Friday, January 29, 2010

Crying in class?

One of the classes I'm taking this semester is Counseling for Groups. It's weird because not only is this a class, but it also works as a task group. On Wednesday was our first class and all the chairs were in a circle, as if we were in a big meeting room at a community counseling agency of some kind.
There are stages to all groups: initial, transitional, working, and final. After the instructor introduced himself there was a pause and one of my fellow students jumped in with one hell of an introduction. Due to confidentiality I won't disclose any of the details here, but it was WAY more than name, rank, and serial number. I've gotten used to these types of introductions in my classes: my name, how many classes I've taken so far in the program, what track I'm on (community, higher education or school counseling) and what I hope to get out of this class. This woman went beyond that and actually shared information on who she was and what was going on in her life that day.
A couple of other students shared the superficial stuff (the name, rank and serial number type of information)then I decided to speak. I thought I would share about how it was 7 years and 1 week since I had abused drugs and once I said that, the waterworks started. I didn't plan on nor want to cry and I told them that as I wiped away tears with the sleeve of my shirt. Then I went into working for Dr. Dick and the harassment we suffered at the hands of the pro-lifers in Milwaukee (the 24/7 US Marshall protection, people picketing in front of our house on Thanksgiving Day, those sorts of things) and I started crying harder. I explained our relationship as employer/employee, lovers, and dealer/addict. Then I said something that I thought I had long put to rest: that in my head I know our relationship was destructive and twisted, but in my heart I still believe him to be my soulmate. Good grief, this was a class remember. I was practically sobbing by this point. The young woman sitting to my left who I know pretty well from some other classes was rubbing my back to comfort me. My shirt sleeves were soaked.
I was very afraid of being judged, partially due to admitting I worked at an abortion clinic, partially for blubbering like an idiot in a classroom. We did some fear-relieving exercises and I felt a lot better after I admitted my fears and what they were.
The instructor seemed to be pleased that some of us shared to the extent that we did. He thought we were moving out of the initial stage and into the transitional stage already and seemed impressed that as a group of 18 students we could do that during class one.
I've had a few days to "process" what happened and I still feel a twinge of embarrassment, but you know what? I got what I needed. If this wasn't going to be a traditional classroom setting, why not get the shit on the table and not dance around it? Everyone in that room, in the world, has "issues" that need to be worked on. I just happen to lay mine out for everyone to see. That's why I've been so candid in this blog too. If there's something on my mind and you ask what it is, I WILL TELL YOU! I wish honesty was always rewarded the way it is in this classroom and in the therapeutic counseling process in general. How many times a day does someone ask casually, "How ya doin'?" And we smile sheepishly and respond, "Pretty good," or "Not bad." When we really need to cry until our shirt sleeves are soaked?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Prescription drug costs

I used to work for a prescription drug company as an inside sales representative. I've always known that most prescriptions in the US are way over-priced. The manufacturers claim it's for research and development but any fool knows the majority of drug companies spend their money on marketing drugs to people via TV commercials and print ads in magazines.
So I've known all of this for a long time and it never bothered me because I've always had an insurance plan with a tiered co-pay system where the most I paid for anything was $40 per month. I could live with that.
My husband's company had gone with an HSA insurance plan this year and the prescription drug coverage SUCKS. I just got off the internet checking the prices of two of my regular prescriptions and here's the damage: Three month supply of Effexor XR 150mg capsules, one capsule twice a day: $401.77 through their prescription mail service. It won't even price it out at a retail pharmacy. Here's another one: Three months of Abilify 5mg tablets, one tablet once a day: $1,071.24. One month at a retail pharmacy totals $444.47.
Insurance companies don't seem to understand that it would be much cheaper for them to offer these drugs used to treat depression at a reasonable cost versus patients (let's take me for instance) to not be on them and then need inpatient treatment because without the meds, chances are sooner or later I'd go out of my mind. But the pharmaceutical portion of my insurance plan is not linked to the medical portion of my insurance plan so the left hand doesn't care what the right hand is offering. If I worked for UnitedHealth I would make damn sure that the prescription coverage would help save money on the medical side of the plan. Because I do very well when I'm regularly taking my meds; I haven't been in the hospital for depression in well over 3 years which is pretty good for the population I belong to.
I investigated the prescription assistance plan for these two medications and for the Effexor I need to make 200% less than the national poverty level and for the Abilify program my household income cannot exceed roughly $36,000 annually. Oh, and for either program I can't have any prescription drug coverage. At this point, for all intents and purposes, I do not have prescription drug coverage because it's too expensive to use. What good is it doing me? None.
There are samples of something similar to Effexor and samples for Abilify, but I'm sure I'm not the only patient in my shrink's practice that is struggling to pay for prescriptions. They can't supply me with both meds month after month. Especially since the drug companies acted so unethically in the past with free-bees to MDs who heavily prescribed their drugs, that the AMA (American Medical Association) has greatly restricted what drug reps should be allowed to do in MD offices and many MD offices won't allow drug reps in the door any more, so there aren't a lot of samples out there and the demand for that limited supply is great.
I have an appointment with my shrink on February 1st and I'm going to have to switch to drugs that are generic. I don't know if they will work as well as what I'm currently on, but I can tell you this for sure: my insurance company doesn't really give a damn.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Using Dreams

