anxiety

Kristine Williams of We are the Butterflies

From Kristine's first words in an email to me, I knew I would like her: 
"Thank you for creating this magical space for us."  I mean, how could I not?!  Kristine is a mom in her first year of sobriety and has all the same hopes and fears that we did at one point in time, or still do.  This is a voice to follow, folks.  She is a fantastic writer--and her story just walks off the page into my heart.  Hopefully, yours too.  xo, Laura


Sober Sisters

(originally posted on We Are the Butterflies)

It’s been 45 days since I’ve had a sip of alcohol, but who’s counting?

For as long as I can remember, every time I drink too much I blow chunks. I don’t want just one drink, I want the bottle, so more times than not, I drink too much.   Sometimes I drink and drive. Sometimes I drink and drive with my kids in the car. I’ve spent the night in the hospital twice to be “re-hydrated” due to drinking too much and uncontrollable vomiting (including on my wedding night). Over the past ten years, the frequency has increased and it takes less and less to trigger the sickness. I can have three drinks spread out over 5 hours, mixed in with water and food, drive home, go nighty-night and then I’ll have to race to the bathroom in the middle of the night to puke my brains out. I’ve seen doctors, and I’ve had lots of tests to see if I’m deficient in something, yet nothing has been revealed. Time after time when I describe my symptoms, the medical professional looks me in the eye and says, “Have you thought about not drinking?”   It’s like that old joke: “Doctor, it hurts when I do this,” and the doctor says, “Don’t do that anymore.”   Yeah, well, duh, but it’s just not that simple.

In addition to the vomiting, I also feel like the blood pumping through my veins is poisoned the next day and sometimes for days afterwards. It’s hard to explain except to say that I just don’t feel right. I’m anxious, jittery and unsettled, uncomfortable in my own skin. Then, there’s the guilt, oh Lord, the guilt. I know that most likely I will get sick if I drink, yet I do it again and again and again.   Why? Am I an alcoholic? Alcoholism and depression plague my family history, and this knowledge haunts me.

46 days ago, I was with my very best friends in the whole wide world on our annual girls’ weekend. I drank a glass of wine at lunch, did a little wine tasting in the afternoon and then enjoyed a few wine spritzers poolside. As soon as I started to feel a good solid buzz (around 5:00 pm) I stopped drinking alcohol and only had water. We went to dinner around 7:00 pm at which time I felt sober. I had a margarita with my burrito. We moseyed back to our hotel and while the other girls continued drinking, I continued with water. Again, I felt sober.  Fast forward to the wee hours of the night where I formed an intimate relationship with the downstairs toilet. I took a Zofran to stop the vomiting, which didn’t have the desired effect, but did make me feel like I was tripping on acid.   Yep, fantastic.

The next morning, I was a hot mess. My friends woke up mostly feeling fine, maybe a little bit slow, but I don’t think anyone would have said they were hung-over. Give ‘em each a bagel and a coffee and they’ll be ready to rock ‘n roll. I, on the other hand, was a blubbering mess. Guilt-ridden and ashamed that once again I made a terrible choice. Why must I drink? I wondered aloud if I was an alcoholic to which the overwhelming response was, “God, NO!” You see if I’m an alcoholic, then others in that room might also be alcoholics and we certainly can’t have that.  They offered me Xanax, they suggested a nice nap, neither of which sounded appealing to me. I just wanted to shrivel up and die. I wanted to disappear.

You may remember that I said it’s been 45 days since my last drink, yet that incident was 46 days ago… Well, you see, there was still fun to be had on night 2 of our girls’ weekend. Approximately 15 hours after praying to the porcelain gods, I drank a Moscow mule and then a beer.   Why? Because drinking is FUN. Drinking is really fucking fun. Until it’s not.

I returned from our weekend an emotional wreck. I spent Monday in bed sobbing and praying for the strength to go on. I had thoughts of running away and thoughts of ending it all leaving my family better off without the pile of shit that I knew I was. Thankfully, I started to scare myself and I called my therapist for an emergency appointment. This marked the beginning of my recovery.

