The Art of War – 30 Days Clean and Counting

Samurai 1024px-Kusunoki_masashige“The art of war teaches us to rely not on the likelihood of the enemy’s not coming, but on our own readiness to receive him; not on the chance of his not attacking, but rather on the fact that we have made our position unassailable.” Sun Tzu

I found this quote on another blog about addiction (thank you, Blue) and shared it with my son.

He’s doing well–over 30 days clean and counting–but he’s nervous. And so am I.

He’s had these good stretches before. We know they can dissolve in a minute. They usually don’t last much past 2 or 3 months at most. He’s had longer stretches of doing well, but those have been few and far between during his fifteen years of addiction.

So far he’s doing all the right things, everything he can at this stage to put his life back together.

The methadone he gets daily from a clinic has helped him a lot. Its helped keep him from having the intense, uncontrollable cravings that come not only from his addiction to heroin, but from the depression and despair he feels on his worse days. That make him want to give up.

But the methadone makes him itchy and seem high sometimes. So that’s been a problem when he was looking for work.

Fortunately, he has a great sponsor, a local business man, who’s taken him under his wing, and he’s working for him now. They attend a lot of meeting together, the “hardcore” AA meetings, he tells me, attended old-timers who are serious about their recovery. Not like the NA meetings he’s attended in the past, where so many junkies straight from jail, who aren’t committed end up. (Like himself once.)

He’s living at a small shelter now that doesn’t just house the homeless, but has a program and caseworkers and helps residents transition into traditional housing. If he stays there for three months and remains clean (they test residents), they will help him find an apartment even pay for his first and last months of rent. In the meantime, his case worker supplies him with bus passes and clothes vouchers at local thrift stores, and pays for his monthly phone bill.

He’s created a small community of support at the shelter too. It houses families with young kids he plays with, and older people who grandma him. I met one of the grandmas’ he hangs out with. They meet at a park each afternoon and he walks her back to the shelter to protect her from the young punks who like to give her a hard time.

He’s also signed up for a trial membership in a local gym where he goes daily, working out, lifting weights, swimming and taking yoga classes. Physical exercise has always helped him to stay focused and feel healthy and strong and motivated. And now with his new job he’ll be able to keep it going.

We try to meet once a week to do something fun and “normal,” nothing related to his recovery, but just to enjoy each other’s company. So far we’ve gone to farmers markets and art shows, and shopping for underwear and bathing suits. We top it off with yummy bowls of Cold Stone ice cream.

But he’s nervous. When things are going well he starts to worry. He’s warned his sponsor that he’s due for a relapse soon. It usually cycles in after two or three months of doing well.

That’s why I shared the Sun Tzu quote with him. The enemy is not only the heroin and the addiction it causes, but the fear and depression and despair as well. Its attack can come at any time. He needs to stay alert, to know it’s coming, and to prepare for it.

How does he do this?

By analyzing the why and how and where and when of its attacks. Knowing how it sneaks up, what disguises it wears, what weapons it uses. And being ready for it.

By making himself unassailable on all fronts, no matter how fast, and unexpected, and deadly its attack may be.

That’s what I tell him. And I tell myself that too.

Because we’re in this together. It’s his fight. I can’t do that for him. But if he falls, then it becomes my fight too. My fight against the disappointment, the depression and despair and fear.

I have to prepare myself too.

9 thoughts on “The Art of War – 30 Days Clean and Counting

  1. I love that quote. I feel I may have to share it with my son’s father and his family — he was sentenced to 15-30 years in prison and they’re still fighting it so they feel like I’ve given up. In reality, of course I’d like him to get out sooner and I hope he does, but I have to prepare myself for him to be there for the full 30 years. I’d rather expect it and be able to work my life around it than to be like his mother who tricks herself into believing he’s going to get out tomorrow every day and has literally given herself a heart attack. I think you’re approaching your, and his, situation the very best you can.

    The only advice I have is for him to take things slow. I know that the shelter probably has rules and he has to do certain things, but so many times when I got sober I wanted to jump into sober life with such force, I ended up burning myself out and relapsing. It’s okay to ease back into “normal” life — he doesn’t have to prove himself all at once. It’s not good to replace the drug addiction with an addiction to meetings, or working, or working out, or becoming “normal” — he needs to learn how to live completely addiction free. (Does that make sense?) I’m very happy he’s doing so well as of now, though, I’ve been thinking about you.

    As for the methadone, he should talk to his counselor (if he has one) about his dosing level. Often people take more than they need because they feel like they need it, or because they’re holding on to the few “high” feelings they still get. The only thing with that is, often when it seems like you have to go down, you really have to go up, and vice versa. It’s a tricky slope, but the “Methadone Discussion” Facebook group has members from all over the world and experts available to help, if you’re interested. I didn’t like methadone because it did the same things to me.

    Sorry I wrote a whole post. I’m just excited and rooting for you!


  2. That sounds like good advice, both the part about taking it slow and the methadone. I’ll check out that FB site. I appreciate your writing here, and I love getting advice from people who have been there and made it to the other side. Thank you for the encouragement too!


  3. I can relate to your posts so much. I have an older brother (49 yrs old)and a younger sister (44 yrs old) who are both recovering addicts. From crack cocaine to heroin and every thing in between. Right now my brother has been clean for about a year but still drinks alcohol. My sister suffered a stroke at the age of 41, (3yrs ago) instead of taking care of herself, she went right back to using. I have lost all patience with her but she is my sister and I love her. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer two months ago. She says she hasn’t used since last June but I know better. More like a few months. Hoping this is her final wake up call! My poor mom has been through so much with these two, along with the rest of the family. My nieces and nephews suffer the most. I wish you and your son nothing but the best. I will pray for him and you as well. God bless and remember take it one day at a time!


    • Thank you for responding and sharing your story. My heart goes out to all of you. I cannot imagine how difficult it would be to cope with two children suffering from addiction. They need our love and belief that things can turn around no matter how old they get. But we also need to take care of ourselves and do not let the misery of addiction keep us from living our own lives fully, and joyfully, as much as we are able. My love to you and yours.

      Liked by 1 person

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