We do recover…

To accompany yesterday’s blog post, I posted a Facebook status asking how many of my friends have clean time too. It’s a public status so you can go ahead and see for yourself… The idea was to get something positive to follow up the post with. I have around 3000 Facebook friends, which is enough for a good random sample size when asking this kind of question. And apart from a small handful of friends I made in 2010 in rehab, all of them are friends I made more organically, just by friending other atheists and people with common interests. (Mostly atheists.) You also won’t see all the responses there though… because one man was banned and sent me a direct message, and another chose not to reveal his substance of choice in public but did in Messenger. And obviously, what was stated to me in confidence remains in confidence.

I’m not going to count the comments (feel free), but will rather post details from some of them. Among the commenters were people who are…

  • 554 days clean. (Substance not disclosed.) Kudos to her, and wow that she’s still counting in days! I stopped counting in days at 31 because I’m lazy – then counted in months from 2 to 23, and counted in years from 2.
  • 18 years clean. (Again, not disclosed.)
  • 19 years clean. (Disclosed privately.)
  • 12 years. (Meth.) A.J. Dunzan – proud of his recovery and doesn’t mind if I use his name.
  • 31 years. (Alcohol.)
  • 7 years. (Alcohol.)
  • 25 years. (Substance not disclosed.)
  • 1 year. (Alcohol.)
  • 6 years. (Meth.)
  • 2 years. (Heroin and methadone.)
  • 7 years. (Crack.)
  • 25 years. (Substance not disclosed.)
  • 7 years. (Alcohol. Now uses cannabis medicinally and has a drink occasionally.)
  • 9 years. (Alcohol.) Direct message because he’s banned so this one isn’t a response to the post.

OK, so I did count. 14 people, but that’s out of a sample of 3000 who were added over ten years, because they are atheists. I specifically asked for atheists, and all but one of these, who is 25 years clean and takes part in a secular 12 step program, all are clean without a program or god belief.

I find this encouraging, especially since these were people added randomly, and some just happened to be people who struggled with addiction. There is a more or less equal distribution of men and women, and a wide variety of amount of time clean, ranging from 18 months to 31 years, with two of them 25 years clean. In fact, if I take the mean  (rounding the 18 month one up to 2 years because I don’t know the number of months for any of the others anyway), that’s 12 years… making my own clean time (of 7 years) below the average in my friends’ list.

The calculation I used is:

  • If I don’t include myself: 171/14 = 12.2
  • If I include myself: 178/15 = 11.8

Either way, the mean is close to 12 years.

So don’t let anyone tell you that recovery is impossible, or that “once an addict, always an addict” bullshit. Out of this random sample of people, 15 including myself have managed to quit drugs or alcohol.

Edit: Worth mentioning is that none of the people who friended me in rehab in 2010 responded to the status. They generally don’t. There’s also someone I worked with years ago who is 17 years clean (meth), but he didn’t respond so I’m not including him. So this is truly a sample of people who were added for reasons other than recovery. Also, I omitted two comments from my list: One by someone who is not clean (There’s always one?) and one made by a man who forgot to say how long he’s been clean, so I can’t use his comment.

In my fifth year clean feels like a weird way of putting it when I’m four years and a bit clean.

Excuse the long title and short post but I don’t have much to say today…

While I was on leave recently, we (Josh and I) went to Gold Reef City with my brother, his wife, and Josh’s cousins. At one point my brother remarked that I’m in my fifth year clean.

That strikes me as such a strange way of putting it. I mean, I’m four years and four months clean now, but yes – I’m in my fifth year clean if I want to phrase it like that. I don’t like putting it that way because it would also be technically correct to say that I was “in my first year clean” one day after quitting drugs. Seems a tad disingenuous to put it that way, and it will give some people the impression of an extra year because of the way our minds work.

Clean time, despite the post, is no longer something I normally think about. Every month or year now isn’t a milestone any more. It’s just something to keep a note of so I can tell other people and feed my ego. I’m not working on this, so just living long enough isn’t really any kind of an achievement. It does mean something to other people who judge my success by how long I’ve been off meth of course, but for me, I must be careful not to let it inflate my pride too much. A little bit of ego and self confidence is good, but too much is not. Too much feels more like narcissism.

It’s good to be proud. But I think we all need to be careful not to be too arrogant or full of ourselves. Take a look at the president of the United States if you don’t believe that narcissism is a bad thing.

