Written July 7, 2016
(I wrote and posted this on my social media page earlier this year. Since this is especially relevant this time of year I thought it was a good idea to post it here today)
Author’s note: I’d started writing this earlier this year and in all honesty I regret putting it away. If you are an addict or the loved one of an addict, give yourself a break, grab your favorite(non alcoholic) beverage and read just one of many, MANY stories of an addict who found their way into recovery and a new way to live.
My name is Anonymous and today I’m a grateful but angry recovering addict. My real name isn’t important because my story isn’t very different from anyone else’s. Even if it is different in some ways but not others, basically all addicts have a similar story. Using a mind altering mood changing substance to escape reality and feelings. So how can I be grateful and angry at the same time you wonder? Let’s start with why I’m angry, well more like pissed off. If you see friend after friend die because of a drug overdose, why the hell do you continue to use until either your next overdose, your next(or first) arrest, or worse, YOUR F’IN DEATH?!?! Don’t you realize you are NOT invincible when it comes to the Russian Roulette Wheel of addiction and death?!?
Look, I understand what you’ve been thru, what you’re going thru now and what you will go thru. I was you once. Maybe I haven’t done the same things you have done, been to the places you’ve been to or seen what you’ve seen, but I have FELT the same things you felt, the way you feel right now, and will feel. The only difference is that I only feel that way now on occasion. I’ve heard the horror stories and I’ve heard of and witnessed the triumphs. I’ve even heard the anger, the screams and the cries of those who are closest to us. That’s why I’m recovering now, and my overdose is only one reason why I’m grateful. For you to understand that I need to go into my story a bit.
Before my addiction, I was a pretty good person with a few flaws of course. I grew up in a fairly good home. I never wanted or needed much of anything while growing up. I was an ok kid, especially compared to today’s youth. I had gotten really good grades in school and I was in Honor Society until about 9th grade. Then I slipped to being an average student as addiction was beginning to surface in my life. I did the occasional sneaking out at night, started smoking cigarettes and did a bit drinking under aged. Nothing to major. As the years went by I went to work hungover from the night before and I even got to a point where I was able to “function” while under the influence at work. I justified, rationalized, conned, manipulated and lied.
My primary role while working thru the years has been to help or take care of people to the best of my ability. Many times I helped to much to where I lost myself in the process. I was still in control of my life, had been employed even tho I used to like to let loose and unwind on the weekends. And boy, sometimes I could really tie one on! That all came crashing to a halt when a series of unfortunate events led me to my new love and, ultimately, my near demise.
It continued innocently enough. I was a weekend warrior and went to work either hungover or still drunk. Then I got really bad when someone very close to me got sick and was knocking on death’s door. While this person was in the hospital I’d go to my stomping grounds, have a few drinks(sometimes a lil something else that my customers brought in) and head home – and I wasn’t exactly sober when drove home. That was ok for a while until one particular time when this person close to me took a turn for the worse. I clearly remember saying out loud to myself, “Well damn, if (someone else close to me) can drink to drown their pain and sorrow so can I”. Little did I know I was about to unleash a demon that slept inside of me for many years. I became someone I swore I wouldn’t and continued the perpetual and vicious circle of addiction that can be inherited from one generation to the next. The day that changed my life forever was the day I hurt my back at work. That was the beginning of the end for me. I was off and running to chase that first, next, or better high until the other day that forever changed my life. That was the day I entered rehab.
When I hurt my back on the job, I was given a few pain pills and muscle relaxers(with refills by the way), went back to work, did more than I was supposed to, had more pain, took more pills. Oh, I’m still in pain? Another pill or 2 or 4 won’t hurt me. I mean, doesn’t everyone take a little extra pain medicine or medication in general from time to time? Perhaps, on occasion but not day after day after… Before I knew it, one became to many and a thousand damn sure wasn’t enough. The next thing I knew “that voice” in my head took over. You know that voice. “That voice” of addiction ruled my life. “That voice” has damn near killed me more than once. It told me I couldn’t work anymore because I wasn’t safe to be around the public. It told me I was useless, worthless, and unloveable, that I was a nobody unless…I…(sigh)…had surrendered to its control over my mind, my feelings, and my life.
During my addiction I was a lying, manipulative, conning, self centered self seeking bitch. I got to a point of desperation and a total self imposed isolation. I pushed everyone away because I felt they either didn’t understand me, they criticized and judged me or I thought they wanted me to share my stuff. There were more times than I can count that I felt like a loser and monster. Despite everyone’s begging and pleading, I still felt like I wasn’t an addict. I could control my using. I could pull myself together and function… somewhat…well, actually barely. I felt that I wasn’t like THOSE people. I wasn’t some dirty homeless person with a needle in my arm or some dope slinging gang banger. My drugs of choice(plural) were prescribed to me. I was taking legal drugs. Besides, I was unique. You didn’t know or even understand what I’d been thru. This was my thinking, my stupid stinking thinking. I felt like this until the fateful weekend that changed my mind and life. That weekend was the beginnings of a wild journey that I’ll never forget.
