-SON IN THE SUN-
-Traded the Bottle
for the Bottle-
NA vs, AA - Where do I belong?
I climbed aboard the Methadone bus years ago because I was pregnant and hooked on heroin. The eyebrows of the “normal” people go up and condescending words circle a room when this kind of behavior is mentioned. Hurting myself with drugs was easier to accept than thinking about the fact that I potentially hurt my child with illicit drugs and methadone too. The height of powerlessness was watching a nurse give my newborn opium drops, wrapping her tight in a blanket to control her shaking body, and all I could think about was more methadone. The baby spent three days in the hospital and before I’d go visit, I had to go get my dose first. This is abuse and madness. Every time the baby got sick or anything went wrong, I blamed myself, and rightly so. Knowing I did things like this kept me using for a while. I heard a lead recently where a woman stood at the podium and talked about doing this exact thing. She inspired me to write about it. I look at my child who is healthy and bright and beautiful. All I can say is God, and CYS, were there when I was not. To everyone who cringes while reading this, I can’t change the past nor do I wish to shut the door on it. I share this because a lot of women go through this torture and hide it inside. Secrets keep addicts sick.
Kids think band aids heal wounds. They rest easy when you apply one to their skin. My story is about being a human band aid. I am the mother of six children, ranging between 19 years and 3 yrs. My children lived with their grandmother for 10 years while I swam in addiction, while I failed to call, while I failed to show up for visits, while I sat in jail and rehabs. They did all the things kids the other kids did; played sports, went to school, went to church and hung with their friends. At night though, they went to bed minus a mother and father. I hate to imagine the thoughts that plagued them. Wondering, always, were their parents ok?
The government removed Benny and my other kids from my care when he was 6 years old. From that day, until he was 16, I had no real relationship with him. I was sure that there would be no band aid big enough to cover the wounds I had caused.
At 3 years clean and sober, I got the biggest reward of my recovery. A judge gave them back to me. Finally we were all under the same roof again and we lived happily ever after, is what I would like to write but unfortunately, it is the truth that sets me free. The truth is Benny was not happy. I apologized. I spoiled him. I made him as comfortable as possible. He resented and avoided me. Being a mother, I looked past it and wallowed in the guilt of my past indiscretions, putting a band aid on it, so to speak.
As I tried to shelter him, he was getting drunk and high. I caught him a couple times and put my foot down. If he came home like that again, he was going to have to move out. So he continued to use behind my back. Drinking and using recreationally did not work for him. One night after I had returned from a meeting, there he sat, high on the couch. This was the last straw. The band aid was off! Under the band aid were a lot of issues that were his, not mine! He had every reason NOT to drink or use. His childhood was terrible because of it. Yet there he was, my son, a budding addict, right in front of me. That night I realized that all my spoiling and helping and apologizing were futile. He was a man now who was not manning up.
That night I tossed and turned. Being the control freak that I am, I was trying to think of how I could help Benny. Eventually his father popped into my head. His father now has multiple years clean and is living about 45 minutes away. I knew that, even though I didn’t particularly like the idea of his father having to “help” out, I may have to ask for it. The next morning I told Benny either he went to rehab or go stay with his dad for a while. On the surface I played tough but inside I felt like a failure again. Had I made his life worse by bringing him under my roof?
Thank God for recovery ! While working the program I learned about boundaries. I had drawn a line for Benny. He had stepped over it. If I allowed him to continue on that path under my roof, his wounds would only deepen, and he would never change.
I was being a Band aid trying to protect my son from pain, covering the obvious. In order for him to heal, I would have to get out of the way, let him out into the open air of truth. So after choking down my pride, I called his father, who was more than willing to help.
Benny packed all of his stuff. We put it in the trunk and headed for his father’s house. Before leaving he pulled the last guilt trip on me by saying, “You left me when I was little and now you’re gonna leave me again.” Ouch. That hurt. I told him that I wanted him to be a good man. He would never be anybody if he stayed with me. He rolled his eyes. A couple weeks went by and he would not answer my calls or texts. That really hurt. Knowing that he was safe was paramount and I rested easy knowing I did the right thing.
