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Holiday Gratitude- Julie

I’ve always been a fan of gratitude lists, even when I’ve been a total slacker. I belong to an email list with other women in recovery and it’s so nice to send and receive lists, especially when I’m feeling fearful and/or entitled to something other than what God has given me. It’s also nice to be able to look back at old lists and see how much my gratitude has changed over the years. Here’s what I’m grateful for today.

Sobriety and Recovery
The women that saw through my bitchy exterior and loved every part of me until I could love myself
The opportunity to love you that way because they showed me how
Growth
Change
Willingness
Having a level of stability in my life today that I was sure I would never have.
My wonderful husband, especially on the days that I don’t feel worthy of him
God and His grace
This blog and all of the people that have supported it’s growth
Rachel, Lauren, Amy, Sara, Chris, and all of our guest posters
The awareness that I could not have done any of this without support
Love in all forms
Patience with myself and others today
Every mistake I’ve made along my journey and the lessons I’ve learned from them
Awareness that I would not be the woman I am today without them
Hope
The opportunity to spread it as far as this blog and its readers allow
Excitement about all that 2014 will bring
Process
Life
Every single one of you

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What are you grateful for today?

All I Want For Christmas Is My Son

There is always a week or two a year that I consider myself useless.  Everything I have worked so hard at and know to be true about myself is gone.  I forget it.  I forget how hard I’ve worked for the last six years.  I disregard the giving person I’ve become.  I cancel out every step I’ve taken in recovery.  I punish myself.

My husband and I have three children.  We are a family.  But our oldest has other parents too.  His biological father and stepmom live many states away.  He doesn’t see them often, but they are his family too.  As much as I absolutely hate to admit this…I wish that weren’t true.  Not because they suck.  Not because I hate them.
 
It’s because my son has to spend all of Christmas with them this year.  
 
I devote so much to him.  That’s because of the guilt.  My oldest son is the one who has seen me in my addiction.  He’s known me high, and drunk, and exhausted.  I left him to go to rehab.  I talk a pretty good game…boy do I talk a pretty good game.  But even after six years, six fucking years…I STILL haven’t forgiven myself for all of that.  I have become a really beautiful person, a person I would want to be friends with.  And yet, this week…the week before my son has to leave, I hate myself.  I hate that because two people got divorced, that a little boy has to deal with those consequences.  So, I do everything I possibly can to take on any of his stress.  I would wear it like a sign if I could.  I create a force field surrounding him.  Anything negative that hits it should have a funnel directly to me. I feel like I deserve it.  
 
I am always on edge before he leaves.  I never show him or tell him that.  He can’t know.  Any time I’m choking back tears this week, I don’t look at him.   When he asks a question while I’m having a tough moment I take a deep breath, clear my throat, put on my prettiest smile, look up, and move on.

I hold him tight the night before he leaves.  We usually have a good talk.  My pretty smile is out.  I let him know I’m going to miss him.  I just try not to overdo it.  We enthusiastically talk about what an AMAZING time he is going to have while he’s away.  He deserves that from me.  He deserves to hear me be happy for him.   He deserves to know that it is okay for him to be happy with his other family.  He deserves to have me calm any insecurity he has about missing  his brother and sister over Christmas…all while negative, anxious, and fearful thoughts get funneled to me.

When I finally have to say goodbye, I will struggle.  It will take everything I have not to sob and finally tell him how badly I want him to stay. “Please, don’t GO!  I want you to stay.  Please, please, stay here with us…with me.  I don’t want you to leave.  It’s never the same without you!”  Those words will want to come out, but I will never let them.  I will keep that pain in.  I will look at his beautifully innocent face and put on that smile.  He will know I am a little sad because that is the only moment I can’t fully fight the tears but, I don’t let them leave my eyes.   I look at him with complete conviction and a quivering lip (I will be completely pissed I can’t control that). “I love you and will miss you so much.  You will have a blast!!”  I keep my smile.  I know he knows I’m sad, but he has no idea how much.  Not until he disappears do I turn away and finally allow myself to let go.

This is my punishment.  It’s the reminder for what I did to him.   Every time he has to leave, I feel like God is trying to tell me that this is how it felt for my son when I left him.  Like, maybe he’s making sure I never forget so I don’t put my other two children through it. Yet, I recognize how selfish it is for me to think this is about ME.  It’s not about me!  It’s about him!  I’ve never wanted to write about this before or talk about it, because I hate that I still have this hovering.   It will all happen again the next time he has to leave and I will almost welcome it as my punishment.  And if I don’t fucking stop this, it might be the thing that rips me out of recovery.  I want to let this one thing go but, I just don’t know how.  I just don’t know how or if I can or, even scarier…if I want to and deserve to let it go.

