5 Things I Learned After Quitting Drugs: How I Am Navigating Sobriety In A Co-Addiction Marriage
5 THINGS I LEARNED AFTER QUITTING DRUGS
(How I am navigating sobriety in a co-addiction marriage)
Hi, I first want to say that I can’t believe I’m writing this. I can’t believe it because I never thought the day would come that I would actually quit opioids! The main objective in telling my story is not to let the pain and misery of my 14 year addiction go to waste. I am making damn sure all the suffering I endured is not in vain. I finally got so fed up with that pain that I chose to make use of the suffering to end the suffering rather than continue with it any longer. This (confession/blog/journal entry...whatever this is) may help me more than you, the catharsis of seeing the thoughts and emotions that I have been holding in for years materialize and float out into the world is wonderful for my soul and I really hope it can help others.
Nobody's addiction is the same and each presents unique obstacles that can make it hard in some cases for addicts to help or relate to others. There are constants in all addiction recovery, but for me, at least, I really gravite to those who have gone through some similar circumstances within the realm of drug abuse. I am not saying my situation is harder or easier than anyone else, just an outlier situation, even for the unlimited scenarios that are always involved with addiction. You hear a lot of amazing advice for those trying to quit drugs or alcohol. I am expressing what has been my truths and what has been working for me. Some of these might be unorthodox or maybe not recommended for some, so I am stressing that what I have been doing the last 3 months are what has been working for me. I am really hoping to be able to connect in some way with others going through it as well.
I believe a combination of the traditional pillars of recovery, combined with some outside the box methods when applicable (methods that are relative to you and your path - whatever you feel in your gut), covers all the bases. If I was 5 years in then I would feel a bit more emboldened to speak with more conviction, but it comes off pretentious and disingenuous for me to assume I really know what the hell I’m talking about other than the 90 days or so I have been clean.
There may be aspects to this that are not relevant for some, a lot of this I am writing to finally get out into the world. I told myself when I finally got clean I would humble myself and write about the struggle in some capacity. Anyone who can grasp knowledge from this piece please do so, as I write I have in mind first those who are going through a co-dependent/dual addiction situation.
I know everyone who struggles with addiction of any kind goes through a lot of the same emotions and hits maybe more than one rock bottom. My struggle involves my spouse who has also used with me for 14 years. She still uses and although I hope someday she will understand the pills ruined us (she does not as of now), it was only until she left and moved to an Airbnb was I able to do this. She didn’t leave to allow me time to recover, she left because like all drug addicts who use everyday for 14 years, the slow death eventually got to where we could not be in the same room for more than 5 minutes. She is staying away because, really, how can she argue that she should be home and I shouldn't at this time. Whatever her motivation for staying away is, I appreciate her for doing it and even though this has been super sad and disappointing considering I knew for years that there is no way a couple can survive while using every day, at least I hit my version of rock bottom and I am doing this now.
My wife never once addressed the destruction it caused, still considering it “one of many issues” we have to deal with. As frustrating as that is, I feel equally as guilty because I did know 10000 percent what the outcome would be, and even though I always initiated discussions about how and why it is killing/killed us and our need to stop, it was mostly talk and very little action on my part. It felt improbable to impossible to make a real move to stop until now.
However, the good news is…….. I do feel great considering the shit show and if I can feel hopeful and positive about my situation, I guarantee pretty much anyone who feels quitting can’t happen can generate the same emotions. I do not know if it is necessary for you to hear about my specifics, but for me I feel the need to give context to my addiction. Since most recovery involves the unconditional support of our loved ones, not having that makes this exponentially harder for me. Her still using and never wanting to talk about it in any fashion is tough for me….not impossible, but tough.
Another unusual aspect that accompanies our 14 year “odyssey” is that we never progressed to more amounts of drugs. The dependence increased, meaning it quickly became everyday, but never progressed to “harder” and never became “more” due to tolerance build up. Our love is opiates….oxy, roxy, percs. We never really increased daily amounts due to tolerance build up somehow - just never happened, we just maintained the same shit forever…..It was around 30-60mg a day when we started and ended for me the last 5 years between 40-100mg a day. The last year or so we added adderall like a couple of dummies and that definitely sealed our fate. I can talk more about that combo in detail later and how it took the things we hated about each other while on opiates and exacerbated them tenfold. However, the main culprit has always been the opiates.
