SHARE THE HOPE

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Yesterday I celebrated my 2 year Anniversary with my family and friends. It was a very special occasion and one that I will not forget anytime soon.

The room was packed with friends from the fellowship, my sponsor and friends from out of town. I was also blessed to be able to have my Mother in attendance along with my girlfriend. This year although it is only my second anniversary was special.

My relationship with my mother has been estranged, strained and basically non existent for years. I wasn’t the best son and I recognize and take ownership for the part that I played in our troubled relationship. I’ve shared about it on several occasions and received plenty of suggestions and encouragement. I am grateful for the people in the fellowship who always told me to hold on things will get better. I held on to hope because of them. I began to believe that things would eventually work out because of them.

Today our relationship is growing. It’s not all milk and cookies or suddenly magically delicious but at least we have communication and that is a start. I’ve been here before and I understand her caution. I will let her have her healing process. I’m not going anywhere. I’m just thankful that she showed up to see what it is that I am doing to maintain my recovery. Showing some interest means a lot to me. I couldn’t ask for anything more at this point. I’m cool with that.

Over all. My life is wonderful. It just keeps getting better and better.

Thank you to all you mothers out there that shared your stories with me. You have helped me to understand what it must have been like for my mother dealing with me and my addiction. It’s because of you that I was able to take a deeper look at myself and accept responsibility for my actions. I am grateful to you all.

A View from the Other Side

Guest Blogger Nadine H. Shares her story. You can visit her website at..
http://www.virtuallynadine.com

Hi, my name is Nadine and I am the wife of a former alcoholic and addict, sibling to a sister who is a former addict and brother who lost his battle with alcoholism. I’ve shared parts of my story through my writing before, but this is the first time I am sharing so much more of my story and I think it’s time.

My Family Story

There may be a genetic component to alcoholism in my family, but, to be honest, I’m not sure. I know that there is alcoholism on both sides; both my paternal grandfather and my aunt on my mother’s side suffered from it, as well as some cousins. As for the drug addiction, I’m not aware of any drug users in the family, so I’m not sure where that comes from.

I’ll start with my brother because that will be the shortest part of my story since I’m still not ready to deal with this yet; I know I have to, but I’m not quite ready. I’ll summarize by saying that out of a family of 5 children, my brother was the only boy and he was the oldest. I idolized my brother; he always made me laugh and taught me so much. When he lost his battle with alcoholism before his 50th birthday, a part of me died with him and I will never, ever get over his loss. He used to always greet me with “hey sis!” with that smile in his voice and it rips my heart wide open knowing I will never hear that again. I know I can never fully heal until I properly grieve my brother, but I’m not ashamed to say that I am very scared of the process because I don’t know if I can come back from that pain.

The next part of my story has to do with my sister. She is the baby of the family and she lived up to that title in every way possible. My sister is extremely outgoing, has a huge heart and everybody who meets her likes her immediately. She was like my brother in many ways and it’s ironic that my oldest and youngest siblings both suffered from addiction. My sister and I are only 14 months apart and are complete opposites; I actually think that is why we were so close because we balanced each other out.

I know exactly how my sister’s addiction started because I was there. My sister started hanging with some very shady ‘friends’ who got her started with smoking marijuana and that progressed very rapidly to crack cocaine. For all those who say that marijuana is harmless, I beg to differ because for my sister it was the gateway drug to a crack addiction that would continue for years! My parents did everything they could to help her; I even followed her around for a while to try to make sure she was safe, but her addiction was more powerful than our love for her.
For years, she would go in and out of rehabs, in and out of our lives and there was nothing we could do. We all felt the helplessness, pain, frustration and fear as we wondered where my sister was, if she was okay, or if we would get ‘the call’ telling us she was dead. If you’ve lived with and loved an addict, you know exactly how this feels and it is the worst feeling in the world because there is absolutely nothing you can do!

Fortunately for my sister and our family, her story ends happily because she has been clean for 10 years now and we are all so very proud of her and the strength it took to make it through her addiction alive; the fact that she is still here is a testament to the power of recovery.

Loving an Addict

The next part of my story is the most personal because it has to do with my husband. Next to my father and brother (may they both rest in peace), he is the best man I have ever known and the most important man in my life. He’s hard to write about because I’m trying to figure out how much of our story to share while still respecting the intimacy of our relationship. There is also a lot to our story and I couldn’t possibly share it all in this post!

