Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Home From Detox: And "My Truck Story"

John Lennon's "Cold Turkey"
Throughout this essay you'll see some photos
of folks less fortunate than I who died of their addictions.
If publicizing my story helps one person then it is well worth doing so.
and this essay is dedicated to
Whitney Houston.

As an intro to this story, here is a note I wrote on Facebook in the predawn hours of Friday June 1st, 2012:
to oxycodone/oxycontin or whatever name it gets depending on strength. I’ve been in excruciating pain, and sick particularly since lumbar 4/5 fusion surgery December 23rd, 2011. I have been taking these class 1 narcotic pain killers since then almost daily, except in rare cases when I’ve run out and suffered detox as I’m doing this morning (its 5:26am). I’ve been taking them in random amounts and running short often. I am an addict/alcoholic with an admitted history, and have made repeated attempts at recovery with varying degrees of success. As I write this this morning, June 1, 2012 tears are pouring from my eyes. I’ve been sick (‘dope’sick, as these oxy’s are pretty much akin to its opiate brothers and sisters, particularly in the mass quantity my body’s become accustomed to. I was seeing one spinal pain management specialist who gave me the option of either 60 15mg Oxycontins per month, or 240 oxycodones, and another who would alternately give me either.

I’ve been awake all night with diarrhea, nausea, fatigue, neuralgia, and the excruciating pain from an apparently botched back surgery (I have been referred on the sly by that same pain manager to another back surgeon), and this is how life has been since December. I have a few decent days when I have enough of the pain killers to keep my body content, and then I’m sick and in pain. I’ve been dishonest to friends about my using, and need to do something. I am counting the minutes until I can call my counselor and my program sponsors at a reasonable hour to get help. I’m willing to go inpatient if need be, and as a former direct care counselor and administrator I would advise one in my condition to do so, and would get them admitted for detox and rehab. It is a very difficult decision, one a non-addicted person won’t ever comprehend. I am in dire pain, as tired as I can possibly be, as sick as a human can get, but finally blessed with being utterly sick and tired of being sick and tired! And I have a higher power to thank for that and many friends over the years who have taught me that all I have to do is to surrender to win. I SURRENDER! I am utterly and completely powerless over drugs and alcohol and my life is once again unmanageable. I haven’t cooked or been able to eat a decent meal for days, my finances are in ruins, I can’t keep a vehicle on the road and have no ability to get about reasonably. I have many important things to decide, and many opportunities with which I have been blessed in recent times. I can’t do them with a monkey on my back which is a disease similar to a leach, in that it sucks the life blood out of me—my spirit more than anything. I’ll keep you as posted as I can, I intend to do a bit of packing before making my phone calls this morning, and my little laptop will be with me, although I might not have access to it. Peace and prayers invited…. Steve Alexander
I followed up with the following posting:

