So for 23 1/2 months, I've been an addict, not an alcoholic.....

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    So when I went into treatment, I did not fit the clinical diagnosis for alcoholism. I didn't meet the criteria of an alcoholic but certainly hit every single one of them for an addiction. So for the past 23 months, I've been saying "I'm an addict. I could easily turn into an alcoholic by switching addictions or the alcohol would lead me back into my drug of choice (opiates)." I tried NA meetings in the beginning and they didn't work for me so I attend AA meetings and love them. I attend mostly AA meetings that are open to ALL addicts/alcoholics, etc. But for those who weren't, I always identified myself as an alcoholic. At some, I got the feeling I wasn't all that welcome to be there because I was an ADDICT, not an alcoholic, etc. And as time went on, I did start to feel as though I was almost "misrepresenting" myself or there under false pretenses, which went against the principles of a program of rigorous honesty.

    Well, I've started to get all twisted and resentful about this over the past few weeks. I started to take a good look at myself and started talking about it at my Aftercare that I attend once a week (I continue to attend although I was released after a year by the Board because I love, love, love this group and feel it's integral to my sobriety). I also brought it to my nurse support group, my LADC, and my sponsor. Then, I prayed about it and sat with myself, thinking long and hard. I started to write. And write. And wrote some more. I pulled out my autobiography from Intensive Outpatient and noticed that there was hardly any of my experiences with alcohol written in there; only my recent past with my pill use. I started to make a list, beginning with my first drink at age 17. As I wrote, I realized there was behavior in there that didn't fit with a non-alcoholic. I won't go into details but suffice it to say, I was baffled as to why it was left out of my autobiography or why I had denied it for the past 23 months. Where was it hiding and why?

    So I still don't fit the CLINICAL diagnosis.....but I certainly fit every other outline of any other alcoholic out there. I was just too damn hung up on the clinical matrix of the whole thing to look outside the box. And you know what? I'm relieved! And freed! Yes, I'm an alcoholic!!! I don't have to "fight" anymore. Somehow, somewhere, I was fighting....subconsciously, I think. It was leaving the door open. Because you see, if I wasn't an alcoholic and just an addict, then years down the road, when I had left the monitoring program and the Board of Nursing in the dust, I could be sitting around the dinner table with my family (who doesn't quite get the "why can't you drink if you just had a problem with pills" thing) and they would think nothing of my having a glass of wine. That glass of wine would turn into 2, which would turn into 4 and then the bottle. Looking over my history with alcohol, I do not have a very good track record of controlling my use (trying to and failing, yes....controlling, no). I think this disease is so f'ing cunning, powerful, and baffling, that it was waiting for that day. I do. I think my denying that part of me, it was leaving that door open just a tiny bit. My husband, of course, is completely confused and left scratching his head "You're happy that you are also an alcoholic? Uh, okay."

    I think it stems from my mom and dad. My mom was an addict and my dad an alcoholic. My mom quit her drugs and moved on. She got on with her life and was able to quit. My dad, not so much. He continues to drink to this day and is in complete denial about his drinking. So in my twisted little mind, I equated addict = good, alcoholic = bad. I remember times where I would be pulling a bottle of vodka out of the freezer because it had been a hard night at work, then freaking out because "I was just like my dad" and dumping the entire thing down the drain. I was always thinking about not "becoming my dad". But when the pills popped up, it was okay because A)they were prescribed to me B)I was in pain C)I was a nurse and so that made it acceptable.

    This past week has been a HUGE week for me....this realization has given me such newfound respect for the disease of addiction. I've had respect for it all along but not like this. The fact that I could have been in such denial about the alcoholic part of my disease for this long (I will celebrate 2 years June 30th, God willing) is simply amazing to me. I cannot even begin to count the times I've uttered the statement, "I'm not an alcoholic, but I could be". I've always readily admitted the addict part of me but could not bring myself to believe the alcoholic part. And now, I'm ready to shout it from the rooftops. Well, not quite the rooftops, but you get the idea. I just had to share with others who might understand the significance this has had on my recovery. It's big. Really big. And I'm grateful. Really grateful. It's wonderful to be here today and I'm glad to be a recovering alcoholic/addict!
    Meriwhen, SWS RN, and Doc Lori, R.N. like this.
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  4. 11 Comments so far...

