frail body was beyond miserable. I ate and I slept and I waited to get out so i could go get high again.

Long story short, the narcotics I fell in love with destroyed everything about me, both internally and externally. I became selfish and self-centered, caring only about how those around me could benefit me or how I could squeeze more money out of them. Fed up with me, my family shipped me off to Houston where I spent 43 days struggling mightily to get a handle on my addiction before leaving early and getting high the first day i came back

I went though all kinds of shit because of drugs, enough to fit 10 blog posts. I am so happy I am free from them today. I work a program, as well as a job I absolutely love. I have community service, AA meetings, court classes, and court dates to stay on top of. I have recovering friends who all come from as crazy of background as I do. I’m having fun again, and my love for video games and passion for cinematography have returned in full force.

I’m planning on going back to school to start a career and learn about what I love. I have a huge buffer around me in the form of my family, friends and sponsor. I feel free for the first time since I took that first drug in 2011. It’s not always easy today, but today i don’t feel like I have to take that first drug. I’m not so enamored with the idealistic perception I had of opiates anymore because I’ve seen where they take me,and I don’t ever want to go back.

I’ll leave you with a before and after picture of myself. When my little brother saw these pictures of me looking absolutely withered, he ran to my mother to ask her to comfort me. Even he could see what misery was hidden behind my eyes. I’m glad I don’t have to take pictures like that anymore.

Here I am now:


Courtroom D, November 19, 2015


Last time we were in this courtroom was July 3, 2015. Eli had been having periodic appearances to update the judge on his community service “progress” and to “pay” on his fines. He was in active addiction and those things just weren’t getting done. Long story short, his next court date was continued because he had entered inpatient treatment.

He was concerned that the judge might decide to put him in jail for not having completed the community service or finished paying off the fines. As we sat waiting for the judge, I leaned over to him and said “Go up there with the energy of imagining that he is going to say, ‘You’re doing a good job, Eli, keep up the good work.'”

When the judge walked in, my heart sank. I had seen this guy in action. He had told a defendant once that her court fines were to be treated like taxes and had to be paid before anything else. This was in response to her comment that she had used the money she had to get her water turned back on. When I saw him, I lost my head a bit and leaned over and warned Eli that this guy is pretty strict, thereby reactivating all of Eli’s worry about the outcome.

The judge called Eli up to the stand. Asked how many hours he had left, how much he was paying on his fines today, and how much he could pay in 30 days. And then he said, “You’re doing a good job, Eli, keep up the good work.” LOL! It was completely not what I was thinking he would ever tell Eli! But I loved it that he did.

Tune in tomorrow! I will be putting up a new post by Eli.


THIS is What Recovery Looks Like

Eli has been home from in-patient rehab for one week now. I love having him home, especially since he obviously is in a VERY different place than he was when he went in a few months ago.

Today, he asked if I could help him with some gas money. He’s in the process of starting new jobs, and so is more dependent until he starts getting paid. We are glad to help him get back on his feet. I handed him $40 and off he went.

As soon as he left, I was gripped with this panic and fear about having given him cash. But instead of judging myself for that, I just texted him and told him that I was feeling a need to be reassured that the money was actually going for gas.

He sent me pictures and videos to reassure me. They made me laugh, and I asked if I could share them. He is so much fun to be around and these pics and vids show what a creative, cool guy he is.

He sent me “Reassurance exhibit A:” empty gas tank.

2015-11-06 19.06.57

Reassurance exhibit B:

Reassurance exhibit C:

And finally,

2015-11-06 19.07.28

I am so glad I am not judging myself. I am so glad he can prove in a fun way that he is using the money like he said he would. I am so glad we can share the fun of this and text about it and allow the process to strengthen our relationship.

Eli Writes!

Addiction is the result of a fundamental rejection of self. The essay I read makes this claim, and I tend to agree. Because I thought that there was something horribly wrong with me, drugs were a great alternative to experiencing reality. When I started taking painkillers, I thought I had found my answer. They fulfilled so many needs simultaneously that I couldn’t see not taking them. They did too much for me.

One reason I loved pills so much was because they made me feel like I could connect with people on a deeper, much more intimate level. It’s easy to open up on opiates and feel incredible amounts of empathy and compassion. While others commonly report pills make them numb to feelings, I’ve always had the opposite experience. Opiates enhance my feelings like I’m on ecstasy. They don’t make me dead to the world — I feel like I’m living for the first time, living life as it’s supposed to be. Colors are more vibrant. People are more beautiful. Every texture is luxuriously comfortable and every conversation, no matter how mundane, is a treasure. They’s why they’re so hard to quit.

Even when I’m off narcotics, my addictive behavior remains. Nicotine, caffeine, video games, music, reading — I’ve always seem to go to one extreme or the other. Being so unhappy for most of my life, I like to take things that make me feel good and do them until I’m forced to quit. I do it with the internet. I do it with spending money on things I don’t really need. I drink three Nos’ to get energy instead of one, and I spend my checking account until the balance is below $10.

While I’ve been here, I’ve learned that heroin isn’t my main problem. My main problem is me. And when you think about it, it makes sense. Only someone as consumed with self-loathing as I am self-sabotages and burns themselves out as much as I do.

One of my biggest fears is of everything good coming to an end. When I was 12 or 13 I remember one rainy day when I was wrestling over the idea of a Creator. My mother told me she no longer believed in Christianity, and I panicked. Knowing the extent of my parents’ intelligence, I knew that if they believed in God, he must be real. That belief was not faith in God, but in my parents, and I clung to it despite my demented thoughts that I would go to hell. When my mother told me she had rejected this fire-and-brimstone perception of God, my rock was shattered. I asked her what happens when we die. She had a beautifully devastating answer. “All good things must come to an end.”

