The Pipe Down Community is growing.
This issue we have been delighted to receive emails from people in countries as far away as The United States and Australia. Here are some of their contributions.
Here is a letter and an article written to the Pipe Down Team from a woman with exceptional, long term recovery and a wealth of life skills and experience: Christine Campbell BSW MS.
The Opioid Crisis and the Effects
I am a retired mental health professional that has the privilege to live in this beautiful, magnificent part of the country.
After Grad school and practice in Minneapolis/ St Paul, I am even more grateful for quiet, good neighbours and community that is long lost in many cities.
I am also a woman in long term recovery, with 25 years of sobriety. It is difficult, painstaking, and often comes with many falls. I can tell you what does not work!
We are all affected by this epidemic and even in this lovely place, it is growing and will grow.
One of the recovery sites I am on (Facing Addiction / Outreach and Engagement) encouraged letter writing to local editors.
I had the honour to take the message and hope into our local jail along with a very generous man that was sober 51 years last summer.
Most of the population, especially the women, were in for drug & alcohol related crimes. All reported the loss of rights to their children.
In no way am I condoning crime or the severe neglect and abuse of the children so affected by this.
I use my voice to educate and try to rid the stigma of those who still suffer and self-destruct, that minimise, hide and lie in fear and shame of judgment, punishment, and retaliation for having an illness.
It took years, but I will not stay quiet. The definition of stigma ‘a distinguishing mark of social disgrace’.
The ultimate martyr, and this contempt often comes from family and very often from society. You are part of the problem or part of the solution.
Many women have shared with me forms of mean spirited ways and trickery for the sport of it from many.
Dr Mate, a well known addictions doctor says “we avert our eyes from the hardcore drug addict not only to avoid seeing ourselves, we do so to avoid facing our share of the responsibility”.
90% of the ‘family’ of the addict/ alcoholics I have worked with refuse to take part in any family therapy. There is much to learn and I am willing to help.
When certain brain areas are damaged there are predictable patterns of impaired rational decision making and diminished impulse regulation.
Studies and testing show how these areas are affected and impaired. I can’t tell you how many times I was asked (by family often) What were you thinking? What’s wrong with you?
Getting clean and sober and maintaining that is serious business. I had to leave almost every aspect of my old life behind including many people.
We can no longer accept secrecy, shame or silence. I have seen several new-borns in withdrawal, it is alarming and unbearable.
Recovery is possible. Speak out, there are 23 million of us in long term recovery.
Hate the disease, not the person suffering with the disease. They already hate themselves.
We can lift the fallen, restore the broken and heal the hurting.
WE must do this together.
SPIRITUAL FAMILY – NOT BIOLOGICAL
I am a woman in long term recovery, truly grateful for all I have been given. It was a long, hard road as many of us have experienced, but I know today I am truly blessed and have beat the odds that many said could not be done. I celebrated 25 years of sobriety this past January, and for that I am amazed. Around the 16 or 17 year sobriety mark, I was accepted to Hazeldens Graduate School of Addiction Studies. There were 360 applications that year, and 32 of us were accepted. I was amazed and somehow knew this was a beginning of carrying the message to those of us that hide, that are not blessed with family support, that are throw- aways and ignored by many to this day. Most of us can enter a room, a party, a function and spot the alcoholics, right?! I can spot the motherless children, the ones who have an extra uneasiness about them, the ones who still have difficulty with eye contact, not to mention have no idea how to have a relationship with anybody, even with years of sobriety. We tend to hang with each other however, and that brings relief and belonging. The professor at Hazelden one evening was discussing the ‘stats’ – how many of us stay sober. How many women, men, professionals, blacks, whites etc. This is how the institution gets their funding, donor money, and bragging rights (sadly). He went onto say that the numbers for one getting sober and staying sober with no family support or involvement are zero. I was stopped in my tracks. I knew it was a rarity, but zero? No. All things are possible with a loving God. Hear me! Look at me! I need to be heard and I’m not alone. The most troubled teen clients I have worked with know better. ‘If I just had someone in my corner, I know I could do it if someone believed in me…’ They were way ahead of me and know the solution when many haven’t a clue. I was preserved to carry a message, and I needed that coach, support, sponsor, spiritual family. And I have one. The laundry list that ACOA provides is our map for living until we find our way. Isolated and afraid, seek approval but lose our identity in the process. We become alcoholics or marry them or both. We live life from the victim viewpoint and are attracted by that weakness in love relationships. We have an overdeveloped sense of responsibility and we become more concerned with others than ourselves. I raised my little brother for 40 years, anybody else? We confuse love and pity and tend to love those we can pity. Have