It hurts that a drug can completely change a person like that.
I know it’s an illness butas a former addict myself, there comes a time when you have to look your crap in the face and grow up.
Did you know that less than 10% of heroin addicts achieve remission?
Instead the majority of heroin addicts will die as compulsive liars who wronged you time and time again… “victims to a self inflicted illness”.
Heroin changes people.
My friendship used to be the most natural thing on earth and the new relationship, with the addict, gave me panic attacks.
When you start using heroin your entire vibe changes.
As one of the most loyal friends on the planet, it took so much strength to say goodbye, especially to someone with our history.
But controversially, I had to.
I had to choose me.
And that is why I despise heroin with every bone in my freaking body.
God has a way of putting people in your life at the right time.
Simultaneously to the loss of one friendship, a brand new one began to blossom.
In no time at all, my new friend and I were attached at the hip.
I admire the way she carries herself.
She holds herself to this radiating sense of accountability- she owns her crap!
As a single mom who works full time overnight shifts, WITHOUT A CONSISTENT SCHEDULE, she still schedules play dates multiple times a week.
She’s an incredible mom and amazing person all the way around.
She doesn’t use her situation as an excuse.
The friendship has just been easy.
Our values are so aligned and in no time, God had affirmed my decision.
When she told me that she was a former heroin addict, I was shocked.
“What?! NO WAY!!! But you are so normal?!?!”
That is when I learned a powerful lesson about suboxone.
After a long, eye-opening conversation, my stance on suboxone has changed entirely.
Here are some of the points that helped me get there.
1) Generally addicts aren’t the most reliable sources, however, wearing your faults in regards to addiction like clothing is assuring when speaking to your sobriety.
2) Anything has the potential to be abused. Benadryl, dust off, laundry pods. When you use something in a way other than it was intended to be used, it becomes abuse. Just because some people choose to eat laundry pods, doesn’t mean we should stop selling them for the reason in which they are intended– hence why they are still on the shelves.
3) Addicts are obviously more likely to abuse anything, making suboxone treatment a slippery slope. This also plays a large part to this stigma surrounding suboxone- including my own opinion at one time. The 90ish percent of heroin addicts who aren’t able to achieve remission ARE likely abusing their suboxone.
4) Withdrawing from heroin won’t kill you but, it’s not for the faint of souls. Until a person is ready to stand up and start fighting for themselves, nothing is going to change.
5) When you use heroin, the drug triggers dopamine (what the brain receptors ignite as “pleasure”). American addiction centers explaining the effects of heroin use on the brain in simple terms. “Opiates, especially opiates as potent as heroin, activate the brain’s receptors to an incredibly dangerous degree, far greater than anything the brain can produce by itself. For this reason, heroin is abused as a recreational drug. Then, it is consistently abused because there is no other experience that can compare to blast of bliss and subsequent contentment that come with shooting up.”
6) American addiction centers citing, “repeated exposure to heroin is not only habit forming; the constant bombarding of a devastatingly powerful opioid on the brain’s receptors changes the structure of the brain itself, which in turn affects its neuronal and hormonal systems. Heroin erases the brain’s ability to produce dopamine and instead takes over how the user perceives pleasure and satisfaction.” Heroin use literally rewires the way your brain operates.
7) Suboxone, along with a couple of other rx drugs, are available to treat these changes in the brain. Suboxone.com stating, “known as a partial agonist, it (the active ingredient in suboxone) can attach to the same receptors as other opioids and reduce their effects by blocking them from the same receptors.”
8) My friend admitted that if you haven’t used opioids in awhile the initial use or two as directed might give you a little “kick”. After that, it just takes away the feeling of drowning in your new brain chemistry. Clean for just over 6 years when she moved to Colorado. She said that until she was able to find a new prescriber out here, the cravings were ridiculous. She couldn’t focus. All she could think about was heroin.
I held her through tears, realizing that without this prescription drug that I naively put a label on, I wouldn’t have my angel friend right now.
Instead my perfect little friend is functioning like super woman; Fighting to keep her life on track.
If you asked me a couple weeks ago what I thought of suboxone, it wouldn’t have been an enthusiastic answer.
Today I’d tell you that I endorse suboxone treatment because the 9-10% of heroin addicts who decide to choose lifeMATTER!
This is a lifeline for recovered heroin addicts; a chance to really have a shot at life again after a bad choice that they can’t ever take back.
I’ve seen the complete terror of heroin addiction; Now I’m pleased to see a beautiful success story involving suboxone.
Similar to an antidepressant, suboxone treatment could potentially be a lifelong commitment.
