My recovery art draft 03

County of San Diego Mental Health Department MHS • Health and Human Services • My Recovery • I fill my life with extraordinary & rewarding activities. Each and every day, I try toinject my actions with gratitude, compassion, and service to my fellow human.
In December, I married the love of my life. Just five months ago, I celebrated twoyears of stone cold clean & mf sober. Less than a month later, I completed thefinal steps to adopt my daughter Patterson.
Since she came to our home in May of 2008, I have raised her as my own; on May 7th of this year the courtproclaimed it legally so. Even after I began treatment and cleaned up in 2007, I never expected to getmarried, never expected to have any children - these were not things I sought in my life. But, in one of the trueblessings found through recovery, when the moment presented itself, I was willing to engage the possibilitiesplaced before me. I was able to do so with an open heart and a clear conscience, with the deep and abidingconviction that continuing on my journey of recovery enables me to be an outstanding husband and father;that being an outstanding husband & father requires a deep and abiding commitment from me to ever im-prove in my own health and rejection of addictive behaviors.
Indeed, the very responsibility, accountability, and love of my family causes me enormous motivation inaddition to bringing me stalwart support in my daily struggle. These days, the struggle has become more aglorious, grateful & joyous grasp of life: the happy along with the sad, the bitter with the sweet, successes andsetbacks, pleasure along with pain. Occasionally “struggle days” arise, but a strong foundation of recoverytools -combined with an exceptional support structure of loved ones- allow me to persevere, to overcome,and to embrace that very mundane which is woven inextricably within the truly extraordinary.
For many years, at least since I was 18, I plunged myself into (and became plagued by) problematic use ofdrugs and alcohol. When all's said and done, alcohol has always been my true drug of choice, but myrecreational experiments and abuses ran the gamut - there was virtually no drug I wouldn't try, haven’t tried.
But, by the time I reached the end of the line, it was alcohol alone that had become a desperate, daily,physiological requirement for me; it no longer provided me any pleasure whatsoever. In those last days, fromthe time I awoke (often midafternoon or evening) I struggled to hold out long as I could until I took my first swigto "repair" the awful damage of my hangover from the previous day. Some days I could make it even an hour.
Most days I needed to start by forcibly gulping down at least a drink or two to soften the withdrawal symptoms.
I would still feel wretched, but a little more manageable. The bulk of my time was spent in deep dread,despair, even mild terror: I felt raw, vulnerable, frayed and almost too emotionally paralyzed to cope.
These were the last months of active addiction for me, and even thinking or speaking of it todaybrings me an irrefutably palpable, visceral revulsion. I knew without question, for most of the last twoyears, that my addiction had long ceased to be anything over which I might triumph alone. I needed County of San Diego Mental Health Department MHS • Health and Human Services • My Recovery • help, enormously needed, yet still I hesitated.
my “career” as an internet lackey andwriter, as well as some measure of habit- The first time I ever got really drunk, at 14 years old, I naively believed dixie cups to be the equivalent ofshot glasses. In a fit of baseless boastfulness, I de- On occasion throughout my adult life, during periods scribed my great ability to toss back shots without so of particularly dismal depression or outrageously dis- much as a grimace, my "tolerance". My best friend proportionate and wild anger, I sought the services of Andres, another 14 year old genius, lined up four mental health professionals. On each occasion, I had dixie cups in front of me, filled them with a horrid con- decided my own diagnosis prior to meeting with the coction of the most potent bottles in his father's li- doctor, and presented to that person my symptoms in quor cabinet. Without food, without chaser, without the context that I'd read about them - mainly "I'm de- sastrous drinking which then ex-acerbates my depression. The equivalent to a full bottle of soda.
In under a minute. I was 14; Iweighed just over 100 pounds. My I first visited a therapist in 1995.
the night; I was passed out on my back: unconscious, ing the court and convincing them to drop any serious vomiting repeatedly, and choking. Anyone in his charges, I sought anger management counseling. I right mind might very well swear off drinking forever lasted 3 sessions with him before deciding I was all Despite that experience, I dabbled in binge drinking In 1999, I saw a psychologist for several months, some throughout high school whenever I had the (infre- of it during my self-imposed 6month sobriety stint. It quent) chance of not getting caught by my strict au- seemed helpful at first, as did the sobriety, in alleviat- thoritarian parents. During college and into my adult ing alot of my depression symptoms. At the time I life, I continued to drink excessively, often in binges, believed myself to be autonomously able to heal my- but interspersed with short periods of relative mod- self as I saw fit. I was strong and competent, full of eration. When I was 28, after some particularly un- hearty ego and willful pride. Again, I decided after a settling alcohol-related mishaps, I even "took 6 short time that she'd given me as much help as she months off" just to prove that I was not an addict, was capable, and my sessions ceased.
