I don’t even know how to start today’s blog post, but if there is one thing I have learned recently, it’s that starting the journey to recovery is better than never starting at all, so here we go!
Two weeks ago, I had intended to ramp up the online VIP kettlebell swing program until a series of events had unfolded in my very own apartment that were horrifying at best, and traumatic at worst. I remember being on and off the phone for a series of two weeks straight when I first got out of rehab back in January, but nothing. . nothing will top the amount of meetings, phone calls, counseling sessions, more phone calls, and intensive therapy sessions I had to take in order to salvage my own safety over the past two weeks. I’m still mentally processing the series of events that all occurred so rapidly and dramatically, and I am sure I will be writing up a memo on just how scary this scenario was of mine later when my body and brain has had some sufficient time to cool off from all the stress.
What DID occur brought me back to a certain place, a cross roads of sorts. I have had to ask myself an incredibly important question to bring my own recovery to the forefront of everything I am now doing in my career:
“Do I fall back into old patterns of behavior or do I choose to press on through the journey of a life of sobriety?”
You don’t know addiction until you’ve lived it, and until you see how it destroys your life and the lives of the ones you love the most. My heart is so heavy today, and perhaps heavier than any of the weights I can personally lift, but if I don’t share my own personal journey here, I fear that more of you reading this will not seek the help that you so well deserve. Please, I urge you to keep reading.
Today, I’d like to fill you in on at least a part of the story I am alluding to above, and that has everything to do with recovering from addiction. I should warn you that today’s post is an intense one, so if you’re used to my more cheerful Monday motivational posts, close your browser now and come back when you’ve had an extra cup of coffee. This post is NOT for the faint of heart. That being said, I’d like to reveal my own story on addiction, recovery, and relapse today to make you all aware that this disease is quite arguably the biggest public health crisis affecting your loved ones, your friends, your family members, your children, your spouses, your clients, and perhaps even YOU!
Hi! My name is Janelle, and I am an addict in recovery. Relapse is a part of my story. Just for today, I’d like to talk to you all about just how destructive a relapse can be, and what YOU can do to stop a lapse from becoming a full blown run back into addictive thinking and behaving that could cost you the precious gift of your own life. If there is one thing I’d like for you all to take from this post its this: You are NOT a mess!
I had been following a blog called “The Hip Sobriety Blog” for a series of months prior to checking myself into SPHS, a drug and alcohol clinic in Greensburg PA during the summer of 2017. It was that blog and this book that convinced me I needed professional help to overcome the biggest obstacle of my own life: addiction. My initial intake session with my case manager was an event I will never forget. Sitting in intake and reviewing my own drug and alcohol use, I was told that the first step of my recovery would require a trip to rehab. My jaw dropped when I heard the word “rehab”, and I would be lying if I told you that Amy Winehouse’s song didn’t immediately cross my mind when my case manager started making phone calls for 28 day stays.
I left the office July 31st with a handful of paperwork and was told to crunch some work into applying for county funding for my first rehab stay. Of course, none of this actually happened on my end as I was in total denial that I even had to go to rehab in the first place. I had overcome most of the lingering effects from a terrible personal trauma (read more about that here) , but drugs and alcohol still lingered as that last lone side effect from too much mental anguish in one year. I kept telling myself that I was strong enough to quit drinking and using on my own, and on August 1st, I decided to do just that. Quit cold turkey.
My decision to quit cold turkey turned out to be a costly, near deadly mistake.
Drug Withdrawal: You Feel like You’re Dying Because You Are
“You run Spartan Races?” said the Emergency Room doctor, pointing out my red Spartan Volunteer shirt I was wearing when I finally arrived at Allegheny General. I had been involved in a number of obstacle races that year as a personal test of my own mental wit, and as delirious as I was that day in the emergency room, I still somewhat responsive to this woman’s questions.
“Yyeessss. . .. why?”
“With all due respect, thank God! We have to watch you for a while and I’m calling your case manager with SPHS stat. I don’t think you’d be walking out of here today had you not been as physically fit as you are, despite the substance abuse.”
I came in off an ambulance with what is considered an emergency, hypertensive crisis. The following numbers were my stats when I was finally taken into the hospital upon admission.
Blood Pressure: 200/120
Resting heart rate: 189
“Am I taking a heart-attack?” I asked in a panic
“As of right now, no.” (the most alarming sentence I have ever heard straight out of a doctor’s mouth).