I cleaned his room after he left. Kids don’t clean their rooms in general but this room looked like no one had lived in it. A layer of dust coated everything so thick; I don’t know how he even saw the TV. It looked as if he just sat up there, like a statue, vegetating, as life was passing him by.
I went to see him, at his dad’s, a couple weeks later. He met me outside. I got a hug. His eyes were bright, brighter than they ever were before. We had a conversation! A real one! He has affiliated himself as being an addict and is going to meetings, etc. I hate to think of my boy calling himself an addict but if the shoe fits, I guess he will wear it. I pray that he wears recovery well. He has over two years clean now!
As for me, I miss him every day. I am thankful for the ability to see my own defects in action. Being a band aid is one of them. Live and Let Live is my new goal. I am allowing my son to live out in the open air of life! It will have to be his choice how he lives! Not mine. –
copyrighted 2015 www.InRecoveryMagazine.com
Do you qualify for both Alcoholics Anonymous AND Narcotics Anonymous? Have you ever sat in one but thought you should be in the other?
I am an opiate/cocaine addict who fell back to alcohol when the supply of drugs ran dry. I abused it as well, therefore I consider myself an alcoholic too. To be honest, I feel out of sorts sometimes in AA, as I try to mince words, in other words, replacing the word “drugs” with “alcohol” more times than I can count.
A felony conviction forced me into recovery meetings back in 2004. I started with AA. There I found a sponsor and my first friends. Then, like so many of us, I got into a relationship. He liked NA meetings. Where did I go? To NA, following behind him, like a puppy. For years, I bounced from NA to relapse, to AA, relapsed, than back to NA again.
One time, I showed up to an NA meeting and shared with a woman that I was on methadone. She told me that I wasn’t truly clean and that I shouldn’t be at a meeting. I know today that she was incorrect. My biggest mistake was listening to people in the rooms instead of reading the literature. The third tradition makes it clear: The only requirement for membership is a DESIRE to stop using or drinking.
What it comes down to for me is that when I talk about recovery, I call myself an addict. I relate to the NA literature and use the NA workbook to do the 12 steps. Because alcohol is a drug, I also have no problem saying that I am an alcoholic. I can relate to, and love, the Big Book as well.
AA was the blueprint for NA. They both save lives. The 12 steps are the same in each fellowship. Therefore I can go to either one and know I am in the right place. Each one gets me one more day clean / sober. My misgivings about jumping from one to the other are unfounded and based on my own problems with acceptance. I know what I am. I am an addict and I am an alcoholic and the 3rd tradition makes me welcome in both fellowships!
Below are some of my articles. Some have been published and some have not.
The little red jukebox record player jammed to the tune of my favorite song. I danced against my bedroom wall and planted my lips on it as if it were my true love, hoping no one was looking. Back in the 80’s, records were top on my list of things to acquire. Ah, those were the days.
I don’t remember how it got broken. Intense anger and younger siblings could be to blame. Instead of asking for a new one or asking for help to fix it, I would position it back together and replay the record. When the needle reached the break, it skipped. I would get angry and position it back together again, hoping it would play all the way through. It never did. A bit cliché, but true.
Looking back now, this was a precursor to my life. Insanity - Doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.
From as early as 7th grade, fear of failure and lack of ambition kept me from any true successes. I had taken violin lessons for 5 years. It got too hard, I quit. In high school, I was an excellent student so I enrolled in some advanced science classes. I realized it would be very hard so I quit and stuck with the classes that were easy. As a senior in high school with a 4.0 average, I got pregnant; realizing that being a student and a mother would be very difficult, I quit school. After two years of college there I was, pregnant again. Back to the skip in that same old record, I QUIT.
Insanity also followed me into my relationships. My former spouse and I had 5 children, and with every birth, I thought the situation would get better. I thought we could make it work for the kids’ sake. And again, the record skipped every time. I could not see the big picture of life. I could only see the small stale world around me.
I thought getting wasted was a great fix because it made me numb to all my problems. I didn’t care that my life was a series of failures. At the same time, guilt overcame me during brief periods. I couldn’t even look at pictures of my children.
I was forced into the AA program at the age of 26 as part of a court order. I stayed until my probation was lifted and ran back out the doors to my best friend and enemy, alcohol.