that I could willfully stop whenever I chose. On thenight I decided to get off the wagon, I wound up in In 2003, I saw a psychiatrist for the first time, having jail for a couple days. The crime was not serious, acknowledged to myself before meeting with her that and the charges were dismissed, but yet again I over- I might need to be open to a medicinal solution to my looked any lesson to be learned. Alcohol continued to play a leading role in most of the troublingly tu- multuous events in my life. Yet, all along, I man- as if I was floundering. She wanted to pre- aged to rein it in just sufficiently enough to cling to scribe Lexapro, trazodone, and Wellbutrin, County of San Diego Mental Health Department MHS • Health and Human Services • My Recovery • but as a precondition she insisted that I cease drink-ing. For two weeks, I did just that. When I began to Six months later, in the haze of a bender, in feel better, I continued taking the medication, and re- the midst of a thunderous downpour, I passed turned to drinking, assured in my notion that a lack of out face down in a deep mud puddle beneath depression would enable me to drink in moderation.
a dumpster, a mere 20 feet shy of the front door to In no time at all, I was drinking to great excess again.
my apartment building. Fortunately, someone saw Within months I stopped seeing the psychiatrist, and my plight and called an ambulance. I remember none of this. My first memory is being jolted awake in theambulance, a shot of adrenaline, choking up The two years that followed comprised a dismal se- dumpster runoff. They told me I hadn’t been breath- ries of failed companies, botched consulting assign- ing. When we reached the hospital, I snarled at the ments, intermittent unemployment, numerous geo- doctor, asked him if I was legally bound to remain in Diego. As soon as my health insur-ance was established, I began see- stability and mental health to my life.
ond . . . . . . didn’t I just see you last supposed to help me crave less al-cohol and taper down entirely.
When that didn't work, I went all the way to disulfiram worked for went bankrupt, I wallowed in my own mis- -Antabuse- in an attempt to shed the drinking habit I ery, and began drinking more heavily than ever. With could not seem to let go of my own free will. After a no job to go to, I could sleep later and start drinking week of cautious abstinence, I began tapering off the earlier. I looked halfheartedly for a new job, even Antabuse in the hopes that I was all better now. That had some interviews, some of which I did partly drunk wasn't really why. Really I just figured I wouldn't be or acutely hungover. No offers came, and my unem- able to have "just a couple drinks" while taking it.
ployment $$ ran out. I was about to lose my apart-ment, I had no job, and I could think of nothing but my Two days later I had a few drinks. Some of the addiction, and where my next drink would come from.
Antabuse remained in my system, and I experienced I was drinking ruthlessly, compulsively, in a way that one of the most horrific 3 hour periods of my life.
Some people vomit when they combine alcohol withAntabuse. I became flushed, hallucinatory and para- After a January blackout disaster, where I awoke with noid. I felt as if I might actually explode. I could sense my bed covered in blood, a huge gash running the each person that walked past gaping and leering into length of my scalp, unable to turn my head any direc- my turgid soul, passing terminal judgment upon me, tion due to excruciating muscle stiffening, a definite plotting my demise. It was the last time I made that concussion, no recollection what incident mistake - I was done with Antabuse, and done with caused the injuries, and no health insur- County of San Diego Mental Health Department MHS • Health and Human Services • My Recovery • reached acceptance that I needed to get help if I spirit in the depths of turmoil, I poured every wanted to live, to conquer my alcoholic despera- last drop of alcohol I had down the sink.
I went to my meeting with Ami the next day, I knew also, that my mental illness had reached an threw myself at her mercy, and said "I need to abysmal low - I lashed out even at those peoplewho stood by me despite my erratic behavior and addiction, people who would do anything to help "We both knew that when you first came here," she me; I felt little aside from despair, fear and rage.
said, "you just had to reach that conclusion fully foryourself and acknowledge it to me." I began researching programs that might assist me I felt horrible, a dark, evil person of malevolently low diction. I had no money and noinsurance. I needed a program treatment was insufficient, I wouldhave to move to an in patient set- "That's amazing, Seth!" she said.
