Monthly Archives: July 2014

Continuing My Recovery

Recovery from drug or alcohol addiction sure has its ups and downs, doesn’t it?  If you are in recovery, I am certain you know what I mean by that.  There is one thing that is guaranteed when you get clean and start a new life free from active addiction: life still happens.  Yes, when we get clean, stuff still happens to us.  We still have to pay our bills, deal with feelings of sadness, anger, and anxiety, and still have to deal with loss and hurts and everything else that is guaranteed in a lifetime.  The hard part about it now is that in recovery we have to deal with all of that clean.  Yeah, we can’t go take a hit or shoot up or get a fix when shit hits the fan (Excuse my language).

We are so used to running to the dope man or digging into our stash when things go wrong.  In active addiction we don’t really have to deal with feelings or the hurts of life.  When we get clean, though, we are faced with the pain of life without the ability to cover it up with dope for the first time in a long while.  That is why it is so important to do more than just simply stay clean.  In my opinion, recovery is a hell of a lot more than just staying off of dope.  Recovery is changing your life, restoring relationships (including God), learning how to deal with feelings, figuring out what triggered us to turn to drugs in the first place and getting help for it.  Recovery is learning how to be a productive member of society, living with integrity, finding new hobbies and fun activities, learning how to love ourselves, and so much more.  Recovery is staying clean AND working on our lives.  In my book, there is an enormous difference between recovery and sobriety.

Let me just get this out of the way.  I have experienced both sides in my journey of sobriety that I started back in May of 2013.  I have had some tremendous recovery, where I was truly living life one day at a time and doing everything in my power to work on my inner issues and love myself.  I have also had some sobriety where all I was doing was simply staying off drugs and nothing else.  It was that time when I was JUST staying clean that eventually led to me getting high for a couple of days.

I am so thankful that I only used for a couple of days, because it could have been a lot worse.  It was a slow, downward spiral that saw me: 1-stop regularly attending my NA meetings, 2-stop talking to my sponsor and recovery coach as much, and 3-stop doing my step work and communicating with God on a regular basis.  All of that slowly added up and pretty soon I wasn’t in touch with my recovery and fell into some intense cravings.

After a couple days of using, I talked to my family and my sponsor and told them what happened.  I then went to an NA meeting and surrendered again.  I thanked God that he gave me the motivation to stop using after just a short period, because I have seen so many people go back out and die as the result of a relapse.  That could have been me, but somehow I found the courage to surrender again.  Let me tell you, I am glad that I got back on my recovery.  Life has been amazing again!  I have gotten back to my old routine where I was taking recovery serious.  I am working on myself again, talking to my sponsor every day and meeting with my recovery coach.  I am being completely honest at my NA meetings and getting involved in the fellowship.  It feels so good to be back and experience freedom again.

I really wanted to write this blog and share this with you all; to let you know that it is possible to fall down and bounce back.  There are going to be rough times in recovery, but I promise it is a reality that we can get through them and get back on our recovery.  I can promise you two things about recovery: 1-Life is going to happen and there are going to be some very tough times. 2-We can stay clean through ANYTHING.  Yes, we will experience tough times in this process, but no, we do NOT have to use drugs over them.

Things have been great, though.  I wanted to give all of my readers an update about my recovery.  It has now been about 45 days since my lapse and I have really done a good job of bouncing back.  Other than that, I just finished up my summer class at Lansing Community College and am now waiting until fall semester starts.  I have a 4.0 and I just changed my major to journalism.  I am still writing for Mason Today and that is going wonderful.  My daughter is doing great; she will be 4 in January.  My relationships with my family are good, as well.  My girlfriend and I are also doing well.  We have had our ups and downs but we have done a great job of staying strong and using our tough times to improve our relationship.  I couldn’t ask for a better girl and I am so excited for our future!

Also, please remember: I am always available to talk and guide you to some great resources in the recovery community if you are struggling as an addict or as the loved one of an addict.  I am in touch with some terrific recovery organizations that do amazing work.  Just please let me know if you need anything, even if that means just needing somebody to talk to.  There is hope!  Recovery can and does happen!  God bless you all.

