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November 29th, 2011

The Long Road Home from Relapse

Florida highways have lovely rest stops. You would expect that from the Turnpike, where toll booths charge a premium every so often, but the manicured picnic areas continue even as you drive further north and onto I-75.

I’m on a cement bench in a concession area, chomping down corn chips and a Mountain Dew, away from the dog walkers and the families gathered at picnic tables, when I notice that my jeans are gathered sloppily around my waistline, cinched so much tighter than before. How much smaller has my waist become in such short a time? I wonder. One inch? Two?

rest area sign 2People sometimes stroll near me on their way to the restrooms, and I keep my eyes down, afraid I might look too disheveled for their comfort, or worse, that my shame might be clearly written across my face. That they might see what I’ve done, and return a glance of judgment or pull their children closer.

The self pitying tone of these words doesn’t suit me. Pity is such a useless emotion at a time like this. Let me start again.

The drug relapse came over me like a sickness, as if I was coming down with something, slowly, over weeks. The breakup with my former partner last month in Ft Lauderdale had been cordial, and he and I continued living together while I made plans to relocate back to Atlanta. First, though, Thanksgiving would be spent with his family, as a final goodbye and a chance to show our unity — and of what remained of our broken love — during this trying time.

But my disease of addiction had already begun rearranging my thoughts, shuffling my priorities in a bid for dominance over the vigilant recovery I had practiced, proudly and successfully, for nearly three years. Small changes crept into my behavior, not about drugs precisely, but other, vaguely related habits that had once accompanied my drug use.

rest area sign 1A return to the gym and a shallow fixation on my body. Smoking, a habit broken for two years, returned in secretive fits and starts. A feeling of entitlement — to do as I pleased, to eat junk or get laid — swept over me like a declaration of freedom that hid its true intentions in the fine print.

And then the clarion call became more explicit, as involuntary images of using drugs bombarded me, plaguing my sleep and my daydreams. But while my memories of life as an active addict had previously been reduced, finally, to dark and sinister snapshots of a pitiful existence, these new images were more seductive, promising euphoria, fast sex and most of all, a lurid escape from my own feelings.

When my former partner left town on business the week before Thanksgiving, the drug addict inside me made a break for it.

It’s startling, really, the speed at which a recovered crystal meth addict, filled with a sense of purpose and a devotion to helping others dealing with this disease, can be transformed into a selfish liar. About as long as it takes the first, transformative rush of the drug to enter your body.

But the images that promised everything delivered nothing. Or that is, they delivered the usual package of misery that I should have expected, from my own past experiences and the many, many stories of woe I have heard from other addicts.

Those images — the real ones I witnessed during my relapse rather than the counterfeit promises with which my disease had baited me — haunt me now. I don’t want to conjure them, the lesson has been received, but they roll on. Images of desperation, of blood and jeopardy and strangers with my fate in their hands.

The street crack dealer, with whom I am pleading to please return the keys he has taken from my pocket, who tells me he is going to “rent” my car for errands, who threatens me through a manic grin and all the while I am trying to convince him to please, please just give back the

You don’t need to hear this. This is mine to endure and overcome. Let me start again.

econolodgeThere are many motels sprinkled along the exits in Orlando, and I scouted out several before choosing one that allowed me to park directly in front of my room. With the car piled high with my belongings, I had to be sure no one would steal it. Despite the exhaustion of the previous week I slept fitfully, waking to peer out the window and survey any disturbance, fearful that my despair could multiply. The rolling stone of misfortune can gather plenty.

This long drive was unplanned, of course, the consequence of my relapse, when after days of not being where I was supposed to be and phone calls piled high with deceit, my former partner pegged my insanity and sent me a text from his business trip, asking me to leave before he returned. My disregard for our home, the dogs, and my personal safety was simply too much. A mutual friend arrived to care for the house. I would pack and leave within a day, to sit out the holidays with family in Shreveport, Louisiana, a thousand miles from Ft Lauderdale.

Even before his discovery, the awful realization of what I had done, how I had taken our gracious final days together and twisted them into something horrific, had actually spurred my relapse further, as I sought escape from my own wreckage. By the time his text appeared on my phone, the smoke was clearing, the fever had broken, but it was far too late.

