I’m an addict. Doesn’t matter what “it” is, “it” will always help me fill the void for a while and then “it” will destroy me.
As long as I can remember, I have always had issues with self-esteem. From a young age I was always comparing myself to others and never quite feeling as though I measured up.
Smoking weed in college seemed to help me fit in. I felt like I finally belonged. After a few years of mainly marijuana use, the effects started to become insufficient so I had to upgrade. That’s when I discovered prescription drugs. Having been a smoker for so long, I decided it would be genius to smoke them, so I became quickly addicted to smoking Oxycontin on aluminum foil.
My addiction demanded that I smoke 7 or 8 pills a day, so at $40 a pill, I soon had a $300 a day habit on a $100 a day salary. Borrowing, stealing and lying became a way of life in order to make up the daily deficit.
I pawned everything I owned and much of what my parents owned, including their jewelry. My closest friends and other family members were not exempt either. I hurt everyone I loved as well as everyone who loved or cared about me.
Everyday was an exercise in misery. My pain and dependency were the oxygen in my head and I knew I needed my drugs to survive.
Each day I’d tell myself it was the last and that I was tired of living that way. Crying, sweating and in so much pain I felt my bones were breaking, I had to finish my supply each night so that each morning the cycle would start again; soon every day was like the proverbial “Ground Hog Day” of repetition.
Then, I discovered crack cocaine. The first hit made me feel like I’d climbed the highest mountain in 30 seconds. For months I chased that first high, never to feel it again.
With Crack, I had the highest of highs, but I still needed my pills to relax my heartbeat. Very quickly my newfound formula of up and down got out of hand
My dealers knew I thought they were God and they took advantage of that. It started out with little things like running errands, but in the end, they were physically, and mentally, abusing me as well. One of my last memories is of cleaning out my dealer’s toilet for a hit of crack and being grateful for the opportunity; then feeling completely demoralized afterwards.
Not long after that last incident, I was introduced to a crack house in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. Every stereotype imaginable was happening on this scene, plus maybe a few more that haven’t been considered. There was one queen size mattress in the middle of the room, with a 300lb naked guy laying in the middle of it, 10 crack heads, and me, all sitting around on the floor giving him hits so that we’d be allowed to stay there. There were broken walls and pieces of concrete and plaster on the floor (often mistaken for crack and smoked by people desperate for a hit). Crack pipes, cell phones, cigarettes and lighters were fair game for theft and there was no discrimination; high school students, ex-millionaire businessmen, old people and hookers alike were all hanging out. I stayed for days at a time and once spent a month there like it was my home.
I knew it was coming to an end; that I’d either die or be arrested soon. I was powerless to stop.
One day I went to my own apartment and was greeted by my mom. She begged and pleaded for me to go to rehab but I put her off, saying I’d go “tomorrow”. She fainted and still, all I could think of was my next hit. The minute she came to, I went into the other room and smoked a pill.
The madness went on as she would periodically stop by and confront me with the pipes and foil that littered my room. I’d accuse her of lying, saying there was nothing there, believing so much in my own lies that I made her consider her own sanity. 5 years of denial and chaos made it easy for her to start to think she was going crazy and she ended up getting pretty sick and losing over 30 lbs in just a few months.
Finally, a good friend dropped me off at my parent’s house and told them that If I didn’t get help I’d be dead in a week. By that time I’d lost my job as an X-ray technician, because after being unable to wake up for a few days I just never showed up to work again.
I had given up. I knew it was time to surrender. I went online, searching for a rehab in the furthest place away that I could think of. California. I flew out the next day.
When the intake director picked me up at the airport, the first thing I asked was when I would get my weed card and, “can we stop for a drink on the way?” I figured I had a problem with crack and oxi; that didn’t mean I had to quit drinking or smoking weed! Besides, I knew I’d be cured after just a month.
To say that I was a bit delusional would be an understatement. Taking it in stride, she took me to the center where they put me on Suboxone for two weeks. I put myself on 7cups of coffee a day.
My detox lasted for 28 days. I’ll never forget the day I woke up and wasn’t in pain or relying on medications to live.
I was doing really well at that point and had 6 months sober. I was staying out of my head by helping others, volunteering and being of service to my peers who had less time than me.
So. I decided it would be a good idea to get into a relationship with a girl from my rehab.
She was the first girl in a long time to show me love and the first chance I got, I moved in with her, ignoring the advice of others. We had a terrific “honeymoon” that lasted for about 3 months. She made me feel complete and I was serene. I’d never felt so happy or comfortable in my life. It wasn’t long, though, before she started smoking weed and drinking again. I was able to abstain for about a week but then it got to a point where we would argue, she would laugh at me and I would be in tears.
So, I took a hit. It didn’t happen overnight, but I quickly made her my higher power. I stopped going to meetings and being accountable. We ran out of money pretty quickly, so then we got a little more miserable. Finally, I had enough and asked her to drop me off at the train station. We argued all the way there.
As I watched my train pull into the station, I saw three sheriff cars pull in. They charged at me like I was a terrorist. They took my laptop, and the $30 I had in my pocket, gave them to my ex-girlfriend and charged me with aggravated robbery. I pleaded that they take my things into evidence but my pleas were ignored; my ex-girlfriend got my stuff and I got put into jail with a $100,000 bond.
At that point all I’d had to fill my stomach was a beer in the morning. After ten hours of holding, I was finally placed in a cell at midnight. I was so hungry I grabbed the toothpaste and gobbled away. I didn’t know what to do. I felt like screaming. I was scared, hungry, tired and confused.
My cellblock was segregated; Latinos on one side and Caucasians on the other. My “best friend” in jail was a neo- Nazi; I never mentioned to him that I was Jewish. I spent 5 of the longest days of my life being locked in a cell for 21 hours a day. I had no smokes and I had to trade my grits and banana for a cup of coffee. Finally, I got released. I never even saw a judge.
When I was released, my ex called me with apologies and asked me to move to Utah with her; I sure know how to pick them.
I returned to my old rehab and detoxed again; this time not from heroin and crack-cocaine, but from love. Who knew I would have the same withdrawal symptoms?
After 6 months I decided to stick around and make California my home. I began helping out the manager at the men’s house and started working at the rehab center office 4 days a week.
At this point I’m in it to win it. I’ve been here almost two years now and just took a 1-year chip. This is the best I’ve ever felt in the 31 years of my existence.
Recently my mom came to visit me and my, chosen, California-family; she had tears of joy in her eyes when she saw me. The best part of her visit was our communication and the honesty with which I was able to answer her when she asked me questions about my life, my past and my drug use. Regrets and shame are a thing of the past.
I know now that anything can be a fix for me; I am an addict. Drugs, food, alcohol, gambling, or even love; anything will do. I’ve always done everything to extreme; constantly chasing fulfillment but, no matter how excessive, nothing was ever enough to fill the void. I know now that its more than just about putting down the drugs or the “ism du jour“; it’s about doing the work, one day at a time, and staying accountable with myself, my higher power and others.
The good news is that its working. The promises from the 12 steps are happening for me, every day. Today I can look you in the eyes and not have to measure up. I know that if I stay out of my head, avoid tripping in the past or in the future, am of service and stay in tune with myself and my higher power, I needn’t feel hopeless or empty ever again.