Gratitude for a Second Chance

At fifteen months of sobriety, I didn’t imagine I would be still living in a chemical dependency residential program. One would think by now, I would have moved on. But this just isn’t the case. Matter for fact, I will be here for a couple more months as I continue to take care of some dental issues.

Living one day at a time and practicing patience with the process can be difficult at times. Yet, I continue to believe I am here for a reason. Therefore I’m grateful for the continued support I receive while I go through this process, as frustrating and difficult as it may be at times.

Back in August, I finally stepped in a dental office to take care of some plaguing dental issues. I went through two surgeries, ten teeth extractions to remove “problem” teeth. I thought I was in the clear to move on with a partial denture and the rest of my life. Again, this wasn’t so. After going back to my regular dentist, they decided it would be best just to have the rest of my upper teeth all removed and a full denture placed. Back to the oral surgeon I went to schedule two more surgeries.

Monday, the first surgery was completed. Yesterday, I went for a follow up. I was surprised I was in no pain and cleared for the last surgery to be scheduled on November 20th or sooner (I’m on the cancellation list). Immediately after my appointment I got a call from the dentist to schedule the impression for my full upper denture in early January. There is a four to six week healing period after the last surgery. It’s my understanding after the impression is taken, again there is another lengthy period of time before the actual placement of the upper full denture. So, reality sets in as I may not be moving on until February or March of 2020. Despite this, I’m okay with it.

During this whole time I have seen a lot of people come and go for various reasons. Many leave on their own accord, only to relapse because they thought they were ready. They did what they wanted to do and they failed. I don’t want to be that person – again. As someone reminds me in meetings, “[this program] is the last house on the block for me. Either I stick with this time around or I may not be back and probably end up dead”.

I am not squandering this second change of changing my life, as this may be the last chance. I am grateful I developed “a manner of living which demands rigorous honesty”. I have learned, “Living on Life’s Terms” can be difficult at times. I don’t want to be here, I want to move on. Yet, I have to remember I’m here for a reason. Perhaps there are life lessons I’m getting a chance to refine before moving on. So, every day as I review my day I ask, “What lesson(s) did I learn today?”

The point I am trying to make is, no matter what life may throw at me, I have the program of Alcoholics Anonymous, a Higher Power, a Sponsor and a network of sober people to help me stay sober every day. Without these things in place, I know I would be dead or living a miserable existence. Instead, today I’m grateful to be alive and sober.

An Alcoholic Mind: The End of the World

As we grow spiritually, following our own paths of recovery, we have to remember we still have alcoholic minds. I know I do; I can, at times, still think like an alcoholic. While I may be recovered from the obsession of the drink, there are areas of my life still needing attentiveness on a daily basis. By using spiritual tools in Alcoholics Anonymous I can get through the day, despite how bleak I may make my own outlook in life.

Yesterday, after getting some very good rest, I woke up ready to tackle the day ahead of me. One thing was wrong – my computer was off. What? Oh no, no, no. I always leave my computer on because its on its last leg, it has to stay running. After pressing the power button, I notice the computer manufacturer splash screen displays for a split second. Oh Gods no, this is not good! The screen goes blank. But all is not lost. The fan and computer itself is still humming. I’ve run across enough of these “black screen” problems, so I did in my experience and begin to work on the problem.

Nothing works. I have tried several different series of key combinations. Each time I’ve shut it down completely, disconnected the battery, drained the remaining power, waiting the appropriate time and restarted it. Black screen. My mind – No computer? You no longer have a life. What are you going to do? The World is coming to an end.”

My mind begins to fill with thoughts of all kinds. Slowly I’m returning to insanity – did I do this, did I do that, try it again, and again. Suddenly, the owner of the place I volunteer, a cat rescue/adoption center, asks if I can come in. I immediately stop what I’m doing and start walking. However, all they way there my mind is still spinning about my computer.

The owner is there profusely thanking me for coming in to help. We begin the rituals to clean up the shop and cat area from the day before. As I’m concluding my activities, saying goodbye to the various kittens, younglings and adults (‘cus that is what I do when I leave – they have feelings too!), the owner asks a word of me. For the next thirty minutes we talk about addiction and recovery – how I got here, how I’m doing and my plans for the future.

