She was headed down the wrong path until she finds a friend in rags.
|I believe angels come to us in our time of need. They visit in disguise, using a variety of characters that promise to get our attention. In my case, it was a friend from my past that I failed to keep in touch with.
The weather was freezing that day, but I was determined to spend gift money on after holiday sales. I spent it all and charged some more. I have always had a problem with impulse and excess. I discovered in Narcotics Anonymous(NA) that these character traits are typical in an addict.
Addicts quickly forget that lack of self-control is the same as the hole in the road we didn't go around, forgot to ask for help, or simply changed directions. We plunge ahead, with our oversized ego, magical wand in charge and fall in. That hole is the same mirage; full of false promises, including the "bottom" that brought us to treatment.
It is different for each one but the shame, humiliation, and nearness of death's door are the same. The drug's euphoria has orphaned you. You were flying so high. No one was as cool headed, talented, organized, and full of energy and ambition. No one told you a day would come when you needed it to keep living, eating, sleeping, working and functioning as a human being. One day you are King. Then at some time, months or years later, you are sleeping on a cardboard box behind a garbage bin to break the bone chilling wind.
This is how addiction traps you, just like a Venus fly plant. It is enticing, and like you, no one is more attractive, intelligent, on top of the world. But the price is high and if you don’t feed it; you begin to die a slow agonizing death.
When this messenger came, I felt happy and content. Life was good. I smiled at people hustling with their packages. I was heading for Starbucks, or as my husband calls it "six bucks.” A delicious hot cappuccino with a splash of raspberry syrup sounded like heaven. Besides I had to sit down. My feet were killing me because I had to put on the new leather boots I had bought myself as a Christmas present. They looked so good, they didn't have to be comfortable.
Then I noticed a man sitting on the sidewalk. He wore ragged clothes, was unshaven with deep circles under his sad brown eyes. There were icicles on the hood of his dirty poncho. He held a cup of coins.
He returned my stare, then asked, "Don't I know you?"
I recalled his deep voice and dimples. It had been eight years. We had both been sick with tremors, nausea, diarrhea, and anxiety. These are all symptoms of withdrawal from alcohol, opiates, crystal meth, speed, cocaine, heroin, etc. It puts people on an even playing field, a respecter of no man or woman, whether a garbage collector or physician.
"Donnie! It is so good to see you."
I hugged him with an open heart.
"Come on, let's get you out of this weather and warm you up."
"I can't do that.....I look like crap. You don't want to be seen with me."
"Honey, when did we care what other people thought?"
He certainly seemed to have lost his way. We gathered up his belongings and headed for a cup of coffee. I tried to ignore the stares yet could feel his shame. We found a quiet table. I watched his hand shake uncontrollably as he tried to drink the coffee. I steadied it with my own. This could be me.
When had I been to a meeting?
We talked as the memories flooded back, the nights at the center when we sat in pajamas at three in the morning, fighting the shakes, and comparing our lives. We had a deep bond and there was no hesitation as we held each other while crying. We gave each other back rubs from the spasms that come with withdrawal. The muscle knots were like going skating for hours after you haven’t skated since childhood.
We held each other’s heads and hair while we puked.
Donnie was a pharmacist. He had worked in a hospital before running a Methadone Clinic. When he was dispensing narcotics and drugs like addicts use for highs and euphoric feelings, he said the thought never crossed his mind to use them. The hospital was stressful and the night hours were hard on both his health and family life.
Then he saw the ad for the Methadone Clinic; he thought it would be interesting. He was enjoying it for five years and then one day he tried Methadone himself and was hooked like a fish on a poisoned line. He tried to doctor the books to cover his use. It worked for two years until the FDA caught on.
I recalled the tears running down his face as he described the scene of his arrest. He was at home with wife, Sharon, and their two small girls. TV cameras rolled as they shackled him in front of his family. He was guilty. The arrest was handled so badly his wife wouldn’t speak to him and the girls were afraid of their own Dad.
I was at the Center because I had crossed the line with prescription drugs. I had a chronic painful disease that had led me to physicians that dispensed pills. Vicodin, Codeine, Valium, Lorcet and Percocet were all tried. I worked in the medical field. I knew the dangers and ignored them. I didn't abuse the pills by doctor shopping, but as my tolerance grew, the medications didn't work as well. I was combining muscle relaxants with narcotics already then I added a deadly ingredient.
