Demi Lovato and Relapse – No Addict Left Behind

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By: Jana Greene

“I think I’ve definitely had my rock bottom and I think that was probably right before I went into treatment where I said, ‘I definitely need help.’  – Demi Lovato

I know I’m not alone in my feelings of sadness about Demi Lovato’s heroin relapse.
The singer and actress had six consecutive years of recovery time before she overdosed on Heroin yesterday.
That’s a long clean time, by anyone’s estimate.
Relapses are always jarring – even when they happen to celebrities who – if truth be told – sobriety may even be more difficult for with so few checks and balances on finances and public adoration.
They are even more jarring when they happen to someone you know and love. I found that out in March.
One of the “girls” my daughters grew up with was taken by heroin after two years of sobriety. Two YEARS.  She and I had grown close in the past, because she knew I was in recovery, and I had the distinct pleasure of getting to mentor her a while back. She was  feisty, hilarious, sweet, and beautiful. More recently, she moved and we’d lost touch,  but I knew she was a couple of years into active recovery and I was so proud.
Demi’s overdose brought up so much pain, all over again. It highlights an uncomfortable truth – we are never, never free of our addictions. You don’t “get over it.” Society may not understand this, but I hope that some wisdom and understanding about the disease will blossom on the heals of this awful thing. People need to know that we cannot rest on our laurels and that we need support to stay in recovery.
This problem touches all of us. The more we understand, the better.
I’m seeing something beautiful happening in the wake of the tragedy. I’m watching the recovery community around the world – MY recovery community – rally around one of our own. It’s very Jesus-y, really; the way only LOVE (and plenty of it) triumphs, no matter what. As she had made the recovery life a platform, she probably thinks she disappointed the whole world. She may not realize that we still claim her, proudly. That we still believe in her.
In the cyber world, I see it everywhere. My Instagram (MyFIERCErecovery) feed is awash in posts by 800 fellow addicts who GET it, and are pulling for Demi in every way. There hasn’t been a shred of disappointment or smack-talk, much to my surprise. On Facebook, I see the same thing. For those in my community, this is an excellent time to spread awareness.
I see it in the real world, too. My friends and I have had discussions about the sadness of relapse, but also the tremendous hope that comes from knowing she can make this near-death experience into an even stronger recovery.
We don’t give up on anyone!
It’s like the addiction world version of “no man left behind.” She will likely be embraced and encouraged from the recovery community around her. These people are just bulldogs, ya’ll. They stand with you until you can stand on your own. I’ve no doubt she has a wide and loving network of people and resources to help her heal.
I myself am one drink away from destruction, and I know it. I have no illusions about my disease, even with nearly 18 years of sobriety. Our drug of choice is a patient force; it will wait until we are tired and triggered. It will wait for us to feel confident about being sober. It will wait for damn near anything – time itself is no deterrent.
I came across another quote when I was preparing to write this piece, and if you just read it hurriedly or in passing, you may miss the profoundness of the statement:
“No matter what you’re going through,” Demi has said. “There’s a light at the end of the tunnel and it may seem hard to get to it but you can do it and just keep working towards it and you’ll find the positive side of things.”
I hope she still believes that, because it’s still true. The things she learned in recovery didn’t dissipate because she had a relapse. That’s another misconception. What you gain in recovery time, you keep. It’s yours. Now use it every single day – ONE single day at a time – to bolster your new recovery journey.
If you just keep working towards it.
Just keep working.
Just keep going.
I pray that Ms. Lovato will come out of this bolstered, strong, and with renewed commitment to recovery. Her light at the end of the tunnel has not been dimmed – it still shines bright waiting to guide her through recovery. I believe she will find the positive side of things again.
We are all pulling for you, Demi.

Please take a moment to consider the loss of life and talent that alcoholism and drug addiction has taken from the cultural landscape.

And then think about the voids left by the vastly more important people in our own lives who are lost or still in the trenches of addiction – the children, spouses, friends and family that you love.

