Thursday, November 16, 2017
At a recent McShin meeting Tim asked to hear from family members affected by the disease of addiction. This caught my ear, perhaps because I didn’t realize that those in recovery at The McShin Foundation were actually interested in what it might be like for us, the family members of an addict. Usually when we attend the Wednesday night meetings, the meeting is centered on the addict. The agenda includes their program, their schedule, their activities and their community involvement. As I considered this request it occurred to me that writing about my experience might be just what I needed to jump-start my own personal recovery. To be truthful, it needs a major overhaul not just a simple jump-start.
I have not been actively working my program for probably seven to eight years although the disease has been in our family for well over a decade. I became complacent, as did the addict in my life. We all thought we had beaten the disease and could move ahead with our lives. But just like any life-long disease, we must remain vigilant and actively manage our lives. Recovery is not a solution to a temporary problem, but a lifetime commitment to those who want the best for themselves and their loved ones.
When I arrived at McShin I was sad, depleted and angry. I had been down this road before, yet here I was again. I was sad for my daughter and what addiction was doing to her. I was angry with myself for ignoring the red flags and the awful feeling that was always in my gut. And, I was exhausted after living in a codependent, unhealthy relationship with my adult child. Addiction was destroying our family and our lives had become unmanageable.
Bob met us in the church parking lot just as he promised he would when I had called him the day before. He was genuine and he was kind and there was no judging. I noticed he had a slight limp, yet he eagerly jumped up to meet us and take us up two flights of stairs to meet Erin. Although she was trying to eat lunch at her desk at 2:30 in the afternoon, she pushed it aside and immediately focused on how she could help us.
I began to feel more at ease as Erin smiled, listened and shared some of her past experience as an addict. She demonstrated what life could be like in active recovery. During our meeting, she effortlessly managed probably a half dozen interruptions by others needing her attention. Her confidence and positive behavior were refreshing to witness. Bob re-joined us later that afternoon and accompanied us on a tour of the women’s housing. There we met Christina, the house leader at Del Rose. She was beaming with pride and showed off her house as if it were her own. She was incredibly supportive and welcoming to us as we learned a little more about the McShin philosophy and the people who lived and worked there. By the end of the day our daughter had decided to take a chance on McShin, and we did as well.
In so far as being a “family member” or a “loved one” there are many of us, just as there are many of you. We love you and we know you love us. Addiction profoundly changed all of our lives, but like you we get to choose how we will live with the disease going forward. There is no doubt in my mind that this is a family disease. Addiction is powerful and it is deadly. It destroys lives and causes us all to do things we never imagined. It is elusive and cunning, and just as it fooled you into believing it was a solution to your pain, it fooled us into believing we could fix you. We were both fooled.
After almost two months of being back in a recovery program I can share my feelings with others. I’ve learned that I need others in recovery to help me on this journey. I cannot do it alone and I cannot ever become comfortable or complacent with this disease again. I imagine the support groups as a big safety net, there to catch me and lift me back up if I am unsteady or feeling unsure in my decisions. If I find myself getting wrapped up in trying to rescue others, I know it is time to step back and ask for help. I have come to accept my powerlessness and I have asked for God’s help. I am not remorseful, nor am I overly hopeful.
The sadness and the anger have subsided and I am beginning to feel a little more sure-footed as I continue to listen and learn more about this disease. I understand that recovery is a lifetime commitment and only I am responsible for my program. I also humbly accept that I can manage only my life, one day at a time and with God’s help. This is my program and I am responsible for getting the most out of it. I am still learning and I grateful.
I choose to no longer see you as a child, but as the adult that you have become. I choose to no longer believe that I can cure your disease or solve your problems. McShin is an opportunity for us. It is a huge opportunity for anyone who has decided to choose living over dying. At The McShin Foundation there are people who have walked in our shoes and found their way out of the darkness. They have more experience; more wisdom, and more joy in their lives because they have chosen a lifestyle of recovery. It is by God’s Grace, we are all still here.
Tuesday, October 17, 2017
As many of you know, The McShin Foundation was founded as an authentic peer to peer organization, with the knowledge that the best way to help an individual searching for recovery is to share one’s own lived experience with Substance Use Disorders and Recovery. Because of this, everyone who works at McShin is in recovery, everyone besides me.
Because I’m not in recovery, I’m constantly questioned about why I work here or why I want to work with people with Substance Use Disorders. This question has started to frustrate me – why wouldn’t I want to work here? Why wouldn’t I want to work with people with Substance Use Disorders? Why shouldn’t people who AREN’T in recovery care about people living with a disease, fighting for a better way of life?
This care, motivation and passion started from witnessing the wreckage that Substance Use Disorders caused in the families of some of my best friends. Since then, and through my experience working at McShin, it has grown into so much more.
