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Rays Story

Another Piece of My Story




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Rays Story

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 After nearly a year sober, I was kicked out of an apartment program for "using drugs" after being prescribed Claritin for an ear infection. This was an apartment program in upstate NY for people with mental health and substance abuse issues. We were drug tested randomly.

The people running the place knew what medications I was on, after my first alse positive, they administered the meds. I asked if the Claritin, prescribed or an ear infection, could be causing it (it can, it contains pseudophederine)
since the positives started right after I started taking it, they said, "No". The cheap dipstick tests they used had a 94% accuracy and the literature that comes with the test states that a positive result is an indication that further
testing is required.

After the first positive, I demanded that a gas/mass spec. test be run, they told me it was too expensive and that if I wanted it done, I had to come up with $125 on the spot. This was on a Friday, I would have gotten my monthly $250 on
Monday, but they claimed that wasn't good enough. I immediately went to the treatment center I was attending for aftercare, and within an hour, they ran a gas/mass spec. test that came back negative. The apartment program claimed I had time to go out and "procure" clean urine.

The apartment program tried "gaslighting" me. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaslighting ) They suggested that I was so mentallyill that I couldn't admit to using, even to myself. Things started moving around in my apartment while I was out, they denied having been in there, told me I was imagining things and this was proof my worsening mental condition. I took to placing a hair on my door, someone was going in and since they had the only other key.... They gave me the option of going to a 12-18 month residential, RELIGIOUS (knowing damn well that I'm an atheist) substance abuse program in another city or getting out with nowhere to go. I certainly didn't want to go through the hassle of starting over with my mental health services, I had already had major hassles getting them in that town and didn't want to start
over in another city. On the apartment program's recommendation, Social Services cut me off. I couldn't get to see anyone there because my worker was on vacation, they overloaded when she returned.

I called a dozen people in AA that Friday night, got 11 answering machines. The only person who called back was my sponsor....Sunday afternoon. He wasn't sure if he believed my story since I wasn't working the AA program the way
people thought I should be working it.

I called lawyers, no one wanted to touch it. Finally, I got to see my Social Services case worker the day I was being thrown out. (Turned out she as friends with the head of the apartment program. I believe they both trying to punish me
for not being a good little stepper and were trying to force me to fail.) I was there from 8:30 when they opened, didn't see her until 3:30; she bitched me out for waiting so long. I damn near exploded, I had been there or called every day
begging to see her, or ANYONE! She sent me to the YMCA at 4pm on a Friday, assuring me that they would have a room for me. They didn't and Social Services was closed.

I rushed home, called a friend (an alcoholic friend). He did what no AA person would do for me, he allowed me to put my stuff in his basement so it wouldn't end up on the street. He even came by in his truck and moved it.

I ended up sleeping in a park that weekend, right across the street from a store where I used to buy beer. I had about $50 bucks in my pocket and started thinking, "No one would blame me..." and I stopped. I realized that it didn't
matter who would blame me, that only I had the power to determine if I stayed sober or drank. And I was going to be one year sober the next week and I'd be damned if they thought they could take that away from me.

Monday, I was back at Social Services and did end up at the Y. They decided that I needed to return to the six-month halfway house and treatment program I had already been through, I didn't know if I could make it through that bullshit
a second time. My therapist advocated for me and got me into a 30-day "transitional home" for people with mental illness and into a dual diagnosis program at the mental health center. This debate over what to do with me had me
living without a living allotment, food stamps, or a meal program. My caseworker from Social Services told me to collect cans.

In week 9 at the Y, I ran out of meds. I went to Social Services and told them, with a wicked gleam in my eyes, "You have me living without cash, I can handle that. You got me living without food, I can even handle that. Now you got me living without medication, do you really want to find out if I can handle that?" I got my cash allotment, food stamps, and medication the next day.

At week 10, I went to the 30-day transitional home where I ended up for almost 6 months. My case worker from Social Services had me jumping through so many hoops I didn't have time to fight and she kept going on and off of sick leave.
I'd demand an appointment, get one for two weeks later, show up and she'd be out. I'd get an appointment to see someone else, only to find out she was back and my appointment had been changed again, to see her in another 2-3 weeks. By the time that rolled around, she'd be gone again.

At this point I was attending two half days a the treatment center for aftercare and 5 half days at the mental health center for the dual diagnosis program. Social Services then demanded that I start "volunteering" 30 hours a
week to remain eligible for benefits. My shrink had that cut to 20 hours and lessened the dual diagnosis treatment program hours. I was still running all week.

Legal Aid who had promised to help with this fiasco dropped the case without warning, but I was able to get an admission out of Social Services that I probably didn't relapse. After 5 & 1/2 months of the transitional home, plus the
ten weeks at the Y, I was finally allowed to get my own apartment, got an OK from Social Services for a place I had my eye on. I could afford it, barely, probably have to quit smoking, but possible. Once I moved in, Social Services
changed the rules again, cut my cash allotment, cut out my food stamps, and demanded I get a real job. They started threatening me with being cut off again if I didn't go out and get get 10 employers a week to sign a card explaining why
I wasn't hired. When I said there weren't enough hours in the week for treatment, my volunteer job, and a job search the case worker gave me an evil grin and said, "Time management".

I managed to find a job working 20 hours mostly on the weekend. I was able to drop the volunteer job. By this time I had exceeded the 18-month period where I could have gotten help going back to school.