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Inside the Home of Drug Addiction

At first glance, this four bedroom ranch looks like many other abodes in rural Midwestern towns.  It rests on a nice 1 ¼ acre parcel in the country, flanked by fields and a cow pasture right across the street.  Conveniently located a little over a mile from town, the neighborhood is very peaceful and quiet.  Traffic is minimal.  But in stark contrast, tranquility was absent inside this house for several years due to drug addiction.

From the outside, my home appeared peaceful and serene in this nice country setting.  But within, circumstances were far different, perhaps unbeknownst to those on the outside.  Chaos, uncertainty, anger, fear, sorrow, grief, and many other emotions filled my home on a daily basis.  The influence of drugs disrupted our home for seven long years.  Many people, in towns like mine in Mason, Michigan, are dealing with the agonizing pain of drug addiction, but choose, for whatever reason, to conceal their pain and problems.  In this blog, I am going out on a “limb,” choosing to be transparent about this terrible epidemic, and to open our home, and our personal lives, to the reality of addiction and how it affects “normal” family units.  Come with me now into the home of the Emerson Family in years gone by, and you will see…

Frustration: Families of drug addicts are confounded daily by what I would call the “missing person” syndrome.  Hard drugs such as heroin have turned their loved one into someone they no longer recognize.  Drugs have changed their personality; he/she is out of character.  A once vibrant, engaged family member has become disengaged from his loved ones.  When he is present, he is really not there.  He/she is often edgy, grouchy, hyper, restless, or on the other hand, unusually sleepy.  As the family sits together in the living room, they notice him/her nodding off into sleep, and look on with bewilderment.  “Why is he/she doing this to himself?”  “What are we going to do?”

Panic: This “missing person” literally becomes exactly that, sometimes disappearing from the home without anyone realizing it.  In the midst of his addiction, my son was the Great Houdini, often disappearing in the middle of the night as his drug cravings took control of him, causing great duress.  One late summer night, Aaron said he was going out into the garage to smoke a cigarette as I studied in my office.  After fifteen minutes elapsed, I opened the garage door to check on him, and he was gone!  Someone had picked him up and he slipped away in pursuit of a high.  I tried calling his cell phone-he did not answer.  I went to bed with my stomach hurting, but finally fell asleep.  At 3:30 AM, he returned home-in a Mason Police car-the recipient of a marijuana possession charge.  He had escaped me, but not the arms of the law.

Shock: As I have written in other blogs, the police became frequent visitors at our scenic, serene dwelling.  The Ingham County Sheriff’s say that they have severely cut back on service to rural areas such as ours, but it seems they made an exception in Aaron’s case.  Deputies came to our place on many occasions at all hours of the day and night in search of our son, a drug addict.  Their sudden arrivals always brought shock to our hearts.  Family members were awakened at late hours, to witness the sad sight of a loved one being hand-cuffed and hauled away to jail.  This was devastating to us as parents, but especially so for Aaron’s siblings.  Sleep was minimal on such nights.

Drama: Late night drama was, unfortunately, common in our home in rural Mason.  There were many times when Aaron would frighten his family with violent episodes of vomiting in the after-math of drug use.  In the late night hours, his siblings were awakened to this alarming sound.  Sometimes, we would find him in a deep sleep in his room and were unable to awaken him, leaving us in a quandary.  Infections from heroin use were common, as well.  On some occasions, we had to rush him to the E.R., fearing for his life.  To the wee hours of the morning, we sat with him in the hospital until he was deemed clear to go home.  On a couple instances, he was admitted to the hospital.  You see, with an active heroin user living in the home, a family never knows what a day may bring forth.  Anything, and I mean anything, is possible, and continual drama wears on everyone.

Conflict: Addiction naturally produces conflict within the family unit.  Though it was peaceful outside on rural Tomlinson Road, conflict often raged within.  The home of an addict is tension-filled, with everyone on edge.  There is worry and concern burdening both parents and siblings.  When you love someone, emotions sometimes get the better of you.  Anger was displayed frequently in my home, and with the frustration came altercations.  Some well-meaning (but uninformed) outsiders even counseled Aaron’s older brother David to “kick his ass” in order to bring him to his “senses.”  Thank God, nothing like that ever happened-though we had become dysfunctional; I can say that none of my kids have ever laid a hand on one of their siblings.  But there were plenty of outbursts.  In a drug addicted household, the siblings yell at the addicted person.  The drug addict yells at the parents, especially when a fix is needed.  In return, the parents yell at the addict in total frustration.  I know that I screamed at my boy on some occasions, and said things that I didn’t mean.  I was just at the end of my rope!  Looking back, there is one benefit to living in the country.  The nearest “creatures” by our home are cattle.  When things got “wild and wooly” in our household, the cows never seemed overly concerned about the chaos in our home!  Thank God we don’t have neighbors in close proximity!