Five years later, my children long gone, placed with family, no friends to speak of, no job to speak of, no car to speak of…Thanks to my best friend, alcohol , all I possessed was a dead cell phone and an empty wallet.
A homeless shelter took a high and drunken, disheveled me into their establishment at 7am one sticky, humid summer morning. I was not grateful. For I knew that this place would make me do something, and doing anything anyone asked me to do was too much for me to handle.
As I lie there, in a top bunk, I stared into the whiteness of the ceiling. I wished I could just evaporate into the air and be forgotten forever. I did not pray. I did not believe that anyone or anything could save me from the monster I’d become. I talked to the ceiling and told it that I just wanted to fall asleep and never awake.
I had to be backed against a wall, like a rabid animal, before I surrendered. There was nowhere else to look. Afraid of the past, I could not look back. Afraid of the present, I could not look in the mirror. Afraid of the future; I could not dream or hope anymore. So the only place left to look was UP.
After being at the shelter for about a week, I started to talk to commiserate with the other women. One of them gave me a pack of cigarettes upon arrival. She didn’t even ask for any money. I started to wonder why she did it. She became my roommate and I began to complain less and talk more.
The longer I stayed sober, the more I realized that Someone or Something was helping me. I don’t think I did it on my own. Alone, I couldn’t get two days!
Slowly my stale outlook on the world, changed. I started to want more than to just be sober. I started writing the steps and from somewhere, the desire came to participate, rather than just comply with recovery. I had written the steps once before so I wasn’t expecting much, except to complete a task my sponsor had assigned. Being honest though, this time, made what I wrote unique, and it was as if the 12 steps were now in COLOR and I could relate and feel the pain in the pages I was reading. Over time, I saw that I had made as many mistakes as everyone else in the rooms. Seeing that common bond propelled me to ask for help and for once in my life, truly listen.
At the age of 31, I saw that doing the same things over and over again never gained me a thing. I had nothing. I had never finished anything except giving birth to 5 kids that I hadn’t seen in a year or more. So I became determined to stop the broken record. This is easier said than done. Patience was not a virtue I possessed and I became quickly discouraged that with six months sober, my situation was still stale and dismal. People were not forgiving me, not answering my calls. I couldn’t get a hold of my kids. I had a crappy job and no car.
I listened to music as I walked to work. Spiritual music always reminded me to look to my Higher Power. Coming to believe in a Higher Power put power in the words to the songs that sang in my ears. I started to believe that if I continued to do one right thing followed by the next right thing, eventually big changes would happen.
Step Two and having a great sponsor taught me that my life was not meant to be a broken record. I was not meant to live and die unloved and unremembered. Life is full of so many opportunities. Doing the same things over and over again really is insanity! Step Two is about changing the tune…I tuned into God for once in my shattered life and peace is what I found. Peace in the midst of a storm.
I haven’t turned back to alcohol since my stay at the shelter back in June of 2007. I stop doing the things that I always did and guess what?! The results are more than I ever dreamed possible! I got re-married to a great man. The kids, whose pictures I couldn’t even look at, now live with me. I have full custody of them and they are doing surprisingly well. I not only have a car, I own it. I not only have a place to live, I own a home! Today instead of walking down a street looking for shelter, I am walking down an aisle, looking for flowers to plant in my yard. My wallet is not overflowing but my bills are paid! I am no longer a drain on society and my family. My name no longer appears in police reports. I even worked for the rehab that I had once visited as a patient! I no longer just comply with AA, I participate.
I am not a Broken Record anymore. I play any song I want to today! It’s up to me. Either I choose to live a broken, stale repetitive existence lost in alcoholism or I change that tune!
Copyrighted & published by AA Grapevine 2014
Are you an addict or alcoholic with children? If so, I think you may relate to this story.
My baby son has always been momma’s boy. (He’s 16 now) For him, the sun rose and set with me. When I took off chasing my addiction, the sun set for him. Morning never came. He sat in limbo for years, hoping, waiting and always forgiving.
Guilt is a powerful emotion. Dreams of him and my other children could even pierce through my hiding place of addiction. Stuck in dark tunnels, drowning in a river, lost in the woods…guilt manipulated me even in my sleep.
