Adventures in Recovery: Equine Therapy

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I snapped my helmet and put one foot in the stirrup.

I froze for a moment wondering how my legs were going to pull this one off.

After a quick breath, I gripped the saddle and threw my other leg around the horse.

I propped and shifted until I was semi-comfortable.

I had done it.

For the first time ever, I was on the back of a horse and about to ride.

But how did I get here?

[not literally, but figuratively]

How did I get here?

The adventures in recovery far outweigh the adventures in active addiction for me.

Though both tell a tale of wild rides, I find that the adventures in recovery have various ends…or as I like to think, various beginnings as one comes to an end.

New interests; self discovery.

Wholeness when you already felt just that.

A feeling quite hard to describe; but wonderful to experience.

Learning to love so many things; it’s just that easy.

I never knew how easy.

My active addiction adventures were far different.

Guilt, fear, terror, shame, loneliness, darkness, pain.

There was nothing unique about each time.

Different details, yes, but the ending was the same and all consuming.

Now I find myself at Equine Therapy.

Something I knew nothing about.

In fact, if I had been introduced prior, I would have told you that you were nuts.

There was nothing therapeutic about a smelly horse who could take me out with a swift kick.

[addicts + swift kicks? Maybe we’re on to something!]

Yet I find myself in a barn with other addicts.

Some of us are new to recovery; some not.

Some are listening to learn while others now train.

That’s how recovery typically goes.

I hear the stories of each horse.

Once broken, abandoned, abused, used, neglected; angry, irritable, hurt, withdrawn; loners.

My people in animal form.

I find myself nervous as I go into the process.

Large animals scare me; intimidated by the unknown, I guess.

But isn’t there beauty in the pushing of oneself? Leaving that comfort zone and experiencing the new?

Well, shit then, here I go….

As I follow the lead of the trainer, I can’t help but notice how calm and patient the horse is with me.

It is suggested that I get comfortable with Sailor; to put my hands on him and to balance, relax and take it all in.

He’s so attentive; his ears perk as I talk.

I look at his eyes and I start to think of how similar our journeys have been.

From darkness to light.

Tragedy to triumph.

I then connect.

When broken, we experience life in one way, but when rescued, live vastly different; determined to help the next one suffering.

Sailor is patient and aware of where I’m at each moment; pushing me a little bit at a time.

He pulls back just a little, as if to comfort, when the unknown gets the best of me.

He’s a strong leader who loves to heal.

At this point I see clearly how this experience mirrors recovery from drugs and alcohol for me.

One in recovery guiding another desiring just that.

Using their past to heal others by just being attentive, patient and willing to navigate.

Relating to the pain, even when the details aren’t the same.

Pushing to heal; comforting just enough when uneasy.

I’m confident that this recovery business isn’t just human to human.

Recovery is soul to soul.

It’s spiritual, deep and unbelievably healing.

And even with a smelly horse, it’s therapeutic as f**k!

About Jenn Stottlemire:

Hi from Columbus, Ohio! I’m Jenn and, along with my son Jackson and my husband David, we are quite the trio!

I am passionate about passing on my experience; to give hope to the ones suffering and rally behind the broken.

Heroin took me on a wild ride straight to hell, but it wasn’t my only demon.

Through recovery, I have found the tools to tackle my hurts; build character and integrity.
Through God, I have found peace, forgiveness, serenity and strength; a foundation of faith unshakable at times.
And through both, I’m able to love the life I live.

“What if your child becomes addicted to drugs or alcohol?”

child artwork

Oh no! – The question.

Silence – The answer.

“Not MY kid!”

“I won’t let this happen to MY kid!”

“MY kid is too well behaved for drugs!”

“MY kid won’t hang out with THOSE kids!”

“OUR family is different than THOSE families.”

“MY kid goes to a great school…he gets good grades.”

Though those answers weren’t on my list of responses when asked the dreaded “what if” question, I had my own naive thoughts.

I sat silent for a while.

Ok, a long while.

Ok, I still haven’t shared my thoughts.

That is, until now.

Those thoughts went something like this…..

“Nooooo! He will play with Legos, get excited over finding nickels in the couch, eat yogurt tubes, suck juice boxes dry, sleep with “wolfie” at night and laugh at Sponge Bob for the rest of his life!!!”

That folks, is what I came up with.

Naive mom brain, if you will.

Reality check.

My 8 yr old will grow up and, in today’s society, fast!

Addiction is real. I know all too well.

So, what is my answer. “What if…”  Hello? Are you there? Jenn?

**deep breath**

Reality is harder than projecting on the ‘what if’s’, but through my own addiction, here are my thoughts……here it goes…

If my child is an addict….