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    Life_Is_Good...well ain't that the truth! I soo very much admire your strength. Strength is born from vulnerability. I very much admire your courage and your honesty and your beautiful way of sharing your inner most private struggles. You are truly an inspiration! May you be as blessed as those whom are fortunate enough to be in your company!
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    Sounds almost like me. I celebrated 18 years of continuous sobriety last month but my bottom came with drugs. I didn't use street drugs but it started with legitimate prescriptions and ended (thank you God) with drug diversion in the hospital where I was working. And of course I was caught. (again, thank you God) I self-reported to the BON and entered and completed a 5 years program through the BON. I, too, liked AA more than NA mostly because the people I met in NA mostly used street drugs (and were much younger than I was) which I hadn't. But for the first several years in AA, while I referred to myself as an alcoholic/addict, I was a little confused because my alcohol use, while used the same way as my drugs was always "under control". Thanks goodness I finally heard the phrase "a drug is a drug is a drug". In other words, if used the way I used it, alcohol is as much of a drug as are opiates. Ever since then I have continued to call myself "an alcohol and addict" but now I truly believe it. Congratulations on 23 1/2 months ( I don't believe in premature celebrations) but with your newfound insight, I', sure you'll make it.
  7. 1
    Chemical Dependence is Chemical Dependence is Chemical Dependence. I felt the same way you did when I went through treatment the first time almost 20 years ago. I was furious when my wife told me I shouldn't be drinking (despite the fact that I rarely drank). When I finally started studying this disease it became clear that the same areas of the brain were affected whether I was using alcohol, nicotine, opioids, benzodiazepines or any other mood altering substance. The more you understand the physiology/pathophysiology of the hedonic system, the more sense all of this makes. This is the reason there are so many myths associated with this disease...very few people understand the science.

    Congrats on your "epiphany"! You made a giant step in strengthening your recovery!

    Jack

    PS, I highly recommend a new DVD called "Pleasure Unwoven" by Dr. Kevin McCauley. One of the best presentations I've ever seen on the science of addiction.
    Meriwhen likes this.
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    Thank you....both of you. It's funny how I was so accepting of other things such as gambling (it's a HUGE trigger for me, both for my brain and my particular addiction...I would use and go gamble so the association is very strong) but not so much with the alcohol. I recognized the gambling very early on and so I stay away, prefering to not even go eat at the restaurants located inside the casinos - I live in Nevada . I stayed away from alcohol as well but more as a precautionary "what if" scenario. Now I don't have to wonder "what if". I KNOW what will happen; my life will once again become unmanageable and it's not something I choose for myself. I love my life today and what recovery has done for me, what my Higher Power has done for me, and what I have done for myself. It's a beautiful way to live.

    I don't even drink caffeine anymore, thanks to the Topamax I take for my migraines, which I have not had since February (thanks again, Jack for the heads up with the Midrin, etc!). It made all sodas taste flat and like dirty ashtrays so no more sodas and I never drank coffee or tea. It's nice to be not relying on anything these days, not even my daily Coca-Colas! And as a result, I've lost 20lbs and am getting back into the gym. Although it broke me of drinking my beloved soda (I was drinking 4-6 a day), I'm still working on the obsession to WANT to drink them. It's a work in progress....LOL. I'm applying the 12-step philosophy to my soda drinking; figured it worked so well for my other addictions

    So thank you again and I'm happy to be sober 1 year, 11 months, and 23 days! Hard to imagine that next Wednesday will mark 2 years ago that I walked into a rehab facility, scared out of mind, beaten down, and completely lost as to what was next. And not knowing that this life was waiting for me
    jackstem likes this.
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    Wow, you told my story! I was "just an addict". After 4 surgeries gone bad, and an endless supply of opiates,benzos and hypnotics, I rarely felt the need to drink (imagine that).