Now, I know that some of you reading this are going to think that I’m being awfully dramatic. “Recovery?” I’m sure some of you are thinking, “Seriously? Get a grip. I know you, and you are not an alcoholic; you are allergic to alcohol and it’s as simple as that.”

So, right this second I really don’t think I’m an alcoholic. But, isn’t that what every alcoholic says while they are in denial?

Here’s what I’ve learned over the past 45 days:

  • Perhaps I’m not addicted to alcohol, but I’m certainly addicted to the approval of others.

  • I am always drinking to feel better (to celebrate, to drown my sorrows, to ease my pain, to combat boredom), and, inevitably, I end up feeling worse.

  • I hate small talk; I crave deep conversations. With alcohol, I can go there without seeming strange (in my own mind anyway).

  • I don’t know how to socialize without alcohol; without a drink in my hand, I feel extremely anxious in social situations.

  • I have an overwhelming desire to fit in and to be perceived as “normal.”

  • I know that I am different on the inside, and I think I’m kind of weird, and I don’t want anyone to see that part of me for fear that they’ll reject me.

  • I’m afraid I’m going to make one false move and my friends are going to walk away.

  • I hold what I perceive to be other people’s expectations of me in a higher regard than my expectations for myself.

  • I don’t believe I’ll be any fun without alcohol.

  • I am like an M&M; I have a tough outer shell, but inside I’m just mush.

  • I’m not sure if I’m okay.

  • I need to stop drinking. Period.

About two weeks after my last beer, I started to believe that I might actually be able to stop drinking. My health is at stake, mentally and physically. I need to take care of myself and stop the insanity.   Will I be able to go to parties and still have fun? Not sure. Will my friends still want to hang out with me? Not sure about that either. What I am sure of, with 100% certainty, is that being sober is what is best for me.

Little by little, I’ve shared my story with very close friends and family, always with an intense fear of their reaction. In my mind they’ll argue with me and try to convince me that I actually don’t have a problem, or they’ll nod politely and then graffiti the information in bathroom stalls across the country. Nonetheless, I’ve mustered up the courage to talk about it, and I’m working on being okay with whatever the fall-out may be. Mostly, my friends have been supportive and have had very kind words of encouragement for me. For this, I simply do not have the appropriate words to express my gratitude. And… I’ve told my story and then an hour later the girls were trying to convince me to have just one drink with them. When I wouldn’t do that, they tried to get me to have just one sip of their wine. Seriously? Yep. I’ve had people diminish my angst and say, “Well, maybe it’s not forever, you’ll just have to see.” Some friends have laughed thinking I was joking, and then had no words at all when I insisted that I was serious. Okay, but there have been two reactions that rocked my world that I also need to share.

The first was a friend who said that she too feels like she doesn’t want to drink anymore, but she feels like she can’t stop. Not because she’s an alcoholic and can’t stop physically, but because it’s expected of her in certain situations. We had a long talk about how we feel like people really want us to drink. Everything is more fun when you add alcohol, right? That’s the perception. Play date with the kids? Let’s drink!   Hike to the top of Saddleback Mountain? I’ll bring the wine! Boat ride to Catalina at 9:00 am? Bloody Mary, please! Husband not home yet, cooking dinner for the family? I’ll just sip vodka out of this shot glass to take the edge off. Somewhere along the line we started adding alcohol to everything we do and now it’s expected. When you meet someone for the first time, if you find out they don’t drink you think they are weird. Don’t deny it, because I’ve heard you say it and I know it’s true. Or, perhaps you don’t think they’re weird, but you know that you could never truly “connect” with them if they don’t drink. What the FUCK is this about, ladies? I say “ladies” because I suspect the men don’t give a shit about who drinks and who doesn’t. I think this is an expectation that women have placed on each other and, in my opinion, it’s totally fucking un-cool.

