Category Archives: recovery

>Hep C and Addiction; Parallel Universes?

>Hi everyone,
I do hope my friends are well whether, pre-treatment, in treatment, post treatment, opting our of treatment or anywhere else along the Hep continuum. And what a continuum it is!
The one thing we share in common, the disease, can be as unique and complex as anyone it plants it’s prolific little cells into. I’ve recently been realizing that living with and attempting to recovery from Hep C [I still haven’t hit the magic 6 month milestone] has a lot in common with recovery from addiction.

  • It does not discriminate, anyone can fall prey to addiction or Hep C.
  • A result of the first point is that people who would otherwise not have even known each other often develop a special bond than is born of struggle and isolation.
  • There are Universal emotions, physical manifestations and social consequences [stigma] and yet the way we perceive and cope with these Universalities as unique as our individual capacities.
  • Accepting the reality of our condition usually takes a considerable amount of time.
  • The decision we must make regarding how we will deal with our problem is fraught with confusion, anxiety and fear; which is often only complicated by the well meaning but often ill informed and conflicting advice from others.
  • Treatment sucks.
  • We learn a lot about ourselves during treatment, but because it sucks we often don’t realize it until much later.
  • Other people neglect to tell us that it’s going to take quite some time to feel better.
  • The relapse rates are generally higher than the success rates.
We’re all in this together!
So why on Earth do we go this?
Hope, and because know we are not alone.
We may stumble, we may fall…but we will not surrender.

© 2011 Jennifer Hazard

Advertisements

Guest Post-Patty Valentine

Welcome to Wednesday’s Women of Wisdom. Today’s guest post is by Patty Valentine, who in addition to having a very cute name, has a big heart and amazing story of survival. I met Patty on a mutual online support group and I can attest to the kindness and empathy she has provided to others. Here is her story.
My Bio, What do I want to be when I grow up?
By Patty Valentine