If anyone else out there is recovering from some addictive behavior, then you're probably already very familiar with using dreams. I hate them. When I first got clean in January 2003 and went into treatment, I had a using dream every night for 114 nights. I know this because I journaled about each and every one of them, filling in every piece of detail I could recall. In other words, I was driving myself crazy.
On the morning after night 115 when I didn't dream about using I thought, "that's it! It's over! I have to have a bank of only so many using dreams and my magic number was 114, so the bank is empty and now I'm safe." Then came night 120 and I was back at it: using again in my dreams.
Some of these dreams are SO powerful I have woken up and torn my apartment a part looking for a stash somewhere. Most often I was using in my own house, so there had to be a little "something" I'd hidden somewhere and had forgotten about in a glorious drug-induced haze. Of course there never was any hidden stash. I didn't use like that: I used whatever I had right NOW and would figure out how to get more later: after I was usually dope sick and out of my mind.
So I had a using dream last night. I was at a really big version of Summerfest in Milwaukee and met up with a couple of women my age who were hanging out and having fun with a bunch of resident doctors (the whole medical/doctor dreams are for another day, but that is a constant theme in my unconscious mind too.) Thankfully, none of these residents were the infamous Dr. Dick (not his real name, but fitting, which is a story for another day too.) So I had to give myself infusions of saline due to kidney failure and was getting my needles and IV lines from these residents. Then I saw these two women walk away by themselves and I asked one of the nurses where they were going and she answered, "To use stuff they shouldn't be using." Well those are magic words to any drug addict so I went up to them and one of them gave me a container like you would keep coffee, tea, or sugar in and I looked inside. Inside, of course, was beautiful, untouched, powdery heroin. I slammed the lid on the jar and flew (literally flew, up in the sky) away from them. I checked my pockets and had an IV set on me...then I woke up. I didn't use. I DIDN'T USE.
Sometimes my brain protects me from myself and this is one of those times. I woke up tweaky enough this morning; if I had actually used in my dream, I would likely be out of my mind right now running potential using options through my head until I calmed myself down. Now I'm a little jumpy, but I'm not obsessing about using or how to score. I'm doing something productive with that energy - writing my blog. After I'm done here I'll read my daily affirmations and probably put away the dishes and do other inane household duties that need to be done and I won't give it a second thought. That's the beauty of the brain protecting me and getting some clean time under my belt. The using thoughts flicker through every now and again, but then regular life seeps its way into my thoughts and my life and I go on. I go on for one more day clean.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


