Codependency is REAL, people, and it’s just like addiction

picture of codependency of man and woman

Google’s definition of codependency: excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner, typically a partner who requires support due to an illness or addiction.

 

My fiancé and I have been together going on 10 years this coming March… and we love each other with a specialness I’ve never experienced before him. And he just moved out. Clearly we hit a rough patch in our relationship and when everything came to a head and the intensity level was turned up to 200, we knew we had to act. I don’t mean our relationship either because we are still very much together. We just couldn’t live with each other for a while so we’re taking a temporary break.

 

We have a very crazy history and are in recovery together from heroin addiction (him also from alcoholism). So we not only used together for many years, we also got sober together and have had to relearn how we are together as sober people. We met in high school and our group of friends was tight. But we both started doing drugs and drinking heavily at very young ages. For him, his first sip of beer came at 9 years old after his dad sat him on a kitchen counter and offered the malty libation to him. For me, I was 12 when my dad offered me my first hit of crack so neither of us really ever had a solid chance to stay AWAY from drugs/alcohol!

 

When he and I got together, I was 21 and he was 27, we were so madly in love with each other that we both fell in love while in other relationships. Say and judge how you will but you can’t help who and when you fall in love! We were both still so young and ended up continuing the addictions we already had before we got together while we were together! It was not pretty, but it was LOVE! We stuck by each other through HELL and back and no matter what happened, we always ended up together. Finally, we both got on methadone about 6 years ago (after many other failed attempts at getting on and off methadone) and something clicked because we’ve both  been sober ever since! But ok… now we’re sober together.

 

AHHHH!!! Who are “we”? Who am I? WHO IS HE? Oh my god, it was terrifying! We just didn’t know each other sober and our relationship also didn’t know “sober”! So we had to get to know each other all over again. And THAT wasn’t easy. Like at ALL!

 

It was in this time that we came to realize just how codependent we were on each other. For the last 5 years, we had used heroin together; we did EVERYTHING together; we split EVERYTHING we had; we kept each other alive (figuratively and literally when we were homeless together). We could barely spend 5 minutes without each other without feeling like we were both going to die! This is when we knew we needed to figure this thing out… but it wasn’t that simple.

 

We are still, 6 years later, fighting codependence (click here for a link on a great explanation of codependency and codependent relationships from Mental Health America). Even though we’ve spent vacations apart from each other, and other random nights apart, this break we’re taking has truly been one of the toughest things we’ve gone through as a couple. Sometimes you need a reminder of just how much you need and love someone and taking a break is a good way to do that… but it doesn’t make it any easier! That is where my relationship is at right now and I’m learning to become ok with that… to accept it completely and not let the sadness and codependency run my life. A couple years ago, I’d have fallen to absolute pieces if this happened because I’ve grown so much in recent years. Thank the gods for recovery, man! I mean that wholeheartedly!

 

Does anyone else have or has ever had a relationship like this or experienced codependency? It doesn’t necessarily have to be a significant other. It could be a parent, a sibling, or even a friend. I’d love to hear what you guys think about this!

 

Here are some great links to check out about how to overcome codependency:

  1. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/terry-gaspard-msw-licsw/overcoming-codependency_b_4179666.html
  2. https://psychcentral.com/lib/recovery-from-codependency/

About My Struggle with Addiction

black and white portait

I could write an entire memoir on my struggle with addiction… So I’m going way back now. Way back and way personal. But these are my truths and I refuse to not speak them.  I grew up with a dad who was a recovering heroin and crack addict. And when I was 11, my mom couldn’t take it anymore and she left him… but unfortunately she left me too. This caused my dad to relapse once again and since he was now my sole caretaker, I was forced to grow up in an instant. He was shooting heroin and smoking crack all day everyday and didn’t make much of an effort to hide it from me. After that, I became a wild child and did everything I could do to rebel against the world. I drank a LOT, did every drug I could get my hands on, and all the while still going to school, still taking care of myself as an adult would, and still watching my dad slide into the abyss of heroin addiction. I saw my mom here and there throughout those years until I was 16 and moved in with her temporarily. It wasn’t until I was 17 that I tried heroin for the first time and I was instantly in love… wondering where this drug had been all my life. So began my love affair with the demon called heroin and that love affair quickly turned to hate as I lost everything little by little. By age 21, my dad was dying from liver disease (a complication of hepatitis C that he contracted in the 70’s) and I was at my worst phase of addiction… shooting heroin and smoking crack all day everyday. It was not a pretty life. And sadly, my dad slipped away and my mom and I had to make the decision to turn the breathing machines off because he was gone. After that day I tried to get sober and I did that by getting on Methadone Maintenance treatment. It was like a miracle drug and took all my withdrawals away… however, I wasn’t ready to stop yet and I was grieving the loss of my father so I kept using. It took me many stays in detox and rehab and periods of treatment on methadone before I finally, in 2012, got back on Methadone and was ready to get sober. And I’ve been sober ever since!

