meanwhile, when you were focused on back to school, this happened

So This happened today.

The Heroin Crisis Act Unanimously Passes Through Illinois House

A friend from one of my online support groups summed it up beautifully “Today was epic! Illinois legislators passed House Bill 1, the Heroin Crisis Bill that opens up treatment options for ALL who suffer from the disease of addiction. You no longer have to be wealthy, or have “the right kind of insurance”…all you have to do is want to get into recovery, and a way will be found.”

Alex Colville,  Horse and Train,

Alex Colville, Horse and Train,

People have died. Way too many people have died, are dying now, and will die from this disease.

I don’t mean to be unkind, really I don’t, but there are days when reading about how hard it is to have your well, well and alive, well and alive, and thriving, child away at college and how much you miss them, and all the money you have to spend on their phones, books, cars, rent and so on, there are days I just can’t read your Facebook posts, or look at pictures of your kids’ dorm room, college campus, and/or sports team. Today is one of those days. Today I am missing my son, not because he is away at college and spending too much money, but because he is away in treatment half  a country away. He’s been away for over 15 months, without holiday weekends visits, or summer or Christmas  at home. I haven’t seen him since December, his sisters since last June.

And I know there are people reading this who would give anything to have their child safe and in treatment, anything just to have their child alive again.

We are very, very lucky. We had the “right” insurance, sort of. More accurately, we had insurance and the time, and the physical and mental tenacity to fight, to fight over and over and over again, for coverage that was constantly denied. I can’t even think about the money still owed.

So yeah, today was important. I am hopeful. I am precariously optimistic that things could get better, that fewer families will watch their loved ones die from lack of adequate treatment. I am also tired, and feel like my skin is way too thin, and stretched way too tight, and feel like I have no defenses left, no protection from the emotions this stirs up. Oh, and I hate this disease, I hate how it decimated my family, my son, but also my father and my brother, and all who love and who loved them.

That’s it. That’s all I’ve got tonight. No pithy wisdom, no sage acceptance or quotes about letting go and letting god. Just straight up tired, Maybe tomorrow I’ll be wise.

old poems

IMG_5568

Over 9 years ago I stopped drinking. It’s not something I advertise, but it’s not something I actively try to hide either. The disease runs in my family. I am alive, and on most days well, only because I found a way to stop.

I used to write poetry. I used to write quite a lot of poetry, and today for many reasons I dusted off writing from around 10 years ago, from one of the most difficult times of my life. If there was a way I could take what I’ve learned, box it up and give to people I love I would do it. I can’t. I can only pray and hope, and continue to take care of my own sobriety. Someone told me when you quit drinking you feel better, you feel pain better, joy, love, sorrow, you feel everything that you had been drinking not to feel. It can be overwhelming. Most of the poems are about that, about feeling better.

I don’t know why I moved away from poetry, and started using more words to write blog posts instead. Poetry is much harder, maybe that’s why.

Here are some, in no relevant order, because organization of anything creative still is challenging for me. Most are free verse, a few are cinquains, one of the very few forms of poetry I had any proficiency with.

blackness

a diving spotted loon
to which the surging waves arouse no wonder,
a soaring mateless seagull beneath
grave misting clouds,
a pair of blackest crows
in deliberate and dark discourse,
and the early morning chorus of birds
I have not met,
here are my early morning companions

this morning,
my last morning here.

and this I ponder wrapped in heavy woolen
drinking strong coffee
made stronger still with Jamison’s

I ponder these birds
the burden of their sky
the profundity of their black waves
their universal harmony

and when the drizzle mixes with the rising surge
the loon dives again and does not return for me
the crows take their argument to distant trees
and the seagull glides so low under
the weeping
clouds – I cannot breathe to watch

I am alone
with their water and thoughtful stones
the unspoken rain
and within my silence
with the blunt smell of cold
and the raw touch of
grey horizon light

in the untraveled blackened depths
under which
I will always lie.

fish hooks

Sober,
I have not known this face
reborn in palest newborn skin
translucent, and
tissue thin
all my nerves unclothed
disgraced, at their own nakedness

I do not know how to use these hands

a flesh of weeping grief
from savage shredded tracks
the tiny fish hooks sliced
and pierced
with their
sharpened razor points

of grief and joy and hate and fear of love
and of despair

I have never heard my voice
still they dig
minute barbs grasping
my unprotected soul
wrenching out my
heart
for all to see
tearing open my
eyes
so I must look

at the person I do not know.