The reason I speak about such specificities is because for me, there was no “traditional rock bottom”. Even with that combo I never was close to the usual images one thinks of when bottoming out….. getting arrested in front of the family on Thanksgiving or OD’ing or sleeping under a bridge, tap dancing for pills. I have always been amazed how my wife and I used in the exact same manner, felt the same about the drugs we used and never progressed or graduated to exponentially greater amounts of opiates. It was so sad that in the end, it was the only thing we really worked well together on….like an NBA team with a killer one/two punch. Stockton and Malone. Jordan and Pippen. Larry Bird and Dennis Johnson (yes, I’m from Boston)….no words needed, we just understood each other, where we needed to be and what needed to be done at all times (unfortunately, it was about obtaining pills).
My point is you don’t need to hit the stereotypical rock bottom to be at rock bottom! Mine was a slow burn and the last 5 years I knew exactly how it would end and I still didn’t really do anything about it….. I knew that it would hit me over the course of a day or two that I was done and it would be now or never. I knew how it would play out years in advance and it pretty much has gone exactly that way. I prayed that the “no coming back” version of bottoming out did not come my way but I am scared it is the only way my wife will stop.
I have been hovering 10 feet over rock bottom for years and in some respects that can be just as bad or sometimes even worse. 10 feet over rock bottom is not quite terrible enough of a life to force the change so it can go on and on and on….you never miss a day of work, or lose the ability to wake up and get your kid to school. You not only feel that the drugs are not as life depleting as you think, you become convinced you need them to function….because you are at your “best” when you are on them (total bullshit! “function” is such a misleading term with addiction. It took me 4 days without them to realize I was not even close to my best). I was smart enough to realize I didn’t need to OD or get locked up to know I was losing it all but I still took waaaay longer than I should have and I kick myself daily and have to deal with the knowledge that I KNEW I was living at a fraction of my potential, and killing the family.
I know I probably need a good therapist or sponsor and I need to keep writing because it is wonderful to see the thoughts on paper for me, but for now I want to kick off 5 things that I learned right after quitting drugs…..there has been a dozen or so unexpected results that I have been happy to learn, but 5 is a good start before I start sounding a bit too righteous and pedantic. I am trying to speak to things that are not in the wheelhouse of the usual addiction vernacular. The standards and pillars of recovery are all true and always need to be absorbed, learned and implemented. The following are some other realizations my short sobriety has shown me.
1. I did not grasp just how much of a full time slave I was to the pills
It is not a novel claim or anything a drug user doesn’t know…..you become a slave to the thing you’re using - in obvious ways and as time goes on, much more subversive ways. I was always well aware of it during my 14 years, but I really could not even imagine just how much until I stopped. It is pretty amazing. Even when you are stocked up and not worried about drug supply for the week, it still permeates every minute of every day. It bothered the shit out of me for years, I thought I knew the extent of it but until I stopped I really did not know. All that lack of intention and lack of focus on the things that matter adds up to a person being a lot less than optimal. There is no way you can be top notch and locked in (even on amphetamines) when you can’t focus on the things you should be focusing on. Too big a part of the brain is always thinking about the damn drugs in some capacity. If you are using and don’t think so, quit and then tell me what you think after a few weeks.
I had to then multiply all that pain, effort and time wasted by 2. Not only was I constantly thinking about when, where and how many pills I have left and the last time I took it and did I need to get more before this trip or that event….I have to think about the same exact thing for my wife. Is she almost out? Did she get more? Is she planning on getting more before we leave town for the week or do I? Did she take more than me? bla bla bla….on and on. So there’s that to waste an afternoon (or a life) on, but those questions are just about making sure I have enough. That does not include the conscious and subconscious never ending time spent making sure I have the pills with me, when the last time I took it was, should I take more now or wait? How much did I spend this week on it? Did my guy over charge me? Same questions taking up all my time, over and over and over and over again. Then I take all the useless minutiae of these questions and ask myself the same things for my wife. It IS a full time job and not just the times when you ”need to get more”. And like any soul sucking full time job, you may think you can be present with your friends and loved ones, but that shit is really out the window. Even if you are not aware of the time your brain is dedicated to thinking about the drugs first and foremost, it is very evidendent in your actions. Just pay attention to what you are doing throughout the day and how often you need to think about one of these previously listed drug seeking behaviors. Again, forget about the all consuming “need to get more, I’m out” for a minute and focus on all the other time spent on the addiction. You can’t be in two places at once and you certainly can’t be focused on anything important (like your kids) when you are a mental slave to a master that requires your primary focus morning ‘til night. I was going to list “Lack of Presence” as one of the 5, but if you buy into the fact of how much of a slave you become, not being truly present becomes a redundant discussion….clearly there is a strong lack of presence with anything of importance going on. The drug taking game involves hyper fixating on the past and planning for the immediate future. If you spend the day depressed on past regressions and add anxiety over future plans to make sure you have what you need to survive, a yoga or meditation class ain’t enough to bring you back to “now” - don’t kid yourself.
