This a mug shot from ’99 or ’98. I looked worse by the end.
This is the happiest day of my life…except that it keeps getting better.
This is me 3 years sober
I’m going to try to write this post. I’ve started it in my head more times than I can count. It doesn’t have Aj or Z or Sweety in it. They didn’t know me ’till several years after any of these things were over. Having said that, in some ways, I’m still trying to get these things “over”. Part of me wants, very much, not to write this. Another part needs to. I’m not sure I’ll be able to convey, with words, what I’m seeing and feeling behind my eyes. These are my nightmares.
I was not sane. I had times where I came close to sort of normal but, on the whole, I was not. Sometimes were worse than others. It has been about 9 years since I last used meth. I was 42, almost 43, at the time. I started when I was 20. There were brief periods when I could leave it alone and a 3 year period where I was totally clean in my mid 20’s. Those things are facts. It is not an attempt to brag. It is just to lay ground work. The first time I used it, it was I.V. I chased that high for the next 20 years. I never got there.
My mind is full of little flashbacks. Kind of like a movie. I can almost see myself in them…
I have been having a conversation with voices I’m fairly sure are not there. I put a can of Dr Pepper and a box of pizza in a hall. I tell the voices that, if they are real, they should have the pizza and Dr P. I tell them I’ll check in an hour. They were not real. I kept talking to them anyway.
I lived in a place that was Paranoid. I always got paranoid. I knew it was coming and still did dope. I see myself huddled in a hall in someone else’s apt. They had to go out. I couldn’t face leaving. I couldn’t stand to be there alone. I couldn’t bring myself to sit on the couch. I ended up on the floor with my arms wrapped around my knees hiding from everything and nothing. I don’t know how long I was like that. Probably forever, that day. I still used after that.
No one knows it because I didn’t ever tell anyone at the time but, I’m a coward. Wanted to kill myself. Loaded the gun. Never had the courage.
I can see myself, sitting in the dark. My roommate asks if I’m ok. I say no. I do more dope. I’m less ok.
I wish I could share the terror with y’all. I wish I could so that no one would ever use. I wish I could so that I didn’t remember what it feels like.
I would get high and love the start. By the end, I hated myself. I would keep doing it to put off the crash I knew was coming. It came anyway. I would swear that this was the last time. It wasn’t. I hated myself for wanting it and found it anyway.
I wondered how anyone could love me. I knew I was just a pinhead speed freak. Since I didn’t love me, why should anyone else? I thought my family was just saying what they were supposed to say.
I remember crawling around with a deer rifle peering out the windows. I knew they were out there. The sun came up. They weren’t. I spent nights peeping out the windows, hours and lifetimes doing that. I would tell myself that they weren’t there. That they weren’t coming. I could never quite convince myself. I always fell back into paranoid. Every time.
I was right. I don’t want to write this. There are not enough words or space to get it all out. The greatest insanity is not the first time I used. It is the going back. Being paranoid pales compared to that. I kept using knowing where it would end.
When I finally hit the bottom, I weighed 130 lbs. I’m 6’4″. I stunk. hadn’t bathed in I don’t know how long. I keep telling myself I’m not that person. I believe that. I also believe that person is still in there. I carry his baggage. I try to unpack it. Sometimes I get close. This time of year is the hardest for me. It’s the month leading up to sober. It is when I was at my worst.
Part of me wants to run and hide from this post. Part of me still wakes up sweating and terrified. Sometimes I yell in my sleep. It has gotten easier over the years to learn to live with that past…for some values of “easy”. I would not wish it on anyone. *sigh*
I had/have issues with that past. How do you reconcile the desire to love yourself with “I was a needle using addict”? At what point do the memories fade? I know that, even then, I was worth being loved, even if I didn’t understand it then.
There are not words to say how irrational it was to keep going back to something that could only end in ruin. I knew it would end that way. It did over and over. I’m a smart guy yet, I have proven I have the capacity for totally stupid. I got smarter when it ended decades after it started.
Nothing is adequate to convey the intensity of those moments. Nothing will let you feel how scared I was. Nothing can begin to let you understand paranoid…unless you have been there. I can not express how it is to do something that you want to do and know how it will end. I was NOT sane. This is the part where I should say “drugs are
This is the part where I should say “drugs are bad”. I’m not talking, in this context, about anything except meth or cocaine. I’m not making a value judgement on anything else, meaning alcohol or marijuana. Those are either legal or becoming that. I’m not going down that political road.
Nine years later…Sweety and Aj and Z didn’t know me then. I’ve never really related this to Aj or Z. Sweety knows because I told her before we got married. I have no secrets from my wife.
