Demi Lovato and Relapse – No Addict Left Behind

Demi

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.

Relapse Traps – Respecting the Disease

By:  Jana Greene

Over a dozen years ago, I became friends with a woman in California who got sober a few years  before I did.  We met on an internet support board for women alcoholics.  In retrospect, the venue for our support group sounds a little cheesy but there’s nothing cheesy about lives being saved, which is what happened there for some of us.

My Cali friend and I spoke on the phone regularly, and our bond that spanned the confines of dial-up internet and many miles.   In Malibu, she could literally be sticking a toe into the Pacific Ocean as I, on the coast of North Carolina, could be sticking a toe in the Atlantic.

She is Reiki where I am Massage Envy and she knows her way around auras and energies the way I know my way around town to find something deep-fried (equally good for the soul). You might not think we have much in common, if you were to look on the surface – but addiction and recovery are not skin-deep endeavors.    I love her and I respect her immensely, we are family – kindred spirits in recovery,   One Day at a Time, all glory to God.

There were a number of women in our little support group who did not remain sober.  Some still attempt sobriety, only to relapse time and time again.  For them, recovery hasn’t “stuck” yet, and I don’t know why.  I wish I understood why some people stay sober and some don’t, but taking my own recovery “inventory” is enough of a job for me – it’s plenty.

Not everyone survives active addiction.  That’s what people often forget about alcoholism…it can kill you.

For the first couple of years of my recovery, I had this awful, knee-jerk reaction to these friends who picked up the drink again after some period of sobriety.  Not angry with them, exactly – but angry at them, resentful and threatened.  What do you mean you got drunk last night?  You’ve been sober for the eternity of two weeks!

I resented relapsers because I myself had been one for years.  It terrified me that I could lose all of my “time” just like that.  I knew it was possible – that it is still possible, if I don’t give recovery the attention that I once gave the drink.  We alcoholics, in the midst of having a disease for which there is no cure, can only manage it by implementing 12-steps for living, and not picking up the poison.

Of course, it is the disease that tries to convince you that the poison is the medicine for your condition.

So when a friend on our support board would fall off of the proverbial wagon,  it had  seemed to me that she had gotten to enjoy a nice buzz for a while scot-free.  That she would get to start sobriety over again like nothing ever happened.

Except for something always happened.  Not once did a relapse lead to enlightenment, to repaired relationships….to healing.   Not once would the relapser even mention the buzz, so eclipsed was it by her self-loathing.  She would never claim the episode was anything but miserable and harrowing.  I knew that because each time I had relapsed, it had gotten harder to get back in the game.  To survive.

Alcoholism is a deadly disease with no respect for the length of previous sobriety; if I picked back up, I start wherever I left off before the relapse.  It is also no respecter of sex, age, faith, wealth or beauty; it is an equal opportunity killer.

Still, it demands that I must respect it – the disease.  Simply put:   If you can’t swim, the best way to avoid drowning is to stay out of the water.  Don’t even put a toe in.

My heart breaks for those in relapse-mode.  It is a terrible place to be.

A few weeks ago, I spoke to my Cali girl on the phone and we remembered our friends whom are still – all these years later – struggling like crazy.  We talked about not taking our disease for granted.  When you have recovery in common, you have everything in common.

No one ever regretted having stayed sober.  A life in sobriety is a life saved for an addict.

It is its own sweet, undeserved and precious reward.

Romancing the Drink

By:  Jana Greene

“There are all warning markers – DANGER! – In our history books, written down so that we don’t repeat their mistakes.  Our positions in the story are parallel – they at the beginning, we at the end – and we are just that capable of messing it up as they were.  Don’t be so naive and self-confident.  You’re not exempt.  You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else.  Forget about self-confidence, it’s useless.  Cultivate God-confidence.” – 1 Corinthians 10:11 (The Message)

It is hard to wrap my mind around the Holocaust, the horror and carnage of genocide.   And 9/11?  The images we all watched that day as they occurred resulted as what can only be described as hell on earth.  The past teaches us that human beings can inflict mind-blowing destruction onto other human beings.