I was caring for a child over the weekend. My using had gotten so bad that as soon as I stepped out of bed I needed to use. I couldn’t hold any food down except vanilla pudding and even that was difficult. One weekend in particular I couldn’t even put 1 hour of time together without using. I puked all over myself while the child I cared for, then 8 or 10 years old, cleaned me up. I couldn’t even stand on my own 2 feet. I sent the young person home early. Then I went to my parents house, sat down and told them what had been going on and that I needed help. I finally had reached out for help and I got it, even tho I still didn’t feel I needed it or belonged where I ended up to start getting clean – rehab. I thought after rehab I could figure out how to use successfully. Since then I have had a couple of life changes. I have also had 3 relapses, 2 of which were overdoses and 1 of those I was found with my dog licking my face. He was keeping me alive until I was found with my heart beating 8 beats per second. Does that sound like I can use successfully?
That last overdose finally woke me up. I realized 2 things that day. 1) that I couldn’t use successfully and 2) I was going to die if I didn’t stop. That was a few 24 hours ago. Since then, I’ve gone thru divorce, another relationship after that, financial problems, death(of others plus my own spiritual and emotional death), and health issues. I won’t lie, during these times I’d thought of going back to using. The difference today? I have an awesome support system, and a toolbox full of tools to help me and faith(albeit a wavering faith) in a Higher Power. I also have safe places to go to when I feel the need to escape. Plus I’m working on a hobby or 2 to occupy my time. I also play a tape in my mind of what would happen if I did use again. If the tape player is broken I got out my crystal ball to remind me. There is a list of YET’s(You’re Eligible Too) that I know would happen if I did. Trying different drugs, using different ways, getting my drugs in ways that I haven’t or would ever think of doing. Finally I know the shame and guilt would be to much to bear. Tho I may not be afraid to die today, drugs are not how I want to leave this world. Today I choose life – the good, the bad, the ugly, even the REALLY ugly – all of it.
When I set out to write this I didn’t intend for it to be this long but for you to understand my passion to help the next sick and suffering addict you needed to know little bit of my story. Besides, every time I proofread this I find myself adding a few more words and thoughts to write. My story is not very different than yours or any other addict. There was a time when I had judged addicts and stigmatized addiction. “Why don’t you just stop it?” I thought. I now know why you and I can’t “just can’t ” stop. I also know that addiction does not discriminate. The demon/monster of addiction cares not for your age, race, sexual identity, creed, religion or lack of religion.
I said in the beginning that I regretted tucking this away. If I’d have posted this sooner, maybe, just maybe it would’ve been seen by any number of addicts who’ve died since then. I’m posting this today after looking at our local newspaper and seeing 2 more young lives I knew who are gone way to soon. Could it have been heart attack, a stroke, or a car accident that took these beautiful young lives? Maybe, possibly and highly doubtful but I doubt it. I can completely understand why it’s rarely ever in an obituary that someone dies from addiction. There are lots of people want to remember how we were or the better sides of us. Especially with the stigma of what or who an addict actually is.
Consider this if you will, if it is in the addicts obituary that they died as a result of their addiction, it could be seen by someone else who abuses drugs and/or alcohol. This could be the jarring factor that gets that addict to ask for help. Seeing a childhood friends’ picture with the word addiction in the obituary section could, I’m not saying would, COULD let that person to see that it could’ve been them. See that they are not completely invincible.
Today I’m grateful I’m alive despite my current situation in life. I almost died at least once, probably more. My heart aches when I hear about addicts dying almost every day in my community and beyond. Not to mention our children, fresh outta high school(or still in school) being addicted and getting arrested for that next high. If you are an addict either in my community or anywhere in the world and you’re reading this, know these things. 1) there IS hope for you to stop using. I won’t say recover because that gives the illusion that you’ll never want to use again or you can use successfully. There will be times when you’ll feel like going back to the demon but I am living proof that you don’t need to use over ANYTHING that life throws at you. You can stop using and learn to live a new life with new friends who DO care if you live or die. 2) there IS LIFE waiting for you when you chose stop using. The good, bad, ugly and really ugly but you don’t have to use because of it. 3) Believe it or not there are people who do love you. I don’t even know you and I’m telling you that I love you. If you believe nothing else, BELIEVE THAT!! If it seems like no one else does or even tells you they want nothing to do with you, it’s only to protect their hearts. Trust me, if you died today you will break the hearts of your family and friends. Please, please, PLEASE, reach out for help. Choose life today! You are SO VERY worth it!! Until then I will continue to pray for you every day.