2. I was in a real dull haze or: “I Thought I Felt Pretty OK All These Years But That Turns Out To Be Total Bullshit.”
This isn’t a commentary on how I did not feel as invincible as I thought when high. This is about the other 10 or so hours a day when I wasn’t high. Those hours in between gave me a real false sense that I was feeling pretty optimal or energized, or at least OK. Not buzzed, but not feeling like I am crashing. Felt pretty sharp, pretty focused. It took me all of about 4 days after I committed to getting clean (even in the midst of some pretty bad withdrawals) to remember what real energy and focus feels like - high school type energy….when you physically feel good to go all day and mentally feel like you can kick the holy hell out of life and all it throws at you. 4 days to realize, in reality, how little zest I had, how truly less than optimal I was operating at. I was taking a consistent regiment of drugs and was an expert in knowing exactly how I would react to them. I did not have many crashes or feelings of taking too much. Essentially, I felt ok in between “feeding times”, which is so misleading to me now, looking back. Just because I wasn’t going through withdrawals or tweaking off too many of whatever I was taking, I thought I felt good. I Thought I felt sharp, I thought I felt productive. I think this was the biggest surprise for me over the last three months or so, all those years I felt a miniscule fraction of what energy and productivity and mindfulness can and should feel like.
The thing about taking opiates and then with amphetamines, is that you become astute at mixing a perfect amount so you get the high of the opioids and amphetamines, without the drowsiness of the opioids or the cracked out feeling of the speed. It’s goddamn extra scary when you can delete those side effects...it is all motivation to proceed and keep using. Because I was able to use a consistent amount for years and never
went over that amount, the hours of the day that I wasn’t high felt pretty good - at least not too crappy. I felt certainly close to optimal…..right?…. wrong!
Like anyone who is pumped to be getting clean, I can give a hundred examples of how much better I feel now, physically and mentally - but the example that expresses how I feel now and how dim and passionless I felt using is easily described by a simple love of music…..mini story time:
Like most everyone in the world, music is a big part of people’s lives in some way. For most, it is a huge part of their life and the thought of a life without music is a life uninspired. I am that guy too, looooooove music so much. I produce electronic music which has been a big part of my existence for the last 15 years, but my heart lies just as much with soul, motown, punk to funk, old school hip hop, soundtrack scoring to classic rock. If me and you are driving across the country on a road trip (good luck with that, dude) we are listening to everything. There will be electronic music but for the most part it’s going to be everything else. So basically I am conveying that like many of you, music is air and water - it is kind of necessary. When I was high, I would lock in and create electronic music with ferocious excitement. (Little detour, sorry - I do not have another word for “high” right now, for efficacy of my story I want to be as authentic as possible and I don’t want people to think by “high” I mean fall down, out of my mind messed up...I am really trying to convey that even though I was “totally and completely functional”, that super feeling was chemically manufactured and fake. So maybe not “high” by the afterschool special standards, but I define high as my mood and behavior affected by the pills - good or bad, a lot or a little.) I could not wait to get the equipment on and making tracks was a pleasure. I would pick up and play my guitar and force my kid to listen to my awful voice as I told him all these awesome covers I was strumming were my original songs (didn’t help, he still busted my balls the whole time - god bless him). I would make playlists of music that I would blast in the car while trying to convey their pure awesomeness to my son. Music would permeate the house from the big bose speakers. Basically, while using, it was always being enjoyed by me in some capacity. This is not unlike most people. Sunday morning with the Beatles, night time kid dance parties with house music, excuses to drive somewhere just to hear what new curated playlist Spotify made for me based on the music I am currently digging. So it is a big part of my life, my whole life since I was a kid rocking my first mixtape (yes, tape as in cassette, kids).