I Am Not A “Junkie”

There are certain words I can’t bring myself to use. They are derogatory terms that describe a person’s race, religion, sexual preference, or country of origin. They are words that would make any person with a kind heart clutch their pearls up in arms at the use of such filthy and ignorant language.

I myself have used similarly ugly words to describe myself and my friends. “Drunk” (dry or otherwise,) “junkie”, “crackhead”, “stoner”, “dope fiend”, “pill popper”, and “coke head”. These words used to easily roll off my tongue when I was using, because at first it was funny to me. “I’m not an alcoholic, I’m a drunk. Alcoholics go to meetings, drunks go to bars.” I repeated that so often I had convinced myself that my situation was funny. It wasn’t. Those words were funny to me, but there was no way I would ever have called myself what I am.

I AM AN ADDICT.

Those four words were so shameful to me, but calling myself a “dope fiend” came easily. It still does sometimes. But I am not a dope fiend, no one is. I am an addict. We are addicts. There is nothing shameful about that. Last week, I heard a woman I adore who has been clean for years call herself a junkie. I was appalled. I asked her why she used that word. She told me she still feels like the junkie lurking in dark corners sometimes. I can relate to that. The disease of addiction still lurks in corners waiting for the perfect moment to jump out and rob me of everything. It still wants me to laugh at myself, before you get a chance to. The disease of addiction wants me to refer to myself in only derogatory terms, to keep that self-hatred in the forefront of my mind, because as long as it is, my next hit, drink, pill, or snort isn’t far behind it.

So, I am gonna work really hard to not use those ugly words for a while. I am gonna work really hard to see myself the way Julie sees me, or the way my 2-year old daughter sees me. Because while calling myself an addict no longer causes me shame, it doesn’t feel right to use those other words anymore. Being clean means I don’t have to shame myself anymore, and I certainly do not want to shame another addict into secrecy with my poor choice of words.

If You Give Me Wine For Christmas…

Sober Mommies If You Give Me Wine For ChristmasIt is no wonder this month is National Safe Toys and Gifts Month. Whether it should or shouldn’t, in our society Christmas often equals gifts. While my non-parent friends automatically think about Hamiltons from WatchShopping that they want someone else to get them, my head immediately goes where any parents would. Okay, Okay!! I should take a little more care when purchasing gifts for my kids. I will usually not buy certain things for my children if I can answer the following question with a “YES.” Have I seen it more than once on America’s Funniest Home Videos? I wish I were even slightly joking about that. When someone tells me they are getting a trampoline, I retort with a highly animated, “Don’t you ever watch America’s Funniest Home Videos?!?! Nothing good ever happens with trampolines, turkey fryers, or pinatas!!!”

But here is another thought. What about safe gifts for adults? Is it “safe” to gift every friend over 21 on your list a bottle of wine (note: alcohol completely falls under the America’s Funniest Home Videos test)? As a recovering addict and alcoholic, I’m sure it’s pretty obvious that I don’t want any form of alcohol for a gift…ever. But whose responsibility does that fall under? Is it the giver or the receiver of the gift?

I believe there is only one person who needs to understand my alcoholism and its impact… Me. For me to expect that everyone will know that I am a recovering alcoholic is absurd. For me to expect that everyone around me will never make a comment that might hurt my feelings or possibly make me uncomfortable is a pretty high and unreasonable expectation too. It is just not reality. So, if someone gives me a gift of alcohol wrapped in a pretty bow, it is up to me to handle it in whatever way is best for my soul. As much as I might want to say something like, “Hey Dumbass, it is completely shitty that you would tempt me to throw away EVERYTHING I have worked SO hard for in the last five years by handing me a bottle of liquid that could ruin my life and make me feel like I want to die. A simple card with a generic greeting and your signature would have been fine.” Instead, I take a deep breath…or twenty and recognize where the gift is coming from.