you ever noticed how many nurses, doctors and human service workers survived insane households, lacked love and understanding, and became addicts and alcoholics and marry them and then nurse them? We are addicted to excitement. We stuff our feelings from our traumatic childhoods and have lost the ability to feel or express our feelings because it hurts so much. I recently sat in a huge speaker meeting in Minneapolis right next to an obvious newcomer, bouncing his leg, fidgeting and about to jump out of his skin. He relaxed for a second when I smiled and acknowledged him. When the speaker got up to begin, she said “I came from a perfectly normal, loving family…” The newcomer looked at me very puzzled with his eyebrows knitted together as to ask “what?” I looked at him and said, “she’s lying, she can’t face it yet.” He was relieved and one could sense his relief. We judge ourselves harshly and have a very low sense of self-esteem. We are dependent personalities who are terrified of abandonment and will do anything to hold onto a relationship in order to not experience those painful abandonment feelings which we received from living with sick people who were never there for us emotionally. We are reactors rather than actors. As I reflect back on the strong, assertive counsellors while I was on the revolving door plan of treatment centres, I understand today why 2 empty folding chairs were put on either side of me during family group. I understand why I went through other family groups alone and was extended a few more weeks before staff reluctantly let me go back to that insanity. I felt total shame and a sort of spotlight on me at the time but trusted the process somewhat. “You are never going to get what you want from those people, Chris” was said to me over and over. And they were exactly right. Those people are dead or the walking dead – all of them. There is illness, isolation, violence and disease with life. Nothing changes if nothing changes. I reflect back to another wonderful female counsellor that I sat in front of, sick, lost and completely defeated. I had my precious 4 year old daughter with me, this being one of the only treatment centres in the country that took women and their children so affected by our illness. She said “be the mother to her you always wanted, Chris…” A light went on and everything changed. 42 Pipedown We went to Disney (the rehab was close to Anaheim) and rode every ride there was! We went to Universal, Sea World and Broadway shows. We played Pretty Pretty Princess and Candyland until I wanted to scream. I never missed any function she was in, volley ball, parent teacher conference, science fair, prom and homecoming. She had slumber parties and birthday parties. Most importantly, we talked, loved, I sang to her, rocked her and dried her tears, assuring her that it will be OK. And never, ever would I strike her. When I turned 40, someone in the rooms suggested I throw myself a birthday party. I announced it at the Westside club in Traverse City a few weeks ahead. These people had known me and my daughter for a long time – pain and all. Every single person in that club showed up along with their kids, their dogs and tons of food and gifts. It was magic. I have since had many ‘gypsy Thanksgivings’, a full meal for those who have nowhere to go or those who chose to go to the family drunk fest and came over for pie and fellowship, trying to process what happened. I have had Christmas trees fully decorated and quietly set in my home while we were out. I have had secret Santa’s making sure my daughter never went without. Cords of wood were delivered, stacked and left anonymously. Scholarships were awarded when I thought I was out of options to finish college. Cars were sold to me with a handshake and trust that I would pay monthly, and I did just that. There are many to talk with, many that encourage, and applaud when I celebrate another year sober, have that diploma in my hand, or just need an ear to listen. I have been touched by many and hope that I have returned the love. You are not alone, you are not bad, and you are not broken. You are a part of the Divine.
Andrew Lawrence comes from Rural Australia, NSW and somehow found out about us at Pipe Down. He writes poetry and submitted the following:
Hanging out with my mates
Fading light on my horizon… Wanting no perspire. For others about to brighten… Offering wood for fire. Voices echo in my room… Everybody with accent. Nobody in costume… focus on recovery… 100 percent.
Deluded, deceiving, distorted, dishonest, diverting… despicable. The road in, quite a blast… Happening so fast. Melancholy, measly, moody, mumpish, mournful… miserable. Some become criminal… Others critical… Many pitiful, searching for a miracle.
A slave to our disease… consumed by slow decay. Bringing us to our knees… Living in Groundhog Day. Many of us stuck for years… Why can’t I be a weekender? Always ending in tears… Ready to surrender.
Just working on the steps… We realise the effects. For memories, we don’t remember… No longer a pretender. Today the turbulence is giving me white knuckles. I share today by listening… To other member’s struggles.
Powerless and unmanageable, we admitted… disconnected from using. Willingness to be committed… staying clean our choosing. Now we can hear ourselves again… No more ball and chain. Our will and lives handed over… We are grateful to be sober.
Narcotics, nascent, naked, national, nutritional, nervous, newcomer… Nirvana My Higher Power speaks through you… Grateful for the service crew. Anonymous, admirer, appreciative, awakening, awareness, accepting… Attending. You are all precious and unique… a gift to me… I must go asleep.