Lectures at the fralin biomedical research institute
Lectures at the fralin biomedical research institute
Our site is undergoing maintenance. During this time we appreciate your patience and apologize for any inconvenience. We are upgrading our website for you and hope the changes will improve your site experiences in 2023!
“It was difficult to measure success in my life at one time. I thought that if I had enough dope to make it for a few days, then that was being successful. Today my success is measured by how well I’m doing inside, how I’ve managed or not, to apply spiritual principles to all my affairs.
I first came into contact with alcohol at age 4, a small half of a shot of wine, like the adults. Sips of my dad’s beer at times. I began smoking, or faking smoking, cigarettes at age 5. I remember getting caught at age 8-9 smoking, got ratted out by the very kids I was smoking with. I was addicted to sugar long before anything else, but it was just a sign of things to come. My first memory of that was standing on a kitchen chair at about 3-4 trying to make toast and put a ton of sugar on it, you know, piled higher and deeper. This was how the rest of my substance use would look like. I started stealing wine from home, cutting it with grape juice to cut the bitter taste, and taking it to school to drink with my buddies. They in turn would do the same. I remember breaking into a home and finding a bottle of Canadian Mist Bourbon, awful tasting stuff, but nonetheless, drank some, finding it really did change how I felt, thought, and acted. It wasn’t really to my liking though, but when I found Marijuana, oh it was much more manageable. Little did I know that I would spend the next 25 years chasing down a high in one form or another.
I chased my high all across the country, even hitch-hiked across America, taking Greyhound, jumping freight trains, and getting random rides from strangers. If I wrote a book about it, it would really read like a Hunter S. Thompson novel met Stephen King I think, both odd and scary. I went through phases in my use, periods where I drank more alcohol, smoked more weed, smoked and snorted more cocaine, took LSD, shot Methamphetamine, and even grew psychedelic mushrooms. I got arrested during the time I was addicted to Methamphetamine. I was praying to God one day that He would get me out the circumstances I was in, knowing I couldn’t get away from the Meth without help. So a buddy and I took off to go to Mexico to live on the beach, eat steak and lobster and live like kings. After all, we had a bag of about 3 pounds of trimmed leaves that we could sell and live on the money we made in Mexico where it was cheap to live (1986). (As you can see, magical thinking was a part of my addiction story). Long story short, we had left where we were, my Honda motorcycle in the back of his truck, headed to San Diego from Northern California. We didn’t have any gas money, so we decided to go to the Calaveras County Frog Jumps and sell some weed because it was before harvest and no one had any weed. I ended up getting arrested by an undercover police officer, while my friend got away by diving through a barbed wire fence and never got caught.
I spent a week in jail and was released on my OR with a promise to return to court in 2 weeks. I promised I would be back, little did I know, it would be 12 years before I returned. I left for Hawaii, where I had lived for a few years just prior to moving back to Northern California. I spent the next few years over there, even got on National Television Good Morning America, as a tour guide. Hard to believe I did that, knowing I had a warrant in California, but when in active addiction, good decision making isn’t usually happening. In Hawaii, I eventually put myself into treatment, spent 90 days in a crisis residential program, got therapy outside the program, was introduced to NA and AA, NA being my program of choice. I stayed clean a couple of months after leaving the program. I didn’t change all the things I needed to change, mostly my playgrounds and playmates. I went back to my tour guide job and eventually went back to using. It took another 8 years of wreckage to finally get back to recovery. I got hooked up with a some Deadheads, did summer tour in 91.92.93, and 94 all in the west, never went back east. Started growing mushrooms, selling weed, all the kinds of things one does to make money to support a large habit of smoking weed and drinking beer daily.
