For those of you who know me or have followed the, “Epidemic” series on my blog, you know that I am a recovering heroin addict. On 09-27-16, I will be celebrating three years clean from both heroin and crystal meth. Recently, I have had the devil knocking at my door. This isn’t something new. Opportunities to relapse are always around. Having a bad day, receiving difficult news, a death of a loved one, anxiety, stress and keeping bad company, are all contributing factors to how an addict might justify a relapse. Believing relapse is an inevitable part of recovery, is another justification that I won’t allow for with my own, personal sobriety. I’ve not allowed for these factors to influence my decision to stay clean. I’ve been faced with these obstacles, but I won’t allow for them to contribute to a relapse.
I know I am going to ruffle some feathers with my personal belief and I truly am sorry and that is not my intention. I don’t view addiction as a disease. I acknowledge it as a choice. I realize that the psychology books in college and the alcoholic in AA would disagree with my ideology. I am not discrediting their belief system, but I challenge it for my own personal recovery. For my own personal strength in recovery, I acknowledge and believe that I was created in God’s image and was given the gift of free will. It is with that gift that I have a choice: Get high or stay clean? I choose to stay clean. Unlike the familiar slogan associated with addiction, Take it one day at a time, I don’t feel compelled to do so. I don’t wake up struggling to stay clean. There isn’t a daily battle being fought within me. I’ve not experienced the angel on one shoulder and demon on the other fighting for my soul’s desire to use or stay clean. I don’t attend meetings, in part, because I do not feel the need to rehash my past over and over again. I suppose, blogging about my addiction and recovery has been my means of coping with the past. My —meetings— if you will. I believe because I acknowledge addiction as a choice and trust God’s will in me, that he grants mercy and spares me a daily battle with it.
I also refuse to stand up and introduce myself as an addict. I don’t allow addiction to have a hold of me and by introducing myself with, “Hi I’m Lizzy. I’m an addict,” I feel as though I am surrendering to a condition that I have no control over. It doesn’t work for me. I am in control. Not of the outside influences and upsets that is life, but of my decision to pick up the needle again. I am absolutely in control of that. I choose not to.
That being said, I have several friends in 12 step recovery programs that have flourished into amazingly, happy and sober people. I absolutely, in no way, shape or form, am trying to bash on 12 step programs or meetings. They work for many people and that is fucking awesome! I am simply explaining my beliefs for my own personal recovery. Often, struggling addicts ask me how I stay clean. I receive messages from those wanting to know how I do it. Those hoping for a magic cure and those looking for guidance. This is me giving some insight. In addition, because I am not discrediting 12 step programs or bashing the belief that addiction is a disease, I am asking that any feedback I receive concerning this publication not be of a bashing or tongue lashing nature. I respect your beliefs, kindly respect mine.
Choosing Sobriety: My Spiritual Attack
The other night I had a dream. Not in a historical, Martin Luther King Jr. type fashion. Nothing that would change a nation or invoke God’s equality in all man. However, it was a precursor to my own personal history and it has ignited a change in me. This history is now acknowledged as, “Lizzy’s Labor Day Weekend 2016.”
In the dream, I was face to face with a plate of cocaine. I had a sneaky thought, “Oh. You could do a line. One line won’t hurt you. You never had a problem with cocaine Liz.” My mouth almost watered, but another thought quickly followed, “No, Lizzy. That is your addict brain attempting to deceive you. You could have a problem with it.” My eyes opened and I realized it was only a dream. While having a drug dream was extremely off-putting, it wasn’t as frightening or uncomfortable as the heroin dreams before it. Why would I dream about cocaine? Cocaine was never my drug of choice (DOC). I used it a handful of times in my life and it was many, many years ago.
The next day I went to meet my mother in Burlington. Because of the holiday, my daycare was closed for the weekend. My mother offered to take my daughter and Burlington is the halfway point between her house and mine. Unfortunately, Burlington is one of the cities I was living in my car as a heroin junkie. Every parking lot, every gas station, every mini mall, has a memory. None of them are good. As I was waiting at the light to make a right turn, I remembered Eric jumping out of my car with the dope at the Jack-n-the-Box across the street. The Haggen’s grocery store was the parking lot I would wait for my dealer. Sometimes hours upon hours. My heart began to speed up its pace.