The comfortable highways of Florida eventually gave way to the ruined roads of Alabama and Mississippi, badly spackled with tar, and my car rumbled with the thumpa-THUMPA-thumpa of their scarred surfaces. I wondered if the framed pictures in the trunk might break, if the towels I had wrapped them in might not be enough to

The towels. The guest room towels. They didn’t really belong to me. It set off another round of worry, and I wondered if a new label might be added to my sadly recycled identity.

Drug addict. Liar. Thief.

I had turned back once already, when I had first driven onto the freeway before realizing I had his watch on my wrist, a watch I had always worn but wasn’t mine. I drove back to return it, and in the hour or so I had been gone, the quiet house had abandoned any welcome for me. I placed the watch on a table and locked up again. It felt like trespassing.

waffle houseIn Mobile, Alabama, I stopped again for the night and this time managed a full twelve hours of dreamless sleep. In the morning at the Waffle House, I ordered steak, eggs and hash browns, smothered and covered, and dismissed thoughts of what my trainer might think about my diet on the road.

Explaining my relapse is beyond me, beyond logic, and yet here I sit, trying to understand and explain. It maddens me, the choices I have made, and reminds me that the disease most capable of killing me isn’t HIV, it is drug addiction.

But this chronicle reeks of defeat, and I am not feeling defeated today. Let me start again.

Louisiana Welcome signThe miles upon miles of endless highway give way to Louisiana, and Shreveport finally appears on a freeway sign. I relax into the anticipated embrace of family.

My tired car pulls into Mom’s driveway, and my brother — also gay and also an addict in recovery for more than a decade — greets me with an extended hug, and we begin the business of unloading the car immediately, as if to shoo away the evidence of my drive and the depressing reason for it. A guest room has been prepared, a closet cleared. For the next month, as I deal honestly with my tender wounds, this will be home.

Mother arrives from the hair salon, and her cheerful And how is my favorite redhead doing..? tells me that everything is going to be fine. She knows why I’ve come home, and she doesn’t require a single detail.

I’ve already begun the business of rededicating myself to my program of recovery, and there is pride in that. There is joy, in fact, once the truth has been told and the work to rebuild can begin. Not regretting the past, even the recent past, is a difficult job, but too much time spent looking in the rear view mirror hardly bolsters me for the road ahead.

I am grateful, to have regained my footing after a few terrible days, to have survived it, to have my freedom to make better choices. And I am filled with gratitude for the friends and family who have given me a precious gift.

They let me start again.

———————————————————

(My best wishes and deepest gratitude go out to you, my friends. Thank you for your encouragement and your many kind comments. If you know someone who might benefit from this posting, who might think there isn’t a solution, then please share it. Love, Mark)

———————————————————-

PLUS…

LoveLightRomaniaI always have strange emotions about World AIDS Day, the annual commemoration on December 1st. It makes me feel a little like a professional drag queen having to contend with Halloween. Such a torrent of voices and contributors on “my” turf! But of course, that may be the point: to be re-energized and inspired by the many voices and news stories of others who might not be speaking up otherwise, and for me to realize that HIV isn’t mine alone, not by a long shot. The challenges it presents affects all of us, and calls out for the best in science, the best in our sense of community, the best of humanity itself. You’ll surely find many things online that resonate with you this World AIDS Day, so let me show you something you might miss. Love Light Romania provides support to people with HIV/AIDS in one of the toughest places on earth, but they have somehow found something beautiful in the tragic story of Alex, one of their clients who shares his life in a four minutes video filled with gorgeous photography of his journey. The simplicity of this video and his matter-of-fact telling of his story captures a beautiful sadness, and I hope you’ll take a look.

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57 Responses to “The Long Road Home from Relapse”

  1. Sean Strub Says:

    November 29th, 2011 at 10:28 am

    Mark,

    You have thousands of readers and friends–most of whom you’ll never meet and never know their names–who care about you, love you and support you. Your activism, your passion and, most of all, your honesty is so very deeply admired and appreciated.

    This is a bad patch, to be sure, but you’re on the up side of it. And you’re doing a service to so many in recovery who face similar kinds of stresses, especially coming into the holiday season, by sharing the story of your last few weeks.

    I hope you have a great time with your family and embark on the New Year with optimism and hope.

    Love,

    Sean

  2. Eric Lloyd Says:

    November 29th, 2011 at 10:31 am

    I’m glad you are back Mark and your blog has touched me deeply in a powerful way. God bless and good luck to you.

