My Wall-E-esque Life: Part 1

“Fat Acceptance” has been a catch-phrase for at least 40 of the years I have been alive. In 2 parts, I share my experiences and lessons learnt being a part of the…

Fat Acceptance Movement.

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I’ve been fat ever since I got my tonsils out when I was 7-years old.

Fat kid, teen, adult and now a “mature” adult.

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Trials (and Errors)

I’ve done dozens of diets, been prescribed Black Beauties & other speed (starting at age 8), belonged to many gyms, taken Phen-Fen (with success, but with heart valve damage), tried Topamax (fail), used Wellbutrin (fail), had a Roux en Y Gastric Bypass (with fabulous success, then epic failure), done hypnosis & acupuncture (fail & fail), become a daily Mindfulness Meditation fanatic (fail for weight loss/huge win for pain relief), have tried to have anorexia, then bulimia, hand-written hundreds of thousands of journal pages, letting them “hold” my pain, shame, revulsion, self-hate, wishes, fears, hopes &, eventually, resolution with my size.

I remain in resolution.

I will never diet or take diet drugs again. Ever.

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Time & Money

Thinking about the masses of time and money I’ve spent trying to lose weight makes my head spin.

Time

  • Going to the gym
  • Writing out menus
  • Researching rules and techniques for success
  • Real life or online support group meetings, including social networks talking about losing/gaining weight
  • Shopping slower to read labels and make sure food is “appropriate”
  • Learning new cooking methods
  • Fighting with family about the change in foods in the fridge and cupboards
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artist: Sapphire4723

Money

  • Gym membership
  • New cookbooks
  • Membership fees & apps
  • Tools for success (exercise equipment, pedometer, walking/running shoes, gym clothes, etc.)
  • Tossing all the “bad” food in the garbage
  • Buying all the “good” food
  • Probably eventually buying more “bad” food for my family because they whined so much about foisting my diet on them
  • $28,000 cash for RNY gastric bypass (GB)

Can I include the time and money (including the taxpayer’s) for the years of therapy discussing and crying about all of this?

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Positive?

I was a Fat Activist in the mid-late 80’s, mostly in the lesbian community. I’ve written about being fat-positive for almost 3 decades.

In the beginning, when I was in my 20’s and early 30’s, I was healthy… labs were fine, no diabetes, my joints or feet didn’t hurt. I crowed (bragged, was arrogant) about how it was the fat-hating that made fat people sick and die, not the fat itself.

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Reality

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Now, at 56-years old, I see how delusional I was. I am well on the road to dying before most people in my family did, and they all had diabetes, too. My future resides in my memories of my Cuban relatives & the diabetes complications they endured before dying. Heart attacks, going blind, having toes, then feet cut off, eventually dying in a coma because the body just gave up.

I see it coming as if it was a roaring train heading right for me.

Litany of Pain

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Here are my fat-related illnesses and issues:

  • Type 2 Diabetes (diagnosed at 34 years old), now on 2 insulins and metformin
  • I heal terribly because of the diabetes, often needing antibiotics for residual infections
  • Stage 3 Kidney Disease from the diabetes
  • Pain with every step I take
  • Osteoporosis and arthritis in my feet, which have broken 3 times just from walking for exercise, and one foot breaking while swimming
  • Broke one foot falling off the Wii Fit Board trying to exercise… needed 3 surgeries to repair
  • Arthritis in my lower back, was on opioids for 8+ years for the back pain, becoming incredibly addicted, finally getting clean 3 years ago (yay me!) Now I use Mindfulness Meditation for pain relief, though many times I wish for some Norco.
  • It took me years to find surgeons I felt safe with to get my 4 hernias repaired (one surgery) and then my gallbladder out (a separate surgery, with 3 hospital visits afterwards because of infection)… several turning me away because of my enormous belly size (blessedly, I found the docs and those issues are resolved)
  • Bone loss from possibly 2 main sources: lack of exercise & the GB
  • Walking with a walker, but should be in an electric wheelchair, my feet hurting so badly
  • Using an electric wheelchair when I shop

Nautilus

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My world has gradually become smaller and smaller. After 32 years in birth work (where I hurt daily as well), I am now a sedentary Phone Sex Operator. I live in a small space and leave the house only for doctor appointments, physical therapy, shopping and seeing my doggies at mom’s house.

Writing that makes me sad.

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Part 2 On Its Way

In Part 2 of My Wall-E-esque Life, I will talk about the place the Fat Advocacy Movement does have in our lives. While it might not be health (despite the incessant refrain that it does), it is most assuredly have an enormous place in our physical and emotional world.

More soon!

My Navelgazing Midwife Goodbye

Weaning is complete.

I began my Navelgazing Midwife Facebook Page (NgM FB Page) in 2009 and will be closing the door on it Monday, March 13, 2017.

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I took this photo and used it for 10 years on my business card and in correspondence. One of my favorite clients, Silvia Frank, was killed by her husband after she left him for Domestic Violence. Her 5 daughters are amazing.

I became the Navelgazing Midwife (NgM) right around 2003 or so. The first blog I had was on Blogger, but when they snatched pages from it and censored me because I had nude women (birthing and breastfeeding!), I moved to Squarespace after making sure they would not be censoring.

