We don’t start with needles in our arms

by renegademama

Sometimes I write about parenthood. Sometimes I don’t.

Today I’m writing about alcoholism.

For those of you who are new here, I am a recovering alcoholic. On March 5, I will celebrate 5 years of sobriety. So yes, I am a relatively new sober alcoholic. For background, please read this or this.

I don’t particularly love talking about motherhood and alcoholism. It’s not exactly the high point of my life to announce to a few thousand people that I was that mother, the trash, the hated one, the drunk, drug-addicted one, the one with two gorgeous, innocent children caught in the cross-fire. And her, that dirty bitch, selfishly killing herself.

But I write about it anyway, because after about a year of writing this blog, I realized I was only telling you people half the story, and I realized I might be of help to somebody, some day in some way and something, I tell you, something has to make those years worth living.

And sometimes, when a famous, brilliant actor dies with a needle in his arm, I read the comments from America and I can’t take it. There’s so much ignorance, so much blind condescension based on NOTHING. NOTHING. Opinion. Observation from afar. Some article you read somewhere. An addict you “know.” A drunk you worked with.

The comment that stuck with me like a knife in my brain is this one: “Yeah, addiction isn’t a choice, but shoving a needle in your arm sure as hell is.”

It’s as if people think we start with a needle in our arm. Yeah. Newsflash. WE DON’T.

Alcoholism and addiction are progressive diseases. THEY GET WORSE OVER TIME. We don’t start with a damn needle in our arm. We start drinking beer with friends in high school. We start like you did.

Do you get that? Do you see that? We don’t wake up one day when we’re 19 or 20 or 35 and say to ourselves “You know what I need? A motherfucking bag of heroin and a syringe.”

I started out like you. I partied and experimented with alcohol and marijuana and a couple psychedelics like a whole lot of other kids in school. Yes. I am responsible for that. I made that choice. If that makes me responsible for my alcoholism, well then I guess I’m responsible.

But do you think I knew I was playing with fire? Do you think I knew when I was 17 years old hanging at a friend’s house drinking Peppermint Schnapps that I would one day lose my children to this substance? That I would go to rehab FIVE TIMES, each time sure I would emerge “fixed?” Do you think I knew that my brain from the moment I tasted that alcohol was altered, that from that point forward my brain would tell me that “pleasure” equals “booze” and booze only, that I would one day pursue that relief, that feeling from alcohol, at the cost of everything of value in my life?

Do you think I knew I’d lose my job to the stuff, spend years fighting it, catch 3 or 4 psychiatric diagnoses resulting in ELEVEN different medications at one time, as the doctors tried to figure out what happened to this smart, promising woman?

Do you think I knew I’d end up in a mental institution, having spent a few days on a whisky binge in a small apartment with a dog shitting and pissing on the floor, and the doctor would look at me and say “We knew you were crazy, because no sane person would live in those conditions.”?

Do you think I knew I’d wake up one morning on a respirator in an ER with a doctor who was sure I was trying to kill myself because there were so many substances in my body? Do you think I knew I’d look at him and quite honestly defend myself with the words “Oh no, doctor, I’m not trying to kill myself. I do this every day.”

No. I didn’t know. I didn’t know or think any of this. I was a kid who got good grades and went to college and worked hard. I thought everybody had the experience I was having with alcohol. I thought I was “having fun” like everybody else.

And by the time I realized I was in trouble, I couldn’t stop.

By the time I realized I couldn’t stop, I COULDN’T STOP.

And that, my friends, is the piece you’re missing: By the time we realize we’re dying, we’re dying. By the time we begin to suspect a problem, we are in the grip of a deadly disease, a disease that lives in the body and the mind. The body demands more – aches and screams and begs for more; the mind says “You’ll die if you don’t have more. It will be okay this time. Just one more time, Janelle.”

It’s not rational. It doesn’t weigh options. It doesn’t think about kids or home or acting careers or any other fucking thing. It thinks about itself. It tells me “You’re fine, Janelle. One drink won’t hurt.”

How do you change a mind with an insane mind? Tell me, how do you? How do you alter the thoughts of a brain when it’s the brain making the thoughts?

Do you see the problem, folks? There’s where the element of choice gets really, really sticky. MY BRAIN IS MAKING THE CHOICES AND MY BRAIN IS THE PROBLEM. You’re telling me to “choose” different behavior when my brain is the thing that’s hardwired to choose more alcohol.

And then, the more I drink and the sicker I get, I start looking for other substances to fill an ache in my mind and soul and heart like I cannot describe – the alcohol isn’t enough anymore. I’ve progressed to a new level. I take everything, anything to kill the insatiable need that’s become like air to me.

For my family who will read this, who knew me as a cute little blond-headed, precocious kid, I won’t say how far that need took me.

Does this make you uncomfortable? Does it make you sick? Yeah, me too. But this is it, people. This is what it is. Most of us start out good and decent and wanting a real life with kids and a house and job, and we start out fooling around and maybe we’re a little overzealous but by the time we’re really, really in trouble, we’re dying, and we’re powerless, and the chances for recovery are really, really freaking slim.

Most of us rot in the streets and die in beds in the houses of strangers. We die in bathrooms with needles in our arms, while the world looks on and says “Why didn’t you just choose not to do it, you trash?”

Why don’t you ask a fucking schizophrenic to “just stop having those weird delusions.”?

Why don’t you ask a cancer patient to just stop creating cancer cells?

Why don’t you ask a person with asthma to just get beefier lungs?

What’s that you say? The disease model of addiction removes the element of responsibility? Really. So if you were told you had cancer and need chemo, would you respond “Nope. Not doing it. Not treating my disease. It’s not my fault I have cancer. Therefore, no chemo.”

Insanity.

IMG_3830

I have no words

It wasn’t until somebody explained to me that I was dying of a progressive disease, that I could never consume alcohol safely IN ANY FORM, that my mind would always, always lie to me, that for me, to drink is to die – it was only then that a beam of understanding crept across my mind. It was only then that I began to understand my condition, what had been plaguing me the whole of my adult life and how I could, finally, live freely, like a real human, wife, daughter, employee and mom.

At this point I know I seem like I’m contradicting myself. I just said you can’t fix a broken brain with a broken brain, and now I’m telling you that an understanding of my disease helped set me free. I can only tell you this: all alcoholics and addicts have moments of lucidity – tiny cracks of sanity where we see the truth of ourselves and our lives. And I believe some of us are lucky to get the kind of help we need during that moment of clarity, or surrender, or internal death. And if we’re set on a path from that point, we might make it. That, at least, is what happened to me. But it’s a long, long desperate and dangerous path to get there, and some of us don’t make it.

Then again, maybe it’s just dumb luck. Maybe some are sicker than others. Why does treatment work for some cancer patients and not others? Why do some people die and some don’t? And is it the sick person’s fault? Should they be blamed for losing the battle?

Don’t ever put me up on some pedestal. Don’t ever tell me “Great job, Janelle. Look at the way you turned your life around.”

Don’t ever set me above the homeless crack-addict on the street, thinking I’m better because I survived my disease.

There’s no reason I’m here and she’s there, and there’s no difference between us. I don’t know why I got to live. I don’t know why I didn’t die alone in some bathroom, leaving two blond-headed children to wonder, and miss their mom, while the world packs up its trash in the form of one more useless addict, one more drunk, one more loser who “chose” to throw her life away.

 

I take a breath and hold my kids and weep for the ones still dying.

 

Me, at 24 years old, at the beginning stages of the deadly grip of alcoholism. I sure don't look sick, do I?

Me, at 24 years old, at the beginning stages of the deadly grip of alcoholism. I sure don’t look sick, do I?

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more stuff I shouldn't have said out loud:

220 Comments | Posted in alcoholism | February 7, 2014
  • Brinny

    Wow. I really needed to read this.
    Thank you for baring this part of you to us, your devoted fans.

    I have been thinking similar angry thoughts about the commentary that has happened since Phillip Seymour Hoffman died. You put them into the right context and helped me understand WHY those kinds of comments make me so angry.

    Thank you for addressing the desire for “anything to kill the insatiable need that’s become like air to me,” and how it coincides with motherhood.

    I say bravo, not to put you on a pedestal for ‘turning your life around,’ but for putting yourself on that pedestal so we can see that our own lives are worth living. Does that make sense?

       58 likes

    • Amy Campione

      I will never understand why people judge other people when they can’t even understand them. You’re very brave for sharing your story. Congratulations on your sobriety!

         22 likes

    • Amy

      I love where you say “What’s that you say? The disease model of addiction removes the element of responsibility?” Whether it removes responsibility or not, like cancer, its up to you to treat it. I am in recovery too and for some reason am one thATS made it so far. I now, and for the past few years, have worked at a drug and alcohol facility. I don’t know why some make it and some don’t. Depends where your atvin your life and when you get the help. But I so glad for the ones that still cal me and say they’re doing good. Makes all the phone calls of the ones that aren’t or are no longer here a little less bareable. I know what the statistics are. But atleast I had one or so at the Right time, and i might not have been able to help all while rhey are there but at least I helped “that one.” I know the horrors of where alcoholism and addiction take us. Not just places but the mental and emotional torture. Its not me. Never was. I am blessed to have found myself again. By its day by day and has been for years of recovery. Not all understand the disease but thanks for trying to shed some more illumination.

      Love & Respect,
      Your sister in AA/NA

         8 likes

    • John E. Keats

      Just hoping I could put you on a pedestal for a moment. The insight into yourself and the empathy you feel with all addicts is beautiful and, to me, essential, but you do deserve credit, too, for your strength. But too much credit, I agree, can be bad. That’s also why I think the “disease” narrative or model for addiction can be so beneficial. P.S. Hoffman might be an unfortunate example of how, after more than twenty years sober, maybe you start telling yourself you’re not burdened with an illness. Maybe all that talk about being sick was wrong. And then maybe you try one taste of an old vice and you find out, too late, that you were right to see yourself as sick. So let people have their competing narratives, like the easy one about addiction not being analogous to cancer (even if they are missing the point about analogies being, by definition, inexact things meant to clarify and reveal), although I wish they’d be a little gentler in the way they throw them around. I’m just happy to have come across the testimony of a mom who found her way back to meaning, and love, sympathy, humility, and purpose, however she got there. (And happy, too, to wish a powerful writing voice well and success in her craft.)

         11 likes

      • Bobby

        Dude. What an awesome comment.

           1 likes

  • Stephanie

    I’m just leaving this comment in support. I have nothing brilliant to say besides.

       27 likes

  • Michelle Swank

    I’m so blessed and thankful I met you at BlogHer and can call you friend. You’re an amazing mom, writer, and person!

    This was such a great piece!

       9 likes

  • Megan

    Thank you for this post! I too am a recovering alcoholic mother. I have been struggling these past couple days reading the ignorant comments from many about addiction being a selfish choice. I needed to read this and I am grateful for you writing this!

       19 likes

  • Kristen Mae at Abandoning Pretense

    My God this was amazing. I adore you and your writing.

       10 likes

  • Jill (mrschaos)

    I’ve been waiting to read this. I’m so glad your wrote this. Thank you.

    Love you. And all the blond headed children. xo

       6 likes

  • Roxanna Smith

    not mine…thine. thank you

       6 likes

  • Christina

    Thank you for your honesty. I’m a foster parent and both of my foster children placed with me so far have parents addicted to drugs. I have to actively block out the awful things people say and assume about the parents of these children. I can’t let myself roll my eyes or sigh at the poor decisions made. I have to tell myself that I really don’t know what it’s like.

       14 likes

    • Allison

      Thank you for your honesty. It surprises me how many people deny alcoholism is a disease. But I think we both know how powerful denial can be. You’re an inspiration to me, keep it up. One day at a time.

         5 likes

  • Marit

    Amazing and beautiful…you, the message, the writing, the kids. Thank you.

