Five years clean

Normally I’d wait until September 1st, tomorrow… to write this post. But tomorrow is Saturday and I’m going to be busy this weekend. I don’t see myself getting to writing anything at all this weekend, or even spending any time on Facebook. Life is more important to me that writing or recovery. So today it is then.

This seems fitting somehow, fitting to my (non) approach to recovery. The last time I attended an NA meeting was around March 2015. I still made a joke of my share, mentioning that I went there (the rehab where I did my outpatient program – which I did only to comply with a court order to get my son back) out of habit, and that all I wanted from them was my 18 month clean key tag, knowing very well that they didn’t keep tags going until that long because that place was mostly an inpatient rehab. This guy, Nick, asked why the tags were important to me if I didn’t care about meetings…

I figured he had a point. Not the point he intended, maybe, but a point nonetheless. His implication was that I “needed” those meetings just like he believed he did, even though he was seven years clean, living in Dubai, flying here to Johannesburg and attending meetings occasionally. But Nick did have a point… Why attend meetings and then diss them? (Especially if those meetings are important to the others there.) Why place any value in those key tags anyway? So I didn’t “keep coming back” and haven’t been back since. Can’t say I miss them.

Anyway, five years is good. It’s a milestone I’ve been looking forward to achieving. I’m glad to have reached it, and will continue to write a post tagged “milestones” every year around this time as long as I’m still alive to write it. Keep coming back…

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Daddy Bear for nearly two years now

It’s just over two weeks to a significant date for me – 15th December 2017 – and I don’t mean the release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. I mean the two year anniversary of the court date when foster care ended and I got my son back.

Although I’ve had my share of problems this year, the relationship between myself and Josh couldn’t be better. We are closer than ever, and it has been a joy to have him back. And will continue to be so.

The post title refers to his name for me… When he first came back, after being in foster care from 18 months to 7 years old, although he saw me regularly and used to call me “Daddy” when I visited, over time that became “My daddy” and eventually just “you”. He’d gradually become accustomed to calling my brother Daddy, and his wife Mommy. Although he quickly got used to calling them aunt and uncle, he couldn’t get comfortable referring to me as Daddy. So he came up with his own work around…

The first book he read in grade one featured Goldilocks and the Three Bears, so Josh asked if he could call me Daddy Bear. At first it was just a name he used at home. Then it became his actual name for me, the name he uses to refer to me when talking to others, the name he uses when we go out – the name he uses for me all the time. I don’t mind as it’s endearing. Others seem to think it strange. His cousins and others have made fun of him for it, but he doesn’t care. When people don’t like what he does, he does it anyway, and declares that they are idiots. Definitely my boy and I love him more for it.

So, things are not perfect. Being a single father isn’t what I wanted, and I did try to make that relationship with his mother work out for years after everybody told me to give up. But we make the best of what we have, and having my son, as well as being a parent to him, being the best parent that I can be… is the best part of my life.

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.

My fourth birthday since cleaning up

Yesterday was another milestone… not much of one but something towards the next important milestone… It was my 45th birthday, and also my third birthday after cleaning up.

To be honest, I’d regarded my age since cleaning up as a disappointment until recently, because the first (and only) time I went to rehab was in November 2009. I was 38 then, and I looked around at the other inpatients. I was above the average age, and although there were a few people older than me, most of them (except for one guy named Keith who was over 50 and an excellent marathon runner) were lifelong addicts. I didn’t want to be like them, so I figured it would be good if I could get clean and stay clean before age 40. But thanks to my relapse, I didn’t achieve that. In the end, I did clean up for good about a month before my forty third birthday.

Anyway, the only milestone I really care about is the 15th December. On that day last year, we had our date in court, and the magistrate’s decision was that there was no reason for Josh’s foster care to continue. So the 15th December 2016 will be a year since I got my son back. A year being a proper father again, with custody of my son, a chance to show everyone that I can raise him, and most importantly a chance to be there for him… to teach him the values that are important to me. I’ll write about that some more when the time comes, but it’s less than two months to go now, and all is well.

Update: Funny how easy it is to get these things wrong… I wrote this yesterday in a hurry while Josh played outside with some friends who live in the same complex. This was not my third birthday since cleaning up – it was my fourth. I cleaned up in September 2013, about a month before my 42nd birthday. Hence I had 3 birthdays since then. It’s confusing because of course the first was the same year I cleaned up, not a year later. Doubly confusing to anyone familiar with NA who reads this, is that they always ask about “birthdays” at the end of meetings. By “birthdays” they actually mean anniversary of cleaning up, not actual birthdays at all. I’ve always thoughts it’s stupid to refer to that as birthdays, since birthdays are, you know, when you’re born.

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.