Amy Winehouse, musician; Brian Jones, musician with The Rolling Stones;   Chris Farley, comedian, actor;  Cory Monteith, actor  and singer;  Darrell Porter, American professional baseball player ;  Elisa Bridges, model, actress;  Elvis Presley , musician, singer, actor, cultural icon; Freddie Prinze, actor;  Hank Williams, Sr., country music singer-songwriter; Heath Ledger, Australian actor;  Howard Hughes,  business tycoon, movie producer and director, aviator, engineer, investor; Janis Joplin, musician; Jim Morrison, musician, singer; Jimi Hendrix, musician and singer-songwriter;  John Belushi , actor and comedian; John Entwistle, bass guitarist for The Who; Jon Bonham,  drummer  and songwriter for Led Zeppelin;   Judy Garland, actress and singer; Keith Moon, drummer for The Who;  Kurt Cobain, Nirvana singer;  Len Bias, Boston Celtics player; Lenny Bruce, comedian ; Marilyn Monroe, actress, model, singer;  Michael Jackson, singer and icon; Richard Burton, actor; River Phoenix, actor;  Sigmund Freud, considered by many to be the founding father of psychoanalysis; Tommy Dorsey, jazz musician; Truman Capote, writer; and Whitney Houston, singer and actress; Philip Seymour Hoffman, actor; Prince, singer; Michael Jackson, singer; Whitney Houston, singer; Tom Petty, singer; Chyna, female wrestler; Scott Weiland, singer for Stone Temple Pilots; Corey Montieth, actor; Mikey Welsh, bassist for Weezer; Bobby Hatfield, singer for The Righteous Brothers.

When we got Nothin’, we Still have Hope

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By: Jana Greene

“You haven’t posted to The Beggar’s Bakery in a while…”

“The Beggar’s Bakery hasn’t gotten any new likes.”

“It’s been a while since your readers have heard from you.”

Such are the multitude of notices I’m getting that remind me I haven’t blogged in a while.

I’M SORRY, FACEBOOK OVERLORDS. I GOT NOTHIN’.

For six months, I’ve been writing a book about recovery. It hasn’t left any time and / or creative juice residue with which to write other things. Writing a book is stressful, but not nearly as stressful as surviving all the things that become material for the book. Right now, things are tough.

The book is all about the fierceness of the recovery life, whether that recovery be from drugs and alcohol or shitty childhoods, or bad relationships, or poor self-image. It is in fact titled “FIERCE Recovery.” But I am not feeling particularly fierce these days, you see.

I think maybe I am fierce in the same way as my fat house cat, who has delusions of grandeur that he is a big, scary panther, when in reality he is scared of the vacuum cleaner. We love him dearly, so he gets to live out his fantasy and we all pretend that he is super badass.

I AM fierce. I am strong.  But sometimes I’m delusional about what that means. Any thread of self-glory in those statements is being unraveled like a sweater. I’m naked underneath, but the thread keeps being pulled. Part of my fierceness is being exposed as vulnerability. Vulnerability can dangerous, but no more so dangerous than we are to ourselves when he hurt. Depression is a bitch.

But still, we have hope, because it’s a gift that is not the enemy’s to take. It’s not even OURS to withhold from ourselves.

I think my own personal free fall began with the death of a dear friend’s daughter from a heroin overdose. She was not just a friend’s daughter, but a young woman who I’d watched grow up alongside my kids and struggle with drugs. I had the distinct honor to “mentor” this girl for many of her recovery years, and came to love her.

My city is the “opiate capital” of the East Coast. Overdoses are commonplace. People are dying – mothers, fathers, daughters, sons. It is becoming “normal” to hear that someone I know directly or indirectly owe their lives to Narcan now.  Every day I hear of another overdose death, and every single time it brings my heart back to the girl who didn’t mean to die, but didn’t know how to live without her drug.