I knew for a long time that that huge passion for the music was dissipating. It didn’t seem as obvious for the first few years but the last 4 years or so I was cognizant that sober it just did not interest me as much. I still could get into it, but it really became an afterthought or a chore to make music. I realized the guitar wasn’t ever picked up much, no Sunday morning Beatles acoustic sessions, the car rides became whatever shuffled on my itunes, or no music at all. Then around January of this year (2020) I stopped playing the guitar, stopped making electronic music. In the car I just played whatever happened to be on at an old person volume. I recognized I was doing it because as soon as the pills kicked in I went right for the guitar and would go back to “educating” my little dude on the epicness of these songs on my playlist. But even that became hollow and sad, as I was aware in real time that the only time I am sharing the music is when I am on pills. I became focused on that, focused on why I can’t love this music and share this music when I’m sober, focused on the realization that in 45 min I’m not going to feel high and the music will be turned back down to minimal levels - or off. Back to background noise, something you hear while on hold when making an appointment to get your oil changed. So even then the passion and emotion music gave me became somewhat hollow and ineffective. I literally did not even look at my guitar or computer (music making computer) from January until October (when I started my journey to get healthy).
I am not saying I am trying to be a professional musician or that my ultimate goal is to make music for a career. I am expressing how much I love music and how integral it has been in my life and if I can shut that off completely, how could I be expected to have a passion for anything anymore? Since I stopped using, I have not only gotten back into music, it has taken a hold of me in a way I never thought possible. More than ever before at any time of my life. Maybe it is just the honeymoon phase of recovery and maybe it tapers down as time goes on but I sincerely doubt it - I don’t go 20 minutes without needing to hear music, be absorbed by music, elevated by the music. It has been the closest thing I can relate to a truly spiritualized experience. I am far from a new age, freaky deaky preachy guy. You will not see any cliched spiritual quotes on my facebook page that I am passing off as my own but clearly nicked from someone more important. I am a neurotic, suburban jew from Massachusetts who relates a lot more with Larry David than Tony Robbins, but I have been moved to tears daily when the right song hits me! If you know me you can not imagine I am not full of shit on this, but I swear. There are days where I am so entranced with a new song I listen to it maybe 20 times. Can’t get enough. Although I don’t do traditional meditation, I am loving the Wim Hoff method of breath retention and the best part of it is the daily 20 minute chill mix I play when doing the breathing. The music part is as effective in centering me and taking away my stress as the breath retention and ice cold showers. I have started making tracks again….opened up Ableton (a music software program for the non-nerds out there) and working again towards producing non-crappy dance music. I am very happy about this as 15 years of non stop hustling for one thing basically went away one day and I thought it was gone forever. Not super focused on making a ton of money on music right now, but working towards enjoying and making music that I love and gotta think that may lead to new opportunities.
….and yes, I am addicted to music…..we all know, when you are an addict and get clean you need to get addicted to something. Even though this music is everywhere in my house and in my heart again, it is more an integral piece that was sorely lacking in my life rather than an addiction (like I said about water and air earlier - not addictions but needed to live). Music is a huge piece of the pie for me, along with fitness, nutrition and some sort of mindfulness practice. It goes hand in hand with my dedication for finally getting out of my comfort zone and doing things that I am scared of.
I do not buy into most of the people on social media that shove woke quotes down our throats to enlighten us unwoke people, yet one of the few that is absolutely true for me and I have naturally gravitated to is the need to get out of my comfort zone and get really uncomfortable and face the fear of that feeling. I am doing that more and more and it always made sense but now I see it as a “have to”, not a “should do”. It is going to be a glorious journey! (That being said, I really never want to read poignant motivational messages from a 22 year old girl with fake everything who takes 18 gym locker room and brunch selfies a day….I saw one girl on Instagram last week who took a brunch selfie in a gym locker room. Not sure she’s the one that should be waxing poetic propagating Maya Angelou quotes).
Sorry that i have digressed a little from my music anecdote. The point is this - something missing from a life that is so important to that life can not always be detected when it is gone. Sometimes until that thing comes back into your life, you never knew how “gone” it was. If I could be so uninvolved in music, so complacent and complicit in not regaining that passion, I must have really been numb and disinterested in just about every other aspect of my life, way more than I thought I was. That is the main point of this diatribe! If one of the most important parts of my life became a non-existent part, imagine how truly non-existent all the other parts of my life became. Damn that is sad to write, encouraging to finally be aware of it, but very sad to me…. Go find the thing you didn’t realize was taken away through addiction. Even if you are currently using, find that thing and at least let it rock your world that it is no longer an integral part of your life. It might be just the thing that snaps you out of your dull haze.