The other thing happened when I shared my newfound sobriety with two girls who I love and trust at a play date. We laughed about how I might not be fun if I’m sober, and we joked about how maybe they won’t like me anymore. The ridiculous reality was that we had never spent a significant period of time together without alcohol by our side. We teased about all of this, but inside of my heart my deepest insecurity was triggered. I truly believe that some people are simply not going to like me anymore if I stay sober, because I just won’t be as much fun. At the end of the play date, we said our good-byes and I asked if they still liked me even though I didn’t drink. One of those beautiful ladies looked at me sort of sheepishly and said, “Do you still like me?” Oh my God, we are all the same! We all just want to be loved and accepted for who we are, yet we are afraid to be different! We fear rejection and judgment. You know that I wanted to grab that girl and hug her fiercely and tell her that I love her no matter what. Ah, but that might be weird, so instead I laughed and said, “Yes, of course.”

One of the main objectives of this blog is to increase the love factor in our universe. So, I don’t want to make anyone feel bad about things they might have said or done in the past. I guess I’m just trying to raise some awareness in the hopes that we can decrease some of the negative junk that’s surrounding real issues. I know wholeheartedly that we are all doing the best we can with the tools that we have at any moment in time. Sometimes, we are just living our lives, doing our best, and unbeknownst to us, we are unintentionally judging/hurting/alienating others.  So, here’s the thing (for the record)… My choice for myself has nothing to do with what you should or should not do. Even if I decide to call myself an alcoholic that does not mean that you are any more or less likely to be an alcoholic yourself. My choice to not drink does not in anyway mean that I think you should not drink either. My choice is just for me and really, honestly, I swear to God, has nothing to do with you. Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could somehow unlink our insecurities and let everyone just do their thing? If I drink and you don’t, that’s cool, man. If I don’t and you do, that’s cool, too. Let’s maybe lay off each other and try to see past the stupid alcohol, and instead work on true connections, understanding and support.

Another objective of this blog is to provide a sense of belonging for those of us who feel very much alone on the inside. Yes, actual humans surround us, but some of us feel isolated and misunderstood when we think about our souls. I’m hoping that anyone who is struggling with an addiction might find solace in knowing that they are not at all alone. Whether you’ve started your path to recovery or not; please know that you are in good company.

I’ve decided that I’m part of a club called Sober Sisters. I’ve also decided that you don’t actually have to be sober to be in this club, but you do have to support sobriety as a choice even if, especially if, you don’t get it. You can’t believe that we are ridiculous and dramatic, and you can’t talk shit about us behind our back.   To be a Sober Sister, you just have to love and accept those of us resisting the booze, and we promise to love and accept you too.

Who’s in?


 

Ooooh oooh!  Pick me!  I'm in!  :)  I'm a SOBER SISTER™ too!  
 

***

Of course, after reading this, I desperately wanted an update on Kristine's life.  
In case you were also in my boat, look no further!  
 

Click here

 

 


Having a bit of a hard time...

 

For reasons I won't disclose (because I want a  semblance of privacy in my life), I find myself a bit down in the dumps.  Not feeling the usual anxiety; this time, it feels more like numbness.   Add to that an extra dash of hormones (hello, Shark Week!  Nice to see you again, said no one ever), and I'm just your garden variety "blargh blargh"er.  

I'm essentially telling on myself because I want to let you know that it's OK to, as Laura McKowen says, "respect the tides."   I can't be sunshine and frenetic energy and YAY YAY YAY all the time.  I have anxiety, I have OCD, I have a damn monthly overload of estrogen, and then I have regular people problems.  And sometimes, when the ingredients mix together in the right way, I become a slightly different version of myself.  One that I'm not a huge fan of, but one that's me regardless.  And I have to work through whatever pain or numbness or nervousness I'm feeling just like everybody else does/would.  

Drinking again isn't even part of the equation.  I have no desire for that.  It's been over 8 years now.  It's just that in recovery, it's not all puppies and rainbows.  It's life.  And it's beautiful and messy and everything in between.  

While I'm at it, I'd just like to say that I'm a one-woman shop.  And still relatively new to the addiction recovery space, at least the online space.  One of the best problems to have is such overwhelming support that I'm getting pitches for guest blogs and recovery stories left and right; but it's just me here, and I have a 9-5.  And sometimes I just need to breathe.