In other news, the suicide rate is skyrocketing. We were all sad to hear of Chef Anthony Bourdain’s passing, but how much more devastating are the lives lost in our own friend and family circles? People I love very much are being hospitalized for depression. Beautiful human beings are considering taking their own lives, choosing a permanent “solution’ to temporary problems. (Note: ALL problems here on planet Earth are temporary! It’s a universal law that things ALWAYS get better!)

Its as if two of the four horses of the apocalypse – suicide and drugs  – have decided to trample the human race under sharp, deadly hooves. We are all so tired.

But we cannot ourselves afford to tire of pulling each other out of the way, when people are hurting so badly.  But damn, it’s overwhelming.

Maybe it’s not so important that I fit the definition of FIERCE.  Perhaps I don’t need to feel like I have all the answers before I feel worthy to write a blog that says “I’m struggling. You?”

Maybe FIERCE is simply keeping the faith anyway. Maybe ‘fierce’ is just not drinking, and instead writing all of your janky and desperate thoughts and publishing them to a blog that other people might be able to relate to.

Maybe that’s why I’m supposed to write this piece because Facebook wouldn’t get off my back. Maybe we all need reminding that there is hope.

So long has we have a shred of hope, we cannot count ourselves spiritually bankrupt. Sometimes a direct hit right in the delusions of grandeur can shake hopelessness loose and release our inner Big Scary Panthers. Those badasses are all about survival.

The world would be a different place if people understood that they are precious to a loving God, who adores them just the way they are. Still a difficult place, but not a hopeless one.

That means you. He loves YOU.

“I got nothin'” has, in prior times of struggle, been enough for God to work with. Empty of all suggestions to make to God in order for things to work out the “right” way, we just ‘are.’ We stand in need of the one thing we cannot ourselves manufacture – HOPE. We are empty of answers, and desperate for his intervention.

If I’ve got nothin’, my hands are free to pull others up off the ground. They are free to hold tight to God’s promises.

So if you are reading this and your heart is despondent, just know that you’re not alone.

I won’t drink if you won’t!

I won’t give up, if you don’t!

Please don’t lose hope – you are loved.

Vulnerability is okay. We can be badasses in need of help. That’s not an oxymoron!

Take my hand and I’ll pull you out from under the stampeding horses.

And then when you can get on your feet,  YOU take someone else by the hand and pull them out, too.

Because when we got nothin’, that is everything.

Romans 5:4-5 [Full Chapter]

“There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!” – (MSG)

 

If you are overwhelmed, please reach out for help!

SUBSTANCE ABUSE AND MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES ADMINISTRATION

1-800-662-HELP (4357)

NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE

1-800-273-8255

NATIONAL ALLIANCE ON MENTAL HEALTH

1-800-950-NAMI (6264)

 

 

 

Her Name is Natalie

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By: Jana Greene

Every day, more than 115 people in the United States die after overdosing on opioids. The misuse of and addiction to them is an absolute crisis – and the deaths of those who overdose affects every facet of life in every community. It’s absolutely out of control.

I have the pleasure of living in a beautiful beach town, but the displeasure of living in what has become known as the “Opioid Capital” of the nation. My town is Wilmington, North Carolina. Things are bad here – addiction things. Really bad.

Last week, I was en route to a recovery meeting on a regular Monday night, in a less-than-pristine part of town. As I turned onto the venue street, a saw a young woman walking on the sidewalk parallel to the street. From the back she looked like every other 20-something  – she wore palazzo pants and a tank top, and her hair was atop her head in a messy bun. But she looked like a girl who was in a hurry to get nowhere. Her steps were unmeasured and unsteady. She looked only at the ground. As I passed her, I glanced back and saw that she had a look of defeat on her otherwise beautiful face.

As usual, there were a group of folks standing around the entrance to the building, just smoking and talking. As I’d never attended this particular meeting before, I rolled down the window and asked a gentleman if I was at the right place.

“Yes,” he said. But he wasn’t looking at me at all, but at the young woman walking by staring at the sidewalk as she passed.