Four Years Clean

Wow. I can’t believe another year has passed. This time I don’t have much to say. I’m four years clean. Fuck you, crystal meth, I won!

Just two days ago, I received a copy of the letter from court indicating termination of foster care and that my son was returned to my care on 15 December 2015. And coincidentally, a new employee, a junior developer who sits beside me, started working with me recently – someone whose father was also an addict. It’s a reminder that these things don’t always have a happy ending.

He stopped seeing his father sometime in his childhood, and due to his father being violent and threatening there was a restraining order preventing further contact… and the man died while my new colleague was still a teenager. Now he’s struggling to decide whether or not to rekindle a relationship with his grandparents. It’s a grim reminder of what could have happened to me – I could have lost my son forever, and then lost my life, if I hadn’t cleaned up four years ago.

But of course I did clean up, and in the end it was easy. I’m not special, and if I can do this, so can you.

While I am enormously proud of my success, I am also humbled by the knowledge that it would have been so easy not to make it. There’s a fine line between the man I am and the man I could have been if I hadn’t stopped using meth. That’s why I don’t judge those who don’t manage to get it right. But the good news is, you can do it.

Three years clean

For the past six months, I’ve been sharing almost three years clean too often. This last six months has dragged on far too long, so I am glad it is finally over and I can stop saying “almost”. Fuck “almost”, I am three years clean, at last.

I’ve often mentioned how easy it was to stay clean, and it has been easy. At least, staying clean has been, after I made the decision to do so. The hard part was getting to the state of mind of not wanting to use anymore, and it is equally difficult to define exactly how and why that happened.

The reason three years clean is such an important milestone to me, is that my relapse, after an initial nine months clean, landed me back in active addiction for about two years and nine months, so three years is the smallest number of whole years that’s greater than the duration I last used.

Before that day, before the 4th September 2013, I had tried (to quit using meth) and failed a number of times, so many that I lost count. In the end, my motivation came from an unexpected and ironic source: Megan, my ex who had cheated on me so many times I lost count. Megan, who in 2009 at the end of my first round with meth, lay in bed with the man who had beat me to a pulp, asking him if he was OK because he vomited from the overpowering stench of my blood that was everywhere, as I shifted my face on the mattress I lied on, on the floor, so that most of the blood pouring from my mouth would end on the floor rather than soaking my pillow. Megan who then followed me into rehab and joined me at six months clean, only to talk me into using at 9 months clean. Megan who then, after we sorted things out again, would leave me for another man and abandon me to my addiction again, only to return when the other guy died and she had no way of caring for her then four month old baby.

When she returned that time, I took a good look at myself and my life, and I stopped using that day. I have never used again.

One of my issues since then has been guilt… Why couldn’t I stop for our son? But I could for her daughter? I brought her daughter up for nearly two years, only to have them leave again. And I have won our son back, who was in foster care because of our addiction. It’s been nine months since I got him back, and our lives are going great. But for a long time, I had to ask myself… Why couldn’t I get this right long ago?

The answer, it seems, is that I was trying to take on too much. My addiction was my fault. But what wasn’t my fault, was the way I was treated post-addiction. I was isolated, punished, and judged by those who had written me off. Not having my son with me was the worst possible punishment, and it removed any motivation I had to be clean and sober. Worse than that, my son’s foster care officially started at a time when I was clean. I didn’t get here because of the support from others; I got here despite it. I am not and never will be a “grateful recovering addict”, unless I am grateful to myself, and to Megan whose return and daughter came at exactly the right moment to give me the motivation I needed to clean up for good.

I’m happy and all is well now, but it is difficult dealing with some people who act so very fucking supportive now, but who not long ago, tried any tactics they could to prevent me from being reunited with my son. It’s difficult not to be bitter when dealing with insincere, fake people. And it is ironic that those people still think that Megan was the biggest mistake of my life. Truth be told, if it wasn’t for her and I daughter, I might never have cleaned up. She has her problems, and I didn’t ever get to mend our broken relationship, despite trying for years, but she was far from the worst person in my life.

This wasn’t supposed to be negative. I am happy, and this year has been the best one for a while. Things will only get better. But it’s hard to look back without being amazed that I got here, because there really was a lot stacked against me.

I will not be mentioning my clean time anymore, except for each year on September fourth.