I found that if I had a glass of wine with my medications, they worked better. I had never been a drinker except for an occasional cocktail at a party or special occasion. It was only a short time before I was drinking large amounts. That was when I knew I was in trouble.
My husband discovered me drinking straight Jack Daniels bourbon at six in the morning. We decided I needed to go to a drug rehabilitation center. My youngest son had been in one of the best when he was using inhalants. It was a lifesaver for him. They were wonderful with family therapy.
Donnie and I became close because we checked in at the same time. We suffered a tough withdrawal together and had a lot in common. He was an avid reader of the classics and had a wicked sense of humor. As we became sober and alive again, we wrote poetry, studied the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous and attended the same therapy groups. We both graduated with honors after six weeks and promised to stay in touch. I tried to call him several times without luck.
After reliving memories, I then asked about his current life. He had remarried immediately after rehabilitation to a woman in recovery. She filed for divorce while he was in jail. He wasn’t able to see his children during his jail sentence. When he was released, he discovered Sharon had left the state and taken the children. He had lost his pharmacist license and couldn't find a job. He owed back child support and now he was homeless.
Life was a bed at a shelter, working occasional construction jobs, and panhandling.
Was he using? I didn't ask. I offered to take him home with me and to a 12 step meeting. He refused.
I did drop him off at a homeless shelter for the night, insisted on giving him a twenty, and he promised to meet me at an Alcoholic Anonymous meeting the next day. I haven't heard or seen him since.
Sometimes God taps you on the shoulder; occasionally He hits you over the head with a two by four.
He sent Donnie to me and God opened my eyes. That very day I ran into Donnie, I had a glass of wine with a friend at lunch. Just one, I wasn’t an alcoholic after all. I also had a prescription for Valium in my purse.
My neurologist thought it would be okay if he monitored my doses but he thought I wasn’t drinking. He never asked and I never told. See, that is "stinking thinking" at its best.
I would call my neurologist and dump the pills in the toilet. I needed to plug into God’s phone line, open twenty-four hours a day.
When you need a professional liar, just find a practicing addict. The best part is your 12 step family always has time to listen. They applaud the most awful honesty, as long as it is truth, and then they help you find your way home.
I hoped that I had been Donnie's angel that day but I have learned not to question. That is synchronicity. He was there to be my mirror and I saw what I needed to. It is all in the timing.
I pray Donnie will get there.
We live in a tragic world but there is grace all around us. Just learn to attend to the grace.
By Kathie Stehr
2014-Just thought I would read this again to remind me of where I am at and what I had gone through. Paying attention to Recovery is a constant in your life if you want to be "sober". That means different things to each of us. Working with my physician, I have to take an addictive drug for my dystonia so I have to be careful. I have drug tests and never drink alcohol.
I am blessed. By the way, I have never heard from Donnie, the man in my story. As is the tradition in AA, we pray for all addicts "out there".
2020 update-Once again, times change constantly and this nation is in a world of despair from overdoses. Most of these victims were not using drugs prescribed to them at the correct dosages. They are stealing opiates from people with chronic pain or people that keep old medicines in their homes "just in case". Then there are those that are buying off the streets and getting very dangerous potent drugs made in illegal labs.
The saddest part is most overdoses are someone seeking a momentary escape from physical or emotional pain and they don't mean to leave this world. It is an epidemic. As a result, the DEA and CDC has new guidelines and that has hurt a lot of people with chronic pain that have had their drug doses lowered or discontinued. It is a confusing, heartbreaking and difficult situation for all.
As for me, I weaned myself off everything I was on except one drug I can't do without. I never touch alcohol. There are natural alternatives that I use and you learn to adjust your lifestyle. Going through Rehab and working a 12 step program is the best thing that ever happened to me. I learned life lessons that Psychology and Sociology college classes never taught me. I still go to meetings once in a while.
All of us are broken people and need each other. Just like we all need a spiritual connection; whatever that means to each of us. "One day at a time" and the Serenity prayer work for all situations in life. Every day we live is a gift given to us and the only way to be worthy of it is to help others. Pay it forward always and be grateful.