GUEST POST — Addiction: Chasing the High #2

I got in contact with Dean Robertson about half a year ago, and ever since have been so grateful for her help in editing my manuscript and navigating the publishing world. I appreciate not only her advice and wisdom with book publishing and editing, but also her honesty with the struggles she has overcome herself:
I am a recovering alcoholic, drug addict, compulsive overeater, and bulimic. Before I stopped drinking and drugging at the age of 40, my favorite legal drug was a mug of room temperature Guinness stout with a chaser of vodka from a bottle my favorite bartender kept in the freezer for me. My favorite illegal drug was marijuana. I never snorted cocaine, smoked crack, or dropped acid—mostly because the opportunity never presented itself at a moment when I was drunk enough to say ‘yes.’ My favorite legal drugs, other than alcohol, were prescription medications. I believe the unattractive term for me is “pill head.”

To this day, nearly thirty years later, I cannot have mood-altering prescription medications in my house for long. I would get up in the middle of the night; I would have an argument with my son; I would wake up with worse-than-usual back pain or what my mother called a “sick headache”—and I would take double or triple the prescribed dosage.
I would take pain pills for depression or just to take the edge off; I would take an extra capsule of my neurological medication to be sure I get groggy enough to sleep; I would take Dramamine with Excedrin for a bad headache (the combination stops the headache and, if I take two Dramamine, gives me a buzz).
When I was in the grip of my eating disorder, I ate all day. I got up at night and I ate I ate raw vegetables and I walked across to 7-11 at midnight for ice cream. I gained weight. The weight gain depressed me. I took extra pills for the depression. Sometimes, when I had eaten enough to make me sick, I threw it all up, firm in my belief that it would prevent more weight gain. Sometimes, I took laxatives with the same faith. For several months, a few years ago, I had a bout of nearly constant diarrhea; even a glass of water would bring it on. This malady, which was certainly inconvenient at best, had a stunning advantage: it allowed me to eat anything and everything and lose weight. I was, for that short time, literally having my cake and eating it, too. The leaching of nutrients and fluids from my body created a kind of manic high. I liked it.
Back in the days of my worst drinking and drugging, I would periodically go on a crusade to “clean out my system,” a project which involved, among other things, long periods of fasting. Water only. I discovered that, with no help from vodka or marijuana or valium, I could reach the stars. I could, in fact, achieve the greatest, and best, and highest high of all. No hangovers; no DUI’s; no fear of the police. No consequences. I discovered that I am one of those people who suffers no ill effects from prolonged fasts—no headaches, no muscle spasms, no weakness, nothing but a better and better rush as the days go by. I once told someone that I drank to hear the angels sing. When I fast, I hear them every day.
And, incidentally, before diagnosis and medication to treat them, my temporal lobe seizures produced the same results—powerful “spiritual”experiences that went away with the anti-seizure drugs. There are days when I long for those visions and even consider stopping the medication.
In July of this year, my first book was published. I wrote that book in seven months of non-stop, day-and-night, midnight-to-dawn writing. I didn’t eat; I slept very little. I was in what athletes call “the zone.” I lost weight; the circles under my eyes got darker; friends and family worried. It was a terrifying and exhilarating time. I loved every frenzied minute of it.
I am an addict. I am always—always—chasing the high.
Contact info:
I am a retired English teacher; I am approaching seventy.
I spent thirty years of my life teaching literature in independent secondary schools and in small private colleges. When I retired, I cut off my schoolteacher’s bun and headed to the Tidewater region of Virginia.
At the end of 2012 I had a terrible fall. I spent eight very long months in an assisted living facility in Norfolk, Virginia. The name of that facility is the Lydia Roper Home.
I arrived at the Roper Home in bad shape. In addition to undiagnosed neurological problems, I was in the grip of a paralyzing depression, and I was definitely not cheered up by offers of bingo or arts and crafts. I don’t “do” activities. In an effort to preserve my last shreds of sanity, I asked permission to lead my own activity, a Bible study. I had taught the Hebrew Bible as Literature for nearly thirty years so I knew I could do it.
Sometime in March of 2013 we started with Genesis. There were five of us, and those four women were my pioneers.
I left the Lydia Roper Home on the last day of October 2013 and moved into a wonderful co-op, in a building erected in 1928, in the Ghent neighborhood of Norfolk. For a year after that, I travelled once a week, at the request of the Bible “ladies,” to study the New Testament.
In February or March of 2014, I began writing about that Bible study. The result, published on July 24 2015 is Looking for Lydia; Looking for God.
I have owned llamas and kept bees. I have one son and one grandson. I have been happily single for twenty years.

About Rachael

Rachael Steil is a graduate from Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan with a Bachelor of Arts. Steil an author, speaker, and a recipient of the Spirit and Outstanding Runner award for the Aquinas College cross country team and has received 6th place All-American accolades in cross country as well as 7th place in the NAIA track nationals.

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One Response to GUEST POST — Addiction: Chasing the High #2

  1. Pingback: Authors Visiting Authors: In Virginia with Rachael Steil – PD Robertson

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