Tough Love

How to communicate with the struggling addict?

I know there are a lot of folks out there right now that are struggling with their sobriety. They want to get sober and they may even achieve some sobriety. But they relapse. Again and again and again. And sometimes this cycle goes on for years. It did with me.

The title to this post is a hard question to answer. How do we communicate with someone who wants to get clean and sober, but can’t seem to do it?

I’ve noticed (through my visits on sober recovery forums) that a lot folks offer gently placed words of support when what an addict really needs is a swift kick in the ass and a mirror so they can see that they look just as shitty as they feel and acknowledge that they accomplished that feat all by themselves TO themselves. That’s my position – yeah! Tough Love.

Do I give a crap about others who are struggling to get clean and sober? LARGE. But I am not about to sugarcoat the agony of withdrawals or offer words of pity and sorrow for what someone has put themselves through. Those kind of words only inflate an ego that needs no inflating. The only thing that needs inflating for a struggling addict is their balance.

Once a struggling addict moves that addicted voice out of the way and begins to ACT in a caring manner towards him/herself – the feelings of caring for oneself will follow. It’s inevitable because we realize – once we’re sober – what an awesome feat it is to overcome our drug of choice. Not everyone can do it.

We’re superheroes! We are exactly what other struggling addicts need in their life. Why? BECAUSE WE’VE BEEN THERE AND WE CAN RELATE. No one else can relate – and the ability to do that – is imperative when it comes to truly helping another addict. No one but us can do it. No one.

When Do You Get Out?

I’m reminded that it can be as hard for a loved one to walk away from an addict as it can be for the addict to walk away from their drug of choice. And for the record, an alcoholic IS an addict. Alcohol is a drug.

So the answer to the title is, and always has been, NOW. You know when you’ve had enough, and I’m speaking to the addict and their loved ones (family and friends). The voice of doubt that pops up in the addict and in the nonaddict that says, “But first I need to – yada yada this or that.” No. Nip it. Zip it. Shh. Stop talking. Nope. Hush. Thurbtt. No, you don’t need to do anything but save yourself. Sanity and health need to be your only goals. Sanity and health need to be priority 1.

Fully grasping that monumental epiphany escapes many people, addicts and nonaddicts, until the damage has already been done. But the hurricane of addiction does not have to destroy everyone in its’ path. Screw the weather forecaster that comments on when the winds will finally calm down. Get the hell out of the storm, pronto!

What’s Hardest For the Non-Alcoholic?

I can only imagine how difficult and confusing it must be for a non-addict to watch a loved one get smashed on their drug of choice. The incongruity and stupidity of an addict’s choices, behavior and statements have to be nothing short of mind boggling. That said, I think the hardest thing for a non-addict to grasp seems to be that logical ideas, comments and suggestions from them do not penetrate an addict’s mind. Those things do not make contact, which just infuriates the non-addict to no end because they know that their loved one would “get it’ if he or she was only sober. And this is totally understandable.

Submitting logic or common sense of any kind to the addict is a waste of your time. It won’t go anywhere or accomplish anything except cause you frustration.

I was an alcoholic. Nothing mattered more to me than having my wine. Get the fuck out of my face with anything else – that was my attitude. When practicing addicts are fully engulfed in the fog of addiction, we can’t see through it. We cannot see what’s outside it nor can we think or feel our way out of it. Being addicted feels very much like what I imagine drowning on the inside might feel like. Our entire bodies – not just our lungs – are filled to capacity with our drug of choice. And our brains are saturated with it.

When you ask yourself “Why the hell can’t he or she see what they’re doing to me, to the family, to him or herself?” It’s because that person is drowning and they might not even know it. And even if they do, it’s likely that they’re so engulfed and saturated with their drug of choice, they simply don’t care. That happens. The drug is so powerful that it becomes masterful. And getting a firm handle on it is no small feat. It’s a personal endeavor – getting a handle on it – and no one else can want it or do it for them.

It’s impossible for the non-addict to fully comprehend what an addict is experiencing when they’re either drunk, high, or “needing” their drug of choice. You can’t relate or identify. But what you can do is walk away. You can support from afar and still love from afar. You don’t have to watch, participate, or be dragged through the muck. All addicts quit for good when one of two things happen: they die or they decide they’ve had enough.

The second conclusion can be arrived at by numerous routes and one size (route) does not fit all. All routes are personal and mine just so happened to include living to see my last birthday. I turned 50 and I was shocked! I fully expected to kick the bucket well before then. Once I hit 50, I figured I might as well live to the best of my ability for however much longer I have left.

