Sunday, February 07, 2010

You Are Not Alone, Jack's Story (Blog-a-thon Post 23)

Dear Survivor,

Jack wants you to know you are not alone. Jack is Bill's son and Marijo's brother. (Read Bill's story in blog-a-thon Post 21, Marijo's story in Blog-a-thon Post 22). Here's what he has to say:

My name is Jack Stem and I'm a recovering addict in my 15th year of recovery (20 years since it began). My sister, Marijo, is a group leader for a support group for those dealing with childhood sexual trauma. The following is a brief synopsis of my own story of addiction and recovery and how I arrived at this place and time in my life. I believe that the environment in which I grew had everything to do with my choices and disease. Both parents were sexually abused as children as well as my sister - none of them told their stories until late in life. My mother took it to her grave and never spoke of it, my father finally told after coming to know of my own daughter’s sexual abuse as well as cocaine addiction and bulimia and my sister told when our father finally broke his silence.

My disease began in early 1990 as a result of chronic pain associated with a spinal deformity. At the time I was a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) in my eighth year of practice. I had no previous history of substance abuse or dependence and had never tried marijuana or any other mood altering substances. My pain had become more intense and was lasting longer than any other previous episode. After several prescriptions for pain medication my doctor stopped prescribing because he felt my condition had not changed significantly from the last time I'd seen him. Little did I realize my disease of addiction had been triggered. It was at that point that my pain and my addiction led me to begin using medications left over at the end of the day to treat my pain and to help me sleep at night. Because of the potency of the medications I was injecting, my disease progressed rapidly. Within 6 months I was nearly dead. At this point I decided the best way to deal with my addiction was to die. I had prepared a syringe with a combination of medications that would kill me rapidly. While walking to the stall in the locker room to inject my "cocktail" a resident physician with bright red hair came blasting through the door and paced back and forth in front of me. He was obviously very angry about something. Every time I tried to get around him to get into the stall he would walk in front of me. It was clear I wasn't going to get past him so I decided to wait until his temper tantrum was over. During those few minutes I changed my mind (actually, I chickened out!). The instant I made that decision the resident's attitude changed completely! He began apologizing for being such a fool, etc. He shook my hand and left the locker room. When I asked the nurses and doctors who this crazy resident with the bright red hair was, they replied, "There are no residents with red hair in the residency program!" NONE! I have no doubt this man was
an angel sent by God to keep me from murdering the father of my children!

A few days after this incident I ended up having back surgery as a result of increasing muscular weakness in my legs. It turns out there was significant damage to my spine and it was putting pressure on several large nerves leading to my legs. I now have 6 screws and 2 rods in my lower spine. Thankfully the surgery has significantly reduced the number of times I have any back pain. Unfortunately I was now addicted to pain medication. When I returned to work 4 months later I discovered I couldn't resist using those medications anymore. The first day that I chose to inject the medication I had been away from for those 4 months, I accidently
overdosed. Again, God intervened. My 4 year old daughter had forgotten her swimsuit for lessons. They came back to get her suit and she came in to the bedroom to give Daddy a kiss (I was supposedly taking a nap). She told my now ex-wife, "Daddy's a funny color". This incident forced me into treatment. After treatment I struggled for quite awhile. I had periods of clean time, but also had periods of using. It took 5 years, 2 relapses, getting busted, losing my license, losing my marriage and most of my worldly possessions for me to FINALLY start working on my recovery.

I have struggled financially and emotionally over the past 20 years, but the last 15 have been some of the best of my life! Achieving and maintaining recovery is a difficult journey, but it is well worth the effort! I began reaching out to those who suffer with the disease as well as those who love the person with addiction. Today, I'm a peer advisor for Ohio's nurse anesthetists, have an advocacy and consulting business for nurses with addictions, and consult with an attorney who represents nurses facing the board of nursing as a result of addiction. I'm an advocate and a recovery "coach". I try to fill the gap between professional counselors and 12 Step sponsors. With the recent knowledge of sexual abuse through our family’s generational legacy my sister and I have begun to tell our truths - we speak out together and sometimes with our father. I joined a support
group with my dad so he wouldn’t go alone and came to find that the men who have struggled with sexual abuse had many if not all the same symptoms I carried. It is intricately connected and a web of pain whether physical or emotional. I also help moderate online support groups for those in addictions and know how powerful
and healing they can be . . . [Online support sites are] a safe environment to share as well as learn that we are not alone!

Stay tuned for the final post of the blog-a-thon...

Watch the live UStream broadcast of this blog-a-thon by clicking here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I found this post earlier today while in the office Very useful Sent the link to myself and will most likely bookmark it when I make it home

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