  3. Charles Says:

    November 29th, 2011 at 10:31 am

    Give yourself credit, Mark for being able to pull yourself out of the situation before you spiraled downward. Truly you have become a stronger, more self-aware person as I am not sure you would have been able to return to the road to recovery so quickly 5 years ago.

  4. Bill (Bandhu) Says:

    November 29th, 2011 at 10:33 am

    Stay strong Mark. Love you. Bill (Bandhu)

  5. Joe Says:

    November 29th, 2011 at 10:38 am

    I’m sure you know better than me how many people your blog helps each month….well, this month it helped me. You’re amazing.

  6. Nelson Says:

    November 29th, 2011 at 10:42 am

    I know you will overcome all and start anew. You have a lot to give the community and we are all here for you, even when you may feel alone while dealing with the changes in your life. Your writings are probably the most honest and raw in the field of HIV and it takes guts to publicly disclose parts of you that you may not be proud of you, but who make you who you are.

    Just know that many of us think you came to this world for a great purpose, which you are already making a reality through your writings and speeches. We crave honesty in our community and you are a role model to show us that we can all be vulnerable as we share with others parts of ourselves that may help them accept themselves in their own paths.

  7. steven petrow Says:

    November 29th, 2011 at 10:44 am

    mark, i’m very sorry to read this chapter in your book of life, but know that there are many who care for you — and i am among them. sp

  8. Ken Says:

    November 29th, 2011 at 10:50 am

    Thanks for your honesty Mark. This really brought back the darkness of using and my mind likes to remember the good times lately. You will be in my prayers.

  9. Dana Diamond Says:

    November 29th, 2011 at 11:01 am

    Thank you for your honesty…as you know it begins from there…a fresh start for you! This will help so many, thank you for sharing your personal journey.
    dd

  10. Jack Says:

    November 29th, 2011 at 11:01 am

    Relapses are scary. There is no denying that fact. What is important is that you picked yourself up and put yourself back on the road of recovery. Yes you went out (of the rooms) the more important thing is that you came back in!!! If no one else says it, I will. I am proud of you!

  11. Tony Adams Says:

    November 29th, 2011 at 11:04 am

    Dear Mark,

    You are one of the most courageous and wise men I know. You are stronger and better than any of your demons. Think long and often about the many people you inspire. I hope that all you have done for all of us will come back to help you over the bumps in your highway.

    PS: even though we have been out of touch, I had the strong and uneasy feeling that you were headed for a relapse after you ended your relationship. In your writing, you made it seem so civilized and comfortable. The stress of it just beneath the surface was easy to see, but what could any of us have done? So many of us extended words of sympathy and support, but in many ways, you went through it alone. I’m taking part of the blame, and I hope you’ll appreciate my resolve to pick up the phone next time I get that feeling that someone might be in a dangerous place. So, once again, your writing has accomplished some far-reaching good.

  12. Boston Rich Says:

    November 29th, 2011 at 11:09 am

    Good Morning Mark,

    So sorry to read about your relapse but I’m so glad to hear you made it to a safe place in the end. You’re very lucky to have such a supportive family as I’m know you know.

    I wanted to thank you for bloging about the documentary “We Were Here” a while back. It just premiered here (Boston) last night and I was there (pun intended)

    It was incredible to say the least but lessons to be learned for when you have relapses as you describe today, think of We Were Here and all that you and so many of us have been through, I truly believe that will give you strength to weather the storms of today.

    Anyone reading this and don’t know what I’m referring to google We Were Here trailer, should be required viewing.

  13. Czarina Flo Says:

    November 29th, 2011 at 11:18 am

    Your courage and honesty are amazing.
    Our mutual friend Eric Rofes would have been proud of you today.
    Much love.

  14. Brad Says:

    November 29th, 2011 at 11:23 am

    Mark,
    Thank you so much for posting this story. I’m happy that you put this all out for those of us who,,,, Well honestly those of us who wanted to know what the hell happened Mark. It scared the hell out of me Mark. I’m writing this with tears in my eyes 1. Because I wonder if I’ll ever see you again and 2. Because I’m so grateful that you came back. Your relapse really freaked me out at first but I’m better now. I learned a very powerful lesson from it but I really hate this fucking disease Mark and what it does to the beautiful people that I love and care about. I am really happy that you’ve decided to not let this destroy you because with so many of us that is exactly what our disease wants and gets. Please know that you have my love and support as I can only speak for myself but I know you have the love and support of all those that matter here in South Florida as well. Be well my friend and God Bless you as you begin this new chapter in your life.
    Love,
    Brad Marema

  15. Leann Says:

    November 29th, 2011 at 11:23 am

    Mark,
    I was brought to tears once again from your personal account of relapse. I’ve witnessed them from afar , in person and I have participated in many of your celebrations throughout your recovery. I’m thankful that you made it back and that you have arrived safely with your family. Sometimes we just need to be quiet and listen to what God has to say….there is plenty of time ahead to tell your story…be gentle with yourself now, you are loved by many..there needs to be time for healing. I will be here waiting for the only other redhead that I have ever loved to arrive home.