Four years ago, I was visiting one of my friends in Boston, where she was living for the summer. She had been volunteering at a recovery organization called New Directions, working with men with Substance Use Disorders. It was the summer after my sophomore year of college, and I was a psychology major toying with the idea of focusing on Substance Use Disorders and recovery. The day I visited New Directions happened to be a graduation ceremony for five men who had completed the program, moved out, and stayed in recovery for at least six months. I toured the house, spent time with some of the residents, sat in on a group and was able to attend the graduation ceremony.
Being part of this ceremony and hearing about the transformation that took place in these men’s lives was like lighting a fire inside me. I spent time after the graduation talking to the director of the program, asking how she got into the field. Over and over she kept saying how yes, it is great to see the successes, but the job comes with countless disappointments as well. I told her that I was aware of the statistics, aware of how many people relapse or go to jail or die. I knew all of this, but was frustrated at why people thought that all of this should discourage me from wanting to help.
I returned home from my trip to Boston and told my family that I had an epiphany about what I wanted to do with my life. Immediately, my parents were worried and tried to talk me out of it. They worried about me getting too attached, being put into dangerous situations, or getting burnt out because of disappointments. They tried to talk me into working with children, or the elderly, and I kept insisting that this is where my heart was.
I knew that because I am not in recovery, I would be met with skepticism and the assumption that I shouldn’t care about this population. I adjusted my psychology courses to focus on Substance Use Disorders, learning as much as I could from books, articles, movies, shows, documentaries, scientific research, and recovery literature. Working at McShin, however, has taught me more about Substance Use Disorders and recovery than I could have ever learned from any class or book. Nothing compared to spending day in and day out with people working through these issues.
I am a worrier. I worry about absolutely everything. This was not a good trait when I started at McShin, I struggled with getting too attached to people, then having my heart broken time and time again whey they would return to using. I felt overwhelmed and powerless. I had to come to the realization that I can’t keep anyone in recovery, it’s not up to me. As much as I wish I could do it for them, or take away some of the burden and the challenge, I can’t.
After I accepted this, I started to pray every night, probably for the first time in my entire life. I would ask for everyone to stay safe, be willing to work for their recovery, and be there when I went back in the morning. These prayers were probably the first true, unforced relationship I had with any God or Higher Power. I had to believe there was something greater than myself out there, because I had to accept that I don’t have the power to save people. Prayers and having faith in something more was as much control over the situation as I could get.
When I was visiting my friend in Boston, the director of the recovery organization asked me if I had ever heard of “The Starfish Story.”
One day a man was walking along the beach, when he noticed a boy hurriedly picking up and gently throwing things into the ocean. Approaching the boy, he asked, "Young man, what are you doing?" The boy replied, "Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going out. If I don't throw them back, they'll die." The man laughed to himself and said, "Don't you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish?" You can't make any difference!" After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it into the surf. Then, smiling at the man, he said, "I made a difference to that one."
So, when I get asked questions like “How can you work in this field?” or “Don’t you get discouraged?” I think back to the Starfish Story. I think about all of the amazing, resilient, strong, talented, dedicated, incredible people I’ve met through McShin and the recovery community. I think about their families, so desperate to see their loved one do well. I think about all the changes I’ve seen in people. I think about how amazing it is when the lightbulb goes off in someone and the miracles that happen when someone truly chases recovery. I think about families being brought back together, people getting jobs, rebuilding relationships with their children, and reaching out to the people who come after them. I think about all of the people I love and care about celebrating the milestones of their recovery, creating beautiful lives, and having such a profound impact on my own life.
How could I not want to be part of that miracle?
Monday, October 16, 2017
So you walk up to the bench as the judge on the other side looks through his glasses at his documents. He looks up at you and says “Ma’am, I see you're a diabetic?”. “Yes Sir” is your reply, as you hang your head in shame. He then proceeds to remind you that your blood sugar is sky high into the 300 levels. The gavel hits the bench and there is your fate! You're told you will be spending the next six months behind bars in your local county jail for you disease. Completely absurd, correct? Yes drugs are criminalized and yes stealing is a crime, but my disease IS NOT.
My name is Jessica Hall and I am the Director of Judicial Programs for the McShin Foundation. I am also a person in long term recovery from substance use disorder. This mean I haven’t used a substance in over three years. Being a young person in recovery has given me a life of a million open doors with my name written on them, and for that I am grateful. My lost dreams have truly been awakened, but it's the new possibilities that continue to baffle me. Who would have thought, me, a high school drop out, could be this beautiful young woman that I am today. So please give me a moment to tell you a little bit about why I love what I do.
Picture this little girl, scared and alone, in the back of a police car being transferred to a big girl jail on her 18th birthday. Not to sure how she got there but also having to wear a brave face because life just got real. Felony conspiracy to sell, manufacture, and distribute a controlled substance on 4 counts. I would think that some one would see this and think “Hmmm this may be a problem”. NOPE. I was slapped on the wrist and told to go home and be “a good girl”. My disease was fully alive and well at this point and no-one stopped to take the time to be in the solution. I wish I could tell you that this was end.
