If I relapse…. (Caleb)

Caleb was released into a native recovery house the middle of May. I talked with him by phone on May 16th. He sounded positive and happy. When Gaye and I arrived home from vacation nine days later I received a message that Caleb was using again and consequently had been asked to leave the recovery house. We have not heard from him since. This blog was waiting in an envelope when we arrived home.

For the past four years, my life has been in a state of transition.

In my twenties, I walked a seriously dark road. I spent over six years of that decade incarcerated and the majority of the rest of that period selling drugs, using drugs or stealing cars. Looking back I’m thankful that I didn’t do something so bad that I would never be able to get over it. Throughout my life, I have hurt a great many people while committing crime. I bear a lot of guilt and shame for this and, as a result, I have used these feelings to sustain my addiction and criminal behaviour. The cycle became self-generating.

It has been so bad that for a lot of my life I haven’t been able to look at myself in the mirror because what I saw looking back was not good. I saw something corrupted and foul.

As a youth, I stole so much money from my Mom. I continued this behaviour well into adulthood, and it’s hurt both of us very badly. I know that when I was a child and a teenager, I was acting out because I was trying to express how deeply I was wounded by believing that my birth mother abandoned me. I used to and still get triggered to play out the same cycle when I’m in an emotionally intimate relationship. If someone loves me, I do things that will eventually force them to have to distance themselves or “abandon” me to keep themselves safe and/or comfortable. This has caused my loved ones a lot of heartache, confusion and pain. I see what I’m doing now, and I know why I’m doing it. It no longer serves any useful purpose to me, and I cannot afford to continue the cycle any longer.

Soon I am going to be released from jail and have an exceptional opportunity to change my life for the better. In one week I will be going to First Nations Court to stand in front of a judge for two B&E’s (break and enters) and possession of a stolen Toyota Tundra. I hope I will get the opportunity to live in a native recovery house until I can go to Round Lake Treatment Centre, a First Nations run centre.

I feel really strong and optimistic about the future right now. It feels like pretty much everything I could hope for is unfolding. I have all the support for which I could ever hope.

In the past, I’ve been blessed to have a lot of opportunities. When I’ve shown the desire to do good, I’ve always had support, so I’ve been reflecting on what I need to do differently.

How am I going to stay clean in the long run?

I’m not worried about getting or staying clean in the short term. In the past, I’ve been able to maintain sobriety, on average, for six to nine months. Then when I relapse I go for about two to six months in a slow, drawn out agonising decline that takes its toll on me, my family and friends.

At this point in my life, I can honestly say that I truly believe that if I relapse this time, there is a very good chance that I will not survive to live the life I want. If I relapse and don’t catch myself and get back on track, I believe that I will overdose and die. (In 2016, I overdosed five times and was hospitalized seven. This is an entirely new aspect of my addictive cycle. I began using heroin at age 16. So, in 20 years of using, on and off, I had never overdosed once, until 2016.)

If I do not die then, at the very least, my companion will no longer be able to stay in a romantic relationship with me. In the four years of our, on and off again, relationship my drug use has been by far the most destructive aspect of our relationship. We share an incredibly powerful and supportive connection that I’m confident will last a lifetime. But I also know that if I continue to use drugs it will change into a different kind of relationship and that is not what I want.

I’m scared to keep hurting the people I love, to keep hurting my friends and family by seeing them not able to trust me. When I'm using, if they leave a stack of twenties around me, I’ll take at least half.

I’m scared of injecting myself with poison and exhausting my wife’s patience and ability to find me physically attractive. I’m a beautiful person, and I say this humbly, but when I’ve been using regularly my body is tired and I’m completely different. I hate myself when I can’t even take off my shirt around her because of my track marks.

I miss my niece and nephew and I don’t want to forego the love the love and bond that exists, in spite of me not being around much.

I want to live the life that’s been waiting for me, so close that if I close my eyes, I can sense it. I can hear the drums beating, and I can just barely smell the sweetgrass and sage. I can hear the children laughing and playing outside. I can feel my wife’s hand in mine, and I can hear her whisper, “It’s OK to be scared. I’m right here beside you, and I always will be. I love you.” I can hear my grandma and grandfather tell me, “We see you, my grandson. We are so proud of you for not giving up. We love you. Don’t ever give up.”


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