  16. Mario Ferri Says:

    November 29th, 2011 at 11:34 am

    Thank you Mark for sharing your journey with all of us. Your honesty, determination and courage is your strength and you are all the wiser for it. This is a lesson I take to heart, and hope to be stronger in my own journey. Mario

  17. john Says:

    November 29th, 2011 at 11:40 am

    Thanks for your honesty Mark. Now get back on the horse and keep riding toward the life you know you deserve. You learned a valuable lesson and survived to take it on your journey, and we know many people who were not so lucky.
    You are in my thoughts and prayers!

  18. richard Says:

    November 29th, 2011 at 11:59 am

    welcome home, Mark.

  19. Mark Weed Says:

    November 29th, 2011 at 12:03 pm

    Mark,

    Thanks once again for sharing yet another chapter in your life, I know we have all had relapses of one kind or another, but it’s GREAT to know that we are not alone. Thank you for your courage and speaking out, God be with you during your recovery. Know that you are loved and admired by many and give strength to us all.

    big bear hugs
    Mark

  20. Jeff Coulter Says:

    November 29th, 2011 at 12:10 pm

    Relapses suck, no two ways about it. I am coming up on 90 days (yet again) so I am just getting past all the feelings of shame and despair. While I always swore I wouldn’t be a person who quoted the slogans, “this too shall pass.” You already know that you are loved, and that there are so many people who share in your recovery. That sharing means being there when mistakes are made too. For me, relapse is a signal that there is something that I haven’t grown enough to handle, so I fall back on old patterns. The coming back to recovery is where I figure all that out, and pick up where I left off. Be well. Be gentle on yourself!

  21. Harvey Carr Says:

    November 29th, 2011 at 12:10 pm

    Mark.,

    You are such an inspiration to so many. Just remember, my friend, to fall is not failure; to not try to get back up is the failure! Keep your eyes focused on the windshield and not on the rearview mirror, for it is what lies before you that is now important. We cannot undo the past; we merely learn from it.

    You will be in my thoughts.

  22. Joe T Oakland Says:

    November 29th, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    Thank you for your honesty and sharing ! This powerful reality reminds us all that we are always 1 drink or drug away and must live life a day at a time and stay within the fold as someone shared at a meeting, for if we are on the outside of it, like the poor weaked animal, we will be come the casuality of our disease. But thank you for showing me/us that we can recover, regroup and regain our lives …..

    Stand Tall Mark….
    Big Hugs & Gentle Tugs
    Joe

  23. Dave M Says:

    November 29th, 2011 at 12:43 pm

    Mark,

    Don’t sell yourself short. It took tremendous courage to post this account of your relapse. To me, it demonstrates that you still have a lot of fight in you. Please don’t ever give up on yourself. You can do it…one day at a time. And if an entire day seems daunting, focus on just an hour. If even an hour seem interminable, stay clean for the now, because when all is said and done, all we have is now.

    God bless, and thank you for being you,
    Dave

  24. Skip S. Says:

    November 29th, 2011 at 12:48 pm

    Mark:

    Thank you for the reminder that everyday is a new day. Today is all we have. The disease of addiction is to be arrested on a daily basis and relapse happens before we pick up. I am humbled by your experience as I am also encouraged to boost my own program. I hold you in the light of love and see you continuing to do amazing things.

  25. Dave Says:

    November 29th, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    Hi Mark,

    Thanks for sharing and for your honesty in this piece. I wish you all the best in your recovery. You can start again. We all can. It’s an important message.