       7 likes

  • Lynne

    I dove into alcohol in my early teens. I thought I hid it pretty well. Then one day, out of the blue, my dad took a ‘drive’ with me. after parking in an empty lot, his conversation with me started like this: “I want to speak with you, and I need you to hear what I have to say. You don’t need to answer, just listen. I cannot tell you to NOT drink alcohol. (He has full eye contact with me and I am in SHOCK, How Did He Know?) ~Because I know you are head strong and will do what you want to do. What I will tell you is,(his eyes filling with tears and voice cracking), I was an alcoholic at 16 years old. I loved it. All of it. The partying, everything. And I had really great friends! They made sure I got home safely every time. Sometimes I woke up in my bed and wondered how I had gotten there, because I could not remember. Sometimes I woke up in my front yard or in the gutter in front of my house, but I was home. I was alive. And I was stupid. Just so you know, this is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. Sit here and admit to my Daughter that I am an alcoholic. I was an alcoholic then. I was an alcoholic in Viet Nam. I’m an alcoholic today and I will be every day forward. I just don’t drink anymore. I haven’t touched alcohol since the day I married your Mother. I learned at a very young age that alcohol and kids do not mix. You see, my dad was an alcoholic too. When he wasn’t drinking, I loved that man, he was the BEST Dad ever! The family learned to stay away from him when he drank though. He drank more than not and I hated him for what it did to our family. I swore to myself, I would never be like him. So I decided at a young age I was never going to get married or have kids. Problem solved. I did not even realize, that at 16, 17, 18, I was following in his footsteps. When I was 19, I fell in love with your Mother. The day I said my vows to her is the day I made a commitment that my new Wife and future kids would NEVER experience the Hell my Father had put my Mother and his kids through. It has not been easy staying away from the booze. Every day I have to recommit and to this day I still crave it. After all these years, after mowing the lawn on a hot summer day, I would love nothing more than an ice cold beer or twenty. What I want you take away from this and carry in your heart is: I Love you. Your Mother and I love you. In your lifetime you will make good and bad decisions. Just remember, that with each decision you make, consequences follow”. ~ I remember every word he said that day. He was more than my dad right then, He was my Idol! His raw honesty wiped the ‘drunken rebel teen’ right out of me. Oh I still drank occasionally, but his words always came back to me. He has been on a pedestal for me since that day. And he deserves to be there!
    And Janelle, so do you. Because YOU are one of the MOST IMPORTANT people in your children’s lives! You are ALIVE and HERE for them! YOU survived/are surviving the disease, and it IS commendable! I don’t know why some remain in the grips of addiction and others are able to escape either, but I am Thankful and Grateful my Father was one of the escapees. Because I needed him. And your kids need you. Congratulations on your sobriety! I am glad you are HERE!

       72 likes

    • eew

      Thank you for this story. I’ve just recently stopped drinking and my children (and their future) were the primary reason. I hope someday I can go on drive with them and tell them my long, successful, sober story and help them avoid this terrible struggle.

         7 likes

    • Kelly

      I’m in total tears as I read your comment. That is an amazing story. My dad, who I love, has lost everything to his alcoholism. The mixture of pain and love I feel in regards to him is indescribable. What your dad said that day and the actions he took to make that choice for your family…and then to share it with you like he did…moves me beyond words. Thank you so much for sharing this.

         11 likes

      • Traci

        I agree completely.
        Wished I would have had that sort of affection at home when I was growing up. That is pretty brave stuff.

           0 likes

    • Traci

      Wow. You were a lucky kid for sure to have a dad that loved you so much to lay it out on the line like that. His respect for you and your respect for him is what made a huge difference for you.

         0 likes

  • Michelle

    Thank you for being brave enough to be true and open up yourself. I have ultimate respect for you!

       4 likes

  • Jess

    Thank you so much for this piece… It is something everyone needs to hear. Thank you.

       2 likes

  • Jenna

    Your writing astounds me. Every time.

       7 likes

  • Roben

    Perfect. Thank you.

       2 likes

  • Annie

    Ditto. I’m the same as my homeless sister living in a storage unit, because 4 years ago I had that moment of grace to see my lofe for the sad, lonely hole it had become. Really see what my disease was telling me to do to myself. It was out to kill me and take my kids down too. I dont know why I’m luckier than my sister,except I choose to treat my alcoholism. I just take it one day at a time. I dont know wny someone with 23 years goes back out, except that he quit recovering. I am too scared to quit recovering.
    I am not a mom, sister, wife or friend if I dont put my recovery first.

       16 likes

  • Kristin

    As another addict mom, thanks for this. What has been scaring me is relapse. I was clean for 12 years, got married clean, had my kids clean, and relapsed. I’m still struggling. It’s so easy to say this one time won’t matter, and my primary disease is bulimia, where just one time probably won’t kill me. I need to remember that it wants me dead, it’s killing me slowly, and even when I’m not dying today, the disease is taking me away from my family emotionally and spiritually. God, I needed to say all of that.

       21 likes

  • Phanie

    I applaud you for having the courage to share this. I have no doubt it will cross someone’s path who will really need to hear your struggle. You are an amazing person xo

       5 likes

  • katery

    the negative response to phillip seymore hoffman’s death disgusted me. the fact that he died of an overdose does not make it any less tragic than if he had died in a car accident. people have no sense of empathy or sympathy anymore, not to mention, just common decency.

       7 likes

  • Shawna

    You just did the most beautiful job of articulating all that I have felt!!

       8 likes

  • jenn

    I really,really love your honesty. Thank you for being so magnificently and perfectly you.

       4 likes

  • larissa

    BRAVO! you said it. you said it in plain english that everyone can understand (if they choose) thank you for your candor. I celebrate 5/29/02 a day at a time. Holla!

       7 likes

  • Melanie

    Nicely written Janelle…I’ve been in recovery a day at a time for awhile now….long enough to attend many funerals of friends unable to walk the path any longer, it’s always sad, it’s such a simple program…yet life is so complicated and addiction is so powerful… The reality for me always is, no matter how many days, now into years, pass for me in recovery….I, nor any of us, are immune from the strong hold of this disease. As Seymor Hoffman has reminded me through his passing. The masses may not grasp the depths of despair this disease takes us to and even in this day and age we may still be looked upon as the weak willed….yet what we get is bigger and that is the gift of seeing the miracle of recovery on a regular basis. Keep the faith!

       5 likes

  • Kate

    Wow, as an ex heroin and crack addict your words totally hit me. I started off the same as you. Young, innocent and experimenting. At the age of 16, I woke up one morning and it suddenly hit me, I was a heroin addict. Just like that. I didn’t see any warning signs. I literally woke up one and realises that my life was screwed.

    I was addicted for 11 years. I did things I am ashamed of. One day someone spoke to me in a moment of clarity and somehow it sank in. This person saved my life. He probably doesn’t even know it. I have been clean 8 years.

    During my addiction I had a beautiful son who deserved a better mother. I am lucky he doesn’t remember that period of his life. Still my family don’t understand that other addicts are as human as I am. Mistakes that I made they also made, I am no better and probably a lot worse than they are. My heart goes out to them. They are living a life of desperation.

    Janelle, you are a beautiful brave woman. Thanks for sharing

    My

       8 likes

  • Mia

    Thank you for sharing. For people who aren’t living it or seeing it there is a real need to wipe away the ignorance. Thank you for being open.

       5 likes

  • skyscraper

    Congratulations on your 5 years! Hard work to be sure.

    I think what makes it hard for some people is they think I have done those things and I didn’t become an addict. They don’t think but for the grace of god. Know what I mean? I say that as someone who has been married for 20 years to a recovering addict/alcoholic.

       4 likes

  • Sally J.

    As a recovering person approaching 10 yrs free of all drugs. I want to say thank you for describing addiction so that anyone with any comprehension should be able to understand. This is the my first time reading anything of yours, but not the last. Kudo’s on the 5 years clean. Keep on telling it like it is. Just for today….. Sally J.

       5 likes

  • Anna

    All your writing always seems directed right at me, like you can see into my mind. Thank you for always knowing what to say, or even if you don’ t know, thank you for writing anyway.

       8 likes

  • Desiree

    I am to a addict andalcoholic and I just want to thank you .

       2 likes

  • Lyn-z

    Reading this over my morning coffee put a smile on my face. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to try to get sober having money/property/prestige in my life. God bless celebrities, I can see the difficulty in trying to recognize a bottom, when on the outside you’re still on top.

       4 likes

  • katrina

    Thanks for this. you explained the disease of alcoholism very well. I, too, am also a recovering alcoholic. I am coming up at 6 years. I also have 2 children. I thank God every day that neither of them has ever had to see me drunk or high and I pray everyday that they never will. I have so many loved ones stuck in the insanity of our disease and I question all the time: “why me and not them?”. no one knows the answer to that. I wish the world wasn’t so ignorant and heartless about alcoholism but they just don’t get it. not their fault. you don’t know what you don’t know. I love your blog. I can relate to everything you write. thanks again.

       4 likes

  • Sherry

    I hope you don’t mind that I linked to this post from my blog today.

    Because it’s fucking brilliant.

    Thanks.

    Sherry

       6 likes

  • L

    I used to be one of those people who didn’t understand and I really don’t know what finally opened my eyes. Maybe living in a town where addiction is a huge problem (who doesn’t). I think the realization that it doesn’t start with the needle in the arm is the biggest thing people need to understand. It starts with alcohol or a prescription from a doctor for back problem who takes his patient off the medication cold turkey when he realizes they are becoming addicted. I think articles like this could help people who have never experienced this realize what it is all about. It can happen to anyone and people need to stop being so high and mighty about it.

       2 likes

  • Mary

    THANK you for this post. Thank you for putting this information out there and for helping people understand. I wish I could force feed this post to everyone and make them understand the truth you have written here.

       2 likes

  • Brooke Taylor

    I saw this link on facebook. I usually do not read things that talk about needles because I am a recovery needle addict and my veins still burn when I talk about it. I appreciate your understanding of addiction and your experience. I think what makes recovery so wonderful is it doesn’t require that anyone but ourselves understand. I don’t have to have the permission of the world to recover. I will be telling my story in front of my college class in May. I know that I will receive ridicule. There is a world of ignorance about the disease of addiction and alcoholism. I am still suffering consequences from people who do not care to understand. But I don’t get angry most of the time. I understand that they don’t get it and that’s okay. Because it doesn’t matter how much I explain it to them or paint a vivid picture, they will never understand the fatal nature of my disease and all of its components. Hell, I don’t even understand it sometimes. I appreciate your candidness about addiction but you sound angry. Concentrate your writing efforts (which you write well) on bringing hope to the addict instead of focusing your efforts on bringing understanding to the non-addict. That would make a bigger impact.

       8 likes

  • Jessie

    Thank you. A brilliant and illuminating piece. May you go from strength to strength, what an amazing woman you are.

       2 likes

  • Stephen

    Thank you Janelle. My mother died from alcoholism. You, I, many others survived. It is never to late to begin to heal. I am grateful that I can find a sense of peace and understanding towards my mother and other alcoholics.

       2 likes

  • rayven

    Thank you

       3 likes

  • Tiffany K

    Thank you for writing this. As the daughter of an alcoholic (unfortunately never recovered) your post helps me tremendously to understand what his life was like and why he did the things he did. By the end of his life, I had already come to an inner peace about our relationship and this just reaffirms that his faults as a father were never about his children, but we’re about the alcohol. It seems me that he lived like that, but the understanding helps let me love him in spite of it (and even because of his struggles). Thank you.

       2 likes

  • Mae

    This was a very powerful article that sheds so much light on alcoholism. I honestly had not considered how little the diseases (the PROGRESSIVE diseases) of drug and alcohol addiction were being reduced to before you described it this way. It leaves you with a much greater perspective of struggle than the selfish stereotype from the past has done. You hear so many refer to those struggling as being too selfish to change their life or get better. Thanks for sharing your story and good luck.

    Mae

       3 likes

  • Spread love

    Ignorance is just that – not having all the information at a moment in time. It’s fluid though, so it can be temporary. All of us are guilty of ignorance at some point for various reasons- fear, too young, bad examples etc. I guess I was expecting a slant of compassion or empathy for people who don’t fully understand the path to addiction. To me, the impact of your journey to enlightenment regarding alcohol kind of got lost, and came across as you being unable to extend the same courtesy to others on their journey to enlightenment. Maybe that wasn’t your intent.

