REMAINS OF THE DAY

As an actor, I had to pretend, imitate, hide, steal, keep secrets, and even transcend. I created believable characters and delivered Oscar-worthy performances.

Ooops, wait a minute . . . did I say, “Actor”?

I meant, “Addict”.

“As an ADDICT I’ve learned to pretend, imitate, hide . . . “.

Although, after 40 years of addiction I’ve become quite the actor. I was so good that when I stopped acting, there was no one left. There was no one remaining. I’d lost the central character . . . me.

It’s said that addicts have to hit rock bottom before they can begin recovery. Trouble is, I didn’t recognize rock bottom even when I slammed into it.

I thought it would BE like in the movies; when the alcoholic wakes up face down in a ditch, with no memory of how she got there.

I never embraced a ditch, but I did pass out face-down in a bowl of Fruit Loops once.

And I thought it would LOOK like in the movies; like the crack addict with sores and discolored teeth who eventually blows up her house while brewing chemicals.

Although I never had sores or blew up the house; I did lose a lot of teeth, and I did set the sofa on fire by falling asleep with a cigarette in my hand.

The tragedy is that I never saw the similarities between them and me.

As a result, I co-failed in marriage, spent a lifetime in a foggy buzz, and lost most of my memories. I was constantly using drugs, pursuing them, or desperately trying to hide my addiction to them.

My addiction was accessible, convenient, socially acceptable, and kind of legal. And it only required two things: my willingness and a reliable drug dealer.

And I had both.

I was lost and floundering, and he was greedy and available. So together we entered into a relationship in which neither of us acted or looked the part.

We never spoke in drug code on the phone, or met in a dark alley in the hood, or in the bowels of inner Detroit. And my dealer wasn’t paranoid, dressed in Goth black, or covered in tats and piercings; and his pants did NOT hang below his butt.

Nope. He was confident and clean-cut.

And he wore white.

My dealer was my doctor.

And my addiction was to prescription drugs.

*

I took my first pain pill when I was fifteen years old and suffering with a migraine.

Three things happened:

  • I felt the buzz of codeine.
  • My addiction switch was flipped on.
  • I lied about feeling relief because I already wanted more.

It was that quick and easy.

Over the next 40 years, I lived on a daily cocktail of medications prescribed for pain, muscle tension, anxiety, sleep, depression, and seizures.

And because of the migraines, finding a dealer doctor was easy.

As with all professions, there are good doctors and bad ones. The good ones won’t prescribe pain meds if they aren’t truly warranted. They will work with you to reduce pain and eliminate or control the cause of it.

And the bad ones won’t. They won’t take the time. But they will take a quick moment to write a script and take your money.

I don’t blame my doctor for my addiction, but I will say:

“I couldn’t have done it without him”.

Now, four years later, I take full responsibility for my health, behavior, and life. I volunteer my history of addiction to my doctors because once I do, there is no turning back. And every time I own it, I’m a little proud; because I’m reclaiming myself.

I don’t oppose mainstream medicine or the legitimate use of prescription drugs. Pharmaceuticals save lives, manage diseases and disorders, and relieve pain. If I could tolerate an effective bipolar medication, I would take it in a minute. And if I was having surgery, I would take pain medication during my recovery.

But my pills ceased to be for pain and morphed into a crutch and a habit.

There was always a reason to take one; if I was insecure, upset, depressed, or even just bored. And I was not discriminating about what I ingested. I quickly discarded the inconvenience of discrimination, along with my dignity, judgment, and self-confidence.

As long as I felt . . . better. Or numb.

I didn’t know about bipolar disorder and self-medicating, or about masking and delaying grief, and I didn’t know about addictive personalities or that it can be genetic and run in families.

I couldn’t be an addict . . . because my drugs were prescribed.

“These are needed”, they said.

And I was hurting and without tools to cope with the pain of life or death . . . so I pretended to believe them.

And I took a pill.