She tells me about her past – her experiences with people both in recovery and active addiction. I get a sense of regret from her she couldn’t or can’t do more. I explain to her by giving us the opportunity to work here, she is doing more than she knows, so I explain what just happened in the morning. After our in depth discussion she was going to look at some old laptops she had sitting in the closet, “..because I have no idea why there are still there.”

Later in the afternoon, I remembered my roommate just purchased a used monitor gaming system. His old monitor was sitting on my dresser, so I borrowed it for a brief moment. After plugging in the HDMI cable and switching to an external monitor the computer functions properly.

The point here is my alcoholic mind can twist and turn things into an unbelievable nightmare of a day, if I choose to let it. Yet when I use the spiritual tools of Alcoholics Anonymous, particularly a belief in a Higher Power, things tend to work out just fine – if I let them!

This is how Alcoholics Anonymous works in my life.

Practicing Principles in Life

I’m not one to celebrate minor milestones like the eleven months of sobriety I have today. When I turn to quiet introspection of “what it use to be like, what happened and what is like now” for myself, it always happens to be on a monthly anniversary. The world around me has changed drastically in the last month. Most importantly, I have changed. Isn’t that the whole point of sobriety?

The hardest lesson for me during the last eleven months of sobriety is watching ego and pride. Isn’t that what go me here in the first place? I became so selfish and self-centered. Nothing else mattered; I wanted what I wanted, when I wanted it, I wanted it two weeks ago and I would do anything to get it. There was a feeling of entitlement; I deserved it for all the hard work I put in or the pain I went through. Complete and utter BULLSHIT!

After going through the Fourth (4th) Step I began to understand again where I had done. All that guilt, shame, fear, insecurity, etc. was brought to the forefront – again. There were “defects” I didn’t address the last time I was sober. I knew they existed but did nothing about them. This time I have made a point of working on them. Thus I have seen a definite change, a needed change.

As I continue to do what I need for my sobriety, I see others shy away from me. Recently, both roommates have just gotten very distant. Today, I’m actually okay with the whole change of scenery. I’m no longer wanting companionship, approval, friendship from those people who are not allowing me to move forward. They have their own problems. They are walking down their own paths to recovery or relapse. I would offer my help but both are unwilling, close minded and just reverting back to their selfish self-centered behaviors. I don’t want to use the cliche, “Been there, done that” but its true. It lead me to path I never (and don’t have to) ever travel down again.

Today I’m more aware of myself and those around me. It’s important for me to USE to “spiritual tools laid at my feet”. If I don’t, I just have to look at my past. Instead, as instructed, I look at myself and the part I played daily. Had I been selfish, dishonest, self-seeking or afraid? If not, I move on. If so, I know what I need to do immediately. Do I get hurt my others? Yes. However, today I’m not angry or resentful. It is what it is.

I have a sense of peace and serenity in my life. I’m happy to be where I am today. I’m grateful to be alive, sober and “practicing these principles in all my affairs”.

Consequences of A Drunkard

In active addiction, many of us don’t take of ourselves. Why? Because our addictions, whatever they are (alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex, food, etc.) are more important. Many of us don’t see a doctor or dentist on a regular basis. I was just one of those people. High blood pressure and cholesterol are now managed through my primary care provider. My dental hygiene was another story. Now I’ve taken the steps to start taking better care of my oral hygiene. However, the consequences of a drunkard (me) are quite serious now. By using what people have taught me in Alcoholics Anonymous I can get through this. It’s going to be a bumpy road ahead.

After the whole fiasco trying to get this oral surgery done, I ended up talking to other people who said, “Why don’t you go somewhere else and get a second opinion?” Duh! The worst outcome is I would be responsible for an office visit charge. However, another oral surgeon may have other options for me. This was so true which leads to a bumpy road ahead.

I called in the insurance company finding another oral surgeon in my area. After scheduling an appointment at the end of September, they also put me on the cancellation list. To my surprise I ended up seeing the oral surgeon on Friday.

My dentist noted seven teeth need to be extracted.

Black X – missing Red X – needs extraction

It’s unbelievable what technology can show you these days. Usually you get single films of teeth or a panoramic x-ray. These days some oral surgeons do CT scans. Honestly, this may have saved a lot of complications for both the oral surgeon and myself in the future.

First, the oral surgeon(OS) says I have really strong teeth. Thanks Mom for making me drink all that milk when I was growing up! Then he got into the meat of all my problems. It’s not a pretty picture.

Teeth #2 and #15, the molars on the upper right and upper left have two complications. The roots are fused to the bone and “extremely close to the sinus cavity. Short story – lots of drilling and he may have to do some extra work if the sinus cavity is breached.

Tooth #10 is in the front of my mouth which use to have a crown. The crown fell off several years ago and is now decayed to the gum line. While looking at it the OS noticed something going on with #8 and #9. Both have crowns on them, however he noticed both have large abscesses too. His suggestion, “Both of those teeth need to get pulled too! Now rather than later because the infection can get a lot worse, real quick!” Therefore, he wants me to see my primary dentist to discuss replacing them with a partial denture after surgery.

The OS is also NOT going to use general anesthesia but “lots of Novocaine”. Scary, yes. But instead of doing all at once, he is going to do all this surgery in the series of five visits. So I’m looking at a couple months of going back and forth.

To be honest, this plan is fine with me. It is important I take care of this now while I have the opportunity. Whatever I have to do to ensure this happens is what I must do. The chemical dependency program I live in may not like it, nor Department of Social Services (an assumption). I’ll cross those bridges when and if it happens.

Another reminder for me to live “One Day at a Time”!

The Ping Pong Game

As mentioned on many occasions, I’ve set a priority to get better grip on my dental hygiene. During my addiction I didn’t take care of myself. Now in recovery I am dealing with those consequences. It frustrating when its obvious I need services and can’t get them done because dentists want to shuffle me from one place to another.

With any provider I see I also disclose past medical programs: 70% loss of hearing in right ear, a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or known as a “mini-stroke” in May 2011, chronic kidney disease – Stage III, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and of course, my remission of alcoholism. All medical problems are under control but I thought it would be best to let all providers know. I guess I’m wrong.

In late June, I made an appointment with a new dentist. She noticed several teeth which need to be extracted. The internal oral surgeon says, “With all these teeth, the complexity of surgery and your health condition, it is best you see another oral surgeon.” Ummm, okay.

I’m referred to Wilson Dental in Syracuse – the only oral surgeon in 50 miles to accept my insurance (Medicaid/Fedelis/Dentaquest). Despite my bias against their office in Binghamton, I reluctantly make an appointment. After the consult we make a date for the surgery.

My medical doctor calls me a week later scheduling me for an appointment for a medical release for the surgery (which Wilson Dental didn’t tell me about). Two weeks later I’m in her office. She doesn’t understand why the oral surgeon is so concerned and clears me for surgery. She warns me in the future not to disclose past medical issues, just current ones – people or other doctors get scared and confused.

Finally Wilson Dental receives my medical release, after three attempts by my medical provider. Yet, I’m told the oral surgeon wants me to see a neurologist. Why? I’ve never been under the care of a neurologist. A week later I suddenly get a call saying I’m referred to Stone Memorial Hospital Oral and Maxillary department.

Last week, I received a call from Stone Memorial asking me to call for a consultation. I delayed it for days because I was on the fence of whether I should continue on this path. I finally called them today receiving the following response, “We’re really busy and can’t schedule you right now. Someone will call you when something is available.” Ugh. Why did you call me in the first place?

I’m just done playing this ping pong game; I’m done fighting. I’m not going to be part of it.

Hard Decision We Have to Make

Perhaps I’m just talking out of my arse but it’s something I need to do right now and see what’s I’m missing on paper (or computer screen). The last couple of weeks have been – exhausting. I’m at a point where I feel like I’m “stuck in the mud”, not progressing forward in life. As of late there have been a lot of barriers thrown in my way. Something needs to change.

Goals in sobriety are important for me not just milestones in my sobriety. One of my goals was to get my dental problems taken care of while I had the coverage and time. Second was to enroll in college to increase my chances of getting better job in a field I enjoy. Lastly, I wasn’t sure to either move in to my own place or with another person.

I have ten years experience working with a dental managed care plan in California. There are very few dentists who accept it. Those dentists that do only want to see you for routine procedures. If it’s something expensive, they refer you to someone else. Fine – I get it as it all comes down to money.

Since late June I’ve been trying to get seven teeth extracted, two which require an oral surgeon(OS). Thus, for convenience why not get them all done at once? Deep down, I knew that was going to be a problem with the insurance company but I went with it.

I’m still waiting because the in-house OS referred me to another OS (who can administer general anesthesia). That oral surgeon now has referred me to yet another Oral and Maxillary Surgeon because of some health concerns which need to be addressed in a “hospital setting”. Seriously? Right now I have a case manager from Fidelis taking care of it. At this point if it gets done at all it’ll be a bonus. Otherwise, I’ve taken it off my goals. I’m done – to much unneeded stress.

I was accepted to Penn State but due to cost I can’t afford it. I was accepted to Excelisior College in Albany, NY. Again, I was biased going in because I know the reviews are bad but the cost was affordable. I’ve spent the last three weeks trying to register for class. It’s this intensive, complicated procedure of bullshit. I guess you get what you pay for? Someone brought up perhaps I should wait a year since FASFA was based on last years income when I was working having a decent income versus now which I have none. So I’ve decided to wait until next year for school.

So this leaves me with getting a job and my own place. It’s scary. I’m on welfare getting a “personal needs allowance” of $150 a month. By the time I pay for my phone and internet, I don’t have shit left. So I’ve asked for help only to be turned away because I don’t have a mental health diagnosis. However, my Fidelis case manager stated her programs I do qualify for so I put the ball in her court. But time is of the essence. Once I get a job, I have 30 days to find a place and move out.

At one point I had thought about moving in with my other roommate. It would be nice to split costs and save money. But in the end I’ve decided it wouldn’t be the best choice.

Hopes and dreams crushed? Not really – just delayed. But part of me has been slightly depressed lately. I’ve been lazy, uninterested in most things, watching a lot of nonsense on Nexflix, “end of world” movies. Sounds ridiculous I know.

My living condition isn’t really ideal either. One roommate is gone most of the day. However, when he is home its in and out. Most of the time running his mouth about this and that. Asking me to do something for him despite telling him over and over, “No”. The other roommate (I was going to move in with) just sits in his room all day, goes to a meeting and wants to be loud and obnoxious all day long. So it’s headphones for me on high volume and when I really get annoyed I just go take a walk -even in pouring rain.

In the end, I can relate all this to restless, irritable and discontent. Perhaps even hungry, angry, lonely and tired (HALT). So I’m not in a good place. But I have been going to meetings and listening. Every meeting I hear the same message – patience and Let Go, Let God. My Sponsor knows where I’m at reminding me, “It’s only temporary”.

Sometimes I just need to remember to breathe.

Moving On

At some time during the stay of a resident in a chemical dependency program it’s time to move on. The program no longer benefits us. If we choose, we have developed our own recovery plans to sustain us for the rest of our lives. All my cards may not be in place, just yet, but soon enough I’ll be moving on.

Part of me feels “stuck in the mud” right now. The waiting game is slowly eating away at me. I accept I have no control over the time it takes third parties to complete their respective processes when another is asking for help. However, I recognize the danger to me when I become stagnant in sobriety. Do I take control in my own hands? There are a few things I’m waiting to fall in place.

One priority for me is to get this major oral surgery done since I have the resources available to me. It’s scheduled for next week. Once I’ve recovered it will be another thing crossed of my list.

T has placed an application for housing with CAP. I appreciate his willingness to help me with housing. But I know I can’t wait the three to six months for their organization to get me in their system. Who knows, perhaps due to my situation, they may be able to help. However, I have learned if I don’t expect anything, I can’t be disappointed.

The Certified Peer Advocate funding, as I knew, won’t happen. I was willing to go through the process. My roommate was given a stern “no” when he went to his appointment, so why waste my time. It’s a shame you have good, honest, willing people to fill these positions, yet it all comes down to money. I get it – nothing is free.

I withdrew from Penn State due to funding. Yet, I applied at another local college who gives a discount to those with existing college credits. I’m waiting from the Financial Aid office to process my request. Again, I don’t put much hope this will work out but I still put in the effort and did my part.

Lastly, I have made a decision not to move in with my roommate. Over the last two weeks, he has exhibited intolerable, childish behavior. It’s interesting I came to this conclusion and today’s reading on codependency is about ending a relationship. Another example of how recovery works in my life.

There will be challenges in the weeks ahead for sure. But I’ve learned, this time around, to deal with them when they crop up – “One Day At A Time”. I’m at a place of peace and serenity in my life. I truly believe this is the path I should be walking down. Thus, I trust the process.