A quick glance at the calendar told me everything I need to see.
One year clean and sober.
I cannot believe it has been two years since I blogged about losing my job because of my addiction to drugs, namely opiates. That first year was horrible. The inability to put down the drugs, the multiple withdrawals every single time I tried. Losing friends. Losing family members. And of course…almost losing my life.
This past year, since the day I said “no more”, has been the most incredible year of my life. I celebrated by going back to my drug counselor to visit him. I had not seen him since November of last year. I was doing fine on my own and while I had every intention in the world of continuing to go back after formal classes were over, well, life just got in the way. Thanksgiving came and went. Then Christmas. The birth of my grandson in January. February was hectic. March was visits from family. April was filled with excursions and trips with my husband.
Finally, May. And it was time.
I bought him an “Angel” plant and a card detailing how often I think of him and how I give him so much credit for saving my life. He spent so much time with me over those months. He let me come in for private sessions when I needed to without charging me. He made himself available by phone any time I needed him.
When I came into class tonight, he teared up. He greeted me with the warmest hug. He had me sit next to him at the front of his new class, a group of addicts I had never seen before. Each of them was exactly where I was a year ago. You could see the pain, anguish and sorrow in each of their faces. Stories on women who lost their children because of their addiction. Men who lost their jobs and the ability to support themselves and their families. Mothers, grieving mothers, who were at the end of their ropes sitting alongside their precious babies who were so heavily addicted they could barely keep their eyes open.
I empathized with each of them in my own way.
Finally, toward the middle of class, Tom says, “Does anyone want to know who this lady is sitting to the right of me?”
A young lady named Jessica spoke up. “Yeah, I do. Why are you here,” she said to me. “You don’t look like you have any issues.”
You don’t look like you have any issues. My heart absolutely soared hearing that. Translation? I no longer look like a drug addict. I had my life back and apparently, you could see that in my appearance.
He had me share my story about my addiction to opiates, how I lost my job from stealing pain meds on the job. He had me talk about all the deceit and lies that I told in order to get more meds from the various doctors that I knew. All of it…out on the table and in front of an enraptured audience.
“So why are you here now,” she asked.
“Because today, today I am clean for one full year…and I couldn’t fathom being anywhere else but alongside the man who saved my life.”
Tom took my hand. I cried. He cried. The moms in the room cried and hugged their kids.
“It can be done,” I told them. “Patience, faith, hope, God…and Tom.”
We talked about other subjects. I listened to them, all the stories so familiar. I found myself nodding my head quite a bit. I relate. I understood. I get it. I was there.
And by the grace of God, I am not there any more.
I told Tom I was heading back to college in the fall, driving towards my Masters degree in Social Work and getting licensed as an Addiction Counseling Specialist. He was beaming like a proud father.
“You know I will be hitting you up for an internship,” I said.
“We need you here, CP. There will always be a place for you here,” he replied.
I gave him and some members of the group hugs as we disbanded. One mom came up to me. She gave me a hug. She touched my cheek.
“I just wanted to say, God Bless you. I think my daughter really heard you. She won’t open up to me. I’m just her mom. But I think she really related to you.”
I wrote down my phone number and handed it to her daughter.
“If you feel like you are going to use. If you feel like you are climbing the walls from withdrawals. If you are up at 3am pacing the floors and don’t know what to do with yourself…you CALL me. Day or night. I don’t care what time it is. I will be there for you to talk to. We can work through it together. You don’t need to use. You are 17. You have your whole life ahead of you. One day, you’ll be someones mom, wife…and this will all be just a blip on the radar of your life. You can do this.”
She hugged me and thanked me, her sad, tired green eyes were brimming with tears.
“I’ll call you,” she said.
The empty words of the addict. I understand that. I will probably never hear from her…but I know she will carry that number with her, perhaps put it on her bedside table. She’ll look at it every once in awhile and remember that someone made it through. And that gesture alone might keep her off the pipe for at least one more night.
I left there feeling lifted by God. I got in my truck and drove home with my heart lighter. A full year. An amazing year. A gift. Every single day is a gift. I know and appreciate that now…
and I will never, ever look back.