And another.

And another.

EVERY SINGLE DAY, for years.

I don’t know what spurred me, but I slowly weaned myself from one medication at a time until, eventually, I stopped taking all ten medications (Do this under the supervision of your doctor!).

Today, I still take pills. The ones I need; for thyroid and migraine (a migraine med, NOT a pain med), and Xanax for sleep or extreme anxiety.

I’ve been clean now for four years.

Boy, what a different world.

It’s all brand new. And I’m doing everything for the first time.

Now, without any fog to act as a buffer, I’m living in a world FULL of people with issues. It’s difficult, as I’m still finding and developing tools for coping and interacting with them.

Sometimes, I miss the warm fuzzy fogginess of codeine. Things seemed easier. Nothing really touched me. When I felt things, it was dreamlike.

But I’m awake now.

And that means I’m seeing all of life’s beauty for the first time. But I’m also feeling my bipolar disorder; acutely. And my grief. And now, living an inactive, disabled life has become much less tolerable. It was easier when I didn’t care.

But getting clean makes you care. It also makes you restless and uncertain of your next step.

Yes, I’m awake now. And I have a small window of opportunity to try to live an entire lifetime . . . again, the right way.

Why am I sharing all of this?

Because America is suffering from an epidemic of addiction.

Prescription drug addiction is the #1 addiction in the USA today   (NOT marijuana, alcohol, or heroin). There’s an estimated 20,000 prescription drug-related deaths annually.

SO WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT IT?

  • START AT HOME by setting an example. Watch your child’s behavior. Be diligent. Keep all medications inaccessible or you will become your child’s drug source should they become curious or depressed.
  • BUCK UP. Feel life. It’s okay to be sad or experience pain sometimes. When physical or mental pain persists or interferes with your quality of life, THEN it’s time to visit your doctor.
  • STOP SHARING your pills. Your friends may become addicted or have a bad reaction. You might be well-intentioned, but that’s not the way to help.
  • BE WILLING TO DO THE WORK OF LIVING healthier. Whether that entails diet, exercise, quitting smoking, stress management, or physical/psychiatric therapy. Seek natural and alternative therapies.
  • DON’T SELF-DIAGNOSE. You’re not a doctor and your friends aren’t either. And however educated, they don’t know your medical history; online information is ambiguous at best, and every patient is different. Consult a doctor.
  • OVER-PRESCRIBING DOCTORS WILL QUICKLY OFFER YOU PAIN MEDS. It doesn’t mean you have to take them. You can “just say no”. If pain meds are needed, remember that they’re not a long-term solution.
  • RECOGNIZE your addictive personality or family history.
  • BE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR LIFE. Dr. Random doesn’t care if you live zoned-out and in a stupor. Protect and contribute to your quality of life.

This is 2014 and there’s a new addiction in our country.

It’s lured us with its legality and promises of a quick fix for whatever ails us. With the pop of a pill, we don’t have to feel even remotely uncomfortable ever.

But is that what we want?

And is that the legacy we leave our children?

I spent 40 years spinning my wheels and going nowhere. I wasted a lifetime.

Don’t you.

Rewrite the script to your life story. If you don’t know how, find someone who does and ask for help. There are plenty of us around.

I was nearly 50 years old when I stopped hiding from the pain of life and took my first baby step towards change. And then I took another. And another. I shed the dealer. And the addict. And I stopped playing the victim.

And when the fog cleared, I looked around. I thought that there was no one left. But I was wrong.

I’m directing my own movie now. And at the end of the day, there IS someone left.

Me.

I remain.

And that’s a start.

Categories: Addiction, Inspiration/Motivation | Tags: , , , | 38 Comments

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38 thoughts on “REMAINS OF THE DAY

  1. Thank you for sharing this part of your life.
    I am very proud of you & proud to call you my friend. <3

  2. Sally Phelps

    Very insightful of you Julia. I didn’t know that even tylenol & ibuprophen could hurt your kidneys. People just pop those at a slight discomfort .Not many would want to giveup the quick relief. Brave of you, Julia, to make such big strides in your personal struggles, and teach us all some lessons. That’s good! Bravo.