I should have seen the signs of addiction in my future husband early in our relationship, especially since my brother and sister were in active addiction at the time, but maybe I didn’t want to see them. My husband and I met when we were very young and we literally grew up together. When we first met, I can honestly say I didn’t notice anything, it wasn’t until later that the excessive drinking and marijuana use (again to those who say it’s harmless, I say bull!) really started to come out and I had no choice but to pay attention. By that time though it was too late, I was very much in love and turned a blind eye to it; so much so that when he told me later on that he was doing cocaine I had no idea, how sad is that?

When you love an addict, whether it be a parent-child, sibling, or romantic relationship, I think there is a certain level of co-dependency that takes place. I never fully realized that until I started doing advocacy work and, of course, going to Al-Anon. Looking back now, I can see where I was completely co-dependent with both my sister and especially with my husband. We were together for two years before our daughter was born, and in those early years my mood and behavior were completely determined by my husband’s addictive behavior. It’s funny how clearly I see that now, where I couldn’t see that at all back then…

I like to think of our daughter as a life saver, and we’ve both told her as much. An active addict and a co-dependent do not make a good couple and we were both spiraling down. While our daughter was not planned, I truly believe she was sent at a time in our lives when she was desperately needed. Once I had our daughter, my whole life changed; my only focus was my child and since I had to raise her on my own for the first 11 years of her life, I did everything I could to make sure she was safe, happy and healthy. Even though my husband stayed active in his addiction before, during, and after our daughter was born, I know how much he loved her and I also know, and he has said, that had it not been for our daughter he would not have had a reason to eventually get help.

We have gone through so much as a couple and I can honestly say that loving my husband has been the hardest and most amazing relationship I have ever had. He is my best friend, I cannot imagine life without him and he is the best father and husband anyone could ever hope to have. He also has 14 years of recovery, has gone back to school to get his associate’s degree and now works in the field as a drug & alcohol counselor to pay back the gift of his recovery. He is now going back to school for his bachelor’s degree and plans to grow in his career; I couldn’t be any more proud of him if I tried!

My Time

The final part of my story is about me. After everything I’ve gone through with my family and addiction, I’m finally taking the time to focus on my recovery. It started when I decided to speak out on behalf of families after seeing a Dr. Phil show and getting so angry at how he was attacking and blaming the family members of an addict. I realized at that point that while it’s very important to hear the stories of addicts, it’s equally as important to hear the stories of their families since we are rarely heard from. Addiction is a family disease and in order to fully understand and break the stigma of addiction, you have to hear everyone’s story.
I also realized that I needed help so at the suggestion of my husband I went back to Al-Anon after 14 years. Through the program, I am learning to deal with all the emotions and issues I kept buried for so long and I have met some amazing and wonderful people in my recovery. I will have 5 months at the end of September, and I look forward to continuing to heal and grow and of course, speak out.

I hope that by sharing some of my story, I’ve shown that even through loss there is life after addiction and there is power in recovery. Addiction can destroy families and tear apart communities, but if we all come together: addict, family, friends and the community, we can win the fight against addiction because we are worth it.

Peace and Blessings

Eric Ease

WHY I CARE TO SHARE MY STORY

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I have been sharing here on my blog for almost 4 years now. I started when I first came into recovery back in 2011. I’ve shared my ups and my downs. I have shared my feelings and my thoughts. My triumphs and my failures. At best I try to share as much of my life in recovery as possible without sharing too much of the negative side of my addiction. I give glimpses of some of the horrors that I have seen and been through without going into the specifics. I tell my story how it was then and how it is now.

I used to wonder if I was doing the right thing. Exposing myself for the world to read. I already know that there is a negative stigma attached to the words addiction, addict, drugs and even recovery. I also know that there can be some negative repercussions behind it. To tell you the truth. I don’t care.The public can and will use this against me and try to make me feel like I have done something wrong and deserve to be alienated or punished for it. The public has a unhealthy fear and a uninformed opinion about addicts and people in recovery and they need to be informed. It is time that people stop turning a blind eye and start getting the information needed to not only understand addiction but to help fight it.

I feel that my story is one that needs to be told and that nobody can do it better than me.

