I was headed to my weekly group meeting last week when it occurred to me that I’ve got a big milestone this year. I’ve been chemically sober twenty-five years. I feel it’s important to put “chemically” in there because I didn’t become emotionally sober until a couple of years ago. Thank God for S-Anon. But this post isn’t about what led me into the rooms of S-Anon or my husband’s sex addiction. It’s about my own drug addiction. So buckle in boys and girls. This post is about to get heavy and very real. Not to mention uber long.
Where I grew up drugs were readily available. Not just in the seedy parts of New York City but also in the back alleys of strip malls in nice neighborhoods. They took less time and effort to get in the 1980’s than an order of Chinese take-out.
I started smoking weed at a young age. It began as something to do on the weekends than progressed to daily use. By the time I was in high school, the weekends were reserved for harder drugs: acid, mescaline, and mushrooms. And of course drinking.
When I was a senior, I announced to my friends that I was no longer going to smoke pot. I was turning over a new leaf…sort of speak. I decided it was making me too tired and lazy.
There was just one problem though: I was still being verbally abused at home and my mom had added in a touch of physical abuse to the mix. Drugs were a great way to make me forget how much that sucked. Still, I decided no more weed. That led to me saying no more hardcore drugs either! Only drinking on the weekends for this chick. I was what we call in our recovery circles, rationalizing and “white-knuckling” it.
Then, as I was about to walk on stage to get my high school diploma, someone gave me line of cocaine to celebrate. I felt euphoric. My cares melted away. I grabbed my diploma, and snorted another line. Pure bliss.
That was thirty years ago but I still remember that feeling. The way I looked at myself in the mirror and saw a girl full of confidence instead of someone who heard hurtful words just a few hours earlier. Cocaine could make my problems go away. I just needed more of it.
And how lucky did I end up? Not only did I live with a drug dealer, I got my blow for free. On most days at least. All he needed me to do was cook, clean, run some (illegal) errands, and I was rewarded with pure white powder.
I thought my life was good. I attended college, I worked, I partied, I was surrounded by friends. What more did I need? So what; our groceries were usually shoplifted by one stranger or another. The dealer shot bullet holes through the wall to kill the cockroaches he saw on the bathroom wall. My “friends” were people who drifted in and out of the flophouse I called home. My job and school were at risk because I had a habit of not showing up. My family had become a distant memory.
Maybe I wasn’t so lucky after all.
Finally, after being raided, having a shotgun pointed at my head, and seeing my friend’s painful descent into heroin addiction, I left the flophouse. The addiction followed me. I white-knuckled it again. This time I was able to stay clean much longer. That happens when you have the added incentive of a pregnancy.
However, a few months after my child was born, I slipped. It’s an easy time to remember. It was Thanksgiving weekend. We cooked up a storm. We also snorted an excessive amount of blow. Dangerous levels. All while our children were in the other room with the rest of the family laughing and having fun.
It wasn’t until I got home that I realized how wired I was. I couldn’t sleep. My child lay on a blanket on the floor at my feet sleeping soundly, while I frantically scraped the last of the cocaine from a scrap of paper and tried to make just one more line. When the baby woke up a little while later, I was still pinging off the walls and realized I was too afraid to pick up my own child. I was too afraid to make a bottle or change a diaper. I knew I had reached my lowest point, I had bottomed out. My child deserved better than what I was able to provide.
Somehow, I made it through. Withdrawals sucked. Again. But I felt like I deserved to feel that shitty. It was the least I could do after putting my child in harm’s way. Although that was twenty-five years ago, I can still see that baby in my mind’s-eye right now and I believe that’s what keeps me sober today. That was how I spent Black Friday twenty-five years ago. Going through withdrawals but it's a cause for celebration in my book.
Happy (almost) Sobriety Birthday to me!
On a lighter note: Do you have plans for Black Friday? As for me, I’ll be staying home…and staying sober.
Thank you to all that served and to those that continue to serve. May God keep His watchful eye over you.