If that wasn’t scary enough, I should note it took three separate nurses to hold me down to hook me up to every gadget and IV imaginable as I had gone into full blown convulsions. As strong as I am, that was the day I couldn’t’ stop my own body from shaking uncontrollably, no matter how hard I told myself to stop. The staff at the hospital kept asking me if I had ever taken a seizure after abruptly stopping my substance use.
Wait. . .SEIZURE??!?!?
By the time I was sedated enough and hydrated enough with all my IVs and my blood pressure and heart rate began to drop, I found myself yelling at the hospital staff to “keep all the extra people out of my room”, except of course there was only one nurse at my side at the time who was on and off the phone with my case manager in Greensburg.
“Sweet heart” she said so calmly, “ It’s just me. “
“Angry faces everywhere. Tell them to go away”
I was discharged 8 hours later once I stabilized, and was given a prescription for a taper to send me immediately to a treatment facility. It was the first of 3 treatment stays I would undertake to save my own life. I was sent back to my apartment in Greensburg at the time, and I decided to shoot a video on that very day to document the beginning of my recovery journey.
I left for treatment that day.
Shortly after returning home from my first detox at Pyramid in Wilkinsburg, I would find myself at White Deer Run from August 17th until September 15th. After achieving nearly 45 days of sobriety, I relapsed back into a full fledged run. Familiar people. Familiar places. Far too much access to old and familiar things. On November 5th, 2017 I was arrested for my SECOND D.U.I. and found myself in the ER again at Westmoreland Hospital alongside the very case manager that worked on my behalf all throughout August. I didn’t know it then, but that would be my last day in Greensburg PA. I was arrested at 1:00 am November 5th, and at 1:00 pm on the same day, I was in a van headed to Cove Forge Behavioral Health, a drug and alcohol rehab. . .again.
New people. Ne places. New things to do, and quite literally a nw lease on life. On January 20th, 2018, 77 days after my leave, I emerged a new woman, ready to tackle on the world again one day at a time. I was welcomed with open arms at the Hope House ¾ house in Rochester PA, and I was on call with what seemed like EVERYONE from Strongfirst and Girls Gone Strong, willing to help me get back up to speed with my business again. I was seeing the gifts of sobriety work in my favor.
If you’ve made it this far you now have an idea of just how dangerous drug and alcohol addiction are on the body, and I am writing this post from a point of the damage done on your own physical health. What I have not yet touched upon (and I may have to save this for another post in the future) I setting up the right treatment and support POST rehab. This has been a murky territory for me, a many of my friends now are still in the early recovery stages. At first, surrounding yourself with like-minded people in your recovery sounds appealing. However, this becomes a matter of being darn sure you truly are on the same page with everyone in your recovery posse. The unfortunate reality in early recovery is that relapse rates can be as high a 40 to 60 percent depending on your drug of choice, and if you are not careful, you will find yourself being exposed to dangerous situations that threaten your recovery and the lives of the ones you love the most should you not have the right supports in place. Addiction is a cunning, baffling and POWERFUL disease that can turn your angelic personality into a deadly demonic force within a matter of days of using. Truly, it is that POWERFUL. I cannot claim any expertise at this stage of the recovery game, but I DO have some advice for those of you in recovery to help assist you on both the physical and mental avenues of your recovery to make sure you stay the course post treatment, and to be sure your lapse doesn’t turn into a relapse of full blown addiction.
Step 1: Seek Immediate Treatment for Chronic Substance Abuse
I gave you all the horror story of my withdrawal from drugs and alcohol. Trying to quite cold turkey may not work in your favor, as you can have wild, bizarre, and truly dangerous physical complications. Hospitals, detox units, and long term rehabs are your best interest if your use has turned to abuse over the course of time. If you are concerned about your drug and alcohol use, click this link for more information on how you can get help today.
Step 2: Post Treatment, Seek Support.
I am involved with the communities of Alcoholics Anonymous AND Narcotics Anonymous to help tackle both ends of my addiction. I also have a very tough sponsor who requires daily check ins and mandatory weekly readings to help me stay sober. I am also involved in Intensive Outpatient Treatment right down the street from where I live in Beaver Falls, AND have recently gotten adjusted with mental health counseling to tackle the root of my own addiction. A multi-level approach for your recovery will help you avoid the pit falls of relapse and help you stay on track.