And while my family could only guess what it was like for me to be me when I drank – I can only guess at the enormity of their relief that I have stopped.

Will You Be Here Tomorrow?

I feel safe making the blanket statement that none of us are getting any younger. I also feel safe making the blanket statement that none of us are guaranteed tomorrow.

Something I notice in the behavior and words of others is that, in general, they seem to not realize that they could just plop over – dead – at any moment. Weird stuff happens to people every day.

I’ll be 51 if I make it to my next birthday this upcoming October and I didn’t really grasp the value of life before my 50th birthday and I didn’t stop drinking until after that. But now that I no longer drink or take life for granted, I can’t help but find myself on that train called “Woman!! You literally gave up 20 years of your life! Gone! Poof! Not cool!” Sometimes it’s hard to believe I made it through to the other side. Now that I’m over here – I do everything that I love – in moderation.

I exercise
I eat
I eat fatting stuff like french fries – because they’re delicious & I love them
I drink strawberry milkshakes
I love assertively
I enjoy nature
I read
I write
I speak my opinion
I let small stuff —–> GO
I (try to) pay attention to details (though sometimes they elude me. Hey, I’m working on it.)

I remind myself that I can be whisked off this planet anytime. And then I ask myself – what’s the next important thing I need/want to do. And then I do it. And that’s how I live today. And I plan on doing the same thing tomorrow – all while I don’t drink alcohol.

What about you?

Getting Sober

What a pain in the ass. Literally. Getting sober is such an ordeal, and what alcoholics go through to actually get there is just ridiculous not to mention excruciating. It’s ridiculous because most of us have to talk ourselves into it. We think crazy shit like reasoning out our sobriety date. For example, we want a memorable date so we pick numbers that either repeat, like 2/22 because it sounds and looks cool, or we pick numbers that parallel a significant event in a family member’s life like our maternal great aunt’s birthday, 4/17. Okay, so we finally deduce that Tuesday should work. Everything works out. It’s also the least exciting day of the week and it falls after the weekend, but not immediately after. So Tuesday should do just fine.

Here’s an example of our internal drama: We want to have the weekend to drink because it’s the weekend and everybody knows that one thing people do on the weekend, especially Friday and Saturday night, is drink. And we want Monday free because it’s -well, Monday. Monday is the beginning of the week, we do laundry on that day and stuff usually happens to someone somewhere, and we might need to be available. So Tuesday it is. Bring on Tuesday! The numbers line up and so do the stars. Tuesday is the day to get sober!

Except when Tuesday arrives, getting sober on that day turns out to be not such a great idea. Not a good day to stop drinking. Why? Because. Just because. It feels wrong. Thursday suddenly feels more appropriate. And we can’t quit on Wednesday, HELLO?, because that’s the middle of the week and something could come up. So – Thursday it is. Except Thursday just so happens to fall on the 23rd which is an odd number and not even close to our maternal great aunt’s birthdate. It’s close to our cousin Teddy’s birthday but he’s a douche. No good. And getting sober on an odd number day of the month is a just a terrible idea. Nobody does that. So we push it back to Friday because Friday falls on an even number of the month. Even if it’s not our great aunt’s birthday – hey, it’s someone’s birthday. Except then we realize that we can’t get sober on a weekend night because that’s just retarded. Nobody does that. So now it’s back to Monday again.

Monday should work. Except it turns out that Monday is just too soon after the weekend and if anything, we might need some wine or a few brewskies to subdue our weekend hangover, so Monday is actually not an option. We ultimately decide to mull the whole thing over until a more reasonable day of the week occurs, which it never does.

It’s madness! And we do it! That’s our logic! And of course – all this internal nonsense takes place while we’re drink. Because the more we saturate ourselves with alcohol, the better we feel and the more logical we become. Or so we think.

For you addicts/alcoholics out there … THERE IS NEVER A PERFECT TIME OR DAY TO QUIT. NOW. RIGHT THIS SECOND IS THE PERFECT TIME AND DAY TO QUIT. The longer you prolong quitting, the more you think about it, the more asinine excuses you come up with – the harder it is to do. JUST DO IT so that you can put the event that it is behind you.

Now that I’m through withdrawal and accumulating sober days, I get it. Life is definitely a different reality altogether on this street. And it’s not near as bad as I thought I remembered it. Sure -shit happens. But shit happened when I was drunk, too, and getting through or over it was a lot more challenging back then. Back then I could barely make it to the bathroom. Life’s just – easier this way. And it’s saner. And my body doesn’t hurt as much. And the psychological terror of the DTs is gone.

