Day 79 – Opportunity Parkway

There is a new office complex opening 4 miles from my home…the house where I’ve lived for 4+ years that will be listed as “FOR SALE” this weekend because my employer of 20 years chose to fire me three days ago after learning of my arrest (see Day 75).  Ironically, the first and primary tenant of the office complex is one of five business units within that company! This business unit is relocating its world headquarters to the town in which I live, situated 30 miles from the parent company’s world headquarters…where I worked until Friday of last week.  

This morning, a new traffic light and street sign were hung over the intersection leading into the complex.  The name of the main road of the new complex…”Opportunity Parkway.”  How fitting for my life circumstances.  Sunday, at church, when the minister asked for any celebrations, I offered up a thanksgiving for “new possibilities” — for new opportunities.  And, through the work my higher power is doing in my heart, I am honestly able to see this as “Opportunity Parkway.”  He’s slowly giving me glimpses and insights in my heart to seeds he has planted…to ways in which I believe He is calling me to use my gifts and skills in a new way.  Ironically, many of these gifts — diversity awareness, leadership development, coaching & mentoring, compassionate communication, effective listening — were taught or honed during my 20 years of employment.  

So, rather than seeing this decision as a loss, a regret…I choose to see it as a gift, as an opportunity to now take my experiences & skills and use them to more directly help people.  Where and how, I don’t know — I must continue to work on my recovery — but I can already see possibilities.  It may start with company and community leaders struggling with how to better understand & support addicts out of ignorance — much like corporate america 50 years ago with the alcoholic (Pope & Associate – Consulting Pairs).  It may be connecting addicts with employment opportunities — addicts whose consequences led them into a compounding spiral in a system that works against us at times.  It may be working with groups people leaving incarceration to reintegrate into community (Choices Team – Faith in Community Ministries).  It may be helping equip addicts in recovery or ex-offenders with compassionate communication tools (Center for Non-Violent Communication – Freedom Project).  God only knows…for now, I know simply I’m where I need to be.  If I continue to focus on my recovery, on being clean and sober just for Today, then and only will Opportunity Parkway open for business.

Opportunity Knocks?  How might these fit together…


Day 78 – This Insidious disease

Last night was a little harder night.  I was going great — on a bit of a natural high from the day and from what amazing possibilities are percolating.  I caught myself thinking…”wouldn’t it be a great night to have a nice glass of wine with my dinner.”  Or, needing to relax from a busy day, “wouldn’t it be nice to curl up and watch TV with an ice cold beer.”  I haven’t had any cravings to USE – but I let myself start THINKING about DRINKING.

Instead I chose to draw a hot bath and soak, meditate.  My normal metal cup had been moved this weekend by a friend who was helping to clean house.  He put it back in the bar — it is half of a Bacardi Rum shaker (metal cup and glass used together).  It’s not a drinking trigger for me at all – it goes well with the bathroom; I use it to rinse the tub after soak baths; it looks better than a plastic cup.

The cup wasn’t the problem.  I went to the bar area, which had been cleaned out of liquor already.  Except…I saw…a special bottle of aged rum.  I had left it behind wanting to give it to a friend who would appreciate it.  Or, perhaps, subconsciously, I left it behind for me.  I wonder which…

All of a sudden my head was filled with lies.  Remember, this is the only disease which wants me to believe I don’t have a disease.  “Your issue never really was alcohol – it was drugs.  You’re ok to have one drink.”  “You don’t have to give up wine or good alcohol – you’ve been able to control that part.  It’s the crystal meth.”  And the all but insane, “You had a great first day – you’ve gotten through being fired with amazing strength.  You deserve to celebrate with a hot bath and a nice shot of aged rum from Puerto Rico — a gift from Carlos in Puerto Rico.  This is all worth celebrating.”  No, I take that back.  It’s not all but insane…it IS insane!

Nonetheless, I wasn’t there at the time…I was at “all but insane” or “far from insane.”  I poured the shot glass…I smelled the rum.  Familiar scents and memories — good ones — came flooding back.  My mind was playing insidious tricks with me.  It knew better than to hit me with drugs this time.  It went for the subtle smell of rum.