I will love him no less.

Worry more.

Pray harder.

Reach out farther.

Talk to others.

Talk to him.

Not miss an opportunity to hold his hand.

Give him hope. Encourage him.

Plant the seed.

Hug him tight.

Answer his calls.

Say “no” a lot….a whole lot.

Tell him my story.

Tell him many stories.

Be strong in front of him.

Fall to pieces behind him.

Kiss his forehead.

Count his freckles.

Daydream of better days.

Cry  for him.

Cry for me.

Cry for my heart.

Cry for his heart.

Hate addiction all over again.

And one thing is for sure, without a doubt, I will have faith. As hard as it is to trust anyone with my child, my faith will have to be strong. As an addict, one thing I know for sure is addiction is too big for any parent…mom or dad; sibling; spouse; best friend; child. You can love them with all you are…all your being…but you can’t love them sober. If so, ALL addicts would be just that: sober.

I was asked the dreaded question: “What if my child is an addict?”

So in response, all I can do today is this.

Love him with all my being.

Hold him.

Count his freckles, watch him sleep, lay out his clothes.

Cut the crust off his sandwich and play the part of Santa, the tooth fairy and Easter bunny.

Today I can giggle with him. Help him cope with a bad day in 2nd grade.

Make memories.

Beautiful, innocent memories.

Today is all I have….the only time I have to teach him what I know about life, which isn’t really anything more than you. I’m just a mom who wonders what other parents wonder: how to protect my child.

Yet in the world of addiction, I wonder a bit more. Will he be?

Then again….maybe he won’t…

Originally posted on the Jake Koenigsdorf Foundation’s Facebook page.

Jake Koenigsdorf Foundation is a non-profit foundation that helps addicts, alcoholics and their families find support and treatment.

About Jenn Stottlemire:

Hi from Columbus, Ohio! I’m Jenn and, along with my son Jackson and my husband David, we are quite the trio!

I am passionate about passing on my experience; to give hope to the ones suffering and rally behind the broken.

Heroin took me on a wild ride straight to hell, but it wasn’t my only demon.

Through recovery, I have found the tools to tackle my hurts; build character and integrity.
Through God, I have found peace, forgiveness, serenity and strength; a foundation of faith unshakable at times.
And through both, I’m able to love the life I live.

 

If you think the Opioid/Opiate Epidemic hasn’t affected you, think again.

ripples

Anyone who is stupid enough to put a needle in their vein deserves what they get is a sentiment we are reading/hearing all too often lately. Many people think addiction is not their problem if it hasn’t touched their families or loved ones. Whether you realize it or not, we are all caught in the ripple of this epidemic – so it is your problem.

A few examples:

  • Obviously it is touching the lives of anyone who has a loved one with Substance Use Disorder. This equates to time lost at work, or certainly distracted employees.  If the person is in active addiction and is employed, you can bet they are not working to capacity.
  • Our court system is jammed with people suffering SUD. The dollars cost on policing, jailing, probation oversight, court costs…………the list could go on…. is enourmous.
  • Child Protective Services cannot keep up with the amount of children in the system due to this epidemic. These children are growing up in chaos.
  • Police, firefighters, paramedics, and hospitals are all overwhelmed with overdoses and other health issues related to constant drug use.
  • Unscrupulous treatment facilities are falsifying claims and overcharging insurance companies ($1500 for a urine test?!?!?) which are paying out for the wrong kind of treatment while those in accredited hospital facilities where the billing is true and accurate cannot get coverage. All of our insurance rates increase.

Our tax dollars are spent putting out the fires caused by this epidemic. We need to put our dollars to use with a multi-pronged and organized response. The ground work has been laid by many who fought for CARA to be passed. Continue reading “If you think the Opioid/Opiate Epidemic hasn’t affected you, think again.”

The Winding Path to Heroin Part II: Emily

IMG_2802Editor’s note:   This is the second installment of The Winding Path to Heroin. The first installment can be found at this link: The Winding Path to Heroin: Part I

The recent viral shares on social media with videos and photos of people overdosing  have fueled an onslaught of judgment and ugliness.  The comments accompanying these posts speak to the herculean task we still face trying to educate people about this epidemic. Many post threads devolve into name calling and arguments of  about disease vs choice. I have read recently many posts, some by those in recovery, that we need to stop making those with Substance Use Disorder victims. They have accountability in all of this, and we need to take away the ‘excuse’ that this is a disease as it allows them to remain victims. Yes, we are all accountable for our actions. SUD is not an ‘excuse’, it is a fact. It explains why some people can drink socially and can ‘dabble’ with substances and others become addicted. Beware with the opioids, however, because even those who never had a problem can become physically dependent on these powerful chemicals. As the medical community is taking steps to limit how they use these meds, I hope they begin to put into practice a concrete weaning schedule for those who have been taking opioids regularly for even a few weeks after a surgery.  This is the practice with so many other medications, why not opioids? Continue reading “The Winding Path to Heroin Part II: Emily”