My depression worsened and the shrink wanted me to go on more meds. This would having raised my monthly bill to around $250. (Nothing like battling the system and being depressed at the same time.) Having been cut off a few times and paid over $100 out of pocket, with constant threats of being cut off, I talked to the shrink and she suggested supplements. She took me off of all medication and I started taking St. John's Wort, fish oil, melatonin, and Valerian root. I wasn't expecting much, I never had ANY medication that really helped. I was shocked at the immediate and dramatic results I had from St. John's Wort. I was still getting my prescriptions filled because if I wasn't on medication, I wouldn't be eligible for benefits, especially therapy. No way could I afford that out of pocket.

Right after that, I was accepted by both Social Security and Section 8 housing. After a flurry of paperwork and running around, and I was free from Social Services. That was such an improvement on top of already feeling better,
that I was almost manic. All these good things started happening, things I had worked for, but never expected or dared hope for. It was dizzying.

Flushed with success, I tracked down a former flame via the internet. We went together for a year, then she moved away. We kept in touch for 15 years, visiting each other occasionally, always a bit "more than friendly" until she
visited in 1992 and I was lost in depression and alcoholism. I never had forgotten the look of disappointment in her eyes. I hoped that we could be friends again and even hoped that we could resume the occasional lover

A lump sum from Social Security allowed me to get a car and a computer. I decided that during my vacation from work, I'd drive to Florida and visit Mom. On the way down, I'd stop by and see Joy. It went so well, I stopped on my way
back and visited several more times and I started making plans to move close to where she lived. She was one of the founding members of a community and business that I never thought I'd be able to drag her away from, especially after a dozen years she had been there. A few months later, the community folded and she came to live with me. Six months later we were married.

At any point, the easiest thing would have been to give up. AA and the system programmed me to be a drunk, to go back to what taking a chemical fix when times got hard, but they had pissed me off too much by the time I spent sleeping in the park.

I got to where I am today by putting one foot in front of the other, on my own path, and continuing no matter what anyone else said or did. I expected a bit of satisfaction at doing what all those people told me was impossible, that I could stay sober without AA, but I never seriously thought I could be happy while doing it.



Another Piece of My Story is the Property of Ray and permission is needed to reprint this article.



Another Piece of My Story

Another Piece of My Story
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 I didn't understand how anybody could get through a day without considering suicide as a viable option. 

People told me that there was something wrong with me, but I thought they must be living with blinders on.  I just didn't get it.  It's not like I was stupid (I do qualify for MENSA), but when I asked people how they did it; No; WHY they did it.  Get up every day and go through the bother of living.  I never understood the answers I got.

Drinking helped, it numbed the pain, gave me something to focus on other than existential angst, and often provided amusing stories even if they weren't funny at the time they happened.  Unfortunately it kept getting to the point where I had to be non-functional in order not to be thinking of suicide.  One plus of AA, for me, was after I saw how suicides were treated in the rooms, as proof that the program works, and knowing that the suicide of an alcoholic is blamed solely on the drink.  I decided to get sober or die trying.  No more going back to the drink for a momentary relief from the pain.  I was tired of the relapse/recovery cycle and one way or another, I was getting off.

In early recovery, I read a lot of autobiographies and found the one thing they all had in common, no matter what the problem, was that the authors didn't give up.

The life I was living, depressed, devoid of even minimal hope, was far worse than anything Social Services, AA, halfway houses, or apartment programs could throw at me.  For a time the only thing that was holding me together was having a therapist that I could run to every week with the stories of who was trying to screw me now.  And laugh about it. 

I suppose I was a little "off" at the time, but the idea that someone telling me they were going to "restrict" me or take away my benefits while I was contemplating suicide struck me as funny.

Decades before, I had a bit of a violence problem, or more accurately, people who tried screwing with me had a problem with violence, I was fine with it.  But these were nameless, faceless drones in agencies or little people who didn't care if they were screwing me, was only policy.  You can't just go beating the crap out of these people without serious repercussions.  Jail time scared me more than death, so I got smart, and decided to beat them at their own game.  The more they told me I couldn't stay sober, the more it firmed my resolve to stay sober.  No matter what obstacles they put in my path, I just went through them or around them, and made some people look mighty stupid in the process.  Some did it for me, like the counselor who refused to allow me to "graduate" from the halfway house because I didn't have the right kind of sobriety, and who relapsed to crack just as I was about to get out.  Or the woman who ended up getting fired over kicking me out of the apartment program; she spent so much time and effort giving me the boot, she got it herself.  Sheer poetry.

But while all these people were trying to make my life miserable, it still wasn't as bad as the depression and it gave me something to focus on, rather than suicide.  I was far too busy jumping through hoops, plotting and planning my next move that I hardly noticed that I was staying sober.  I was more concerned with (as Henry Ziegler put it) "...canít let the bastards win" and I wasn't going to die until I got even. 

The longer I stayed sober and the more I made them look silly, the less they wanted to screw with me.

Little by little, good things were happening.  I was asked to sit in on a few groups for the ACT team (as an example of not giving up) which led to a volunteer job.  I landed a job at a bowling alley with a great group of people.  And by putting on foot in front of the other, I finally got on Social Security and a lump sum that provided me with a computer and a second-hand car.  These two things opened up worlds for me, but I still didn't have a clue about what "happy" was.

And then I tried St. John's Wort....and "got it".


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