Lock-Down: For years, our home went into what I would call protective lock-down.  Money and belongings started to come up missing, if you get my drift.  This created further strain in the home.  Therefore, we reached the point where money was never left lying around.  Wallets, pocketbooks, purses, and check-books, had to be hidden.  Car keys could no longer be placed openly on a counter or dresser-they, too, had to be kept out of sight.  Safes were purchased, for obvious reasons.  Even though I had valid reasons for taking such measures, I really hated doing these things.  It may sound strange, but I felt a sense of guilt for not trusting my own son.  In spite of everything, I loved this kid and I knew that deep down, the real Aaron Emerson still existed.  But we had no other choice.

Phone-Call Trauma: During the seven years of addiction, I grew to detest the telephone.  Whether Aaron was in active drug use, dwelling at a rehab facility, or incarcerated in jail, every ring of the phone induced instant panic and stress in my heart.  When the phone rang, my heart would race and I found myself wondering, “What now?”  Has he been arrested?  Did he flee rehab again?  Has he overdosed?  Is he calling from jail in a turbulent state of mind?  Did my son die?  Suffice it to say, the phone was not my friend during Aaron’s addiction.  Every single ring of the phone put me on instant alert, creating panic in my soul.  Traumatic calls were a-plenty during my son’s long bout with drugs, and I grew to hate the telephone!  Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?  Yes, I am an ordained minister, but, since I have invited you into my home, I will admit that I am a little bit crazy.  Maybe even more than a “little bit,” actually.

Mourning: The residence of a drug addict is truly a very sad place.  A sense of sadness and sorrow lingers in the home on a continual basis, as loved ones mourn for the addict.  Addiction produces a dark cloud of sorrow within the home, inducing grief in the hearts of parents and siblings on a daily basis.  When you truly love someone, as the Emerson Family loves Aaron, you can’t help but mourn for what addiction has done to the addict, as well as the family unit.  Though the addict may be physically alive, it is as if he/she is dying, or has died, day after day.  When Aaron was using heroin, we all mourned every day, hearts filled with pain.  When Aaron was incarcerated in the county jail, we mourned every day-our home became, as one Al-Anon member once said, an extension of the county jail (we were there with him in spirit).  Even when Aaron resided in rehab facilities, we, his family, mourned.  He was not with us.  He was, instead, a resident in facilities, removed from his family.  This is loss, and loss produces sorrow, grief, and mourning.

And so today, you have been a guest in my home for a few moments-a home influenced by drug addiction in the life of a child that I love with all my heart.  I would like to say, in closing, that amidst all the chaos and turmoil through the years, every single member of Aaron’s family continued to love him.  His immediate family stood with him and remained in his corner.  Inside our seemingly peaceful abode in Mason, Michigan, we held out, desperately wanting to get our beloved one back.

And he did come back to us.  After all the trials and tribulation, Aaron is back!  On May 5, I celebrated my 55th birthday (yes, I am an old man).  A most treasured gift to me is that of my son’s sobriety, for on May 16, Aaron marked one year clean-365 days of living without one trace of drugs or alcohol in his system.  Could there be a better gift than that?  Our house on Tomlinson Road in rural Mason, Michigan, is a home again.  All praise, honor, and glory goes to Jesus, who has never failed us nor forsaken us.  What he has done for us, he can do for you, and your loved one.  We are not perfect but we are enjoying life one day at a time.

Recovery and Relapse

Well, it has been quite a while since I have written anything on this blog. There is a variety of reasons to why this has happened, some good and some bad. Let me start out by writing that recovery from any kind of addiction requires deep, devoted honesty in all areas of life. It is so vital to dig deep and express our feelings and, when necessary, get stuff out in the open. And I also believe that when you are doing service work (Writing a recovery blog is service work) that it requires a person to be honest to whom you are trying to work with or help. So with that, here is my story.