I'll likely be my chipper self soon enough.  Just like the sun always rises and the tides always turn and cheese is always delicious.  But for now, I'm feeling "blah."  

Thanks for listening, whoever you are.

xo,
Laura

 

Guest Blogger: Jon Gerler (aka DJ FM) on Anxiety, Pt. 2

Learning where my anxiety originated from was one matter. Overcoming it has been a challenge unto itself.

When I first got clean and sober in 2009, I was facing a mountain of legal and financial difficulties that I’d created for myself in active addiction. I was also having to face those difficulties without the aid of any of my “crutches,” and with very little support from anyone save for close family, a few good friends from my using days and my new friends in the 12-step fellowships I was attending. If there was a real danger of me relapsing, the first few weeks and months of my recovery were it.

When most people in recovery talk about overcoming their difficulties, they tend to get metaphysical and vague. My intent here is to be practical, and tell you exactly what I did. Again, this is just my experience, but hopefully you’ll be able to use some of these practices in your own life.

The first and most important step I took was this: *kick alcohol and drugs*.

Nothing else I describe here would be possible or even useful without that. In the beginning, alcohol really worked for me as a way of self-medicating my anxiety. After a number of years, as I developed a tolerance to it and became physically dependent on it, it evolved into an additional problem in its own right. When I say physically dependent, I mean I had to be *weaned* from it. Alcohol is one of the only drugs you can take where, if you’re too far along in your addiction (as I was), simply trying to quit “cold turkey” can result in heart attacks, coma, even death. I was given a 3 week Ativan taper by my doctor in rehab to survive these awful consequences.

Once you’ve passed that milestone, you must find some kind of regular support. I found mine in the various 12-step fellowships that exist. They are free, and they’re everywhere. They’re also not perfect (as people themselves are not perfect), and probably won’t work for everyone. But you won’t know until you try. The fact of the matter is for most people suffering from addiction, going it alone simply isn’t possible. For me, I also had to be in a sober living environment - a “group home” with other people who were struggling with the same things I was.

I also had to develop coping strategies that were healthy. If I was going to be DJ-ing in nightclubs again, I had to completely re-learn how to exist in a nightclub without alcohol. I learned that diet soda, besides having caffeine which would allow me to stay up, was also carbonated, and the carbonation helped settle my stomach when I would get nervous. I also drank the diet coke out of a pint glass. So I had the comforting effect of the bubbles, as well as the glass in my hand which I had previously associated with beer. These small changes in day-to-day behavior are essential to rebuilding your life. Today, I drink sparkling water instead of soda, but the effect is the same. People think I drink sparkling water because I’m a snob, but in fact the carbonation keeps any lingering anxiety at bay. I’d rather be viewed as a snob than as a *relapsed* snob. Or a dead one.

Once these are in place, however - you are left with the original problems that got you started in the first place. The anxiety. The trauma. The bad memories and hurts. Some of these can be dealt with, again, in 12-step fellowships. But I needed more.

As I began to describe my formative years to my various outpatient counselors, they soon realized that my anxiety probably originated when I was very young. I was always painfully shy as a kid, always had a slight tremor in my hands (which I now know to be “nerves”), and would frequently bite my fingernails and wring my hands, certainly before 2nd or 3rd grade. These are all signs of generalized anxiety disorder.

Add to that the divorce, my mom’s alcoholism, my acting out during my early teen years and almost failing 8th grade, and suddenly the problems became magnified. I was now the adult child of an alcoholic, characteristics of which were described by Dr. Janet Woititz in her 1983 landmark book Adult Children of Alcoholics.

I was all of these. I was asked over and over by the various therapists and doctors I had seen why, having had two well-educated parents (one of who was a professor of counselor education), I wasn’t put in some kind of therapy early on. Over and over again I heard that same question, and a resentment began to form. “All of this could’ve been avoided if my parents had just done their job!,” I kept thinking to myself. I was angry…it took me a few additional years of therapy and 12-step work to be able to resolve that anger, or at least come to terms with it. I’m not fully over it, but I’m certainly better than I was.