Gifts are about the thought. If someone is giving you something, it generally means they care. Depending on the circumstances, I would be completely comfortable not accepting it. A simple and honest, “Thank you for the gesture. I completely appreciate that you thought of me. I’m just not comfortable accepting a gift of alcohol because I don’t drink. Please feel free to give it to someone who may enjoy it.” Here’s the thing. If the other party is offended that I don’t want to accept it, that is out of my hands. Just like if I were offended that they purchased me alcohol. No one needs to be offended. Although I am generally very comfortable telling people I am in recovery, I do not have to. I don’t have to assume that everyone knows what it is like to be a recovering alcoholic, I just have to know how to handle the situation. If it is not in the best interest for my recovery to keep the bottle, then that is what I have to do. It is what I will do… as a gift to myself.

Photo credit: Dalboz17 via photopin cc” target=”_blank”>creativecommons.org

The Stigma Around Methadone Maintenance Treatment is Dangerous

My name is Adam and I am not a sober mom. I have, however, been working in the addiction field for more than a decade. Throughout these years I have worked in numerous types of treatment facilities. I have worked in residential detox programs, women’s shelters, teen programs, etc.

Since 2010, I have been working in the most discriminating and stigmatizing treatment around—methadone maintenance treatment.

For ten years of working in the field, I heard negative comments about methadone treatment. I was the worker who would not make referrals for this type of methadone maintenance treatment because of it.  I thought there was little recovery that happened at methadone clinics because I never heard about any. I never heard anyone advocating for the treatment so I figured it must be bad. In 2010 I decided to put aside the ten years of negativity and see for myself what this treatment is all about.

The first thing I noticed was the number of pregnant women at the methadone clinic. My first initial reaction was, “THAT.POOR.BABY.” After doing some research,  I found out that the National Institute for Drug Addiction (NIDA) suggests, a stable dose of methadone is actually safer for a fetus than one-time heroin use during pregnancy.

I started to actually learn about methadone with an open mind. After meeting with pregnant clients in the treatment, I learned about some of the real dangers associated with the surrounding stigma.

Every single one of my clients experienced negativity and judgment at their OBGYN appointments.

At the hospital while giving birth, women reported hearing comments made like, “Why don’t you just get off the methadone?”  In the middle of a pregnancy, unless promoting miscarriage, why would a medical professional recommend this sort of action? This is supposed to be one of the most wonderful days of their lives and instead of hearing, “Congratulations!” they’re receiving judgmental comments and looks from medical professionals!

A woman I know had a c-section and during the procedure the doctor cut the side of the baby’s face. When he was explaining what happened, he stated she was lucky he hadn’t cut the baby’s throat. Can you imagine? Would he have said this if the patient were not on methadone?

Another concerning comment, “Your baby is going to go through severe withdrawal.”  This concerns me because in my experience, every baby is different. I have seen some babies go home with mom, and I have seen some stay for three months. There is no way of predicting. I understand giving the women information, but not as a matter of fact, rather than a possibility.

Most of the negativity around methadone actually begins with treatment providers, then trickles down to the client experiences. Hearing our negative connotations when we offer methadone as an option. It’s no doubt that moms who are on methadone are put through the ringer during pregnancy and after.

Do our medical professionals know that the Department of Public Health for Massachusetts recommends methadone maintenance to moms who are pregnant? Even when they are six months sober, because of the high rate of relapse?

Our medical professionals go against state recommendations because they’ve stigmatized methadone treatment to moms. The result is judgment against the moms and poor recommendations from the professionals.

Methadone is the most regulated controlled substance in the state of Massachusetts. It is dispensed by medical professionals every day. Methadone is one of the more structured outpatient substance abuse programs around. People are unaware of the successes of this treatment because clients who are doing well do not always share because of the stigma surrounding it. People who are struggling on the clinic are obvious because they appear high. Everyone notices people who are high, but try to notice sober moms who are on the clinic. You can’t always because they look like others who are people who have not had addiction struggles. Therefore, we do not know about success stories in this treatment modality because of stigma, bottom line.

Today I am confident when I say that methadone has helped many people regain their humanness, rebuild their lives, and make the safe transition off of the treatment.

A few things in review:

  1. Few clients/moms feel comfortable sharing they are enrolled in methadone treatment.
  2. Lots of medical /addiction professionals are uneducated around methadone treatment. (I was)
  3. Massachusetts recommends moms who are pregnant to be enrolled in methadone treatment, even if sober for few months.
  4. Many clients first experience in treatment is met with a negative talk about methadone treatment which leads to ongoing false perception of the treatment
  5. All women have the right to be treated with respect and have their delivery day be a special one.

There are a lot of myths that haven’t been touched on in this and will be glad to in the near future. Just know that there is a lot more to it medically and clinically.

If you have questions, please leave them in the comments and I will happy to answer them or direct you to someone who can.