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One of the favorite photographs I’ve ever taken. Jenna was nearing the end of her labor and we watched, mesmerized, as her uterus crested outside the water during contractions, then her belly sinking completely under the water after the wave. This picture was the header for my Navelgazing Midwife Blog for several years.

My first post on the Navelgazing Midwife Blog was July 3, 2004 and the last post I put there was July 31, 2016, directing folks to my new blog, the Navelgazing Writer (NgW). I’ve debated closing the NgM blog, but know there are still wondrous birth stories there and some midwifery history we would be good to remember as time passes.

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Katie birthing Uma while her mother supports and loves her. Katie’s mom has passed; looking at this, my heart soars. I took this photo.

My NgM FB Page holds much history as well, including the moment-by-moment births of my grandbabies Gabriella and Preston… and included the postpartum hemorrhage that nearly killed Meghann 36 hours after Preston’s birth. The news of my angel grandbaby Eliott is also enclosed within these pages. My newest granddaughter Alexandra’s early cesarean birth was announced there a mere 3 months ago.

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Gabriella, 5 – Preston, 2.5 – Alexandra, 1 month (my grandbabies!)

If you’re reading this on the NgM FB Page, you already know I have been weaning for a while. I left birth completely 2.5 years ago (except for my grandbabies), having left midwifery 5 years before that. News has gradually lessened; my commentary barely audible anymore.

I’ve turned to chronicling my life for my kids and their kids, sharing my knowledge of and inclusion in the early LGBT communities in Orlando, Florida, Frankfurt, Germany & San Diego, California. I have barely begun to share the story of my 2+ decade-long relationship with Zack (previously known as Sarah) and the impact of his transitioning on our lives.

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Zack (before his transition) nursing his son and my daughter Aimee. We co-nursed for 2.5 years, often saying all families should have 4 lactating breasts in the home. I took this picture, circa 1986.

Interspersed will have to be birthy stories… I just wrote 2 about the immigrant populations I worked with in San Diego and El Paso, Texas. Birth has been an integral part of my life since January 1983… I could not write my autobiography without including it. I just have a different viewpoint now that I am above and far away from the stories that once affected every aspect of my spirit, emotions, relationships and friendships.

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Shayla and her then-husband. Shayla had one of the most horrific hospital births I attended in 32 years. Exhibit A demonstrating blatant racism in maternity care.

I’ve had a sort of hidden life for a long time… one of intense sexuality and BDSM. I was a lifestyle submissive with my former partner Zack and am writing about these things as well.

My life since puberty has been colored with mental illness. Bipolar Disorder and Depression and are well-represented in the NgW blog. Much more to come as the blog is still fairly new.

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I was addicted to opiates for 8 years, it sliding through my sister’s dying of an accidental overdose on opiates, Fentanyl being the actual cause of her death. I am now 2.5 years clean and share that story in my new blog as well.

My body, at almost 56-years old, is tired, disabled and in a lot of pain; Mindfulness Meditation and 800 mg. ibuprofen are my pain relief. I struggle with a plethora of issues, most fat-related. It is crucial for me to write about my life as a fat woman, someone who’s tried a hundred times to not be fat anymore, but still fat after trying it all. My feet have arthritis and keep breaking just from walking. I have osteoporosis (from the gastric bypass). My diabetes, while okay at the moment with a HgbA1c of 5.9, that is with 2 insulins on board.

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Since leaving birth, I’ve become a sex worker. I’m not writing a lot about it at the moment, but it colors my life tremendously. Amazingly, all the years of birth work and therapy have armed me adequately for caring for the men, women and transfolks I work with every single day. There is not one day when my birth experiences do not figure prominently in the interactions with others.

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Because of the state of the United States right now, I explored different topics about which to write, but quickly saw that, not only did some topics affect my mental state, but a zillion different ones joined the list every day. I needed to focus my attention and have chosen Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press as my main demonstration issues against 45.

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Illustrator, Eric Drooker

It’s been an interesting shift in my thought process, from birth to politics. I’m observing my Self intently, monitoring my emotions, mental state, my body’s physical responses and lastly, what those around me have to say about what I’ve written. The NgW Blog is still really small, very few readers with each post, but it took about 2 years for the NgM Blog to pick up steam, so I’m not sweating it. Also, I really am writing for myself, giving flight to my thoughts and experiences, and if others find what I write helpful or creates a visceral response, all the better.

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There were only a couple of posts in the NgM Blog that were written with the reader in mind and whenever I did that, I regretted it. Of all the posts, only one was removed and edited because of the backlash I got from my licensing organization. (I cannot tell you how freeing it is to be completely unrestrained now, writing writing writing without someone threatening my livelihood. There really are nasty, ugly parts to midwifery politics in the US.)

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I know many of you reading have followed me for a long time. I cannot thank you enough for considering my views and listening to my thoughts, even when you disagreed with me. Thank you for challenging me, making me think… allowing me to shift and change and grow. I am not the same woman who created the nom de plume “Navelgazing Midwife,” but you are not the same either. Isn’t it amazing to witness our own growth and transformations?