       2 likes

  • Kathe

    Just want you to know that my only post about Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death was this:
    “There, but for the grace of God go I”.

    Could have been anyone of us. I want people to get that.

    Thank you, Janelle, for helping us get there. This should be ‘required’ reading for every human.

    I’d love to help decorate your soapbox!

    Light & Love from a fellow Renegade Momma

       1 likes

  • Kim

    Amazing post. Beautifully written, raw and so, so important. Big echo of all those before me: thank you for writing, and sharing, it. This is not a path I am familiar with and I really appreciate this no-holds-barred look in. I feel that I am more equipped to interact with the world. (I absolutely see how patronizing and ridiculous that sounds, but truly. This post is another tool and I am really very thankful to have read this. Christina, the foster mom, said it best: “I can’t let myself roll my eyes or sigh at the poor decisions made. I have to tell myself that I really don’t know what it’s like.” It’s a constant reminder, isn’t it? You just can’t know what it’s like to fill another person’s shoes and, because of that, you really can’t judge them.)

       3 likes

  • Annette

    Thank you! Well said mama.

       1 likes

  • furtheron

    You are so right but so many don’t get that it has nothing to do with will power if anything the will power keeps you going rather than stopping you.

       1 likes

  • lakawak

    Still preventable and not at all like cancer. And many people like you whine and don’t even TRY to stop. Not really. Since it is a disease, then you go seek professional help to stop. No one tries to beat cancer on their own.

       8 likes

    • sara

      1) I don’t think there was any hint of a whine in this post. At no point did she say poor me, why me, how could this have happened to me because I was so good.
      2)In previous posts, she said she every morning she would quit, only to be drunk again that night. Its much like the diabetic who continues to eat sugar, or the lung cancer patient who still smokes. It has become a biological need, yet you don’t see the hate and shame being thrown at them.
      3) In fact, it is like cancer or any other biologic disease. Alcoholism is caused in part by a biological predisposition or “allergy” to alcohol. People who are alcoholics generally have a number of alterations to how their body responds to the ethanol molecule, making them have a completely different biological response to the compound. It is similar to cancer in that not every smoker gets cancer, or even every woman gets breast or uterine cancer. Its because their receptors have an adverse effect to alcohol. Since this receptor is in their brain however, the very safeguard mechanisms the rest of us have to sense danger is silenced. This is a very simplistic explanation, the reality is much more nuanced, and involves both the central nervous system, metabolism, immune system. This is not just a “brain” disease, but a whole body disease.
      4) She did get professional help, most people do. Except, the huge component of all this is shame, humiliation and public perception of the problem. When someone says, “I have cancer” everyone rally’s around them. they wear pink and post pictures of chemo treatment and everyone tells them how brave and beautiful they are. When someone says they are an alcoholic, that support system is non-existent. People pull back, stay out of that persons way leave them alone with their disease. No one wants to help, and in fact generally tells them they cant be helped. Imagine the cancer patient who is told every day, whatever, your useless and going to die anyways. you know what would happen? they would give up and die. Cancer patients don’t go it alone because they dont have to, the addict does. Also, medical treatment for addiction is still in its infancy, while the cancer patient has a million options, which even know don’t always work. Not to mention the prohibitive cost of treatment for most, since insurance doesn’t cover it and society has turned their backs on the addict. So don’t say “just get help” because for many there is no help to get anymore.

         22 likes

      • brian

        Thank you for your response to “LAKAWAK the uninformed or ignorant”
        You were much kinder than I wanted to be.

           8 likes

      • tessa

        it is not like cancer and other diseases. So if she got in a car and drove drunk and killed someone is that her defense,I have a disease? No she would go to prison. Stop comparing diabetes, cancer and other life threatening diseases to addiction.

           1 likes

        • renegademama

          I think what people miss is that having a disease DOES NOT NEGATE RESPONSIBILITY FOR ONE’S ACTIONS. Why is that so complicated? If a schizophrenic person kills somebody do we just say “Aw, shucks! Too bad, but he’s got a mental affliction. Guess we just let him off the hook!” Of course we don’t. we lock his ass up and try to HELP HIM. we realize he’s insane and remove him from the fucking streets — much like we do with addicts — lock their asses up (though we don’t get very good results…).

             4 likes

      • renegademama

        And GO SARA you fucking badass!

        no really. thank you.

           3 likes

      • Bobby

        Sing it sister! What an awesome comment.

           0 likes

      • Traci

        Want to figure out how to bookmark Sara’s comment because they are so insightful, educating and encouraging! You people are so dag on smart.

           0 likes

  • Rachael

    Thank you for posting this. It takes courage to bare your soul like this. It really resonated with me, because my mother was/is an alcoholic. She has been since I was very little. Admittedly, I forget that it’s a disease and I have times that I am very bitter about how I grew up. This post reminds me that there are things I don’t see and there are thoughts I don’t deal with personally. I really just want to thank you for posting this.

       1 likes

  • April Lee (Modern Sex Culture)

    You, girl. Thank you for writing this. My mother and father are both recovering alcoholics. I was too little to remember though for years I couldn’t relax about the topic of alcohol knowing all too well how bad it can be for some people.

    And thank you for saying to not put you on a pedestal. To not put you above the homeless person who “can’t get their life together” and look “you were strong enough.” These kinds of phrases do what? That suggest that people don’t get over sickness are weak.

    A very close friend of mine dealt (and is still dealing with) a very serious mental illness. She’s doing great now but damn.. as much as another person can be there with someone else, I was with her when she took those steps toward searching for a way to heal herself. She had to deal with her brain that was lying to her.. constantly. What could she trust? That woman is amazing to me… though I know, she doesn’t feel so special for getting help (and how terrifying it was.. what if it didn’t work? what if it didn’t? What it made everything worse?)..

    I just.. despise the way we put other people down who “haven’t made it.” It is not easy.. It’s the hardest thing, I think.

    So thank you for talking about it, honestly. That’s why I read because you’re honest.

       1 likes

  • kate C.

    Just recently discovered your blog, which is really good! And this is a great post. I’m a biologist and everything you said about the brain is just right on. In a lot of ways “free will” is an illusion for all of us, so I’m no more ‘choosing’ to not be an alcoholic than someone is choosing to be one. All the stimuli my brain has encountered up until this point, combined with my personal genetics, make me currently not an alcoholic. Very well said and I hope it opened some people’s eyes. Also, I’m really happy for you!

       3 likes

  • Tmo

    Thanks for sharing so we can share and spread awareness.

       1 likes

  • Maggie Shores

    Thank you! You said it all! I don’t know why I made it either. And that doesn’t even mean that “I made it.” It’s still out there, it is always going to be there. I got really disturbed by the hateful comments about PSH’s death too. That could have been me and that is thousands of other people that no one ever seems to mention. It’s scary. It’s crazy. It’s very painful. So thank you again. Your message is very powerful!

    Ps. Congrats on 5 years! Woot woot!

       1 likes

  • Elizabeth

    Thank you for sharing this part of your life.

       1 likes

  • lucy2610

    Brilliant – just brilliant. Thank you :)

       1 likes

  • Kelly

    I’ve read a lot of great posts since PSH’s tragic death and I have to say that this one hit me the hardest. I think “we don’t start with a need in our arm” may be my new mantra for when I hear my addictive voice begin to justify why “one won’t hurt”. Just like most “bad guys” don’t look like “bad guys”, most addicts don’t look like “addicts”. Posts like yours go a long ways in stripping away the stigma attached to alcoholism. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

       3 likes

    • Kelly

      Edit: it should be “we don’t start with a needle in our arm” may be my new mantra…NOT “we don’t start with a need in our arm” but maybe that makes some kind of crazy sense, too. :)

         2 likes

  • Mel

    Beautifully written. Society doesn’t understand addiction and mental illness, really. I could give a hundred examples but you’ve illustrated it very clearly.

       1 likes

  • Nichole

    As the wife of a recovering alcoholic, thank you for sharing your story.

    I will never forget when I realized that I couldn’t make any sense of his behavior because my brain doesn’t function like his brain. That was such a game changing moment for me in dealing with his disease. It allowed me to understand the true root of the problem (HIS BRAIN and the lies it told him) and to have compassion for his disease. Likening addiction to mental illness is appropriate in my opinion – mental illness still has a lot of stigma and misunderstanding too but has come a long way. I hope we can get there with addiction.

    He’s 6 years, 9 months sober and I am grateful to God every day that he was able to get help. Hopefully the more people talk about addiction we can get better programs with better success rates.

       7 likes

  • Charlotte Logan

    As I am a recovering alcoholic of 27 1/2 years I applaud your passion about the ignorance of the non-alcoholic as to what happens when my brain is infused with drugs or alcohol. How I become Jeckyl the monster. How I believe I am worthless and trashy. My mind left untreated was a horrible place to live but live there I did in all my glorious self-flagellation. I have no idea why I have remained clean and sober for these years. I have not always followed directions of those wholesaler wisdom far circumstances mine. What I do know is that in a perfect moment a supreme being gave me a moment of clarity to see possibility of happiness. Follow your passion and your heart.

       3 likes

  • Kelly Salasin

    perfect

       1 likes

  • megan

    thanks for your honesty, bravery, truth-telling, etc.
    -megan from pdx

       2 likes

  • Anna Kate

    Thank you for this insightful post. I appreciate your perspective on the complexities of how addiction begins and takes over the brain. It’s not just simply a series of bad choices. Addiction is an illness much more complicated than that, and it’s unfortunate that the experience of alcoholism and drug addiction are sometimes reduced to that.

       1 likes

  • Siri

    And just like that, a lightbulb went on in my head. I think this post was equally important for us non-users as for the many who comented as recovering addicts.

    You have opened up my eyes, for sure. Honesty wins! Thanks for that.

    P.S. I have a crush on your family.

       2 likes

  • carrythemessage

    Explaining alcoholism or addiction to a normie gets both easier and yet more difficult as time passes for me. This is one of the best ones I have read. Outstanding job. The only way someone truly gets it when they have truly gotten the addiction. But many are empathetic and see it from where we stand, which is great at reducing the stigma and ignorance that propels a negative and slanted view of alcoholism / addiction.

    I have a scant 2 1/2 years under my belt. Scant in terms of normal passage of time, but in terms of everything else, it’s already been a new and wonderful lifetime.

    Great share…thank you.

    Blessings,
    Paul

       2 likes

  • jennie

    thank you for this post. I have 6 years clean and sober and am grateful every day that my kids don’t have to see my wasted and oblivious. God knows I struggle enough in day to day life, imagining trying to raise my 3 littles ones the same ways I was brought up makes me want to cry and vomit. Your honesty is beautiful and could honestly save someone’s life.

       2 likes

  • Lindsay

    I commend you on putting your story out there for people who need to hear things like this. You are an inspiration. My sister, a mother of 3, is and has been an addict for 20 yeara, she is only 33. I have tried everything i could think of short of enabling her, to help her to overcome her demons but so far it has all been in vain. Due to her disease, she lost custody of all 3 of her children (im hoping to officially adopt them this April)and is getting arrested, on average, once a month. She is on a MMTP but continues to use, mainly crack-cocaine. Is there any advice you can share with me that may help her. She is slowly dying and it is unbareable to witness. I know its not a choice (or at least a conscious decision) for her to continue to abuse drugs but how can i make her see how much she is worth? She needs to know that she is still worthy of having a decent life, free of drugs and alcohol. Im feeling defeated and dont want her to think ive given up on her. However, it is too difficult to watch her deteriorate and cause pain to my family. So desperatly need advice. Please help.

       1 likes

    • Jenn

      There aren’t many words of wisdom beyond continue to show her love. I’m in recovery for my own issues, I work with those in recovery as a counselor, and it still doesn’t give me the answers on how to help my alcoholic SIL, because I can’t help she has to do it herself. I will gladly take her to meetings, encourage her and pray for her, but the only one that can stop what she is doing to slowly kill herself is her. She knows how I feel and what I think and what I worry about, beyond that there is little I can do for her or her relationship she is ruining with her children. I keep the door open for them and show them love. I am not perfect by any means when it comes to this. I pray for patience all the time.

