I Forgot to Die: Khalil Rafati

Book Review Disclaimer: These are my thoughts and opinions on books that I read related to addiction and mental health. They are in no way formal book reviews, that’s just the best way for me to describe them. Thank you for reading! If you have any book suggestions, I am always looking for inspiration.

First things first, this book and the man who wrote it are absolutely incredible. What caught my eye originally was the mugshot on the front cover. It reminds me so much of a picture I have of myself a few weeks before my second trip to rehab. Face sunken and picked at, the despair and powerlessness in my eyes. I had to read this guys story, and I’m so glad I did.

Khalil starts his memoir describing his upbringing and what lead him to drugs to begin with. I didn’t relate to much of what happened to Kahlil as a child and adolescent but I could relate to the emotion and feelings he described. Although I did not experience major trauma and lived with both my parents and sister, I suffered silently for many years, eventually leading me to drugs.

Khalil goes in depth about what it is really like being addicted to heroin and crack. He does not sugar coat it or leave anything out and that I appreciate because active addiction is scary and messy and lonely. He writes of multiple overdoses where he should have died (in one case did die and was resuscitated) and what it felt like to wake up in an emergency room with no one there. Khalil describes asking a nurse or doctor where his girlfriend and friends were, that surely they knew he had just overdosed and would be there to check on him, but no one was there. The truth is, when you are at rock bottom like that and so is everyone around you, those people won’t be there because they can’t focus on anyone else when they are trying to stay above water themselves.

I cried reading that section of his book because it reminded me of a time this past year that I ended up in the hospital. At the time, no one in my immediate family/support system knew I was using again. I had overdosed at my friends apartment and was resuscitated much like Khalil described during this scene of the book. Once I woke up at the hospital I was alone. The “friends” I was with were not there, I had not confided in my family or partner and was too afraid to call them. The doctor asked me if I could find a sober ride and let me leave. I was still falling in and out of consciousness because of the amount of heroin in my system and I just took off to get more. This was a real bottom for me, and realizing that the people I was spending all of my days with were not true friends hurt me more than anything because I genuinely cared for them. I will write much more in future posts about my experience with active drug use but I wanted to tell this story because I related so much to that empty feeling Khalil described.

” When I was alone I struggled with that. Being alive. I shouldn’t have survived the places and positions I’d put myself in. Most people don’t. Why had I? It certainly doesn’t have anything to do with being tougher or stronger because, trust me, many, many people who were stronger and tougher than I am didn’t make it. Too many people who were smarter than I am, kinder than I am, and just better human beings than I am died. And I don’t know why. To this day, I don’t know why. I still wrestle with guilt and confusion about it sometimes.” – Khalil Rafati

This quote resonates with me in a profound way. I have lost close friends and family to addiction in some way or another. Whether it was an accidental overdose, a car accident or suicide, addiction played a role. It may seem very strange to feel guilty about being alive but I feel this and know many others who do too. I ruminate on what I’ve done to myself and others while actively addicted to drugs and feel that I don’t deserve the life I have. It is confusing and something I struggle with a lot of days. I think Khalil describes the feeling perfectly.

Khalil does go into great depth about active addiction but also what it’s like to recover. What he has accomplished since getting clean is outstanding. I couldn’t help but want to be like him one day. Sharing my story in order to help other addicts is something I’ve always wanted to do and this book has inspired me to do so. I could go on and on about this memoir, it is that good. I strongly recommend it to anyone who either struggles with addiction or wants to learn more about it. Or if you just want to read about how a really messed up guy completely turned is life around.

Weekly Wrap Up – March 03, 2019

“They are scared of women like you. Women with hearts big enough to house suitcases full of pain. Women with laughs so therapeutic they can heal wounds. Women with passion fierce enough to start wildfires. They are scared of what they can’t tame or understand.” -Unknown

I have plenty of ups and downs this week – sometimes it feels like I take three steps forward and then five steps back.

Work has been less stressful. My department has hired a couple new per diem employees so they are picking up the extra shifts and I’m not having to work overtime. Going from 55-60 hours a week to 40 is nice. Although I will miss the extra money in my check! I am thankful for the timing though as my classes start next week.

I was able to get my financial aid approved for school and registered for classes. I’m taking statistics and psych research methods, I’m excited to get started!

I have been feeling significantly lonely the last week. Ever since I stopped using and hanging out with the people I used with I have really isolated myself. I only spend time with my boyfriend and dog and immediately family. The longer I go like this the worse it gets and eventually the thought of people around people causes so much anxiety I can’t get myself to reach out and make connections.