My life was complicated right from the start, at conception really, as my mother was 13 yrs old and living in Alabama with an alcoholic father and a mother who had been in and out of her life since she was 6. Starting at that age, she was responsible for taking care of her brother and sister, cooking, cleaning, etc. Her mother had tried to force her to “terminate” me twice, even taping her to a bed while she fought, but she wouldn’t have it. I was born 2 wks before her 14th birthday. She did the best she could to take care of me and moved to Texas with her mother, but eventually her mother “won out” when, at 2 1/2, she left me with some “friends”, abandoned me really, and told my mother I was stolen. I was eventually adopted by a nice family down the street from the people I’d been left with. I remember very early times, like my 3rd birthday but nothing of my mother from that time. My new family was full of love and kids. I had 3 brothers and 3 sisters. My new mother always told me I was special because they had chosen me. They weren’t looking to adopt, like I said they already had a bunch of kids, but because of my circumstances, they wanted to keep me. I had a pretty good childhood overall, but I did have one teenage brother who sexually abused me a few times. I had pretty much tucked that little memory away though, thinking I’d done something “naughty”.
My teenage years were difficult, and although I was a strait A student, cheerleader, gymnast, etc, I never felt like I really fit in…not in my family or with my peers. Once in high school, I quickly took up drinking, drugs and promiscuity….and Nightlife! Dallas was the place to be in the 80’s as far as the club scene and I fell deep into that scene…of fashion, music, and most of all more drugs. In fact, there are currently 2 documentary movies in the works about the Starck club where they sold ecstacy at the bar (that is until they made it illegal)….the “Studio 54 of the 80’s”, designed by Phillipe Starck and investors such as Stevie Nicks and Grace Jones. It was the place to be…where anyone who was famous went when they were in Dallas. I thought I was really something…I could walk in past the velvet ropes while other people would wait on those stairs all night trying to get in, and if they were deemed cool enough, they could pay the $10 cover to get in. We’d be up from Wed thru Sun, living on pills and powder, and the occasional little pieces of paper that made everything more colorful. 😉 I’ve recently reconnected with these friends on FB and reunions are being planned…actually, I’ve already missed one. It was in Jan, and being on tx, I was too sick to go. It has become another place for me to share and talk about hep c and educate and advocate which is good. We all know people who have passed, from drugs, aids, suicide, etc, so there is no judgment there.
Eventually, the scene started to fade, I became restless, and I wanted more. So, me and a friend just up and hopped on a Greyhound bus to LA during the summer of ’89. My dad gave me $50 and said “you’ll be back”. Well, I was gonna show him, and I didn’t come back! I really hated LA, where I suffered a couple rapes, and after about 3 months, some people told me “Go to San Francisco. You’ll love it there!” and I did. Although I had experimented with the needle a few times in Dallas, SF is where my love affair with it really developed. This was a completely different and exciting scene than the one I’d come from. My “friend” left me there a couple weeks after the earthquake in ’89 and I took up with the street punks and met my first husband. He had a big mohawk, sold drugs, and was crazier than anyone I’d ever met…certifiably crazy, but that was the allure after all. We lived in hotels when we had money and squatted when we didn’t. Eventually, the habit grew and I took up dancing to pay for it all while he sat at home and waited for me to bring his fix. Occasionally, he’d “disappear” for days on end, not remembering where he’d been. He was manic-depressive and told me that I saved him and if I left, he’d kill himself. He was a cutter, so I believed this. After a couple yrs of this, I knew if I didn’t get out of SF, I’d die there, so when the opportunity came up to dance in a club in Hawaii, I took it! We both went “cold turkey” off heroin in Hawaii, while each night I had to go dance. Once my head was clear again, I told him to go away, because I knew if we’d stayed together, we’d be using again before too long. Besides, there were lots of cute military guys there 😉
I ran so far from my past at first by joining the Air Force at 25 and was stationed in Las Vegas. It was now 1994. Within that 1st yr, I met my husband and became pregnant with my 1st child. My husband was/is pretty much completely opposite of me and didn’t have the same kind of past experiences, but was strangely fascinated by and not turned off by my past. He had joined the AF straight out of high school. This kept me grounded, although we did party/drink alot. We were married when my daughter was 7 mos old, then I was soon pregnant with our 2nd daughter. She came when my 1st was 19 mos. He was constantly back and forth between “home”, and “the Desert”…Saudi, Kuwait, Turkey, etc, protecting the “no-fly” zones during the 90’s, between the 1st and 2nd Gulf wars since, at the time, his job was to load and maintain the bombs and weapon systems on the fighter jets. My military “career” which was Medical Admin, stopped at 4 yrs while his continued. I had messed up my back pretty bad while in training though, so within a yr of leaving the AF, I had my 1st back surgery. Then before the end of that year, we got orders to our 1st choice of overseas bases…Aviano, Italy! Perfect! After 5 yrs in Vegas, I was beginning to get “bored” and was ready for a new adventure, and there couldn’t have been a more perfect place!
We moved to Italy at the end of ’98 and shortly after, the whole Kosovo situation started up, and Aviano was the center of that conflict…at least that’s where all the NATO troops were flying their missions out of. It was strange to think that during the day, my husband was loading live bombs onto planes, then coming home at night for dinner, putting the kids to bed, etc. Anyway, that passed over pretty quickly, and he went back to the desert a couple times. I can safely say that the 3 yrs in Italy were the best, happiest yrs of my life. I had 2 beautiful little girls was newly married, and living in Italy of all places. I was still able to be spontaneous, as we could just wake up Sat morning, and think, “Let’s go somewhere…Ok, Austria’s only a couple hours, let’s go there!”…or Venice (1 hr), Florence (4 hrs), Verona (2 hrs), Rome (hop on a plane in Venice and you’re there in about an hr). One weekend we went to Pisa and camped near the beach…we did alot of camping in Italy actually. We were 45 min from the Adriatic, Italian beaches in the summer, and at the base of a mountain where we could go ski, sledding, etc in the winter. I didn’t get bored there. Unfortunately, though, my back wasn’t holding up very well, and in 2000, I had to be “aerovacked” to Walter Reed Army Hosp in DC for my 2nd surgery. They had to bring my husband back early from Kuwait so I could go. Anyway, that surgery wasn’t successful either and I was becoming more and more dependent on pain meds. My husband decided to go into recruiting then, so he wouldn’t be sent away anymore. He completed recruiting school in July of 2001…right before 9/11. We really lucked out on that one. He would’ve been gone for sure if he’d still been loading bombs.
Next, we moved back to Dallas, which was where I was from, so it was like going home for a few yrs. It had been almost 12 yrs since I’d left Dallas. He was recruiting at the high schools there, so we weren’t at a base at all. Within the next 2 yrs, I had 3 more unsuccessful back surgeries, including a double fusion and spiraled into chronic pain and major depression. The drs had be on so many meds, I didn’t know what was going on half the time. Here is where I learned I have hepatitis C, and although I was upset, not knowing much about it, I just thought “Thank god it’s not aids” and went on about my life. Also during this time, I found and started a relationship with my birth mother who had “lost” me and thought I was dead. Having 2 little girls also brought up memories of the sexual abuse I’d suffered when I was around 5 yrs old, so things started getting really dark and gloomy. I even spent a month in an inpatient facility during this time to deal with my past traumas…sexual abuse, rapes, etc that I had always blamed myself for.
I eventually ended up isolating myself, depressed and unable to make any “real” new friends. I think I felt trapped in the role of housewife/Mom, unable to relate to the other women I met. I couldn’t understand those who were content to just be the “keeper of the house”. Not that I don’t enjoy being a mother, I do, but it became so constricting. No longer could I just pick up and move whenever I felt like it, and even worse, I was forced to live in Alabama for 4 yrs which is where the AF moved us to next. I started fantasizing about going back to San Fran and heroin, where I had fought so hard to leave, and just leaving everyone there. Of course, I didn’t, but it was a real fantasy. I guess I really shouldn’t complain too much, most of the people in Alabama have never left the state, which brings me back to why I couldn’t relate to anyone.
I’ve lived in and traveled to places all over the world, and I experienced more in my first 30 yrs of life than most people do in their entire lifetime…good and bad. How could I relate to these “simple” people, content to live in the country where Walmart was the center of everything, driving the kids around, cooking, cleaning, etc. All most people cared about was if you like Auburn or Alabama and Nascar…ick! Most people hunted went “mudding”, and camo was in fashion even with the teens. My kids didn’t “fit in” there either, and were called “weird”. Even at their young ages, they’d experienced more than most people there. The nearest “big” city was 30 min away in Montgomery, which btw, is NOT a big city at all, but just the closest place with a mall. I lost myself there and now that I’m in FL and going through this tx, I’m trying to find myself again. My husband will retire soon and he’s looking into new careers. We’ve had our problems, but somehow we’ve kept it together. It is still a work in progress though. My daughters are teenagers and have been and still are challenging. My older daughter was raped by a “friend’s” dad from the church in AL at 13. She is also bipolar with zero impulse control, and my baby…14 yrs old, is pregnant and due to have her baby in May. My tx will be done in April, so starts a new chapter in my life. I know I’ll always have to contend with the chronic back pain that has disabled me and was the beginning of my slide into depression to begin with, but who am I? Who do I want to be, what do I want to be when I grow up? I just turned 43, and I still don’t feel like a grown-up, yet I’m going to be a grandmother!