    • Awww, Sal, thank you so much. Your words make me feel heard and validated….both powerful and important. Thank you for reading and for sharing and cheering me on! Youre quite a friend. How lucky for me! Xojulia

  3. Wow, very powerful,Julia! Thanks for sharing. My whole family suffer from migraines and both my sister and brother had to fight with addiction getting off some of the drugs they were prescribed by their doctors for their migraines. Seeing what they went through, I chose to use over the counter meds and deal with the pain. Not easy!
    You are right. We are a drug society addicted to legal drugs and just want our doctor to give us something to feel better. I see it working in the medical field. Thank you for sharing your life story and in the process helping others who may be going through the same thing. <3

    • Thank YOU, Debbie! For reading my blog and for sharing your story with me. The ironic thing about migraines is that they don’t respond well to pain medications…….which can actually make them worse by causing rebound migraines. Doctors need to stop prescribing Vicodin and muscle relaxers and masking the pain (or making it worse) instead of addressing the cause of it. And we’re left with an addiction to kick….while still battling pain. I now take a migraine med called, Rizotriptan, and it is taken at the onset of pain. Within an hour my migraine is gone! No kidding! And NO buzz or high, just relief! I wish you and your family the best of everything now and in the future. And I thank you immensely for visiting my blog and taking the time to leave your touching and beautiful note. Take good care of your precious self, my friend. I hope that we have an opportunity to meet sometime in the near future. I know we have a mutual friend…..(haha…but HE’S another story! lol). xoxojulia

      • Thank you, Julia! That’s exactly what happened to both my brother and sister. They were getting rebound headaches and both ended up in the hospital to kick the addiction to the meds, not for the migraines. I will mention your medication to them. Not sure what they are taking now. We do have to meet sometime. When this snow melts we will have to get together and go shoot nature. My sister lives down your way so it doesn’t bother me to travel down there and you can show me new areas to photograph. Love your pictures. As far as our mutual friend, your right, he’s another story! LOL!
        Keep the blogs coming. Always enjoy reading them.
        Debbie :)

  4. Rob Pratt

    My admiration for your strength, sensitivity and compassion for the human race has only grown from what you have shared. Keep up the good work. Life is worth it, and living it to its fullest. I look forward to my trip to Michigan in a few weeks.

  5. Kim

    Great post Julia, and thank you for being brave enough to share it. You are right, prescription pain medication addiction is rampant. I deal with it every day with my clients and their families. It is so easy to hide, ignore, and be in denial about for expressly the reason you state. It started off as a legitimate use for pain or illness. I don’t understand why doctors have to prescribe things like Vicodin when there are other ways of dealing with pain. I like your suggestions regarding vigilance. It takes a village.

    • Thank you, Kim. Doctors very often WRONGLY prescribe Vicodin and other pain meds, especially for migraine (they actually make migraines worse!). I think they take the easy way out and do a disservice to their patients by giving in to their demands for something for pain. I now take an actual migraine med that works effectively most of the time and without providing a buzz or high. We do need to be vigilant. And I agree with you…..it does indeed take a village. Take good care of yourself, my friend. xojulia

  6. Great post, Julia, thanks for posting it. I’ve shared it on Twitter, FB and Google+. As an addict (alcohol) myself, I understand what you’re talking about. It’s been 35 years since I had my last drink. Don’t take pain killers, since I’m sensitive to them as well. More fun sober.

