Tuesday, September 22, 2009

One More Do-Over

Been sailing some choppy seas of late. Despite my failure to post here, I've stayed well connected in my recovery circles. I've had to – the beast came back.

I'm not looking for pity or shame. You poured out compassion and good advice when I slipped last month. I can't tell you how much I appreciated your words. I guess I just wasn't really ready to listen. Even though I stopped using, I spiraled down further, into depression and self-destruction. Then I used for a week. Then I asked for help and stopped it again.

I scared people who care about me. Their focus shifted from “How can we keep Eli from using?” to “How can we keep Eli alive?” At this moment, I don't have a clear picture of what the hell happened. From where I stand, it's a blur of DXM and lies, razor blades and adrenaline, porn and cigarettes. But no tears or screaming. Just a muted and futile and desperate attempt to run far away from home, only to end up right back in my living room, dizzy and afraid.

I'm alive and breathing, and I'm facing the right direction. I've spoken to the people who know me best and I'm listening to their counsel. I'm taking it one day at a time, and trying to rebuild from where I left off. I have a few basics that I'm holding on to. One of these is that I'm not going to kill myself. I'm just not. My dad asked me to stave off any self-destructive thoughts by picturing my own funeral, and my kids crying. That seems to be working for now.

As far as my addictions, I'm spending my time working my program and enjoying the good things that are in my life. (Mainly my chihuahua.) I have this complicated mess of marital problems, psychiatric loose ends, and addictive coping mechanisms – and I'm trying not to think too hard about any of it. Today, I see it basically like this: My marriage has improved, but like any journey of the human heart, there are wounds that run deeper than I can bear. These are my triggers. I have a right to call it like it is: we've got a long ways to go. At the same time, I must develop the tools and resources necessary to respond to these triggers without self-medicating. That's my job, my side of the street.

Today my wife and I kissed again. We aired our feelings, gave them the space they needed, and owned up to our shit. And I know that my story, especially this month's events, makes a mess of the lines we are supposed to draw in the addict-codependent relationship. I've read your posts. I've read of those who are staying, those who are leaving, those who are in agony as they try to find the right path. All I can relay is where my road has taken me. My Linsey is here, and I am here, and today we chose again to walk in the same direction.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Drugs - The Good Kind

This is not what I thought it would feel like to be 35, I told Linsey. She asked what I meant: Did I think I'd be the Composer in Residence for some college orchestra? More successful, career-wise? A better dad?

Not really more of anything, actually. The only way I knew to say it was, I thought I would be less lost.

The weeks after a relapse, even a quickly aborted one, are inevitably brutal. I've screwed up my brain chemistry: things that should feel good feel bland, things that should feel bad feel excruciatingly painful. Food for thought next time I get a “bright idea.”

But this one goes deeper. In this chapter of my life I find myself haunted by some of my more tenacious demons. Sometimes my sobriety feels like a game of Jenga. I think all of the pieces are there, that my stability is secure, and by a mistake of omission I pull a cornerstone. Each time the tower falls, I relearn the importance of vigilance.

I can learn much during this post-relapse period, as I tear away the band-aids that my addiction has plastered over my wounds. When I manage these hurts in healthy ways, I am prone to forget they are there. (I guess that's called healing.) But when I wake up from my addiction, there's a unique opportunity to look at whatever I was running from. What void was I filling with all the wrong things?

So I'm realizing that I've been a little sloppy in treating my depression. First, the usual caveats: depression is not an excuse for my relapse. And I'm not suggesting psychiatric treatment as a substitute for a rigorous 12-step program - depression and addiction are not the same thing. But, in my life at least, they feed into each other, in a wickedly symbiotic manner that leaves me no option but to face them both down, unflinchingly and relentlessly.

A week after I used, I left one of my regular meetings feeling supported and encouraged. I don't know what happened on the way home that night, but the bottom dropped out of my world. I took off my seat belt and took my van past 110 mph, praying to be killed in an accident. I'm either too chicken-shit or too grounded to ever follow through, so I talked myself down from the ledge and went home and called someone. I'm proud that I picked up the phone that night. People came over, we talked, I felt loved. After they left I carved myself up with a razor blade. I've been doing this for years and I never talk about it, because to talk about it seems self-important, like a “cry for help.” The silence has not served me well, so I'm ending it.

Obviously there are pieces of my relapse in that night, shards of guilt and shame and self-loathing that are achingly familiar. There is also a kind of narcissism in any self-destructive act. But I know that there is also a component of under-treated major depressive disorder-recurrent that I cannot afford to minimize. I know this for a fact. I know it because I've been on and off medication for all of my adult life, and I know what the “brain chemistry” part of depression feels like. I know what if feels like to be properly medicated, and this isn't it.

Towards the end of my college years, I gave a composition recital. I also tried to kill myself. My acceptance at that point of the inescapable roll of prescribed psychotropic medications in my life was tinged with sadness. I feared that if I medicated the blackest parts of my mind, the colors would fade as well. They did not. During this time, I fell in love with a child and lost her, and every shade of compassion and heartbreak I experienced was vivid, sharp, saturated. I composed the most honest and moving pieces of my career, all while under the treatment of a psychiatrist.

I guess the “recurrent” in my depression diagnosis was true. I guess it's time to put in some more work on that front.

[Photo by size8jeans under C.C.License]

This post is also at The Second Road.