         1 likes

    • Karleen

      Dear Lindsay,
      My heart goes out to you. I have no answers, but as many questions as you do. How do you get someone to view their worth? It’s something we all struggle with, but it’s got to be worse for those addicted. I’m a child of an alcoholic, then I married one, but so far I’m OK. I will keep you close in my prayers, and those three precious children. I will pray that your sister’s eyes will be opened and that she will accept God’s love and peace. No more wasted years! hugs, Karleen

         2 likes

    • Cinde

      Please, please consider attending Al-Anon Meetings!! We attend these for ourselves, but I can tell you first hand, I have witnessed addict’s and alcoholics find recovery because of loved ones who would attend Al-Anon Meetings. If anything at all will help, the tools you will learn at the meetings, literature you will read and seriously working a 12 Step Program yourself, will help you learn and understand exactly what can help the addict/alcoholic more than anything in the world…because you must detach with love and you will learn how through Al-Anon. That is my one and only suggestion. God Bless you, your sister, her precious children and your whole family… <3

         0 likes

  • Debbie in the UK

    My best friend of 50 years standing is an alcoholic. She has tried to stop, and indeed stops for weeks, but then something drags her back. She is very unhappy in her home life, and I do everything I can to help but then when she goes back to it I get SO ANGRY and feel as though anything I do is being thrown in my face. Reading your post made me understand a lot more. I have also been reading your archives, and I love, your writing so much ! You are enormously talented.

       1 likes

  • Ashlie

    Wow. I am incredibly proud of you for sharing your story. I know you’ve written about it before, but this time, you definitely hit the nail on the head with just how real and unwielding this disease truly is. I was pretty heartbroken about PSH on a few different levels. He was an amazing actor. He had a wife and kids. And it KILLS me because he was trying so damn hard to overcome this. He didn’t CHOOSE this. He wasn’t selfish or stupid or anything like that. He lost a battle against an asshole of a disease. And too many people outside of Hollywood experience the same thing, and it saddens me to no end.

       1 likes

  • Uncle Mike

    To my niece Janelle,
    I don’t tell many people this, but my father visited me on my 5th birthday at my grand parents house, then he was found a few weeks later in Mexico, dead from an overdose of heroin. Regardless of his actions, the pain they caused, or yours, I will always love him and I will always love you.

    Period.

    Uncle Mike

       8 likes

  • Jennifer @ Also Known As...the Wife

    I’m so glad you shared your story. My father is an addict and has been for as long as I can remember. We no longer speak and I have always wondered what it would take to override the pull addiction has for him. I’ve also wanted a better understanding of that pull and I think you’ve provided a very real view.

    Your story was enough of a motivation for me to share my story of what it’s like having an addict for a parent.

    Your children are amazing and deserve to have their mother around for a long time. I wish you continued success with sobriety.

       1 likes

  • Fran

    I went to acting school with Phil. When he died, I wasn’t just sad because I knew and admired him. I was heartbroken because I know what it is to be in the grip of addiction- the compulsion, the irrational obsession, the hell of that insanity. I hate to think of him losing his precious life in the middle of that dark place. My drug, like you, was alcohol. I have been sober for seven years, but I remember that time like it was yesterday. Thank you for bravely sharing your story. It’s not fun or easy to do. Phil’s death has caused me to be more open about my own history, because seeing comments about it has made me realize how many folks really don’t understand the phenomenon of addiction. Phil was a dad, a son, a brother, an incredible talent and a really good guy. I remember being so stunned and excited when his career took off. He had everything we acting students dreamed of, in spades. This did not give him immunity to addiction. Once back at it, he paid with his life. His story is our story.

       2 likes

  • Nicole

    Thank you. My father has been an alcoholic my whole life, and I’ve never been able to get my head around it. As someone who has never experienced addiction, I really struggle to understand all of it, and reading things like this post gets me somewhat closer to a point of empathy… or at least acceptance that I can’t do anything about it.

    He was sober for 10 years (I was 15-25), and started again 11 years ago. He’s now as bad as he ever was. Starts drinking when he wakes up, drinks right through is work day (owns his own business, which largely thanks to his wife, he somehow keeps going), and doesn’t stop until he passes out in a chair at night.

    Two weeks ago yesterday, I gave birth to a son. Dad’s second grandchild – first grandson. Despite numerous attempts to get in touch with him (we live on opposite sides of the country), I haven’t heard from my father. He knows, but he hasn’t called. Hasn’t asked for a photo. Hasn’t asked me how I’m doing. Hasn’t asked how my daughter is doing. And somehow, even after 36 years of constant disappointment from him, I’m still hurt. Even though I knew not to expect anything more, I expected more.

       1 likes

    • ANON

      @Nicole
      And you do deserve more. It’s the disease, not him, though I know that’s shitty comfort. I’m so sorry. Love those babies so hard.

         0 likes

  • M

    This is so, so good and so needed in a society that is so quick to assume.

    I’m not an alcoholic, but I was there for the entire ride when my fiance lived as a dry drunk for years, slipped every other month and eventually completely relapsed. I watched him lose himself, his life, me, and everything around him. I went to Al-Anon meetings. I tried to save him. I tried to do everything I could, and then, I realized…something, whatever it was, and I let go.

    I witnessed that fleeting moment of sanity happen. I saw him realize that drinking means dying, and I watched as he built himself and his life back up. I watched him grow into an incredible, sober human being, and I’m so grateful for that. For being there. Seeing it happen in front of me. And I’m so grateful that he was, like you, one of the lucky ones.

    I’m so insanely proud to marry this man that worked so fucking hard just in order to see life through clear eyes. It’s amazing. And you’re amazing for having the balls to write this. Thanks.

       2 likes

  • Rita Arens

    As I was reading this, I was thinking how similar what you’re describing is to anorexia, and the way I started eating was the way you stopped drinking. Realizing there was a direct connection between this behavior and death and that I couldn’t trust my brain. Congratulations on five years of sobriety.

       1 likes

  • Amy

    Thank you for sharing your story and thank you for writing this article. A lot of normal people don’t get it. This story needs to be told, and told again.

       1 likes

  • Candace

    Thank you :)

       1 likes

  • anon

    I have 3.2 years. Thanks for your courage.

       1 likes

  • Kathy Young

    Thank you. That is my story. I have just over 2 years and I still can’t believe it.

       1 likes

  • mid-life mama

    i’m So glad someone is willing to tell the truth online- there is so much mis-information.
    may you Always be well.
    i know about this -up close -it seems this kind of illness runs in my family -in several forms-all horrible- so thanks again for being brave,for speaking truth .

       1 likes

  • jaana

    damn. thanks for sharing.

       1 likes

  • Jessica

    Awesome read…so many misconceptions out there. God bless you, your family and your journey!

       1 likes

  • danny

    This is an amazing article! As a recovering addict myself this really hit home, and as you do with your children I do the same, and just pray that this disease doesn’t hit them and rock their life of course like it did to me. Please feel free to email me because I would like to talk more. Djm8585@gmail.com

       2 likes

  • brian

    As someone with a little over 5 years clean snd sober; I say thank you and keep trudging. You, me, and anyone who had “that moment” are truly miracles. There is no reason we are here and someone else isn’t that can be explained, it has to be lived. So again thank you

       2 likes

  • chrissy

    Thank you for you for this! Iam in recovery from meth. I have 10 mos.clean. For the most part it hasnt been that bad for me because i was able to move 5 hours away from everyone i know. But theres still those nights that memories creep into my mind when everyone is sleepin that sends chills all over me. Sometimes i doubt that i will go the rest of my life without using for fear im not strong enough. But then i get up an walk through the house and look at my children sleeping so comfortable bellys full and they are clean and have clean clothes. It wasnt always like that for them because of my drug use. I know im new to recovery but i also know ive come to far to turn back now. I relised i love my babies way to much. See i was that junkie mom also. I started everyday all day with needles in my arms and any where else i could find a vein. Jail and mental hospitals and dirty bathroom floors. But you know what with a past like mine you have to knoow how much iam enjoyin my present and future. I have learned how to be a mommy all over again. Im not the best but i give it my best.

       3 likes

  • Monique Angel

    I don’t know why I bother but here goes:
    AA and and all the 12 step fellowships are no more than cults. I spent 9 years in AA and was abused and treated like a shit.
    It’s normal to be a booze-hound when your children are young. In my experience it wears off over the years. You wean off the Binky of booze in time and through facing your isues. Don’t overly pat yourself on the back for rushing into the arms of a cult to escape from your human condition.

       0 likes

    • renegademama

      If your drinking problem “wore off,” you are not an alcoholic and therefore didn’t need AA in the first place. What the hell were you doing there? Also, you should look up the characteristics of “cult.” First one: People cannot come and go freely. And if you spent 9 years in AA, you sure know people come and go freely. Secondly, your logic is twisted: Because it didn’t work for you it can’t work for ANYBODY? Come the fuck on. That makes no sense. I’m allergic to a medication called Bactrim. It doesn’t work for me. In fact, it makes me sick. But would I tell all other humans it doesn’t work just because my experience with it is negative? No, unless I’m a simple-minded moron so caught up in my own self-centeredness I can’t tell my ass from my head. Oops. Was that my outside voice?

      Secondly, if you REALLY think alcoholism (not “drinking a lot cause i have a baby”) “wears off” you really should rethink the name of your blog. “Enlightened Housewife?” I BEG TO DIFFER. Perhaps “Ignorant Bitter Housewife.” Or “Not an alcoholic but tells alcoholics about their disease housewife.” Or, better yet “People were mean to me and now I’m sad so I’m going to spew my hatred across the internet Housewife.”

      you can thank me later for my suggestions.

      Now get the fuck off my blog.

         27 likes

      • jimgovoni

        yea, what renegademama said!

           8 likes

      • Uncle Mike

        Einstein, once wrote the most vehement opposition to different ideas comes from the most pretentious of mediocre minds. Sweetie, ignore the bottom standard deviation of intelligent reporte. It delays the gift you have to give to those who want to hear you.

           2 likes

      • Traci

        Like

           0 likes

    • Samantha

      Wow…you really have no clue to what you talking about!! AA was one of the only things that kept my dad sober before his last and final relapse. AA is not a cult, it is place where people who are trying to fight their addictions go to heal and get help. I have attended AA meetings with my dad from as far back as I can remember. His last meeting was about a year before he passed away…he was the speaker at the meeting, he stood up there and told his story. Yes, it was very hard to hear the struggle and mistakes he had made through his life, but I was proud that he was telling his story in hope of healing and maybe helping someone else that was in his shoes.

      Also, I feel sorry for your kids if you feel it is normal to be a “booze hound” when your kids are young…that is not normal. You are ignorant to think that “it wears off”!! It is clear you have never been around an addict! People like you should stay off the internet and keep your dumb, uneducated opinions to yourself!!

         2 likes

  • Liesa

    As the daughter of two alcoholics, thank you for writing this. My parents really fucked up my childhood, but somehow, by the grace of God, I live a pretty “normal” life. I have seven amazing, wonderful kids, who unfortunately have the genetic disposition to addiction. I always tell them the best way to stop using drugs is to never start. Not one time. Yes, you are one of the lucky ones and I know you don’t want the credit for it, but kudos to you for recognizing it.

       1 likes

  • Gaynelle Gosselin

    I remember back in high school, I had an argument with a kid who insisted that a person would know if he was becoming an alcoholic. What he didn’t know was that at 15, I had just lost my mother to cirrhosis. There’s only so long the liver can handle a 5th of gin or more a day. It was a slow, painful death no one would choose for themselves. And yes, by the time my mother realized she needed help, she was dying. She tried to get help, but it was too little too late. Her body couldn’t take the punishment anymore. The year I was born, she was named “Outstanding Young Woman of Mississippi.” I speak about her every time some foolish person uses the words “trash,” or “scum” in the same sentence as addict. Can happen to anyone, and no one starts out thinking it will happen to them. If there was a gift in growing up in an alcoholic home, it is that I saw addiction for what it was when the monster tried to take my teenage son. Thanks to early and sustained intervention, he is in long term recovery. One day at a time of course, but at 16, he is nearly 19 months clean. Thanks for speaking up about this important topic.