"Hold onto that, keep remindingyourself of that, focus on what an gram, which seemed to embody every aspect of treatment I sought. It was an evidence-based re-search program, it applied individualized treatment I haven't had a drink since, but the real work was only plans, it was county-funded (so they would take me beginning. We began an assessment of my support even though I was broke) and best of all, it was out- resources in recovery. I am fortunate enough to have patient and just two miles from my apartment, so I a ferociously compassionate and loyal group of friends could walk or bike there. It's also a harm reduction and family who have stood by me and loved me dearly program. I liked that, because to me that meant I despite my illness, despite my increasingly erratic and didn't I have to stop drinking, it just meant I had to destructive behavior, despite my addictive selfishness.
reduce my consumption. I was excited that they She brought them into the process. We sat together would be able to teach me to drink in moderation, to and structured a relapse prevention plan - an actual help me get well and still be able to drink. I said as long and thorough checklist of things to do, places to much to my care coordinator, Ami, when we first go, people to call or run to if I feel in danger of taking met - she asked me my goals in the program, and I a drink or a drug. We had a laugh that if I make it all said: "I want to learn to drink in moderation".
the way through the list and I still want a drink, then She worked with me to set up groups and a meet- perhaps it would be fate. I haven't yet felt the need to ing schedule with that goal in mind. For a week or resort to my checklist. I hope I never do. But I have it.
two, I improved a bit. Then I went on a 5day black- It's long. It contains a huge number of people who I out bender. I felt completely beaten down - I couldn't think would drop just about anything to come shep- even get it together enough to handle a modest re- herd me through if I felt like relapsing. I'm covery plan. On the night of 18 April 2007, unable certain I could never make it through that to take the edge off my hangover even by choking cheklist and still want a drink or drug.
down a couple drinks, with my stomach, mind, and County of San Diego Mental Health Department MHS • Health and Human Services • My Recovery • There came a time after I'd been sober for many sion, it explained how I could go through pe- months when the acute depression returned. I'd been riods of relative contentment. They prescribed attending most of my groups, my therapy sessions - medication for me which I have taken ever I'd been engaging the program heavily, making a tre- since. It didn't make me feel different, just mendous amount of progress, and my bleak outlook somehow made getting out of bed that little from my drinking days had been replaced with a cau- bit easier where I could do it, even though it remains tious optimism. I didn't feel happy, but I was content difficult from time to time. it made me just that little and felt like my life had become more manageable. I bit more able to engage in the behavior-changing didn't want to die anymore, i wanted to live, and I cer- remedies that I learned in DBT & CBT, helped me tainly didn't want to drink. But I felt that slipping away, be just that little bit more open to perceiving the pos- and then I fell into that trough of misery nonetheless.
sibilities and opportunities in the world, where be- It was terrible. I couldn't get out of bed. I began slip- fore I dwelled on the daunting hurdles. Where I once ping in my program of healthy activities, missing described myself as miserable punctuated by [joy- groups, classes, meetings, even sessions with Ami.
ous] moments, I now feel genuinely happy in a way It happened to be that time frame where we evalu- I never believed possible. Life still has its ups and ated and updated my recovery plan, and I felt as if I downs for me, but the more I continue to actively were falling off, slipping back into despair, isolation, pursue those methods suggested in my recovery and unnerving dread. The confidence I'd begun to program, the more I continue to practice the tech- rebuild in myself, in my character crumbled away in a niques and healthy behaviors I have learned and precipitous instant. I felt overwhelmed and drown- integrated into my life, the more satisfied and confi- ing. The smallest activities or tasks took on an insur- dent I become in my recovery. Ever vigilant, ever mountable appearance, with catastrophic conse- persevering. I recognize that everything for which I quences of failure. I felt paralyzed again, as if I am grateful in my life must be cherished, and is built couldn't do anything to combat this enormous bur- upon the consistent reinvigoration of thos principles den that had collapsed upon me again. But I pulled it and practices that enable me to combat the dan- together enough to ask for more help from my coun- gers posed by any slip back into my addiction or I was given the opportunity to interview with the en-tire clinical team at the program, including the two ofthe founding doctors, a number of psychiatrists in resi-dence, the entire team of care coordinators, and otherpsychologists. I went into the meeting with a com-pletely open mind, ready to answer their questionswith the most thorough and acute honesty I pos-sessed, with no predetermined self-diagnosis for meto mimic symptoms. It felt amazing to be that directlyengaged, not only with my own counselor, but withan entire room of trained psychiatric and psychologicprofessionals. And I had mentioned to Ami prior tothe meeting that I was willing to to take any sugges-tions or help they could give me, even if it meant tak-ing medication for my mental illness, a move I hadresisted throughout my sobriety. Apparently, theycame to a pretty quick consensus in that room, rec-ognizing my symptoms as Bipolar with only hypo ma-nias, as oipposed to the depression I'd been diag-nosed with in the brief mental illness forays I'd madepreviously when still drinking. It was as if the sunsuddenly burst from behind a cloud: it all made sense,now I understood the cyclical nature of my depres- County of San Diego Mental Health Department MHS • Health and Human Services • My Recovery •


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