I’ve been on a list to take a Dialetical Behavior Therapy course taught by my therapist and got the call today that there is an opening. Part of me is like “I’ve been doing this for five years and have my self-help DBT workbooks, do I really need the course?” And the type A me is exited to relearn these skills which are helpful for managing not just my bipolar symptoms, but maintaing my sobriety. Because I am a dual-diagnosis dame in long-term recovery. I’m coming up on three years of recovery, from both of these illnesses, and I don’t want to go backwards. So forward I go with DBT & ME!
Mike Doughty is a musician in long term recovery. When I was first in recovery, I could not get enough of listening to him, and did not even know he was “like me”- not until the release of his memoir, Book of Drugs.
I also finally watched The Anonymous People this week, which I highly recommend for anyone in recovery or who advocates recovery.
This is something I wrote four years ago in response to the death of my best friend. We had been friends off-and-on for 10 years. We both battled our mental health and addiction demons, and became incredibly close when we went through treatment together five years ago. I want to turn this into a personal essay but I can’t: it’s a time capsule of love and loss in early sobriety. She died on my old sobriety date, and although I wish I had not relapsed for four months two years ago, I am glad I have a new sobriety date. If I had not relapsed, I would be celebrating 5 years of sobriety today, and grieving her death four years ago. I try to keep in touch with her daughter, who now has a daughter of her own, but I am terribly human at it. But having a selfish day of suffering from the should-of, would-of, could-of’s will not bring JED back, however I can try to stay better connected with her daughter in the future.
A Beautiful Mind with Tits
I’m so sad and still wrapping my head around your loss. I am so blessed to have had you in my life. You were my closest friend this year. I hope you knew that. I got a year Jed! You should be fucking celebrating with me ~ with a Diet Coke. I have a roll of quarters; we could be at “The Big L” right now, raiding the pop machine, ensuring that there are no Diet Cokes left for the rest of the residents. And clear out the Reese’s Peanut Butter cups as well. I hope you know how much you meant to me. I wish you had called me one last time. You would not have been a burden. Here are some random memories of you from the past year:
- When you arrived at “The Big L”: I looked up from my lunch and said “Jenn?” You were so happy to see me. I was hesitant about seeing you. You said “You know me as Jed, PURPLE!” Then would get pissed at anyone who did not call you Jed: “It’s Jennifer Ellen Devich ~ JED!!”
- We talked about this so I have no problem posting it, but you had scared me for years prior to our time together in rehab. I was so afraid of being friends with you. Even though we hung-out off & on for the past ten years, I had always kept you at a distance. So I didn’t want you in my group, on my floor, or eating meals with me at my table.
- But JED, you were a force that pulled me in. I am so glad we were in my group, on my floor, and followed me around like a puppy. And I got to know YOU; you let down all those walls you’d been hiding behind for so long!
- Remember when we ordered out of The Victoria Secret’s catalog in rehab? Remember how scarred I was because I was sure it was against the rules? BTW, you never gave me my underwear.
- You’re constant, questioning, “Who DOES that?” Especially when I told you I was moving to Rochester.
- After wanting to keep you at a distance, you and I manipulated our way into being roommates.
- We both had chicks at “The Big L” that threatened to beat us up
- You helped me when I entered that horrible halfway house. When I told you they took my crayons away you said “Why? Are they the new gateway drug?”
- I helped you when you needed to flee your horrible halfway house.
- Going to see The Flaming Lips together last September. You laughed when I gave “bubble Wayne” a kiss through the plastic.
- One of our last conversations, you were so proud because you had an IQ test taken, which of course proved your brilliance. You proclaimed, “Who knew! I’m a “Beautiful Mind with Tits!”
- It was you who I had present me with my graduation certificate. You gave the most wonderful, heartfelt speech. No one had (or will) said (say) such wonderful things about me. We cried in each others’ arms. I will always have this memory. I know how much you loved me.
I fear fanny cancer. Fanny is English slang for vagina and sounds less anatomical than the V-word , and less insulting than pussy or cunt. Cancer……well I can’t think of any funny slang for that disease, and putting fanny before it does not take away the fear.