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Endless gratitude to all of you and may your lives and the lives of those around you be filled with boundless love and light. You will never be forgotten.

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Blindsided: The Fat-Shaming Doc Visit

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Written 10/12/16 about 10/10/16 Gastro-Intestinal (GI) doctor visit.

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So, while I have been fat my whole life and have had my share of medical fat-shaming from fat-hating doctors, it has been a very long time since that’s happened… whether from their shifts in attitude via Continuing Education about inclusivity  (or at least learning to keep their mouths closed about their attitudes)  or because I learned to open my mouth to shut it down.

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Unknown date of un-remembered hospitalization. PICC Line insertion successful.

The GI Doc

I had signed AMA out of the hospital 12 hours earlier when the doctor, small, a person of color (no clue the origin, but shouldn’t matter),very pretty walked into the Exam Room.

“Oh, my! You look awful,” she said. I’d seen her 3 times before, but I am memorable by what I wear (tie-dye) and being bald. And I am very, very nice to care providers.

“You look like you haven’t slept in weeks!”

“Uhhh, I am at the tail end of a 2-3 month Manic Episode, so no, not sleeping much.”

She went over the paperwork, labs & prescriptions from the night before. She looked at me pretty harshly and said, “You really need to be in the hospital. You are extremely dehydrated.”

I told her no one said anything like that the night before, but I would probably still not have stayed.

She said, “Stubborn.”

Dehydration?

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The reasons she said I am dehydrated:

  • chronic diarrhea despite 20 Immodiums and 3 Pancreatic Enzymes a day
  • vomiting a couple of times a day
  • taking Lasix to pee! (because of the ankle swelling from the Risperdal)

I would have never recognized the signs of dehydration because they were in the labs! I guess the NP the night before didn’t think I was that dehydrated because she never even said the word to me. My pee is crystal clear; strange. She said that was why my HR was 124 upon discharge. I am sure I shrugged.

Medications

She said I needed to get the ER prescriptions filled (the Cipro and Bentyl) and she added Prilosec, Lomotil and Zofran.

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This is what my New-Taking-Now meds look like (as they lay against my ballot which went in the mail yesterday!).

“Good-Luck with That.”

“You need to have your gallbladder taken out as soon as possible, before it gets infected.”

Okay, true. Emergency surgeries on fat people have an increased risk of morbidity and mortality.

But there was more to her sentence above.

She ran two of them together, “You need to have your gallbladder taken out as soon as possible, before it gets infected… but I am sure you won’t find a doctor to touch you because of your size.”

blinking as I watched the contempt drip from her lips

“What do you mean?”

“I don’t think you will find a doctor in our area to do the surgery because of (again with the disdain) – the risks.”

I told her I knew that Bariatric Surgeons (who do Weight Loss Surgeries) are ALL GI Docs and I would find one to take my gallbladder out.

“Good luck with that.”

She gave me my paperwork, prescriptions and her bulldozer-sized hatred of fat people… and walked out.

I sat there and cried.

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raw Raw RAW

I am strong. Most of the time.

Right now in this (decreasingly) manic place, I feel flayed, nerves on the outer surface of my body. No ability to control what or who hits them. I merely react to the sensations.

This one was an animal claw dragging down my chest… slipping in and gashing my heart as it went by.

I had not felt such shame in eons. And I see doctors all the time! I mean, really, probably not for at least a decade have I been medically fat-shamed. (Many medical & personal fat-shaming experiences to come in future posts.) I felt hideous in those moments after she smashed shit down my throat, squishing it with her heel as she left the room.

Pondering

I stumbled out of the building, crying still, and drove home.

I began to find my Power, many minutes too late and useless at that point, but I thought, “For fuck’s sake, I cannot possibly be the fattest person on the face of the earth who needs abdominal surgery.”

And then I got mad, but it was a gradual dilution of the mad into the shame where, for a time, if they were able to be separated, you could see they were half and half. Now, 2 days later, I am more mad, but in retelling it to my Insurance’s Case Manager, I cried from shame so hard she kept having to say, “Breathe. Breathe.”

I have been given 3 Bariatric doctors’ names… one in Orlando, one in Tampa and one in Miami. I told my Case Manager I would go anywhere in Florida to get it done. Even if I had to go to Shands Teaching Hospital in Gainesville. I called the doc here in Orlando, explained the situation to the Office Manager and she said she would talk to him and get back to me tomorrow. I told her I knew it was not his usual surgery, that I had had Weight Loss Surgery (WLS) in 2001, but was fat again and needed help, please.

We’ll see what happens.

I will find a doctor to help me.

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ER Visit for Abdominal Pain

10/10/16

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I am a plethora of fucked up shit right now. The Bipolar Mania and my abdominal pain is getting worse. I went to the ER last night where everyone was as loving and respectful as possible. Oddly, two men I complimented on their bow ties, came and hugged me, both saying, “You’re beautiful!” That never happens.

Get Thee to the Hospital Already!

I’ve known I have gallstones for over a year, but the gallbladder wasn’t hurting me so I haven’t had to deal with it. However, I’ve been having increasing right upper abdominal pain for months, thinking it was a hernia (incisional). I also considered the gallbladder, but it didn’t fit the typical gallbladder attack.