I've been at it since 4:30 this morning, but I've finally arranged inpatient detox treatment and transport to Hartford Mt Sinai Hospital. I will be inpatient for 5 days most likely, one day at a time. Those unaware, see my note below entitled "I'M ADDICTED." YES WE CAN! Peace, and I'll cya on the other side. My clean and sober date is June 1st, 2012! I like that! (:
I returned from a six day detox a week ago today, June 6th, and I posted the following, along with a link to a well-known recovery website:
Breaking News: I've received huge support from friends on and offline since I left for inpatient detoxification 6 days ago. I LOOK FORWARD TO RESPONDING TO EVERYONE PERSONALLY in the days to come, tytyty! And the first to come through with that support is a fellow Nutmegger, another guy with a long history 'on the Sound(LI Sound, that is); a fellow weather buff; great photographer; and a long-time supporter of my writing projects, and a way of sniffing out political truths which is humble, yet unceasingly inquisitive, Edward Baclawski! I just returned from that 6 day stint at Mt Sinai's ADRC (Alcohol and Drug Rehabilitation program's inpatient Detoxification unit). I was weaned off Oxyconton over that time frame with suboxone, a latter-day and superior generation of methadone. I received 8mg/day for 5 days, then 4 last night. The bupropion was amazingly MORE effective on my back pain than the Oxyconton was, but I am making alternate arrangements for that aspect of pain management (I've spoken with my primary care and was referred to both a new pain management person who won't be prescribing controlled drugs to me, and to a second neurosurgeon to determine what's gone wrong and if corrective measures are possible). I called my clinical social worker at Rushford in Meriden, and will go there tomorrow to have him sanctify my entry into their IOP (Intensive Outpatient Program for drug/alcohol addicted folks). I phoned my AA sponsor and will begin my 90 meetings in 90 days this evening when my pal Rockin' Rick picks me up for an 8pm recovery meeting (I'll be doing recovery group as well) meeting in the Yalesville section of Wallingford. I'll go to a 7am meeting at the Dry Dock clean/sober social club tomorrow morning, so I can take delivery on the truck in the evening that I had been hoping to get--I was concerned that deal might fall through during my period of non-communication while in detox, but not so. This new friend, a music and youth minister at a Wallingford BAPTIST church is gonna be a keeper I think. I even attended one of their services the week before my detox, and loved it, although I could never make their brand of 'PTL and pass them biscuits PUHleeeze" Sunday morning joyfests my home church. I've always enjoyed visiting revival-type congregations.

Friday evening I will go to a regular men's meeting of mine with my recovery group sponsor, Ted, and over the weekend I'm going to try and load up on a few NA meetings, as I'm in the market for an sponsor in the other recovery group of my choice. It sounds like an exhausting schedule of meetings and such, but when you consider it, it's not much time at all really, and I enjoy getting together with other' lifeboat survivors of the booze/dope Titanic!' I have vowed both to, and FOR myself to do the 90/90, and I've also vowed to phone at least two other recovering drunks/addicts per day, besides my meetings every day. I've called a bunch of program friends, especially the morning of June 1st, but I admit that going to my first group meeting (where most of my involvement here locally has been), raising my hand at the beginning of the meeting when the chairperson asks "Are there any newcomers, people new to this meeting or people just coming back who'd care to identify myself) and saying "My name's Steve, I'm an alcoholic and an addict and I'm coming back," just might be the most difficult part of this road thus far (and the first two nights of detox meant no sleep, chills and sweats, nausea, diarrhea, intense pain, vital statistics that almost sent me to the ER two times). It IS difficult to admit to friends who have been comrades on the journey, but I am actually primed for it though IT will be hard.

My cell has an amazing number of calls on it that I'll be returning the next few days of friends who love me, and vice versa. And even though I try to avoid much comment about my recovery stuff on Facebook, it will take me days to catch up on the well wishes of other friends who love. Literally hundreds of them. But the first is you, my local friend. I've felt that comradeship with you, early on in the process of developing our friendship- (back to when I spent more time trying to keep up with our common Weather Explorer; and when I tried my hand at a bit of on-line flirting with on-air meteorologists from Atlanta---oooh! Stephanie, Maria LaRosa and dreamy Jennie C. know not what they say when they call their hometown "Hotlanta" OMG--- [CNN, TWC--makes no difference to me-- I like Jacqui Jeras, but everybody knows how I truly feel about sweet Jenny Carfagno and Stephanie Abrams---lol]. God speaks to me through many mediums, and one is through people. Your support is TRULY much appreciated. Blessya my good and special friend, indeed. Peace brother, and to all! ♥
And then this on Friday, June 6th to keep folks notified that I haven’t left the planet (almost, but not quite), along with a link to the greatest literature available anywhere -
HELLO ALL! Just a quick note to say I'm doing better since my discharge from Mt. Sinai Hospital on Wednesday, following a week's stay. I will be away from the computer for the most part for a while, but fret not; I'll check in from time to time and be back at it again with vigor soon. In the meantime why not read some great literature - older articles from that magnum opus of political blogs, Unabashed Left--for all your military affairs and comedy needs! What more in life does anybody need to do except read my opinionated bs. Peace and ♥ Steve