Step 3: “You’re a feeling person in a messy world”- Mental Health Care
Early in treatment at Cover Forge, my counselor had mentioned that it takes a solid 3-6 months for your brain to heal enough to start processing traumas correctly. Once you have a minimum of 90 days sober, I recommend seeking professional mental health care. Over the weekend, Iw as able to contact my previous therapist to do just that. I have been through some of the worst ends of post traumatic stress, but addiction has made the lat bits of processing my own traumas a bit challenging. At the advice of some of my best friends in recovery, I decided to do the extra hard work and make sure that all this healing takes place the right way. I once heard that addiction will continue to resurface until the roots of trauma are addressed, and I do believe that there is some truth to that. Seek therapy when necessary to avoid falling back into old coping mechanisms. If you’re emotionally overwhelmed, you may slip in early recovery. A good therapist will help you process your emotions effectively. For more information on solid mental health treatment, click this link.
Step 4: “When Helping You is Hurting Me”- Are Your Relationships Helpful or Harmful to your recovery?
This step has been a more recent step I have had to take seriously, and much of my heartache today is over this step itself. The past month of my life had been a roller-coaster of watching my closest friend battle through her own struggles with addiction. I’ve heard the saying that “Two sick people don’t make a healthy living situation” so many times this past month I would utter that phrase in my sleep. I have suffered through my own horrors of addiction which I mentioned above, but watching someone very close to me struggle to the same magnitude was far too much to bear. If you find yourself in a living situation with an active user, be careful. Push eventually comes to shove, and you will find yourself in a predicament that could cost you your own sobriety (as was the case with me), let alone risking exposure to worse substances than you ever were addicted to before. It may seem appealing to live with someone early on in your recovery for morale support, but your better off living alone for a solid year post treatment to master the art of yourself. I have had to make some of the most difficult decisions of my life to protect my own safety these past two weeks, and though those decisions were truly heart breaking, I am at least rest assured that I can move on in the right direction. I pray daily for the life of my friend still struggling (and if you know me personally with respect to what I am talking about, please, continue to pray for her as well).
For further reading on relationships, check out these two books!
Step 5: Live the Life You’re Called to live!
Today marks my training back into my Strongfirst Level 2 recertification process. It also marks my call to rise above addiction after my own set back along the way. The most important part of living a life in recovery is getting yourself back up, no matter how hard you may have fallen. Letting go of old people places and things requires a ton of patience with yourself, but that process of letting go is truly a courageous march to the summit of sobriety. Find something you absolutely LOVE in your life, and chase after that thing you wish to accomplish the most. For me, that means getting my recert within the next few months, starting my business back up within the next year (watch out Beaver County!), and eating smart! Life is so much brighter on the other side of addiction, and no matter how many times you have fallen, you can always rise stronger than you ever were before by taking things one day at a time. Choose life and live it! And as a close friend of mine said herself. .
“Be brave! Do it even if you’re scared!”
Like this post. Share it with your friends! Tell people that you love them daily! Strength truly does have a greater purpose, and the greater purpose is love! I was reminded just last night about how important it is to be honest and open about our own struggles, and now, my business has taken a shift of not just strength training and nutrition, but public advocacy. Shout out to Erika for a truly inspiring message! May this be a lesson for you all to share your tragedies and triumphs through the battlefield of addiction.
If you know someone struggling with ad rug or alcohol addiction, even if that person is YOU, seek help today! Resources are available to help you start the journey to recovery. Here are some of my top favorite links to help you get started.
Narcotics Anonymous: https://www.na.org/
Alcoholics Anonymous: https://www.aa.org/
Cove Forge Behavioral Health: http://www.coveforgebehavioralhealth.com/
Addiction Center: https://www.addictioncenter.com/
Anxiety Center: http://www.anxietycentre.com/
Trauma Center- Dr Bessel Van Der Kolk: https://kripalu.org/
Much love and respect to all you out there living this life of recovery. Please continue to pray for those still sick and suffering, and may we rise, stronger than ever before one day at a time. You are NOT a mess! You’re a feeling person in a messy world. Anything that you can’t control is teaching you patience and how to let go. Be brave! Do it even if you’re scared.
Let NOTHING stand in your way!