This week, my boyfriend went to see one of his friends and I stayed home. This should not be an issue. I know it is VERY codependent and unhealthy for my to expect him to only spend time with me but I still freak out and get so anxious. I’m jealous that he has friends that he hangs out with and it’s so easy for him. I miss my old friends that I pushed away when I used. I hate feeling abandoned. I know it’s an irrational fear and that my boyfriend can hangout with his friends and is still going to come home at night. But I work myself up so. Much.

More on that later. Off to snuggle the pup and enjoy my night off. Have a great week!

Instant Gratification

Lincoln playing in the leaves last fall (trying to remind myself that it is going to warm up eventually…)

I hope you all like the picture of my boy. There is no real reason behind me choosing this picture today. It was 8 degrees out and Lincoln and I are both getting cabin fever. This picture reminds me of sunny days that will hopefully reappear soon!

Anyways, I wanted to write a bit about instant gratification because it’s on my mind today. What is it about my brain that is constantly giving in to short term fixes/rewards. For example, I am trying to get into shape for my cousins wedding. I know how to lose weight, I have lost weight before but I still eat way too much chocolate and carbs! Then I get annoyed at myself after and feel bad about it because I know the situation could have been avoided.

Drug use is another example of instant gratification that I have consistently engaged in. I never developed positive coping skills and the first time I experienced how drugs took every ounce of pain away, I was hooked. Why would I go to therapy and talk about my problems when I can use heroin forget them all? There are obvious answers to this, but for a very long time my brain was wired to turn to dope to deal with my anxiety and depression and any other emotion I could possibly feel. Cutting/Burning was always the same. I didn’t want to feel emotional pain and hurting myself took it away for that moment.

I am working on this day by day and focusing on my long term goals when my mind starts to wander towards drugs or self-harm.  Fortunately, I know what good coping mechanisms are and am learning to slowly develop and rely on them as time goes on. My impulsivity scares me sometimes, but for today I am okay.

Deja Vu?

I decided last week that I wanted to return to graduate school and transfer my credits to an online program so that I can stay at my current job but also continue my education. I feel like I’m having deja vu. In the fall of 2017 I decided to enroll in a graduate program that started last year in January 2018. At first I did great but I was also working full time and had to drive 4+ hours to school and eventually got so burnt out that I missed two many classes. I actually ended up relapsing shortly after all of this happened.

I don’t want to get to that point again so I’m trying to take precations and be aware of what I’m putting on my plate. I think having everything online and being able to do my school work at home or work (I work third shift 3 nights a week and am able to do homework) will be ideal for me. The four hour commute was torcher last year, plus being around people I don’t know makes me anxious.

I also am only going to take six credits to start out vereses the twelve I took last year. How I thought it was a good idea to be working full time while attending school full time is beyond me. I get in these stages where I feel invincible and like I can conquer the world. Historically though, it only lasts a few months before I’ve abandoned everything on to the next plan or idea. I’m really trying not to do that this time. I am going to plan out a schedule and try to follow it, as I’m much more productive when I’m organized.

I am suppose to start my online program on March 11, wish me luck!

Therapy Follow Up

I wrote a post earlier this week about my anxiety over seeing a new therapist today. I wanted to write a follow up post because a few people were interested in hearing how it went.

When I left for my appointment this morning I was in a good headspace and actually felt ready to talk about some of my issues. I had to drive forty minutes to his office and when I was about half way there I all the sudden started panicking about it. My thoughts started racing about how I always drop out of therapy after a couple sessions so why bother? Counseling never works for me so why am I trying? Who’s idea was it to see a man in the first place when I am so uncomfortable around men?

I had some how convinced myself that it was not worth my time and that I wasn’t going, but I kept driving. I was anxious about finding the place but it was relatively easy. I parked and sat there for a while. I was starting to have physical symptoms of anxiety and actually crying. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME? How am I ever suppose to get better if I can’t even walk in the door.

I started thinking about my life and what I want and I just knew that it was the right thing to do. I texted my best friend and told her I was panicking about seeing a new therapist and she gave me some reassurance. I know this probably sounds so dramatic to people and you’re probably thinking that I’m crazy for being this worked up over one appointment. You’re right, I am super crazy – hence why I need therapy.

I somehow made it inside and met this new therapist and it was all okay. I filled out paperwork and then he asked me to tell him about my life which is hard for me because I never know where to start. He started asking questions and the hour flew by. I actually felt like he was listening and reassuring because he would ask clarifying questions, etc. I have had therapist in the past scroll on their phone the whole session, so this was nice.

I don’t know why I get so anxious about therapy but I am so proud of myself for putting one foot in front of the other and going. Now I just need to stick with it.

Asking for Help is HARD

As far back as I can remember, I see symptoms of mental illness.