       3 likes

  • Emily

    This is so well-written. I wish that more people could really hear this kind of message, but I think too many people are just too scared by the implications of addiction to allow themselves to admit that, recovering or otherwise, addicts aren’t magically distinct from everybody else.

    I can only really “understand” that I don’t understand, since I’ve never been addicted to anything, and I’m a little uncomfortable saying I’m not an addict since it hasn’t exactly been tested, but for all intents and purposes, I’m not an addict. However, I do suffer with my own mental health demons, and I think I can understand some of the pain and fear or even dread that comes with looking at your kids and hoping you can spare them the shadow of your disease. I am usually at least flirting with depression but I’ve had some periods where I had constant bouts of pretty deep depression (like my denialist use of the past tense?) and I hope every day that my kids don’t become Children of a Depressed Mother(tm). I don’t want that to be their identity, and I wish it didn’t characterize my life, much less theirs. But it’s not just that sometimes my mood dips or even dips very sharply. It’s that my brain has a compulsion to return to the dark thoughts that push me into terrible, terrible places, and that if something triggers it, I will spend hours thinking them until I finally feel bad enough that my brain can float comfortably in a bath of self-loathing, or maybe simply an absence of dopamine, or whatever the best description is. It’s like a scene from a movie of someone in a luxurious alcove in a harem, filled with silk pillows and stuff, except the pillows are all made of shark’s teeth and sewage. Or something. And I’m not sure I’ll always be strong enough to resist what the worst thoughts tell me to do, so I know that all I have is myself on the good days, and my husband on all the days, and sometimes, when I think I won’t lose my job because of them, the miraculous pills that help me go even an extra week or two in between episodes. You can bet that, the days that I’m healthy, I try to burn my kids’ sweet smiles into my brain and feel every one of their fingers on my skin in the hopes that I can store up enough to get me through next time.

       5 likes

  • Tiffany

    This is such a powerful article. I lived it, it’s so very true! Unfortunately like we are told in the halls, society doesn’t know what they don’t know. It is pure ignorance, they CHOOSE not to educate themselves on this topic! I still try to figure out why not, this day and age I TRUELY believe EVERYONE is effected by the disease if addiction, whether it be directly or indirectly! It’s unfortunate that there’s such a lack of compassion in the world regarding addiction! It happens to the best of us!
    Again, Ty for writing such a powerful blog!

       5 likes

  • Jenn

    Thank you, this says it well continue to live in peace.

       2 likes

  • Robin

    Reading your post brought a lot of clarity to me being the mother of an addict now for the past 9 years. I have lived through all the hurt and destruction of my son’s addiction and at many times was ready to throw in the towel. I always asked, why does he not love me enough to just stop hurting me like this, why does he make this choice to keep doing it, never fully comprehending that his addiction had nothing to do with me or his love for me. When he would get clean i could see all the guilt and the hurt he carried around for the things he had put me through and that killed me almost as much as his addiction. Being the parent of an addict I had so many different emotions, embarrassed with outsiders who knew of my sons addictions and the things he had done, the worry of getting that phone call from either the hospital or the police and also the feeling of desperation I had of watching my son slowly killing himself knowing there was nothing I could do and that I for along time was his biggest enabler. If I do more for him he will know how much i love him and stop, or if I keep bailing him out of situations so he does not have that on top of everything else to deal with he will be ok, he can get back on his feet. It took me a long time to realize that I could always be there for him when he was ready to try to get clean but that while he was using I had to remove myself from the situation. I read a book called “Stay Close” from a parent of an addict and it was really helpful and gave me the push to educate myself more on this deadly disease. I think your story is brave and I am sure it will help someone else who suffers the same struggle and if you reach even one person afflicted with addiction you have done a wonderful thing. So I as a parent of an addict would like to thank you for sharing and for letting me know there is always hope and I wish you nothing but continued success on your path. For those people who still have ignorance to this, I wish they never have to watch a loved one go through the struggle because having to eat your words is a tough thing to do.

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  • Patricia Djordjevic

    Brilliant!
    My father was an alcoholic and I adored him though he wasn’t around much. Perhaps that gave me the sensitivity to be respectful and be kind to others difficulties.

    Living in a major city now the homeless are everywhere. It’s heart wrenching weather addicted or not. I can’t just walk by without giving something….money/food/a “good afternoon to you” Often others who may be with me find this wasteful and contributing to their disease. My response; “You don’t know that!, perhaps this is exactly what was needed to get that cup of coffee and sandwhich, the only meal they may eat today, and should they have the need to feed an addiction they’ll find a way, with or without me!” Am I wrong? Perhaps, but it feels right.

    I say this not to sound “Better than Thou” but everyone is fighting a battle. Would you ignore a plea from a family member, friend or neighbor who needs your help?

    I realize this is lengthly, but to say “BRAVO” to you for putting this into a perspective of honesty that maybe all can understand. Thank You for You.

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  • Andrea

    Thank you!!

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  • Christina

    This was the brave and right thing to do. Thank you. People really need to hear these stories if attitudes toward addiction are ever going to change…

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  • Rose

    Brilliant! Just brilliant!

    You are a wonderful writer and have opened a lot of eyes with this powerful piece.

    I am so pleased that you found recovery so that your voice can be heard. What an inspiration you are to so many people.

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  • Jeana

    Amen is all I can say!! Well said very well said! Thank you very much

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  • Patrice Lewis

    What a powerful piece. Thank you for writing this and for sharing your journey. I like you had my fair share of drinking and experimentation. I unlike you do not suffer from Alcoholism. But I am in a family with many alcoholics. I have many Uncles who suffer and a few brothers who are also alcohol and drug dependent. I also have a nephew who is drug addicted. have lost many of those mentioned including a brother who was/is just a year older than me. I often wonder why he became an alcoholic and I didn’t given that we are so close in age and we were both doing the same things. He was 43 when he died and he left four beautiful children. I also lost a nephew to drugs. He was 33 and left two young children. His story is just as tragic for he was an “occasional” user. He would use drugs and drink too much from time to time, at parties, when he was with friends etc. his last time was when he went on a golf trip with his buddies. He partied too hard and he died. He died in a hotel room, in another state, away from his wife and kids, with his buddies and they were left to wonder why him and not me? I will share your story with my my friends and family. Maybe then they will understand more about alcoholism and drug dependency. Maybe my family will break the cycle and the next generation will be free form this legacy.
    Thank you again for sharing your story.

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  • Nana

    I am a grandmother who struggled all my life with addiction. I sat in rehab at 50 years old telling the kids you don’t want to be like me….I have never heard it told so plainly! You should do something with this blog – get it published. Everyone needs to read it!!
    Thank you and God bless you and yours!

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  • Christi

    I CAN’T TELL YOU HOW GRATEFUL I AM FOR THIS POST! I am a recovering alcoholic./ addict myself this is so true and I am so glad i am clean today. I owe it to the knowledge that I have a disease and need treatment daily. And of course a whole lot of other factors , I hope this helps people understand us better and themselves better if they end up having this disease themselves. It was written beautifully!

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  • jeanine

    Thank u for this article. It is an eye opener for me. I once said..I have no sympathy for those who want to kill themselves in this way. You r truly right and I did feel ignorant for feeling this way. You r very strong and thank you for sharing your story. I am so happy for you. Thank you

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  • carissa

    Thank you for writing this ….as a wife of an addict in recovery and the sister of 3 brothers in recovery… through the years of educating my self about addiction and alcoholism this is by far one of the best reads…good luck in your sobriety

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  • chainsmoker

    While I don’t agree with 100% of what you have written, 99% is close enough. It is a beautifully written, deeply personal statement. I know it is not the place, but I feel compelled to mention Methadone Maintenance, Smart Recovery and many other effective routes which have saved lives.

    In the end, any choice, be it harm reduction or abstinence, which allows one to come to terms with their problem is admirable and personal. I speak from experience, and salute you, wish continued growth on you and thank you for so eloquently adding to an important dialogue.

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  • Shawn M Jackson

    Umm you are absolutely amazing!!! people like you are why I continue to do the things I do!!! my newest hero!!! if u get a chance and would like to, I would be honored if u would check out my blog!
    http://shawnjacksonsbs.tumblr.com/
    and
    https://www.facebook.com/shawnjacksonsbs?ref=hl

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  • Margaret Martin

    My youngest son was born drunk. I was the drunken mom who thought she had peed the bed when her water broke. He is now 40. I got sober when he was 7. I sent him to treatment for heroin addiction at age 13.
    I started drinking at age 6 and got instant emotional relief. I also drank cough syrup with codeine straight from the bottle, an paregoric too.
    Now I work in the field of addiction treatment. I’m clean and sober for 32 years.
    When I start to read ugly messages by people who don’t understand, I move on. “You have to let your shoulders grown round and firm and let things roll off,” an old timer once told me. I can pray for the ignorant and judgmental, and hope not to become one today.
    Just know you are not alone. And that my self-esteem was so lousy, I couldn’t have gotten sober for me, I had to do it for my kids.

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  • Julia

    Thank you, we’ll written. I am a recovering cancer patient, alcoholic and a mum. Keep writing Jannelle. Day at a time. Julia.

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  • Stephanie

    What a powerful piece! My beloved husband died of addiction, and felt every single word that you wrote. After his death, I decided that I wanted to help teachers “get it”…there is almost nothing out there to help especially those in early childhood to understand the disease and how it impacts children, and families. The only training is: don’t let the child go home with a drunk parent if possible.” Yeah, very helpful. I am sharing this with my (very small) social media community. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and your pain. It seems to me that this is one reason you have survived: to help other people understand the treachery of this wretched affliction. <3

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  • steve

    I’m going to have to disagree on alot. you had a choice all along, and chose the wrong thing every time leading you down a crappy path of abusing every substance there is. addiction isnt a disease. cancer is a disease. you brought this “disease” on yourself, caused by none other then your inability to so NO when someone offered you drugs or alcohol. there is no medical evidence to addiction being a disease, its a license to cop out of being at fault for where you ended up. and before you say “ohh you have no clue”, i do. i was hooked on percs for 2 years, and destroyed my life. im 2 1/2 years clean by choice because it just stopped being fun, not because its a disease and i have to or ill DIE

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    • Margaret Martin

      I’m sorry that an addict/alcoholic hurt you so badly that you leave vitriol-rich comments like this one. I’m afraid that your ignorance of scientific fact bolsters your pain. There’s a grea movie — “Pleasure Unwoven” that would give you the brain-science facts, and perhaps give you enough relief to find some compassion.
      If I could have done different, I would have. I didn’t because I couldn’t. I needed someone to put a ladder down into the pit I lived in.

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  • Zorpack

    I needed to read this today in order to stay alive one more day. Thank you.

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  • Kathryn Fontaine

    Absolutely fucking brilliant!!

    Sorry for the sentence enhancer there, but this is one of the most honest and powerful recovery/addiction posts I have ever read. THANK YOU for writing it and I am going to share the living crap out of it.

    I just got out of rehab and am currently taking one hour at a time working on my 44th day of sobriety. Rehab was not in my five year plan. This was not something I woke up one day and said, “You know what? I think I’ll drink myself to death, push out every positive thing in my life, lie, cheat, and steal today!” No. I didn’t plan for this.

    I do however now have to make decisions everyday about it. Conscious decisions to not drink, no matter how hard alcohol/drugs call to me, no matter how shitty my life may get. I don’t get to just say “fuck it” and have a beer to chill out. Yeah. It’s easy to say, “Just don’t drink!” but if it were so easy to follow through with that, we wouldn’t have 12 Step programs and treatment centers.

    I too write a blog and am using it to chronicle my recovery journey. Partly to educate others, but mostly to keep my head in the game. I have to stay one step ahead of this disease in order to keep it in remission.

