Tuesday, September 19, 2017
By: Tim Alexander
I remember the sleepless nights as the doors to the cells open and shut. The sounds reverberated through my bones. The sounds penetrated my dreams and left me as cold as the steel and concrete around me. Days went by like a weary wanderer in a desert of isolation. My soul was parched. It longed for the refreshing waters of emotion. It longed for the warmth and comfort that love provides, yet, I was in jail....again.
I remember those sleepless nights when I wondered if anyone I knew cared if I was there alone and suffering. No, probably not. I had burned many bridges with my inferno of self-destruction. I was a labyrinth of self pity, a pan-handler of pain. "Excuse me life? Could you spare some insecurity? Could you spare some low self-esteem?" I was addicted to chaos.
Can you relate?
Do you know the darkness from which I've come? Chances are that if you're reading this, you do. If not, then welcome my friends. Welcome to recovery.
Many days and nights I wept quietly to myself for fear of another offender hearing my anguish. This wasn't the first time I had found myself withdrawing in a cell staring out of empty eyes into the cage that had become my sanctuary. Call me institutionalized, call me what you want, but in that cell I was safe, safe from myself.
I had tried recovery over and over again but seemed to be caught in that endless cycle of habitual ignorance. How do I change 25 years of bad decisions and character defects? Everything I had taught myself turned out to be wrong. All the manipulation turned against me and I became the puppet, my master was heroin. My mind was like an old slide projector flipping through the hopes and dreams of the life I felt I should've lived. "I should be somebody." I mumbled through cracked lips. How does nobody become somebody?
How does a man with no face that hides behind so many change? I simply had no identity. Somewhere in the vortex of my addiction, I'd lost myself.
I remember looking into the mirror and seeing nothing staring back at me. I was a stranger in another humans pallid skin. I looked upon a structure of bones only to see a parasite that had hijacked and destroyed some poor man's vessel.
Where do I find hope? Is it tumbling around on the floor wrapped inside the dust bunnies that elusively escape the dustpan of my soul? Hmmm...
I remember these days so vividly.
I remember them because in these days I surrendered. The pain of continual use became greater than the pain to face my fears. To face myself. February 9, 2017 is a day I will never forget because its the day I started my life. It's the day I found hope.
I will continue my story soon if you care to read more, and for those who have thank you for your time, stay clean, love life, and do something nice for someone today you never know another's struggle.
Monday, September 18, 2017
Ring ring....This is your life calling...
Pick up! This is your life calling!
Is anyone home?
Wham Bam Thank you ma'am
Slam a bag of dope & say hello to your death.
Bottom of a bottle plunge of a syringe
Janice Jimmy Jim all found the end
It's your lover It's your friend
It's all you need to depend on
Just a quick pick me up
Up off the floor But I NEED some more
Need for that fix & I'm up to my old tricks
Cause that voice in my head that says I'm better off dead
Is a constant scream, a willful whisper
(shhh...Can you hear that? It's your life calling...)
But the Truth is hard to hear.
Should I look to the sky? Or down to the ground?
At the face in the mirror stricken with fear?
Because my eyes lie.
Put the needle in the vein & things are still the same.
20 on the stem & I'm at it again.
Drama drama everywhere. I need a hit
to get through this shit.
The system fucked me, nobody loves me,
my heroes are dead, that voice in my head,
Beam & coke, a long deep toke,
Peanut's got that fire & I'm burning with a desire
to get high...
O you sly fox, you slick dog
carry me into that beautiful fog
Put me into a fugue, a tender dream,
make things seem not as they seem.
Would you wrap me in your arms?
Caress the back of my brain? Cradle
& hold me, make it not so insane?
I've been doing this dance for such a long time
Getting fucked up just to feel fine.
Polished every spoon, pricked every vein,
cracked every stem, held onto the reins.
Popped every pill, burnt both my thumbs,
rubbed every bottle but the genie never comes.
And I've only got one wish, one thing I need
God lift me out of this Hell & grant me
I want to feel the breeze blow through the trees
I want to hear the rain hit my window pane
Wish on a star & end this war
Be still for a moment, catch my breath
Say Hello to my life & not yet to my death.
So just for today, I'll fold hands & pray
for the opportunity
that when I hear that ring
check the caller ID
see my Life calling me
I will be able to answer
Friday, September 15, 2017
Rachel M Blog
My name is Rachel and I am a woman in recovery. I have been free of any mind-altering substances for almost nine months. Ridding myself of drugs and alcohol was just the beginning. See heroin does not commit any crimes, crack doesn’t force me to hustle on the street and, alcohol does not demand I drink the whole bottle. I did those things because I was physically dependent on the drugs and mentally obsessed with the next one. What was it though that let me to use them in the first place?
