This time of year is so hard on me. If you’ve been around here long enough, you know this about me. If not, let me explain. You see, on March 6th I celebrate the anniversary of getting clean. From pills. From an addiction that could have killed me. I can’t explain why I get so wrapped around the axle this time of year but it happens and I know it happens to other recovering addicts as well. Today- right now- I am 4,731 days clean. That’s 408,837,070 heartbeats, give or take. (Let’s hope that number continues to rise as you read this.) There is this dark place in the back of my mind that no one likes to talk about that screams at me around this time that I don’t deserve it. It screams I will screw it up. It screams that I am a poser. You’d think with 12 years, 11 months, 11 days and some change, I’d realize that one day at a time does work. But sometimes we get harsh reminders that it doesn’t work for everyone.
I read the headline tonight that Mindy McCready, another addict who struggled and seemed to have one thing after another try to bring her down, died today due to a self-inflicted gun shot wound. Her addiction won. Did she not have enough support? Did she believe the lies addiction tells addicts? Did she feel like nothing would ever be okay? Did she think the pain she felt today would last forever? So many of us addicts have felt those things. Today, it won. Every single time addiction and its demons beat one of us, it shakes me. But for the grace of God go I. I do have support but I am not immune to the lies it tells, the loneliness it brings, the pain that rips through me. I’ve learned to reach out. And when I can’t or don’t, my friends know the signs well enough to reach out to me. I wish Mindy had that.
This year feels harder on me than most others. I have been struggling with chronic headaches. I don’t mean headaches that slow me down. I mean headaches that slam me down in ways that put everything on hold. My life is a constant headache. I have learned to live around them until we can find someone who can find a reason or help me through it. But every few months a migraine comes along that kicks me so hard, I simply cannot do it without medical intervention. They do everything they can for me that does not involve narcotics. But sometimes, that is the only way to break that cycle. And that is the bitch of it.
There is no reason an alcoholic needs to have a doctor give him or her a drink. There is no reason to need to go into a bar and throw back a shot of tequila. But when you’re a recovering pill-head, there are times when there is a medical necessity for pain killers. And each and every time it twists me up inside. When I feel the effects it gives me both relief and heartache. I keep my doctors in the loop so they are very well aware of my situation. Yet, still…
Two weeks ago I had to go into the ER for a migraine. My pain was off the charts and my blood pressure was through the roof. I had to go in. I know the routine. This time I had a doctor I have never met before. After they hooked me up to an IV and gave me a shot for pain, they darkened the room to monitor my blood pressure. I supposed it didn’t help that I was crying. The doctor came in and sat by my bed. She took my hand and talked to me. Actually, talked to me. We talked about the frustration of feeling the pain medicine course through my body. And for once, a doctor gave me permission to not only be frustrated by the situation but in a way gave me permission to be grateful to feel the pain drain away. I have conditioned myself to hate the feeling of the medicine taking over even though it means the pain leaves. For the first time someone sat with me, held my hand, and told me that it was okay to feel relief that my pain was going away. That to beat myself up mentally was counter-productive. She heard me. It’s been so long since a medical professional has actually heard me. It made a difference.
As I laid there and watched the monitors and I finally relaxed, my blood pressure slowly lowered. I had permission to be okay with not hurting. It was okay. I was not slipping. I was not backsliding. I was not “using” for a high. I was helping myself medically. And that was okay.
My name is Jenn and I am a recovering addict. And sometimes, I need medical intervention. And that is okay.
So, if you will, my faithful readers, hang in there with me until March 6th and encourage me to keep going one day at a time then together we can celebrate 13 years. One day at a time (trite as it may sound) will get me there. That and the people in my life who encourage, love, and support me.