“I don’t care how long I have to be on it if it keeps me clean.”
This past year has been the most extensive year of self reflection ever.
And with understanding has come more questions- a lot of them!
Like last week when I processed for the very first time that I in fact, leave my physical body, subconsciously, hundreds of times every day.
Don’t get me wrong.
This isn’t some kind of witch craft or wizardry.
It’s a mental illness called depersonalization disorder.
It’s also the only way I can remember ever functioning…. making it that much more confusing.
How would you react if you realized that you’ve spent over half of your life physically “zoned out” while being somewhere else completely mentally…?
“Whenever my PTSD gets triggered I get like, trapped in another world for awhile. I don’t know what happens there because my memory in that time period gets completely wiped. Nothing really gets done while the time is running.
Sometimes I realize I don’t know what’s going on when I’m literally in the middle of a sentence with someone. It’s super stressful being around anyone really, for that reason.
But most of the time I don’t even realize that I’d left. It’s been this way for as long as I can remember and until just recently, I thought that everyone experienced this.
I know that sounds crazy… am I dying?”
My best friend who is studying psychology, responded with this:
“If I’m understanding you right it sounds like dissociation or depersonalization. Which is common for people with PTSD. It sounds terrifying but you are not dying. It is something that many people with PTSD experience.”
Off to the internet I went, in attempt to learn more about this madness, aka my life.
The first thing that stood out to me was “a confusing sense of identity“.
Looking no further than the name of this blog to check that one off the list of qualifying criteria.
As I continued reading, the checks started piling up.
‘Man… I had no clue there was a name for this!’
Dissociation is a mental process of disconnecting from one’s thoughts, feelings, emotions, or sense of identity.
A child is more able than an adult to step outside of themself and observe trauma as though it’s happening to another person.
Children who learn to dissociate in attempt to endure a traumatic experience may use this coping mechanism, even subconsciously, in response to stressful situations throughout life.
The dissociative adult may automatically disconnect in everyday situations, leaving them “spaced out” and unable to protect themselves in the event of real danger.
Dissociative episodes increase in frequency with the severity of trauma and triggers.
Smells, sounds, colors, places…. anything tied to a traumatic memory can send you out from the drivers seat of your body in an instant.
The research I have done on this disorder in the last week has been redundant.
I am so beyond confident that I battle with extreme depersonalization disorder, it’s like they wrote it all about me.
This understanding has come with the bomb of a realization that I am transitioning in and out of my body hundreds of times every single day.
With this knowledge I’ve made a few reflections.
1) I have depersonalization disorder.
2) I’ve been living this way for so long that the transitions are usually unnoticeable.
3) It would be nice if I could just stay inside my body all the time.
4) How do I make this stop?
Unfortunately, the answer isn’t that simple.
Like the majority of my mental health madness, this is going to take a crap ton of hard work.
“Stuffing” is my most often used defense mechanism.
It’s a process of trying to trick myself that any undesirable emotion or sensation isn’t really happening.
This is a subconscious behavior that happens like clockwork.
Typically for me, the “stuffed” emotion presents itself as high strung anxiety or irritability.
To “cure” the dissociative episodes I’m going to have to talk to my emotions and actually feel them… no more “stuffing”. 😳
As someone who has “stuffed” every foreign emotion for as long as I can remember, this feels like an overwhelming task to take on.
Dissociation is kind of like having your body and mind living on two different planets.
The first step will be simply increasing my personal awareness.
Mindfulness, sitting with my emotions… YUCK!
I need to practice the repetitive cycle of acknowledging my emotions as they arise and responding that they are valid for feeling that way.
I’d be absolutely lying if I said I wasn’t scared out of my mind.
This entire situation is freaking terrifying.
I’ve been functioning emotionally numb for far too long and I need to do this for me.
Once I begin allowing my emotions to be a part of me, my body will start relearning how to function as a whole.
It will be an intense process of triumphs and failures.
And after all, isn’t that what life is all about?
Trying and failing until we reach our goal…?
I’m ready to embrace this life for all that it is, the good and the bad.
For now, this book is still being written.
It’s my journey and I’m ready to start living it.
In a perfect world, this pursuit will end in an alignment of my identity.
When I got sober it was a fairly unique situation.
The day I quit drinking was also the very first day I wanted to quit drinking.
A couple days of seizures on the bathroom floor was enough to start anew.
It wasn’t until recently that I learned how much my personal experience has clouded my opinion on addicts.
To me, alcohol was an escape from myself.
I hated myself.
I hated my life.
Numb was the only way that I could continue functioning.
Alcohol was that door to checking out from reality and entering a world where I just didn’t care.