(Yes, I am currently listening to music as I write this, of course….”We Were Promised Jetpacks” - a post rock band from Scotland)
That is my “music story”.
In my head all these years I told myself if I can get clean I may need many many months to start feeling like I hoped I could. Years of ingesting something in order to do anything surely must come with a huge price when you finally take that thing away. I was preparing for severe boredom, depression, exhaustion and a heap load of shame with a giant side of regret and many many hours of “what if?” I really was gearing up for a struggle, a grind which may make it feel like it is not worth it. I gave myself 6 months to a year to hopefully feel like I wanted to but It took 4 days to realize my body and mind is not broken beyond repair and will do most of the heavy lifting. I just needed to get the hell out of the way and do my small part to expedite the process!
3. I am latching on to as much mentorship and expert guidance as I can….but sometimes I have to say to people, “thanks, but no thanks”.
I need to clarify what I am talking about here, because it can be extremely irresponsible to put out a message to not take help from addiction experts or people who know their stuff. That is not what I am saying. There are things that addicts absolutely have to adhere to and buy into in order to have a chance. Any counselor or professional who has your best interest will preach these pillars of recovery. We know what they are, we believe in them, we adhere to them.
The thing that is happening to me, and I assume happens with others at the same stage of recovery, is that concepts I assumed or perceived to be the right way are becoming absolutes. Things that I thought might work for me or might not work for me now are definites….not everything, but the things I am sure of I am sure of. My situation is very different, just like many addicts that have unique obstacles and although the foundation of staying clean is universal, no one knows me like I do. A drug counselor with 30 years experience knows certain things about everyone but he does not know me like me. A girlfriend or wife or lifelong friend may indeed know you “better than you know yourself” when it comes to most things but they DO NOT know what is inside you when it comes to this. I never trusted my gut like I do now relative to specific behaviors or decisions I am implementing to recover, reset and self-evaluate my life. My perceived beliefs have become absolute and even though it has been only a relatively short time, the things my gut is screaming at me to listen to I am trusting.
This is not a game, people - and I don’t mean that like “this is serious business”, I literally mean this is not a game. There are no points, no set list of rules, no world champion or runner up. There is no final best of 7 series against a rival squad. So the point of these lame sports analogies is this - how I am getting clean is how I am getting clean. It is my game to play and my beliefs of what clean or recovery is based on what I know to be right and true for me. I am implementing the basic foundations that I know I have to do in order to set myself up to succeed as well as peppering in actions and behaviors that are unique and pragmatic for me. This has made the entire process exponentially efficient and pretty wonderful overall.
People will love to tell you what “clean” means to them or the difference between recovery and abstaining. “It doesn’t count if you do this” or “It doesn’t count ‘cause you didn’t get a sponsor or go directly into a treatment facility.” It will always be the damaged ones who are peddling this on you, too. It hurts to hear and there is only so much mindful meditation I can do before I want to snap at these people, but I am learning that many people love to shove their subjective, usually uninformed opinions down our throats and pass them off as fact so they can seem like the wise saviors. It’s crap, man, they just want to bloviate. Someone important to me told me this exact thing would happen and it sure has. I am not talking about the addiction counselors and former drug addicts. Like I keep saying, there is a time to buckle down and do exactly what the smartest people in the room tell us to do - the counselors, the experts. You can tell when someone’s intentions are purely to help so it is easy to decipher who to pay attention to.
You either succeed or you do not. I believe you will quickly figure out your personal definition of success and what it will take for you to achieve long term results. I had a goal and a mental game plan of how this could work for me. The seas parted for a second and I did not know when the waves would come crashing in. I saw things lining up and I seized the opportunity. Some of the hardest parts of this I have already endured but I would be naive and a bit sanctimonious to think I am out of the woods yet.