river

Has there always been such green
all and each
so richly saturated
with this chromatic life,
these leaves, spirits within living stories,
twisting over
and around
and in between
each and one another
in their lilting seduction of
wind and sun?

did they do this yesterday?
did they flicker in this coquettish glee
inside my footfalls
sun tickling tenderly
each surface – so thoughtfully webbed-
while in their turn they reached
to lick the honeyed beams
along this muddied path
to water’s edge.
I walk to sense the flowing strength
flirting within twinkling beams
and to caress,
between reflective ripples,
smooth slippery stones
filled with energy.
will there always be
such life?

ecstasy

I would let go
but for the colour.
still,

I like to sneak to the edge
and dig my fingernails into stone
and ponder
the relief of falling
the ecstasy in shattering bones, the
liberation of seeping blood. but

when I crawl back
it is for the shade
of your tears.

unforgiven

who do I imagine I am?
breath?
thought?

in a place
where ten year old
bulldozers tear down
one hundred year old trees
in this place where
house sized wood chippers
vomit green onto
clear cut ground

bare foot in the grass
the rain will not
baptize me

my finger waits
for the drop that
could forgive me.

bones

far away
I am this night
as blackness swallows day
sweet, my grief
rests in the folding
black from bloodless red,
lay my bones,
my lonely love
lay my bones
and heart of clay

silences

I have not
always shown
me, as I am.
not in open, worn
these ragged
clothes.
let sun and rain
peel away my
raw, and
bloodied flesh.
and so,
I sometimes pause,
to wonder
at the silences.​

for you

for you
I would wrench
thunderclouds from rapture
accept their jagged burning rage
weep till there is no rain
and scream out all your agony
until my heart disintegrates
in thunder

for you
I would dry dew’s tears
from each and every
green and glistened blade

for you
I am salt
and I whisper
through your hands

crying

I cry for what I cannot save

for the dying roadside bird
bloodied under blackened wheels

for the frightened child
held down
learning how a secret’s kept

I cry for
young veins punctured
with poisoned needles

I cry for pain
I feel screaming inside you
that fills all of me
that I cannot take away

for the sickness
that I comfort
but cannot heal

I cry for all that’s broken
that I cannot fix

and some days
I cry
for me.

cold sleep

no stars
weep abandon
as our discarded die
disappeared in foul rooms, cold tears
dried wine.

claws

fear strolls
on soft bear’s paws
hushed growling, calmly tastes
decides – and stretching sharpest claws
carves me.

cut me

I hate
the sky’s fading
touch – etched within my heart
take the words from me – cut them all
away

him

there was a time
he could not
release me

that was
before

now his
ever restless feet
carry him away

a broken toy
stepped on, crumbled – yet
walking still
a stranger
that I tried to stand before

uncovered
as only myself
a broken, walking doll

he is
not a boy, but
a man, terrified of the ghosts
in my eyes
of the unsayable
that slices through my rooms

he is close
and he is untouchable

in a way
that cuts through me

alone with his beauty
his pain
his cruelty
his anger, and
his love

an embrace unfelt
laid cold
upon my soul.

Like I said, I used to write poems. There are more here.

it’s got nothing to do with a better rat cage

nugget

So a friend posted this, The Likely Cause of Addiction Has Been Discovered, and It Is Not What You Think. 

I read it, a few times, and while it is not completely without merit and makes some valid points, it is an oversimplification of a complex disease, and ultimately draws conclusions and makes generalizations from limited data.

I completely agree that the way we treat addicts, that the ‘war on drugs’ only contributes to the problem.  Criminalization and incarceration simply do not work. I do not agree that simply by making a better rat cage we can prevent or treat drug addiction.

The “Rat Cage” experiment was this. Put a rat in a cage, alone, with two water bottles. One is just water. The other is water laced with heroin or cocaine. Almost every time you run this experiment, the rat will become obsessed with the drugged water, and keep coming back for more and more, until it kills itself. The conclusion was that once exposed to the drug the rat became addicted and then ultimately died from the addiction. There are different versions of this test, another, perhaps more relevant, experiment involved direct stimulation of the rat’s pleasure center in the brain when the rat pressed a bar. Here the rat would neglect  activities such as eating or drinking to press the bar, and ultimately died.

soa_007_big

Addiction is caused by a combination of several things that basically can be divided into three categories, drug use, stress, and genetics. It is a combination of these three things that will  cause addiction. This is why some people can use without becoming addicted (no genetics, and/or little stress), and why some become addicted with only a small amount of use (strong genetic component, high stress).