I brought the shot into the bathroom — the tub already filling with hot water; my readings (from NA!) and meditations sitting on the edge of the tub platform.  I thought about calling my sponsor to stop this and talk myself through.  Then I looked at the shot; I could smell the rum permeating the bathroom as the steamed air began to fill up the room as well.  I started to play through how relaxing it would be — how GOOD the rum would taste.  That was much more enjoyable than talking to someone!  I was caught up in the moment.  I was caught up in the lies of this insidious and cunning disease.

Then I thought of all I had going for me — of all the progress I have made.  I took the shot and poured the rum down the sink.  I rinsed the sink out; moved the glass out of the bathroom; and lit a candle to burn of the smell.

I was in relapse again.  I didn’t drink or use — but next time, I may not find the strength to stop it.  I used some of my tools – but not enough of them soon enough.  I played with this temptation WAY too long.  I didn’t cut it off a the root..I fed it with nutrients…I let it pop its head up through the gentle, warm soil…I allowed time for the sun’s rays to beat down on it to give it life.  I nurtured it and encouraged it just enough to find a budding plant.  And then, only then, did I rip it out and kill it.

That’s NOT what our Lenten series at church means when we ask ourselves, “What are you growing for Lent?”

The bottle still needs to be out of the house.  And I realize now that the 3-4 bottles of red wine I’m storing to “give to a friend” must also go.  Today.  I win this battle one day at a time — I must fight this battle one day at a time.  Not tomorrow — not “when I feel ready” — not eventually — TODAY.

Yes, one is a bottle given to me for my 30th birthday party in England.  It’s been from the UK, to NC, to Puerto Rico, to here.  I’ve been saving it for a special occasion — it’s one to keep for 10+ years.  So now would be about right.  But, I’ve also been to hell and back since then — seen the bottom of my addiction — faced the choice of life or death.  By the grace of God, I chose life.  With that same grace, I must be realistic and pull out all of the stops with the same fervor, joy and determination that I have had about my recovery in the past days.  I must “ride the wave” and keep on the path.

I wrote a good-bye letter to Crystal Meth during inpatient.  Sounds like I need to write the same for fine wine and spirits…

Watch this space for said letter…

Day 75 – Another step in my journey

A letter to friends…

Let me start this update by saying I continue to be grateful beyond belief for the many blessings in my life today — on my road of recovery. For those who may not be aware, I went into treatment on December 21, 2009 for drug addiction.  Over two months later, I’m doing well in my recovery. I was in rehab for a month of inpatient and partial hospitalization. I returned to work on January 20th with a new lease on life. I completed six weeks of evening outpatient therapy on Monday of last week and will continue a life long road of recovery.

For those of you who have seen my “Step One Video,” you have seen how God was watching over me in the past years. Everything that has happened in my life has prepared me for being where I am today — for learning to “fall in love again” with myself, for who I am, and for who I am becoming. I am reconnecting with close friends and family with whom I’ve grown distance because of my active addiction. I’m rediscovering who I am is — not what I do. I’m not defined by what I do.  I’m a human being – not a “human doing.”  Quite simply, I’ve been reminded I’m a child of a loving God, here to find and leverage the abundance of life to the best of my abilities. I’ve been blessed with gifts that I have squandered and underutilized — but now I see the possibilities through conversations and in community. For that I am truly grateful. Full stop, no reservations.

Ten days ago on a Friday at 4pm, as expected, I was informed by the local police that a warrant for my arrest had been issued. [The charges relate to a search of my house in December after coming close to committing suicide via a drug overdose, followed by a call to 911 — the event that led to my treatment and recovery.]  Although I was glad the police were courteous and notified me of the warrant, I had a rough weekend nonetheless.  I found myself running from my feelings and falling into old routines to numb myself. By the grace of God, I didn’t use drugs or drink — but I was in relapse. Spiritually and mentally, I relapsed — this is as much a spiritual and mental disease as it is a physical disease. I didn’t use the tools I’ve learned in recovery to short circuit the cycle soon enough to maintain a healthy, balanced outlook. Thankfully, God didn’t abandon me – nor will He. My devotional reading that morning was about anxiety…”God didn’t bring you this far into recovery to abandon you.”  Lesson learned.