This fear is a tsunami, which runs deep and long in my emotional waves, surfacing again and again as an overwhelming sense of dread crashing the calm surface of gratitude I so desperately want intact.
The cause of this particular fear tsunami happened 25 years ago with the earthquake/landslide/ volcanic emotional eruption that was my mother’s death. She died suddenly at age 52, when I was 17, of uterine or cervical cancer. I do not know which one because my dad did not keep track of such things. He’s very academic, and theoretically she died because the cancer spread plaguing her inner surfaces.
She died on Father’s Day, approximately two weeks after she was diagnosed. She did not take care of her health, was my understanding of the situation. She had a fear of doctors, I remember family members telling me at the time.
It was a blessing and a curse. Losing a mother is extremely emotional at any age. At 17 the loss was unbearable at times, but I lost a depressed, alcoholic mother who I never thought loved me, except that one time she soberly told me so on her death bed.
Blame is an easy reaction to life events when you are 17. I blamed the doctors for not catching my mom’s cancer sooner. I blamed my mom for not receiving health care sooner. Their timing was all off, and consequently my mom died.
As I got older this blame turned to shame. I became an alcoholic myself because I did not want to feel. Shame on me. I would occasionally get physicals and pap smears performed, but after one bad biopsy experience didn’t follow-up on the bad paps. Shame.
Shame damned-up my emotions. Slowly I’d let the emotions flow when I found sobriety. Then an ego-based tidal wave of fear would rip my sobriety away. This time after six months of sobriety, I faced the fanny cancer fear and had a pap smear done. It came up negative. I let nearly two years pass before following up.
The fanny cancer fear tsunami washed away my calm surface after I finally saw a gynecologist, got a colposcopy done and four biopsies. Four minuscule pieces of my cervix that were once intact and then sat in separate petri dishes in some lab.
“Two years too late?,” I asked myself as waves of tears surfaced, again and again over a week’s wait. The lapse of time it took for me to get the procedure done was illogical, which I told myself again and again. New shame surfacing its ugly unproductive head, spiraling my emotions, wreaking havoc on my serenity surface.
Calm came again with the results, which proved I was fanny cancer free. My feet are again planted firmly in the sand, faced forward, away from the tide. I will let my feet get wet with the passing tides of emotion as I maintain my two plus years of sobriety, but for now the tsunami of fear has ceased.
With the onslaught of freelance writing work, I have a fear that I will post even less (if that’s even possible) on the blog. So each Sunday I will post a song that either speaks directly to sobriety, addiction or moving positively forward. And on the subject of moving, Bass and I are making a home together.
Yes, I know it’s super quick but it’s just happened this way for three important reasons:
- Bass needed to move into a new place first of February.
- I need to move into a place by March, and would have to live with a roommate because my income is tiny.
- Life is short. Love is infinate. When you feel it, give it. When you receive it, unconditionally, it is a blessing. Accept it. A good relationship is a very precious; don’t waste your life if you know its right.
But I’m also cautious so here are the steps in place in case things go astray, although hate to put this out into the Universe. This is the healthiest relationship I have ever been in, but I also want my readers, friends and family to know I have thought this through.
- The lease is month-to-month.
- Bass can afford the place on his own.
- I know women with whom I can live. I would have to find more income sources, though.
I’ll post pictures of our new place in another post this week. Also, the name of the blog will be changed to reflect the changes in my life. Now, here’s your Sunday Sobriety Song:
Today I celebrate two years of sobriety for the third time. I believe the third time is the charm, but this is where I need to be cognitive of maintaining my mental health, my sobriety and monitoring my behavior by practicing mindfulness and other DBT skills. I cannot, for even a second, believe “I got this!” because that is my downfall. My ego takes over and I think “I’m normal.”
And by normal I mean someone who does not have alcoholism or bi-polar. This time around, I know there is no normal and I am not less than nor greater than anyone else on this planet. My goal is to continue to stay on my path, one day at time, and make it to four years of sobriety AND BEYOND.