I can always go back to drinking. Knowing that makes staying sober a lot easier.

To Open Or Not To Open

So. Yesterday I mentioned that I feel it is important to try drugs. Not all of them, but one or two – knowing the consequences, knowing what you’re taking, knowing how much you’re taking – yada yada. It’s not only okay to try drugs, I think, doing so will enlarge a person’s life view. “Been there done that” – that’s what someone can say. Or they can say they tried a drug for spiritual reasons – maybe it worked and maybe it didn’t. Regardless, I mentioned this to my BF who is nearly 27 years clean and sober and it really hit a nerve.

“Awwww (insert my name), that’s bullshit!!” Then he went on and on – and on some more about why trying drugs is a horrible idea because trying one drug opens the door to trying all drugs, which I immediately shot down saying that if drugs are indeed a door, who looks at a bunch of closed doors and doesn’t crack open at least one to see what’s on the other side?

I’ve tried some drugs and had no problem never going back to them. Other drugs – one specifically – I really enjoyed a lot – alcohol. I also used to smoke cigarettes, but quit those nearly 15 years ago. I don’t have near as much time sober – this time. But I digress.

I became slightly amused with my BF because not only did he become extremely animated while posturing his position, which I’m certain is shared by most, he then went on to use examples to support himself that are very applicable to life and that can only be learned first hand – like driving. A person cannot learn how to drive a car unless they get behind the fucking wheel. That’s all there is to it. And when they do – there’s no guarantee they won’t either be killed or kill someone else. Such is life.

The biggest mistake he made during our discussion is that he kept using the word “Necessary.” He’d say “It’s not necessary to try drugs.” And I agree. It’s not necessary. But I had to keep reminding him that I never used the word necessary when presenting my stance. I also had to keep reminding him that I never suggested that everyone should try all drugs. My position is that if the opportunity to try a drug is presented – a person should think about it before jumping on that train.

I think he gets it. He doesn’t agree, but he understands. Now we’re going to have some eggs.

Is it Important to Experiment With Drugs?

Unless it’s in there and I can’t see it – cigarettes should be in that picture.

My immediate “Go To” answer to the question of my post is a resounding YES. Then, when I think about the question for a bit, my answer is still, YES. I say Yes because I place great value on personal 1st hand knowledge. I wrote this same idea on a different platform this morning and I’m running into some great debate on the subject, which isn’t a surprise because those of us in recovery have very valid and strong opinions on the issue. Of course, everyone who’s replied to my comments in the other forum so far are coming from a place of recovery (a safe assumption since the title of the room is ‘Recovery’). What this suggests is that they’re also coming from a place of fear.

I’ve never met a recovering addict that had good things to say about their experience being an addict.

I commented that many of us in Recovery are not only coming from a place of 1st hand experience, we’re also coming from a place of fear because – our drug of choice wound up nearly killing us. I’ve never experienced any kind of emotional, psychological or physical pain that can compete with the agony of withdrawal. That said – anyone who never tries a drug will never have any personal 1st hand experience or knowledge. Why is this valuable? Because knowing greatly expands one’s life view.

Are some people utterly satisfied without having ever tried a drug in their lifetime? I’m sure, YES. They are. I can hear someone saying, “Yo. I’ve never tired one drug, don’t care to and I’m just fine.” And that IS fine. It’s also ignorant.

I mentioned in a previous post on this platform that I tried LSD and Cocaine back in the day and that neither drug did much for me. They didn’t do what I liked – which was to feel mellowed out. Alcohol did for me what the others didn’t. And possibly due to a collection of circumstances in addition to an addictive personality, I managed to turn a social activity into a necessary, daily ritual. Over time I had to drink every day if I didn’t want to experience withdrawal.

Like a Skull Hitting Cement

I’ve met a lot of people though my adventures in inpatient treatment centers. Many were there for alcohol abuse, like myself, but there were also a lot of people there who abused drugs I’d never even heard of including pain killers. I’ve never been attracted to other drugs and I’ve never tired most of them. I experimented with the bigger ones like LSD and Cocaine when I was younger, but they never did for me what alcohol did – calm my ass DOWN. That was the mental and physical state I preferred. This might explain why I’ve never liked espresso drinks.