    Best,

    Dave S

  26. Cliff Gilbert Says:

    November 29th, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    as always, I hear & feel hope in all your communications. That’s what I need, that’s what I get & so much more. You are a hero to me.
    Hugs,
    Cliff

  27. Richard Monk Says:

    November 29th, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    Hello from Venezuela once more.
    I have just read your post and I feel as if I have lived with you what happened. We have setbacks in life that sometimed hit us so hard that leave us numb. Thank God you have a family you can count on in moments like this (some of us are not that lucky), and your readers, and in this moments we have to see around us and value the good things we have and cherish them. I pray for you to learn the lesson hidden behind all this that happened and, well, I know you are strong like a rock and will be back bigger and better when all this is left behind. Hugs.

  28. Bill K Says:

    November 29th, 2011 at 2:19 pm

    Welcome back, Mark. You can start again. I have started again in my own program a few times, and while it is not easy, it can work if you make it your priority.

    Walking through pain is something none of us likes to do. We all get it. Just remember you are not alone. Not only are you with your family now, but you are WITH YOUR FAMILY NOW. Here on your wonderful blog.

    Love you and praying for you.
    Bill

  29. Michael T Says:

    November 29th, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    Hi Mark,
    Hello from Canada. Just wanted to say your sharing is very brave and courageous. You have helped me in my own recovery, yet again.

  30. Lain Benjamin Says:

    November 29th, 2011 at 3:14 pm

    Mark,
    I have no judgement at all for you, only Love and joy that you are safe and starting with another day…a better day because today you get to be the real Mark. I admire your courage to start again. I am still grateful for the things you have shared with me especially the thing about learning to be honest with myself every day. Love yourself the way we all Love you and all is well. Big Hugs,
    Lain

  31. SMitty Says:

    November 29th, 2011 at 3:31 pm

    Mark…your sharing of this adventure just adds to your credibility for sure. I was beginning to think i was the only one out here who didnt or doesnt have a peaceful daily journey. We are soulmates brother, and you shared what we all go through. Thank you for that. We go about happy go lucky but the despair sometimes takes it toll on our lives in different ways of screaming for help. Yours is nothing new. Neither is mine. We all have issues, it’s how we get through them that makes the difference. In so many ways, you are a remarkable man.You ARe making a difference…a believeable one that matches real life with the fantasy we all hope for and shoot (pardon the pun) for. Go forth and begin a new life..find someone who will love you for who you are, and who you are striving to be…together you can get there…..I’m sorry about your last relationship but let’s face it…it saved your life! Be grateful and move ahead,like you have done before. We are all traveling together….dont look behind you…we are all on your side…literally and figuratively. Thanks… Smitty

  32. STEVE Says:

    November 29th, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    AS A LONG-TIME FOLLOWER OF YOUR BLOG, I HAVE ALWAYS ENJOYED YOUR SHARING. I CAN NOT IMAGINE WHAT YOU ARE GOING THROUGH RIGHT NOW. THE CYCLE OF “STARTING OVER” IS A THEME WITH WHICH I IDENTIFY. I AM ALSO GETTING READY TO DO ANOTHER ‘RESTART’ ON MY LIFE. YOUR IMAGE OF TAKING A JOURNEY IS ONE OF THE MOST PREVALENT THEMES IN LITERATURE, YET IT ENDURES AS A EMBLEM OF LIFE’S TASK. YOU MAKE THIS CLEAR IN YOUR BLOG AND YOU ALSO ADDED PICTURES WHICH MAKES THE JOURNEY REAL! WOULD THAT COULD FIND THAT FELLOW SOJOURNER TO BE WITH YOU. MAYBE I WILL PASS YOU ON THE ROAD, DOWN THE WAY AND WE CAN TELL EACH OTHER, “HAIL, NOW, GOOD FELLOW!” UNTIL THEN, TAKE CARE PILGRIM.

  33. Ken Says:

    November 29th, 2011 at 3:47 pm

    Thanks for writing this. I’m crying as I read it. I, too, am well on the road of relapse. Thankfully the men I’ve decided to relapse with are an ocean away – but I still made the decision to pick back up. But between the decision to pick up and actually getting loaded leaves room to change my mind! You reminded me (once again) that it won’t be any different than it was that last night I used. That drugs aren’t any kind of escape and certainly not a temporary solution. I don’t have to get high. I can choose another option – and walk through this period of my life without chems. And with the help of people like you I will!