“Natalie!” He yelled, as I took a parking space. “NATALIE!”

In my rear view mirror, I watched Natalie reluctantly saunter over to the man, whose name I would later learn was Bill. They were speaking right behind my vehicle, and when I got a better look at the girl, I felt a pang in my heart so suddenly that it left me breathless for a moment.

Natalie is a drug addict. She is what society labels a “junkie.” This young lady looked as if she were headed to knock on death’s door. I imagine she gets judged, everywhere she goes, what with the track bruises up and down her arms and hollow, sunken eyes. She is rail thin, and the look on her face is one of 100% proof hopelessness. She’s given up, and just waiting for her body to follow suit.

I watched Bill trying to convince her to come to the meeting. He was trying to convince her to get help. I couldn’t help but overhear their conversation, which mainly consisted of Bill lovingly encouraging her and reminding her there is a better way, and she mumbling “I know” with her eyes down as she shifted from foot to foot.

When I opened my car door and headed into the meeting, I heard Bill tell her that she is worth it. And I heard Natalie say, “I’m not a bad person; I just have a problem.”

She’s right. she is not a bad person. She is only a sick person.

I have heard offhanded comments about the Narcan – an FDA-approved nasal form of naloxone for the emergency treatment of a known or suspected opioid overdosethat infer taxpayers should not have to bear the cost to bring “just another junkie” back to life after an overdose. There is NO SUCH THING as “just a junkie.” It troubles me greatly that people could dismiss the value of human life so blithely.

Natalie is somebody’s little girl. Somebody once sang nursery rhymes with her and put oversized bows in her hair (or should have.) She was a tiny girl once, and then she most likely got hurt – maybe so deeply that she can’t bear to feel those haunted emotions. Maybe she grew up loved and safe, and suffered an injury and got hooked on pain meds. Maybe she just experimented with a drug “once,” and it rewired her brain and now she cannot stop. She might be somebody’s mother who should be putting oversized bows in her daughter’s hair right now, but wakes up to repeat the same nightmare day after day as the child grows up basically motherless. It’s a horrible cycle.

It really doesn’t matter how she got here. It matters that she survives it.

A couple of months ago, the opioid epidemic became manifest to me in the loss of a sweet girl who I loved and helped mentor. She grew up with my daughters, came to their sleepovers, went to the beach with us, and brightened all of our lives. She was funny and smart and beautiful, and 25 years old. The last time I heard from her, she had two entire solid years clean! In three month’s time, she would relapse one single time, and not survive to pursue her recovery again. What an absolute waste. She leaves behind a son, a loving family, and too many friends to count. She has left a hole in our community.

I’m writing this now in tribute to that beautiful friend. And for the sake of Natalie and everyone like her whose live has become a spiral of destruction and shame.

This deadly addiction is a spreading plague. It’s happening to the poor and downtrodden.  It’s happening in the pristine parts of town. It’s happening to people from good families. Parents who love their children are dying in front of them.  It’s got to stop. We are losing so many precious lives. What can we do?  I won’t pretend to know how to fix this. Nobody does. The issue is so big and monstrous.

But I do implore you to do two things, even though I know that they are hard:

  1. Try not to assume things about a drug addict. You never know what personal Hell they’ve been through. You never know how utterly impossible getting clean seems to him / her.
  2. Treat addicts and alcoholics who are still active in their disease as if you believe there is hope for them, because there is. So long as they are breathing, there is hope. We don’t treat people battling cancer as if they are already dead; we treat them as if they will come out the other side. Drug addicts need you to love them as if they will get well. Not enable, mind you. Just love. It may be hard to treat people who are making really shitty choices with respect, but the true selves in them are not the junkie selves you see.

Natalie didn’t come to the meeting that evening. She was too addled by where she would get the next fix to listen to Bill. And that’s how this demonic thing works. She is thinking “just one more.” Just one more time, and then I’ll quit. I just have a problem. I will fix it tomorrow. But sometimes, tomorrow doesn’t come for these precious souls.