I have had varying diagnosis from generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) to borderline personality disorder (BPD) and ore. The diagnoses are not as important to me now as they use to be. I don’t define myself by them anymore. Asking for help when I need it, regardless of the symptoms I’m facing at the time, is what I focus on today.

Asking for help has always been difficult for me, starting from a young age. I grew up in a great home, I have loving parents and an amazing sister. I had every opportunity and was given anything I could ever want. So why was I depressed? I did not understand that here didn’t need to be a triggering event or traumatic history in order to have a mental illness. I didn’t understand that it could happen to anyone, even me. I didn’t ask for help because I couldn’t face the “cheer up, your life is perfect” comments that would come from my peers and family. Instead, I struggled through school, engaging in extremely self-destructive behaviors with only a select few friends having an idea of what was going on.

Although I was struggling on the inside, I tried not to let it affect my outward appearance. I went off to college, as I had always planned, to become a social worker. These were some of the best and worst hears of my life. I got good grades and made amazing friends but I was struggling silently. I continued having the attitude that I needed to deal with my issues on my own, and that asking for help would show weakness. After graduating it became even harder as I began working at mental health agencies and having clients with significant trauma history. I compared my life to theirs and convinced myself that my problems were not worth talking about. I turned to self-harm behaviors and self-medicating in order to get through day-to-day life. This led me down a long road of what I can only describe as emotional turmoil. Eventually, it had to come crashing down.

The first time I really asked for help, I was terrified. I didn’t want to deal with the stigma around mental illness. I didn’t want to deal with the judgment I’d face as an addict. I didn’t want to let my family and friends down. Facing my fears and engaging in treatment was the best thing I ever could have done for myself. I realized my brain doesn’t produce enough of the ‘happy’ chemicals. I realized I have a hard time regulating my emotions and that those emotions can lead to rapid mood swings. I realized all of this is okay. I realized there are healthier ways to cope and that, with help from others, I could get better.

Asking for help is never an easy task, but today it is doable. Although I will most likely deal with mental illness for the rest of my life, I can see a brighter future for myself than I ever could before. A few years ago, I never thought that I could experience happiness. With the way y life was going, I never thought I’d live past 25 years old. I can only imagine what my life would have been like if I got help sooner. Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of; neither is asking for help.

In My Skin: Kate Holden

I spend a very significant amount of time reading and learning. It has always been a passion of mine and I’ve decided that I want to incorporate it into my blog in some way. I am going to call these book reviews but they are mainly going to be made up of my thoughts and opinions on what I read and how I relate to them. The books I write about will focus on mental health and/or addiction in some way including memoirs, self-help books and educational resources. I am going to be doing about one of these per week!

I recently finished Kate Holden’s In My Skin for the second time. I didn’t realize until after I bought the book that I had read it previously when I was fresh out of rehab. I actually like to read books multiple times through because I always pick up on and learn new things.

Kate’s journey with addiction is very similar to mine. Like Kate, I had what people may call a ‘picture-perfect childhood’. Supportive parents, a great sister, ideal neighborhood and given every possible opportunity I could imagine. But addiction doesn’t discriminate. Kate began using heroin with her boyfriend occasionally while still holding a job and studying. It doesn’t take long for using only on the weekends to turn into a few times a week and then eventually to every single day. After stealing money from her place of employment Kate was fired and eventually resorted to prostitution to fund her habit. I could relate wholeheartedly to every stage of Kate’s experience. I know what it’s like to lie, cheat and steal in order to fund a habit. I appreciate Kate’s honesty about what heroin addiction is really like as well as being a sex worker.

Kate attempted to get clean multiple times and her parents were always there to help and support her in whatever way they could. Incorporating Kate’s parents struggle with boundaries and enabling made this book stand out for me. Families of addicts struggle to understand the disease of addiction and are often torn about how and when to help. I would recommend this book not only to those struggling with addiction themselves but also parents and families. Reading about Kate’s struggles and triumphs and her overall experience gave me hope.

Kate attempted to get clean multiple times and her parents were always there to help and support her in whatever way they could. Incorporating Kate’s parents struggle with boundaries and enabling made this book stand out for me. Families of addicts struggle to understand the disease of addiction and are often torn about how and when to help. I would recommend this book not only to those struggling with addiction themselves but also parents and families. Reading about Kate’s struggles and triumphs and her overall experience gave me hope.

This book was a bit triggering for me due to trauma I have from my own experience with prostitution and drug use but I still enjoyed it and am glad I read it again. Reading about someone’s experience that paralleled mine so much made me feel less alone.

Weekly Wrap Up – February 17, 2019

Back to work this week after having a week off to visit my partner’s family. As much as I get burnt out at work, I do better when I have a schedule/routine to follow.

