I thought I was being clever, writing my three years clean post a month in advance… But it has come out quite negative. That wasn’t the intention, but this shit needs to be expressed. So I’ll publish this one anyway. Think of it as the “two years and eleven months clean” post. I’ll have another go next month and try to write something positive…
It seems almost unreal that I finally got here. Three years. There was a time when going without meth for a few hours was difficult. I did (go without) every day at work back then, but the only thing that got me through to the end of every day was the knowledge that I’d get some more meth on the way home. It was, for a time, all that I lived for. What had started as a crutch to help my poor social life, which fixed my shyness and gave me confidence, had mutated into a monster, but one that I relied on for every activity of my life, despite some horrendous consequences.
And yet I should not be surprised that I made it this far. On the day that I finally quit meth for good, I knew that very day that it was over. There was no doubt for me. It’s difficult to say what was different to all the times before, but somehow I did just know. It wasn’t another half-hearted attempt, like so many before it. The decision was made, and it was final. The difference was my motivation, I suppose, but I don’t care to write about that today.
Three years is both significant and simultaneously insignificant for me. The time elapsed makes it significant, because it is long enough for most people to be fairly certain that I’m correct when I say I won’t use again. When I say that I am over it, people believe me. It’s insignificant it terms of what I’ve learned and progress made in the duration of time that has passed.
The first few days were difficult, but I was steady and confident from about two weeks clean onwards. The difference it has made to my life since then has not been about my “progress” in recovery; it’s been about the consequences of being clean. Back when I first started using, someone told me that you can’t get higher than high. (I tried to prove her wrong, of course, and replied sarcastically, “I’m as high as a kite. I wanna be as high as a satellite.” Yup, rhyming was my thing back then… but she was correct.) Well, the converse is also true. You can’t be cleaner than clean. Whether you’re clean for a month, or six months, or a year, or three years, you’re still clean. That’s how it’s been for me at any rate… no grades of sobriety, no magic special wisdom gained by being clean. Once I made the decision not to use drugs any more, that was that.
My son was in foster care because of my mistakes, and I could not get him back until I was not only clean for a while, but until I had completed two programs to comply with a court order. I did that, but I do not credit my sobriety to those programs.
One of the two programs was a generic course for offenders, which a court order stipulated I do as a “parenting course”. It turned out to be a NICRO diversion program, where my ex and I were the only attendees without any criminal record. (The others were made up mostly of DUI offenders, some shoplifters, a mugger, a couple of wife-beaters, and one cop who’d committed assault.) It was run by a lazy social worker who divided us into groups and let the groups come up with their own statements and conclusions to share. Interactions between the attendees was pitiful. I recall one meeting where a teenage girl, who was pretty to the others but also loud, spoke to everyone in a long tirade about happiness, which in her limited life experience is something one reaches through external means. I was the only one who argued that happiness comes from within, but nobody would listen to me or even contradict her because she was loud. So that was the extent of that program… a bunch of idiots who were too timid to contradict a teenage girl, coming up with the “answers” to their own problems in group discussions. That program was a complete waste of time in terms of helping me stay clean or be a better parent… or anything really. It’s purpose was only a report to go to our case’s social worker.
The other program was an outpatient program in a rehab that followed the 12 steps. I did not do that until I was already about 17 months clean. Actually, although I knew I had to do that program, I’d been putting it off for a long time. I have never written about the reason I chose to do it when I did… Josh was in foster care, and his foster mother had called the social worker dealing with our case. She told her that I was using again, because she saw some pimples on my face. (I still have those pimples, although you can hardly see them because I have been going to a dermatologist for treatment. Also, I had that skin condition since I was in my twenties, about 10 years before I ever used meth.)
So she called the social worker to try and create obstacles to prevent me from seeing my son. That’s the way it was back then: My word against hers, and my word didn’t count for shit. I was clean for almost a year and a half, but had no proof. So the baseless accusation was enough to prompt me to go to that rehab and pay for a drug test, which I did immediately upon hearing of the accusation.