Lost in Plain Sight

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The need, the compulsion that overcame any self respect, principles, and morals; that could never be me. I have too much to lose, I am only doing this for him, I am not addicted – I don’t even like the feeling. At 16 years old I believed I was the greatest power in the world. Nothing could ever gain control of my entire life. I couldn’t even begin to tell you how wrong I was. If only I were born with a warning for my parents, that I came with this mental disease called addiction. Not that anyone in the world could have saved me from what I had to go through to be where I am today.

I’m not even sure why I drank the first time, I wasn’t really sure what alcohol was at that age. I was 12 years old and found a bottle of gin at my grandparents. My friend and I thought it would be cool, after all – adults drink! Well, a half a bottle of gin and two shots of orange juice later; my friend didn’t like the taste. So without any warning I felt the need to not waste any of it and drank both glasses. I only remember the very beginning of that night. I woke up in the middle of the living room floor with my father sitting next to me crying. I had alcohol poisoning. My parents were afraid to get me in trouble for drinking, so my Dad sat up all night taking care of me and saved my life. I had no control over how much I consumed, I couldn’t stop. I waited years before I picked up my next drink sometime in early high school. Everyone was drinking, I didn’t think I was any different from all of my friends. I was an honor roll student, started working in a daycare and I was in control. Continue reading “Lost in Plain Sight”

The Winding Path to Heroin: Part I

IMG_2802Recently on our Facebook page I asked people to tell me about that day they switched from pills to heroin. I had heard enough stories to know that almost nobody began with heroin, and even when they switch most have zero intention to ever touch a syringe. So what happens. How do they get there?

Often after an article about the drug epidemic is posted online, and more specifically when Narcan is mentioned, there will be the comments of ‘just let them die’, ‘Darwinism at its best’, ’thinning the herd’ ‘they chose this life, so the get what they deserve’.

Every addict is someone’s child, sister, brother, mother, father, loved one. The scathing attitudes and opinions others wield so safely at home on their computer are like gut punches to those in addiction as well as those who love them. They are especially painful to those who have lost a loved one to overdose. More importantly, they perpetuate the stigma that people in addiction don’t deserve compassion or treatment — simply ‘let ’em all die’….. 

Let he without sin cast the first stone:

  • Those who never broke any rules in adolescence, who never thought they knew better and didn’t take risks – including (but not limited to): driving too fast, underage drinking, sneaking out of the house, underage sex, binge drinking, smoking pot, taking any drug not prescribed to you, shoplifting, vandalism….
  • Those who as adults have never drank to get drunk/buzzed, driven while drunk, driven while stoned, blown through a red light, driven above the speed limit…..

Many of us made poor decisions and broke rules as adolescents, sometimes even into college and beyond.

My question to all of the baby boomers out there. Where would your parent’s prescription pills have fallen on the above list? Pills were being passed around high schools in the past few decades like joints in our day. If you would have smoked a joint in high school or college, would you have tried some Oxy, smoked or snorted it? ‘It’s just the stuff your mom takes for her back pain you know.’ Continue reading “The Winding Path to Heroin: Part I”

Dopeless Hope Fiend: A Recovering Addict’s Manifesto

hope dealerYou never had a problem with buying weed from me in junior high. You seemed to appreciate my proclivity for procuring high quality acid in high school. But when I started smoking meth during my senior year, you called me “a worthless tweeker.” When I missed the SATs because I partied too hard the night before the test, you pointed out how I failed more times than most have tried. When I sunk into a deep depression because my friends were walking out of my life, you said it was because I wasn’t “ever going to amount to anything.” It still hurts that you wrote me off because you thought I’d never get clean. I internalized your beliefs about me. I could never shoot, snort, or smoke enough dope to silence the memories of being shunned for having a disease. You looked down upon me from your socially acceptable, stable perch. You went away to a four-year university, and I set my sights on becoming a big fish in the drug dealing pond. You turned a blind eye as I sunk lower and lower into the grips of addiction. Strung out and suicidal, my disease had progressed to mainlining a mixture of heroin and cocaine. I had hoped that you would give me a call, or maybe even stop by my house to let me know that you still gave a crap about me, but you didn’t. After all, I am just a lowly drug addict. Continue reading “Dopeless Hope Fiend: A Recovering Addict’s Manifesto”