So here’s the real deal. I WAS very sick and I knew it. When I arrived at ADRC detox I was sweating and having chills, dizzy, with neuralgia, nausea, periodically near to passing out. My vital signs were terrible (and have been in recent times quite frequently)—extremely low pulse and BP, and consideration was given to sending me to the emergency ward upon intake, but they decided to go ahead and admit me to the detox ward at Mt. Sinai (ADRC). My vitals were so bad upon my admission that no medications were administered the first night, and I didn’t receive my first dose of suboxone, the detox med for opiates (a relatively new alternative to methadone) for nearly 36 hours, so I was still detoxing without chemical support.
My first two nights were totally sleepless, and on a unit that houses 37 people, I was the only person up all night. On my fourth day of taking the suboxone, it was a step-down to half the dosage I had been receiving, and I was, once again, the only person on the unit up all night. For the first 48 hours my symptoms worsened and I laid in bed with major withdrawal symptoms and my chills/sweats were horrendous, the other symptoms horrid as well, and I a headache commenced which was excruciating.
Had I not made the calls I made on June 1st, living alone as I do with my two pals, Angel Orange and Bluebelle the WonderCat, IT MOST DEFINITELY WOULD HAVE BEEN CHECK-OUT TIME FOR THIS INTREPID LEFTIST. I’ve had many medical scares in the past three years, and I was within arm’s length of death—and I don’t like melodrama, this is just true. The truth also is that even without being dopesick as I was this past month and over the past few months, this ol’ carcass of mine is painful and exasperating enough that its expiration wouldn’t be all that disappointing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m anything but suicidal, and I don’t wish to contravene my deity’s prerogative of choosing the time and method by which I can say farewell to this bag of bones. I’ve abused drugs/alcohol off and on for 38 years now, and I’ve been close to overdose on countless occasions. It has never been the notion of an end to this corpse that causes the most suffering or renders me so desperate as to seek immediate help and to confess my errors.

It is, rather the insane life that ensues when I abuse that ultimately brings me to that point of desperation. It IS, however different now. I have been sick for years, and I AM disabled, having been awarded SSDI 5 and a half years ago now. For the past three years that sick has included pneumonia, liver damage, kidney damage, heart problems, an endocrine disease necessitating radiation, and spinal surgery back in December which only made that pain worse, and which triggered my current bout of abuse. It will be another time and place when it will be appropriate for commentary and details about the hypocrisy of MD’s and medical providers who pay lip service to not prescribing narcotics for lengthy periods, but go ahead and do so anyway. It’s not time for that. It’s time for me to own my own, and I made some bad choices—I’m a very good person who suffers multiple handicaps, one being addiction and I made those choices in and of myself. I blame nobody.
During the course of my abuse in the past few months, it is amazing to observe how far out of hand my daily living has progressed. I ran my already poverty-level finances into the ground and wound up without a vehicle. This necessitated much walking, and in my condition that was and is ill-advised, to say the least. Some days I would walk so far and up hills (I live at the bottom of a huge hill that covers half of Wallingford) that I’d be incapacitated for days. I was repeatedly running out of oxycontin and getting repeatedly dopesick month after month. Basic sanitation in my home went to the waysides (I discovered some mold too disgusting to describe—but the good news there is that once eliminated I started feeling less sick daily). Toward the last weeks I stopped cooking and my nutrition suffered badly. I slept odd hours and my schedule became totally random. I owe the utilities, the Housing Authority, and haven’t yet been able to deal with my van which broke down permanently 20 miles away from home more than a month ago, and was towed by a local garage under state police orders. Wow!