Then the Mania hit and all of my body’s pain vanished. I didn’t realize it was gone until I started taking the Risperdal and the dips down from the highs brought back the intense pain I live with every day.

Symptoms

  • Off & on again fever (highest 103.5)
  • Sweating profusely (not related to Blood Glucoses)
  • Diarrhea that 20 Immodiums a day and Pancreatic Enzymes don’t quell (so no bowel obstruction)
  • Upper right abdominal pain that radiates through my back, which then changes to a knitting needle feeling (the pain has no rhyme or reason… independent of food choices… making this Atypical Gallbladder pain
  • When the spasms hit, Pain Level is a 6

I am really good at using Dr. Google and self-diagnosing, but I had run out of ideas for matching my pain to a cause, so trekked off to the hospital.

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Prelim Work

Because I know hospitals are wary of people with pain, thinking they are drug seekers, I am clear with each care provider overseeing me that I am 2.5 years clean from opiates and do not want them. They visibly relax, relieved they don’t have to figure out how to have That Opiate Discussion. I use Mindfulness Meditation for my pain relief and did my best with it the past week.

They took me right in and, during my vitals, we see my Heart Rate is 118… double what it should be. Noted. I was taken right to a room, meeting a lovely nurse who got the IV in my fat, fat arm’s one-vein-I-have on the first try. Then the Nurse-Practitioner came in with two students (she didn’t ask permission to have them in there, but I couldn’t have cared less at the moment… and I always let students watch anyway). I was delighted to see an NP and she thanked me for that, most saying, “Where’s the doctor?!”

Quickly, I was given Toradol, which didn’t do squat, and then Zofran (for nausea), which helped a little more. Then I was wheeled down to get a CT, a fat girl wheelchair that held my body comfortably.

I was in tons (laughing about the word “ton,” seeing it in editing) of pain at that time (the pain coming in waves like contractions). The tech helped me onto the narrow table.

Contrast Pleasure

The scan had contrast, which I have grown to enjoy. I used to cry when they said I needed it, but now…. shudder of pleasure

I teach others how to enjoy it as well.

You see, when the dye goes through the IV and into the body, it makes a searing beeline for the groin. More specifically for me, my clit. (Men say it goes to their testicles.)

You know, when some people get it, they uh- they start to- well, they get an orgasm. Can you believe that?

While I don’t orgasm, I have learned to, quite literally, lie back and enjoy the short ride.

I even overlook the nasty iodine taste in my mouth. Too much of a hot party going on down south.

When the procedure was done, the sweet tech and the wheelchair pusher-guy helped lift me to sitting, grabbing the sheet behind me and pulling. I was zipped up quick as could be!

Missing My Pain Doula

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It was going to take an hour for the results. I was texting with my fawn, then I got really, really sad about not having Zack with me.

Zack had been my medical doula for 2 decades. Longer. Even when he was pregnant (30 years ago), he was with me when I had surgery, loving me through it.

I began having another spasm, told my fawn I had to go for a few minutes, then cried as I did my Lamaze breathing, leaning over the raised head of the bed, my tears falling onto the blue sheet as I huffed and puffed in a sobbing rhythm. Big hot tears of remembering how Zack spoke up for me, protected me, gave me my meds on time, even wiped my ass after surgeries when I couldn’t reach. (That’s love right there.) I didn’t want to bother him with my pointless sadness, so didn’t call, but I could feel the emptiness engulfing me.

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I was NPO, knowing surgery might really be possible, and how alone I was going to be if that happened. How would I get food? How would I remember my meds? How would my ass stay clean?

(An aside: I have been being terribly non-compliant with my Risperdal and Trazodone. I asked my fawn to help remind me/encourage me to take them about 11 or 12 at night, but I over-ride him and just stay up for 24+ hours. Zack was like a Psych warden… handing me my pills and watching while I swallowed them. Alone, I get to be a bad patient because I would rather feel GOOD than sleep. Even though there are bugs and shadows and such. Yeah, I know. STOP IT! One of my sweet friends sent me a picture of herself making a stern face that she said says, “TAKE YOUR MEDS!” Maybe it’ll help.)

The Results

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The NP came in and told me they couldn’t see any hint of a hernia in that area. I was really surprised. However, the gallstones were present, but labs showed no cholecystitis, so surgery was ruled out for the moment. She said I did need to have surgery as soon as possible, though.  I told her I had a GI Doc I would call in the morning (10/10/16… I did… next post).

She then said I had an infection in my intestines. (The paperwork is in the car, I can’t find what it is called at the moment.) She wanted me on Flagyl, but I am allergic to it, so changed it to Cipro. She also was prescribing Bentyl for the colic-like abdominal spasms. She said she would prefer I stay in the hospital for a couple of days, but I said I could take care of things at home. (Sheesh. Lyin’ through my teeth, I am.) She said, fine.

When she went out to do discharge paperwork, the sweet nurse came in and did vitals. My HR was now up to 124. She left, the NP came back in.

“I really want you in the hospital for a couple of days now.”