    I too like AA better than NA, and started questioning if I should be going to AA since drinking wasnt what brought me into those rooms. And then............ I took a look at my younger partying days. I always drank to get drunk and in my aging yrs (up until my pill popping days) I would still drink too much when I did drink.
    I am only a little over 2 months clean and sober, and through those foresaken 12 step meetings that I was forced into, I have come to the realization that I AM powerless over mind altering chemicals and my life IS unmanagable. It is going to take something bigger than myself to get me out of this mess! I definitely hit bottom and then the bottom dropped out and I hit it again. Thank GOD I am on my way up, I still have a long way to go and it is a struggle, but when I hear those of you with years of sobriety chattering about how good life is it gives me some much needed hope! I now am glad I was forced into these 12 step programs.
    So, thank you for sharing your experience,strength and hope! And congratulations to you on your recovery!!!
    Life_is_good_1973, jackstem, and TXRN2 like this.
  10. 2
    Great discussion point! During treatment I agree that I was an addict, no question, but could I also be a alcoholic? I pondered that a few day and came to the conclusion that it really doesn't matter because they are all really mood altering substances. Booze or drugs to your pick. Some drug addicts became resentful about their BON's because they can no longer drink alcohol as part of their contract. Well, one does not have to think to much because alcohol is just as much of a mood altering substance as prescription or street drugs.

    This same theory is extended to the alcoholic that thinks they won't have a problem with pharmaceutical drugs ie opioids, benzos. They too need to be cautioned when being prescribed these drugs.

    I am glad you made the leap and looked outside the clinic criteria box and have the understanding about its really all the same thing. It just another chemical that can lead to destruction for folks like us.

    I too am a proud AA goer even though my drug of choice is opioids. At those meeting I recognize my self as an alcoholic.
    jackstem and TXRN2 like this.
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    hopefully all who are reading this know & will pass along to those who need to know & don't that whether you are an"addict" or an "alcoholic"- you MUST stay away from any & all mind-altering chemicals!! & almost all other meds, too! you would think we would all know & appreciate this- but perhaps not. the disease is indeed cunning, baffling, powerful!!
    jackstem likes this.
  12. 0
    Quote from Life_is_good_1973
    Thank you....both of you. It's funny how I was so accepting of other things such as gambling (it's a HUGE trigger for me, both for my brain and my particular addiction...I would use and go gamble so the association is very strong) but not so much with the alcohol. I recognized the gambling very early on and so I stay away, prefering to not even go eat at the restaurants located inside the casinos - I live in Nevada . I stayed away from alcohol as well but more as a precautionary "what if" scenario. Now I don't have to wonder "what if". I KNOW what will happen; my life will once again become unmanageable and it's not something I choose for myself. I love my life today and what recovery has done for me, what my Higher Power has done for me, and what I have done for myself. It's a beautiful way to live.

    I don't even drink caffeine anymore, thanks to the Topamax I take for my migraines, which I have not had since February (thanks again, Jack for the heads up with the Midrin, etc!). It made all sodas taste flat and like dirty ashtrays so no more sodas and I never drank coffee or tea. It's nice to be not relying on anything these days, not even my daily Coca-Colas! And as a result, I've lost 20lbs and am getting back into the gym. Although it broke me of drinking my beloved soda (I was drinking 4-6 a day), I'm still working on the obsession to WANT to drink them. It's a work in progress....LOL. I'm applying the 12-step philosophy to my soda drinking; figured it worked so well for my other addictions

    So thank you again and I'm happy to be sober 1 year, 11 months, and 23 days! Hard to imagine that next Wednesday will mark 2 years ago that I walked into a rehab facility, scared out of mind, beaten down, and completely lost as to what was next. And not knowing that this life was waiting for me
    HURRAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Congrats on your clean time! WOOOO HOOOO!!!!!!


