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11) Living Life on Life's Terms

In this blog I plan to play with time and place: this particular post will reflect upon a recent day where I am currently living, in Cape Town, South Africa. I came here on March 22 of this year to attend my fourth rehab in 12 months, Stepping Stones, which literally saved my life. The team of care providers assigned to me, plus my many wise and loving peers, pulled me out of the abyss--the darkest depressive state I have ever experienced. I spent four months at Stepping Stones, and then on July 22, moved to the sober living house where I currently reside--Liberty House in Lakeside, Cape Town. In the past twelve months, I have battled a cocaine addiction that almost killed me, and soon after getting sober, fell more deeply into a major depressive episode, which also almost destroyed me. Quite simply, I wanted to take my life during dozens of moments over the past year. My cocaine addiction has been difficult to manage, to say the least, but nothing could have prepared me for the brutal depression I battled next. I always tell people that my navigating sobriety has been a walk in the park compared to my mental illness. At one point, last December, I found myself in full psychosis, struggling to make sense of my surroundings, of who I was, and how the universe, twirling around me, functioned. I was ensconced in the psych ward at NYU Tisch on Manhattan's East side, next to the river. I went inpatient in late October of 2022 and spent six weeks there (including Thanksgiving and Christmas). I would proceed to bounce in and out of psych wards for the next six months. I was sent to Tisch to receive ECT at the urging of my therapist and psychiatrist in New York to treat a deepening depression which had emerged sometime over the past few years. (News flash: my almost daily cocaine use wrecked havoc on my mental health and caused my depression to worsen). By the time my care providers sent me inpatient to Tisch, I was so depressed that I was not able to function nor was I fit to work. ECT turned out to be the worst intervention for my depression and, as mentioned above, caused me to slip into psychosis.

But this post is not about my depression--not to worry, I will get there. I want to use this post to discuss last week when I saw marked progress in my disease of addiction. September 19, 2022, is my sobriety date. I am currently on the cusp of having 365 days of continuous sobriety. Let's talk about my progress: last Friday turned into a colossal mess. I had a psychiatrist appointment at 12:00pm, but the remote to the front gate at Liberty House was not working. It turns out that no one could get the gate to open electronically, so our maintenance guy had to go through his keychain with 20-25 keys on it to unlock the gate manually. Of course, a downpour began as I was waiting for Joshua (all names have been changed), to figure out which key would unlock our gate. Soaking wet, with my Uber waiting for me at the curb, Joshua finally opened the gate after about 15 minutes or so. As such, I was late for my psychiatrist. It was a 30 minute appointment and my psychiatrist was kind enough to see me for the full half hour, but that meant that I was then going to be late to see my therapist. I had an appointment with her, who is at my previous rehab, Stepping Stones, directly after my psychiatrist. I had a 1:30pm appointment at Stepping Stones, located in Kommetjie, a neighborhood located about 45 minutes from my psychiatrist's office. I was running very late. In my Uber to Stepping Stones, a Google Meets invite from my therapist popped up on my phone, so I assumed that she wanted to meet online instead of in-person. I redirected my Uber back to Liberty House, so that I could jump online. I got back and waited and waited for my therapist to join our Google Meeting, but to no avail. After about 20 minutes, I stopped waiting, feeling confused and frustrated.

At the end of the day, my therapist reached out and said that she had been waiting for me to show up in-person. The Google Meets invite was a mistake. She said that she still had to turn off the automatic notification that had been sent to me. I was slightly annoyed, but yet, it did not take on the disaster proportions that it would have, had I still been in active addiction. I handled the day's events with grace. It did not derail my day, as it would have during active addiction. I continued my day as previously planned--I went to the gym, went running, and then worked out with my personal trainer. It was a good day. A solid day. Perhaps I was a bit flustered when I arrived late to my psychiatrist, but I had simply called their office to notify them of my tardiness. It is something so simple, but I would have never done that when I was drinking and using. It simply wouldn't have occurred to me. You see, I was not able to live life on life's terms. If any hiccup happened throughout my day, I had no tools to manage the disruption, and I would have used it as an excuse to drink and use cocaine. I would have used cocaine AT the "fuck-up" of my day. I would use AT the people, places, and things that enraged, frustrated, or annoyed me. Fueled by resentments, I would have used in despair, blowing everything out of proportion, thinking that life had done me wrong, yet again.

I am in a very different place today. With eleven months of sobriety under my belt, I was able to bounce back from the difficulties of my day. They were hardly difficulties, to be honest. Things that were out of my control occurred and I was able to change course and adapt. Active addiction robbed me of my adaptability skills. It robbed me of seeing things accurately, in a "right-sized" perspective. My cocaine addiction robbed me of everything, but I'll get to that. So much more to come....I'm pleased that I am able to reflect upon my day that had the potential to throw me into a tizzy, but yet, didn't. I was perfectly fine. In sobriety, things roll off my back. Now that I work a 12 step program, life can literally throw anything at me, and you know what? I'll be fine. I'll be better than fine. I'll continue to thrive. Today I can proudly say that I am able to live life on life's terms. This day was the perfect example of that.

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