With booze, life always seemed less real.
I didn’t annoy myself as much when I was drunk.
The bottle was my ticket to escaping the life I couldn’t bare anymore.
My brother had his own struggles with addiction.
It would be years after my new leaf of living that nightmare with him before things turned around.
The only thing more difficult than addiction itself is watching a loved one throw away their life for it.
Your life becomes a living hell while they are escaping this reality with substance.
“I promise you that life in sobriety is fun T!!! PLEASE just give it a try and find out!!!”
I pleaded, for years on end.
The best word to describe myself in this plea would be naive.
Naive to feeling that every addict is running from reality.
Naive to think that my brother just liked being drunk too much to quit.
A couple weekends ago we were visiting my now 20 MONTH SOBER brother for fall festivities!
It’s MY FAVORITE family tradition we’ve created!
Our life is so normal now.
We get together and do things as siblings and I swear those are some of the best memories of our lives.
Day one we went to the most badass park I’ve ever seen! 👇
Day two we went to a corn maze and pumpkin patch!👇
And day three, during family breakfast, we talked about where we’ve been and how far we’ve come.
“Man T… I can’t believe you made it! I’m so proud of you!!!”
“I had to stop or I was going to die. I’d wake up with ridiculous anxiety and start having panic attacks. It would feel like I was having a heart attack and the only way to make it stop was the booze. It was like a 24/7 never ending hangover.”
Tears started streaming down my face as I realized how much I hadn’t understood about his addiction.
Here I am, preaching to my brother about how cool life is when you aren’t confused all the time, and he wasn’t even confused…. he was sick.
He confessed the fine line of “sipping and driving”.
In other words he wasn’t drinking just to drink.
At just 29 years old, his body was beginning to show signs of long term alcohol abuse.
His body was reliant on alcohol and was literally shutting down without it.
Longer drives required greater focus and when he was “under-medicated” the withdrawal symptoms were so intense that he would end up pulling over for hours at a time in attempt to stop his heart from bursting out of his chest.
He wasn’t drinking to be drunk- he was drinking to stay alive.
He had punched the ticket but he no longer wanted to ride the ride.
“I was embarrassed with myself for how bad it had gotten. I would have died trying to detox on my own. There was a lot of shame in what it had become and the reality of those choices. It was like drowning and waiting for somebody to save you.”
The day his second niece was born was the day my brother amounted the courage to chase his lion.
“I need this to stop and I don’t know how.”
He admitted to a buddy of trust.
Thank you for hearing him, Carl.
It took ten days in detox before being medically cleared for inpatient rehab.
Detox from alcohol is a serious thing!
My brother put in some insanely hard work as he fought for his life.
**Did you know- detoxing from heroin isn’t deadly (though it feels like it), but detoxing from alcohol can be?!**
20 months later my brother is still prioritizing his recovery as an AA sponsor.
God gave me my brother back and I am beyond grateful for this.
I’m thankful that I have a sibling to enjoy life with.
I’m thankful I’m not living in a nightmare anymore.
I’m thankful for his journey, and the new understanding it has given me about addicts.
We are all different so it makes sense that no addiction is the same.
Every addict is running- our differences lie in what is chasing us.
“When I was a kid I remember crying in the mirror and feeling so badly that my parents had to have the ugliest kid in the entire world.”
I expressed to my anxiety therapist.
“What happened to trigger that? At the age of 4 or 5 a child doesn’t just come up with these feelings from nowhere… something must have happened.”
“Nothing happened. I’m just ugly.”
It would be YEARS of therapy before unlocking this can of worms.
Years of wondering if I was raped or abused as a child and just blacked out the entire thing.
Years of silencing that fear with my proclamation of ugliness.
‘At least if you understand that you are ugly you aren’t ugly and in denial…’
Confidence has never been my strong suit.
It wasn’t until my anxiety therapist gave me a list of books to look into that my life started making sense for once.
While she never said it directly, all of the books had a common theme.
Borderline personality disorder.
The second I looked up the definition, I felt my mom’s picture should have been pasted right next to it.
It was her exactly.
My mom has borderline personality disorder.
Borderline personality disorder is characterized by the following behaviors:
Intense, highly changeable moods
A pattern of intense and unstable relationships with family, friends, and loved ones- often swinging from extreme closeness and love (idealization) to extreme dislike or anger (devaluation)
Impulsive and often dangerous behaviors (spending sprees, substance abuse, binge eating)
Extreme emotional swings
Lack of restraint
In my case, “a pattern of intense and unstable relationships with family, friends, and loved ones- often swinging from extreme closeness and love (idealization) to extreme dislike or anger (devaluation)”, my brother is the idealized and I am the devalued.