I met some great people, had some great times. I was with a girl for a short time, whom I met up with after coming back from Hawaii in 91, we got together again for a short time in 96, and as a result I have a son, who just recently had to get clean from his opiate addiction. The relationship with his mother didn’t work out for many reasons, mostly because God had other plans for me I guess. I moved from Salt Lake City where I had met his mother, and after Jerry Garcia died, found myself in Northern California again growing Mushrooms, mind you, doing all this while having a warrant for my arrest here in California. Had I been caught doing what I was, I wouldn’t be here writing this story today, I would still be in a penitentiary. God had other plans for me still. I was in a relationship with a woman, whom I thought I loved. I realize now that I had been compromising my values to be with her, as I had to denounce my faith in God to be with her. She proclaimed to be pagan and if I was a Christian, well we couldn’t be together. That relationship ended poorly for me at the time, as my internal resentment at myself for the choices I made, my own insecurities, my addiction, my unresolved problems, all came to a head and our relationship was over.
It was all my fault, I wasn’t capable of controlling my anger and internal turmoil. I thought if I got help for my anger that we would be able to get back together. I went to a therapist, was told they could help, but I needed to address my addiction, they gave me a referral to anger management. Anger management said they could help me, but I would need to address my addiction. Anger management gave me a referral to the county mental health and drug and alcohol program. I went there and they said they could help, but I would need to stop using drugs to be in the program. So I started going, tried to get clean, but started smoking weed again during the program and lied about it. Eventually my lying to them and myself stopped working. I got home from group and started to smoke some weed and began a conversation with myself, realizing I had asked them for help and I wasn’t letting them help me. On my way out of group that day, the counselor had said she didn’t believe I was telling the truth about my clean time and suggested I go to NA meetings. I knew about NA, had the Basic Text in a closet in one of my grow rooms. I went upstairs and got the book and began reading and realized they were talking about me. I got the courage to get the phone book and actually call the NA helpline. I found a meeting close to my house and went that night. I heard the things I needed to hear and began going to meetings every day. In the first 90 days I went to 224 meetings of both NA and AA. Eventually I stopped going to AA and just went to NA, that seems to be where I fit in best and the literature spoke my language, the one my heart identified with.
I walked away from the drug life, gave my partner all my drug business assets and moved into my sponsors house and slept on the living room floor, because another addict was already on the couch. I worked construction during that first year and then went to college. I was a high school drop out, but I took and Ability to Benefit Test and passed with high enough score to benefit from college. I was in an Alcohol and Drug Studies program that would prepare me to become a counselor. I worked part-time through the 2 year course at a men’s residential treatment program until the 4th semester where I now had to do my internship. I began working at the site I was doing my internship and ended up working there 10 years, rising through the ranks and eventually became the program manager. I was a certified counselor and eventually joined the largest counselor certification organization in the state and was elected to the board of directors. I have served on that board, eventually becoming the president of the board. I participated in consolidation of the 2 largest organizations in the state while president.
I have been serving the new organization as treasurer for this last year, and will remain on the board for the next 2 years until I step down to take some time off. I work for the largest healthcare organization in the state of California as a counselor. I love my job and the people I work with. I still am active in my recovery, work with a sponsor, have sponsees, go to meetings etc…. I’m now coming up on 18 years clean and my clean date is 12/5/97. I have been blessed to be where I am at today. I faced Hepatitis C treatment and have been virus free for 12 years. I got married and will celebrate 7 years on October 11th. I now have a relationship of sorts with my 19 year old son, who has been clean for 8 months now. I have a relationship with my parents and siblings. I have so many people in my life who love me and whom I love. Life is incredible. Heck I even went to the White House as a representative of the counselor organization and met with Deputy Director of Demand Reduction Deputy Director David Mineta. So you can tell, my life has taken turns that never would have been possible before recovery. This is a very short version of my recovery story, so much has happened that it is hard to capture in a short story. Suffice it to say, I’m living the fairy tale life that only recovery can bring a person.”
“I became ill in 2004 with several serious ailments, for almost the whole year. Just when I was starting to feel normal again I developed some neck/shoulder pain. I tried seeing a chiropractor. After three unsuccessful months, I finally went to a Orthopaedic doctor.