Finally, I arrived at the place we were set to meet. She offered lunch before I needed to get going, as I had to work at 3:30 pm. I agreed and told her that I would follow her. She pulled out and I quickly chased after. However, while we were driving, unbeknownst to my mother, I was taking a horrible trip down memory lane. The frightening thing was that several new memories came flooding back. My heart was saddened by the realization that I once had been so fucked up and out of control that I had completely blocked out and forgotten so many events in my life. A flood of dreadful memories flash-backed. My body began to tremble. I ached and I questioned, “What’s this God?”
There is a hotel that my Epidemic readers will remember as, Heroin hotel. Apparently there is a Chinese restaurant in front of the place now that my mother enjoys. As we neared our approach to that dastardly prison, my heart began to beat at my chest. As if it were protesting its placement in its ribbed cage. As I feared, my mother signaled to make a left turn into the parking lot of heroin hotel. Suddenly, I felt like the first verse to Eminem’s Lose Yourself, “His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy.” My entire being embodied those lyrics. I questioned, “Why are we here?” I had not realized that there was a restaurant in front of the hotel. Was it always there? I honestly do not know and I lived at the hotel at times during my drug use.
My mother jumped out of her vehicle and headed towards me. She told me there were other places up the road and I agreed to follow. She does not have a cell phone and it was imperative that I stay behind her. Otherwise, I would have no idea where she had gone. We waited for what felt like an eternity before she was able to make a left turn out of the parking lot. The entire time I panicked at the prospect of seeing any familiar faces. Hopeful that she had waited for an opening in traffic large enough to accommodate us both making left turns, I raced up to the opening. However, that was not the case. I watched as she merged into traffic and I waited as cars passed before pulling a daredevil stunt into the center lane. I ended up behind her, four vehicles back.
She continued to head South and memories continued to blur my vision. There was the consignment shop that I had attempted to sell my clothing to when I was desperate for my next fix. A jewelry store that I sold my dead grandmother’s diamond to when I was at what I thought was my rock bottom. My body cringed and I fought back tears, realizing some of the heartless and unfeeling things I had done. Not because I am heartless or unfeeling by nature, but because I had succumb to the devil’s drug. What else had I forgotten about? My anxiety really began its stir. I can never get that back and I had forgotten completely about it. My fists gripped the steering wheel tightly. I swallowed my tears.
We pulled into a parking lot that I was unfamiliar with. I was grateful for that. My mother, bless her heart, does not understand the anxiety that Burlington causes me. She had no idea that I was having a panic attack and eager to get back onto the freeway and head home. I attempted to get my shift covered at work, even offering $20 to any takers, but was unsuccessful. This was a new feeling and experience in my sobriety. It wasn’t that it triggered me to want to use dope. However, it triggered an entire awakening to the spiritual attack that was coming my way. My nerves were uneasy, as I pulled into the AM/PM to gas up. After inserting the gas nozzle into the tank, I sat in my car with my head down. Fearing the idea of seeing anyone from my past.
Fortunately, that night at work, one of my amazing coworkers said that she wanted to take a lunch break, but that she would come back and work for me. If she had not taken my shift, I am certain I would have suffered an anxiety attack resulting in tears at work. She didn’t know why I needed the night off, but I am forever grateful to her for that. More than she could ever know. When I got home, I was alone. Despite being anxious about what I had experienced, I didn’t entertain any thoughts of relapse. I did, however, feel weakened and disgusted with myself.
The following day was incidentally one of the busiest days I have ever experienced at work. Saturdays are typically busy, but this was borderline madness. I started my shift at noon and ran straight through until 10:30pm without a let up in the rotation. I am a server. My section never had an empty table for any longer than it took the busser to radio to the host that the table was turned and ready to be sat. It was crazy busy. Part of my job involves running hot food. It is a team effort to ensure that our guests receive their food in a timely fashion and while it is still hot and fresh out of the window. I came out of the kitchen with a tray holding four entrees. It was not mine and I tried everything within my power to hold onto that tray, but I was falling down and I had no idea why. My foot slid out from under me and the next thing I knew, I had slammed down onto the tile beneath both knees. The tray of food was all over the wall and floor in front of me and I was looking around for somebody to help me up. The one person who damn sure would have reached for my hand, was nowhere to be found. He was so busy, he couldn’t get to me. Instead, I picked myself up.