I was encouraged to turn myself in. Three days later, on Monday March 1, I did so. I had things arranged with my lawyer and a friend.  With gratitude for the speed and simplicity, I was released after being in jail for 4 hours. The judge set an extremely low bail given my charges because I had turned myself in.  “If you were going to run, you would have already done it by now,” said he. The only other funny part (well there were lots of little tidbits) — I was actually walked over from the jail to the courthouse for the hearing…outside about a block and half!  Had any of my friends been there, I could update my facebook photo with me wearing my little orange jail outfit and handcuffs!   But, alas — better to have a good memory than a bad picture!  Or in this case — a bad memory instead of a good picture 😉

My next court appearance is in May. With my charges, there are provisions for this being my first offense to have some of that reduced and serve just probation. But, let’s not get ahead of things. It is what it is…I’m at peace…and God’s hand continues to be in my life. For that I’m very thankful. I knew at the time that my actions warrant whatever comes — it’s only by the grace of God that I’ll see less than what’s due. I’ll continue to leave things in His hands and focus my mind and energy on my recovery and helping others.

On Friday March 5th, following my employer’s policy on Substance Abuse, I informed my management and HR of my arrest and the nature of the charges. At 4:30pm that afternoon, after a 19+ year career, I was terminated for violation of that policy because of my arrest. The reason I was given — working for a pharmaceutical company, substance abuse is taken very seriously as it could jeopardize the firm’s reputation. The firm never states in writing there is zero tolerance — but essentially, that’s what I learned. I understand their decision. I don’t agree with the steps they took – but I understand the decision. Ultimately, I am responsible for my actions which led to these consequences. I wish things had turned out otherwise — that other factors would have been taken into consideration relating to my treatment. I’ve been honest with my management and HR since I returned to work on Jan 20th about the possibilities of legal action.  I am sad that they lacked the integrity to be equally honest with me about what actions would result should I be arrested. I’m disappointed… angry… and feel betrayed by a company to which I gave many years of faithful and dedicated service. My feelings are all healthy and expected reactions. But for my health, I must work through them — to feel and process them in due time but not hold onto grudges or resentments. Resentment is at the heart of a relapse — at the heart of much addictive behavior — and that I can not afford.  

Step 1 teaches me to admit that I’m powerless over my addiction and that my life had become unmanageable. In admitting powerlessness, I must eventually come to the point where I surrender my will and my life to my Higher Power who can and will restore me to sanity. On Friday, I finally understood this on a deeper level and “worked” that first step even harder.

I surrender…

I know my Higher Power will take care of me, as He has demonstrated so clearly over the past months. I have amazing peace amidst this loss because I now more fully understand Step 1.  It is through surrendering I find peace. It is through maintaining peace and a connection with my Higher Power, the recovery community and my feelings that I will stay clean and sober…just for today.

I’m grateful for the work that God is doing in my life. I can not ignore my part in these events — my behaviors and choices are at the root of my situation and I’m simply grateful to be where I am today…alive and in recovery. This past weekend, unlike the relapse I had a week ago, I found the strength and courage to use the tools I’ve learned in treatment to get me through each day thus far without a relapse. I am grateful for the people He has placed in my life who support and love me in spite of my humanness. I am grateful for the miracle of life — because today, my being alive is a precious gift that I no longer take for granted. He is doing for me what I was unable to do for myself.

I know who’s in control — as long as I stop hopping in the driver’s seat, I’ll be just fine 😉  I can honestly see this already as a blessing.  The timing and circumstances are unfortunate — but from this I will learn much which will only make me stronger.  I will spend some time figuring out what is in store for me in this next chapter of life.  I pray simply to know God’s will for my life and the strength to carry it out.