The Orthopaedic doctor sent me for some testing and I was diagnosed with thoracic outlet and no-lateral Carole tunnel. My shoulder pain steadily increased and I was not interested in surgery anytime soon. To help with the consistent pain the doctor put me on 5mg Percocet. Up until that point in my life I took very little medicine. Ever.
Over the years my pain got progressively worse while I developed more health issues. Bursitis in my shoulders and very painful fibromyalgia. Over the next few years my tolerance grew and so did my dosage. Then I developed Osteoarthritis in my knees. Ibuprofen only helped a little. Sometimes coming down my steps was so painful, I’d cry.
Well nine years later I found myself still taking prescription pain meds and I was still not open to the surgery for the thorasic outlet. By this time my tolerance had built until I was at 30mg of oxycodone, 2 at a time. I could usually take 2 in the morning, usually my most painful time of day and maybe get by with only needing one more later in the day. Two if I had a really physical day. My doctor was prescribing me 180 pills a month but I was only taking between 90 – 120 a month.
It wasn’t until the last year on the prescription pain meds, that I started to abuse them and it wasn’t the amount but the way I was taking them. A friend told me if I crushed them and snorted them they would work faster. During that time my husband had been having problems and we had separated. We were separated for 18 months. When we got back together, the first few months, we were friends and roommates. He is the reason I decided to come off the meds and reevaluate my medical issues. I knew I wouldn’t be able to just stop taking the meds cold turkey so I did my research and found a doctor to help me.
I met with the doctor and told her everything. Even how I had been taking the medicine. We discussed the two options I could use to wean off, Methadone and Suboxone. I chose Suboxone. I asked my doctor if I could wean off in about two months and she stated she thought it would probably take me three months due to how long I had been on and how high of a dose I was on. Well lo and behold I weaned off in three WEEKS. I had no side effects during the three week wean except maybe a little less energy. I did have some side effects after the three WEEKS but it was only diarrhea and a lot of yawning. Those two side effects were completely gone in less than six months.
So that is my experience with getting addicted to prescription medicine and getting off the medicine. There really is a lot more to my story. Enough so, that I could write a book I’m sure but it’s late, and I’m tired. If you want to know the rest, like how my husband is in Recovery too and has been since 2006 or about my DWI, I got in 2012, I’m willing to share. The funny thing is I didn’t drink a lot and I don’t miss it. Or how I am in a 12-Step program, my choice, and I like it. Please don’t hesitate to ask. I’ve always been a open book.”
“It seems like everyone has a story to tell. My social media news feeds are littered with links to blogs describing stories of wedding planners gone mad, and crayons melted into car seats. Well, I guess you can say I’m hopping on that wagon, in more ways than one. The only difference is, I’m sharing a less glamorous portrayal of life. I don’t have kids, I’m not a cook, and I don’t have the end all cure for cellulite. I’m writing for those of us who struggle with something a little needier and much less cute than a crying two-year old. I’m writing about my story of a relationship that is high maintenance, kicks you when you’re down, but you can’t seem to leave it. A relationship that goes by many names, and manifests itself in people of all shapes and sizes. I’m writing this with the hopes of helping anyone out there, who stops and says, “That sounds just like me. I’m not alone!” I hope that you can learn, find comfort, or just sheer entertainment from my stories. In return, I hope to find comfort in knowing that there are others out there like me. Now here I am, ready to show the world, me in progress…
I’d officially hit MY rock bottom. For years I’d struggled with a drinking problem. The thought of alcohol slowly trickled into my daily thoughts. Thoughts like “when will I get my next drink, do I need to stop on my way home and restock, when will this movie end so I can get a drink, should I take my car or will I be able to ‘drive’ home”. Eventually, these thoughts expanded to include the overwhelming guilt about the amount I drank, “how many calories did I just consume, what permanent damage had I caused my body, I needed to cut back, did I have enough money in my bank account to pay the bar tab, and I’m so embarrassed for acting like that last night”. These thoughts took up so much real estate in my mind that I didn’t have much room for much else.