I want people to know that addicts and people in recovery are human and not cast away’s. Not lost souls or garbage that you just toss to the side and forget about. That we are suffering from a disease not a lack of respect, scruples or discipline. That it is hard enough dealing with something that I can’t describe let alone understand and the last thing I need is you judging me. People need to know that addicts have no control over their addictions.

People need to know that its not about why won’t they just quit. I wish I was able to just quit. But the obsession to use was over powering and the compulsion to continue using no matter what was the end result. That once I was caught up in the grips of addiction all rational thoughts begin to cease and self centered thoughts on getting and using and finding a way to get more begin to take over. It is not personal, it is not intentional. It is not about you. Not at all.

The world needs to understand that addiction is a mental, physical and spiritual disease that is hell bent on destroying not only my life but the lives of those around me as well. Addiction is a deadly disease. I know first hand the damage it causes, to not only the addict but to everyone affected by the addict.

I want people to know, to understand that addiction is not the end of the road. That there is a way out. That if I can do it, SO CAN YOU. That is why I share my story. I want the addict who is still suffering and the family member to know that there are people who have made it out and are living productive lives. That they too can do it.

I had to learn how to ask for help. I had to want to receive the help that people were offering me. I could not do it for anyone else. And no one else could do it for me.

I had to do it and want it for myself.

THE HOLIDAY HAZARD

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I can remember for years treating holidays as if they were legal get high days. Holidays were special. If it was Thanksgiving or Christmas I would be with my family and we would all chip in and get whatever we could. If it was any other holiday they same applied but with friends and anyone else who wanted to chip in. I remember going to parks, beaches or where ever we wanted to go and be drinking, smoking and caring on. Having what I mistook for a good time. Back then my using was recreational but as the years went by it started to become more of a habit. In the end it was a nightmare, I was all alone and It was a need. I had to feed my monster.

I remember thinking that I could stop any time I wanted to. I just don’t want to stop. That was the lie I told others to cover up the fact that I didn’t know how to stop. I tried to stop on my own and I failed every time. The only time I would be able to get any break from using was when I got arrested or went into rehab. For identification purposes.. I even used when I was in prison and rehab too.

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I couldn’t stay clean in the end and I was scared to let anyone know that. I was afraid to ask for help and as a result I continued to suffer.

Now that I am clean (20 Mos 6 days) I still have some moments when I have thoughts of using and urges to act on them. Holiday’s are some of those times. Holiday’s are especially hard because my thought process associates a holiday with having fun.(Although using was not fun, it is still associated in that manner in my thoughts.) In my mind I get thoughts of missing out on something. I begin to feel like wanting to be a part of again. I have to remember that I was not having fun and that I am not missing anything. If I play the whole thought out I will remember that in the end using caused me to lose every thing and almost cost me my life. I need to remember that all it takes is one. That first one will send me into a never ending spiraling frenzy that will only end badly. Today I am grateful that I am not afraid to let someone know when I feel like using. I share with others when those thoughts come to mind.

Jails, institutions and death are only a crack rock, drink or drug away.

My way of dealing with the holiday triggers are to

1. Stay connected to my network. / Talk about what I am feeling. VERY IMPORTANT

2. Call friends and make meetings.

3. Read recovery literature and do step work.

4. Keep my self busy. Idle time is not productive or conducive to my recovery.

5. Treat myself to a movie or go to an amusement park.

There are several ways that I keep myself from thinking and acting off my thoughts and I have learned all of them from being in recovery. I still have a lot of learning to do and I look forward to it. Recovery is what I make it and today I choose to make the best of it. I take the suggestions from others today. I admit that I do not know everything and I practice remaining open minded and honest.

So far it has been working.

THE UNWILLINGNESS TO FULLY TRUST

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Growing up I was a very trusting child. I trusted that my parents loved me and they would always be there for me. I trusted people, and eventually that trust cost me. I learned the hard way that trusting people was a mistake. That everytime I trusted someone I wound up being the one to get hurt. It took a little time to sink in because I continued to have faith in people but continued to get the same results.

I eventually made a decision. Albeit a costly one. Yet and still it seemed to be my only course of action. I decided that people could not be trusted. All people. I stopped being that trusting person and proceeded to treat everyone like they already did something wrong to me. That one decision led me to isolation. I didn’t trust people so why bother with them. That’s how I began to think and fueled by my addiction those thoughts grew into anger, resentments, animosity, fear which eventually led me to loneliness, despair and desperation.