Now, I’m a HUGE advocate of Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) for opiate addiction which, for those of you who don’t know, is the gold standard for treatment of opioid use disorder. Addiction is a DISEASE and as such, heroin is unlike other drugs in that it literally changes the brain and receptors and causes chronic relapsing (click here for an article explaining this in more depth) With MAT, such as Methadone or Suboxone, it helps repair those things. In fact, it binds to the same receptors that heroin does without causing euphoria and it takes every bit of withdrawals and cravings away. This gives the person time to get their shit together, so to speak. And whether someone is on it for the rest of their life or for only a couple of years, it’s ok. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it, right? Now I know there are a lot of people who feel strongly against MAT because they consider it “substituting one drug for another”, or they say the person on MAT isn’t actually sober, and so many other negative hurtful things. I’m here to tell you that all of those things are FALSE!

In fact, in 2015 I was part of a campaign that the mayor of Boston put together called “StateWithoutStigMA”. It’s goal was to obliterate the stigma associated with mental illness and addiction. It was amazing because I got to tell my recovery story to the WORLD and how stigma has affected me throughout my life. The picture you see at the top of this post was actually taken specifically for the campaign and was used on banners and billboards throughout the state. It was one of my proudest moments and what I consider, one of my biggest accomplishments. That’s one of the reasons I created this website because the more people who see me coming forward and telling my story without shame, the more people will do the same. I’m not ashamed of my past anymore and I refuse to be quiet about how stigma equals death!

I will be writing a lot more about this topic throughout this blog and I would love to know YOUR thoughts on the subject. And please know I am 100% non-judgemental and even if you disagree with me, you still have a voice here!

Goodnight, my lovelies! And remember, you are LOVED, you are LIGHT, and you are BEAUTIFUL!

First Blog Post Ever… and a little about me!

Here I am! Writing my first blog post EVER! I’m honestly not sure why I didn’t do this years ago but past is past right? So you all have to bear with me while I figure this shit out, ok?

If you read the Who Am I page of my blog, then you know what this whole thing is all about. What you don’t know is why I’m doing this, how I got sober, what I do for work, or how I learned to become an artist. So I thought I’d share a little bit about my background with all you beautiful, wonderful souls.

First of all, I created this blog for a couple different reasons. One was to spread as much info and love on the healing power of art and then show people simple tutorials so that they can create beautiful pieces of art, even if they have no art experience at all! I wanted to make things simple for people to create things that make them feel good…. things that make them happy… things they can give as gifts…

The other reason I created this blog was to show people that RECOVERY IS REAL! No matter what addiction, mental illness, etc… you may have, people can and DO recover. And art and creativity in general can sometimes facilitate that recovery! I want people to see how creativity has affected my life in a positive way. I’m all about sharing as many skills, techniques, strategies, as I can to help people realize their creative potential and to also get and maintain their sobriety!

We’re all beautiful fucking rock stars! And I’m here to help you see that!

Now… the big question… how did I get sober? That’s a very loaded question.  After almost a decade of heroin use, I finally got sick and tired of being sick and tired (the old adage) and decided to seek treatment through methadone maintenance (Medication Assisted Treatment). One of the things you’ll learn about me through this blog is that I’m a huge proponent of harm reduction and multiple pathways to recovery. There is not a one sized fits all route to recovery. It’s different for everyone and for me that route was MAT (Medication Assisted Treatment). It literally saved my life. I’m finally, after 6 years of sobriety thanks to MAT, ready to get off the program and start living without methadone. So I am tapering currently and will officially be off of my medication in May and I am so excited!

My work… I do something that not many people in this world can do. I tell my story of recovery and of my days in active addiction for a living. I am a Certified Peer Engagement Specialist for the homeless and mentally ill population in my area. This means that I use my lived experience as someone who has dealt with addiction, mental illness, and homeless in many points in my life as a way to help others in similar situations. I help connect them to services, housing, benefits, etc… Basically, I help the forgotten ones.

And finally, how I learned to become an artist? I didn’t! I’m 100% self-taught! I enjoy all kinds of art including collage, mixed media, watercolor, acrylic, encaustics, and so much more! Art is absolutely my drug now! In fact, I cannot go a day without sketching or creating some kind of art, even if only for 10 minutes, everyday. If I don’t, I have massive anxiety! Does anyone else feel like that? It has become the ultimate wellness tool for myself. And if I don’t take good care of myself, bad things tend to happen. I also have an Etsy store and as soon as I figure out how to link that to my blog, I will! LOL! I’m still so new to this stuff! Ok… It’s getting late and I’m hungry.

So goodnight… and just in case you haven’t heard it lately, you are loved, you are light, and you are BEAUTIFUL!