I asked what would they do. She said meds and pushing fluids. I said I could do that at home. She had me sign out AMA. I was told to return to the ER in 12 hours if I couldn’t see my GI doc, wanting to check my HR again. I said, “Sure, no problem.”

I left with the prescriptions and tried the 2 closest pharmacies, neither of which takes my insurance. I was exhausted, crying in frustration and went home.

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I tried working, but was in so much pain, I laid in bed and boo hoo’d myself to sleep. I slept fitfully for a couple of hours at a time. Up for 2, back down again for 2.

I did not take my Risperdal or Trazodone last night.

I called my GI doc’s office at 7:50am and got an 8:30am appointment.

That’s the next post.

Next: Blindsided: The Fat-Shaming Doc Visit

Opiate Addiction: Tools for Recovery

In Part 1, Opiate Addiction: The Slide Into Hell, I talked about my introduction to Norco and Percocet and how I moved from use to abuse.

Then, in Part 2, Opiate Addiction: Detox, I shared the details of detoxing from opiates, including the difficulties of withdrawal symptoms.

Here, I speak about finding support for recovery, not always easy when one doesn’t want to participate in the Anonymous/12-Step programs.

My Take on the 12-Steps

Coming out of the detox fog after a month of withdrawal hell, I began feeling the need for support with my cravings and need for medication, so went on a Google Search & Destroy Mission.

For a variety of reasons, I cannot abide by the Anonymous (12-Step) Programs. I am a-theist for starters. Yes, I know the party line of making anything your “Higher Power,” (“It can be a tree!”), but it is just not an emotional, even spiritual, barrier I can cross.

100 years ago, I attended Sexual Abuse Survivors Anonymous (another post for another day) and, I kid you not, they (not me!) recited the Lord’s Prayer at the end of every meeting. “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.” Even ignoring the incredibly insensitive-to-other-religions-besides-Christianity issue, there was the whole “Our Father,” part. For crying out loud, many of these women had been raped by their fathers! The ghastly myopic blindness horrified me.

Another major issue I have always had is the “I am powerless” recitation in Step 1.

We admitted we were powerless over our addiction —that our lives had become unmanageable.

Well, I am absofuckinglutely NOT powerless. I am power-FULL. I refuse to think of myself as helpless. I did that already and it did not serve me in the least. Fuck that.

I have attended probably 100 12-Step meetings for a variety of issues over the last 3 decades. Different groups, different locations, always the same spiel. It annoyed the crap out of me how meetings became pity parties… and then the, I-Got-More-Fucked-Up-Than-You-Did stories, members trying to one-up each other with how low their “bottoms” were. It also did not escape me the clandestine drug deals and bar dates made for after meetings. I have been told by many present and former Anonymous attendees that the meetings are the best places to score.

Clearly not a good fit, so searched for those alternatives I knew had to exist.

Rational Recovery

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My first stop was Rational Recovery (RR). I was starving and it spoke to my a-theist Self, so I grabbed onto the program, ordering all the books and pamphlets they had to offer. Once they arrived, however, I quickly figured out, uh… no… this won’t work either.

Their main theme is the belief in an “Addictive Voice” aka “The Beast,” that compels one to use. A sort of devil on one’s shoulder, whispering in your ear, imploring you to do your drug-of-choice.

The Beast: Addictive desire. The animal desire for addictive pleasures, to get high. Your Beast is a perverted survival drive that speaks with awesome, sometimes God-like, authority, but takes on charming and seductive tones as well.

One more negative for me is they have no Support Groups, in person or online. I am a Support Group Junkie, so that was a big turn-off, too.

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Nope. Wrong program.

SMART Recovery

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I moved on to SMART Recovery and very quickly knew I had hit on the right solution for my needs. Scientifically based? Yes. Believes in a person’s being powerful? Ayup. Support groups? You bet.

SMART Recovery is the leading self-empowering addiction recovery support group. Our participants learn tools for addiction recovery based on the latest scientific research and participate in a world-wide community which includes free, self-empowering, science-based mutual help groups.

I started attending the online meetings immediately as well as grabbing their FREE material online. The Tools are the cornerstone of SMART. Based on Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), SMART has whole exercises for re-training the brain to recognize the issue/craving then working with it.

The central idea of REBT (Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy) is that our emotions and behaviors (how we feel and act) are strongly influenced by how we think. Therefore, changing our thinking can be a very powerful way to change our emotions and behaviors.

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I really cannot say enough good about SMART. I saw me through my first year of Recovery. If anyone has any questions about it, please don’t hesitate to ask!

Mindfulness Meditation

An enormous key to my Recovery was/has been/continues to be Mindfulness Meditation. Because there is so much to say, I’m making it its own post.

Trite, I know, but The Message is: THERE IS HOPE! Getting out from addiction has been one of the most amazing things in my life. One of the best is I am writing again.

The words keep flowing!

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 List of Alternatives to 12-Step Programs

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Opiate Addiction: Detox

I wrote how I fell into opiate addiction in Opiate Addiction: The Slide Into Hell. You might want to read that first.

It was difficult for me to make the choice to go ahead with the Suboxone because I still had about a week’s worth of Norco and a month of Percocet due for refill in 10 days, but I was so upset about stealing others’ meds, I felt I needed to start right away.