I had an appointment this week with a new psychologist that I ended up having to reschedule due to a work conflict. I was really looking forward to it and was actually ready. If I don’t do things when I originally want/plan to I often end up canceling or just not showing up. I work myself up and get way too anxious over this kind of thing. So waiting an extra week to see this therapist is stressing me out.

I think part of my anxiety around the whole therapy situation stems from the fact that I’ve had to switch therapists three times and psychiatrists four times in the last couple years. I have such a hard time opening up to and trusting people so having to start all over again gets beyond frustrating. Another huge deal for me is that this new therapist is a man. That may sound silly but I have some significant trauma and tend to only see female providers. This guy specializes in personality disorders and trauma so I think it will be worth it.

I am contemplating coming up with some sort of list of what my issues are and questions I have before I go so I don’t just answer ‘I’m fine’ to everything. I am really looking to see what he thinks I should be taking for medication and what is actually wrong with me. I will make sure to update everyone Thursday on how it went!

I hope every single one of you have a great week!

Weekly Wrap Up – February 08, 2019

“There is never a sudden revelation, a complete and tidy explanation for why it happened, or why it ends, or why or who you are. You want one and I want one, but there isn’t one. It comes in bits and pieces, and you stitch them together wherever they fit, and when you are done you hold yourself up, and still there are holes and you are a rag doll, invented, imperfect. And yet you are all that you have, so you must be enough. There is no other way.”

-Marya Hornbacher, Wasted

What a long week! My boyfriend and I spent three days back and forth to the bank and a used car dealership in order to get him a new work truck. I swear if something can go wrong for me, it will. We bought the truck about two hours from our house and it drove GREAT all the way home. The next morning all these dash lights were flashing and the truck had no power. We took it to a dealer close by to look at and they said it needed $2500 worth of work after we just dropped 12k the day before. UGHHHHHH of course. Then as we are leaving the dealership of course a rock smashes the brand new windshield (yes, that’s the type of luck I have). Now imagine a girl with borderline and bipolar 2 and her short tempered boyfriend trying to stay calm during all of this. What an ordeal!

So we’ve been dealing with what to do about the truck and replacing a window in my car that randomly broke in the cold last week. Hopefully it all gets sorted out soon. Yesterday I attended my cousins funeral who died by suicide last week. This was one of the hardest funerals I’ve been and my heart still hurts. I was very anxious going to the funeral because I have a very hard time in crowds and I knew it would be packed. One of my close friends died by suicide at the same age my sophomore year of college as well so I knew there would be emotions and memories surfacing. I am glad I made it though as I saw a lot of family I haven’t seen in a while. I am really going to focus this year on reaching out to my cousins more instead of only seeing each other at funerals. We need more positivity.

I took a few days off from work this week as yesterday was my boyfriends 30th birthday and we are spending the weekend in Connecticut with his family. Another HUGE trigger for me. I love him and his family so much but I am comfortable at home with my dog (and that’s about it). Plus I have track marks and scars all over me from back when I was using and self-harming and I get self conscious around people I don’t see regularly. I am going to try to relax and have a nice weekend though.

I’ve decided to start adding a weekly summary type of post like this one to my blog. Just the highlights and struggles of my week I guess. Plus one of my favorite quotes I’ve read that week! The one above is from Wasted by Marya Hornbacher. I reread this book for the fifth time (at least) this week. I Love Marya and have read all her books. Madness is my other favorite, I definitely recommend.

I hope everyone has a great weekend!

Addiction Sucks

I am beyond frustrated with myself this week (well the last few weeks I guess). I can’t seem to get out of my own head and just make better decisions. I know what I need to do in order to get my life back together but for some reason I can’t (or won’t) put one foot in front of the other.

As I’ve previously mentioned I’ve struggled with addiction on top of my mental illness for quite some time. I have always had very destructive coping mechanisms (self harm, eating disorders, promiscuity) but the drug use is one that has affected my life the most over the last few years.

I detoxed from opiates a couple months ago and have not used them since but am still struggling immensely with other substances. Heroin was going to kill me quickly so I am thankful that I am off that shit but sometimes it feels like everything else is just as bad. It may not kill me immediately but what it is doing to my emotional and mental health seems just as detrimental.

I haven’t used today and don’t plan to. Hopefully I will wake up tomorrow and feel the same way. I can’t stand the thought of being a drug addict for the rest of my life. There is so much more I want to do and accomplish. I am trying to find things that keep me busy and make me happy without self-medicating. I am writing and reading and cleaned my whole house today so that’s a start.

I know this post is not the most uplifting but it’s where I’m at.