It is better to be an outcast, a stranger in one’s own country, than an outcast from one’s self. It is better to see what is about to befall us and to resist than to retreat into the fantasies embraced by a nation of the blind.
Chris Hedges

Friday, March 21, 2008

Owning My Part

I did not think my post "Chickens Coming Home to Roast" cast anything disparaging towards my wife. The truth is none of my recovery would have been possible without her. She travelled upwards of 11 hours a day-sometimes twice a week - to support me in group, or just to visit. Ana also made sure the bills were paid and that there was enough left over to keep me in smokes.
In recovery, I know there will be bad days... and maybe even bad years. Today I don't have to turn my anger into a resentment and get hammered. My wife is human - subject to tiredness, dissapointment and anger just like the rest of us. We will survive this. I'm frustrated because of my inability to do anything today to fix the problem. My own part is that defect in my character that blames others. I love my wife and trust God she knows that.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Early Recovery

Life in treatment is about learning to walk again. At first, we staggered from fiasco to fiasco until, falling down, we could not get up. For some unfortunates the fall can be harsh, resulting in jails, institutions and death. For those lucky enough to have reached a degree of powerlessness due to their addiction and were fortunate enough to find some help, there exists a way back.
However, the journey back is fraught with hazards too. Having been graced with a daily reprieve from disaster, we can only do the suggested things and begin to build a new paradigm for living. Unfortunately, the past catches up as well. Forgotten debts resurface. Old relationships thought long dead are resurrected; current partners take the opportunity to reclaim resentments – put on ice while you were in therapy.
The challenge for the addict is to resist being sucked back into the vortex of guilt, shame and anger, because therein lies relapse. Other people’s baggage is theirs to sort out. The addict needs to put their recovery first.

Chickens Coming to Home to Roast

Pinstripes, sensing a vulnerability from Ana and me, pounced last night and scored large.
When I sauntered into Family Group yesterday all was well. I had spent the day with my wife planning the coming weekend. I didn't intend to spend the whole day with her; there was an AA meeting to get to and duties in the house to get at, but what began as a quick cup of coffee put an end to my planned day.
I should have known something was up. Perhaps it was the slightly strained conversation that I put down to tiredness. I considered - then discounted the possibility it might have been because of last Sunday's graduation dinner - when I was celebrated as a "wise, big-hearted, much-loved fellow", giving his all to the programme and working behind the scenes to support the work of the other residents. I felt a squiggle or two beside me at the head table at the time and worried some that my wife was getting ready to vomit.
The first sign was when my cashcard was declined for a cup of coffee on Tuesday. A quick text to my other half asked the question? "Are we tapped out?" A reply came back to read that, "no... it's not quite that bad... but we'll have to talk." Frankly, I would have rather we had spoken about it in private instead of in front of Pinstripes and the others. The first inkling that all might not be as tickity boo as I thought came during the checking in phase, when everyone introduces themselves and describes their feelings at that moment.
I saw the discerning eyebrow raise from Pinstipes after Ana described herself as "exhausted and frustrated". By the end of treatment we addicts know when to take advantage of each other's slip ups and jump into the fray. Forgotten were the flimsy issues one has to invent from time to time to stave off ambush from the facilitators. This has the dual advantage of taking the spotlight off us, while at the same time bringing the champion of the hour down and elevating our own place in the pantheon of the recovering.
I bravely withstood the inquisition and the delighted feedback of my peers. You could feel the disappointment in the room when Pinstripes said that we needed to move on. I sat in stunned silence, barely hearing a Mother Letter, those recounting 'using dreams', and a long overdue commitment reading on "Shame".
The focus had shifted away from me, but the damage had been done.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Getting Back

I'm slowly making my way back into life. I graduated from the 'Anonymous Treatment Centre' yesterday and am making myself at home in a support house. After four+ months of heeding hundreds of rules (none of them written) I will be weaning myself slowly off what was a very controlled environment. At one of my final group sessions last week, I likened the change to: "putting a rat into a cage with a wheel for five months of structured on-off exercise, punctuated with mild electrical shocks to keep it sharp. Then you take the rat out and put it into an empty cardboard box." The analogy did not impress the facilitator (code-named 'pinstripes')
who objected to my imagery.
So, now what to do? I'll be taking it slow at first, however since I will be writing for a living from now on, expect lots of new stuff. One of my conditions for living in the support house is compulsory attendance at aftercare and family group meetings each week. After 126 days of treatment life will never be the same.