Still, 2+ months into my recovery, my hands hadn’t stopped trembling. I still had terrible stage fright and shakiness. I was having trouble sleeping. I still had the butterflies in the pit of my stomach that had plagued me since childhood. So one of my therapists recommended a medication to me called Effexor, an SNRI (Serotonin–norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor).

We’ve all heard about anti-depressants in the news, how this particular workplace shooter was prescribed this-or-that SSRI, how doctors overprescribe this-or-that drug. We live in a society where all we’re hearing is the bad news about these substances, so our reaction is black & white. “Get rid of all the drugs!” And in many 12-step fellowships, I’ve heard people talking of taking medication for their illnesses as though they’d relapsed! I’m here to tell you that Effexor was the “magic bullet” I’d been searching for my entire life. In my case - and probably in the case of many other people - it has been essential in overcoming and managing my anxiety.

One of the reasons it worked so well for me is described in the name itself - *norepinephrine*. We all know that serotonin is a brain chemical responsible for regulating our mood and appetite. Norepinephrine, on the other hand, is the brain chemical that governs, among other things, our “fight-or-flight” response. My “fight-or-flight” response had always been hyperactive. For instance, I would go to interview for a job, and where most people would simply get a case of “nerves” but then be able to manage it, the feeling I felt was more akin to terror. As though I were running from some life-threatening situation. I felt this same thing any time I had to get up in front of a group of people, play any kind of sport, even walk into a crowded room or hallway. Absolute, paralyzing terror, and very real physical manifestations like trembling (to the point where I couldn’t hold a cup or glass), the inability to speak. Visible signs which were embarrassing and prevented me from developing any kind of self-confidence.

Within a month after taking Effexor, the shift in me was nothing short of miraculous. I could read and speak in meetings without fear, I could stand in front of groups holding papers in my hands and they’d be steady as a rock. Finally, in my 30+ years of life, I knew what it was to be like “everyone else.” I had confidence I’d never had. As a musician and DJ, I was able to perform in front of crowds as large as 500+ without fear - no weed or Jagermeister required. Effexor, plus my work with therapists, 12-step meetings and new coping strategies began reshaping me into a new person.

An additional step I’d recommend: exercise. And by exercise, I don’t mean 2-3 hour marathon sessions at the gym. I mean something as simple as walking, daily. Most cities have greenways and parks that are free to the public where you can be outside, breathe fresh air, and be active. Our smartphones today have built-in pedometers or downloadable apps that will allow you to see how far you’ve walked, and how many calories you’ve burned. You’ll be able to track your progress and feel a sense of accomplishment.

There’s one thing, however, that has been unique to me in my recovery. That has been re-discovering my love for music. I have always loved music. Fortunately, I loved music long before I ever picked up a drink or a drug. I started playing instruments and learned to write songs long before picking up a drink or drug. I can tell you that without music, I’d have died (at least inside) long ago. In fact, I wrote and produced an entire album while living in that sober house I mentioned earlier. 

I guarantee I’m probably the only person who’s ever had a Mac Pro tower in their bedroom at one of these houses - but it doesn’t matter where you are, where you come from, what you own or what obstacles you face. With the right encouragement, the right help, and a little bit of compassion, we’re all capable or remarkable things.

We’re all capable of conquering our demons.

**

Jon Gerler first began his journey in recovery from substance use in November of 2009.  Under his musician alias “DJ FM,” he’s been a part of the southeast US EDM scene for over 15 years. Not only has he DJ-ed from Baltimore to Burning Man, as a musician he's performed his original electronic music with a live band, produced over 90 songs, instrumentals and remixes, and even had his original tracks used on MTVs Real World, Road Rules, The Hills
and Making The Band. In 2015 he helped found the non-profit organization RaveClean.org, which throws alcohol-and drug-free rave-style dance parties with donations of time, money and equipment. He also maintains his own recovery blog, mylaststand.org.

Guest Blogger: Jon Gerler (aka DJ FM) on Anxiety, Pt. 1

Anxiety, Part 1 - Introduction.
 