True to my addictive nature. I still suffer the ill affects from my past when it comes to trust. I have a hard time opening myself up to people. I have an unwillingness to trust people for that fear is still there. The ones that I do open up to, I find myself expecting them to cross me in some way. I am slowly, and I mean slowly attempting to open up. I suffer at times with a simple hug, so talking to people I don’t know is damn near non existent. As a result I sometimes suffer in silence and isolation even in a crowded room.
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I know that eventually things will change. I really want to become more open to talking to people and making friends but I have allowed fear to keep me paralyzed in that area. I just got a new sponsor and even asking him to sponsor me took some time. I am tired of feeling like I am not making progress and I look forward to doing some work in this area.

Progress not perfection
One day, hour or minute at a time.
This is my process, it is not a race and I am in competition with no one.

I AM WHAT I SAY I AM

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Negative thoughts turn into negative actions.

Ever since I was a little boy I can remember having negative thoughts about myself and my surroundings. Seeds of failure and low self worth were planted and took hold at a early age. As the years went by those seeds grew and flourished.

When drugs entered the picture I was locked and loaded. I lost the ability to see anything good about myself. I would say things like I will never amount to anything so why bother. I am just plain bad, stupid, ugly. So forth and so on. I’m sure you get the picture.

Those negative affirmations dictated my path and lead me to a life of self destruction, self hate and self harm. I didn’t see a way out and proceeded to live life according to my beliefs. I didn’t understand that the words that I spoke to myself, was the fuel that was added to a fire that was already burning out of control.

I had no idea back then what positive affirmations were. I didn’t understand how important it is to speak positively to myself and about myself. I had to learn how to do that. I am practicing speaking positive things not only to myself but to others as well. I have to reprogram my thought process and practice backing it up with my actions.

For me this is a difficult task at times. I have been conditioned for so long to being negative and hard on myself. I had become accustom to failure and accepted it as if it was supposed to be that way.

I am not a failure. I am not my past.

Today with help. I am speaking and writing myself into a better way of life. I am beginning to see that there is light. Not at the end of the tunnel, but right here in the tunnel. I believe that I was lied to and in turn by believing those lies, I lied to myself. I gave up, surrendered without investigating and seeking the truth for myself.

Now that I am seeking the truth. I have uncovered that I am not all those things but something all together different. I am somebody. I am smart, handsome and worthy. There is nothing that I cannot do or become. I know this today as being fact. I have been living it to the best of my ability ever since it was suggested to me.

I believe that there is so much more to me and I will not rest until I see what I say come true.

Peace and Blessings

Eric Ease

PRACTICING FORGIVENESS

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I have learned that holding on to past hurts is harmful to me. It stunts my growth process and keeps me from making any forward progress.

Letting go and forgiving past hurts was unheard of. I would hold a grudge and have resentments and anger towards people for years. I used to be a very spiteful person and could lay and wait for the opportune time to extract my revenge.

I understand today how damaging that behavior is. That still doesn’t mean that I have mastered forgiveness. I have not. But today I am practicing forgiving others because I know that I too need forgiveness. It’s easier said than done, but I have the willingness to practice it and I will eventually be better at accepting it for what it is and it’s intended purpose.

Learning how to forgive takes time but so far I have noticed that I am feeling a lot lighter. Less stressed and angry as a result. This is all new territory for me but being honest about it, having the willingness and open mindedness to attempt it has proven to be very helpful in my growing process.

And for that I am truly grateful.

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Peace and Blessings

Eric Ease

OUT WITH THE OLD. IN WITH THE NEW.

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I have been constantly reminding myself of this lately.

My mind keeps jumping back to old behavior mode and old attitudes are proving to die harder than I originally thought. I find myself wanting to resort to some of my old methods of handling situations. I am not talking about using substances to solve anything, I am referring to street tactics and antics. I have been sharing about my feelings with anyone who will listen. I have been struggling in the area of letting go. I know that it takes practice so I am not beating myself up.

I really need to get with someone and find out how to let go and not take it back. How to release the need to still try to control situations and manipulate outcomes. How do I kick these thoughts to the curb and not go back and pick them up later. Staying focused lately has been hard and it has been affecting my overall attitude. My spirit is feeling uneasy and I have been really irritable. It has been showing in more ways than I care to mention. I need a break from my own madness, a vacation from my thoughts. I have been sharing that I need to plug back in. I do not wish to be like the animal who gets cut from the herd on to be eaten alive by the savage beast.