    Sorry for the long response – you just made my heart happy this morning. Thank you!

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  • Christina

    I celebrate 1 yr today..As a fellow recovering addict, I thank you.

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  • Michael Tiso

    I know who rescued and saved you! It is and always will be the lover of your soul the one who created you in your mothers womb! I give thanks to Him for your change of heart and hope that you understand, he gave all of this to you to lead you to the cross where His love poured out! I pray you recieve the forgiveness of sin through Jesus that your Joy may be complete! He is the reason you have all this goodness in your life!

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  • Christine Foell

    From one recovering alcoholic to another; thank you for this blog. I’m not a bad person, I have a bad disease. A sick virus in my brain that never leaves me alone. Thank you for acknowledging the sickness- the beast that doesn’t hibernate. Truly inspiring.

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    • Cinde

      The beast that doesn’t hibernate ….. THAT IS THE TRUTH!! All that happens is this: Addiction becomes the monster in the far corner of our brain, doing a daily advanced heavy duty work out, to ensure it’s strength for the moment we think we have been ‘cured’ or doubt we ever really had a disease at all. I witnessed my former spouse (of 17 yrs), father of my 2 children, who had YEARS of recovery, die within a 4 year period of drinking & using again. Too, too sad. There for the Grace of God, go I …. 24 1/2 yrs …. one day at a time.

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  • Britta

    Good, True and well written. muchlove
    comrade in recovery

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  • Jessica

    Thank you for writing this. My sister is an alcoholic who has not come to terms with her disease, and she has lost custody of her children as a result of actions made while drinking – like picking up her kids from school drunk, or accidentally locking them out of the house because she’s inside, passed out. It’s hard not to be angry with her for “doing this” to my nephews. It’s hard – even for those of us who know about addiction – to not think of it as a choice.

    Stories like this give me hope that maybe she can make it out before it’s too late and get her kids back.

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  • Caitlin

    I am to a mother in recovery and am sick of the junkie comments about others or someone that works at a place to help people get clean is hashtagging #notadisease I want to scream….why work w ppl you don’t believe are sick…I don’t see a share link, unless im just being a total airheard, I feel like posting this right on their wall

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  • Sasha

    I appreciated reading this and your honesty, but what I love most is that you are in recovery and at some point made the decision to treat yourself for your kids. Being on the other side of this, the daughter of two drug addicts I do however frel differently about addiction. I do agree that it this is progressive and doesn’t go from 0-60 the first time you experiment, but what I struggle with is labeling it a disease. I do think addicts, and my parents, had other issues that went in diagnosed that contributed to their life long addiction-and I think that is true for many addicts. But if it IS truly it’s own disease-there is a cure, and it’s no secret, and you don’t have to be rich receive the cure. That cure is a decision, and that’s where choice comes into play. My parents had so many opportunities to make a choice, to work toward a “cure” and SO many reasons, most importantly their children. But they never chose to work toward the cure-and now my siblings and I are parentless. It’s profoundly sad to watch someone’s life come and go too soon. At any point we could have wiped the slate clean if they made the choice to get sober. Children are infinitely forgiving. I would have been SO proud if them because I know it can be done and have family & friends (like you) that have over some this. I am 34 now and I have two kids, I could not imagine that if given the choice, some small opportunity to fix ANYTHING I had done to hurt them that I wouldn’t take it. I’ve never been an addict, I have experimented with lots, but it never got to that point where If crossed a line so I don’t and will hopefully never know for my children’s sake what it’s like to actually be an addict and be faces with the choice. I do however know yoga at some point every addict is faced with make a choice and seeking a cure. XO.

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    • Sasha

      Sorry typing so fast I made some mistakes!

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  • Paula Smith

    You have pretty much summed up my life. At the age of 53, I am terribly cross addicted. I relapsed six months ago after nearly five years clean and sober, this time on Percocet. When my therapist recommended intensive outpatient treatment (i.e. rehab) I felt like I was kicked in the stomach; the wind flew out of my lungs. For years I have been sitting in meetings muttering, “I’m Paula Smith, an addict and alcoholic” and now when a medical professional tells me that I need rehab, I am recoiled at thinking that only addicts go to rehab. Imagine the shock and horror that I realized how judgmental that I was being. I was actually placing myself above a junkie, a heroin addict, a someone on the street who steals for their disease. How soon we forget that even though I never ended up with a needle in my arm, decades earlier, I was hiding out in crack houses, selling VCRs and sleeping with my dealer (even though I am gay) in order to get one more hit.

    Yeah…You summed this up fabulously! Thank you for this share. It IS good to know that there are others who understand my twisted way of thinking and yes, there are moments of clarity that we have to hold on as if our life depended on it!

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  • Ann

    Best thing I have ever read on addiction. You nailed it! I have given up trying to make others understand because I have to admit some days I still don’t understand it myself. I may live it but sometimes the truth still eludes me. You have painted the perfect portrait of addiction and given me an ‘in my face’ reminder of why I have to work so hard at being my own ‘clean & sober’. Eyes wide open, again. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

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  • Tina Marie

    As a sister of a heroin crack addict self medicated schizophrenic I watch my brother at 53 struggle still. I watch my parents live with him every day waiting for him to be dead. Blaming their parenthood for it all. I wait every day to see if he was arrested.. No one in society has figured it out yet . It is all a disease, just like cancer .
    He started when he was 12 and continued . Til i was 30 no one ever knew we were siblings. Because we are so different. Today I stand up proud and say YES that IS MY BROTHER
    as they try to tell a story of his doing. My response is Thank every day you do not have his demons, he wakes up with every day . Think of my parents when you repeat stories of my brother . Help do not condemn be a better person . We need society to acknowledge help not jail time .We need a way to tell society that that person needs help before the bad happens. I have learned one thing I tell my parents no longer call the police call an ambulance maybe one day someone will help him. We are losing our young now to herion .We have a group on facebook called Community Against Addiction. I found your blog there. Thank you for sharing . You should be proud and I am sure your family is grateful also .

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  • Ashley W.

    You’re positively amazing. Thank you for sharing this story. I was moved beyond belief by your bravery and your passion.

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  • Rachael

    Holy crap thank you for this. As someone who suffers from an eating disorder, this speaks volumes to me. You are such a talented writer and you get the message across wonderfully. Thank you, thank you, thank you, and I’m sure many others thank you profusely. Keep writing and speaking up for the world!

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  • Tabitha Farrar

    As a recovered anorexia and eating disorders coach- I fell exactly this way about how eating disorders are perceived.

    Would you tell someone with a broken leg to ‘just hurry up and stand up’? No, then don’t tell an alcoholic to ‘just stop drinking’ or an anorexic to ‘just start eating”

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  • Debra Jenkins

    I LOVE your blog! You are a gifted writer and are right on the mark with every post! I am the mother of a 21-year-old addict who just celebrated one-year of clean time. I have started a blog – I write primarily about the life lessons I’ve learned from the people with special needs that I work with – but I wrote a post about my recovery from his addiction that has generated unprecedented support. I would love to hear your thoughts…I see you are inundated with comments but if/when you ever have time, I’d be honored to hear from you.
    http://dreamingwithyourfeet.com/2014/02/25/my-recovery-from-addiction/?relatedposts_exclude=169

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  • Linda

    Thank you for this post. My son died at the age of 26 from an accidental drug overdose after trying, and trying to get help for his addiction. He did not want to die, he wanted to live. The suffering and pain from his death is unbearable. The stigma attached to addiction is still so callous and inhumane – I hope you continue to write the “truth” and that “someone” will hear you.

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  • Corinne Mergaert

    You are truly an inspiration…Reading your story brought tears to my eyes…the father of my children died of alcoholism at 62 years old, leaving behind 2 children and 4 grandchildren who loved him unconditionally. I know what you have gone through and what it took to get well, as my children’s father fought this terrible disease all of his life (from 15 years old to 62 years when he succumbed to it) God bless you and your children!!!

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  • adria

    What if you heard 2 people say,” im so stressed out and i need to find some drug because nothing else is working.” One of these people said to me,” i wish there was a magic pill to make me feel awesome and able to still go to work.”that person then searched for the perfect drug and found vicodin.the tolerance went up and progressed to many pills.this person literaly said,” i wanna be a drug adict.” The other person was saying the same thing and chose pot.the only thing that saved her was that the only place or person she knew to get it from wouldnt give it to her.he cared enough not to get her hooked on drugs.i know that person just cared about himself and about not getting into trouble for selling her drugs.she got lucky.the other person became a drug adict as he set out to become.she just went to therapy and got better.she still would try drugs if she knew how to get them tho.these my 2 experiences with people who contradict the

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  • Steve Ganns

    Been there done that. I was the trash father, the one that got drunk when I took my kids to football and baseball games. In recovery myself, but I am ONE thought away from every addict that is still using. I am not better than anyone. Just lucky I guess.

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  • Ezralmom

    Janelle, what you said will surely effect a lot of people and it is wonderful you put it so bluntly. The only comment I have as a recovering addict is this, I was one of those people saying that Philip Seymour Hoffman had a choice to go down that road again. I say that knowing I could fall into that same trap myself. I completely agree with you on everything you said, except in this case I truly believe he did have a choice. He was sober for 23 years and at 46 he knew he was playing with fire. He also had the money and resources to get help. My savior was Suboxone and it cost me and my 5 kids all the money we had to be on it. So yes, I was one of those people saying he did it to himself but only because he wasn’t a17 year old kid who could never realize the path he was going down was going down was going to leave him alone in a bathroom dying alone with a needle in his arm. And that is why those of us who have escaped addiction and survived think before we make a choice to have that drink or to accept that script for pain killers from our doctors, be the fact will always be we know where that will lead us.

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  • Helen

    I just wanted to say that I reading this story continued to help expand my mind when it comes to addiction. I am not an addict, but I have known them in my life and unfortunetly had to end relationships because the addiction was stronger then any other force in their lives. Although I knew they couldn’t control it, on some level I just thought if they choose something different or maybe realized what they were doing, they would get better. I didn’t know how completely wrong I was. Even though I do not think I will know first hand what addiction is like and to be under its grasp, I hope I can become more compassionate towards others who are struggling. I think you are very brave Janelle for speaking your truth and I know this blog will touch someone, it did me. Be strong and indeed, you are a beautiful soul.

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  • Jan

    All I can say is thank you. You have given me incite into my son’s addiction. God bless

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  • Seth W

    I just stumbled across this article. I am a recovering heroin addict that started out in high school and didn’t like alcohol much so I found an altered mind from pain medication in my uncles medicine cabinet. My friends thought it was cool to know they could ask me to help them get a fix when they wanted to. It began to change in college I started using harder medications like oxycontin and Fentynal which turned me to the needle. I wouldn’t shoot up everyday like people around me and I thought that meant I had control. I couldn’t have been any more wrong. I stopped going to class to score so I could shoot up by my 3rd year of college. This is when my hell truly broke into reality. I turned to my parents for help and was sent to a doctor for a subutex treatment that gave me hope. I was sober for 3 months in this program and thought I could make it. I started faking my urine screens with saved up clean urine and sold my medicine to people on the street. This gave me the funds to keep getting high. In the last few months I moved away from my old life and began to think I can do this. I used my subs to get off the ground and clean myself up.two weeks ago I quit taking my medicine to try and overcome the grip subs have on me too. It has been a long, hard and bumpy road but I’m confident that if there was hope for me there will be for others.

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    • Kelli S

      Hi Seth. I know you wrote this back in March, but I hope you are still fighting your addiction, even if you don’t win every time. I have been sober for 15 years, and I can tell you that the fighters who keep fighting, who keep coming back no matter what, they get it. One day, it just sticks. Now the trick is to not die before that happens, so all my heart and prayers are going out to you today, hoping that you are still fighting, hoping even more that you are winning the battle today, and that if you’re not, that you will be here tomorrow to fight again. All my best,
      Kelli S.

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  • michelle

    Congrats!!! I can relate and been clean since November 2011!!! Very powerful Message you wrote,stay strong!! You doing Great!!!

