Category Archives: alcoholism

Safety

safety

 

As an addict, no matter what your drug of choice is, no matter whether you are using or not, one of our commonalities is that we generally crave safety. We crave it as much, really, as we crave whatever we are putting in our bodies, or whatever fucked up thing we are doing to change the way we feel. Because any addict can tell you that, eventually, you don’t really get high anymore. Nope, that rush from the beginning flees quickly. What we really want is safety. Distance from our feelings, some space from our self loathing, to shut up the voice inside of us that will not let us be- the one that tells us how stupid, and useless, and lacking we are. We just want some relief from whatever it is that haunts us, and the addict knows the fastest way to get there. Of course, this is WAY oversimplifying it, but in essence, this is the truth- you don’t want to hear about brain chemistry, genetics, and compulsive disorders, anyway, I bet. And if you do, you should probably talk to someone else, as I am just a drug addict with some experience, not a doctor.

Now, I know what I have said- that addicts are seeking safety- sounds completely the opposite of what an addicts life looks like. I realize that. But think about this for a second…all the stories of the way addicts lie, the way they manipulate everything in their environment. Yeah, that is terrible. And by the way, it’s exhausting, too. But what is that really, more than an attempt to create a world where we have some semblance of control over our surroundings? Sure, it is misguided and horrible, but when you are so helpless in every other way, the only thing you can do, out of desperation, is to try to create some type of order out of the chaos. To know what to expect. To have some feeling of safety, we manipulate. You have to remember, an addict in the trenches of their disease is desperate, and desperate people on drugs do not have the ability to see how insane their actions and choices are. They literally are not in their right minds. They just want to survive.

Now, here’s the thing: It doesn’t start off like this. No one starts off in this desperate state. I always, when thinking of my own story, refer to my disease starting up at the age of 19, but that isn’t even true. The truth is, I discovered my drug of choice at the age of 19, but I started putting drugs in my body long before that- sure, it was just smoking weed and drinking, but I was 13. I had low self esteem, I had a weird life, and I just wanted to fit in. The best idea I could come up with, having a limited set of options, was to get high. And it worked for me. I found no shortage of kids just like myself with whom to surround myself, and I created a persona out of all of that, so that I could fit in somewhere. I had no idea what kind of game I was playing. How could I have? And not everyone was destined to wind up like me, either. That’s the funny thing about it- you are rolling the dice, and you don’t even know it. Many of my friends were able to put it down and walk away. But a lot of them- a lot- were not.

Because I was so young when I started down this path, I had no experience with the way “normal” people lived. I didn’t understand how controlling I was, whether I was clean or not, or how emotionally volatile I was. I had no idea that my behavior was a major issue, preventing me from being happy, either on or off of drugs. I can tell you this, though- the minute I realized that my drug use had become nothing more than a symptom of a far bigger problem, my life changed. It took me a really long time to get there. A really long time. I went through treatment, well into adulthood, twice, and had years clean (after which I relapsed again and again) before I got it. On drugs, my behavior was terrible. Off drugs, my behavior was terrible, and it lead me back to drugs, to make me care less about my terrible behavior. I had to come to this understanding on my own. I just wasn’t hearing it from anyone, or any place else. I am not saying it wasn’t taught to me, that no one ever mentioned it. I just wasn’t able to hear it.

This is still a struggle for me. Even knowing what I now believe to be true- that my own behavior can make or break me- I struggle to break the old habits, to find new ways to deal with my feelings, ways that are not so damaging to me, or to others. I spent a lot of years being one person, so it makes sense that being someone else is hard. But I know it is vital that I do. I don’t want to use drugs anymore, but I still behave like an addict sometimes, whether I show it or not. That person is sitting inside of me, commenting on far too many things. I am, and will always be, a work in progress.

Addicts are also very contrary people. We know what we want, and we do the opposite. Our intentions don’t always match our actions. We want to do right, but often find ourselves doing wrong. We have huge egos, and low self esteem. We say one thing and do another. We are often very smart, and live stupidly. We dream of a safe, happy life, and do everything in our power to make sure we never get there. It makes no sense to you, and it makes no sense to the addict who is living it. That is the terrible truth.

Addicts, whether we are clean or not, want what every breathing person wants. To be safe. But our fight is a little different. We carry our biggest obstacle with us everywhere that we go. The face that looks back at us in the mirror is often our greatest enemy. The battle we fight is with ourselves, over and over and over.

You may wonder why I come back to this subject again and again, why I identify so strongly with this part of me. And my answer is- because this is still the biggest part of me. Even though I am clean, the fight is the same. The person I am fighting, and the thing I fight against, and all of the little flare ups I have, they all come from the addict in me. I have a voice, and I want to explain it to the world, so that maybe you can understand an addict in your life, or yourself, a little better. But I am no longer afraid, and I am not sad, and I don’t feel sorry for myself. I feel glad that I have named my enemy, and, even if it is a life long fight…at least I have the tools I need to do my work against it.

And that makes me feel a little safer. I sleep better, knowing that.

