I didn’t wake up one morning and decide I was going to become an addict. I don’t think anyone does. It’s just something that happens when you’re too busy not living. Sure, you can argue that “it’s a way of life” or “this is just a thing I do,” but when your days are spent waiting for the dealer, or chasing the next high, it’s not just a thing. When your paycheck goes towards a bottle of pills, or a bag of white powder, it’s not really life, is it? It’s a way to avoid life.
I didn’t wake up one morning and decide that would be the day that I smoke a joint, take a pill, and maybe, if time permitted, snort a line. (Who am I kidding? Time always permitted, didn’t it?) It was a gradual process, really. I can absolutely look back and see the rises and falls of my usage – sips of my mother’s wine coolers led to my first blackout at the age of 13. Sneaking a cigarette just to see what it was like was soon followed by stealing quarters from my dad’s coin jar to support my pack a day habit. Smoking really bad weed at 14 in a tunnel around the block from a friend’s house to smoking the good stuff in my childhood bedroom until I finally moved out at 23…only to smoke it in my 2-bedroom rent controlled apartment. Alone, or with a stranger who wouldn’t ever become a friend. That medication prescribed for my anxiety? The one that I was only supposed to take as needed? When ground really fine and snorted through a broken straw, gave me exactly what I needed when I needed to learn how to cut lines of cocaine.
I didn’t wake up one morning and decide that my family was no longer going to trust me, that I would be fired from or walk out of every job I ever had, that I would be walking into a Downtown LA police station and getting slammed with a theft charge at the age of 26. (Twenty-six year olds are supposed to know better, aren’t they?)
But I did go to sleep and wonder how I was going to pay my rent, who I was going to manipulate into giving me a few bucks, or how I was going to work the system in my favor. More often than I care to admit, the last thoughts before I drifted off were, “Am I going to wake up in the morning? Do I want to wake up in the morning?”
Despite the aforementioned effects of my addiction, it really did work in my favor for a long time. I had fun. I made friends and lovers. My addiction numbed what needed to be numbed. It quieted the cacophony of my unrelenting depression and anxiety. But then it stopped working. It stopped being fun. It stopped numbing. Here’s the thing – it stops working for everyone, and the harrowing truth is that most of us only realize it when it’s too late.
The story never changes, and I’ve shared some form of it more than once over the last 9 years. I debated on what I should write here today. I tend to write something on my anniversary, and I don’t do it for me. I don’t share the hardest part of me because I want accolades or a pat on the back. I do it because someone saved my life once and if I can reach one person with my paltry story, I’ll tell it everyday.
I don’t do this sobriety thing perfectly. I’m not the poster child for Alcoholics Anonymous. I don’t go to regular meetings. Hell, I don’t even have a sponsor. (I do not recommend this path – but it’s what works for me right now.) The only thing I do with any kind of consistency is I don’t drink and I don’t use. No matter what.
Three thousand, two hundred and eighty-five days isn’t really any time at all, but it’s my time. Nine years ago I was on the precipice of losing everything that mattered to me, and up until that morning, I didn’t realize that I mattered to myself.