4. A fair bit of luck was really significant for me to get to where I am.
Things needed to line up for me in order to effectively accomplish what I never could do in 14 years prior. I was mentally and physically ready unlike previous times, so when I saw those seas part, I made the decision that it is now or possibly never. Like a running back who might get cut from the team, I saw the tiny gap the O-line created and went at it with all my heart. I ran directly toward the light, the end zone, I ran straight towards freedom. I am still running hard, as I know the defensive backs are fast and stealth like and cunning, so I am certainly not going to get complacent and slow down on the 10 yard line and start doing the Deon Sanders primetime high step (hooray for more lame sports analogies!)
Luck might not be as inspiring a word as a term like opportunity. Luck may sound like success is out of my hands. I will say luck but what I did was take notice of the opportunities around me that were developing and I hit the full throttle switch. My opportunities manifested in many different ways but the part that was most crucial was being cognizant and hyper aware when it was time. Even if that tiny hole seems too hard to get through, I realize it is there now, it might be the best chance I have. For many, waiting for a bit of luck or a more opportune time is not an option - all of our lives are literally and figuratively on the line so if you can do it now just start. For me to pontificate about waiting to seize your moment may end up being bad advice for some. I am saying for me, a handful of things lined up to give me an unprecedented sliver of hope - that is the bit of luck I speak about. A sliver is what I needed. I am not close to done or out of the woods - I’ve got battles that just began, but I do not see myself slipping. Like my man Big Daddy Kane says…. ain’t no half-steppin’ (if you know the lyrics then I love you!)
Sometimes luck will not shine on you and I guess you have to just get down to it. As my “luck” was occurring it certainly did not feel like luck, but more of a deeper dive into the abyss. My wife left to stay at an AirBnb. The “luck” is that she left and being alone to get clean without the other co-dependent addict living with me while still using was a true blessing. She did not leave to allow me the space and respect to get clean without having another addict at home. She left because she thought I would come around and apologize for all the shit that has gone down over the years. The marital demise was 100% drug related. Fights and issues that she swears had nothing to do with the drug abuse was absolutely and completely caused by drugs. Like an infection from cancer that takes on massive health issues of their own, these new health problems are now serious dilemas independent of the cause. How can these “infections” be fixed until the root cause of all of it is acknowledged and addressed. How can any couple survive 14 years of use and abuse? I do not think many can. We would have been together forever, but we figuratively beat each other down so much that even though we separated and the battles have subsided (not gone, but subsided), we punched too much, hit too hard, and we are now a DNR…..flatlined. Should have stopped mentally beating the hell out of each other and our family a few months sooner before we hit the point of no return. The most painful for me is her refusal to correlate the crumbling partnership with addiction. Finances, respect, presence, effort, emotion all were depleted beyond repair. The addiction was the disease, and as that disease grew and spread, it caused many new infections and problems….those are the problems she does not see as stemming from the drugs, so she wanted to deal with them as one-offs, without as much as addressing the drugs involvement. You can’t just try and fix the side effects and infections cancer causes without addressing the cancer as well. Her not knowing or seeming to care nearly as much as she should is brutal, but is it not just as brutal that I 100% percent knew how this would play out, how this would ruin everything, and yet I did not work harder to kick before the point of no return? So when I ask myself how much I blame her for the “drug thing” killing the marriage, I blame us equal. I say equal but in the end I really can not blame anyone for my mistakes, as I am accountable for me.
(As I am sure you can infer from my writing, It is clear I am struggling to come to grips with all of this, I am all over the place. Blaming her, then me, then her and maybe over explaining our situation for “context” but really maybe I just want sympathy. Who knows? I am in the infancy stages of a life examined while trying to dig way deeper than most to find out the real reasons why I perpetuated
habits that clearly caused an unhappy life. Hopefully as time goes on and I am more confident in what I am saying, the message will become a bit more succinct.)
So Luck #1 was the wife moving out. Luck #2 is my boy being at peace and mature about the seperation. If he wasn’t I would be totally screwed. If he was in great angst about the situation I would be in a place where I would not know what to do. His actions and behavior have been a guiding light and a template of how family should act. He is a little maniac, super hyper and awesome and crazy…..and he had the awareness that we did not, to realize it can not happen under the same roof at this time. We do not really know how things are going to play out so we have told him because we hate fighting so much lately (and because my wife does concierge COVID testing), the overall stress of Coronavirus has made us fight a lot more than usual and we want to stop. He knows mommy tests a lot of people and it is better to be in a separate place when dealing with potentially sick people all day. We are down the road from each other and he is with her whenever she wants and with me whenever I want. He does not need to say a word about the situation to convey his thoughts about it. His expressions and actions speak volumes, they scream out “you two dingbats couldn’t get your shit together and stop fighting everyday, now for the sake of all of us you need to be separated, like a couple of 2nd graders on timeout!”
