Monday, September 11, 2017

My early days, memories never fade in recovery.

Article by: Ashley Kaye Adams

Edited for Publication 9.11.2018

September 11, 2018
This is one of my greatest memories in my early recovery with my friend Jason George. In order to tell my favorite story, I need to give you a brief background on Jason and myself.
December 3rd, 2007, I was released from a sentence I had served out in Louisville, Kentucky at the infamous LMDC. Don’t get it twisted; their staff was quite hospitable to this felon. After that stint of time served, I was then extradited over to Raleigh, North Carolina to bless Wake County Jail with my presence. Here, is where I awaited yet another release. I was so excited to get on with my new recovery journey of healing in my (soon to be) new hometown, New Bern, NC. I had been attending meetings on the inside for several months, and I was eager to attend my new “outside meetings.” I was able to go to my first meeting on the outside, on December 7, 2007. This is a date I can never forget. I had made my first recovery friend on the outside in the rooms, named Jason George.
I was extremely insecure and uncertain of myself, and my future at that time. Considering I was on probation and parole in two different states concurrently. From what I had heard around the rooms and from my different Probation/Parole Officer’s, this was a pretty unusual circumstance. I was told that I was extremely fortunate. I’ll say in response, that at the time I can promise you, I did not “FEEL” very fortunate.
Jason approached me after the close of my first meeting and he suggested that I get a sponsor right away, and that I should attend every meeting that I possibly could for the next 90 days. He also asked me why I didn’t introduce myself during the meeting as a newcomer. His direct question to me certainly caught me off-guard. (I never made that mistake again, I found myself blurting in meetings on a regular basis, ask anyone) He made me feel as if my life actually mattered to someone that didn't even know me. Usually, if they knew me in active addiction, they were not to happy to see me. I had not been accustomed to another person caring for me at this point in my life. Active addiction for me and those around me, was not a very kind place and I was a bit squeamish of the generosity and niceness of the people in the meetings. I trusted no one, not even myself. I have to say, the inability to trust one's self is an dangerous place to be. I didn't realize this fact until a few years later.
After my first meeting had come to a close, Jason walked up to me, gave me a hug and handed me a meeting list for our area. It included a phone list with a tone of numbers on the back. He told me then that he was in the “no matter what club.” He also mentioned to "call, before you fall." I looked at him like he had three heads and despite my award glare at him, he informed me that I was now "officially in that club too, don't eff it up." He said my only job was to not pick up, no matter what. For the non-anonymous friends, not picking-up = not getting loaded.
His suggestions seemed reasonable, but unexpected. I was not accustomed to being spoken to in this manner, by my peers. Most people were intimidated by my presence, but not this one. And for some strange reason, I found myself in agreement with his advice. Clearly it was obvious to those outside of my own head, that I had no clue how to stay clean, and my best thinking had gotten me locked up and on the fugitive task forces most wanted list. A few times. Violator, absconder, habitual offender and fugitive became my know alias on the streets homeless and strung out.
I wound up by some miracle attending three meetings a day for the next 18 months of my recovery. Based on Jason's suggestion. I believe that if I was not afforded that opportunity, I would not be here sharing this story. 
I volunteered for service commitments as suggested by many. I was voted into an H&I committee position that carried me into three different counties to share my own story of recovery with those that were currently hemmed up in the system in one form or another. (Those not privy to the anonymous culture, the “H” stands for “Hospitals,” the “I,” for Institutions). 
I wanted to give back and carry my message of hope to those that were revolving unconsciously in the system like I once was. I was taught in the rooms, that giving back to others would keep me out of the triangle of self-obsession that plagues the addict brain. I was able to chair/secretary meetings locally and in other states when I had permission to travel out of my county. I shared my story in every place that I was asked to share, ranging from Rehab Centers to Prisons. I learned to never say “no” to the program that saved my soul. 
I was off and running, working my new program to the best of my ability. Before I knew it, I had become “one of them.” When you first willingly walk into the rooms, you are certain that you are unique in your particular addiction and most likely convinced that there is no solution for your insanity. Becoming "one of them" shifted me into a place of belonging somewhere other than in the system.
Every night at the 8’oclock meeting, I knew I’d see Jason without fail, no matter what. He greeted me (and everyone else) each and every time with a hug and his big cheesy smile. For the first time in all of my life, I felt like I had finally found my people. I completely understood them, all of them.