Fortunately, I only have to do each day what is possible to do in a given 24 hour period, keeping my sobriety and addiction my primary concerns. I have accomplished much since getting out. Because I am a Medicare/Medicaid recipient I’ve been denied any sort of day program. I arranged to and did see my counselor the day after getting out. I agreed to join in a dual diagnosis group he runs, in addition to my individual sessions with him and my prescribing APRN. I made the decision to attend at least 90 meetings or more of one recovery group to which I belong in 90 successive days, and am off to a good start with 9 meetings in 7 days under my belt and two more slated for tonight. I’m in frequent contact with my sponsor from that group, and I am calling at least two members of the group daily. I’ve been back to my church and have a meeting scheduled with both of my ministers tomorrow. I’ve made some necessary medical appointments. I’ve been eating three meals a day, for the first time since I was a kid at home, and resting/napping each day. I go to bed by midnight and get up in the mornings for the first time in a long time.
Maybe more important than all, I think a huge difference for me is that I’ve come to begin accepting and embracing that I am a disabled person, who is, in fact, multiply handicapped. It has only dawned on me since my detox that I HAVE been on a permanent disability for over 5 years now. And these days the Social Security Administration does NOT hand out such determinations like candy, I was and am eminently qualified as a disabled person. No shame in that, just a fact. Once I’ve accepted that and embraced it, I can now begin accommodating myself to this situation. : )
Now, My Truck Story:
About a month ago I was walking up hill from the pharmacy to my home more than 3 miles in total. I was sick, in pain, sweating and suffering. I sat on some steps to rest half way up this huge hill. Across the street I saw a somewhat beat up pickup truck with for sale info written on it. $1000 it said and gave a phone number. I didn’t have any cash, let alone $1000. But I thought it through and figured I could give $600 out of my June 3rd disability check and maybe $400 the next. I phoned the number and the gentleman and I talked and he accepted my offer. It turned out that he is an employee of the Baptist Church whose steps I was sitting upon that day, and their youth and music minister. Jason and I have since become friends, and I’ve been there on a Sunday morning, enjoying the service.
I was to make the transaction with Jason formally on Saturday June 2nd, and take delivery of the truck. Being in detox, this obviously wasn’t going to happen, and making phone calls was not working at ADRC. I called Jason the day of my discharge, told him my plight and why I didn’t make the transaction on Saturday, and he said he’d be over Thursday night to complete the deal. And so it went, and Jason and I had yet another great conversation and I paid him my installment, got the title and bill of sale, and the unregistered truck was now parked (in a manner not very acceptable to the Housing Authority’s rules) in front of my house. Friday I found out that my insurance on the van had not lapsed (I thought it had on June 1st—I wouldn’t have been able to pay for insurance had it lapsed) and transferred it to the truck.

Saturday morning I was up at 6am, walked to the Wallingford train station and got there exactly at the arrival time of my train, 7:39am. When I arrived in New Haven, I had a very quick turnaround to a bus (motor vehicles was closing at noon) and I didn’t know where to catch that particular city bus, which was a weak spot in my plan. Upon entry to Union Station in New Haven the only nice cop (lol—just kidding, sorta) was walking by and actually took me outside and almost walked me the block to the exact stop, and within seconds the bus arrived taking me to DMV. At DMV everything went without a hitch (I feared that I might owe back municipal taxes which would preclude registration) and I left with new combination plates. I caught the bus back to the New Haven green, and again a quick turnaround was required to catch the next bus to Wallingford, and I was REALLY thirsty, tired and feeling sick (as I still do quite often). On the green were some folks, all bedecked in red shirts, one of whom walked up to me handing me an ice cold water, saying they were free. I caught the Wallingford bus, arrived home and put the plates on. I learned that the Wallingford police had been called about the unregistered truck, so the plates were placed on the vehicle just in the nick of time, otherwise it, too, would have been on the towing hook.
God. Yes, God. I am blessed indeed. I have not lost my faith. Praise the Lord. Sick as I feel, even now as I type at the library (Comcast has shut me off) I am grateful indeed to a God beyond my understanding, and one day at a time I pray that I may be the instrument of peace that he so desires that I be without the curse of active addiction confounding our mission. Amen.

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