The stress of patient care, perfectionism, financial instability, struggling relationships, single parenthood, a painful childhood…it often seemed a lifetime of unresolved hurt would build up and weigh on my shoulders, bearing down on my psyche with no promise of relief.
Hello my name is Tiffany and I’m….
a nurse. and an addict. and a mother, daughter, significant other, runner/cyclist wannabe, skier, hiker, Cassie-the dog-lover, teacher, human, adjectives infinitude.
Not necessarily in that order.
The label that currently matters the most and has the most control over my life and my options is THE BIG “A”. And I know it’s the juicy part and what makes this an interesting read.
My name is Tiffany and I’m an Alcoholic and an Addict.
Many of you are aware, in some way or another. Through my own admission, the gossip chain, or maybe an educated guess. Prior to today, it hasn’t been published knowledge – apart from my own long-suffering journals. In some deep, self-preserving, fear driven way I’ve wanted desperately to keep this information to myself. Even though I’ll readily joke about my 3 marriages, my failures as a mom, my breast size, my comedic clumsiness, and my walk-jog running pace, despite having run for years.
But this. This. I want this to be mine. Partly because the shame, the stigma, guilt, pain, fear, disgust and all the ugly dark cloudy feelings that go along with the qualifier “Addict”. Once I offer it up, and make it a used-to-be, I can never own it again. There are no take-backs, no “just kidding!” no hiding behind a smiling facade. There’s no faking it when going out with friends who don’t yet know the deal while attending meetings in secret three other nights a week. “No thanks, I had so much IPA last night! I hit like 3 pubs. Taking it easy today. I’m SOOOO hungover! No thanks, I’m the driver tonight. No thanks, I’m on a cleanse this week!” (Which by the way, I am often “on a cleanse.” Let me tell you, sobriety makes cleansing/clean eating so much easier and SO much more effective!!!)
My sobriety is now shared knowledge, public property, and I am accountable and subject to scrutiny by those privy to this information. Which is a whole lot more now than a few minutes ago. Yikes.
The decision to open up and spill these beans was not an easy one (I actually kind of want to vomit and am considering never clicking “publish”).No matter what I tell myself, clasping this secret this close to my chest won’t benefit anyone. Recovery is a powerful process, and I’ve learned that secrets keep us sick and addiction grows in the dark. Conversely, vulnerability is paramount to a joyous, authentic life.
So today, on the anniversary of my rock bottom, the beans shall be spilled.
One year ago today I walked away in tears from a job I loved. Away from critical care nursing, having reluctantly handed over a urine specimen that we all knew would glow dirty. My life was changed forever.
Through a series of events too long to list in one post, my intake of legal prescription and alcoholic beverages had evolved from occasional/social to out of control. Pain medicine became like oxygen to me, and if it was not available, alcohol was a close substitute.
You can imagine, (and possibly experienced in your own way), the consequences my relationships, jobs, motivation, & productivity suffered over the course of about a 6 year downward spiral of chemical dependency. For many of those years I continued to be remarkably high functioning, and from a viewer’s perspective I appeared productive and capable.Completing half marathons, riding multi-day centennial bike rides, and acheiving a bachelor’s degree. It was my status quo to hold multiple jobs at a time; I was promoted within my career and modeled/acted a bit on the side. I played stage – mom at the theater, was a proactive single parent, took on additional responsibilities such as caring for ailing friends and family.
Behind the pretty picture, the foundation was cracking. In May of 2016 the infrastructure collapsed and my private castle of dishonesty and shame crumbled to the ground. They say in recovery circles that “The phoenix rises from the ashes”. There must be a Phoenix here… I have to believe that those years of hardship were endured for a purpose.
So here I am, with the proverbial beans. Spilling them in some ways for my sake, but largely because I know that where there is one soul hurting there are many. I’ve been advised to not reveal these details, due to the damage it could cause me personally. That may be true and I considered heeding the warning. My family, career and dignity are on the line.
What gain can come to others, if I share my experience, strength and hope? Immeasurable. Countless. Limitless, boundless good can come from my decision to not be anonymous. Someone out there is fighting this battle, and someone needs to hear this.
Nurses are well known as one of the most trusted, ethical professions. They are also just as susceptible, if not more so, to addiction. This means approximately 1/7 health care professionals are victims of substance abuse. Alcohol, medication, diet pills, marijuana, illegal street drugs…it doesn’t matter the substance. Nurses are suffering.
The reasons are varied but frequently similar – we have pain – emotional, physical, mental – and desperately need a way to numb it. My days were spent seeking any way to avoid, escape, change or control an emotion, situation or feeling. Ultimately, I couldn’t handle even the smallest amount of discomfort, and everything was an excuse to drink or use. The stress of patient care, perfectionism, financial instability, struggling relationships, single parenthood, a painful childhood…it often seemed a lifetime of unresolved hurt would build up and weigh on my shoulders, bearing down on my psyche with no promise of relief.
Perhaps you’ve felt this way. Or found yourself finishing a bottle of wine after work when you’d meant to have just a glass… possibly even many nights a week. Perhaps it’s already evolved into a much more sinister habit and it’s not “just” alcohol. If not you, maybe someone you know … and you’ve been wondering if there’s any chance of freedom, if anyone will listen, if it’s hopeless to even try.
Let me offer a small bit of comfort for some, a veritable life preserver for others:
There is hope.
Life did not end with that dirty urine sample. Nor did my relationships, my nursing career, my parenthood, or my dignity.
In truth, life began again. Cliched, over- sentimental, it’s been my sincere reality. For the first time in years, I was able to look someone in the eye and humbly admit that I needed help. This is the most beautiful gift I can recall being given. It wasn’t obvious at the time of course… at that moment all I could think of was how to keep from vomiting on myself in front of my manager, while conjuring up plans to leave the country or leave the earth and never return to that god d@#@$ hospital again.
But. The Universe is full of beauty, grace, forgiveness and second tries.
As a result of the profound mercy and goodwill of a few gracious people, I was allowed to enter treatment and eventually return to work, albeit with quite a few restrictions. Believe me, I’m not complaining. Actually, I feel protected and cared for. Empowered to do the next right thing, sober and seeking out a life of beauty and brilliance.
My name is Tiffany and I’m a recovering addict.
I’m also a nurse, mother, daughter, teacher; a striving yogi, hopeful writer. An Arbonne enthusiast, health food fanatic and adorer of dessert. Above all, I’m a cheerleader for any soul suffering from the human condition…to gain more pleasure; to feel less pain.
“Strength and growth come only through continuous effort and struggle.” – Napoleon Hill
I choose to appreciate my struggle for the strength that it’s provided me.
“Pain is certain. Suffering is optional.” – Buddha (allegedly)
I am choosing not to suffer.
“No matter how hard the past, you can always begin again.” – unknown
I choose to begin again; every morning, every moment.
“It is never too late to be who you might have been.” – George Elliot
I choose to aim to be all the best things I was ever meant to be.
Cheers and Gratitude,
If you are in need of a shoulder or an ear – mine are available, confidential and without judgment.
If you are in need of addiction treatment and you are a healthcare provider in WA state, please contact Washington Health Professional Services at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-236-2880 for a confidential consultation.
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