Suboxone Film

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Suboxone is one of the major treatments to help with opiate withdrawal. I’d gotten the prescription from the Pain Specialist, but didn’t fill it for about 6 months. Once I did, not taking the Norco and Percocet was a reality and it scared me to death.

Before taking the Suboxone the first time, you have to have actual withdrawal symptoms or it can make you really sick. I was disturbed that I had to feel like shit before I could feel better, but I didn’t want to end up in the hospital, so sat in my chair, waiting for the symptoms to begin. I breathed deep most of the time when I was not in the bed. Tried to meditate, read, Facebook, staying “in-the-moment” as much as I could, but my mind was bouncing around, trying to convince me I was a nut for doing this.

After 20 hours or so, many of which I did end up tossing and turning while trying to sleep, I began feeling bad, then worse, then I was really feeling sick, nauseous, jittery, diarrhea and a very deep fear without taking a couple of pills. I used Dr. Google for the zillionth time, making sure I was using this unknown (to me) medication properly. I’d read reviews of how amazing it was, others who said they became addicted to the Suboxone itself and were trying to detox off of it!

I read over and over how to put the film in your mouth. Don’t drink anything near time, but don’t have a dry mouth. (Ugh. Contradictions!) Don’t drink anything after. It can take up to 20 minutes for it to completely dissolve. Don’t chew it. Do not swallow it. Don’t hold it in your hand for a long time or be sweaty lest it melt on you.

I stood in the mirror, tongue up, wanting to make sure where I going to put the film. Can I lift my tongue high enough? Is that the area there? My mind so worried I was going to fuck this up because I couldn’t follow the instructions properly.

Then I opened the package and quickly laid the strip on the (clean) counter, staring at it. I ran to the toilet for the 10th time that day and came out determined to get this underway already.

I took a deep breath, picked up the film, looking in the mirror, lifted my tongue and laid the Suboxone on the underside before lowering my tongue carefully, closing my mouth and going to my chair to wait while it melted and relieved my detox symptoms.

suboxone3

Oblivion

Once the Suboxone began relieving the symptoms -and I swear it started working within a few minutes, totally a placebo reaction- I felt myself relax, not realizing how incredibly tight I had been. I set alarms on my phone when to take the next dose in case I fell asleep after being so darn tired and feeling like crap.

This is when time smeared away, feeling like a pretty watercolor having a black & white liquid poured on it. I would fade in and out of awareness… alone most of the time, I cannot really say what I did and did not do.

What I Recall Over the Next 4 Days:

  • Being in the chair, TV off (very odd for me) when Zack left for work at 7am, then still sitting there when he came home about 9pm. TV off, dogs not fed. I don’t even know if I peed or drank anything. I am sure I didn’t eat.
  • Zack asking me to go get tacos. I remember being there, at the counter, but the next memory is being home and Zack asking where the food was. I shrugged that I didn’t know. Shockingly, he asked me to go back to get our dinner already. No memory of driving or being there again. I assume I bought food.
  • I kinda realized I was zombie-like, so called the Pain Doc to discuss my dosage. He never called back. I cut the film in half for the next dose. Vanished again after it kicked in.
  • I was in our room and Zack looked over the balcony and asked where the car was. I said I didn’t know. Days later, when I was off the Suboxone, he told me he’d sent out a search party for the car and I had crashed it into some bushes and, apparently, got out and walked home. It was a mile away.

After the lost car incident, Zack said I couldn’t take the Suboxone anymore. I am sure I had no comprehension of what that meant. It took another three days for me to gather my wits about me and be present in my own life.

Weaning Off Meds (snortylaugh)

As soon as I stopped the Suboxone, I went back on the Norco I had left, still 10 days away from the Percocet. Zack handed me the bottle and said, “Have at it, babe.”

Looking back over the years of addiction, it really is quite a miracle I didn’t die. I remember waking up at times thinking I was dying, not quite gasping for air, but I felt suffocated. In 2011, my sister died of a Fentanyl overdose (same medication Prince died from). Even still, I was so deep in my own delusions, I refused to acknowledge my sickness. Knowing what I do now, I know that opiate overdoses slow breathing down and eventually it ceases. An easy death, but tragic nonetheless.

I knew the detox would go easier if I weaned off the Norco. I swear I tried, but the 7 days of medication was gone in 3. I was then thrown into full-on detox with all that goes with it.

opiate withdrawal timeline

I cursed my lack of control to wean at least 100 times an hour, laying in bed moaning that I was dying. The dogs were not sympathetic and Zack wandered in and out to check on me, but there really was nothing for him to do. While one can die doing a sudden detox from alcohol and Benzos, it isn’t a risk for opiate withdrawals, so all I could do was deal with it.

By the time the Percocet was in my hand, I had kind of evened out, not quite so miserable, yet still feeling like crap in general. Sitting here today, I cannot, for the life of me, figure out the rationalization for taking the Percocet and knowing full well I would be starting all over with the withdrawal as soon as they were gone. Bizarre thinking is all I can attribute it to. But take the Percocet I did. I picked them up in the drive-through and before I put the car in drive, I popped 3 in my mouth.

