Addiction is the result of a fundamental rejection of self. The essay I read makes this claim, and I tend to agree. Because I thought that there was something horribly wrong with me, drugs were a great alternative to experiencing reality. When I started taking painkillers, I thought I had found my answer. They fulfilled so many needs simultaneously that I couldn’t see not taking them. They did too much for me.
One reason I loved pills so much was because they made me feel like I could connect with people on a deeper, much more intimate level. It’s easy to open up on opiates and feel incredible amounts of empathy and compassion. While others commonly report pills make them numb to feelings, I’ve always had the opposite experience. Opiates enhance my feelings like I’m on ecstasy. They don’t make me dead to the world — I feel like I’m living for the first time, living life as it’s supposed to be. Colors are more vibrant. People are more beautiful. Every texture is luxuriously comfortable and every conversation, no matter how mundane, is a treasure. They’s why they’re so hard to quit.
Even when I’m off narcotics, my addictive behavior remains. Nicotine, caffeine, video games, music, reading — I’ve always seem to go to one extreme or the other. Being so unhappy for most of my life, I like to take things that make me feel good and do them until I’m forced to quit. I do it with the internet. I do it with spending money on things I don’t really need. I drink three Nos’ to get energy instead of one, and I spend my checking account until the balance is below $10.
While I’ve been here, I’ve learned that heroin isn’t my main problem. My main problem is me. And when you think about it, it makes sense. Only someone as consumed with self-loathing as I am self-sabotages and burns themselves out as much as I do.
One of my biggest fears is of everything good coming to an end. When I was 12 or 13 I remember one rainy day when I was wrestling over the idea of a Creator. My mother told me she no longer believed in Christianity, and I panicked. Knowing the extent of my parents’ intelligence, I knew that if they believed in God, he must be real. That belief was not faith in God, but in my parents, and I clung to it despite my demented thoughts that I would go to hell. When my mother told me she had rejected this fire-and-brimstone perception of God, my rock was shattered. I asked her what happens when we die. She had a beautifully devastating answer. “All good things must come to an end.”
Of course, my mother’s intention was the opposite of malevolent. She was simply being real with me and I treasure that both then and now. But as the rain drizzled against our windowpane and the steady hum of the furnace filled my ears on this particular morning, I was once again struck by this haunting, aching, heartbreaking sadness. The sadness that went beyond my mood, beyond my tears. A sadness without discernible origin. A black, hellish gulf that swallowed me up inside and out, rending me into a million pieces, suffocating me until I felt that the very fabric of my soul would rip apart with the agony of it all. I shook in my mother’s embrace, paroxysms of grief thundering through me while I struggled to find a foothold in a safe reality, a reality with definites, with purpose.
As the risk of sounding melodramatic or overly stricken with obnoxiously teen angst, this is literally how I felt every day for years. This is how I thought, and though I can’t tell you why, I can say for certain it’s a huge reason why I started using chemicals. It seemed, I used to think, like school, career, friends didn’t matter — it’d all come to an end, anyway. The effect that had on me as I went through 3rd grade, 4th grade, all the way through 11th grade — was unthinkable. I was constantly paralyzed by an icy terror that filled every ounce of my being, leaving nothing but a desperation to find and to receive love.
To deal with the perils of moving to public school when I was previously homeschooled was honestly difficult enough. When you threw in a demonic source of horrific thoughts and infinite mourning, the problem was compounded. I think this is what non sufferers of clinical depression sometimes don’t understand. I probably spent nearly a decade waking up every day and either feeling like my dog died or feeling like my mom died.
Don’t get me wrong. There were good days. I loved playing soccer, and when I reached optimum speed on the field the wild joy that encompassed me made me feel as though I could fly. I received love from my parents and I had a paper route that I enjoyed. I loved colors, the feeling of sand between my toes, cupping small animals in my hands in delight and showing anyone who would listen my prize. I loved to glide through swimming pools like a dolphin, the cold water penetrating every pore, reminding me that I was alive. I remember my father reading Tolkien novels to us at night, my siblings and I munching contentedly on cinnamon toast and burying ourselves in pillows.
There doesn’t seem to be an obvious reason that I am the only one of five to become a drug addict, but I think I’m figuring out some facts of it. This guilt, shame and grief that has plagued me for years is not something I would wish on my worst enemy. When I figured out there was something like a pill or a powder that could take that all away?
Forget physical dependency. I was hooked ever since i took those 3 vicodin when I was 16. Nothing more important. Even 2 overdoses seemed preferable to feeling those feelings. I sometimes thought I would prefer death.
Today I have been clean for 47 days. I am learning to be assertive instead of passive. I am learning to be optimistic instead of pessimistic. I am learning to live life on life’s terms, and perhaps most importantly, today I am willing to accept my relative lack of control. The only pills I take are prescribed and monitored by a physician to help my brain’s chemistry stay in balance. I have dreams that seem worth pursuing. I still have a loving family who stands behind me. I am still filled with love and passion. Today I am learning to how live. Today I don’t have to be high to feel life is worth living.