“And no Grand Inquisitor has in readiness such terrible tortures as has anxiety, and no spy knows how to attack more artfully the man he suspects, choosing the instant when he is weakest, nor knows how to lay traps where he will be caught and ensnared, as anxiety knows how, and no sharp-witted judge knows how to interrogate, to examine the accused as anxiety does, which never lets him escape, neither by diversion nor by noise, neither at work nor at play, neither by day nor at night.”

― Søren Kierkegaard , The Concept of Anxiety (1844)

Years before I suffered from the disease of addiction, I suffered from another “A” word which has honestly been more damaging to me than any other.

Anxiety.

In 6 years of recovery I’ve come to understand that anxiety was the underlying cause/trigger of my addictions. For years it was my constant companion, and somehow inside I knew that what I was feeling was different from what others were feeling. However, this anxiety didn’t simply come out of nowhere. It’s not as if I woke up one day at age 3 and was simply terrified of everything.

Before I begin, understand that this is my personal experience of anxiety and how it manifested in my life. As individuals, we all have different backgrounds and unique paths. I would never attempt to marginalize someone else’s experience by saying that mine is somehow gospel. It’s simply the story of how my anxiety presented itself, and how that anxiety became the root cause for my drinking and drug use.

Both of my parents, whether they admit to it or not, have always been anxious in their own way. It’s how they handled that anxiety that made the impression on me as a child. When my mother is anxious, she internalizes it. Her discomfort is not presented outwardly, but is locked up inside. My father, when he becomes anxious (or afraid), gets angry. As you can imagine this was a winning combination when I was younger. More importantly, however, it was the first real example I had of adult interaction, and conflict resolution.

Lil' Jon

As an overweight child, I hated going shopping for clothes. My mom would always try to squeeze me into the tightest possible clothes, and tell me to “suck in my gut.” I realize now that this was my mother imitating her own mother’s anxiety about appearances, but over time it led to me feeling uncomfortable in my own skin - a trait I think many addicts can relate to. No wonder I came to love the baggy fashions which accompanied rave culture!

I also hated athletics. My parents put me in swimming lessons the summer before I began first grade. I had accidentally been put in the wrong class, one for “intermediate” students rather than beginners. When I was unable to do the things the other students were doing, my mother looked at me, put her hands on her hips and simply said, “Well? Swim!” After talking to my instructor, she realized what had happened. Unfortunately, the lesson I took away was (a) that my inability to do a thing was entirely my fault, and (b) if I wasn’t good at something within the first 5-10 minutes of learning it, then it was pointless to attempt it.

When my parents fought, my father was the one doing most of the yelling. Usually, it was something I did that would trigger his anger. A temper tantrum, a spilled drink, or something else. The proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. He and my mom would get into it, and then he would simply leave the house and not say where he was going. Later he would tell me that it’s sometimes better to simply walk away from an argument and cool down, but my impression of my dad was that when he got angry, he was leaving us - forever. I’m not sure if my mom ever knew where he was going, and if she did, why she never told me.

After my mom began battling her alcoholism and my parents’ subsequent divorce, my anxiety only got worse. I also began acting out, shoplifting, lying and failing in school (I was in Junior High at this point). Yet no one ever put me in any kind of therapy. My dad and I did start going to church, and it was in church where I first heard the message “all families are dysfunctional.” Similar to what I had been told as a child about anxiety (“You’re not anxious. Everyone gets anxious!”), I was again told that I was just like everyone else. I wasn’t different, wasn’t somehow a special case. Just shut up and take it like a man.

The problem is that when what you’re being told outwardly conflicts with what you feel inwardly, anxiety is the by-product. Somehow we’ve developed the belief in our culture that simply telling someone the opposite of how we want them to be will be the catalyst for change. Acting selfish? Just be grateful! Feeling angry? Be happy! Feeling lonely? Find a friend! In my opinion, this is the lazy man’s way out of a much deeper issue.

Things only got worse when I got to high school. I had developed severe stage fright, and recall in ninth grade having to stand up and read a creative writing assignment in front of my English class. My hands were shaking so badly I couldn’t hold the paper; I began to get tunnel vision and almost fainted. To this day, my father doesn’t believe me when I tell him this happened.