Been there. Done that.

I know that doing the same things expecting different results is the meaning of insanity. It’s crazy how the things I am learning, I am relearning over and over again in different situations and scenarios. In the beginning my insanity was using drugs and thinking this time will be different. Now my insanity is taking on a new meaning it has taken a different form but the outcomes are similar in the pain it is causing. I am becoming more and more aware of myself. I am also becoming more aware that certain things that I used to do are no longer acceptable to me.. Because if they were I would have acted off the impulses already. I am fighting a war and the battle ground is between my ears.

I am grateful for the process of recovery for it is teaching me how to say NO. It is teaching me to be honest about my feelings and my thoughts. It is teaching me that it’s ok to talk about my feelings and not to worry about what others think or say about me. It is teaching me that I have to be responsible for my recovery and for my actions. How to show up for people and to ask for help when I need it.

I am grateful to have found a place where there are so many people just like me.

I know that my old ways do not work. My old ways got me a whole lot of pain, misery and suffering. To think that anything has changed or that I can do it different this time would be me believing the lies of my addictive thoughts and will prove once again to be a suicide mission. I do not wish to try to kill myself again. Not today not ever. I will continue to seek the help I need to get through this without taking any shortcuts.

My old ways will not open any new doors. They will only open jail cells or a casket.

Peace and Blessings

Eric Ease

WHAT’S SO DIFFERENT

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I have to admit that although I know I have changed and I am very grateful for my life in recovery. I am struggling right now financially. It is starting to take a toll on my spirit.

Not too long ago, I spent every dime using and finding the ways and means to get more. My whole life I spent more money than I had chasing after a high I would never be able to duplicate.

I remember working all week only to get paid on Friday and be broke by Friday night. I was caught in a vicious cycle that repeated itself over and over for years. Having to go through the week broke wasn’t a good look. Sad as it was that was my life.

Today clean and living a program of recovery. I find myself back in that same boat, under different circumstances. I no longer give all my money to drug dealers and tricks. Today I give all my money to bills and bill collectors. Its the same gang just in a different setting.

They both don’t care that I spend all money. They both will live on if I decide not to spend my money with them. Unlike with the drug dealers, if I decide not to be responsible and pay my bills I am the only one who will suffer from the affects. I know this from experience because thats the reason I am suffering now.

My addiction would l Iike for me to think that I am wasting my time. That this will never end but only get worse. It would love to make me believe that I work for it and I should be able to spend it any damn way I please.
My addiction
(my own thinking) is my worse enemy. It can be so convincing, cunning and insistent.

Sometimes I wonder What’s so different now. I am right back where I was, but without the drugs. My life is still a mess but without the drugs. I am still suffering, but without the drugs. So what’s so different.
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The difference is.
I am clean. I am becoming responsible for my actions and being held accountable for my responsibilities. I am dealing with life on life’s terms not on my terms.The suffering that I am facing is not the same. There is no comparison. I have tools to deal with adversity and ways and means to get through anything obstacles that I face.
WITHOUT THE DRUGS.

I am experiencing what I have heard others in recovery say. Life is good and then it gets real. I am grateful for those who have walked this path before me. It lets me know that no matter what happens in my life. I can get through it and gain strength from it.
THIS TOO SHALL PASS

Peace and Blessings

Eric Ease

DRUG DREAMS

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Last night I had a dream that was so real that I woke up terrified that I had used. I haven’t had a drug dream in quite some time and I was a bit shook by it.

Every once in a while during the day I might have a flashback but the dreams stopped a few months ago. I am constantly reminded of my active addiction at work. There are more than a few addicts who work for my company. I can relate to them of course because not to many 24’s ago that was me. So I am reminded and have the occasional flashback.

I know that the dream was just that..A dream. It is not my reality today. I have no desire to return to that part of my life. I did not entertain the thoughts. I did not go back to sleep and continue to dream about using. I shared the experience with some of network and I feel better knowing that those dreams don’t have to come true.

I put it out there and let it go. I have no intentions to keep them secret nor do I have to be embarrassed about having them. I am human and I have used for almost 40 years. For me to think that because I am clean I shouldn’t have drug dreams is ridiculous.

Secrets keep me sick.
I reveal them so they can die in the light of exposure.

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Peace and Blessings

Eric Ease