The last two months have been filled with some very extreme highs and lows. About a month and a half ago I celebrated a year of sobriety from all drugs and alcohol. That was one of the best days of my life. I really felt proud of myself and the one-year coin I received from my home group Narcotics Anonymous meeting was a prized possession. I took it everywhere I went and always looked at it before I went to bed. Everything was going so good and my 23rd birthday was approaching…and then it happened.

I relapsed. I got high. After 13 months of clean time. I am going to make no excuses about this relapse. Let me be completely honest: I stopped working my program to the best of my ability. I got really busy and stopped keeping recovery as my number one priority. Being busy isn’t what caused me to use drugs, though. NOTHING causes somebody to use. Being busy actually helps me. The problem was that I got complacent.

It was right before my birthday. I used a couple of times in a span of 4 days. The good thing is that I got right back to some NA meetings and got back on my recovery quickly. The bad thing is that I let myself and my loved ones down. A lot of people say that relapse is a part of recovery and that it happens, but I consider only part of that to be true. Yes, relapse does happen, but in my opinion it is not part of recovery. We don’t have to ever use-just for today-but I didn’t do the things I could’ve done to stop myself before it happened.

I do believe that a relapse can be used to make you stronger, though, and that is what I am trying to do to the best of my ability. For approximately the first seven months of my recovery I had a very strong, daily program of recovery, and the next 6 or so months started a slow, downward fall that resulted in me using. Looking back now, I can see what happened and I can now use that to build a stronger program.

I am now going to a meeting every day for at least 90 days and I am calling my sponsor every day, as well as updating my recovery coach every few days. See, these were the things I was doing before. I am currently 12 days clean again, and I am feeling a lot better. I have actually been relieved that I can correct my program and get back to the basics. It is sad that it took a relapse, but I am where I am for a reason, and I know that God is going to carry me through. Like my recovery coach, Phil, said: “Nobody can take that year of sobriety away from you, and out of around 400 days, you stayed clean for 397 of them.”

This has really showed me how strong this disease truly is. The disease of addiction NEVER goes away! No matter how long a person stays clean, the disease is always right there. That is why it is so important to take recovery from drug and alcohol addiction one day at a time. I am doing everything I possibly can to learn from this and get back to my program where I do take it one day at a time.

So far, everybody has been very supportive of this. I have only told my family, my girlfriend, my sponsor, recovery coach, and fellow 12-Step meeting attenders, and all of them have really stuck with me and told me that I can get back to my program. It is so amazing to have such a good support system. I can honestly say that I do NOT know where I would be without them.

So I am getting back on the horse and riding it to the place I was before I started that slow trek of complacency that led to my relapse. I am reaching out for help and asking God each day to help me stay clean-24 hours at a time. I have been letting my parents hold on to my money and I am not going anywhere alone. My parents or my girlfriend have been driving me everywhere. I don’t like having to do this, but I know it’s what I have to do for the time being. I have to say, though: the last several days have been a lot better. I have been in a really positive, uplifting mood. I was really beating myself up the first few days after the relapse, but that self-pity has been replaced by grace. Some people who go back out and relapse never make it back. A lot of them die, and a lot more never get clean again.

There is a line in the Narcotics Anonymous Basic Text in the chapter of Recovery and Relapse that says this: “There may be times when a relapse lays the groundwork for complete freedom.” That is how I am now looking at this. This has been a difficult journey. Recovery from addiction is one of the hardest things anybody will do, but I can say that, just for today, I am clean. I fell down but I got back up and put on some tougher shoes. I can say today that I am proud of myself, and for that I am forever grateful. There was a time when I sincerely wanted to die. But today I am slowly starting to love myself. Sometimes I feel like I am not making any progress, but then my girlfriend will put me in check and I move on. I have to admit, I really felt like giving up after my relapse; just throwing in the towel and taking the easier route of continuing to use. But I am worth it today. That is what recovery has done for me. It has transformed me into a person that is worth loving. Recovery can and DOES happen. I am happy to say that despite my relapse, I am back on the journey of recovery-ONE DAY AT A TIME.

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