I was also bullied by an upperclassman my first 3 years of high school. I think in this day and age we’re all too familiar with the concept of what it’s like to be bullied. No longer is it the kid with the black leather jacket and low self-esteem stealing Jon’s milk money. Now it’s the college freshman who secretly records his roommate having his first sexual experience and posting it to YouTube. Again, it’s the lazy man’s way of saying to our children “just ignore the bully” that has brought us to this point - children and young adults committing suicide after being outed on the internet, children and young adults bringing firearms to school and causing harm. Our procrastination has brought us here.

Ultimately, even the fear of becoming like my alcoholic mother wasn’t enough to keep me away from taking my first drink. The internal pain and discomfort I was feeling were simply too much to bear. It outweighed every message that told me alcohol and drugs were ultimately going to be the death of me. I didn’t care. As the consequences of my alcoholic/addict behavior got worse, my anxiety increased exponentially - anxiety which I drank and used to cover up, further exacerbating the problem.

Dr. Gabor Mate recently had the following to say about the nature of addiction:

“So if you look at the California based studies called the Adverse Childhood experience studies, which looked at 18,000 people, 80 percent Caucasian, 10 Hispanic, 10 Afro-American they looked at what happened to them in childhood and what the adult outcomes were. And an adverse childhood experience is something like physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, the loss of a parent due to a death, being jailed, or rancorous divorce, violence in the family, addiction in the family; for each of these adverse childhood experiences the risk of addiction went up by 2 to 4 fold. So, by the time a male child had had 6 of these experiences his risk of becoming an injection using substance addict was 4600 greater than that of a male child that had had no such experiences. So the risk of mental illness goes up exponentially, the risk of physical illness, like autoimmune disease goes up exponentially, and in Canadian studies it has been shown when children are abused in childhood their cancer risk goes up by nearly 50 percent. Why? Because you can’t separate the mind from the body and you can’t separate the individuals from the psycho-social environment.”

(Source: http://www.radioproject.org/2013/05/capitalism-makes-us-crazy-gabor-mate-on-illness-addiction/ )

It wasn’t until I had been arrested for two DUI’s, nearly died of an overdose, ruined friendships and lost at least 3 different jobs due to my alcohol consumption, that I faced for the first time the childhood trauma which caused my anxiety, the source of my addiction. I don’t believe that it had to happen like that. I believe we can do better.

I could go on and on about how as a society, we need to re-learn what compassion is. How we must look honestly at childhood trauma. How our society needs to stop and take a long, hard look at the messages we send to our children. Not all addicts are born in childhood, but many are.

However, this isn’t about societal change - this is just my experience. The bottom line is that my parents weren’t evil people. They loved me as best they knew how and were only imitating the examples they’d been shown themselves as children.

In part two, I’ll discuss how I overcame my anxiety, and learned to manage it. To be clear, this only became possible *after* I quit drinking and using drugs. Recovery has allowed me to redefine my life in ways I never thought I could. And for that, I’m forever grateful.

**

DJ FM in action.

Jon Gerler first began his journey in recovery from substance use in November of 2009.  Under his musician alias “DJ FM,” he’s been a part of the southeast US EDM scene for over 15 years. Not only has he DJ-ed from Baltimore to Burning Man, as a musician he's performed his original electronic music with a live band, produced over 90 songs, instrumentals and remixes, and even had his original tracks used on MTVs Real World, Road Rules, The Hills
and Making The Band. In 2015 he helped found the non-profit organization
RaveClean.org, which throws alcohol-and drug-free rave-style dance parties
with donations of time, money and equipment. He also maintains his own
recovery blog, 
mylaststand.org.

David Greenspan: Drug Abuse Saved My Life

The man himself, surrounded by books. A fellow nerd :)

The man himself, surrounded by books. A fellow nerd :)

Super thrilled to bring you a story from David Greenspan.  Ch-ch-check his bio out after his magnificent tale of recovery.  - Laura

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Sounds like a bold, not to mention nonsensical, claim, right? In many ways it is. On the surface, drug abuse saves no one’s life. On the surface, drug abuse, especially teenage drug abuse, is a public health problem second to none. This isn’t the surface though.