© 2011 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard


My life on film, er, pixels

the Tat, wish #2

A couple of years back when my last boyfriend/ man friend and I separated due to “creative differences” he got custody of the “good camera”. By “good” I mean, not disposable, and it isn’t pink with Hello Kitty emblazoned all over it. When I got my tax return last year my tax guy (like I have ‘people’, lol) pretty much told me that this was the last year I was going to rake it in on all the deductions my single Mom status with a low paying job and excessive student loans had previously bestowed upon me once a year. I figured I’d better make this last run a good one. I did take care of some debt and other responsibilities, gave my kids spending money and bought my Granddaughters some clothes, but I had promised myself this time I was granting 3 of my own wishes..and lo and behold I did.
My 3 wishes were: a new laptop, a new tattoo and a “good” camera. The laptop has been well worth the investment.  I am able to sit in privacy and write, email, blog or check in on facebook gossip. The tattoo is pretty badass and represents my courage as a survivor. The camera has just been plain fun. It’s one of those cute little colorful things that we see Ashton Kucher gliding around cocktail parties sneaking pics of attractive young women who pretend not to notice. So logically since this pretty boy can use it successfully, so can I. Well I can now after some trial and error (heavy on  the error side) and after actually resorting to reading an instruction or two. So now my latest project, or addition to my ongoing project of telling my story, recording my life as a Middle Aged, Unemployed, Hep C infected, recovering alcoholic, Master’s Degree having dedicated Advocate, mother of 3, grandmother of 2, rescuer of stray animals trying to survive on a meager Social Security Disability at least until I can create some additional income, is to photo document  some of the days in my life.
 I just started today, officially on my bus ride to the bank, the grocery store and back home; a trip that with a car would’ve taken about an hour at most, but took close to 3 hours. But not to worry I promise it’s not going to be some 21st Century version of ‘Christmas in Appalachia”. On the contrary I’ve been spotting sights that if I were clipping down the street at 35 or 40 mph I would never have noticed. The project is new and in the works and I haven’t decided what, if anything, to do with it. I will probably include a pic or two with captions on my blog just to try it out, get some feedback and probably have some laughs, just as soon as I find that battery charger.
Peace,
Nanakoosa
© 2010 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard


Independence Day

In the movie “Stuart Saves His Family” with Al Franken as Stuart Smalley (I highly recommend it to anyone in recovery) there is a scene where Stuart and his friend are watching fireworks on July 4th. For every firework Stuart declares Independence from something that’s been holding him back. I think this is a wonderful idea! What are you ready to Declare Independence from?


Authenticity

Authenticity is a concept that I was introduced to when I was in treatment for alcohol abuse. Each morning the residents and house manager would start the day with the reading of at least one daily affirmation. The topic of authenticity was a common element in many of the affirmations, especially those intended for women. Maybe we lose ourselves in the midst of an abusive, controlling relationship, or in our addiction, or other self defeating behaviors. Or maybe we never developed a strong sense of identity and appreciation for ourselves in the first place and that itself made us vulnerable to abuse, addiction and other dangerous lifestyles. Regardless of what came first the chicken or the egg, one of the great things about residential treatment is that you learn or rediscover who you really are. You are separated from your family, friends, job, social life and most of your personal belongings. All of the external “things” we use to define ourselves are stripped away. You live in a house full of strangers who know nothing of your history except that you share the common bond of addiction, and now you don’t even have that “identity” to fall back on. This is a frightening experience for most of us. But once the initial fear, anger and powerlessness wears off, we are left with the rather exciting opportunity to look within and remember who we are at our most inner core of our being. We are also able to pick and choose which of those traits we wish to develop, nurture and refine. And, wonder of all wonders, we are free to decide what characteristics, habits, traits and interests we want to introduce into our lives. It’s like the terrible twos or adolescence all over again. We try on new roles and some of them don’t fit, we rebel against change and rules, we struggle with self identity and self esteem. Most of us don’t make it the first time through treatment. Finding our authentic self is too much work, too scary, too filled with uncertainty fear of failure,and worst of all fear of not being accepted for who we are. so we go back to what we know, an abusive relationship, the bottle, the pipe, the needle, whatever it was that we thought defined us. My aoda counselor once said to me, treatment will ruin any future relapse for you. As usual she was right. Once I had the glimpse of who I could be, who I wanted to be, that other life revealed itself for what it really was, a cheap gaudy mask designed to hide me from not only the rest of the world but from myself as well. So on my second bout of treatment, I was a little more receptive, a little less rebellious and a lot more willing to reclaim Jenny, whoever she was. I knew she was in there and I knew I could resurrect her. It has been a long journey, but within the last couple of years I finally feel I know me, my authentic self. Ever since that relationship with me has developed life has changed drastically for the better. Lucille Ball once said “Love yourself first and everything else falls into line”. The love you find is well worth the discomfort of stripping away the masks and delusions we create in order to avoid being authentic.