What happened? There was a lemon wedge on the service alley floor. Naturally, my eyes were facing forward and I slid on it, causing me to come crashing down. Within about a half an hour after the fall, my back began to hurt. I thought, “Oh no. Not this familiar ache.” It feels exactly how I felt after getting into that car accident that led to my former opiate addiction. It feels like whiplash. Needless to say, I am a trooper and I didn’t want to leave my coworkers fucked. Most of us had been there all day and every single one of us had been running nonstop, regardless of what our clock in time had been. I love my coworkers. I stayed for the remainder of my shift. However, after shift, I opted to join a few coworkers for a drink.
In the service industry, drinking after work is kind of the way we get to know each other. I miss out getting to know some of them because drinking is not a big activity for me. Sometimes I will have a glass of wine, or, at a social gathering I will have a couple drinks. I waited two years into my sobriety before reintroducing a glass of wine into my life. I am confident in my ability to drink in moderation. It’s a rare occasion thing. That night, however, I wanted a drink and good company. Afterwards, I agreed to hang with a coworker at one of her friends’ house.
We went home and changed and got back together. I was and still am, very excited to hang out with this coworker. She is amazing and has been a great friend to me in these beautiful beginning stages. That being said, I came out of the bathroom and she immediately hurried me to the front door and asked me to come smoke with her. I looked back and saw cocaine on the table. My heart sped up, but my recollection of the dream a mere two nights before, calmed me immediately. I had this. God was looking out for me. That dream was the precursor to the history of this weekend’s spiritual attack on Lizzy.
A precursor is defined as:
Something that comes before something else and that often leads to or influences its development.– Merriam Webster Dictionary.
It came before the cocaine and it absolutely could lead to and influence some further development in my future. I was faced with a choice. Will I allow for it to lead to destruction in my life with a relapse justification and battle with a new demon? Or, will I allow it to influence my ability to see right through Satan’s bullshit and for the first time being faced with this situation since sobriety be able to, just say NO! I feel pretty badass reflecting back on that decision and realizing that I made it in the matter of a second. A first glance. I made the right decision without hesitation. Thank you Jesus and it was easy. It was simply, the right thing to do. The right thing to do is always the right choice.
My coworker apologized profusely about the situation. She has never used any drugs in her entire life. That’s an extremely rare and admirable trait in the world that I have grown up in. She amazes me. She admitted to reading my blog and knowing about my history and she felt incredibly unnerved by the situation. I assured her I would be alright. I didn’t want to allow for it to deter our opportunity to get to know each other. Naturally, I am tickled that she read my blog. I know of two other coworkers that have. Moreover, that after reading it, she would still want to be friends with me. It shows extreme compassion and lack of passing judgment. She is willing to build trust with me and I am grateful for that opportunity after looking back at some of the horrible shit that I did. I feel blessed to not be tainted or jaded by that time in my life. I am worth trusting. After her immediate rescue and honest admission of the situation inside, she is worth trusting too. She looked out for me and I feel blessed by her.
After she was certain that I was alright, we went back inside. The most amazing thing happened. I visited for a couple of hours and I don’t think my eyes ever reconnected with that cocaine. Not because I was struggling to not look at it. Not because I was going out of my way to stay away from areas where I could see it. But because it was like it wasn’t even there. It literally unfazed me and wasn’t even there. I am baffled by God’s mercy and love. I made an immediate decision to not let it bother me, acknowledging the dream as a warning and a tale of how even in my dream, I had talked myself out of it by speaking the truth. I had this. I got this and God is so good. Let me make it clear that I will not be going out of my way to put myself in that situation again, by any means. However, I feel secure and confident; knowing that God sees ahead and arms me with what I need. In case that situation ever were to develop again.