Whenever I bring up us being apart he doesn’t want to talk about it but it really is not because he is so sad or holding it in. I used to try every day to really explain to him that we do not want to fight and we want to chill out and work on stuff and then come back together at some point. I would get happy-emotional, however, whenever I started talking about it because I would immediately shift to how awesome I think he is and how lucky we are to have him. My eyes start watering and he sees dad being all “weird”. It would make him uncomfortable a bit and not really want to continue my talk. I get it - and he still gets the daily dose of heavy love but I get why that convo is not super fun for a 7 year old, even if it is about how great he is. He would sheepishly tell me he knows how much I love him and he knows how much mommy loves him. He gets the point and I gotta think he is feeling the love a lot more than before even. I stare at him when he isn’t looking to see if I am missing something, if he is struggling and holding something back and maybe it will show in his face. Although the situation is disconcerting, he really is doing amazing. He does not know that he probably saved my life, his maturity about this allowed me to stay separated which made it possible for me to get clean. He legit saved my life.
It is not an ideal situation and it is dejecting it has come to this but having him witness our fights and scaring him like that is soooooooo much worse!! It is as bad a feeling as I have ever had in my life….and once the fights start, even though we tried not to fight in front of him, it could not be stopped until I just had to leave the house ASAP. Miserable feeling, so ashamed and pissed at myself for taking part in it. Thank god almighty he is doing genuinely as good as I have ever seen him and is actually enjoying the split time and adapting wonderfully. So Felix being great is “Luck #2”.
Luck #3 is Coronavirus - yes, COVID-19. I am not a psychopath, I hate a worldwide pandemic just as much as the next guy and I wish COVID would go away, but it has saved my ass and helped me with this recovery process. It is not usually a responsible move to have bills or important financial payments deferred or on hold for a later date but with me making sobriety my number one goal, it has immensely helped to be able to have a few months to defer mortgage and be able to defer some big bills. There is a big financial component to the fights, having credit cards and mortgage companies calling us and sending letters during the pandemic would have added to an unbelievably difficult time. Also, not having to pay a mortgage right now made it possible for my wife to rent an apartment from a friend. Not having to pay certain bills has allowed me to take a big breath and come up for air as I have been submerged underwater for so long….drug wise and fiscally. Plenty of financial obligations still but having that respite is allowing me to come up for a breath and a mini-reset and collect myself as I further figure out my recovery process. Without any financial break, getting clean would have been like a person trying to figure out how to hold their breath while they are underwater - drowning.
In my quest to self-evaluate and tear apart my old life so I can begin a new life free of the strife, I am trying to eliminate attachments. As in philosophy 101, attachments to anything or anyone end in pain and anxiety. We know money is a big attachment, maybe the biggest. We all know that the “stuff” you get with money is just a big attachment and once you are not attached it has no power over you and becomes a source of pleasure and nothing more. Well, I get it but I am not there yet! I’ve got plenty of debt and we go at it hard about the money, so I would love to sort that out as soon as I can.
I have been running and managing bars for years so COVID enabled/forced me out of an industry I never really liked. I began helping my wife with her concierge COVID testing business. We almost killed each other doing that but I am now able to do my own thing selling COVID testing kits to business’ part time, while I can still get a bit of unemployment (again, something I never thought I would ever need, but in this case it has been very helpful and needed). What Coronavirus complicates for parents with a kid in school is there is no aftercare or before care in most cases and no more post school activities. Each week if a student or teacher tests positive the kids are home on zoom for a week or two, so a parent is essentially “on call” from the school. Most friends and family that normally would be able to watch a kid can not at this time due to COVID. So not “having” to jump into a full time gig has allowed me to be there for my son...but it is even more paramount for me to be there for him as the only sober parent at this time. I eventually have to figure out full time work again but I am grateful I have been given a chance to stop and breath and assess and figure it out in a much more useful way. I am thankful to this crappy Coronavirus pandemic for that.
Opportunities that do not seem like opportunities are most likely there. Look hard, step outside your body and look at your situation as if you are an independent evaluator. A wife who leaves and a global pandemic does not appear to be “lucky” at all….but it has been. You need to create your sliver of hope but do not pass up on the obvious as well as the more subversive opportunities either. They are there, if they appeared for me they will most likely appear for you.