Addiction happens when the combination of these factors trigger a reaction in the brain that causes a shift in neurotransmitter activity.

Don’t believe me? Watch This  

Back to the article. They made a nicer rat cage, with rat balls, rat toys, other rats and the rats in there didn’t want the drugs anymore. Interesting right? Then they correlated this with Vietnam soldiers who used heroin and came home and didn’t need it anymore. In other words they left the lonely rat cage for the nicer one and the need for drugs went away. The point the author keeps coming back to is that drugs don’t hijack the brain and cause addiction, that disconnection does, and here is where I have the problem.  Addiction changes the brains neurochemistry, addiction in the form of alcohol, drugs, or behaviours such as gambling, food, or sex. It is when this shift happens addiction occurs.

The danger of articles like this is that the implication is that if only you had a better rat cage your loved one would not have become addicted. If there had been connection, beauty, and nice rat toys addiction would not have happened. That is the family’s fault that addiction happened, if only they had done a better job. If only. 

If only. Words that have echoed through my head for the last five years. If only I had done more, done things better. If only I had done this or that, or not done this or that. If only breaks your heart. Articles like this make me angry, because my son had a fantastic fucking rat cage, and he still became an addict. He had support, he had early, early intervention (in grade school through high school), he had mentors, social peer groups, doctors, a family that loved and supported him, and he still became an addict.

And yes, we did make him leave our home, I let my own son live on the streets and in homeless shelters, that doesn’t mean I ever stopped loving him. I wrote about that here and here and here and here and so many more times.

The rat cage, the sad empty one that makes the rats want the drugs, that’s not an addict’s home life, that’s an addicts thinking.

The rat cage is their thinking.

There is no easy fix for someone’s thinking. It’s hard, heartbreaking work, and sometimes to be able to do this work, you have to get to a very bad place so you are motivated enough to want to change. I know this because I have done the work, I have been to that dark cold place inside me and I have crawled out of it.

We need to stop blaming the victim, blaming the family, they have been through a hell that you cannot imagine, and to say that addiction happened because of a lonely rat cage is unacceptable, short sighted and heartless.

And yes, I am angry. I’m angry that there are people who care more about how this makes them look than about helping people who need it.  That people who should  be a foundation of support, are defensive and outraged that I would even have this conversation. That people would rather be angry with me than examine why I keep talking about this.

Micheal Lee comes as close to showing what this has been like for me as a person in long term recovery, and what is like to love someone suffering from addiction. He does it in 2 minutes. I have been talking for years and it still seems like no one really hears me.

one more, if you want to see a simple, but very clear representation of addiction

dear john

dear john,

today I wanted to carve the words
carve them into my skin, so
all could see
what I am

when we spoke, had you asked, I might have told of the holes – I carve – inside, maybe you could have seen the ardent slice ripped out, to quietly lay at your deeply restless feet. but all it touched was your breath, passing backwards in your constant cool drifting words.

had you understood my voice –
could you have heard?
known my songs are all written for you?

before I left
did I tell you
of bloodstained views on wood grain hall floors – knee in my back, fists gripping long hair, of the stripes of our walls getting closer just before they turned black.
or was it you who told me
of the view from mum’s hand standing in doorways –
watching,

blocking escape.

dear john,

should I have warned you? of trusting too young, and of pain, and fear, and of blood, sometimes first – and of tears locked in rooms, could this have saved you?

I would have saved you – you know, taken your blows, swallowed your bitter bruises, your raw pain, and sent you away whole – if only I’d found you.

dear john,

even now that you’re here,
I’ve lost parts of you.
and no longer can I wrap you in blankets.
I can’t find your song or your bruises. so I keep carving these slices off me to make us both whole, but your restless feet walk by them with your words always drifting backward at me.

dear john,

today I wanted to carve the words
into my skin
so all could see
what I am.

Skewer the Stigma: In the wake of losing a star, an addict shares “who we are” | The Beggar’s Bakery

I will have some of my own writing about this shortly, but she says everything so well I had to share this now.

http://thebeggarsbakery.net/2014/02/03/skewer-the-stigma-in-the-wake-of-losing-a-star-an-addict-shares-who-we-are/