While I was there, I registered for the outpatient program. I’m glad I left it for so long though. I’d learned enough at that point to have the right attitude in group meetings. I knew what to say, and more importantly, I knew what not to say – what innocent questions not to ask. (Seriously, ask the wrong questions or suggest that addiction is about poor choices, and you may be labelled as “not committed” and may even be thrown out.) Their approach to treatment was dogmatic, and I knew enough to fake it, to fit in and appear to make progress while participating in the program, even though my sobriety was already certain and the program actually made bugger-all difference to my staying clean. Of course it did make a difference to my getting my son back, but it had no value to my recovery. (Actually I seem to have confused the time a little. I started that program at the end of November 2014, so I was 14 months clean when I started it. It was only an 8 week program, but it took about five months because the people running it had a Christmas holiday, and my therapist was off on sick leave for some time as well. So it dragged on a bit, and I was a few days short of 18 months clean when I finished the program.)
That’s the way it was back then… It was my word, the word of the junkie who nobody believed, against those who were raising my son. There was always a reason for me not to see him, always something more important to his foster mother than him seeing me. When I raised the issues, she and her ex were able to persuade the social worker that I was wrong, and I was told that the issues were in my imagination. Although her ex – my brother – did become more supportive in the end. And I never know if my feelings about her are unfair… After all, she loves my son, and had become attached to him.
Aside… I had to resort to some fairly nasty tactics back then. When things were not in my favour – when obstacles were placed before me to prevent me seeing my son, I did not hesitate to write about them, publically. That meant “violating the privacy” of my son’s former foster parents. The truth was more important to me than anything else. (i.e. Jeopardize my chances of getting my son back, or even seeing him, and it will be on public record. That’s how I saw it.) They will deny this, but sometimes that helped me. I was later asked to remove my old blog, after they pressured the social worker who had to facilitate reunification, which I did. Of course it was easy to say that our issues were between us, and that I had no business making them public, but the truth is never so clear… By making every obstacle placed between me and my son visible to the public, I created pressure, and I’m not sorry I did.
When it came to the final court date, she (his former foster mother) was taken by surprise. Somehow she didn’t know that he would be reunified with me, was in denial until it finally happened. Just two days before the court date, she called me and said that “This case isn’t simple”… whatever that meant – even though I had the documents prepared by the social worker that recommended the foster care come to an end. And I still have to have a relationship with her, because Josh still loves her. It is difficult, because to this day I do not trust her. (I can’t trust somebody who would call the social worker and make baseless accusations against me. Regardless of how good her intentions may have been, this is enough for me never to trust her.)
Most people in meetings (back when I used to attend them) spoke of the consequences of their addictions, but few acknowledged the difficulties in recovery. Once out of active addiction, you must pay not only for your mistakes… You are also very much at the mercy of others. Some of the difficulties in recovery are not reasonable consequences of addiction; they are instead the effects of being at the mercy of others who will take advantage of your “inferior” status as a drug addict. There are even consequences of addiction itself that are not direct effects of using drugs, but instead are effects imposed on addicts simply because other people know that they used drugs. People can be malicious and cruel. I could have had my son back a year earlier, but I was at the mercy of lazy social workers in a system where it was easier to continue the foster care over and over. In the end, I was lucky enough to get a new social worker on her first case who was keen and energetic… maybe if the old one hadn’t quit and moved on, the foster care could still have been dragging on. I have known other addicts who had their children removed, who despite years of sobriety, never got them back. The reality of recovery is that things don’t always end happily ever after.
But that’s all in the past for me now. I am happy. I have my son again since last December, have a good job, and I am three years clean! I haven’t had the false comfort of a higher power, a sponsor or a fellowship that I belong to. Recovery has been a lonely experience for me. But isn’t it always? At the end of the day, all the things that recovering addicts who follow 12 step programs (and do recovery the “normal” way) rely on, are false comforts. At the end of the day, you are on your own. I regret some of my past for sure, but I do not regret the way I have approached recovery. I’ve done what worked for me, and the way I see it, that is the only way to go.