I felt so much better within an hour. All the symptoms vanished and I felt normal again.

The month-long supply of Percocet was gone in 10 days.

And that withdrawal cycle I show up there started all over again.

All told, I had about 30 days of agony with a few days of a Percocet respite inbetween.

Coping alone, I researched support groups (something I enjoy and have utilized for 30 years), refusing any Anonymous program because I am A-theist and, besides the God stuff, I will not ever say I am “powerless”; I am Power-Full. There had to be others like me, didn’t there?

“Opiate Addiction: Tools for Recovery” comes next.

Opiate Addiction: the Slide Into Hell

I’m 2 years clean this month from addiction to the opiates Norco and Percocet.

looking at that statement above with amazing pride and happiness

turning-heart-to-the-spiritual-world

How It Began

It’s funny (not haha) that I cannot even recall when I was first prescribed Norco, but I am pretty sure it was around 2005 for back pain. Around 2007, my Primary Care Doc was concerned with my still being on it and ordered an immediate blood test to see if I was abusing them. I was baffled, not even having a clue what she was talking about. I took them exactly as prescribed… never even dawned on me to do otherwise. I was a midwife, for crying out loud. I had to keep my wits about me! Opiate addiction had yet to make headlines.

Then in December 2008, I broke my foot falling off a Wii Fit Board and had surgery to put a pin in it a couple of days later. The Norco wasn’t quite taking care of the pain, so Percocet was added to the mix. I had at least a year of terrible pain as there were 3 surgeries altogether; I remained on the meds throughout, compliant as could be.

I was an active midwife until early 2011 and that is about where I can see I went from use to abuse. Surely I was dependent a lot earlier, but being unaware of the cycle, I bypassed it without notice.

Thoughts & Words

morning pages2

I kept Journals during the abuse years (ugh, years!), doing the encouraged 3 pages a day, Morning Pages, as described in The Artist’s Way. The rhythm of the words went like this:

  1. Contentment for a few days after the prescriptions were filled… writing about going to the Y or some birthy topic or other… what my partner Zack was doing at the time… just chitty-chatting.
  2. Heightening “concern” I might be taking a few too many at a time, but not really caring and continuing to take them anyway… yet the distant knowledge that I was going to have to count as I wound down towards the end of the prescription. Non-drug topics becoming fewer as I wrote.
  3. Starting to get antsy about the middle of the month. Even a tad squirmy. I started counting pills. Shit, I’ve taken that many already? Crap. My words became jittery, talking about running out in 2 weeks.
  4. Finding myself worrying now about how the hell I am going to make the pills last through the end of the month. And what about my pain? What am I going to do about my pain? I’d gone through the gamut of physical therapies trying to fix the pain, I had learned pain coping methods in my life several times, but they escaped me whenever it was convenient to do so.
  5. The last week before the new prescription was ready was the worst. My writing was nothing BUT how worried I was about getting my meds. I wrote about counting, rationing, taking 2 pills a day instead of 16. Tears smeared the ink many days that last week.

norco2

(Writing this, I can feel those feelings all over again. My bowels are in an uproar.)

Oblivious to Stupidity

The Percocet at the time was a medication I had to have a hand-written Rx for (Norco is like that now, too, but at the time, I was given 3 refills at a time) and I had to first: Call the doctor’s office, leaving a message asking for my refill Rx, second: wait for the 5 days before they would have the Rx ready to be picked up, always terrified they wouldn’t fill it in time, or worse, at all… third, if they didn’t call me to tell me the Rx was ready in 5 days (usually 2 days before it was time to be refilled), I would get in the car and go sit at the doctor’s office until it was ready. I learned pretty quickly that the law allows one to fill a prescription 2 days before it is due. That meant I had two fewer days to ration the pills I had left.

That wasn’t the last hurdle I traversed. Pharmacies have the power to refuse filling any prescription they want to. As my addiction swallowed me up, I would have diarrhea dropping the Rx’s off at the pharmacy, terrified they would not fill my meds. About a year before detoxing, the pharmacy did exactly that, refused to fill my Percocet Rx’s. I remember sobbing at the counter, begging them to explain why? Why were they punishing me when I was just in pain! They were cruel and sadistic.

I changed pharmacies and resumed receiving my drugs.

And the cycle began again, taking 12-20 pills a day for 2 weeks, blah blah blah. (Re-read above to follow along.)

Stupidity_definition

Delusions

What is so very strange is this pattern, including writing in my Morning Pages, really was so predictable… was nearly identical every. single. month. For years. And yet, I was so deep inside the cycle, I couldn’t climb out.

There were times when I completely ran out and began asking family and friends for their extras, “just until mine came in,” then I would pay them back. They gave me what I asked for, too. I got those extras about a dozen times and rarely paid them back when I got mine. One friend told me I needed help. I didn’t call her for a long time, livid she would deny me. If I’d have had money, I would have bought them. I Googled what to take if one needed pain meds and I cannot even tell you the incredible advice out there. Nyquil (did it). Benadryl (took tons). OTC sleep aids (check).