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  • Wrensong

    Beautiful

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  • Tina Buchberger

    Thank you so very much!!! I never understood most of this before I had to come front and center with the disease. This however answers more questions and makes things more clear. I’m not sure if I’m out of line asking but would you ever email me? I still struggle with unanswered questions and I’d love to get your side of things. Thank you in advance!

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  • Lindsay

    Thank you for writing this, it was so very brave of you.

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  • Wendy

    WOW.I am a recovering addict and I thank you.

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  • Karleen

    I’ve already left one comment, but feel compelled to say one more thing… I don’t understand why there is so much resistance to calling alcoholism or drug addiction a disease… something is definitely out of whack with the mind and/or body … how better to characterize it than as a disease? We all make bad choices at times in caring for our bodies – described in the Word of God as temples of the Holy Spirit. We don’t “blame” people for getting cancer, although there are carcinogens in many of the manufactured foods we eat. We don’t blame people for becoming diabetic – although most of us eat way too much sugar. And scientists tell us that the #1 cause of illness, both physical and mental, is stress and anxiety, but we normally don’t blame people for getting ill because they are stressed out. I guess I’m saying – it really doesn’t help anyone to play the “blame game”.

    The most profound thing said here is this: “Do you see the problem, folks? There’s where the element of choice gets really, really sticky. MY BRAIN IS MAKING THE CHOICES AND MY BRAIN IS THE PROBLEM. You’re telling me to “choose” different behavior when my brain is the thing that’s hardwired to choose more alcohol.”

    I could be wrong, but what it seems to me that renegademama is saying there is a point at which you no longer are free to choose, that you are in bondage to the alcohol or drug, that you really don’t know what you are doing. And for people who are genetically disposed to addiction – that could happen with the first drink or pill.

    The other side of the coin is this: are you aware that the people who manufacture alcohol have made it more addictive, stronger, whatever as time as gone on? The same is true for cigarettes. And the pharmaceuticals – their desire is not to CURE disease, but to provide palliative care so that you have to be on their pills forever. Never forget that greed starts the cycle.

    If someone you love is an addict, keep trying to get them to get help. If you are the addict, please don’t give up on yourself. Keep pursuing help until it sticks! My prayers are with you all.

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    • Ezralmom

      All points of view are valid when it comes to addiction. I think the one thing everyone needs to remember is that it is taking the easy way out to make excuses for yourself or loved one. Yes your brain does get hardwired to choose the thing that will feed your addiction, however, at any time you can chose to do whatever you have to get out of that cycle. I blamed everyone but myself for my addiction and until I was ready to take the responsibility for it I would never have been able to get out of the cycle. I also think people need to remember that a recovering addict knows full well that if they go back to their addiction where it will lead them. A 17 year old kid is one thing and maybe they get a pass for not yet being able to predict where a bad choice will lead them. But a 46 year old man who had already did the work to beat his addiction has absolutely no one to blame but himself. He knew full well the road he was going down and even as a recovering addict I dont feel sorry for him. After what I went through to climb out of the hole I put myself into I am always sure to not put myself in a position where I even have to make a choice.

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      • Karleen

        I understand what you are saying. Calling addiction a “disease”, it seems to me, does not relieve you from the responsibility for getting treatment for it. But it does give a person the hope that it IS treatable. I guess it’s all a matter of perspective. I do think that realizing that addiction causes your brain to malfunction and that you cannot rely on your brain to stop you from abusing your body is significant. Also, calling addiction a “disease” is helpful because it is a clue that the addict needs help. What I believe is not helpful is all of the anger that is generated towards those who are addicted, again understandable, but not helpful. Compassion is not excusing bad behavior – it is understanding the strangling python that addiction is and urging the python’s victims to get help. I’m glad that you were able to escape the python’s grip. What I can’t understand is your anger towards those who are still being strangled.

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  • Colleen

    I want to thank you for being brave. For being here.

    I too have been disgusted by the ignorance out there…and wondering why EVERY single person with this disease is not as important as celebrities. They die,we pass judgment and then it goes away…and we all pretend to look the other way.

    As the ‘renegade/rebel’ mom of an addict, who is coming up on a year in recovery, I want to thank you for sharing this. The worlds needs to hear this. We ALL need to hear this and to do more than hear, but listen and act. I shared this message and I will continue to share and to do everything in my power to make sure people realize that this IS a disease, that you don’t CHOOSE it, IT CHOOSES YOU….we almost lost my son, because no one would listen to me…

    Sending you lots of love and hope and love and hope to those that are struggling and praying that my own son continues to stay in recovery.

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  • Kat Colley

    Thank you for telling it like it is and congrats on your 5 years. I sat here with tears as I read and relived the pain of my younger years. Also all the pain of those who haven’t found a solution yet and may never. There is a solution an I am happy you have found it. Thank you for the blog.
    Recovery Sister
    Kat C.

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  • Barb

    thank you, thank you, thank you

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  • Rheba

    Thank, thank you for your searing honesty. I, too, am
    sick of all the ignorant comments–media, friends (well,
    fake friends), etc. Our daughter, is still an active heroin
    addict — has been for 8 1/2 years. We hold onto hope
    because she is still alive. But, in reality, we are more and
    more guarded about her chances. It’s very difficult to see your
    child dying, bit by miserable bit!! Even harder is to remember that
    when she is using — she really is person so foreign to her family.
    “Love the person–hate the disease” is one of my favorites!

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  • Emily

    I so didn’t get it until I read this amazing post!
    Thank you!

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  • Glen

    Never underestimate the power of your actions. With one small gesture, you can change a person’s life.Keep coming it gets better,now you get to learn how to play with your marbles.

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  • Samantha

    I watched my dad struggle my whole life try to fight his addiction. In the end, he lost his battle to alcoholism at the young age of 50. It is a disease and it is a scary disease. My dad would be sober for years at a time, and he would have to fight fir every minute if that sobriety. Good luck to you!!!

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  • Cassie

    Reading this just made me call my old sponsor. It gave me that little glimmer of hope again to try again. It may have just saved my life. Thank you.

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  • Karen S.

    My story mirrors yours. Thank you for your words, so well spoken. I too, for whatever reason, was able to get to the other side of addiction, the side when you become in control of your life again. The odds are so low for successful recovery. I respect your honesty, and understand and relate to everything you’ve said. Stay strong!

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  • Debra Jenkins

    Wanted you to know that I linked this post to my own blog. You are a kickass writer, I love every one of your posts but this one resonated with me deeply. My 21-year-old son just had his one year clean date birthday and my recovery from his addiction has been difficult. You helped me understand the disease model of addiction better than any counselor or therapist ever has. Thank you so much for your insight! Keep on writing…I look forward to your posts!!

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  • Nicola B.

    I am very touched that finally someone described it as it is. I am the mother of an addict, and my daughter fights every day to stay clean. People judge her, point fingers at her, not realizing that she was in the grip of this devastating disease. And still is. She gets up every day and has to make a conscious decision not to shoot up, like others choose their lunch. People don’t see her like I see her. She is sweet, honest, caring, when she is sober. She becomes unbearable when she uses. People see the addict and that’s it.
    And my daughter is by far not the only one.
    Drugs and alcohol are a huge problem! Open your eyes and your hearts.
    They do terrible things under the influence, but don’t give up! If we don’t help them, who will?

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  • Denny

    Powerful – thanks for posting – your words echo true as someone who deals with addiction, alcoholism and mental health issues I was blown away by this post – it sounds like something I could say about myself, though I couldn’t say it better than that – bravo – thank you for posting.

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  • G

    I commend you for writing this, and sharing it again. It does give me some clarity on loved ones that struggle with sobriety every day. Sometimes the people who are not fighting this disease, don’t know how to get back or how to reshape our relationships with the people we love fighting this awful battle. Does that make us bad? I don’t think so, it makes us confused, even angry at times. I must admit, I personally have thrown my hands up, stamped my foot(yes I know childish) and said out loud why can’t you just stop, make the decision to just stop? I guess its hard for people like me to understand where the turn from happily sipping a drink to full on binge drinking happens. Scars are left when an addict/alcoholic creates havoc, sometimes the addict/alcoholic does not realize what they have done during their moments of stupor. The torment of seeing this utter destruction for someone who does not have this disease is hard to digest, and makes it difficult to try and understand. Everyone is entitled to their feelings on this topic, maybe some are not so well thought out as others. Just remember behind some of the hate filled comments regarding an addict/alcoholic including James Seymour Hoffman, could be just sadness. Sadness realized of a lost loved one, sadness realized for years with out the person you know and love. This is just one woman’s opinion, mine. In closing, I started out writing you praise and I truly mean it, I would like to know what you say to your loved ones when these differences of opinions arise?

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  • Katie N.

    This is great, thank you. Alcoholism has had a profound impact on my life and that’s the only reason I get it. People who are outside just can’t understand and should have nothing to say about it.

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  • barry

    why are all young kids not warned? Many important topics should be
    school subjects of equal importance as math or history etc.We also need
    to teach people how to parent

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  • chris

    Working as a nurse with women and in the mental health field the saddest thing I see is how mother’s are treated by the health care system. I have never met a woman who struggled with addiction who did not love her kids and her baby. The piece healthcare professionals do not get is the “I CAN’T STOP”. Instead they say all FASD is preventable and go on to tell women they should not drink in pregnancy. Unfortunately they will not accept that the mom cannot stop and therefore she is shamed knowing she should not drink or drug when pregnant and hides away in further shame. If we could as a community could extend the hand of kindness, the services for harm reduction such as housing and transportation see the health professional who would greet the mom in non judgemental way I believe things would change. You are so right, no innocent child grows up thinking they will end up with a needle in their arm and their children being removed. Dealing with the stigma of addiction and mothers will however, create change in how we care for addicted women in our system.

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  • Jackie

    My Dearest… thank you for writing one of the most honest and eloquent pieces I have ever read about addiction. I can hear the crying in your writing… the heart wrenching “Who the fuck am I? I’m a smart and a good person?” And the “Why?” We all go through this and you came from “out of the depths” and your soul is on the mend and you will keep going. Yes… we all don’t start with a “needle in our arm.” I felt such a compassion and companionship with you and what you wrote. I too was a heroin addict for many many years. And I used to say the same thing… “I’m smart… well read, college educated with a great family… What the hell?” Thank you for writing such a great piece. You are one of the ones that made it. I weep for the loss of your friend and the ones that I have lost also. You are very brave and beautiful. xo

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  • Brandy

    I wish my mom had realized what you did (that to drink is to die). She passed away April 12, 2001.

    I am so glad you turned your life around (especially for your children) and by writing this piece you will hopefully make others realize they are not alone.

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  • Jeannie

    Unfortunately there are still so many folks out there who don’t know that there is also recovery for those who are affected by someone’s addiction. It saved MY sanity.

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  • Savannah

    Thank you for sharing something so incredibly personal and making yourself so vulnerable in the hopes of raising awareness and helping others.

    Nothing but enormous respect for you for sharing something so intimate.

    <3

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  • jujulew

    janelle, you may not like that I’m going to tell you you’re brave to share this story. i’m really not trying to pat you on the back, i’m just observing. because like you, i’m an addict and i get how really humbling it is to own your story. it’s been hard enough to own it for myself, and to be honest with my husband. i have yet to be able to tell my family and friends because that shit’s just scary right now. but i’ll tell you, when i read another addict’s story and i witness the transparency, i’m imbibed with hope. the hope that i can, if i want to, do that one day. because i know i’ll probably need to on some level. i have amends to make and shit. thanks

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  • Allison

    Thank you for sharing this. I am also a recovering addict alcoholic, and reading these posts, I share the same sentiments. It makes me so mad when the “normies” get so mean and say addicts deserve whatever they get, that it was their choice, ect, when what I feel is sadness, for those still suffering with this terrible, fatal disease. I didn’t realize until it was much too late, and I almost lost everything, that I really was powerless over my addiction. It shocked me, really. Me? When I got to treatment, that is when I started to understand that I was just like everyone else suffering from this affliction. The homeless, the prostitutes, etc. I never used heroin, YET. They didn’t think they ever would either. So thank you, it means so much to know others feel the same way about so many things, marvel that I can be someone people can depend on, I can be the team parent (even though it totally sucks sometimes) and I can just live, and be happy, without any substance to “get me through it”.