    Jack
  13. 7
    Quote from TXRN2
    hopefully all who are reading this know & will pass along to those who need to know & don't that whether you are an"addict" or an "alcoholic"- you MUST stay away from any & all mind-altering chemicals!! & almost all other meds, too! you would think we would all know & appreciate this- but perhaps not. the disease is indeed cunning, baffling, powerful!!
    The tough part comes when we have a "co-occurring disorder" such as chronic pain, severe depression, bipolar disorder, ADD/ADHD, etc. When we have other issues that are not addressed and treated appropriately we can get into some pretty bad spots. In fact, many of us ended up triggering our addiction as a result of "self medicating" in an attempt to feel "normal" (whatever THAT is!), to deal with bad relationships (instead of actually working on our relationship skills), or bad jobs (instead of looking for another job or career path). Poor "life skills" can be a major obstacle achieving and maintaining remission. That's a major part of treatment and ongoing "aftercare", learning to deal with life by developing more effective and healthier coping skills.

    Let's look at one example of how poor management of a co-occurring disorder can lead to relapse. Taking an SSRI is NOT the same as taking an opioid, benzo, or ETOH. I have seen too many friends and colleagues relapse when they stop taking their necessary medication(s).

    I've had 2 family members stop taking their SSRI for the same reason...they didn't want to be on "nuts-o" medication (their term...not mine, so please, let's not get bent out of shape because the term isn't "politically correct"...it is a direct quote) the rest of their life. They saw the need for this medication as some sort of weakness on their part. One of these individuals is a very bright, very intelligent RN. Yet their own false belief about psychiatric "conditions" led to poor decision making and some real turmoil in their life until they realized this was no different than their need for synthroid - which they had no problem taking for the rest of their life!

    On the other hand, when we have a temporary issue like surgery or trauma, we have to have a plan regarding pain meds or other mood altering substances until that issue is rectified. I've broken bones a couple of times since getting into recovery. When I needed my pain medication I had someone else keep the meds and give them to me as prescribed because I knew there was the distinct possibility that my addictive thinking could be triggered and things would go down the toilet from that point on. It's got nothing to do with being weak or not having willpower, it has everything to do with our altered brain...period. Another thing I discovered during those times, which is very interesting is this, if I actually took some time off and DIDN'T push myself to keep going, non-mood altering meds, ice, elevation, and getting enough rest seemed to work very well (imagine that!). In other words, doing what we would tell our trauma or postop patients to do actually works for us as well!!!!!!

    This IS a disease. The target organ is the brain, specifically the areas involved in impulse control, motivation, learning, pleasure, and survival. As the disease progresses, these changes become more and more pronounced leading to more and more bizarre thinking which leads to bizarre behaviors which get us in trouble!! (As everyone of us can identify with!) We have to accept the fact we have a disease that's not going away just like thyroid disease, heart disease, etc. I always find it interesting when a health care professional with major depression keeps trying to "get off" their SSRI. Why don't these same people try to get off their synthroid, antihypertensives, insulin, or other chronic medications? Because they accept hypothyroidism, diabetes, and hypertension as "real" diseases while addiction is some sort of weakness or character defect. People are also more willing to change their lifestyle (i.e. diet and exercise) for heart disease or diabetes than they are for addiction for the same reason...this is a "choice", not a disease. That's the single biggest obstacle we face as a recovering community...changing the paradigm. Good golly! If we as a profession don't "get it", how do we expect the layman to get it!?

    We are not bad people trying to become good. We are people with a chronic, progressive, potentially (and unnecessarily) fatal disease trying to become (and remain) well. Unfortunately, most of our society and a large portion of our colleagues don't "get it" when it comes to this disease. These false beliefs about addiction are the major obstacle to how this disease, and those with it, are treated (or mis-treated), just as epilepsy was mistreated for so long by sending the person to an exorcist or witch-doctor.

    We must be the instruments of change if we hope to see things improve for our colleagues and all others unfortunate enough to develop this disease. To paraphrase a quote from the book, "Substance Abuse Policies in Anesthesia":

    "It takes a culture of courage to advocate for a colleague (or ourselves) with the disease of chemical dependence."

    If we continue to wait for someone else to have that courage we will continue to watch our colleagues get fired, arrested, and/or die. Personally, I'm not waiting anymore. I'm hoping some of you will make the same decision. The life you save just might be your own...or maybe even your own child (like my second daughter).

    OK...rant over.

    Jack


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