I’ve seen folks go into seizure while coming down from their drug of choice and that is some scary shit to watch. Except for turning someone on their side so that they don’t bite their tongue, nothing can be done for someone having a seizure and watching one is stomach churning. I watched one woman act like she was trying to take a bite out of a wall. Imagine that for a second – it was creepy as hell. She was having a seizure. Another time, a bunch of us were outside under the smoking canopy when a woman I was speaking with suddenly stood erect like she was being electrocuted and then immediately plopped straight over backward – like a long tall piece of wood – onto the pavement. Her head smacked it and it sounded just like you’d imagine – like a skull hitting cement. I was the only one who ran for help both times. A lot of people are fascinated by what they’re seeing – I’m sickened by it.

I think it’s okay to get your feet wet by experimenting with a drug here or there as long as you know what it is and how much your taking. By trying them, you can say you’ve been there/done that. I don’t agree that using anything “recreationally” is a good or cool idea and I advise against it. There’s nothing worse than finding out the hard way that you’ve got an addictive personality. Because by the time you find out – it’s too damn late.

The Internal Tug of War

I read other’s posts regarding their struggle with alcohol and drinking and my heart goes out to them. If there was ever a fight on this planet worth fighting over and over and over again until the fight has been won, it’s alcoholism. I have fallen – crawled – literally – during the throes of withdrawal that I can’t even count the number of times anymore. And it is my sincere wish and hope that no alcoholic ever has to fall as low as I did. It’s just not necessary.

That internal tug of war pull to drink and to simultaneously pull away from alcohol and drinking is simply epic. And sometimes it seems like neither side moves a hair. Do you face your opponent and pull backwards or do you face in the direction you intend to move and pull forward? Which gives you more power, more strength? Or what about this? Just drop the freakin’ rope already. What a novel idea, right?

I think that that is ultimately the right answer.

Not Sure How I Did It

Alright, I’ve been awake for approximately 42 minutes and I’m enjoying my first cup of coffee. Now, at this time 15 years ago I was gearing up for my first cup of wine out of about 22 for the day. Yes, those numbers are accurate. I can’t help but wonder how I managed to live through all that alcohol. It’s a freakin’ miracle. Or is it? Because some folks wouldn’t miss me, I get that. I can be a bit – much.

Drinking this early wasn’t easy. There were times the taste would make me gag. There were other times I’d have to pinch my nose to avoid the taste. But I forged on. I was a determined drinker. I was on a mission. I had one goal – to get drunk, thank you very much – now step aside and let me get on with it. That was my attitude.

Coffee is so much better. I don’t ever gag when I drink it or have to pinch my nose. And I’m able to do so many other thigs. Now, watching TV all day on my day off is a choice – not a necessity. And I’ve moved on from Little House in the Prairie. Now my binge show is Criminal Minds. Anyone? Yeah, it’s good stuff. I’d have made a great sleuth – if only. Instead, I turned into a sloth.

Oh, well. Can’t turn the clock back.

There’s nothing like that feeling of rebounding, which is what I’ve been doing for the last four and a half months. The sensation is similar to jumping really high on a trampoline. Now, if I can just avoid springing myself into a thorn bush, I should make it through the day just fine.

Little House on the Prairie

When going through withdrawal (Delirium Tremens or the DTs), which happened on a daily basis for me during my heaviest drinking period, I found it immensely helpful to have something to distract me from them. In my case that was Little House on the Prairie or just about anything on TV. I think it was a combination of the movement and the sounds on TV, perhaps the story line, that worked best as the distraction.

I find this odd, really, because I was extremely overwhelmed by real life noise and commotion. I could handle TV, but not reality. Go figure. I simply couldn’t endure much of anything if I hadn’t had a lot of alcohol. Real life activities like going to the grocery store grated on my psyche and nerves like a cement drill. Too much incoming. But once I had about a bottle and a half of wine in my tummy, I could muster the strength and nerve to get my business done, which was usually to go back to the store for more wine.

Another thing I found sort of curious about the DTs was that they didn’t ever hit me until I’d been awake for about an hour. This gave me time first thing in the morning to take care of necessities: shower, walk the dog, find my wine from the previous night, and return any calls I’d ignored the day before. The psychological relief of just seeing a couple of full double bottles of wine made me feel better. I’d tell myself that I’d open one just as soon as I showered and dressed, because Lord forbid I seize and die in my jammies with unkempt hair. I had to be put together every day and look like I gave half a shit about my appearance.

Today, I think I’m relieved that my memory doesn’t serve so well anymore. I remember plenty – enough to write another book – but I’m pretty sure the things I don’t remember are best off forgotten. The new memories I’m creating in my sobriety are going down in journals or right here where I can find them. I’m taking photos, talking with family, creating new relationships and taking care of this aging body of mine. Yeah – life’s a pretty amazing thing when my brain isn’t saturated with alcohol.