His first day of school came and went. I was not there to put him on the bus. He had problems in school. I remember during one of my brief periods of awareness, I showed up for a school conference. The teacher told me he would break up pencils and crayons in class. He refused to pay attention, was a distraction to the other kids. His grades were close to failing. I blamed his behavior on his caretaker rather than examining what MY Part was in this situation.
I was gone for a total of 10 years. A doctor ended up prescribing some medication for my son, but to no avail. He continued to barely pass each grade and was in counseling. Someone once told me that he was incorrigible and un-teachable.
Addiction corrupts not only the addict’s mind but also our children’s minds. Every time I showed up for a visit, my son would cry and beg me to take him “home.” I believe my recklessness caused my son great harm. When I got clean, I thought the harm to him and the other kids was permanent.
Recovery is full of blessings and surprises. All I ever had the nerve to pray for was for a judge to allow me to have visitation with them. I have full custody today. All I had the nerve to pray for was that God protect my son’s mind from harm. He is an honor roll student today! From the moment he finally came “home” to his momma, his grades shot up to honor roll status.
God even put sugar on top of this reward. He was graduating from middle school. They school called and told me that I should definitely be there. He received the Rising Star Award because of his dramatic turn around in school. He got to go to the podium and say a few words. He said, and I quote, “I just wanna thank my teachers and my MOM!”
He graduated from high school with a 3.6 GPA and received an academic scholarship to a great university. He’s in his second semester now and rockin an A average! I think about what people said about him..that he was unteachable and incorrigible. Isn’t that what people say about addicts? I think that my son’s story proves that just because someone says you can’t do something, doesn’t mean they are right. - Copyrighted
Before I ended up jails, institutions and wishing for death, I was an abnormal kid who loved softball. Once, I hit a 3 run homer. As I jogged around the bases, everyone cheered. I felt euphoric after winning that game for the team. This was a feeling I had never experienced so of course I wanted MORE! I over-tried every game to equal that high I got over the home run. The coach moved me up in the batting order so I was determined to stay there. Unfortunately, it was a fluke, a stroke of luck, instead of raw talent. I sunk lower in the batting order, with every strike out, getting more and more ticked off at myself for failing. Not every ball player is a natural. Most have to work at it. If I couldn’t be the Babe Ruth of girls’ softball, it was time to find a new dream. Sadly, I never really found one. I missed out on the valuable lesson that most things in life take work.
I felt that euphoria again years later the first time I got drunk. How easy! I could produce the same feeling I had as a kid, minus the work! Heaven had found me. It wasn’t too long though…it took more of the drink to get that home run. Eventually I settled for the base hit buzz. Some days I struck out and lay in bed shivering and shaking. I worked hard for euphoria. I put my soul in it and my soul it took. Sobriety teaches me that the natural high of my home run was justified, but wanting that feeling every day, 24 hours a day is not. Alcohol fooled me with the “feel good,” dangling heaven in front of my face. Yet the farther I reached for euphoria the more unreachable it became. Today I know that success takes work. Recovery leveled me, gave me a balance. Instead of chasing euphoria, I complete the things I start. Satisfaction is much greater reward and I don’t need alcohol to be satisfied. True euphoria will happen when I meet my Maker, God willing, and I know a sober life is the only way to get there.
-copyrighted & published in the AA Grapevine -March 2016
Having a toddler and getting wasted don't mix. I'd lay in my bed every morning, in the fetal position, wishing for the day to go away. Next to me lay my son. He slept with his bottle. Every morning, I'd get mad that it was empty because I didn't want to get out of bed to fill it back up. Nor did I want to get up and make him breakfast or change his diaper. Washing dishes was not something I did everyday. All I wanted was more of the drink. I didn't do anything for my kids until I got drunk. If that took all day, it took all day, or days. My son and his siblings were taken away from me by Children's Services. I cared more about MY bottle rather than my son's. In the end, my bottle was all I had.