I know the cost of the tiniest slip. If I give those monsters a chance, the least excuse, to come back, they will. I can not use any substance. Yes, I make exceptions for caffeine and nicotine. For me, though, there’s no casual use of anything else. If I’m prescribed medication containing codeine, I use it for only as long as is needed and then flush the remainder. We do not keep alcohol in our house. I don’t even get close to the edge. The price of failure is everything.
I’ve moved forward from that place, most of the time. I am constantly reminded that I am loved. I can look at my wife and see tangible proof of that. Aj and Z have faith and confidence in me. Those three ladies could have anyone they wanted in their worlds, they picked me. Those are realities. I have learned, from them, that if I am worth loving now, I was worth loving then.
I wish I could go back and tell this to past me. I wish I could stop the little boy that lived in a man’s body and hid from shadows. I wish…I can’t. He is my ancestor. Without him, I wouldn’t be me. I still worry even if I don’t run from shadows. I know they weren’t real. I knew that then.
I still worry even if I don’t run from shadows. I know they weren’t real. I knew that then.
Somehow, I wish I could undo this post. I won’t. I wish I could write a post about Religious Freedom or LBGT rights. Not this time. Those posts are easy. All they require is telling people that being prejudiced against someone for their faith or orientation is wrong.
This one requires telling myself that what I think about myself is wrong. It takes looking into my own heart and finding worth where I was convinced none existed. It requires revisiting Hell. *sigh* I know that people have value.
I know that people have value. It’s easy to see it in others. I keep telling myself that I do. I’ve said that I’m learning that. I really am. Sometimes our value is by being an instruction or a lesson because of who we were. Sometimes our value is as a husband or a friend. Sometimes it is as a voice for others. Mostly, it is because we are humans and ALL humans have worth.
If you are reading this and it hits home, I hope you don’t have to go down the path as far as I did. I don’t want you to walk in my shoes. I left a trail of wreckage and destroyed, mine, dreams. I’ll always be able to look at my arm and see the scars of my past. They have faded but, I know they’re there.
Now, life is good. Now, I’m married. Now, I have learned to trust myself. Now, I have the support of some friends.
I do have some baggage from being back there. Some “quirks” that make me feel secure like keeping little stashes of food all over the place, canned or dried I mean. I own a bunch of flashlights. I never run out of cigarettes, lighters, or Dr Pepper. Just some quirks. I can joke about booze with Z even if I do not bring it into my house.
Editorial, It is my belief that we are responsible for our own actions. I do not buy into the idea that addiction was “not my fault”. I do not believe that it is a disease. I am convinced that it is a choice. It is a conscious set of actions that are entirely within our own control. I do not buy in to the idea that the addiction is in control…with the caveat that there are, in some cases, physical cravings. The substances I abused did not fit that profile. Having said that, if a twelve-step program works for you, don’t let my words put you off of it. They have done good for thousands or millions of people, I really don’t know the number. In my case, I have a support group. When it gets bad, I go to my three Ladies and talk.
I want to make this clear, I AM NOT a victim. I did to me what was done to me. No one forced me. There is no one that has any fault but me. We own our actions. They have consequences either good or bad. I was responsible for who I was. I am responsible for who I am. I am far from perfect. I don’t even pretend to be.
I’ll use this spot to make the point, again, there are things about ourselves that we do not control. We do not control our physical characteristics. We do not control who we love. Yes, I mean being straight or LBGT is NOT a choice.We do control what we think. We do control what we put into our bodies. I was not force-fed drugs. It was my hands on the needle. We have the ability to decide what goes into our mouth and our body. I am not ever going to make an excuse or blame anyone else for that.
Finally, I didn’t write this to glorify my past or myself. It was ugly. I was an unwashed addict. I do not deserve praise for getting sober. That just means I’m doing what I’m supposed to do, not commit felonies, using meth or coke is a felony. In fact, writing this post or this blog really doesn’t deserve praise. This is just doing what’s right. Reaching out to try to help is what members of a society that make a contribution are supposed to do. I took
In fact, writing this post or this blog really doesn’t deserve praise. This is just doing what’s right. Reaching out to try to help is what members of a society that make a contribution are supposed to do. I took away from society for so long, I owe it and you.
Z, Aj, thanks for being there while I wrote this. I needed y’all then. I’m grateful for your support. I know you probably didn’t know, don’t think I told you, about the needles. Please don’t hold that against me. I’m not him anymore.
I don’t know if y’all reading this share my faith. For me, I believe this verse
1 Cor 10:13 “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”