Thursday, October 28, 2010

Addiction's Different Faces

What I hope my Lady Banks rose will look like next spring.

“When you discover your mission, you will feel its demand. It will fill you with enthusiasm and a burning desire to get to work on it.”

W. Clement Stone

I’ve spent the better part of the past two days in bed and now sport wrist braces on both arms because I discovered my mission and it filled me with a burning desire to get to work on it. My to-do list is down to two items and both hands are messed up. My right hand and forearm are swollen. Both hands buzz with some kind of nerve pain, and the right hand is agonizing at night. I’ve also contracted a cold.

But my Cecile Brunner rose is now an architectural beauty, and the Lady Banks rose hedges are lean, clean, and rewoven. I have conquered and pruned the tumultuous herb shrubs into tidy mounds. Parts of the house are sparkling clean.

I don’t know how to work in moderation. I have two speeds: slow and 100 mph. Some of my sober friends blame their excessive behaviors on their alcoholism. I don't know about that. I just know that today I’m thankful I can work at all. In the past two days, we’ve lost two friends to the ravages of addiction.

On Monday, a youngish woman showed up at an AA meeting after an absence of a few months, tearful and thankful to be welcomed back warmly. She had made a decision that she wanted to live, she said. She was going to start calling me, and a sober newcomer became her designated driver so she could attend a meeting Monday night and another one on Tuesday at noon. On Tuesday at noon, she was found dead.

Wednesday evening, the wife of one of my husband’s good friends called to say he had died that morning. In the past six months, his heroin addiction had robbed him of the ability to walk, to eat, and to care for himself, but he spurned the offers of his sober friends to help him. All I could think of after Janet’s call was that day, years ago, when I called him for help because my husband was in a deep depression, and he came right away to our house.

My other friend, who spiraled out of control earlier this month on an opiate addiction, has decided for now that she doesn’t deserve to ask her friends for help in her struggle to stay clean. She wants to be left alone. So we don’t see much of her. Until she reaches out for help, there’s nothing any of us can do.

More than 20 years ago, before I got sober, an unsolicited manuscript came across my desk as editor of a fitness magazine. One of the associate editors had thought it worth consideration for publication. The title of the manuscript put me off because it didn’t provide a clue what the article was about. It was called “Cunning, Baffling, Powerful.” After a glance at the manuscript, I understood it addressed alcoholism. I didn’t like it, so I passed it back to the associate editor with a rejection note.

But today I know what “cunning, baffling, powerful” means. Substance addiction is a hard enemy to fight. It can strike when you’re weak and when you’re strong. It can go into remission and return with a deadly vengeance. It can conquer a person’s willpower for life. It makes you deny you have a fatal disease. It’s insatiable. It’s never cured. We live recovery one day at a time because that’s all we’ve got, this moment of freedom from addiction.

I’m thankful for freedom today. With my wrist braces on, I put my hands together and pray.


Karen said...

We lose too many, Chris. Thank God for your sobriety.

forever lost said...

you have shared sooo beautiful here! while I am not the addict I was surrounded by them. It is an amazing thing, the mind. understanding the grace and importance of your own life, now that should be a given...we had a healthy young man of 16 hang himself while his family thought he was getting dressed for a friends birthday party.
The mind is such a fragile powerhouse.....and each mind/heart/soul is vital to someone else! we are not islands even if we want to be...thx~ obviously you touched my heart today!

Jess Mistress of Mischief said...

Totally amazing that God put that article on your desk so long ago.

"ominous warning I failed to heed" I have memories of lots of those now. It's like God was pursuing me with a passion that I had no ability to see, but given a great many hits, I finally found the truth.

A great spiritual mentor said once "our sobriety is built up on the corpses of our fellows" and today, even after only a couple of years, that is true for me. I've already seen too many fall to the addiction never to return to the rooms or this life. God be with those spirits who sacrificed all so that I could see more clearly the truth!

I'm joining you in prayer!

The Bug said...

One day at a time is right - and that applies to all types of addictions. I'm addressing my out of control addiction to food right now. It's not the same as alcohol - there's no altered state that I crave - but it might kill me someday, left unchecked. I know that my struggle is .1% as hard as the one for those who stuggle with substance abuse. But that .1% feels your pain & rejoices in your day of freedom.

Dianne said...

Good Morning, you are a wonderful friend. And your last two posts are wonderfully written poetry, even if your hands are thrashed.

PLEASE take care of yourself! Dunk your arms up to your elbows in very cold water for as long as you can stand it. Repeat 3-4 times a day.
Use heat before you use them. Don't squeeze a ball, but wiggle your fingers, massage your forearms with a ball.

So sorry for your friends lost to a Cunning Bafffling Powerful illness.

Myrna R. said...

Beautiful reflections on sobriety.

Birdie said...

oh Chris, I'm so sorry for the loss of the woman and the man ... and so very proud and happy you are well!! praying together with you ... and I do operate on two speeds (slow and 100mph) as well ... that is totally me :-) get well soon dear one! hugs!! ps: I'm sure you gone have such a beautiful roses next spring ;-)

christine said...

Your feeling of loss of your friends comes through in your writing. Death is so irrevocable, something I hadn't thought about until a close friend died Feb 26th this year. I want to speak to her and she is gone, she was so happy and living life to the full then pooof she was gone, in a snap of the fingers, in a second.
Sorry about your arms, but that rose will make it all worth while when it flowers next summer and when you smell its pefume, you'll look back and remember your hard work and pray that you can do it again... get that to do list down.
Keep Praying, it works miracles.
Every Blessing
I popped by to look for your Magpie Tale and found gold in your writing!

Magpie said...

Hard work does take it's toll on our bodies, but it can do wonders for our spirits. I laughed at your post about your lists...I'm the same way. If I do something that's not on the list, I add it and cross it off. There's something reaffirming about seeing what I've accomplished down on paper. I need to find another way to validate myself. :)
Sorry for the recent losses in your life.

e said...

You are so right and I am sitting in tears after reading this...

I hope your arms and hands will be okay and thanks for your advice about the camera.

Be well.

Marla said...

Oh Chris ~ Absolutely heartbreaking.

I am so thankful for you and who you are.

Stop by soon. I have something for you.

G-Man said...

You have it together pretty good.
Great enlightenment....Thanks

RNSANE said...

So sorry to hear that two good people are no longer alive because of the hold addiction took on their lives. How powerful it is.
So you worked in a frenzy to renew your rose bushes and just imagine the joy they will bring you when they are so beautifully in bloom after the winter is but a memory. In a few days, I pray your wrists will be better and that you will be back to normal, perhaps a little wiser, in terms of not tackling your gardening chores in such a frenzy!

Elisabeth said...

This is powerful and distirubing stuff. the tragedy of Greek proportions of lives lost to serious addictions.

I'm sorry to hear about those who don't make it and pleased to hear that you have.

Totalfeckineejit said...

Chris, beyond genuinely and sincerely thinking of you and wishing you and all around you well,I don't have the words. I'm out of my depth.

Carmi said...

Your words inspire me to try to lead a better life, and to be a better friend to those around me who need help most. I wish I could have a fraction of your inner strength.

Marion said...

Wow. So sorry about the losses. It's so hard to take and I am so grateful I am where I am today, rather than where I want "to be left alone". That sentence about your friend makes me shudder, since I remember that feeling well.

Thank you for the reminder...always good for an alcoholic to hear. And I'm happy your roses are pruned, but sorry you're hurting as a result!