    • Thank you for reading & sharing my blog, George! And how wonderful it is to hear from you!!! My sister was an alcoholic, and when I read the “Big Blue Book”, long before my recovery began, I remember being surprised at seeing myself on some of those pages. It’s a wonderful book that everyone should read at least once in their lifetime. And the 12 steps…and steps we all need to take to live healthier and more lovingly. And you’re right….everything is much more fun while sober! Congratulations on your recovery! The world shines much brighter with you in it, my friend. xoxojulia

  7. Brave and encouraging post, Julia. If you help just one…
    blessings ~ maxi

    • Thank you, Maxi, for reading and leaving me a note. If I help just one……it will be well worth the effort of writing this blog. Let’s hope! Peace and love to you, my friend! xojulia

  8. Lynn Gardner

    You speak directly to many of us, Julia. Your words are powerful and hit right to my soul. Bless you my friend, xoxo Lynn

  9. Thank you so much, Lynn! You always read my blogs and leave kind words. But you also always provide the most wonderful support and the warmth of true friendship. I am extremely grateful for both. You were a lifeline to me at a time when I was holding on by a thread…….It was your hand that reached down into the darkness to help pull me up. I’ll never forget that gesture. And I will always cherish our friendship. xoxojulia

  10. Thanks for sharing your story, Julia. Thanks for sharing from your heart. What an important post, my friend.

    Hugs from Ecuador,
    Kathy

    • Thank you so much, Kathryn! I hope that you and yours are well. Love to you and Miss Sara! I’ve been enjoying her pics and I’ve saved your posts in my inbox…they’re just beggin’ to be read! Take good care and thanks for always reading my blog and supporting me! It means the world! xoxoxojulia

  11. Ayana Miller

    I’m glad you’re awake Beautiful!

    • Me too, Ayana! Thank you so much for sharing my story with me and leaving me a note! Take care and hope to see you soon! xojulia

  12. Thank you so much for your courage and determination that has brought you to your empowerment.Come and sculpt with me, The creative process is very healing.Check my website.You would love it.We can discuss the way to do it.
    Hugs and much love
    Estela

    • Thank you, Estela. You have just flooded my heart with gratitude and love! I will check out your website and drop you a note soon. Thank you again. What a wonderful gift you are! xoxoxojulia

    • My dearest Estela, thank you! I have checked your website and your place looks like paradise! Oh how my soul and my camera would rejoice there! And although I’m not a sculptist (?), I’ve always wanted to try it……It calls to me. The only problem I can see is that once I experience your beautiful accomodations, I may never want to leave! lol. I will check your site again, and the dates….and send you an email. Thank you, my friend, thank you. With greatest love and affection…..xoxojulia

  13. Wow, that was powerful, Julia! Such brutal honesty and I am speechless. I admire your courage in putting your story in print and I know this will be a life-changing and yet a never ending battle. I hope this helps others face their demons and reach out. You are a strong and beautiful person and I think you will be able to help out others in a multitude of ways. Love you girl!

  14. Your story is totally captivating and I am in awe of your heroism in being honest with yourself and finding the courage to renew. How incredible are you! I have immense pride and respect for you and how much you have overcome. Completely inspiring.

    • Awww, Pink, you say the sweetest things; thank you. I wouldn’t call it heroism though, really. Didn’t someone once say, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose”? Well, that would be me. I’ve nothing left to lose and everything to gain by telling my story. I gain empowerment…..and “reclaim” lost pieces of myself. Thank you, my dear friend, for joining me on my journey. Love to you. xojulia

  15. Would a doctor in your country prescribe something that you dont need? And did he diagnose you with bipolar? Thanks for the brave note btw.

    • To answer simple, Ceudah, Yes. They do it all the time here. For profit. It’s a sad thing. Thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog. I really appreciate it. xoJulia

  16. Pingback: Another List Of Awesome Bloggers You Definitely Should Check Out | Sparkonit

  17. I compliment you on a most impressive post, Julia ! What you talk of is, of course, going on in all the countries where medicos are as readily available as are their ‘wares’. And so the post is valid all over the world, really …

  18. And who you are seems, to me, a pretty good person to be.

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