Teenage drug abuse saved my life. I stand by that statement. I even say it with pride. See, my name is David Greenspan and I’m a recovering alcoholic and addict. I’d like to share with you my story. It’s not much different from thousands of other teenagers’ stories. This one, though, is mine.

I’ve always felt “different.” I can’t remember a time when I didn’t feel like an outsider looking in. I can, however, remember being in second grade and getting in trouble because I wouldn’t sit in my assigned seat. That seat was in the middle of the classroom. I couldn’t sit there! People would be behind me, looking at me, judging.

This gut level discomfort, this ingrained anxiety, followed me through elementary and middle school. I could never be myself because, well, myself wasn’t good enough. That’s what my diseased thinking told me.

I was suffering from three diseases – depression, anxiety, and addiction. See, addiction isn’t all about the drugs. In truth, it’s hardly about the drugs at all. It has much more to do with my thinking, my emotions, my relationships (strained as they may have been), and my reactions to life. Addiction is, to me, a maladaptive way to exist, rather than live.

In eighth grade, at the age of twelve, I smoked pot. I immediately felt a release. I felt like a balloon with all the helium let out. I can’t begin to describe how wonderful that felt. I didn’t care what others thought of me. I didn’t care about not measuring up. I didn’t care about anything other than what was happening right then, right there.

To say I was addicted from the very start feels true. Remember, though, I believe I was born with the disease of addiction. If it hadn’t manifested in compulsively using drugs, it would have manifested elsewhere. Perhaps it would have popped up in overachieving at school or work. Perhaps I would have become a fitness junkie and run no less than ten miles each day. Perhaps I’d become codependent and a serial monogamist, always looking for relief through people.

I can’t be sure where addiction would have entered my life had it not been for drugs. I’m not sure if I’d have ended up a despondent middle-aged man. What I am sure of, one of the only things I’m sure of in this life, is that drug addiction brought me to recovery. And recovery, readers, has brought me to peace.

Returning to my story, I began drinking and taking pills not long after I first smoked pot. The progression only intensified from there. By fifteen I was doing cocaine and had tried opioids. By seventeen I was physically addicted, strung out as some say, to heroin and painkillers.

What followed was two years of pure hell. I bounced around the country, from New York to Florida and back. I bounced in and out of rehabs, detoxes, counseling groups, halfway houses, and the streets. I had periods of abstinence, but never of recovery, never of knowing freedom from the incessant feeling of inferiority in my mind.

I make the distinction between abstinence and recovery based on my understanding of addiction as a disease. It was explained to me as a three-part disease – physical, mental, and spiritual.

I have a mental obsession with anything that changes the way I feel.  Once I start thinking about something, be it drugs, alcohol, food, women, etc., I won’t stop until I have that something in my hands.

I have a physical allergy to drugs and alcohol that ensures I keep using them until I’m stopped. That can come in the form of going to treatment, going to jail, getting into a car crash, or having a loved one lock me in a room to detox. I’ve experienced it all. The bottom line is that, when in active addiction, I need something or someone to physically stop me from obtaining drugs.

Finally, I have a spiritual malady. This last part, this spiritual sickness, was the source of my gut level discomfort. It was comprised of all the turmoil that made drugs so appealing in the first place. Upon treating this void, this emptiness, I began to recover.

I began to recover in the rooms of a twelve-step fellowship. That’s my personal experience and I begrudge no one their choice of recovery methods. There are a million and one ways to kick drugs and alcohol. For me, though, a spiritual approach worked wonders.

And just what do these wonders look like? Well, for the first time in my life, I’m able to sit in the middle of a room, surrounded by people, and not worry about their thoughts or opinions about me. I’m able to proclaim, loudly and with dignity, that drug abuse moved me from existing to living, that drug abuse saved my life.

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David Greenspan is a writer and media specialist at Lighthouse Recovery InstituteHe’s been sober since 2008 and finds no greater joy than helping the still struggling addict or alcoholic.