Withdrawal (DTs) vs Alcohol Poisoning

I was reading another Blogger’s post yesterday and he mentioned something about withdrawal and/or alcohol poisoning. It is my experience that withdrawal is a result of both long term alcohol abuse and alcohol poisoning. Excessive and severe drinkers build up a tolerance to alcohol over time. This means they can/do/need to drink more to achieve the same effects they used to get from light drinking ‘back in the day’, I became an acute alcoholic over a 15 year period and I’ve been to nine in-patient treatment centers. Nothing worked until I finally had enough. My body can’t stand it anymore and the psychological trauma of going through the DTs is just too brutal.

For me – back in the day – when I first realized that I could USE alcohol to my benefit, i.e.; to calm down, I’d be pretty drunk after two bottles of wine or approximately 8 drinks. As the years wore on, my dependence on alcohol developed and my drinking escalated from two bottles a day to around six bottles a day. In turn, my hangovers escalated into withdrawal, which worsened and became more drawn out over time until at the end – withdrawal would last for a week. I was leaning over my bed to throw up and had to crawl to the bathroom. I couldn’t stand up in the shower, I couldn’t keep water down and I couldn’t remember things. I blacked out.

For those of you who don’t know – blacking out is akin to fainting. The main difference is that someone in a blackout can wake up anywhere, anytime. It’s pretty scary stuff because they have NO idea where they’ve been, what they’ve said, who they’ve encountered, or what they’ve done.

If I were to offer any advice to the novice drinker who might wonder if s/he is developing a habit of drinking – monitor your SELF when you drink. Pay attention to how you’re feeling about alcohol. Some questions for you to think on:

  1. Do you get pissed off when you can’t have more? (This was a big one for me)

2) Do you feel affronted when someone has the nerve to bring up your drinking?

3) Is drinking more important than other stuff like exercise? Eating? Sex? Time with kids/family/partner?

If you answered yes to any of these – you may try to see if you can moderate or quit for a substantial period of time. Maybe a month or more. If that idea alone causes you distress, it might be time for you to evaluate your relationship with alcohol and drinking. Because if you’ve got a relationship with alcohol, you’ve also got a problem.

Wine VS Coffee

When I drank, I used to replace my morning coffee with wine. I couldn’t stand coffee. My morning routine consisted of getting up at 7:00, taking my dog out to do his business, and being dressed and on the couch by 8:00 with my first cup of wine to watch Little House on the Prairie. That show got me through my early morning withdrawals. It ran until noon and that’s about how long my first double bottle of wine lasted.

Now – for the record, I still had another unopened double bottle, but I had this all figured out. So – at noon, I’d walk to the market up the street and buy three more double bottles. I couldn’t face the public without at least two bottles in me. My DTs were much too severe. I trembled like I was freezing and couldn’t sign my name to save myself. Once I returned home with my beverages, I’d park it right back in front of the TV for the rest of the day until my husband got home from work. He always knew to buy me a double bottle on his way back to the house.

Let’s do the math. That’s six (6) double bottles of wine in my possession in one day. I’d already learned the hard way to always make sure I’d have at least two double bottles waiting for me the next morning. By the time I was ready to hit the sack for the night, I’d consumed four of those bottles, and sometimes I’d gotten into the fifth.

There’s no such thing as a hangover when that much alcohol is consumed on a daily basis, which is how often and how much I drank – for years. What one experiences is withdrawal, which is the physical and psychological result of alcohol poisoning. It’s extremely gnarly and severely uncomfortable. The other thing to go out the window for me was my appetite. During my drinking days, I remember having to force a bite of food down and I never weighed more than 105lbs.

Drinking by that point had evolved into a necessity (this was about 15 years back). Believe it or not, withdrawals can get a lot worse than shaky hands, psychological distress and an uneven gait. They can get A LOT worse – but more on that later, because you guessed it! That’s exactly the road I went down.

I’m sipping coffee now – looking out my sliding glass doors at the leaves blowing in the wind. It’s already a beautiful day (9:56 a.m.) and I FEEL good. Physically. Emotionally. Psychologically. Even spiritually… It’s really cool. I love it and couldn’t be more thankful that I no longer need or crave alcohol. I nearly never say the word “hate” but I sure hate alcohol. Not one good thing ever came from me drinking any and at 50, I’ve had two lifetimes worth.

Best,

L.

%d bloggers like this: