500 Days

Two days ago, it was our youngest daughters 1st birthday.

She is a blessing in so many ways and everyone loves her so much especially her sisters. This Baby has been the easiest by far, as a great sleeper with a calm disposition and easy-going nature. I am blessed, grateful and thankful for all of my babies. It’s because of their presence and unconditional love that I’m still standing, sober 500 days, today.

One year ago however, everything was completely different. I believed my marriage had been saved because I went away like I said I would and got sober. When I had given birth to our 3rd beautiful baby girl in less than 5 years – so much of the fear I held about her arrival was gone.

This was something I stressed about intensely during treatment because I knew she would require a 5 day observation period in her first week of life. I was terrified. It was not going to be easy staying at the hospital for a week as we had 2 small children but after I had been away for 11 weeks – we could tackle anything. We had become an ultimate team over the years.

What the Doctors were concerned about was the fact I had been taking Suboxone during my Pregnancy, which is prescribed as a first-line pharmaceutical treatment for Opiate detox. Medicated, Assisted Opiate Withdrawal while pregnant is the standard form of treatment. It’s not a direct replacement like Methadone but an Opiate Blocker. Quite simply; if I decided to relapse, taking an Opiate would do nothing to me. I would have to purposely stop taking Suboxone for at least 3 days and put myself into severe withdrawal.

That alone would essentially put my entire Recovery at risk because withdrawal is quite Emotionally, Psychologically and Physically painful.

After my daughters birth in November 2018, I made serious attempts to taper off this medication completely

During my pregnancy, I was prescribed a high dose to accommodate for extra blood flow pregnancy provides. Anyone taking Opiates during Pregnancy: prescribed or not – runs the risk of Fetal Harm and/or Death if they abruptly stop taking the medication as this will cause withdrawal for the fetus.

If medication was consumed for the entire Pregnancy, there is always a risk that the Baby will experience Physical Withdrawal; called Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome. That did not happen and my baby was released after being observed for 5 days.

Once I gave birth however, it was no longer necessary to remain on this dosage. In February 2019, I tapered off by a significant amount but then all the turmoil surrounding my marriage took centre stage. Although I was doing really well with the tapering, I had to stop midway through because of the stress and the risk associated with that.

As my body processed less medication, I went through a barely noticeable withdrawal.

What I experienced was mainly insomnia, restlessness, higher levels of anxiety, sweating, lack of an appetite. When shit began to hit the fan at home however and my anxiety levels skyrocketed, combined with little to no sleep, my body began mimicking severe symptoms of Opiate Withdrawal which aren’t even real which is crazy. Basically, the high levels of Cortisol caused by the increased stress and anxiety trigger a condition called PAWS: Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome.

By April, I decided to give up on tapering and actually start going back into the Pharmacy every day for “Witness Doses.”

I felt it was necessary once my former Husband, his Family and my Mother found out that I asked Children’s Aid to remain involved to help me Separate. Again, this was done to ensure our safety but to also establish transparent communication between myself, my doctors and the agency that protects our children while supporting their Mother in her Recovery. I did this to prepare for moving out of the home with my Children so I could continue functioning as their Primary Caregiver; as a separate person.

November 2019 – Mama’s Girls

November 2018 – Ready to Pop

Once my Husband and his Family found out about their continued involvement, they used it as an opportunity to make false and elaborate accusations about me and my Cannabis consumption. The entire time they knew I abused Prescription Opiates; they never once told anyone anything but the minute I asked for a Separation; it became a sudden concern about my 20-year Cannabis use. They claimed my consumption was excessive, that I used in front of my kids or put them at risk by consuming high-dose edibles – none of which is true.

If they were willing to make new claims about me and Cannabis; I felt they were willing to do anything. It was recommended that I had to protect myself and my Recovery. I chose to relinquish my “carries;” which are essentially take-home doses of Suboxone which had been earned over a 6 month period of clean urine screens and consistency. This would mean I’d have to go into the Pharmacy everyday, have the Pharmacist witness me taking the medication and sign off. They would also take note of how I was that day; emotionally, physically and psychologically.

Obviously if I was at all a “concern,” they would report that and intervene.

If I had not done this, it would have just been a matter of time before I had been accused of mismanaging or re-directing the medication prescribed to assist in my Recovery. It is a controlled substance worth something on the Black Market. Suboxone is in high demand due to the rigid program one must follow if they want to proceed with treatment. I felt if I didn’t take necessary precautions, that would’ve been the next thing they’d go after and believe me, they tried.

In Court Documents submitted by my Former Husband and his Lawyer; they accuse me of “distributing Naloxone” like it’s an illegal substance:
Naloxone/Narcan is a free, Opiate Overdose Antidote

Thankfully, I had aligned every aspect of my treatment for transparency with the Agency that protects our children. Being honest about my Cannabis use and giving up my “carries” were all “harm reduction measures” for several risk factors when trying to leave this marriage. Again, if I hadn’t had this awareness for other people my whole life I don’t think it would’ve worked out this way. I would have naively continued accepting carries and carried on my way.

My Doctors appreciated my insight on why I needed to go back on Witness Doses for awhile.

I wasn’t always this open and honest – for awhile I hid behind a hard exterior of a career, motherhood and being married.

November 2017: “I’m Fine!”

No one ever suspected I had a problem and that was the problem. I became too good at pretending everything was fine on the outside, the way everyone around me wanted. Seriously though – on the inside, and while completely living another, double life – I was dying. No one really cared about my situation or what I was doing as long as it didn’t create a “problem.” My happiness, well-being and emotional health did not register as a concern for anyone so I felt I was doing a good job as a high-functioning Addict.

My depression was so thick, like a Fog along with an intense fear of the future but with good reason. The secrets I was keeping from my loved ones, Friends and Co-Workers kept piling up. The lies I had to tell to continue hiding my Addiction, which by now had created financial consequences for myself – would also become a big, separate pile of its own. The fear of my Husband finding out became a panic inducing, insanity but I couldn’t stop taking pills.

By April of 2018 when I found out I was expecting for a 3rd time, I didn’t want to proceed with the pregnancy because of how severe my Addiction had been at the time. Thankfully, I came to a different decision after careful thought but I knew I needed help. I couldn’t handle another Baby, let alone a Pregnancy while struggling this seriously. I made the hardest decision of my life at the time and resigned from my Banking Career.

This was to officially mark the beginning of my Recovery from Opiate Addiction and stay at home with the kids – on an indefinite basis. My husband told me I’d never have to work again, that he wanted me to be with our kids. Being a stay-at-home Mother was the last thing I wanted to do when I had my first child back in 2014. It took me a long time to give up my self-imposed “Career-driven” no matter what identity.

All of these factors fuelled my Addiction as I began to “burn out.” For 4 years, rounds of pregnancies, babies, pills, detoxes, relapses and working full-time fuelled me but like any good high, you must come down.

December 2017: Fully back into my Addiction

Read: “Mommy Burn-Out is Real and Scary”

Now as 2019 comes to a close, it’s a completely different story:

Today, I realize how vital raising my children is for my Recovery and I’m encouraged to continue this path.

The structure from their routine keeps me on my own path; completely focused on them while developing my strength as a Parent.

Growing up as a Child, I did not have routine and stability. We didn’t know what would happen next, ever and as Children, we faced constant chaos. Whether it be from our Dads tragic early death, our Grandmothers illness/death, finding out by accident that my Mother was adopted, and my Grandfather beginning another life with his new Wife – all before I entered high school. These may not seem to be life altering events for some but as a Kid, who had already lost a Parent and did not have a strong bond with the Surviving one, it was nerve inducing hell.

As Children, we rely on routine and an innate expectation of stability which contributes to developing healthy attachments in personal relationships. I wish I could say I had consistency with that growing up but I did not. I started having regular Panic Attacks at 12 and by 15 I was Bulimic, making myself throw up. There were many times I had compassion and stability; especially from my Mother – which made it all the more devastating and traumatic when things would blow up and she wasn’t emotionally reliable.

Growing up, I literally had to tiptoe around my Primary Caregiver’s emotional reactions to Adult situations on a regular basis. This became normal to me and I carried that until I became painfully aware as a Teenager that most families didn’t operate like mine. My former Husband even took notice when we first started to date that my Mother just didn’t seem to care about me or what I was up to in life.

Now that I have my own kids, sometimes I have to remember to have more fun because I operate my household on a schedule with a routine. I just also protect them by shielding them from any Adult/Marital conflict as much as possible, hence why we moved out as soon as it was feasible. This is also a big factor in why I decided to set aside a few toxic relationships right now as it’s not the ideal time to focus on them. My children need the strongest, emotionally stable Mother possible right now.

My former Husband had it even worse in regard to chaos in Childhood. He really cannot handle quick changes to a schedule or off-the-cuff events. He often spoke to me about the lack of routine, parental attention and stability growing up. There were always lots of Family Members around due to regular large gatherings but he said as a kid; he was often told that he was “annoying” or “to go away.” He was neglected in many ways which resulted in him being overweight as a Child and bullied for it. He is a child of Divorce and never had an opportunity to make amends with that trauma.

We often talked about memories of his Parents and that they were too busy with their own reactions and emotions pertaining to their Divorce, a new Partner, demanding Work commitments, etc. to really focus on their kids. I learned so much about the damage these events can cause during Childhood which lead into our Adulthood, marriages, Parenting Styles, etc. during my time away at Treatment – so it was hard to ignore the signs when I came home.

It’s a deeply instilled fear inside me now of falling back to my own dark place, my own personal chaos. I can’t worry too much into the future about this as it causes extreme anxiety but it’s something I am required to focus on every day as part of Recovery.

This is why working the 12 Step Program – Narcotics Anonymous is essential to Recovery, not just Medicated Assisted Therapy or Rehab stays.

Actually learning how to break these cycles of Family Dysfunction and Enmeshment is vital to success in any Recovery. Recovery can be for serious Mental Health issues like Depression as well.

Ultimately, I have made peace from the childhood I had to recover from and accept that my Primary Caregiver was not emotionally reliable or stable but did the best they could.

Being a strong role model for my girls, by showing them how to be strong individuals – provides me with direction and purpose.

I’m not ready to be thrown into a busy, new routine with 3 small Children (and their expensive daycare bills). It doesn’t need to be that way anyway if certain “Agreements” put in place long ago were acknowledged now, making this process entirely easier and less expensive. I had worked for 20 years when I “retired” from Banking so I have a bit of a nest egg once the Marital property is divided. My career in Banking was extremely stressful and high-pressured Sales. Right now; hungry, eager money-making does not align with my Recovery to even consider a full-time Corporate role.

Sometimes I do wish things had been different with my marriage. I so badly wanted it to be working out last year, after everything – for the sake of our 3 children. Right now our oldest daughter so badly wants us to be back together. That unfortunately seems to be the wish for most children of divorced parents and it’s something I’ve had to navigate with my oldest daughter now and the other 2 later.

Our oldest child is a very smart, aware girl who has unfortunately had to deal with her fair share of adult situations in the past few years. Most of that is on my shoulders because of my Opiate Addiction which causes me intense shame and guilt. I’ve learned through regular therapy the only way to mend that with my Daughter is with time, unconditional love, empathy and validating her feelings by listening to her. She just wants to be heard most of the time.

Right now she is enrolled with a program that provides counselling to children going through Divorce. Neither my Husband nor I had Counselling of any kind to deal with my Dad dying when I was 7 or how his Parents ended their tumultuous marriage when he was a small child. I know it was different times 30 years ago but I do believe we were failed as Children which played a part in our failed marriage. Breaking the cycle matters to me the most and I want to protect our girls from whatever I can.

Neither one of us was equipped to deal with times of sorrow in our Marriage, which are completely normal. We did not really have any times of sorrow other than what I brought to the table with Depression and Addiction. He wanted out almost the minute he found out I was abusing Opiate medication again in November 2017. I feel like our marriage really ended that Christmas but either way – things were never the same after that. I was at my worst in 2017 and there are so many things that happened. It will take years to work through it all.

That’s what life is about though – working through stuff so you can actually live.

I was not born to live in a Hive and just talk to the same 3 people every day. When you continuously go to the same people, talking about the same old bullshit – you get the same result every time. Why? Because then we are just churning shit – we are not actually growing from new ideas, insights and experiences. People are naturally story tellers and if we are told as Children that we can’t trust the World – we become isolated, stunted.

If the person you grow up with naturally promotes holding grudges and making retribution on your resentments, you are being setup for failure in life.

For years I lived a very isolated life built in shame, guilt and Addiction. I stayed within my “role,” continued working and having kids while living a lie. The lie was the one I told myself every day: that I am fine.

That I have things under control.
That I will stop using Pills after I run out this last time.
That I will choose Sobriety one day.
That I can stop if I had to.

September 2017; Days away from my final 9 month long End-Stage Relapse

I also told myself if everyone knew, that they would hate me. Not entirely true, but somewhat accurate. There was always a knowing, a “understanding” that if my Husband “caught me again” – he did in the Summer of 2015, during which time he told me “he would leave me if he ever did catch me again”. Through it all, every single day of active addiction – I knew my marriage would not survive this. There wasn’t enough love, closeness and connection to bring us back together and I medicated that unraveling for its entirety.

I don’t hate him for this nor do I entirely blame him. Yes, he is a well-educated man from this Country who should have taken the time for his marriage to learn about what actually causes Addiction. Yet I cannot fault him for not wanting to do that because he was not raised to take pity on Drug Users. He was raised to never trust them, to take caution and of course, that we are morally inept creatures of habit who can never change.

Unfortunately he has not been taught how to love a person unconditionally. You can end an intimate relationship with someone but still feel love, empathy and compassion towards them. If someone has not been taught this, their relationships will always feel hallow and one-sided. The other person will always feel like they’ve done something wrong or they are not good enough. Happiness is only achieved when the person who cannot love authentically feels like they are content – which rarely happens.

The old adage; “if you don’t love someone at their worst, you can’t love them at their best” reigns true in this situation.

As someone with a high awareness for other people’s behaviour and emotions, I felt the decline in every aspect of our relationship and it haunted me. The judgement, the whispers, the gossip – that hurt too but after November 2017, it wasn’t just the two of us any more. Every time I saw his Family, or mine – things were just different. My options on things, especially our Children – didn’t matter any more compared to the advice of his Family.

I was on the very bottom of the totem pole, if you can even believe there is one but there was/is.

As a Drug Addict who abused medication while Pregnant, I was considered by them to be “scum of the earth”.

Or: “Feccia Della Terra!”

My life was becoming not mine any more and I was losing a battle, absolutely no self-control. That’s why as I went down a death spiral – I knew rock bottom had to come eventually. It came in the form of a positive pregnancy test in April 2018. You would think that should have been enough for me to finally “surrender” to my Addiction but no – that would take another 1.5 months.

My 3rd daughter represents a 2nd chance for me as a Mother and I mean this in the best way possible. She was conceived during a moment of genuine love that hadn’t happened in so long. Our marriage was definitely at its breaking point by Winter 2017/2018 but Baby 3 happened by the Grace of God. She happened for a reason.

When we found out about her arrival, meaningful help finally came and people swept into action. My Family Doctor immediately ordered weekly urine screens which I passed for a few weeks until I ultimately relapsed again at the end of May 2018 until June 24 2018.

She also notified people to help support me and to ensure I got into treatment. Under no circumstance would I had been able to stay sober if I hadn’t registered myself for In-Patient care. It was finally time to deal with everything and you would think that would have been enough to make me well but my life was still unraveling. I could not stop using Opiates during the month of June 2018, just before I went away. My whole life was crumbling and terrible events kept happening because I kept inviting it into our lives. I needed to be stopped and on June 24, 2018, something inside of me just clicked and I began changing.

The chaos, hurt and anger finally stopped in July 2018 when I went away for 11 weeks, at 4.5 months pregnant. I needed to detach from my “People, Places and Things” and take care of myself and my baby. By the time she arrived in November 2018, I was 6 months sober and fully emotionally ready for her. Finally by the 3rd baby; I was in the best possible state I’d ever been in to receive a baby and nurture her. We spent those 5 days in observation together and she never experienced a day of withdrawal.

It was emotionally draining, intense at times because I wanted us to go home by Day 3 but we did it.

Today I am 500 days sober from the Opiate Addiction that almost took my life.

My Addiction to Opiates almost took my life in more than one way. I could have died yes but at that time; I was already almost dead inside. All I cared about was that drug and getting it towards the end. The vicious cycle of having to use once I began using in order to avoid withdrawal was deadly in many ways; specially psychological, physical, financial and emotional. The burden it placed upon my Children and Family was also extremely taxing.

Thankfully we are far removed from those days now and I’ve been sober for 17 months, 500 days. The clock keeps on ticking for an offer of reasonable settlement so we can move on with our lives. What I’m asking for so we can settle is not unreasonable but it’s been pretty much ignored up to this point. Last week we had an unproductive Case Conference Court Date which resulted in several hours wasted in Mediation. One should only mediate if they are willing to compromise and well, mediate.

The Case Conference had to be rescheduled to November 18 which means another day in Court, another cost. It’s not really a huge cost for me as I am now representing myself but for the day itself, I have to arrange a full-day of Childcare. Putting our Family through this when the actual issues could be dealt with quickly causes unnecessary upset. I have spent the last 7 months making my plans and arrangements for myself and the Children to live in the same community as we have for the last 5 years.

By focusing on my kids and my self I’ve been able to achieve quite a bit on my own in a short period of time. This is what a lot of people in Recovery aim for which is a return to independence and autonomy. We strive to live past the stigma attached to us. I’m not striving for perfection, just progress and I’ve come a long way.

For now it’s just a waiting game until our next Court Date. It’s been a very long, expensive wait to settle this whole thing and I hope something will be accomplished by Christmas. For now I will just enjoy the time I have with my girls and relish in the fact that I have achieved another milestone. At 18 months I can get another medallion from Narcotics Anonymous as they mark 18 months as well.

Thank you Baby JJ for being the sunshine with your sisters through a stormy year. I am grateful that my youngest daughter had a happy, healthy first year and that she has ever known her Mother to be sober.

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