I have a disease. This disease I suffer from is something I believe I have had since birth and something I will have for the rest of my life. My disease tells me that I am not a good person, it tells me that I am not pretty enough, thin enough or smart enough. It tells me to be quiet because I have nothing to bring to the table. It tells me don’t even bother trying because you will fail at it anyway. It makes me run from opportunities out of fear. I am naturally afraid of everything. When I was a child I was afraid my classmates wouldn’t like me because I didn’t even like me. I hated myself, I hated my clothes, I hated my hair, my grades, my voice and, I hated the way people would look at me in the eye when they talked to me because I felt like they were judging me and hating me too.
When I was 15 I found alcohol. A few big gulps of a warm Colt 45 and that warm, fuzzy, glowing feeling I got as it made its way through my blood stream was all it took. I drank alcoholically since that day. I didn’t turn any substance away no matter the consequences. I experienced loss of jobs, loss of education, loss of family, loss of homes, loss of self-respect, loss of morals, loss of many of my firsts. I lost myself before I even knew who I was. After over 15 years of just a miserable existence mixed with a few months here and there of what I thought was normalcy, I found my pathway to recovery.
I work a 12-step program to the best of my ability. I am human so I by no means do that perfectly but I do the best that I am able. I have a network of strong women with multiple years clean that I turn to on a daily basis. I have a Higher Power that I talk to periodically throughout the day. When life gets too much for my human body to handle I turn it over to Him to take care of. I remind myself that I am worth fighting for, I am smart, I am beautiful, I am funny, I am lovable, I am employable, I can reach my potential so long as I do the next right thing for the next right reason.There is a solution to the disease I have. For me that means I will have to work a program of recovery for the rest of my life. Some days are easier than others but my worse day clean is better than any day out there using. 9 months ago, I so desperately just wanted to be happy. I wanted so badly to wake up withouot having to obsess about how I was going to get my drugs. I just wanted to be able to laugh. I just didn’t think would ever be possible. Now the possibilities are endless and with almost 9 months clean I am just getting started.
Friday, September 8, 2017
My name is Erin Mayberry, Director of Female Programs with McShin Foundation and a woman in long term recovery from substance use disorder. What that means to me is that I have not found it necessary to use a drug or other substitute since November 10, 2014. Today, I am a better mother, daughter, friend and partner than I have ever been. I am growing into a woman that loves and appreciates herself and those around her who consistently help me in my desire to grow and become a better person.
Here is a little peak into what is going on in my life at the moment. Not necessarily the work related stuff, the me stuff. The uncomfortable stuff. The stuff I don’t always want to talk about and would rather hide from than work on or address. EXPECTATIONS. That’s where I am at today. Before I start, let me say my higher power has a sense of humor and I always seem to be the last one to the party!
My focus in the last few weeks has been on taking it easy on my friends, colleagues and loved ones. Oh, and myself…that’s very very important! My gratitude and ability to practice some acceptance and patience was wavering. In a very short time, like less than twelve hours, myself and many of my friends had buried a dear friend and watched two very close friends go back out to use, one of which culminated in an extended hospital stay due to overdose.
I was hurting, as were my friends. Out of pain, some things were said both by myself and other individuals that were hurtful and wrong. Even though I myself did not respond in a way I would have liked to, I EXPECTED that because some had lived a lifestyle of recovery longer than I had, they would not react as I had. What a crock of crap. I’m human just as they are. I feel just like they do. By working on myself, I have learned that I am capable of causing great harm to myself and others with my words and actions. Even with this knowledge I still act out. Why would I expect any less of others regardless of their personal journey? If I make mistakes and have trouble controlling the words I am speaking, why should I not expect the same from others? And even though I just typed the words, why do I forget that we are all human beings and that none of us are perfect?
Solutions, today I prefer to be in solutions. I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes it takes me a minute to disengage my ego and get uncomfortable enough to even start that process, but as a general rule, sitting in misery is not as appealing as it used to be! If I take a good honest look at what is happening around me, I can assure you I have a part to play in whatever it is that is making me uncomfortable. That is up to me to change and no one else. A woman I look up to tells me often, “Acceptance solves 99% of your problems.” I like to add, “Communication solves the rest.”
Here is what I have learned. People aren’t puppets and I cannot force anyone to act as I would have them act. I myself am not a puppet and I am going to make mistakes. I am an imperfect person living with an entire world filled with other imperfect people. My growth starts with my willingness to change and remain teachable as well as with my ability to admit when I am wrong and take responsibility for my own actions. When I am kinder to myself, I can be kinder to you. When I am accepting of myself, I can be more accepting of you. It’s really pretty simple…it’s that application piece that gets me sometimes!