Four because the first time around I maintained 3 ½ years of non-drinking and the second time around 2 ½ years. In two years my son will be graduating from high school so maybe a mom & son road trip for my fourth soberversary. Or a trip of my own if I am still in the uncool mom status.
Having another two years is scary, for which I am grateful. This means I still realize that alcohol can make me her bitch when I take that first sip. I need to remember that I do not have another suicide attempt, “get out of the hell you made” for free card left in me. Life is very precious. And I’ve almost successfully ended mine in the past, due to not maintaining my mental health and trying to numb the feelings away with alcohol. By the grace of God (Goddess, Mother Nature, Great Spirit, Buddha, and Father Sun) go I. Alcohol NEVER has given me grace. She’s made me her BITCH. May she rest in peace.
“One of the things that I have struggled with during my many years of participation in AA and NA is what some of us call “the god stuff.” The references to religion, spirituality, God, and Higher Power are everywhere in the literature and the culture of AA. Even in the best efforts of the folks back in the 1930s, the “Chapter to the Agnostic” pretty much assumes that as soon as you start to come out of your addiction, and into the light, you will happily go back to some concept of God, albeit not necessarily the God of your childhood.” ~ HANJE RICHARDS, “The God Stuff.”
The “God Stuff” has been the hardest concept for me to grasp in my Alcoholics Anonymous program, followed by the concept of being powerless. The first A.A. meeting I attended in treatment was on Step One, “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol and that our lives had become unmanageable.” I actually said “I’m a feminist and am not powerless over anything.” This was after almost dying and being in a coma for two weeks, physical therapy for another two weeks, and in the mental health unit for a week; all due to a suicide attempt while intoxicated. If you want to V8 slap me in the forehead for the absurdity of my statement on that first meeting, I agree. That, my friends, is the insanity of alcoholism.
This brings me to “The God Stuff”. Step Two is “Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity”, and Step Three is “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”
My spiritual path is eclectic; a little Buddhism, some Hindu, a bit of Islam, some Wicca, a little Judaism, and a splash of the Christianity I was taught growing up as an Episcopalian. In short, I am a Unitarian Universalist who believes one should build their own spiritual path, and do their own dishes.
In “the rooms” we often talk about a “God of our own understanding”, with a big G, and all meetings I’ve been to across the U.S. end with “The Lord’s Prayer.” Although the Big Book also speaks of a “power greater than ourselves” and “Higher Power,” there is a lot of He, Him, Lord and God (all capitalized). It’s very cringe inducing for atheists, but also for people like me who believe in a power greater than myself that is not patriarchal.
As part of my “neighborhood” exercise yesterday, I was looking at blogs under the tag “Unitarian Universalist” and the first post I came across was “The God Stuff”. My God embracing AA friends would call my stumbling upon this post “A God thing”. I call it serendipity.
In this post, Hanje introduced me to We Agnostics & Free Thinkers International AA Convention, which he attended.
As I have said, I have come to believe in a power greater than myself, but don’t have a name for it. The God talk in the rooms can be overwhelming. I do pray and meditate and have found life easier if I give my will over. Somedays I pray to Mother Nature, others Great Spirit, sometimes Creator, other times Universe, occasionally God, and many times “Hey, You!”
It is comforting to know that there are bloggers like Hanje out there who participate in A.A. but are not God thumpers. AA is an easier, softer way for me to live after spending a decade in and out of recovery rejecting 12 step programs. But I have also loved reading other WordPress blogs by people who do not participate in AA or NA but have long-term sobriety. Jon Sleeper is one such writer.
Just like my spirituality, my recovery support comes from a variety of sources including A.A. but also Health Realization, Dialectical Behavior Therapy and Women for Sobriety. I’m getting over the god stuff, but that mostly is because I began thinking of God as Group of Drunks (those in AA who had what I wanted) and now think of God as Give Orderly Direction. I may not know if there is anything beyond you and me, and if there is what to call it. All I do know is that my program works, if I work it.