With this newfound knowledge about my mom, it has been an emotional rollercoaster the past few months.
Growing up in a home with a parent who has borderline personality disorder is an extremely traumatic thing to go through.
The fact that I never even understood this piece of myself for the first 26 years of my life completely blows my mind.
There is no denying that all of it makes sense.
Anger, sadness, frustration.
Every emotion showing its colors in myself at this new revelation.
‘Is therapy making me crazier?’
Instead of my mom just removing herself from my life all together, I grew up in an “I love you, go away” environment.
There was a constant push and pull.
Actions that were justified by clothing me in shame and guilt.
Our father, whom I got along with best, was away from home making the money.
The way I internalized my moms behavior as a child was processing it as a personal flaw.
The almost comical “obsession” (idealization) she had for my brother was a stark contrast to the way she treated me.
“Maybe if I was prettier my mom would love me too…”
The constant push and pull from a person in trust is enough to destroy someone entirely.
My feelings were never heard or validated.
I was always wrong, she was always right.
My attempts at having a voice were converted into backlash.
Growing up in the care of a parent who had borderline personality disorder distorted my self worth at a very young age.
The devalued child feels unworthy of love- even from themselves.
You get used to always being the one at fault.
To this day I overuse the word “sorry”.
I am sorry.
Sorry for any way that I may be bothering you with my presence.
It’s been hammered into my head that I’m a nuisance.
My mom loves me and I know that.
I don’t believe that she ever intended to hurt me.
Yet there is still a part of me that hates her.
A part that wants to give a voice to the child who didn’t have one.
A part that wants to say, “F you” and never talk to her again to pay her back for that broken little girl looking in the mirror.
Except I’m not going to go out like that.
Yes, this understanding has been quite the rollercoaster… but it’s one that I’m glad to be riding.
Without understanding myself I would never have the means to fix anything.
I can’t change my mom.
And I will probably never get an apology from her.
But that’s okay.
THERAPY TAKES WORK!
It’s going to get worse before it gets better.
But it’s the only way to obtain justice for myself, for the little girl in the mirror.
I know that someday all of this hard work will pay off.
I will love my mom forever and while I can’t guarantee it’s the end of the outbursts, I can agree to forgive her.
Holding firm in my boundaries while staying true to my values.
I’m choosing to live my life in love instead of hate.
I’m choosing to accept the things I cannot change and changing the things that I can.
Dear little girl in the mirror,
You are beautiful.
Have empathy for your mother even in the times that it’s hard.
You don’t HAVE to do so, but CHOOSE to do so.
Forgive your mom.
Live your life in love.
Learn to love yourself the way God loves you.
Your moms behavior has everything to do with her and nothing to do with you.
Remember that her outbursts are professions of her pain rather than expressions of her feelings towards you.
“Maybe you should just stop doing the blog if you aren’t able to make any income from it. It’s just so negative….ha. You are always talking about about weird stuff. People must think that you’re nuts!”
This blog has been an absolute rollercoaster.
Some days I ride the high of feeling like I’m helping people while in turn freeing myself of my “baggage”.
Other days I feel like an idiot and wonder why I’m wasting all this time for nothing, until it spirals so far out of control that I about quit.
“Should I really post that?”
“How are people going to react to this?”
“Will anyone react to this…?”
The truth is that it would be SO much easier to just go about my life and pretend like all the years of chaos never even happened.
Easier to pretend that I’ve been this “normal” person my whole life…
Easier to bury my skeletons than to go searching for them in attempt to resolve the trauma that they’ve branded me with.
My blog is called Project Identity because I hope to uncover what I feel are “missing pieces” of my identity through the process of this project.
In terms of adversity, I’ve had a very wide range of it.
Mental health, eating disorders, sexual abuse, dysfunctional families…. YOU NAME IT!
By revisiting these traumas, my goal is to sort through my life and figure out who I really am.
This is NOT in any way an attempt to glorify or normalize the things that I’ve done.
Im not sharing my deepest, darkest secrets with YOU to win sympathy or to place blame on others for things that have happened in my life.
My intention IS to help others by saying,
“this is where I was and look where I am now.”
An attempt to find the answers for survival after adversity– answers that I don’t necessarily believe that I have, yet somehow…. I made it.
And the story isn’t over.
People don’t just overcome something and live happily ever after.
With time, the book you just closed will start revealing itself in your next book.
Growing up in a home with a parent who has Borderline Personality Disorder left me running– self medicating with drugs and alcohol.