The following morning, I woke up to discover I had legitimate back pain. It felt exactly like whiplash. It still does. This happened five days ago. I have been to the doctor and already refused pain medications of any kind. Again, I was faced with a choice. My back hurts badly. It hurts to sit for too long. While writing this, I have gotten up several times to stretch and walk around. It is pain in my mid back, so there is no way I can massage at any of it myself. So I have a choice. Get pain medications under the relapse justification that I am in pain and really need pills to make it through work? Or, seek chiropractic, massage and hit the gym to stretch and strengthen. As I stated earlier, I will not allow an obstacle or upset in my life justify a relapse. So I choose the latter of the two.
I desperately wanted to talk to my best friend about all of the events to help me process and sort shit out. He is a soulmate. I believe people can have many soulmates and that soulmates don’t render another title. They are people that God has brought into your life to really speak to your soul. To reach in and touch it, to impart wisdom, or to completely spark it. He’s a rare one. He does all of these things. He was exhausted after working all day Sunday, but still stopped by. He had his own shit that day and I didn’t want to weigh him down anymore with mine, so I kept it short and sent him home. I was concerned about his issues and not trying to be selfish or demanding of his time. I knew he was exhausted and needed to sleep, but I was disappointed that I wasn’t going to be able to depend on him to guide me with some spiritual clarity about the attack I was in. Without even realizing it, his words lead me in so many ways. He hugged me again and said, “Your will is being tested.” He always leads me back to God. I don’t know if he realizes that, but he does and I love him for it. Those five words changed my perception of this spiritual attack from, “the devil is knocking on my door to your faith is being strengthened child.”
After replaying the events that have unfolded in my head, I realized that I am nearing my three years sobriety date. It’s less than a month away. Gradually, I was reminded of the year before. Right about a month before my two year mark, there was a windstorm. It blew the door open on my shed. I waited until the storm was over before going out to secure it. As I was swinging the door closed, there was what appeared to be a brand new heroin rig staring right at me. I had gone out to the shed to bang dope before. It was possible that I had stashed this rig, or that Eric had stashed it and the windstorm blew it free. It was impossible that it had been there for two years, as I had entered the shed several times to get the lawnmower. In that moment, I was faced with a choice. Do I pocket this rig and use the fact my cousin fucked me out of $2500, my job and shut down my heavily trafficked blog as a justification for relapse? Or, do I get rid of this thing properly, but not before showing it to my daughter and explaining how dangerous it is, to never touch one and to always find an adult if she discovers one? Immediately, I called my father and told him what I had discovered. He came over and watched me dispose of it. The thought never crossed my mind to use dope. Upon first glance, my heart flew out of my chest and back in it again like an old cartoon exaggerating a beating heart, but I didn’t entertain relapse. I had several panic attacks, but my mind was free of clouded judgment. My heart was free of temptation. My soul was free of guilt. I’ve been forgiven. I’ve forgiven myself. Thinking further back to my one year sobriety date. About a month before, I was in Burlington getting gas after visiting my mom and I saw one of my dealers at the gas station. Without hesitation, I ducked my head and never made eye contact with him. God’s been strengthening me for years by testing my will. I am grateful to that soulmate for helping me to see that by leading me back to God. Time and time, again. I’m quite literally, eternally grateful for him.
God truly has helped me to overcome so much and he has created a strong, confident survivor in me. He found a way to use my bad for good. There are so many changes I have gone through in the last three years without even realizing it. He has strengthened me to a place I never thought I could be. There is hope out there for those of you struggling. God bless you, I wish I could wrap my arms around every one of you and pray you find his way. Through writing, Epidemic, I have had a few readers send me their stories about how it has affected their lives. I welcome communication with my readers. Send me a message. Let me pray for you. Let me pray with you.
For those of you who have been following my blog, I have considered writing other additions to the, “Choosing Sobriety,” category. It wouldn’t be a series I posted to twice a week, as the stories are individual and not a consecutive story in time. If you have any interest in reading further stories within this genre let me know. If you are interested in submitting a guest blog post about choosing sobriety, connect with me on Facebook. I appreciate your time in reading what has been both a spiritual attack and spiritual awakening. I appreciate all prayers concerning the very real back pain I am experiencing. I tend to forget to pray for myself. Thanks again for reading and God bless you.