She’s not a bad person. God bless her broken heart.

How did this epidemic get started? Check out more alarming stats and facts here:  National Institute on Drug Abuse 

And the Band Plays on – Addiction Complacency / Grace-full Recovery

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By: Jana Greene
I just came across a post on my Facebook news feed by a friend who just lost someone she loved to the ravages of addiction. He OD’ed on heroin.
It started like so many, many posts I come across – RIP. Rest in peace.
I’m so tired of people resting in peace before their lives are lived to completion.
I never knew this friend of my friend’s.  I’ve  never heard his name prior to this event – but my spirit knows his spirit, and I pray his is at peace.
It’s easy to become numb to the loss of life from addiction. We are in the midst of opiate saturation and fatal / ‘functioning’ alcoholism, because the human condition is so confoundedly painful. It just really is.
Behind every story of death via substance abuse, there is a son or daughter. A mother, a father. A friend. A person of great and precious worth.
How does society deal with loss on such a grand scale?
Too often, by accepting the undercurrent of judgement as truth, and denying that addiction is a freaking brain disease.
Another day, another RIP memorial page on Facebook.
One more overdose victim. I guess he had it coming.
One more person who drank herself to death. She asked for it.
Nobody says it out loud, but the sense of exasperation is tangible.
Hey world-at-large – IT’S A DISEASE.
Meanwhile, the rest of us cannot afford to rest.
I’m glad that there are programs that allow participants the luxury of anonymity (and I certainly respect the anonymity of others) but I’m not sure how long we can afford to hide our faces. The faces of addiction, but more importantly – the faces of RECOVERY.
Because not all of us will RIP before our time, but surely stigma enables keeping the disease alive and kicking.
Every overdose should shock the shit out our systems. It should worry us when we start thinking of a lost life ‘just another.’ It should break our hearts.
Karl Marx is quoted as saying ‘religion is the opiate of the masses,’ and I think there is truth in that. But religion as we know it often carries the same numbing properties as any other opiate. Relationship with the living God is what the masses are really craving.
We are all just really jonesing for relationship.
If you can’t justify being compassionate because you believe addiction is solely a moral peril, I challenge you to consider it an act of compassion from one fellow human being in confounding pain to another.
One spirit to another.
The gentleman who died of a heroin overdose, he brought to mind tonight the parable of the lost sheep in the biblical book of Luke.

“…By this time a lot of men and women of doubtful reputation were hanging around Jesus, listening intently. The Pharisees and religion scholars were not pleased, not at all pleased. They growled, “He takes in sinners and eats meals with them, treating them like old friends.” Their grumbling triggered this story.

“Suppose one of you had a hundred sheep and lost one. Wouldn’t you leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the lost one until you found it? When found, you can be sure you would put it across your shoulders, rejoicing, and when you got home call in your friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Celebrate with me! I’ve found my lost sheep!’ Count on it—there’s more joy in heaven over one sinner’s rescued life than over ninety-nine good people in no need of rescue.”

Jesus gets it. He didn’t go after that one sheep to feed it opiates. He went after it because He couldn’t bear missing out on relationship with one who had so much worth.

It’s my honor to show my face and be non-anonymous. I am an alcoholic who did not die of my disease, but who still asks God for help in my recovery journey every single day.

The Temptations got it right with this song….I hope we can get it right, too.

“The sale of pills is at an all time high,
young folks walkin’ ’round with their heads in the sky,
Cities aflame in the summer time,
and the beat goes on.
Eve of destruction, tax deduction,
City inspectors, bill collectors,
Evolution, revolution, gun control, the sound of soul,
Shootin’ rockets to the moon, kids growin’ up too soon.
Politicians say more taxes will solve ev’rything, and the band played on.
Round and round and around we go, where the world’s headed nobody knows.
Ball of confusion,
That’s what the world is today.
Hey hey.” –
The Temptations, “Ball of Confusion”

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