I was washing my little girl's sip cup this morning and I remembered this tidbit from the past. So I washed it twice, just to be sure it was clean. How much sour milk did my son drink? It's a souring thought. Today he is 17. Three years ago he came home. I wish I could go back in time and kick my own ass. I have no more chances to wash his bottles or change diapers. He is almost a man now. I wished the time away only to wish I could get it back.
Because of sobriety, I don't live like that anymore. My kids don't have to live dirty and play second fiddle to alcohol. I don't dwell in what could have been, too long. It feels better to smile at the possibilities sobriety creates. Sobriety has given me back my life - to a degree that I never imagined possible.-
copyrighted & published in AA Grapevine - 2015
I really hated working in early recovery. I quit working at a fast food place because I did not want to deal with the public. The local animal shelter was hiring. I thought that would be perfect for me! Animals don’t talk and won’t get on my nerves! First day on the job I tried to take a dog for a walk but it bit me before I could get it on the leash. So the boss stuck me up in the “cat room” instead.
It was stacked full of cages, one on top of another and another. The pungent smell knocked me back a few steps. Immediately I thought, “and how much are they paying me??” My fellow employees were very nice so I decided that I would at LEAST finish the shift. I cleaned cat cages for 4 straight hours. Yes, it was gross. For some reason, I kept that job for a while. This was a No-Kill Shelter so some of the cats had been there for a year or more. THIS is when the job got interesting!
I noticed that the cats that were there for a long time refused to come out of their cages, while kittens would jump at the chance of escape. I could coax them out but they would go right back inside. They were “caged” in their minds. Without the cage, they were lost. It was all they knew. I found “powerlessness” outside of a book, outside of a meeting! There it was smacking me in the face every day as I cleaned!
In the beginning, I was like the kitten. I could use and put the drug down and go on my merry way. I was still free. The more I used, the more comfy the cage became. Boxed in, able to see the door but can’t go through it. Just like the cats. Fully aware the cage is open, they decide to stay. Probably makes no sense to the kitten that is running amuck and jumping around. Just like our behavior in addiction makes no sense to the “normal people.”
Working there reminded me that I was unfeeling toward animals in my addiction. I had no use for them. In recovery I see that they are more than I expected them to be! A couple years ago my husband and I adopted a shelter mutt. He is a great comfort to me when I am lonely or sad. I believe animals have a place in God’s world. They are not meant to be caged and neither are we. Step One brought me out of the cage of powerlessness. I am grateful that I had the awesome opportunity to see it - LIVE and in action! To this day I still look for examples of it in everyday life. copyrighted - April P 2014
On a wintry day in December 2010, I stood in front of the judge one last time as he returned custody of my children to me. Before he pounded the gavel, he said, “April, Do the right thing.” I have never forgotten his words. What he said reminded me that my job as a parent was only beginning. Because of my Higher Power and the AA program, at three years sober, I could see the 12 Rewards and Promises coming true in my life.
We settled into life at home, all under one roof again. My youngest son had just started high school. His grades climbed and climbed. Now in his senior year his has above a 4.0 GPA. He received a partial scholarship to a good college and I am proud.
Like me, my son is an OVER thinker. He started to get freaked out about being in debt to the government for his schooling. He was considering waiting to go to school for a few years. Having been 18 years old, I know that for him to put off school is a devastating decision. But he wouldn’t listen to me or any other family member.
Meanwhile, he makes friends with a local kid and decides to go to his house and play computer games. When he told me the kid’s last name, I remembered that my custody judge had that same name. Turns out, my son is hanging with the judge’s son?! .
One night, my son texted me that he talked to the judge about his education decisions. The judge told him to DO the right thing and listen to his parents. Go to college in the fall. Don’t wait. I think the fact that this man is who is he is made all the difference to my son. My son decided he will do the right thing.
I used to hate the law. I hated the cops. I hated attorneys and judges because I thought they were all against me. Turns out, I was right. They WERE against me until I started DOING the right things. I am grateful to AA and to God. Being able to take my own inventory and see my part in the happenings of life causes good things to happen. Now I see how people in authority can make one heck of a difference in my life.
To that Judge – Thank you once and thank you twice. Once for telling ME to do the right thing and TWICE for telling my Son to do the RIGHT thing. God Bless You--
copyrighted & published by the online
AA Grapevine, 2015