Crashing the party of "normal" society

after many years of working on recovery and healing I still tend to feel like the “weird girl in the corner” at social events. I had always been somewhat socially awkward all of my life. In fact that’s the prime reason I started drinking at an early age. The first time I got drunk I was suddenly transformed (in my mind) into a charming chatty debutante with no fear of the boys at the party. What a great solution! I can’t vouch for the charming ideal, and I certainly was no debutante, but I was definitely chatty…and fearless. And I definitely made acquaintance with many boys, most of whom I would have been better off without!
But it was not only the boys who intimidated me, it was also most of the girls in school. The popular ones, the pretty ones, the ones who buzzed around in little cliques like a hive of bees, usually following every whim and turn of fashion that was dictated some Queen Bee. The kind of girls that when you passed by them while they were giggling, you were almost certain they were laughing at you.
As an adult I have had a few good friends who have been with me for most of my adult life. Others have come and gone, but my circle has always been small, trustworthy and like minded.
and when I am at social events, such as parties or weddings I still tend to feel like I don’t fit with the women I meet. I suppose there are a good many reasons for this some rational and some not. What I do know is that I’ve come to a point where it no longer bothers me like it used to. I have also uncovered another amazing discovery. Most of my “isolation” has been self inflicted. Imagine that.
I had the opportunity last weekend to attend a women’s Spirituality Conference. The keynote speaker was one of my favorite author/activists and I was thrilled at the chance to hear her speak. When I first heard of the conference, two months ago, I began canvassing my little group of women friends to find someone to go with me. When I realized that no one would be able to I decided it was time to take the plunge, put on my brave face and just GO.
I have to admit I was more than a little nervous on the first day of the conference. But I took a deep breath walked in and immediately struck up a conversation with the woman next to me at the registration table. I soon found it was quite easy to make ‘small talk”with the other women and by day 2 there were a few of us who were already comfortable with one another from the day before.
The point of my story is that all that self inflicted isolation came from fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of not being accepted. And, this is a big one, fear of someone knowing my big secret, that my life hasn’t been perfect. I realized at the conference, where no one knew me, or my past, I could simply be judged as who I was presenting myself to be at the moment. I was a clean slate, just another new person. It felt pretty good. I had a great time at the workshops and browsing the vendors and especially hearing the keynote address. And I met many kind and friendly women, because I allowed it to be, because I didn’t let fear hold me back. Because I didn’t believe that the shadow of my past was hovering over me like a dark spirit saying “look at her, she’s been abused, she used to be a drunk…” and like most scary monsters if you don’t acknowledge them, they have no power over you.
By the way I did happen to knock over an entire shelf of hand made pottery in the vendors area, causing every head in the room to spin in my direction and utter a perfectly harmonized oooooohhhhhhh. But I survived with my pride mostly intact.
After all I am no debutante!
Peace and Blessings,
Nanakoosa

copyright 2010 Jennifer Hazard, nanakoosasplace.blogspot.com


Why This Blog?


Why this blog?
As a professional who has worked with women survivors of all ages I have found there is a considerable “service gap” on two key points: Older women (over 40) and survivors who are years beyond the initial healing phase.
My intention for this blog is for women to help fill that gap by sharing thoughts and wisdom about healing, growing older and the issues that we women face in our growth process. I will provide my own experiences, knowledge and hopefully a little humor to encourage other women on their path of self discovery. It is those of us who have walked the path that know the roadmaps, the obstacles, shortcuts and scenic views.
So why do these gaps exist? First there is the age factor. It’s easy to confirm that we do live in a youth centered culture. Unlike other cultures that value the wisdom of the elders our society is all about being young, sleek and fast paced. I once heard a women say that middle aged women can get away with anything because we are invisible. I’m not advocating for us to try to “get away with things” but she makes a valid point that is worth examination. Middle aged and mature women are not the ones that get noticed in many arenas, and yet so many women of our age are accomplishing great things. When we do get media attention and become “visible” we are often scrutinized for superficial qualities like our hair of our wardrobe. How often did you hear news commentators or other media representatives focus on what Hillary Clinton or Michelle Obama were wearing?
I am optimistic that we women can change society’s view (or lack of view) of us. We have increasingly more efficient and accessible means of communicating and connecting with each other. We can share our stories and through our stories we share our strength and define our roles. This is especially important for those of us who have been addicted, abused, impoverished and otherwise disenfranchised.
The second “service gap” is recognizing the long term needs of women in recovery from addiction or abuse. There are many agencies and organizations dedicated to helping women get out of abusive situations or to recover from addiction (many of these were brought about by women working together) but they tend to focus on the earlier stages of recovery and healing. I have discovered through my own process that the old adage “recovery is like peeling the layers of an onion” is an accurate metaphor. Healing is not linear; it happens in cycles and stages and sometimes slides backward. We learn to live more fulfilling, healthy, “normal” lives, but we carry scars that never really go away.
Just as being victimized affected every area of our lives, healing must occur in every area. Sometimes we get one area “fixed” and are feeling pretty good about ourselves, only to have another issue arise. You finally land that great career only to end up meeting someone, falling in love and your fear of intimacy pops up. These are the times that make us vulnerable, that make us fall back into old patterns of self doubt. These are the times we need each other.
So that’s why I’m doing this blog, to fill the gaps, to tell the stories and to honor the strength and wisdom that we have earned.