Since birth, I have thought repeatedly “this is not my planet, and these are not my people.” Prior to recovery, I was constantly looking outside of self, searching for answers that never filled the void. Every time I sought for ways to fix me, I ended up with the same results as I had gotten before. I felt “apart from” for so much of my life, that it was a completely new sensation to be a “part of,” while being myself. When I detoxed, (this time around) cold turkey in a jail cell, I remember sensing a flicker in my soul. Honestly, I don't recall if I had known that my soul was even capable of “flickering.” It seems that lost was my constant companion and searching was my mode of operation for as far back as my mind could remember.
“Jason was a newcomer extraordinaire!”  And when I met him, I was definitely a newcomer. I could not stand myself at this point in my life, hence why I was in the rooms. And I hated newcomers. Okay, I’ll be honest, I hated everyone at first. Mostly myself. I judged myself harsher than anyone ever could, I promise you. I hated every single thing about me. But mostly, I hated what had done to myself and how I had harmed those that loved me. But I alone could not stop the madness.
I was one of them they said, and a “newcomer.” When they called me this I cringed inside. However, I was reminded by Jason, that the “newcomer is the most important person in any room.” When he said that, my head said "Ashley, these are your people." My ego loved that shit!
Honestly though, I couldn’t stand my own shit and this kind guy named Jason totally welcomed an “Ashley tornado” into his life, with open arms and NO JUDGMENT. WTF?? “Open arms” from another was not familiar.  Ashamed of my own actions was my constant state of mind for a good while. I mean using drugs against my own will? That's true insanity. I would have never imagined that for myself, nonetheless, it became my reality.
One day, during my first 7 months of clean time I was sitting in the noon meeting of the now “demolished” Phoenix House in New Bern, NC. Jason wasn’t there. (See my other blog article about this demolition and it's horrific effects in the community). I was so disturbed by his absence. I couldn’t keep my head focused in the meeting. I kept looking at the door waiting for him to walk in, and he never did.
I had realized during that meeting, I actually had feelings for someone and genuine concern for another’s well being. I had developed a real friend in my clean and sober life. I was definitely in unfamiliar territory as far as being a friend was concerned. So these emotions came out of the blue and consumed me for a bit. I later processed them with my sponsor. This is when I learned that “feelings” have a beginning, a middle and an end. (Unless we willingly perpetuate them, into the triangle of obsession).
Later on that day from Jason’s sponsor, I learned where he was.  Right before the noon meeting a newcomer had tried to take his own life. Jason was with him, talking him down from self-harm and had taken him to get help.
The newcomer came into the rooms later on that same year. He shared his story about his struggles with suicidal thoughts and feelings of inadequacy. He got clean. It was phenomenal to see healing and this recovery process in action. To be able to witness the miracles of desperation leave a life and the recovery in another right before my eyes was an honor. It fascinated me. I wondered if others saw any progress in me? Or, if maybe one day I could ever help others like Jason had done so selflessly.
Jason and I just connected. He shared some serious pain from his past and his childhood with me on a few occasions. His experience made my pain seem pretty insignificant in comparison. Through his example of doing the next right thing, he taught me how to maintain friendships, how be a friend with others and in turn be a friend to myself.  Reluctantly, I learned to have patience during this process, though I never told him he did these things for me.
Historically, I have always kept people at a distance. No matter how close to me they thought they were. With Jason, I loved him fully. It was easy to love him; I couldn't help it if I had tried. He was definitely my first experience in platonic love and friendship. I’m so grateful to him for this lesson in my recovery.
I didn’t know meaningful relationships and friendships were an option in my life until I bonded with Jason. He had the gift of paying close attention to every word that came out of my mouth. Most days in early recovery that was a whole lotta words! I thought I was unique with Jason. I found out later, he made everyone feel this way. What a gift!
Every interaction I had with Jason was positive, even though I, at most times entered our time together with doubt, fear and feelings of not being good enough. He didn't care, we always ended up leaving each other’s company on a positive note. He was a leader in the rooms, living by example.
January, of 2008 is one of my favorite memories of my recovery and of course Jason was the biggest part.
Every person I came into contact with in meetings, or in my service commitments, kept raving about this suspicious “EVENT” called “conventions”… I just didn’t get the concept. Why would I, or anyone for that matter, desire to be around so many addicts in one confined place? I hated people in early recovery, including self. I had no clue that I was on the edge of a spiritual transformation. This is where I first heard the slogan, “don’t leave before the miracles happen.”
The auspicious weekend was upon us and it was time for …drum roll please…
my home groups “area convention”… and whatever else that meant?
I was clueless as usual about this recovery hoohaw. Clearly, I was still on the fence about whether or not I had unknowingly entered into some crazy cult group that was gonna eventually take me over and make me do things against my own will. (Like I hadn’t volunteered enough of that in my active addiction.)