About twice a year I get blessed with a dream about my first boyfriend, Chuck Hart. Luckily last night was one of them.
Chuck died the Friday before Thanksgiving 1991 in Lake Mendota in Madison, WI. He had had a few beers at an off-campus party, walked to Memorial Union, saw a small rowboat docked there, climbed in and the boat sank after he rowed out into the lake a bit. He was found in late February 1992.
We began dating on January 28, 1988, meeting in a friend's basement over Lawrence University's Trivia Weekend. I had never met anyone like him before: he was sensitive, funny, smart, political, cultured and yet he played high school football passionately. He was voted most improved player for our high school football team our junior year. He had been to Paris and London and read the classics, including The Odyssey.
I was impressed, I was awe-struck, I thought I had found my soul mate.
Teen-age love is a funny thing. The feelings are SO intense, yet no teen-ager on Earth is equipped to deal with them. I loved him without restriction or question or reason. I wanted to be with him all the time. I wanted to hear his every thought, feel his every feeling. I longed for his touch when we were apart. Our relationship was firey and challenging. When we argued we yelled and threw things (not at each other, but just out of an intense anger.) We gave (lost?) our virginity to each other on April 23, 1988 after a friend's "Cheesey '70s" party. I'm always a little sad for people who say their first sexual experience was a disaster, because mine was sacred. There was no big orgasm on my part, but I didn't care. We were so in love, and now we had expressed it in the most intimate possible way.
Like all out of control fires, it was eventually extinguished. Our senior year started and he was back spending the majority of his time with the football team and he didn't think he had time for a relationship as needy as ours was becoming. I was devastated, but in youth is resilience and I got over it, moved on, slept with other high school boyfriends.
My one regret is that our relationship as friends ended with such animosity. We both went to UW-Madison and we went to a literary society meeting together once. I called him and asked him to go. It was the most uncomfortable hour of my life; why he agreed to go with me, I have no idea. After the meeting, we stumbled through a "good-bye" and that was the last time we saw each other alive.
I say "alive" because since his death, I've been privileged enough to have wonderful, reconcilatory dreams about him when we meet again. When he was first missing in that fall and winter of 1991/1992 I had them monthly. One ended with us swinging on a grade school playground. One ended with him walking down a long hallway away from me when he stopped, turned toward me and said, "It's ok with us." Last night's dream was about him and I going camping (which in real life would have been a disaster as I am not an outdoorsie girl.) But we were both 17 again, packing up his Chevette (the Chuck-Wagon he called it) and heading for God knows where. The last thing I remember about the dream was him putting duffel bags into the hatchback of the car and turning to me with a brilliant smile that so defined him.
I'm crying as I'm typing all of this, not because I miss that type of love or relationship, but I miss Chuck. I miss my friend.

Monday, January 11, 2010


Coping: there's an interesting concept. I haven't coped well in the past, as evidenced by my multiple trips to rehab. So there's some serious shit going on now in my life and I can't (or choose not to) fall back on the old coping mechanisms, but I don't have a lot of substitutes in my bag of tricks right now.
I joined the local YMCA and had my first workout there this morning which was perfect timing because I "discovered" that my husband is yet again back to drinking. Actually it was kind of weird...last night I rolled over while sleeping and heard him pop open a can of beer. I know it was a beer because we don't drink canned soda. So I figured I had the right to tear apart the computer room today and found a small lunch-box sized cooler with empty Miller Lite cans in it. I had it sitting on the coffee table for a while this morning, but I couldn't stand looking at it so I put it back in the closet in which I found it. I hope I put it back incorrectly in a way that he will recognize, just to see if he has the balls to say anything to me. The way I found it sucked, I know that. To me, the fact that I had to go looking for it in the first place sucks even more.
I don't know what to do. We love each other, but love is not enough. He wonders why I don't tell him things about the bills and why I hide things and it's because I don't trust him. (I just figured that out this morning by the way.)
I'm still struggling with this depression and these situations don't help. I've had ECT in the past and I'm thinking about calling my shrink to see if he would prescribe another round. He'll tell me it's situational and I agree, but I've got to be able to lift my head off of the god-damn pillow in the morning and because of these "situations" I can't do that some days. I don't even really know if I need ECT. It's an option that's worked in the past and I'm running out of ideas here. Sometimes I wish it would just all go away....