5. Keep going!!
Very “Ra-Ra, Go Team!” - I know. I was going to finish my “5 things'' with a spiel about finding the correct mindful activities to become hooked on as you work on yourself, but the last week has been a rough one and I’m currently trying to fight through it. Not triggered to use, but certainly feeling a lot of negative thoughts and energy coming from myself as I do not see the light at the end of the tunnel with my wife. A very “what’s the point of it all” week. I currently feel stuck and do not know how to get to the point where I can really move forward and that is what is causing a not so positive mindset right now.
So to you, me and everyone dealing with this …..KEEP GOING, DUMMY! (I’m the dummy in this scenario - not you) Life happens and will keep happening. Like everyone who is kind enough to read this, I have 20 issues that I am dealing with now, or need to deal with soon, but nothing is going to matter if I do not KEEP GOING! Wife cares more about the dog chewing the couch then getting clean?... so what - KEEP GOING! She wants to say I’m not “clean” I’m just abstaining?...so what - KEEP GOING! She wants to minimize it and ignore it?...tough shit - KEEP GOING! What am I going to do with this pain and addiction I have endured, help others or lock it up and let it fester?... shut up - KEEP GOING! What am I going to do career wise for the first time?...no one cares - KEEP GOING! (you won’t have a career if you stop now.)
The first four parts of this “journal entry on steroids” came out pretty easy and as hard as it is to try and write about addiction for the first time and open up, I have been invigorated throughout this process. This last week has been a struggle and as I am typing this, I am realizing it probably should be that way. It is pretty metaphoric… things are definitely not going to be all smooth and fluffy. I have a lot of battles to go and I know it, so feeling unmotivated and not so positive right now is fine - KEEP GOING! Life will keep happening, it will keep smacking us all around.
I know as I progress through this journey there will be plateaus and honeymoon phases will come and go and I will be left with feelings of “what’s the point”? I think I prepared myself for it, it is going to be a long road to travel.
I love where I am and if you told me 3 months ago this is what has transpired, I would be over the moon. So I am allowing myself to be a bit of a curmudgeon this week because I know it will pass….everything good and bad shall pass. As long as I stay clean and keep going I am setting myself up to conquer. The newfound energy physically and emotionally of being clean makes me want to do like 50 productive things a day and that’s great, but I need to start locking in and defining where I want to go with everything. No need for concrete answers since I have to take it day by day, but I am starting to formulate more of a longer term mindset/gameplan. So when I feel extremely annoyed and stuck for the first time since I got clean, I realize that it is OK to feel that, let it come and pass and know it won’t be the last negative feelings I have about sobriety or my life.
I forced myself to write this last part and it really is helping in real time as I type. I imagined a sunny ending with a big motivational punch to close, but this is the reality for me and more real than telling everyone to meditate and exercise (do those things by the way, whatever mindfulness works for you). If I can write this, finish it, send it out into the world this week and maybe read some philosophy at bed time to calm me down, that’s a pretty good week….can’t do it every week as there is a lot to do, but for this week instead of kvetching about all I should be doing, I am going to be happy about the few positive things I did. I am just going to stay clean and KEEP GOING and be OK with weeks like this….there will be worse ones than this but I know there will be exponentially better ones. If a week like this has shown me that I will not be triggered to use, then this week has been actually very useful and blessed.
It has taken me about a month to write this whole thing. I meant for it to be a quick journal entry for myself or an anonymous post at some point maybe, something that I planned on knocking out in an afternoon. However, it was a lot more difficult then I imagined. To articulate such intimate feelings, while trying not to come off like an asshat should be hard. I realize that now, I was a bit naive to think it would just roll off the tongue. I am leaving this with this…..Get in touch with me if you think I can help or my story resonated with you at all. If you are dealing with a co-dependent addiction, a dual-addiction relationship or do not have a support system in place, I would love to hear from you. I am trying to work this all out myself, which is why I am pretty self-deprecating throughout. I am far from an expert, if I help someone or a couple, that may end up helping me as much as it would help you.
You hear the following cliche….and I was sick of hearing it too….until I became the one who was saying it, because I know in this case it is 100% true - If I Can Do It, You Can Too. Trust a stranger on this one. I promise.