Thanks for listening to me ramble, I’m going to get back to work…and in case you were wondering…much of what I have alluded to in this blog has been “righted.” However, if I am being honest, there are still a few people out there that I need to sit down with. Thank you guys for the opportunity to gain a little accountability on the matter. I’ll let you know how it progresses next time!
Thursday, September 7, 2017
I am an addict and my name is Brenda.
I am a person in long term recovery from a substance use disorder. What that means for me is that I have not found it necessary to use any mood altering substance since January 17, 2002. This is part of my story.
I was married when I came into recovery. My husband was injured in a car accident in our first year of marriage and fractured a vertebrae in his neck and was instantly paralyzed from the chest down. At that time we were both 26 years old and had just had our first child, needless to say this was a lot to cope with for a new family.
I coped as best I could taking care of him, the baby, the house, my job and anything else that came my way. I was taking care of everything and everybody and lost myself in the process
My addiction began when I started taking pain medication prescribed by a physician for physical symptoms related to the high stress caused by the immense emotional strain that life circumstances brought my way. I quickly realized that these medications helped more than just the pain I was experiencing, they became an escape from my reality. Over time I began taking more and more of these medications and eventually became physically addicted. Once my physician realized I was abusing my medication she stopped prescribing the medication and that is when the real trouble began.
In addition to being a wife, mother, daughter and friend, I am also a medical professional. I worked for a surgical office and had access to medications and prescription pads. I began to steal pain medication and when that was not available I would write my own prescriptions and fill them at the pharmacy. My addiction grew and grew and eventually I was juggling five pharmacies and taking upwards of 500 pills a month! I had $45,000.00 in credit card debt, had quit my job, and was completely miserable! I thought the only way out was suicide so I attempted this in September of 2001. Clearly this was unsuccessful. I ended up in a mental institution. I was unable to be honest about my addiction at that time due to my fear of being arrested for prescription fraud. I was released 4 days later and immediately went back to using.
My saving grace came in January 2002 by way of a phone call from the Virginia Board of Nursing, inquiring about some prescriptions that were falsified. I was caught! I was scared and felt alone. I told no one, and went to meet the investigator on my own. I put a couple of phone numbers in my back pocket and went into the meeting and admitted to the investigator that I was addicted and that I had done what he was accusing me of. I cried like a baby, but at the same time felt some sense of relief. This was the first time that I had admitted out loud to anyone that I was an addict.
This situation did not turn out like I had imagined it would! I thought I would go straight to Jail. Instead he took me to a woman’s office. She got up, hugged me and told me everything was going to be ok. The Board of Nursing had a program for people like me and that she could help me! She made some calls and enrolled me in an intensive outpatient program that day! I was signed up for the Health Practitioners Intervention Program. It is a five- year monitoring period with the Board of Nursing. I would be drug tested, have meeting requirements, fill out reports and tell all of my physicians and employers that I was in the program.
I entered the IOP program the next day was placed on a methadone detox program and that’s where my recovery journey began! I was off the methadone in 5 weeks, attending IOP groups 3 days a week and was introduced to the 12 step fellowship of my choosing. I was finally free of the addiction that was controlling my life! I completed the Intervention program in 2007 and I was able to keep my nursing license! I was so imbedded in my recovery when the accountability of the program ended, that I didn’t even miss it. I had a sponsor, a home group a support network of women in my life that loved and cared about me and I was helping and sponsoring women myself!
In September of 2015 I was given the opportunity to work at the McShin Foundation, a recovery community organization in the Richmond area. I am with addicts new to recovery every day It is a daily reminder of how bad addiction is. I am able to give people hope that there is a better way to live, and I am grateful for that.