I have to admit though, I was super curious about this mysterious event that was supposed to be so “life-changing” and everyone raved about going. And the thoughts of “what if I could go” had propelled my mind into the famous “TRIANGLE OF OBSESSION” by just simply thinking about it.
When you are new to recovery, they tell you to stop “thinking” so much. Apparently, like I said earlier, it was my very best “thinking” that landed my butt in jail, needing the rooms in the first place.
It’s like I wanted to be a part of belonging to something so big and great, but the truth is, I was terrified. I couldn’t put a finger on exactly what I was afraid of, but the discomfort around it all was so consuming and had me in a conflicted state for a while. You know, the uncomfortable in my own skin state.
I hemmed and hawed in my head the whole week prior about whether I “should” go or not, and I even told people I was going when I was for sure in my head that I wasn’t going. Welcome to the brain of an addict. Ok let’s go this way, no, wait. How about that way, no the other way first, then that way, okay wait, let’s start over, then that way, and hurry. You get my point.
Anyway, I complained to Jason the Friday afternoon of the mysterious convention on my cell phone during our daily convo. He just so happened to be packing up his car and getting gas to drive himself to the convention, while I was rambling on in his ear buds about me being broke, being a convicted felon and poor me, I’d have to get permission from my Probation Officers (plural mind you) to leave the state, and on and on… I mean c’mown people; can’t you see that my life is over, and permanently I’m branded? My life is totally ruined by this permanent stain of “CONVICT” on my record of life. I am a nine time convicted felon, with no self-esteem, no income and no clue what to do with myself.
True to his nature, Jason’s response was epic. He said, “Ashley, if you keep doin’ the same ole shit you’ve always done, then you’ll keep on getting’ the same ole shit you’ve always got, so let me know if you want something different, I love you no matter what you do.” And then he hung up the phone.
Oh my stars, my phone just “dinged.” What the heck is that? WTF? A written message on the very “razor” phone my parent’s had reluctantly given me to use so I would “stay in touch.” Is it possible that I could receive typed messages? OM Goodness. I was way behind when it came to technology. That’s what being a junkie and homeless does to a person. You end up missing huge chunks of time, and life and technology as you once knew it just passes you by. Anyway, after this ding on my pink razor, I called Jason immediately and asked him how he did that. He told me he’d teach me if I rode with him to the convention. Clever trickster!! As a newcomer, you know I fell for it. I said yes even before I knew the “how” of how I was going to pay for it. This was my first lesson in saying, “yes“ to my program and “yes” to self without having an, “Ashley plan” in place of just how to go about it. I learned during this moment that trusting my Higher Power had worked. Again, unfamiliar territory, the complete trust in a Higher Power to work my shit out for me? It was totally awkward. But suddenly, after I said yes to him, I felt calm. And then my head started this maddening chatter routine. It went something like this, “you don’t have money, you don’t have a job, you can’t leave the county or state for that matter without permission form your Probation Officer(s), this will never work, you are wasting Jason’s time, you can’t just go off and have fun, you need to get your shit together blah blah blah.
I cut Jason off as he was telling me what to pack and when he’d be by to pick me up with an auto pilot Thrashley routine, I just blurted out the junk that was replaying in my head. His response? “That’s exactly why you need to go to this convention.” But, I’ll see ya when I return if that is your choice and you want to stay home.
And he left town without me. Just like that. He was nearly two hours into the drive down there, when I forced my fingers to call him. I wanted to go so bad, but for whatever reason I could not express my intent when I had spoken to him last. He answered his phone and I blurted, “I’ll go, my Probation Officer(s) thought it was a great idea and I already have gotten permission. He said, “I’ll be there in two hours, be ready!“ At that moment he turned that buggy around and came back to get me.
Jason called his sponsor and told him his change of plans. Frank said, he’d pay for my registration and I could sleep in their room. Kindness and generosity befuddled me during this time. But I’m so glad I was able to reluctantly roll with it.
This trip would alter my path and remain imprinted on my heart forever. I was packed up, ready and willing, not sure how I got there, nonetheless I was there. Jason showed up, we stopped by the general store and stocked up on his gross diet cokes that made me gag and my evenly disgusting mountain dew, plus a few carton’s of cigarettes and my newly embraced cell phone that could write messages. I sat in his passenger seat and somewhat learned to use GPS on a “cell phone.” This was FAWESOME!
Well kind of. I’m not sure if ya’ll know about Jason’s obsession with Mariah Carey? Well NEWSFLASH! This guy loved him some Mariah!! And I was about to witness a whole other side of this guy!
We played the Butterfly cd over and over until I finally knew every word and we somehow ended up on the Border of South Carolina. Yep, that’s right SOUTH Carolina. Not sure how it happened exactly. But the convention was happening in Myrtle Beach, North Carolina. (And the fact is, I’m from Kentucky, so to me the Carolinas were all the same). We were chatting, singing gloriously and so carefree, we had stopped for potty breaks and snacks a few times and just kept on driving. (For like 400 miles)