  34. Jeff Berry Says:

    November 29th, 2011 at 4:13 pm

    Hi Mark,

    I just wanted you to know that I’m thinking of you, we all are, and I’m glad to hear you are doing better. I have to agree with Nelson, yours is a lone voice in the wilderness. Even though this particular blog was difficult to read, and I’m sure for you even more difficult to live through, your writing is authentic. It never comes across as self-serving or pandering to any special interests, or as fluff. It’s direct, and to the point. People can relate to you and your stories, because they are so gut-wrenchingly real, raw and honest. You are a great storyteller. And that is what makes your writing, and you, so appealing, and such an effective communicator.

    Thank you for all you do, keep up the good work, keep your head held high, and keep in touch.

    Jeff

  35. Vickie Says:

    November 29th, 2011 at 4:34 pm

    Take a deep breath, relax, and know that I LOVE YOU! I hope to see you again soon.

  36. Brian B. Says:

    November 29th, 2011 at 4:37 pm

    Dear Mark,

    I am sending you Love and Prayers, Glad you made it back from our addiction. So many I have known and loved never make it back . I know this addiction is cunning baffling and powerful …. Most of all Patient. I am going on 5 1/2 yrs. of Sobriety . and its still one day at a time. Feel free to Email me anytime .

    God Bless and Keep,
    Always.
    Brian B.
    Newport Beach, CA.

  37. James A. Says:

    November 29th, 2011 at 6:17 pm

    It isn’t easy to accept responsibility for relapse especially on such a large platform as you have chosen. The phrase, “we do not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it” was helpful to me under these same circumstances.
    Email anytime.
    Jim

  38. Corey F. Says:

    November 29th, 2011 at 7:21 pm

    Hey Mark,

    Wow!!! What an amazing account of what life is like when relapse happens. Come home to Atlanta and jump back in the middle of the boat. We will do it together…hand in hand, trudging the road of happy destiny…you know the road and you know what the middle of the boat feels like.

    Peace and Love,

    J. Corey Ford

  39. Gerry M Says:

    November 30th, 2011 at 2:07 am

    Thank God Mark you have family that love you and that you can get some support from. Having a sober brother is a blessing, so is 90 in 90. You’re a cautionary tale for me Mark to get real with my fantasies and be vigilant about staying connected. We are extremely blessed with an amazing amount of meetings here in LA and also those with a “G” next to them. However, I also find an amazing sense of peace in all the 12 step meetings I attend. Reconnect, reinvigorate, renew, restore and release. Glad you’re still with us and not one of those we’re “remembering” this World AIDS Day this week.
    Peace and blessings,
    Gerry M in LA

  40. Ed T. ---Puerto Vallarta Says:

    November 30th, 2011 at 3:29 am

    Thanks Mark for sharing what the active disease of addiction deels like and does to us in a very short period of time. Relapse does not just happen it is a growth that gets nurtured by not paying attention to the warning signs. You are very lucky today to be able to make it back as I have on numerous occasions. My last time out and back was 2-8-77 and a very wise man said to me that I should come back as a newcomer and instead of helping others and giving advice that it might be better if I just ask the questions and accept the love and help that is given so freely by my fellow addicts.
    Good luck on your journey and may you stay clean thru all the pain that it takes to grow as a sober/clean man. I owe a debt of thanks to A.A. for getting me sober and to “Gayy A.A.” for keeping me sober and steering me in the right direction to become a very proud sober gay man.
    Hang In ED

  41. Cathy Robinson Pickett Says:

    November 30th, 2011 at 8:43 am

    Mark I’m chearing for you. Hold on tight!

  42. Micheal S. Says:

    November 30th, 2011 at 9:31 am

    Mark,

    I hate this column. I hate that you relapsed. I understand that relapses are a reality, but “they’re not a requirement.” I would have been too ashamed to blog about this. Journal yes, talk to my sponsor yes, but blog no.

    There are some people who will not understand that you are not a discredit to the recovery program you practice. To those people, I say- the program works if you work it.

    I love you, Mark, but it’s not okay to relapse. I’m glad you put down the dope again, but I hope there are some negative consequences. I hope this experience is more than an excuse for self- pity and fodder for a blog column.

    I’m not judging you. I am a recovering addict myself, and I have relapsed several times. I just hope, that rather than simply confessing your failure, you’ll take some time to examine it and determine what went wrong in your program so you won’t make the same mistakes in the future.

    We are getting too old for that shit, Mark. It’s time for us to grow up. I shouldn’t have to remind you- The next time you do something that stupid, it might kill you.

