Through All of It

As most of my followers know, I struggled for nearly four decades with addiction. I was able to put down the drink and the pot pipe in 2008, but I held on to one thing. One “ace up my sleeve.” One exception. One excuse. Opioid painkillers. This latest struggle has taken me through some ugly places. Despite legitimate severe pain, I cannot responsibly use such medicines as Vicodin, Percocet, or Ultram. During my last bout, I fell down the rabbit hole after taking 90 Vicodin in 4 days.

My opioid binges remind me of the example of the jaywalker in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. At first, he makes it across the street. But then he gets hit by a car and suffers some bumps and bruises. He’s not phased, though, and continues to jaywalk. The next time, he suffers a broken wrist. Again, he decides to try jaywalking, only to sustain a broken leg. This continues without end. He is actually showing behavior that demonstrates the true definition of insanity: trying the same thing over and over, expecting different results. So was I.

For me, what always follows is withdrawal symptoms that include irritability, anger, lying, denial, loss of appetite, sleeplessness, and severe diarrhea. Once I level out, I get my appetite back. I see the sun shining again. I get back out the door. I return to my usual outgoing, polite self. I do my laundry. I wash my car. My problem with drugs and alcohol began at age 18 when I drank a Miller Lite and smoked a joint. I was an addict from the start. (I don’t remember ever drinking “just one.”) My regret has always been the terrible ways I’ve treated people. Used and manipulated them. Two wives. My mother. My children. My siblings. My friends.

Today, I am more determined than ever to stand against my addiction. My mantra now is to tell my addiction (whose name is Satan) that I am an ambassador of Christ, and that my body is an embassy. It is “foreign soil.” I tell the devil he is not permitted to enter. I rebuke him in the Name of Jesus, refusing to even open the gate. I have taken a totally different approach to pain management over the last two weeks. I am using modalities I’ve only “considered” in the past: chiropractic; stretching 3 times a day; walking about a half a mile every day; hydrotherapy; laying hands on painful spots and asking God to send relief to those exact areas; meditation; weight loss.

I have definitively decided, after years of struggle and denial, that I cannot safely use narcotic pain medication. I’ve put all of my physicians on notice, saying they are not to give me anything, even if it’s a year from now, or I beg them. I stay away from friends who routinely use such medications. I attend regular NA meetings, and I see a Christian psychotherapist who went to seminary and post-graduate studies. I have stepped up my interaction with fellow believers, listen exclusively to contemporary Christian music, and began classes online  at Colorado Christian University in 2015. I attend weekly individual and group outpatient drug and alcohol treatment. And, finally, I have an NA sponsor rather than an AA sponsor. This works best for me. I recently spent over an hour on my knees crying and seeking God’s face, realizing just how out of touch I’ve been. How much I’ve missed. How much sorrow I’ve spread.

This contemporary  Christian song hits me hard every time I hear it. I changed one phrase to suit my situation. (See the brackets.) This song, by Colton Dixon, can help all of us, but it has become especially inspiring for me. I am reprinting the lyrics below.

There are days of taking more than I can give
And there are choices that I made that I wouldn’t make again
I’ve had my share of laughter
Of tears and troubled times
This has been the story of my life

I have won
And I have lost
I got it right sometimes, but [most] times I did not
Life’s been a journey
I’ve seen joy, I’ve seen regret
Oh, and You have been my God through all of it

You were there when it all came down on me
When I was blinded by my fear and I struggled to believe
But in those unclear moments You were the one keeping me strong
This is how my story’s always gone

I have won
And I have lost
I got it right sometimes, but [most] times I did not
Life’s been a journey
I’ve seen joy, I’ve seen regret
Oh, and You have been my God through all of it
Oh, through all of it

And this is who You are, more constant than the stars
Up in the sky, all these years, all my life
I, I look back and I see You
Right now I still do
And I’m always going to

I have won
And I have lost
I got it right sometimes, but sometimes I did not
Life’s been a journey
I’ve seen joy, I’ve seen regret
Oh, and You have been my God through all of it

If you want to listen to it, click here.

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