Wednesday, September 6, 2017
A Recovery Story
By: Brandi Fincham
My name is Brandi Fincham, a person in recovery, which to me means I haven’t found it necessary to use any mood or mind altering substance since January 17, 2016. I am 28 years old and have a 7-year-old daughter, and also co-parent with my boyfriend & his 2 sons. I started using drugs and alcohol when I was 13 years old. It started with just smoking marijuana and drinking occasionally. Growing up I always felt alone. No matter how many friends I had. No matter how much my family was there for me. No matter how good I had it, I still felt very alone and as if I didn’t belong. Once I was a freshman in high school I began to hang out with peers that were much older than me, which also meant the drugs and partying was stronger. I managed to hold down a job and honor roll status throughout my high school days. I graduated high school in 2007 with an Advanced Diploma, 3.8 GPA and Top 60 of my graduating class. After I graduated I enrolled into a community college and obtained a CNA Certification. It wasn’t long after completing the certification course that I met and fell in love with my drug of choice, opiates. In 2009 I was pleased to find out that I was pregnant with my daughter. I say pleased because at that time I thought that was my way out. I knew I had a problem and I couldn’t stop. Once I found out I was pregnant, I said to myself “This is the answer. This will make me stop using.” I quickly found out that my disease was stronger than I thought it was, and I used my entire pregnancy. Due to my higher power’s grace, my daughter was born in March 2010, a very healthy baby girl. After she was born I obtained a new job working at a physician’s office. At this new job, I again found out pretty quick how strong my disease was. At this point my disease was making decisions for me, without my permission. I began calling in illegal prescriptions. I eventually got caught, and was convicted of 13 felony counts of prescription fraud. I lost my job, my CNA Certification, my dignity, and worst of all – my purpose in life. And at that time I thought to myself again, “This is the answer. This will make me stop using.” I was wrong yet again. After my conviction I went on to work in various restaurants serving tables. I ended up losing my home and my car. I lost many friends and was slowly losing my family. Using was all I cared about. Nothing else mattered to me. It wasn’t until November 2013 that something changed. I had just stolen a good amount of money from my parents. They of course caught me. It was either get help or go to prison. I chose to get help. With the help of my parents & The McShin Foundation, I packed my belongings and made my way 4 hours away from to Richmond, VA. The McShin Foundation who took me in with nothing. I moved into a McShin recovery house and started to do what I needed to change me and my life. I had some stumbles along the way. I would get a few months clean and relapse. One relapse resulted in an over dose that I am very grateful to have made it through. But each time I relapsed I kept coming back and learned something from each relapse. In January 2016 I had 20 months clean and I made the decision to use. The week that I spent using were by far more miserable than the 10 years I spent using prior to recovery. The gratitude I have for my life and my recovery process today is unexplainable. I am truly happy today. I am able to look at myself in the mirror and see a beautiful woman inside and out. Today I am the Treatment Services Coordinator for The McShin Foundation. The very foundation that helped me to save my life. I help those persons with the same disease that I have. When I was younger I never dreamed that I would be working with other addicts and helping them to get clean and go through their recovery journey. I am very grateful for the position I have today with my employment. Looking back at my past & my felony charges, I never thought I would be able to obtain a successful employment status, lost dreams have awakened. Helping other addicts who are just like me, help me to stay clean. Today I am present in my daughter’s life & also my boyfriend’s son’s lives. Not just physically, but mentally, emotionally and spiritually involved in their life. The best feeling about being in recovery, to me, is that I am not alone. I don’t feel alone anymore. I feel like I belong. I feel that I have a purpose in life again. I feel happiness, gratitude and love. I have found relationships that are worth more than any amount of high any drug could give me. I have found a man who loves me for who I am, and in return I am able to love him. You see, today I find life exciting, meaningful & precious. I try to take nothing for granted and I live life to the best of my ability. I am able to show love & compassion instead of selfishness. I am a person in recovery & nothing about that is shameful to me today.
Tuesday, September 5, 2017
Lost at Sea
By: Timothy Alexander
I have spent many years at sea. When I set out the idea was to show the world that I could handle life..... alone. I was young and vibrant, full of spirit and surety never fully understanding what that big blue body of experience had in store for me, so I shoved off of the sandy beaches in my old rickety schooner. The sea was rough but at a young age I thought I could handle it. The only thing I didn't understand were the long term effects.
I did not fear the storms, in fact, I had become rather fond of impeding disasters. Heartache and mental anguish at an early age calloused my emotions and allowed me to endure a high level of self-destruction. My false sense of bravado whispered lies into my ears daily saying, "You can handle anything that life throws in your direction." But what I failed to realize is that the internal storms that dwell within the mind and heart, are much more fierce than the external.
Over the years my determination for death had become more and more relevant. I yearned for happiness but all I knew was this little boat. I was trapped. Trapped in a factitious world where I believed that everything was going to be alright.
I had mastered the art of wearing masks. I had mastered the art of spinning lies, yet, there was no one around to see, just me and my reflection in those deep blue waters. Week upon week, month after month, year after year I lied to myself as I sailed alone, barely holding my boat together.
I had achieved my goal.
I was experiencing life alone, but when I looked upon the horizon all I could see were the storms that raged in my direction. The sun never seemed to shine. The world was dark and gray and my soul had become the same.
I longed to see the shore. I longed for companionship. A friend to talk to. A sister to share hope with. A mother to smile at me and say how very proud she was of her baby boy.
But I was no longer a boy, I was man, a usurper of misery riding the waves of addiction lost at sea for decades. Hope is all that I had to hold onto. It was a mere wisp of smoke upon the furious winds of tribulation, but it was there, waiting. Hope was my segue to brighter days. A new beginning where the sun would peak around the cottony clouds of Peter's tail and smile it's warm smile upon my skin.
The rains ceased and today the sun shines even in the darkest of moments. I have friends in my life where I no longer feel the need to don a mask. I have found freedom again on the shores of recovery.