Moving forward a few years I find myself in and out of multiple local county jails around Virginia, but still, no help. Overtime 10, 30, 60 days behind bars!! Yes because that is completely the solution.Would you find it crazy for me to tell you that upon every release I was met with a pill or a pipe, fully loaded and ready to get back to business. What if… Just what if someone had said wait….and reached out that hand to tell me that I never had to use agin. If someone had seen the disease running rampant in my life and I was caught in the grips, that my days on earth were numbered, why not take the chance to pull me from the trenches, to plant that seed. I can’t tell you if it would have helped then, and don’t get me wrong, I love MY story because it is mine, but I can’t help but wonder, what if.
Knowing now what I didn’t know then it is apart of my duty, and it is also my honor, to be that hand. When that 19 year old girl walks through the jail doors with her chin in her chest, just as scared and alone in her own prison, to be able to take her into my arms so that she knows there is a way out, I am that light today, and so are you. For me, being that seed, is what makes me wake up everyday with purpose. I could be angry at the world for watching as mush as I could myself, or, I can be in the solution today. I mean there is a reason that I found my way out of the same hole right?? I believe that reason is right here.
Monday, October 9, 2017
Thank you for letting me back in
You thought you got rid of me in the 70s.
In the 90s, I was barely a blip on the radar screen, overshadowed by all the new party drugs. I was weaker back then, too, so pure and powerful now. Every new formula more tempting and deadlier than before.
I thrive in chaotic, fast-paced worlds where people don’t take the time to talk to each other. I can be delivered to your door like pizza and you can shoot me, smoke me or snort me. I like to be versatile!
I’m a killer. But I like to play with my prey first. I wrap my talons around them, leak into their brains, make them feel good at first and never let go. I tease them, tempt them and just when they think they are free of me, talk them into one more party. At some point, they become pathetic, needy and no longer any fun at all and I get rid of them. Vamoose! Or talk them into getting rid of themselves.
Those little white prescription pills you invented were mere bread crumbs right back to me. Greed and opportunity revived me.
I’ve made the lowest scum bags rich as hell. I’ve made mothers sell their children into human trafficking for just one more party. I’ve invaded the bodies of newborns, left children orphaned, wiped out entire families and created trauma so devastating, it will affect you for generations to come.
You thought you could punish your way out of this with a ‘war on drugs.’ And even after decades of failure, you stupid mother f—kers kept at it-- like slamming your head against the same wall over and over was going to produce a new result.
I continued to flourish. Thanks to shame and silence. Thanks for letting me, I couldn’t have done it without you.
Sincerely, Heroin, King of the World
By Anne Moss Rogers, a writer and public speaker on the subjects of addiction, mental illness and suicide prevention. She owns a blog called Emotionally Naked where she features guest posts as well as her own story on taboo subjects. In June 2015, Anne Moss lost her youngest son Charles, 20, to suicide when he was experiencing withdrawal from heroin.
Wednesday, October 4, 2017
Why Advocacy in Recovery Fails?
By: Tim Alexander
“We must all work in harmony with each other to stand up for what is right, to speak up for what is fair, and to always voice any corrections so that the ignorant become informed and justice is never ignored. Every time a person allows an act of ignorance to happen, they delay our progress for true change. Every person, molecule and thing matters. We become responsible for the actions of others the instant we become conscious of what they are doing wrong and fail to remind them of what is right.”
― Suzy Kassem, Rise Up and Salute the Sun: The Writings of Suzy Kassem
The path I chose has been difficult to say the least. I’m an addict. I’ve lied, I’ve cheated, and I’ve stolen from all those who have ever loved me. For many years I sacrificed my morals for the lonely degradation of a spoon, a needle, and heroin. I invested my entire life into a farce, a posy scheme designed to steal the most important assets we as humans possess, each other.
From childhood until my journey into recovery I was unable to connect with other people. The truth is that I didn’t know how to connect with people. I was shy and insecure as a kid. I was taught to believe that vulnerability is a kind of weakness. If I wore the wrong clothes I might not be cool, the wrong shoes I might be a loser. If I didn’t date a pretty girl I was ugly. These are the first run ins with the stigmas of our culture, and being judged as a person.
Over the years I found myself judging others according to societies unwritten rules. I labeled people. I bullied those smaller and less fortunate than me to calm the identity storms that headed my way. The fact that I had to drink beer or smoke weed to connect with others never occurred to me. As my tolerance built, I had to use more substances to continue my path of self-omnipotence to maintain my image. Little did I know, the more that I used, the more I became detached.