 

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Reservations (I’m not talking about dinner).

reservations

Not everyone who uses drugs becomes addicted- I mean, everyone I know pretty much did, but I hear there are people out there in the world who can use drugs “recreationally”, which means, I guess, in a fun way. Weekends, holidays, or something like that. These would be people that do NOT trade their family’s good silver and sexual favors for a twenty bag, I am guessing. I mean, not that I ever did anything like that, of course. My family never even had any good silver (that I am aware of. Good job, mom.) And I wasn’t smart enough to think of the sexual favor thing until I had already given it up, anyway. I never was very good at the whole hustle aspect of drug use. I basically just worked at a job so that I could buy myself whatever I needed, or I wheedled it out of people. I was a wheedler, not a hustler. Anyway, I have learned, even more thoroughly from being in a drug treatment center that caters to a…I want to say, more heavily insured group of people…that the “hitting rock bottom” thing that is talked about in the world of recovery looks very different for people who have a higher expectation of what their life should look like.

I mean, don’t get me wrong- there are people there that were living on the streets when they first came into the program, but it was more a matter of choice, meaning they had other options, than solely a consequence of their lifestyle. Like, help was available to them should they want it. Then, there are those who took their drugs as prescribed, but they felt their doctor was overindulging them and they felt terribly bad about this. My point is, only YOU know what the bottom looks like for YOU. I wasn’t really that messed up this time, by my standards. Not even close. But I can tell you this- I was tired as hell of living a double life. The burden of being that person was just no longer bearable. I sought help this time because I was too weary to keep going on anymore. It was not dramatic, there was no intervention- a lot of people didn’t even know what was going on with me. A LOT of people. You reach out for help when it is bad enough for YOU. And that is where it starts.

No one winds up in a treatment center feeling great and stable and mentally sound. There is no way that is happening. We wind up there after LOTS of suffering, many attempts to fix ourselves on our own, long stretches of battling ourselves, terrible battles, that go in internally. So the relief of finally getting help, of finally finding a safe reprieve from OURSELVES, is indescribable. You get into treatment willing, at last, to do anything to sustain that feeling of relief, of safety. It feels so good to wave that white flag, to surrender.

But, FUCK, we addicts are forgetful human beings. Given a little bit of time, a little distance, and we quickly forget the truth about who we are- who we JUST were. We feel so much better, and we already can’t believe it was that bad. We glamorize our old lifestyles, we joke about it, we don’t want to accept that this is our fate- a whole life without putting any substances, of any kind, in our bodies. Now, right here, for me, what I just wrote- that is how I know I am an addict. If you told most people- “hey, sorry, but you can’t ever drink, or smoke weed, and you should probably be highly cautious about even taking narcotic pain medication, even if you have had REAL pain.” They might balk a little, but, you know, if their doctor was telling them this- they would probably, eventually, shrug their shoulders and go. “Shit. That sucks. Alright, then.” For an addict, for ME, anyway, that is just grim. I get it, but I still have a lot of trouble believing it’s that big of a deal. Despite ALL of the evidence to the contrary, and there is plenty, my friends- I still have trouble accepting this.

Now, don’t get me wrong- I KNOW I can’t do my drug of choice. That isn’t what trips me up. My bigger struggle, the thing I have a hard time giving up, is alcohol. Or, it was hard, anyway. Until I got all sassy last weekend on a date, and drank half of a margarita. First of all, let me explain to you that since the day prior to this date, I was already ruminating, at great length, over whether or not I was going to drink. I don’t think this is something that normal people obsess over, is it? I finally decided I was definitely NOT going to drink. So imagine my surprise when I heard myself order a margarita! I seriously considered tackling the waiter as he walked away, begging him not to bring it. This is also not normal. Then, when it came, I wasn’t NOT going to drink it- it was a twelve dollar margarita, for Christ’s sake! How could I do that to my date, this perfect stranger whose opinion of me mattered far more than my recovery! I mean, that makes total sense, right? Oh, wait, no…it makes no fucking sense at all!

Long story short, I drank half, it was fine, I ordered a cranberry and soda, drank that instead, finished the date, went home, felt yucky, went to bed. Then, I woke up at midnight, chugged ten gallons of water, and lay in bed feeling really sick- almost as if I had ingested some type of poison, some type of tequila, maybe- and wondered what the fuck was wrong with me. But the good news is, that reservation I had, the battle in my head over whether or not drinking would be okay for me, was put to rest. I didn’t get out of control, but my thoughts certainly were a little crazy. Most people don’t get that nutty over a drink. Most people don’t put two days of thought into half a margarita. But more importantly, I didn’t like the way I felt. I am tired of not liking the way I feel. I’ve had enough of that for a lifetime.

There are lots more reasons why it isn’t a good idea for me to drink, but right now, I only need that one- because I don’t like how it made me feel. They talk a lot about reservations in twelve step programs, and why they are dangerous. You have to do what you have to do to resolve them in your own way. I am grateful today that mine didn’t have to be uglier than it was. That is was simple to resolve. Today, I am going to allow myself to remember the truth about who I am, and how I wound up where I am. Because people who forget their own history are doomed to repeat it, right? And that is not something I really want to do. Not at all.

Have a great Thursday! 🙂