History, if forgotten, repeats itself. and we all have a personal history, as well.

Recovering alcoholics have a tendency to “romance the drink”.  No matter how low one became when he or she “hit bottom”, there are those memories that somehow retain a rosy glow in the mind of addict.  The glass of champagne in celebration of a loved one’s wedding.   The salt-rimmed margaritas enjoyed at the beach in the summertime.  The warm glow experienced while drinking  beer at a barbecue with family.  By romancing the drink, we feel we are honoring the few snapshots of time in which we were not exhibiting addictive behavior.  For the person in recovery, it is a dangerous train of thought to board.  It is not accurate history.

What we human beings can do to ourselves is pretty horrific, too.

Romancing the drink doesn’t allow for the desperation to feel “other than” that preceded that rosy picture.  It does not acknowledge the lack of control from the very first sip, nor the dark craving for oblivion that is the goal of each drink.  Romancing it forgets about the self-demeaning actions  that followed many drinking sessions, the endless slide show of ugly behavior and shameful choices made under the influence.  It doesn’t reflect the sobering shame after the snapshot, nor the lives of the children and spouses left in the destructive wake of a drinking binge.  Romancing the drink will not show you the bigger picture: broken relationships, self-loathing, sickness, embarrassment, loneliness, shame and death.

What to do when romancing thoughts of our drinking days creep into our minds?  Sometimes they flash before us simply as memories  of  our lives in a different time, but other times they are a warning sign to stop and consider the trigger.

1.       Stress – for an active alcoholic or addict, the drug always promised to ease the stressful times in our lives, but ultimately did NOT deliver.   A glass of wine will not keep stress from affecting the mind and body…it only tricks it into thinking it will.  Fifteen minutes of oblivion is never worth repeating the history that brought us to sobriety in the first place. 

 

2.       Feelings of being out of control:  From my experience, addicts are often “control freaks”.  We like things to happen a certain way, and we like to know when they will occur.  This is one of the hardest things about recovery, because it requires constant submission to God.  Any illusion we had about being in control when we drank/used was just that – an illusion.  With sobriety, we can have the wherewithal to surrender that illusion to God DAILY. 

 

3.       Taking Sobriety for granted:  This is perhaps the most slippery rock of all.  If you are an alcoholic, you will not “outgrow” your disease.  Nor will you “get well”.  You have an incurable condition for which there are treatments and options for disease management.  Having one drink or using on one occasion does not prove you aren’t addicted; it only sets the stage for a painful and repetitive relapse pattern.  How much do I respect the parameters of my disease?   One drink is all it would take for me to fall flat on my face again.

 

4.  Putting confidence in self, rather than God.  I got myself into the mess of active alcoholism, but God got me out.  Having God-confidence is the difference between a successful recovery and a frustrating, self-driven relapse pattern, in my experience.  Part of managing the disease of addiction is to remember the past for what it was – dysfunctional.  I am just as capable of messing things up as I’ve ever been.  But God is my ever present help in danger.

It helps me to imagine each deceptively idyllic picture of having romanced the drink with its ‘before’ or ‘after’ snapshot, based in reality.    The glass of champagne imbibed in at a wedding?  It was really the fifth or sixth drink, as I had started while getting ready for the event hours before, and had to fill a soda cup with wine to keep the buzz at a comfortable level until the ceremony started.  The salt-rimmed margaritas in the summertime?  My drinking them  created an environment in which I took risks with myself and my children near the water, and embarrassingly passed out on the beach.  Beer at family barbeques?  What better venue than a family event to really get obliterated and make yourself sick because you cannot stop your drinking.

Romancing the drink honors that which does not deserve honor.  Tinkling glasses, and toasts among friends and feeling a part of the normal drinker world….such a small price to pay for living life with clarity, whole and full.  What I could not do for myself was no problem for our loving God when I cultivated confidence in him.

An honor he deserves.