  43. Cas Says:

    November 30th, 2011 at 11:09 am

    Mark, that you’re willing to share your brutal truth with the world via your blog is testament to your courage and your continued recovery – awesome double-bang on Steps 4 + 5, too.

    Hang in there, don’t beat yourself up any more than you have to w/the “fearless moral inventory” piece, and get on that 90-in-90 path.

    Lather, rinse, repeat as necessary.

  44. Douglas C. Says:

    November 30th, 2011 at 11:19 pm

    Mark,
    For many, relapse is part of the recovery process. I needed my relapse ( that lasted a year shooting Crystal Meth ) to remind me what it was like and now five years sober, I am no safer that you. It is a day-at-a-time, sometimes moment-to-moment struggle with rewards that are limitless. You have so much to offer us. Please continue knowing we need you and are here for you if you need us. ” We’ll love you till you can love yourself again “.
    Doug (nyc)

  45. Subversive Librarian Says:

    December 1st, 2011 at 12:26 am

    This is an important post, and it’s beautifully written. Reading the comments is helpful to me, too; it reminds me that my sobriety truly matters to those around me, that I’m accountable to others in and out of the rooms. Messing around with my recovery has consequences not only to me but to the people I love.

    You’ve done a great service here, Mark, you and each commenter who expressed their love, pain, admiration, or dismay. All of you are exactly right.

    Stay safe and in the middle of the bed, please. You are not just loved, you are needed, too. . xo

  46. Sam Says:

    December 1st, 2011 at 7:47 am

    Good luck to you, Mark.

    The comment I liked best is from Micheal S. He’s right when he says we’re getting too old for this shit.

    Me, I go a week without a cig and then I find a reason to get mad so I can have my nicotine fix. Today I’m back on wagon again after chainsmoking yesterday. Addiction is addiction. But I’ve been fighting this thing too long, and my lungs can’t take it anymore. So if I want to live for another 10 to 20 years then I had better accept some tough love like the kind Micheal S. offered you. Otherwise I’ll be in the middle of a cig and I’ll only be 55 or 65 and I will drop fucking dead with that stinky cig in my mouth. That cig will be the last thing I taste this side of the grave. I’d like a better taste in my mouth when I die than the taste of a stinky ashtray.

    Today is World AIDS Day. You and others have for many years stood up to help bring aid to those living with and dying from AIDS. I hope in the future to do my small part, and it is because of people like you (and some of my dear friends) that I will be able to take my stand.

    Peace

  47. Donna Gore Says:

    December 1st, 2011 at 8:24 pm

    “Let me start again.” This is life, for us. It’s all we can do. I’m so glad you stopped this “derailment” before going completely off the tracks. Relapse is HELL. My partner was sober for 17 years and then about 3 years ago he relapsed. Went on periodic binges which always ended badly, in a hospital. The last time he almost died. And then finally, the doctor called me and said, “This is really serious. Come now.” And I had to drive 60 miles to get to the hospital where he was, and it was agonizing. I am so happy to report that he recovered, and now has been sober for over 6 months, which is the longest time he’s been clean in the past 3 years. I think he is back on the road to real recovery. I’m telling you this so that you don’t feel alone. Relapse is “the nature of the beast.”
    Your last sentence says it all. “Let me start again.”

  48. Megan Says:

    December 2nd, 2011 at 4:30 pm

    Mark,

    Love from Chicago. Go to meetings. Believe you are strong than this.

    Megan

  49. Ann-Marie Says:

    December 2nd, 2011 at 7:27 pm

    Mark,
    I will always love you unconditionally. My prayer is that you can learn to love yourself in that same way. Remember, in 1973, when you told me , “I want to be really good at something.” Well, you are. Don’t forget that God has more in store for you. And, I have every bit of faith that you will triumph in your quests.
    Rest and soak up love from your family. You have to be full, in order to pour out so much of yourself for others.
    Please make it a “Happy” + “New” year.
    I have always believed in you.
    Ann-Marie

  50. Sue Says:

    December 3rd, 2011 at 10:11 am

    Just know I love you—and I am so grateful to have you in my life.

  51. John Says:

    December 13th, 2011 at 3:39 am

    Mark,

    Acknowledging that you are an addict and have had a relapse is a very important step and one that some people never make.

    You are human and you are on the road to recovery.

    I am not an addict but I have many friends who are and some who still use or found addiction in other ways or to other drugs, or addictive habits.

    Talk to your brother and family and do whatever it takes even if that is checking into a treatment facility or going to meetings.