Throughout my adult years, I engaged in the typical twenty-something activities: attending college, spending time with friends, hanging out at local bars and restaurants. I always viewed my behavior as the typical behavior for someone my age which usually consisted of consuming alcohol at nearly every event. It seemed like every activity included drinking alcohol in some form, whether at a sporting event, backyard BBQ, holiday party, and the list goes on. This behavior continued until I realized that it was not normal. And then I swept those thoughts under the rug and continued down the dark path. I realized that alcohol was beginning to become a priority in life and was my crutch to processing emotions, handling responsibilities, and addressing the stresses of everyday life. The numbing effects became my go-to answer for dealing with anything difficult or anxiety inducing. That was my solution until I found that the more I drank, the more unmanageable my life became.
At the end of last year, I started making some major lifestyle changes. I’m not just talking about a healthier life with my physical body, but a healthier life for my mind and soul. I started eating cleaner, making my own bath and body products, and trying to eliminate many of the toxins in my life. After years of smoking, I kicked the habit to the curb…we all know that’s not easy. Finally, I made a huge step to reduce how much I drink. I realized that my healthy efforts were flushed down the toilet with my 12 pack of Miller Lite. I began with switching the type of drink I consumed, avoiding aluminum cans, and purchasing trustworthy brands. This change lasted only so long, and before I knew it, I was back to my Miller Lite, and catching up for lost time. As my path became darker and darker, I began to draw a clear line between my relationship with alcohol and the stress in my life.
This understanding flipped the switch, so to say, that the only way I will achieve my full potential in life is through the complete abstinence from alcohol. I knew that in order to be successful in sobriety, I needed to reach out to those in recovery who have gone before me and who are going through the same changes as me. So, after many hours of Googling, I joined various online communities where the experience of sharing my story, as well as learning from others has provided more comfort and a feeling of belonging than I can ever describe.
So, here I am, days shy of my one year soberversary, to tell you that it is possible. And life is so much better on the other side. Sure, you’ll have your ups and downs, but nothing worth having is easy. So, for those of you who have read this and said, “that sounds like me!”, ask yourself: Why am I here? Who do I want to be? I’m a work in progress, but I’m finally figuring out the answers to those questions. And that’s why I won’t drink today!”
“In November of 1988, Thanksgiving as a matter of fact. I first asked the question of my family if they thought I may have a problem. My sister replied “If you think you have a problem then you may have a problem.” I went to seek help and help wasn’t readily available for cocaine users. By this time I had stopped using weed and alcohol because the cravings of cocaine/freebase were more warranted. When I did go seek help, I found out that since I did not have an alcohol problem inpatient care was not available. I started outpatient care and went to my first NA meeting 12/26/1988.
I stayed in outpatient care until July of the next year. During that time my Grand-father died and I had written a scenario of a relapse and I played that scenario out as I went to go say goodbye to my grand-father. My clean date is April 7, 1989. Since April of 1989 I have not had to use a substance under any circumstance. Raising 3 boys, obtaining employment, returning to college, graduating college, retiring, medical issues and numerous deaths of family and loved ones.
I found that by going to meetings and working the 12 steps – 12 traditions in all aspects of my life has worked. I have sponsored many women and I have shared my story up and down the East Coast of the United States. I have done work within Narcotics Anonymous and I have shared in detoxes, correctional facilities, and treatment centers.
Recovery rocks. I could not see my life any different and I feel I have been given two lifetimes in one lifetime.”
“How a gifted surgeon and God saved my life:
I have been a member of AA for the past 4 years. They say in Alcoholics Anonymous that you will eventually hear your story being shared by a chairperson. I have not yet heard my story. I think this may be because most people do not survive an acute bleed out of three and a half pints of blood in 20 minutes from 3 open varices in their upper intestine and esophagus.
