Somehow I stumbled into a game that I was completely unprepared to play. Hell, I didn’t even realize I was playing until it was too late for me to forfeit. Just like every other child, I was programmed that games are played to be won. And that usually involves following the rules. So naturally, that’s what I expected. But when you’re playing with people that live without rules, the game becomes impossible to win.
When you’re an addict, it all boils down to control. Who has the drug and who has the money and what has to be done to get those things. It’s a never-ending battle for the position of power but in reality, your addiction has all the power and controls all you are.
Perception can be extremely deceiving and just because everything on the outside looks normal or under control, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a storm of chaos living disguised beneath the surface. Functional addicts are still addicts. I’ve been an addict since I was 14 years old and simply switched addictions throughout the years to suit that time in my life. Being 37 now, it’s occurred to me that I’ve spent over half my life, the majority of my life, in some altered state of mind from how I’m supposed to be. In essence, I created a double life with two totally different worlds that took a lot of effort to keep separate from one another. Does that mean I was fake? I don’t know. And in which world would I be considered fake?
It wasn’t until a little over a year ago that those worlds suddenly collided and I was forced to reevaluate my whole sense of identity. I could no longer hide behind the facade I spent most my life building. That meant I first had to admit that I was an addict. Granted, I was a functioning addict that no one would guess from looking or interacting with me. I used to justify it in my head that there was a difference between ‘using’ drugs and ‘abusing’ them, and I was just using them in order to function better. I figured that any drug I took was just the same as any medication I had to swallow for my chronic health conditions. Come to find out that my longest and worst addiction was included in those handful of pills I took three times a day and prescribed by a licensed physician. It turns out that my physical pain wasn’t as bad as I thought and the real reason I became so dependent on opiates was because I didn’t want to deal with the pain and trauma I’d experienced in my life. That epiphany was kinda thrown on me against my own choosing but it was the best blessing in disguise I could’ve ever asked for.
I’ve been off all opiates now since September 18, 2016 and it changed my whole life around. I haven’t been able to think this clearly since I was in college and in my early twenties. I have a bachelor’s degree in English yet these are some of the first words I’ve written in well over a decade. They stole my sense of self, my passion to the point that I’m not real sure who I am anymore. Yet that was only one of the substances I found to make my life tolerable. I call it the “trifecta”…. opiates, meth, and Xanax. One down. Two still hanging on. One step at a time. It’s a process, you know?
Never in my wildest dreams would I expect breaking free from an addiction would be more difficult than battling cancer. When I was sick, I had doctors, nurses, and family taking care of me and doing all the things that were needed to keep me healthy. For instance, providing or cooking meals for me to eat. I guess that’s why I still don’t know shit about nutrition. But now I’m faced with a sickness that requires me to work at getting better. There’s a big difference. I essentially have to learn how to take care of myself and that sounds so stupid being 37 years old and not having the first clue of how to do any of it. But it’s the truth. I don’t know how to live. Learning how to live is a whole lot harder than just floating through a serious illness with all the support in the world to do the work for you. Now, don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t easy for me to be slammed with chemo, lose all my hair, deal with the pain and constant nausea, or to be confined to an apartment 4 hours away in St. Louis from all my friends. But I had my family who rallied behind me and took care of everything to the point that I didn’t have anything to stress about. Even though I had all this, my addictive behavior really kicked in during this time so I could numb out whatever I didn’t want to remember. I have a special knack for being able to block things out like, “This isn’t happening to me. No, this is definitely not happening.” And my brain would lock it up somewhere that I never accessed. I found out that if I stayed high on something, I never had to unlock those memories. That might be part of the reason I struggle the way I do to get clean. Not only do I have to learn how to do the basic things that everyone does on a daily basis, I have a flood of memories that I don’t know how to deal with. So I stay in my bed for days. Just laying there. Not able to sleep. But too apathetic to just get up and do something… anything. I’m figuring out just how much work is really involved in battling this different type of illness called addiction. I have to overcome depression in the midst of trying to stay away from drugs that solve that problem. How does one do that? I wish I had my family to rally behind me through this battle but I simply don’t. And that’s perfectly okay. I understand that my father just won’t ever understand the complexity of my problem. I’m sure he gets the seriousness of it but doesn’t know how to help me. Hell, I don’t even know how to help me. All I can do is learn as much as I can from other people who have been through the same thing, and pray that at some point, I don’t pick up the drugs again.