My partner Zack clearly saw what was happening and tried, several times, to help me get control. Near the end, he hid my meds, divvying them out one day at a time. I madly searched out his hiding places and took what I wanted. He began counting them and saw what I was doing so got a lock box and locked them up. After he’d locked them that first time and left the room, I sat staring at it and cried for far too long. Sometimes he would be exasperated and just leave me to my own devices, but eventually locking them back again.

The Pain Specialist

My insurance, after a certain amount of time, too long I know now, required me to see a pain specialist to evaluate my medication usage. When I walked into the office, they handed me a cup to pee in. A random drug test. I broke out in a sweat and thanked the Universe it was at the end of the month so he wouldn’t see the copious amounts of drugs I would be taking in a week. I passed the pee test.

Sitting in front of the doctor, I recounted my injuries, faking limited mobility, vowing to him I was not addicted to the pain meds. It was obvious he didn’t believe one word I said. He said I needed to get off the meds, writing me a prescription for Suboxone. He wanted to see me in a month to see how I was doing. I never went back and stuffed the prescription into a drawer.

Colorless Life

I really thought I had zero side effects of the meds. Nevermind I was on a cornucopia of psych meds at the same time (and each doctor did know my entire medication list!) When I had agoraphobia, I was also prescribed a variety of anti-anxiety meds… known as Benzos… also highly addictive. Luckily I didn’t like how they made me feel, so just had Zack lock them away. I could see taking them when I ran out of the opiates and didn’t want to do that.

Writing was very difficult during these years. I thought I had lost my life-long compulsion to write. I could barely eek out my Morning Pages. My blog suffered mightily. I couldn’t keep complete thoughts formed long enough to type them out. I would feel rushes of desire to write when there were lively reactions to articles on my Navelgazing Midwife Facebook Page, but when I opened a Word Document, it stayed white with a blinking cursor. I just knew I was in the depths of writer’s block, that was all it was.

Losing words was the worst, however. Simple words escaped me. I kept a Thesaurus tab open on the computer so I could search for the words I really wanted to use. I began laughing that I needed to play charades to get a complete thought out. I honestly thought it was just an age thing. shaking my head in disgust

reality

Meghann First

Of course, when I was away, Zack had no control over my use/abuse. It was always a treat to travel.

When my daughter Meghann has her babies, I go to Texas to be her doula, birth and postpartum, staying for about 6 weeks total, helping wherever I could. She had her second baby, her second cesarean, in March 2014 and 36 hours after the birth, she nearly hemorrhaged to death, requiring another, more invasive surgery, to save her life. She was in the ICU for several days. Meggie has her own wonderful blog, Practically Hippie, and she tells her harrowing story in The Rest of Preston’s Birth Story (Part 1).

Once she was home, I was in charge of helping her with her pain meds. Norco. I was meticulous with them.

Until I ran out of my own. I took just one once. Not so bad, right?

Meghann was no longer taking the Norco after about 3 weeks, taking Ibuprofen instead. So, I rationalized, she didn’t need them. By default, they were mine, right? Standing back and looking at myself, even then, I was disgusted with what I was doing. When she exerted herself, she needed a Norco. I chilled for a few days to make sure she had what she needed. But if she didn’t ask for one for a few days, I helped myself again. She did have a refill on there. I could go get it and she would never know, right?

Zack’s Turn

My partner of decades, transitioned from female-to-male beginning in 2011, culminating in Sex Reassignment Surgery (“bottom surgery”) in early June 2014. (I will write plenty about my experience with his transition, I promise.)

The phalloplasty (when the penis is made) is such an extensive surgery it requires almost complete bedrest for 30 days afterwards and limited mobility for many months still. There are three surgical sites made at the same time: the forearm, where the nerves and veins and arteries are removed and used to form the phallus… an enormous slice of skin off the thigh in order to cover the cavernous arm wound… and, of course, the groin, where 100+ stitches hold the new penis and testicles onto the body. Most of us can barely comprehend the amount of pain this surgery creates.

Zack was prescribed Norco and Percocet for pain.

(You can already see the train wreck coming, can’t you. Sadly, I could not.)

We were in San Francisco for the surgery, staying in an Air B&B condo. We stayed right at a month, but it overlapped with my needing my meds mailed to me. It was a crisis when it was time, a fiasco that sent them to the wrong zip code and a couple of days later, my picking them up at the warehouse.

I’ll just borrow a couple of Zack’s until mine arrive. Hmmm, I’m already out of Percocet? A months’ worth, gone in less than 2 weeks. Crap, what am I going to do? I snuck into Zack’s bottle while he was sleeping 10 feet from me. He’ll never know.

Shockingly, he took the pain meds rarely. He has the pain tolerance of an elephant. Not me. I am a complete wimp. (I thought; I am not anymore!)

We finally got home and Zack was able to move about freely, albeit slowly. I am not kidding when I say the very first thing he did was walk to the counter and count his Norco. Many were missing. Even though he was wounded in many places, he was apoplectic. I was filled with immense shame at what I had done. He nearly cried telling me how sick (addicted) I was to be stealing his meds after the surgery he had just had.

I filled the prescription for the Suboxone that day.

Next up: “Opiate Addiction: Detox