Of course, my mother’s intention was the opposite of malevolent. She was simply being real with me and I treasure that both then and now. But as the rain drizzled against our windowpane and the steady hum of the furnace filled my ears on this particular morning, I was once again struck by this haunting, aching, heartbreaking sadness. The sadness that went beyond my mood, beyond my tears. A sadness without discernible origin. A black, hellish gulf that swallowed me up inside and out, rending me into a million pieces, suffocating me until I felt that the very fabric of my soul would rip apart with the agony of it all. I shook in my mother’s embrace, paroxysms of grief thundering through me while I struggled to find a foothold in a safe reality, a reality with definites, with purpose.

As the risk of sounding melodramatic or overly stricken with obnoxiously teen angst, this is literally how I felt every day for years. This is how I thought, and though I can’t tell you why, I can say for certain it’s a huge reason why I started using chemicals. It seemed, I used to think, like school, career, friends didn’t matter — it’d all come to an end, anyway. The effect that had on me as I went through 3rd grade, 4th grade, all the way through 11th grade — was unthinkable. I was constantly paralyzed by an icy terror that filled every ounce of my being, leaving nothing but a desperation to find and to receive love.

To deal with the perils of moving to public school when I was previously homeschooled was honestly difficult enough. When you threw in a demonic source of horrific thoughts and infinite mourning, the problem was compounded. I think this is what non sufferers of clinical depression sometimes don’t understand. I probably spent nearly a decade waking up every day and either feeling like my dog died or feeling like my mom died.

Don’t get me wrong. There were good days. I loved playing soccer, and when I reached optimum speed on the field the wild joy that encompassed me made me feel as though I could fly. I received love from my parents and I had a paper route that I enjoyed. I loved colors, the feeling of sand between my toes, cupping small animals in my hands in delight and showing anyone who would listen my prize. I loved to glide through swimming pools like a dolphin, the cold water penetrating every pore, reminding me that I was alive. I remember my father reading Tolkien novels to us at night, my siblings and I munching contentedly on cinnamon toast and burying ourselves in pillows.

There doesn’t seem to be an obvious reason that I am the only one of five to become a drug addict, but I think I’m figuring out some facts of it. This guilt, shame and grief that has plagued me for years is not something I would wish on my worst enemy. When I figured out there was something like a pill or a powder that could take that all away?

Forget physical dependency. I was hooked ever since i took those 3 vicodin when I was 16. Nothing more important. Even 2 overdoses seemed preferable to feeling those feelings. I sometimes thought I would prefer death.

Today I have been clean for 47 days. I am learning to be assertive instead of passive. I am learning to be optimistic instead of pessimistic. I am learning to live life on life’s terms, and perhaps most importantly, today I am willing to accept my relative lack of control. The only pills I take are prescribed and monitored by a physician to help my brain’s chemistry stay in balance. I have dreams that seem worth pursuing. I still have a loving family who stands behind me. I am still filled with love and passion. Today I am learning to how live. Today I don’t have to be high to feel life is worth living.

Eli Writes!

It is day 33 — or maybe 34 — and the rainclouds outside cast an oppressive mask over the parking lot. Caffeine from this morning’s steaming coffee has drained out of my system and I feel sleepy and melancholy.

I spent three hours earlier today picking up trash on the street with five other clients from this place. It was my first time stepping outside in nearly three weeks. Observing the urban landscape I was reminded today why we aren’t allowed to come and go at a whim. Dope boys roll around every corner, absurdly flashy twenty-two inch rims and distorted bass announcing their presence from half a mile away. Prostitutes blow kisses from filthy alleyways and liquor beckons from every storefront. It all makes me relieved to be locked down on the third floor of my rehab, free from the allure of Cincinnati’s grimiest attractions.

Since my “best” choices tend to get me nearer jails, institutions and death than I care to be, something drastic had to happen. Even during the worst days here, I feel genuinely grateful that I’m here instead of prison, which is where most of society would probably place me if given the authority.

It’s an odd environment, really, 21 men living together and trying to achieve better lives with each other’s help. There’s a natural camaraderie that pervades most aspects of life in rehab. After all, we’re all fuck-ups. Broken, bloodied and demoralized past the point of return for the average citizen, we’re all currently trying to make the best of the second, or third, or fourth, or fifth chance.

The interesting part is had I never used drugs, i would have never been interested or been drawn to any of these people, and yet I seem to keep forging friendships that surpass the ones I have had for five+ years. Empathy and relatability are crucial for me, and most days there’s a decent amount to be found up here. Some days I feel curiously alone. Some days I feel more lifted up by those around me than I’ve felt in years. The hardest part is the extreme contrast between each day.

The neurotransmitters and receptors in my brain are constantly shifting irritably, buzzing furiously like a horde of wasps defending their nest. The result is a nice, fat dose of bi-polar. I think about fifty times a day I say to myself “oh, yeah, this is why I did drugs.” About an equal amount of times sweeps through the thought, “and this is why I want to stop.”

Well so far so good. I’ve been clean and entirely sober for 41 days now. When’s the last time that happened? I honestly couldn’t tell you. Probably about four years ago. As you can probably guess, I’m still pretty happy to be in this place. I think it probably saved my life. And I really am so thankful to have yet another chance to make a life worth living, making choices I can be proud of. This can be that time if I want it to be. I don’t ever have to use again, and just for today — NA’s favorite mantra — that’s a relief.