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  • Lisa

    Wow. I’m a firm believer in things happening for a reason, but this is getting a it ridiculous. I’ve been actively working on forgiveness since before Christmas and one the big ones I was having difficulty resolving was my alcoholic mother who gave us up to foster care quite often. Thank you for making me really realize that she was sick, that she couldn’t help being an alcoholic and that everything bad that came from that fact couldn’t help but be bad, too. Thank you for finally making me see her as the alcoholic that she was and not just as the mother that she failed to be.

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  • Anita King

    Thank you for sharing your ES&H. I needed to read this today. Gratefully, an addict called Anita.

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  • Kelli S

    Thank you for posting. The truth in your words brings me to tears. On June 18th, 2014, I will be sober for 15 years. I never know what to say when people congratulate me, or tell me how great I’ve done, how I got my life back. Yup, I did the work, but the thing is, I didn’t have a choice. It was do the work, change everything, or die. I am happy. I love my life today. And I’m so so very thankful that people who didn’t have to care about me did, and spent the most valuable currency there is- time- on me to help me find a way to live. But like you, I know that I am no better than the woman, who on the same day I reached out and grasped that flimsy reed of life, was unable to reach out, unable to grasp, and would never have the chance to reach out again. I know her. I was her, and I stay sober for her, and so I can be one more flimsy reed when the next woman reaches out.

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  • Sue

    This was perhaps the best article I’ve read on addiction since my husband and I found out our 20-year old son was putting that needle in his arm. Thank you for sharing this and know that you absolutely did help someone.

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  • D. J.

    As the mother of an addict who has been blogging on this subject to help me deal with the craziness, I loved this post and shared parts of it, with links leading my followers here, on my blog today. Hope you don’t mind. This was brilliant.

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  • Andrea

    I read the Friend Manifesto first, then the one about letting kids suffer. I thought, God I identify with this girl. She swears a LOT but whatever. Then I read this. Thank God
    for us; the hoard of nitwits trudging the road. Thank God we have the ability to show our true selves and be who we really are. In 15 years of recovery I’ve rarely read anything that sums this up so well, and recovery lit is a minor obsession of mine. Thank you. Wish you lived closer.

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  • Shelley

    You are very brave to be so candid. I admire that. I am a paramedic and am constantly trying to explain to some of my co-workers why I try to have a little extra compassion for what they often term “skids”. You sum it up nicely.

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  • Lisa

    What bull crap.
    You write this as a sober alcoholic.
    I write my two cents as the daughter of an alcoholic who, when sober, was the sweetest, best father. But when he was drunk beat the shit out of me and my brother from the time I was 6 to 18.
    According to you though, I can’t be mad at my dad. He’s not selfish.
    And when I get so angry about the hell me and my brother went through, I’ll be angry at the disease, and I’ll choke the disease for choking my 10 yr old brother. I’ll break the arm of the disease for breaking my arm… Oh wait.

    And for those of you who say youd never even hurt your kid under the influence of this disease, I thought your brain LITERALLY gives you no choice?

    I’m glad you seem to have gotten through alcholism without seriously harming another. But please do not sit here and tell me a father who abuses while drinking, a mother who gets drunk and passes out leaving her one year old unattended to fall down the stps and die, a man who drunk drives and hits someone, isn’t responsible because they have no control over themselves. I’m a psychologist and have worked with many child molesters. They cannot control what they do. They literally can’t help themselves, even when harming children. Yet most would condemn them to death. What’s the difference between when an addict, who also can’t control, hurts a child?

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    • renegademama

      I’m curious where I said “alcoholics are not selfish.” Alcoholics are extremely selfish. We are THE MOST selfish. In fact, a huge part of the AA program is centered on altruism and service to others, to address the very selfishness you speak of.

      Also, I did not “get through alcoholism without seriously harming another.” Because it was not outlined in detail, you assume I did not harm others? And I did not say alcoholics are not responsible for their actions. In fact, I said the opposite. We are responsible for our actions AND treatment for our alcoholism. But no, I do not believe I am responsible for MY GENETIC MAKEUP or whatever it is that makes me an alcoholic. I don’t believe I’m responsible for that any more than I believe I’m responsible for my height or hair color. However, now that I know I am an alcoholic I am FULLY responsible for treating my condition. And I am 100% responsible for every decision I made while still drinking, and that’s why I work toward righting those wrongs, helping other alcoholics and making sure I never take another drink.

      For a psychologist, you sure aren’t very good at recognizing the way you are injecting yourself into this, creating words and meanings that are clearly not there.

      I hope you find some relief from what is obviously searing pain and resentment toward your father.

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  • Christen

    This is very well written. Thank you for sharing.

    My question is what do I say to my teenage daughter whose father (my ex-husband) has chosen insanity and substance abuse over being her father? After 2 years of good daddy, we’re left with an angry, accusatory, bitter mentally ill monster we had to move hundreds of miles form out of fear for our safety. We’re not getting any apologies or reunions or happily ever afters after recovery.

    I’m looking for advice because no one seems to be able to give me the right words to say to her to make our heartbreak manageable. And my biggest fear, of course, is that she will turn to alcohol to soothe what’s hurting her and I will lose another loved one.

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  • KVT

    God willing (lol) and the creek don’t rise, I will have 5 years on Monday. Thank you for sharing this. I will pass it on for others just like us.

    I’m pretty sure the world is a little brighter with you in it.

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  • Trixie

    I put this in my favorites and have come back to read it time and again. I have 2 sons struggling with addiction/alcoholism. One has been working very hard on his recovery for the past year. The other, only recently stepped out of his denial and asked for help. We live in a very small town and the stigma and judgment is excruciating for me sometimes. I would like permission to print and share this writing with others. God bless you and you will be in my prayers that you continue to stay strong.

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    • renegademama

      Of course. Thank you. And love to you and your sons.

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  • Chrissy

    All I can say is thank God for those tiny little cracks and that you and I were able to climb through…

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  • Nicole Hernandez

    Wow. Thank you. I could not have found this at a better time. My sister has struggled with heroin for a while now. Even went so far as to get my father addicted (while he was grieving the loss of my step mom) to feed her own addiction. I hated her for it and hate her for what she’s done to our family. You have changed my perspective and for that I thank you. I wish you the best, God bless you and your family.

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  • Dana

    I thank you for this. I am still after five years struggling wih the death of my mom to alcohol. I have been and still are angry for her not being strong enough not loving her children and grandchildren enough to just stop. I still have some more learning about addiction and do also deal with my own addiction to cigarettes I hope not to leave my children and grandchildren in the same manner as she did. So they are kit angry and as adults asking the same questions I asked of her. Why don’t you just stop before it’s too late. Again thank you for revealing these truths about yourself. Weather or not you think of yourself as being brave and having accomplished a great feat. You have

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  • mary

    This was shared & I just read it.Thank you. The last 3 paragraphs. I could end up there just like they are there. So many family & friends have passed from this disease over the years & it’s not right the way people down addicts. Perfectly written.

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  • Renee

    My exhusband died of alcohol related causes. I left him because of his alcoholism and prescription drug abuse. It was hard as Hell to watch what he was doing and be powerless to stop him so I took our (then) 8 year old daughter and left. He slid into his alcoholic downward spiral so rapidly after that, and two years later died alone in his home. She’s 10 now and doing well (for a kid who went through that kind of trauma). But every day I ask myself if I couldn’t do more. If I couldn’t somehow MAKE him see that he was killing himself. I’m a healthcare professional (as was he) so I really do understand the nature of addiction and the negative feedback loop that short circuits choice, but I still feel guilty that I couldn’t stop him. Thank you for baring your soul and being brave to share your story. Telling it helps others to understand what you were going through and to see that your “choices” weren’t choices at all. Thank you for helping me understand what might have been going through his brain in his last months. I’m very happy that you are in the place you are now and that you are in recovery. I pray that you stay there.

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  • Louise

    Wow. BEST description of this disease. No one should ever utter the words common junkie

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  • Linda M

    Thank you for sharing. This is exactly the message I try to get across to every teenager I talk to who is still in the experimental stage – and possibly the concept which catapulted my youngest daughter from a full blown meth addiction into recovery at 19 years old.

    I have been in recovery since 1985. I still remember how it tastes. What it feels like when that first rush hits me. I can still close my eyes and really, really, remember it.

    Guess I’ll keep going to meetings.

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  • Nicole

    Thank you for taking the time to put this down for us, I can’t express how awesome it feels to read this and have the opportunity to share this with all those in my family who continue to crticize, judge, and push away my son. They have heard that addiction is a disease, they even regurgitate those words but quickly follow them with “he has a choice” I am judged and blamed because I can’t turn him away to die, as I did his father. I will continue to stand with and fight with my son for his life.
    Thank you!

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  • Joyful Girl

    Thank you for sharing this at BlogHer. Your reading was so powerful, it made me cry. I’m married to a sober alcoholic and everything you write resonates with me. It frustrates me that there is so much misunderstanding and stigma around addiction and even recovery; I am forever grateful to AA.

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  • Margo Stoppelbein

    Wow…just wow. This should be read at every funeral of another life lost to addiction. Seriously. This should be how our entire society views addiction. In small tribes, they rally around the individual whether they be mentally ill, physically ill, or addicted. They don’t exile and judge. The hold and heal. THIS is such an amazing post. I am so cynical about 12 step programs and addictions. I even wrote a blog post earlier this year about “The 12 Steps of Not My Fault Anonymous” http://margosmiddlefinger.com/2014/04/02/the-12-steps-of-notmyfault-anonymous/

    But YOUR post made me see the difference. My dad continues to stay in denial, but finds enough willpower to stay off the booze to gain popularity and attention (i.e. speaker rights) at his meetings. He is incapable of this kind of insight. I am so relieved that “recovery” is a real thing, as you exemplify it. Yes, I know its one day at a time, and all that jazz, but YOU take full responsibility for where you have been, without martyring yourself. Truly amazing. I just want to print this up and pass it around and post it everywhere anyone can see it. I want to add it to the pledge of allegiance in our children’s classrooms. I want to make it the beginning and ending statements of every discussion. I am so impressed. So, no, I’m not putting you on a pedestal, but am sending you tons of love. Thank you for touching me today. Thank you…thank you… thank you. With your permission of course, I want to blog about what you made me feel today, of course with appropriate direction to your site.

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  • Stephanie

    I was born to two parents in love with drugs. One, my mother, was the true addict. My father was the partier, didnt do drugs every day. Unfortunately, he passed when I was 4. My mother thankfully got clean and has been sober for 25 years!

    I have lost friends to these addictions, buried some amazing people. My question is this, how am I supposed to feel about a life-long friend who has chosen drugs over her children for the past 12 years!!! She’s not responsible? The excuse is she is sick? What about her poor god damn children?!!!! What about me? I grew up my whole life because my dad was sick? Because he wasn’t responsible? I can’t see the addicts side when there are poor innocent children involved!! I’m typing these words crying, crying for the kids!! These children did not ask to be born, they have to live this unstable scary life right with their drug addicted parent. I lack compassion for the addict when children are involved.

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  • Peter

    Thank you renegademama for an exceptional article and an astoundingly honest story of your journey. I’ve been on this same journey most of my life and have also beaten the odds (I’ve read that %2 percent manage to stay clean for 2 years.)
    Your article is very timely for me as I’m going through a struggle with constant pain. I thank you with all of my heart.

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  • August McLaughlin

    Weeks after BlogHer, your reading is still lingering in my thoughts. Thank you for sharing your beautiful, poignant thoughts and story so that others might learn or gain healing. I so enjoyed meeting you!

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  • Kelley

    Wow – this article made me cry. My brother is an alcoholic/addict and this hit close to home. I’m struggling. I wish he could do what you did, but I fear he won’t make it. I hope he can have that second of sanity where he gets it.

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