    Good luck and have a wonderful holiday season.

    -John

  52. Susanne Says:

    December 20th, 2011 at 9:55 am

    Mark,
    thanks for your honesty. I am a food addict, that means that I can totally relate to you. I have had many relapses and many times where I just didn’t want to live anymore. Being anorexic is just as addictive as anything else. But I know that your honesty is what will save you and I am very touched by how hard you work on being real. Please continue to live in recovery. From every relapse I learned something. And you will too. Wishing you a blessed Christmas season with a lot of supporters!

  53. Another Diseased One Says:

    December 21st, 2011 at 11:12 am

    Mark, I have full-blown AIDS and it’s difficult. But you must focus on yourself and forget about looking for men. You need to set yourself up in a home and take care of yourself. Don’t get involved with another who will mess up your home. You need stability. The emphasis should be on your health and keeping yourself fit. Forget relationships. Be independent. Co-dependency will ruin your life. I too had a bad 11 year relationship which ended similar to yours with me being homeless in my car driving around. It was then that I decided never again would I let that happen to me. I don’t let anyone interfere with my home. You need a warm, peaceful place to deal with your illness. Steer clear of selfish, deceitful, sex minded people. Just give it up and eat well, exercise, and focus on your emotional status. Stop searching for someone to lean on. Be strong! Being single and alone is NOT a bad thing. Develop friendships, not sex-based or partner-based relationships. You are in charge of your destiny, no one else. It’s up to you to bravely confront the situation and handle it yourself. Dope lowers the immune system and will most certainly kill you if you keep on using it as an excuse to console yourself. You can do it!

  54. Dixon Says:

    December 23rd, 2011 at 4:31 pm

    I feel most sorry for your partner. I was the partner of a user and I know the pain, confusion and anger I dealt with as a result of his using.

    Your partner was robbed of a separate peace from you and the relationship. He was probably also embarrassed in front of his family, who expected you for the holidays.

    I’m sorry I can’t muster more empathy for you, Mark. It’s just that I’ve been there too as a partner of a user.

  55. Jack Says:

    December 28th, 2011 at 12:18 pm

    I am also the partner of an addict who is in recovery and reading Dixon’s remarks I am struck by the negativity in them. This is not the place to be chastising Mark for what happened with his partner, It is the place for celebrating all the hard work Mark has done in his recovery, the courage he has shown by being open about his relapse and the strength he has shown by going back to doing the work necessary for his self care.

  56. Dixon Says:

    December 30th, 2011 at 4:28 pm

    “It is the place for celebrating all the hard work Mark has done in his recovery.”

    I disagree, Jack. The topic is really his relapse and yes, it does affect partners (and ex-partners).

    One true thing about addicts is the messes they create. Mark’s story about the car keys and the crack dealer certainly relates a mess.

    Mark waited until his ex-partner left town and then in the guy’s house Mark starts using again. That had to cause post traumatic stress for the ex. That’s another mess that will need to be cleaned up.

    I’m the former partner of a user and I know the pain. Mark’s relapse wasn’t a victimless crime and although Mark admits his “disregard for (his) home, the dogs, and (his) personal safety”, he never mentions the disregard he caused his former partner.

    Don’t try to candy coat it, Jack. It’s not a pretty story.

  57. HairdoDan Says:

    November 9th, 2012 at 1:56 pm

    You posted this almost 1 year ago and today I read it for the first time….
    While words escape me, the feeling in the pit of my stomach and the taste in the back of my throat remind me of how FAST and furious the mind and life of an addict can change.
    To reveal this story to outsiders is to let loose a typhoon that can easily SUCK you mind and your life back into that pit of “trying to hide and cover feelings” that we wish we didn’t have ….. I read the responses to this article and know what you must feel every time people respond, both in congratulatory triumph and the ones that invoke shame.
    We are human and I am not alone!!! That is what I took from this article …. you once again have taken images and scenes from my life, given them words and a life and put them out there for ALL to give their take on it … it is NOT easy being an addict, it’s not easy being the partner or friend of an addict… Let there be NO mistake about it!!!!
    I know there are two sides to every story, I am just SO glad that you shared YOUR side of the story!!! I am glad you can put a voice to the feelings that I will have to live with FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE … you give me hope, you give me courage and you give me a mirror to say “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”
    THANK YOU
    THANK YOU
    THANK YOU

    By the way, did I say THANK YOU??????

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