What happened? It was like we time travelled, or like we slipped into a vortex. We had driven like 10 hours away from the convention. Woopsadaisey! I’m not very good with directions, maps, or phones for that matter and my brain was still foggy from the junk! I was a newcomer, so give me a break.
The convention was in Myrtle Beach, North Carolina, not Sunset Beach, South Carolina. We had so much fun talking on the drive, and texting people who were already at the convention, that we blew right past all the signs that said we were leaving North Carolina. Oops. We snapped pics and we sang with Mariah so long that we actually missed the exit for the convention, like 100 exits back!
I had forgotten that my only job was, “working the maps and the gps thingymajig” on Jason’s phone. Woopsadaisey, I got sidetracked and was all hopped up on mountain dew, it was all a blur!
We had actually driven for hours and hours, in the wrong direction before we realized we needed to pee, and badly!!
When we passed a huge sign that said “WELCOME TO SOUTH CAROLINA!” We busted out laughing and pulled into a fireworks stand off the highway. What did we do next you ask? Well, we peed and bought some fireworks of course.
I called Frank, Jason’s sponsor, as Jason said it was my responsibility since I got us lost. Frank picked up the phone and I confessed really fast like and said we were super lost and it was my fault. Frank made me write down on a piece of paper, the address of the hotel and correct directions back to the North Carolina border. Then he made sure that I understood them clearly, and he had me repeat them back to him, word for word what I had just written down.
I felt like a five year old. Literally.
After that super focused moment, we gassed up and headed back to the highway, this time towards the convention.
What ya don’t know yet, is that the “little piece of paper” that I scribbled the directions onto; well it was on the outside of a paper bag that held the fireworks we just got.
Once we had driven for a few hours again, we decided to pull off the main highway and make a fast potty break and well, we got a bit sidetracked AGAIN with SHINY sparklers and firecrackers. The shiny 14” sparklers were calling my name.
We justified this idea by telling ourselves, “WTH, we’re already late, let’s light some fireworks and celebrate!!”
Just as I lit my sparkler, a police care pulls up. (Seriously, I was a law magnet, I swear) It’s like the moment I did something I knew I was not supposed to do, Johnny Law just appeared! Jason was on the other side of the gas station and could not bee seen by the Officer’s yet. He was takin’ a wiz with a lit sparkler in his hand and couldn’t see the goings on. At this point in my life, I had not experienced any police situations in a clean or sober circumstance that did not result in arrest.” I was a bit concerned realizing that I had a lit cigarette in my right hand and a lit 14” sparkler in my left. I froze like a deer in some headlights, as if this moment of inertia cloaked me somehow?
Just as I stood paralyzed in fear, Jason came skipping around the side of the station singing that Mariah Carey song, “touch my body.” He was swishing his sparklers full on when he brought his skip and a jump to an abrupt halt and we locked eyes. (As if things could get any more awkward the spewing sound of blazing fireworks popped off in the background that startled the Officer’s. For the first time in my life I was completely conscious in a draw down with the police. Someone had called the police to report suspicious activity at the gas station. That “suspicious activity,” was Jason and I, setting up bottle rockets and cherry bombs behind the gas station. We lit and ran. I just happened to be faster and more nimble at criminal mischief, so I was right in the line of sight when the Officer’s pulled up. The gas station was closed and it was dark. They saw me with two “lit objects” in my hands, heard what sounded like gun shots, then the visual of Jason’s grand entrance. This all happened so fast, in a matter of seconds really. We had a heck of a time explaining to the Officer’s how we ended up in the parking lot of a closed gas station setting off fireworks and urinating on the ground. A story I will never forget.
Fortunately for us, the on scene Officer’s gave us the opportunity to dispose of the fireworks without issuing a citation to us. Remember the directions Frank had given me? They were on that bag. WOOPS.
As the nice Police Officer’s kindly followed us, giving us a personal escort back onto the highway in the correct direction, I remembered the bag! So after many wrong turns, a few more exits and some additional caffeine, we finally made it to the hotel, at four o’clock in the morning!
Our “subtle arrival” woke up the room. It was quite the scene. We could not stop laughing as we tried to relay this ridiculous story (in our quite voice) to our sleepy friends, as we continued trying to explain with just cause why we were ten hours late to the convention.
Well, we finally made it to our destination and thus began my beautiful journey of loving my new life, embracing my present and honoring my newfound friendships and this thing called recovery! The Convention itself you ask? Another episode, another day. 
Thanks for reading!
Article by: Ashley Kaye Adams
                                                                 Go Fund Me - Truth About Addiction Fund

Edited for Publication 9.11.2018

No comments:

Post a Comment