I drank for for 27 years. At 38 I went to rehab and intensive outpatient therapy. I still did not believe I was powerless over alcohol. At 41 I developed ascites because of scarring of my liver. My eyes were very yellow. I was jaundice. I spent a week in the hospital having fluid drained from my body. I still do not believe I was powerless over alcohol. At 42 I vomited three and a half pints of blood in 20 minutes. 3 varices in my esophagus and upper intestine. For the grace of God and a very gifted GI surgeon,, who was still at the hospital at 8 o’clock at night, I am alive today! I had a 30 percent chance of living when I arrived at the ER. I was then given a 50 percent chance of living after emergency surgery. The second night in the ICU I crashed. For the grace of God they were able to bring me back. I am grateful today that AA and the 12 steps have made me a recovered alcoholic. I thank God for my continued spiritual experiences and have relieved me of the mental obsession and the physical craving of alcohol.”
“My name is Karen. I have 6 and a half years clean and sober. I am a nurse. I work in the fast-pace environment of the emergency room. I feel as though I live with a dark secret due to my history of addiction. The majority of my life I have lived a normal and routine life. My troubles occurred when I was under more stress than normal. The first time I used drugs inappropriately was my first year in college. I was in way over my head. I was distracted by a bad break-up. Marijuana made life bearable and I smoked, drank and experimented with other drugs almost every day. I think what sets me apart from some substance abusers is that I kept it together, was able to graduate from college, kept my job and used. I worked and paid my way through school. I have always been a functional user. After I graduated from college, I met my first husband. He did not smoke or drink. I followed his lead and stopped smoking and drank in moderation. We had two children. This was a period of relative normalcy. I went back to school and got my nursing degree. I would not say it was a perfect marriage, but who has one? After 17 years of marriage, my husband cheated on me. This eventually led to the end of my first marriage. This precipitated a downward spiral into sexual promiscuity, excessive alcohol consumption, resumption of cigarette smoking and abuse of an Ativan prescription. During this period, I met my second husband. We met while he was on the rebound from his first divorce. He was a drinker. He has a lot of his own issues so he was willing to overlook mine. During this time, my use had escalated into diverting benzodiazepines from work and using intravenously. I knew I had a problem and had visited some NA and AA meetings. Nothing was sticking though. I married my second husband during this period. I also was dabbling with opiates but not heavily. Things came to a head in 2004 when my husband caught me with a needle in my arm. I marched myself to inpatient rehab at that point. I stayed 28 days. I did a long stint of intensive outpatient and was clean for 2 years. Again, I was able to do this while keeping my job and getting treatment under the radar. I did very well for that time until my daughter was getting ready to get married. There was incredible stress leading up to the wedding and I actually drank and used at the wedding. That started a 3 year battle of primarily opiate use. Again, I was able to keep it under the radar. My husband never caught on. But quite frankly I got sick and tired of being sick and tired, as they say. I finally confessed to my daughter that I was using. Once it was out, I felt compelled to get treatment. I reached out to an outpatient treatment center. This time I also made an appointment with a psychiatrist specializing in addiction. I weaned myself off of the opiates. By the time I saw the doctor I had not used in more than a week. He started me on naltrexone. This medication has changed my life. I no longer fear temptation at my job. It has gotten me over the hump and allowed me to change my coping methods without backsliding. I did not want to use Suboxone because of the narcotic that is included. For the first 2 years, I did go to NA fellowship meetings. But I have not felt the need for them since then. I continue to see the psychiatrist. The biggest test of my recovery is occurring now. My husband was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last October. My life has been full of challenges since then. But with the help of my support system, healthy living habits and naltrexone, active addiction relapse is far from my mind. I am aware that I must be vigilant though. As an addict in recovery, I know how easy it is to slip back into a state of mind that could lead me to relapse.
I feel that naltrexone is an under used resource. I believe that if more addicts realized that they could take away the effects of the opiates without the abuse potential of Suboxone, it would allow more addicts to get over the hump to recovery.”