Friday, January 8, 2010


God I hate having a cold, although I have to say, it's a lot better having a cold without having to go into an office for work. I don't have to make a daily decision about calling in sick, exhausting energy by just getting dressed and being at work, and wonder how many other people I'm spreading my germs to. I'm not nearly as exhausted with this cold though, exactly because I've been able to rest during the day and can lay around in sweats. I can nap if I need to or just take a break: none of which happen when one is employed.
Although there are benefits to not working while sick, overall I'm starting to get a bit bored with being at home full time. Both of my classes are on line so it's not like I have to leave the house for class twice a week. If I chose not to, I'd never have to leave the house really: I can tie Peanut up outside for him to do his doggy business and that's as far as I go some days. Mark always has done most of the grocery shopping so I'm not going to waste away in my hovel. It seemed that there was so much more to do before Christmas: I would go gift shopping, or even on line shop and wrap presents. That's all over and money is pretty tight right now.
I keep thinking that within 2 weeks we'll be flush again, but life happens within those two weeks and bam, we're no better off than we were two weeks prior. It's not that I don't know how to save, it's that my dog is on expensive prescription dog food and he needs to eat. The cat needs litter. We need toilet paper. It's a never ending cycle of expenses. I entered the Oprah Magazine and Ellen's TV show daily give-a-ways in December hoping beyond hope for a miracle and that my email would be chosen for a myriad of gifts from Best Buy. What else is there to do?
Of course I'm looking for work and have an interview next week, but it's not a job I really want. It's in customer service, blah blah blah I HATE WORKING IN CUSTOMER SERVICE. It's a job, I know, but I feel that a little piece of me dies every time I walked into a job I didn't like and was quite frankly, over qualified for. My shrink told me I was under-employed at my last job and I totally agree with him. I've been under-employed with every job I've had since college except for one while I lived in Milwaukee. What else is there to do? School graduation can't come soon enough.
I hope none of you are sick and that you all find your work fulfilling because if you do, you're lucky.

Saturday, January 2, 2010


I'm almost half way through a book titled Impossible Motherhood: Testimony of an Abortion Addict by Irene Vilar and it's one of the weirdest books I've ever read. This isn't an assignment for school or anything, I just happened to see it at Barnes & Noble recently and given my past employment at an abortion clinic, I was interested in what an "abortion addict" looked like.
The MD from the clinic said his practice was a "private OBGYN practice that also offered abortion services," which technically it was, but his description was really a form of denial. 97% of his patients came in for abortions. We did later term procedures too: up to 22 weeks which was the maximum the state of Wisconsin allowed at the time.
We had very few repeat patients. I remember one woman who had come in a total of seven times for abortions by the time the office closed and when we did the ultrasounds she was always farther along than was indicated by the first date of her last menstrual period (which is the most common way to determine length of pregnancy until an ultrasound confirms the age of the fetus) so her procedures were generally more complicated than the a simple D&C (dilation and curettage which is the medical procedure we call "abortion" up to 14 weeks.) One woman I knew who was not a patient at the office at the time was roughly 36 years old and had had a total of ten abortions. It's tough to come in to work every day and go through the harassment we all went through by protesters in front of the office and try to remain non-judgemental of women who sought multiple procedures. At least it was hard for me to remain neutral about it. But the law of the land is abortion on demand and I agree with it in large part.
According to the inside flap of this book, by the end of it, Irene is going to have 15 abortions, all fathered by the same man. 15 seems like a big number to me. Although I have to give her credit for having the courage to talk about that, much less write a book about it for the whole world to read.
I'm on page 109 of 222 and it's a story of her addiction to this man, not to abortions. Addiction to a sick relationship I can understand, but addiction to abortion is somewhat of a misnomer. It's about the control this man several decades older than she wields over her, not some sick need for her to get pregnant and go in for multiple surgical procedures. There's not a lot of dialog and that bothers me because I like plot more so than character development; this isn't really even character development but the re-telling of the story of control and submission in their relationship.
I'm not endorsing or criticizing the book and I'm trying not to endorse or criticize her choices either.