These actions led to many years of suffering and self-centeredness. Rehabs, prisons, and isolation from my community. If you’re wondering what that beautiful quote has to do with this blog, it’s quite simple really? And no, I’m not going to rant on about our failed drug policies, although that would be an easy topic to target. Placing blame on others has always came easy to me. #itsnotmyfault.
Today I rant about hope in unity. Our ability to come together as human beings for the sake of other human beings who suffer and die as a direct result of substance use disorder. This topic also entails mental health disorders and suicide. The question is how many people have to die before we stand up to the bureaucracy involved in human life?
When is the right time to stand up and let our voices be heard? How long will we allow pointless squabbling among lawmakers to continue while people suffer and die? Is it until it affects us individually?
Maybe I can help.
The day that we unite as one and show our country that human life doesn’t wait years for a bill to pass.
How is this done? Well, we become active in a movement. We participate and sacrifice our time and energy in selfless service. We show up although something “fun” is on the same day. We ask questions and research answers. We get out of our own self-righteous views and do the very thing we feel in our hearts, contribute to the greater good of our country. We love others until they can learn to love themselves for we are beacons of light in a world that has quickly become detached from the very thing that fuels our existence, compassion.
Don't spend pointless hours surfing Facebook, and Instagram, while Snapchatting stuff that doesn’t contribute to making our world a better place, mix it up a little. Not everyone, but collectively “We”, as a whole, fail to follow through with the gifts of freedom. Freedom of speech. Freedom from tyranny and oppression. The freedom to choose leaders who value what is important to us all…life!
This isn’t a personal indictment on any one person. This is a plea for help from our community. It’s time to stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves. It’s time to stand as one, and love everyone in our communities and make it through this epidemic. These issues take more than a handful of people to overcome.
I work for the Mcshin Foundation. My name is Tim Alexander and I’m in the business of saving lives. Come stand with us Saturday October 7, 2017 at the Virginia Historical Society for an amazing event known as CARETALKS. The event starts at 5pm and if you need tickets, guess what? They are free! Help unite our communities and bond with those who are fighting hard to find solutions to our deadly opioid epidemic. I love you all and if you need help and support we’re a phone call away. Tickets can be secured at http://www.eventbrite.com/e/care-talks-richmond-tickets-36001328944.
Monday, September 25, 2017
Sometimes my heart gets extremely heavy. So heavy at points it physically hurts. It is all the guilt and shame of things I have done in my past that I can’t do anything about. It sometimes flutters around in my chest and other times it just sits there like a heavy ball right over my heart. It is almost always related to my children.
I have two boys. My oldest son is 15 and my youngest son is 9. I have not seen or talked to them in over one year. I talk about them a lot but for some reason writing this blog and seeing one year is stinging more so than usual.
Zac holds a lot of my personality traits. He is quiet and keeps to himself. He has a massive amount of love inside him. He is very sweet, kind and very forgiving. So, the fact that he refuses to speak to me or even talk about me tells me just how very hurt he is by all the choices I have made. I had Zachary when I was 17; I was just a baby myself. My disease is a progressive one and since I have been using since I was 15 Zac has gone down this journey with me. He has seen a lot, heard a lot, missed out on a lot and got hurt as a direct result of my disease.
My youngest son, Kamden, is a little fireball. Full of energy and personality. He is a straight forward, honest and hilarious kid. Kam has been on this hellacious ride with Zac and I since he was born. I was in an abusive relationship and both boys witnessed too much. Being so young and having gone through what he has gone through and still being able to be the unique, smart boy that he is, is a miracle.
The reason I don’t have my children is very simple and very honest. They got in the way of my using. I could not do my drugs the way I wanted to while trying to be a mom. I left them to use the way I needed to. I had experienced a lot of trauma and it all came to a head. I was not equipped to deal with life and did what I knew best: I numbed my mind and I used against my own will. I did not want to leave my boys nor did I want to continue to use. Thank God, I did because it is what brought me to my knees and I reached what I pray was my bottom. It got so painful and so bad that I had to do something different. It brought me to recovery.
I try very hard to trust God. Without Him I would be broken and would turn to drugs. The pain of having to face the wreckage of my addiction is the hardest thing I have ever had to walk through. The bright side is I never have to go through this again. I know I am where I am supposed to be. I know that I will be a better mommy miles in recovery then I will ever be back in NH using. The same way God is working in my life I must remind myself that God is working in their lives as well. This is their path, their story, their lives and God has a plan. I must stay clean and trust God. He will provide and He will show me what paths to take to regain a relationship with my children. I am excited for that day; to be reunified with my boys. They deserve a healthy mom and I deserve to have my boys.
An important thing to be reminded of is that we are not bad people trying to become good people, we are sick people trying to become well. Today I am better than I was and have the freedom to do what I need to do to stay well and continue to grow. My desire to stay clean outweighs my desire to use. Today I have a chance. We do recover!
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.