This is a letter to my parents, whose hearts I shattered in active addiction:
Before I identified myself as a drug addict, my view of addiction consisted of dirty needles and DUIs and jails and drinking out of brown paper bags under bridges. I pictured bruises on children’s’ faces after fathers would stumble in drunk and screaming at 3 AM, and families begging their loved ones just to “stop.” I didn’t understand how someone could “let themselves” get to that point. They didn’t care about their wives? Their husbands? Their children?
Then I got high for the very first time. I felt peace like I had never known. The tornado in my head had finally ceased tossing words and time and emotions around, and I didn’t have to feel. I didn’t have to think about anything else, and I didn’t have to worry. I was no longer afraid.
Looking back, I know now I was an addict long before I picked up any drug. My disease came from a hole inside of me, which I stuffed with thing after thing after thing and nothing was ever enough. Faster than I could have imagined, that wonderful feeling of being high became a necessity. I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t eat, couldn’t LIVE without drugs.
The very things that were destroying me, that were eating my soul, were the things that seemed to be keeping me alive. I lied, I cheated, I stole, I sold myself and my friends and lost trust in everyone and everything around me. I was underwater with a ball and chain around my foot, and my disease was at the bottom celebrating its’ new victory.
I didn’t feel guilt about the things I was doing. I didn’t allow myself to because all I knew was chasing that next high. I hurt so many people, and most of all I hurt myself.
Arrests, jail time, broken friendships, lost jobs, and forfeit houses didn’t scare me. What really scared me was my dealer not answering his phone at 2 AM because I was shaking and tweaking and didn’t know how I was going to make it until the next morning. Death didn’t scare me, and often I prayed that it would all end. But I was absolutely terrified of what would happen if I didn’t get high.
My addiction dragged me down faster than I ever thought something could. I didn’t catch it in time, or maybe I just didn’t care. I couldn’t stop. I wouldn’t stop. I didn’t want to stop. My disease convinced me that the hell I was living was better than even thinking about getting clean. And I believed my disease. It became the only thing in my life that I trusted.
When I went to rehab I heard stories. I heard stories about people who had it so much harder than I did, and that they managed to stay clean for unfathomable amounts of time. I couldn’t hold together 2 hours, and this man just celebrated 22 years of continuous sobriety ?! I couldn’t believe it.
My path of becoming alive again, actually living, began right then and there. I didn’t know it yet, but the seed of hope had been planted.
I fought and relapsed and scraped by just to relapse again. And again. And again. Nobody understood I had things so easy! I had a supportive family and people in my life who were praying and rooting for me constantly!
So WHY couldn’t I stay stopped?
• My addiction was never about the drugs.
• My spiritual condition was shot. I was connected to no one, nobody to separate me from the insanity that was in my head whenever an opportunity to use presented itself.
• When I discovered that I couldn’t do it alone, things changed for me.
The things I wish I could make you understand:
• I am not my addiction.
• My addiction IS a disease. Just like cancer or diabetes.
• “Just stop” doesn’t work.
• I am powerless over drugs in any form, and my addiction is released in full force the moment anything unnatural enters my system.
• I will never be able to use drugs safely, including alcohol.
• Yes, “those meetings” that I go to and “those people” that I hang around with are essential to my recovery.
• No, it’s not about you or what you did/didn’t do. It’s about my disease, the one that is always waiting and wants me dead at every turn.
• I can never turn my back and pretend it will be fine.
• I have to work every single day for the rest of my life to protect myself and my recovery.
• If I don’t put my recovery first, everything that I have will disappear.
I want you to understand not be angry when I have to leave Thanksgiving day dinner early because my meeting starts at 6:30 and if I don’t go there to explain that three of my cousins offered me a drink and God that beer smelled like heaven and death in the most enticing way (the people there will understand) then I surely will pick up tonight. If I pick up tonight, tonight could very easily be the last night of my life.
And my recovery has granted me a life worth living, a life I will fight for. And I beg of you to not stand in my way, however good your intentions are.
No, I don’t know if I “really need to meet with my sponsor every single day of the week for the rest of my life.” But what the things I am doing right now are keeping a needle out of my arm and keeping my thoughts sane and my actions pure.
So please, next time when you want to say, “come on, just take one night off,” remember that the second I let my guard down I am back out and running. And that is a fate worse than death.
My recovery has given me everything my addiction promised
I don’t know the future, nor do I want to. But I do know my recovery has given me everything my addiction promised:
• A sense of peace and serenity that is REAL
• Caring relationships
• And most importantly my sanity.
It’s so hard to understand something like this when you haven’t lived it, but please trust that I am following as closely as I possibly can. In the footprints of hundreds of thousands of addicts that came before me and found a solution to keep their demons at bay.
It’s working. Oh, my God, it’s working.
Now, the life that I am living IS beyond my wildest dreams. I was trapped and scared and alone, and now I have found freedom, one day at a time.
So please know, that the next time I chose to confide in someone in my network rather than you, it is not a personal slight. I am doing what is suggested by people who have been where I am and overcome what I am trying to overcome. Other addicts understand me on a level that people who don’t struggle with the disease of addiction can’t.
Without my recovery I have nothing, and I am nothing. But with my program and the support around me, I know that I am well on my way, and there is light at the end of the tunnel.
I am full of love and gratitude today. I have life, and I fought for it. I proudly identify myself as an addict in recovery, and today, I am winning against immeasurable odds.