“What did you have to drink and what did you take?” asked the ER doctor that day in February. “8 bars of Xanax and I’ve been drinking for hours. I snorted the Xanax, and I’m taking sertraline for depression” I managed to mutter. “Well, its a shock you’re alive because that’s a lethal dose. Most people wouldn’t recover from that.” But I did. I survived, and I believe it was to tell my story.
A year ago today, I experienced the most painful, traumatic night of my life, or so I thought. I had no idea about the journey I was going to begin, but I knew I had to start somewhere. When you’re an addict, you’re blind. I’ve walked fearlessly through the darkest parts of my city, cash in hand, asking every street person if I could buy. It didn’t matter if I was stateside or in uncharted waters, I could sniff out a dealer as soon as I walked into the bar. There are nights I don’t remember, and I wish I could just like there are nights I remember and wish I didn’t. I’ve stepped into the darkness without any hesitation. I craved physical and mental pain. The thing they don’t tell you about addiction is it doesn’t care about you, or the people around you. It cares about getting fed, doesn’t matter how just matters that it eventually gets a hit.
Most addicts can’t tell you where the path got blurry. Most people who go out to bars every weekend will tell you they don’t have a problem, but I can. I’ve been through a fair share of extremely difficult break ups. When you suffer from chronic depression, abandonment, co-dependency, panic disorder and major anxiety, a break up can feel like the walls are slowly crushing you. The weight becomes so heavy you literally can’t move and the only thing that is on your mind is making it stop. Imagine feeling like that everyday. Imagine constantly losing your closest friends, disappointing your family and having to wear long sleeves in the middle of summer. What’s most important is that yes, I did have a choice, at one point. Being exposed to drugs/alcohol before I was born made me susceptible to the demons of addiction, and eventually, I fell.
For six years, I’d travel down this path. Sometimes I’d take breaks, but most of the time hiding it from anyone close to me and always ignoring my responsibilities. I’ve seen hundreds of sunrises, had just as many bloody noses and even more days ruined by having a hangover. I’ve burned friendships, opportunities, and relationships. Slowly you turn into a person you don’t even recognize. You start to have a complete out of body experience, where you’re just sitting in a dark room watching yourself from across the room, unable to be heard despite how loud you’re screaming. This is when it happens. When your demons win, and it’s when you lose it. These demons have moved through your blood and now make decisions for you. I’ve prioritized complete strangers over my wife, friends and even family I’ve prioritized drugs over everything. If there weren’t an opportunity for me to pick up – I wouldn’t go. Without drugs, I wasn’t myself.
February 6th, 2017 was the day the darkness would finally win. A few months before that, I was waking up in a hospital bed. I was questioned by police and analyzed by doctors. My family came into to see me, and after a short conversation, I screamed at them to leave. My fiance (now wife) walked in and I, for one of the first times in my life, experience real gut-wrenching pain. It wasn’t the millions of scars I have covering my body or the damage I’ve mentally done to myself; it was the terror in her eyes of having almost lost me. To this day, it chokes me up.
That evening in Feb. I was in London. My wife and I just married a few backs, and I tried to take my own life. I couldn’t deal with the pain of the lies I was told over time. I couldn’t come to terms with things I was unable to remember. I was ready to give up, and I did.
Except, I survived.
I managed to make the trip home, asked a good friend to pick me up and headed straight to the ER. Upon arrival, I had to have my vitals checked, monitored and I had to go through the process of numerous exams because I was a victim of sexually assault. I couldn’t think straight, but I did know that I was grateful to have been alive. Looking back on that night, I can’t say I would change anything. I can’t say i regret anything, but I can say I’m thankful for the outcome. The next decision I had to make, is what would change my life. Do I get admitted to rehab? What’s next? How do I control my life, when I can’t even manage to control my actions?”
This is the side of the addiction they don’t talk about. I could sit here and write about the process and how helpful it was, but that isn’t going to help someone in my position. For the first few months of my recovery, I was fascinated by shows about drugs. I’d watch anything I could because I’d see myself in the addicts on screen. Music was my outlet. I listened to “Otherside” repeatedly, and I’d identify with every single word. The first step for me was reconciling a broken relationship, which turned out to be a relationship I’m better off without. This part is crucial- you’re going to lose friends due to your process. When this happens, it’s important to remind yourself that you’re better off. Despite how hard that is to believe, friends who don’t stitch around to help you overcome, aren’t worth your time. A piece of advice I’d give anyone with an addict in their life: Don’t excuse their action, but understand that demons are living inside of them that can physically cause memory loss and impaired your judgments. Those demons don’t care about you, or your feelings and they will destroy everything in its path. When a friend in recovery needs to make amends, let them. Without that step, the addict can’t move forward.
I wish I could you an inside look at an addicts brain, but I can’t. I can tell you that you can’t force someone into recovery because they’ll relapse again. Sure, send them to rehab, but their time will be spent pissed off that they’re there. The best thing you can do for someone suffering from addiction is helping them identify what they’re unable to deal with. It’s always there, just help them look.
In the last year of my recovery, I’ve been terrified of living a life without alcohol and drugs. I was too ashamed to meet the real me and was certain I’d never get a handle on my depression. Turns out, medically taking sertraline and Xanax can be terrible for your depression. The medicines basically work against you and cause the chemicals in your brain to have a bad reaction. My doctor helps me get that under control by increasing my dose of sertraline and gave me a nonaddictive anxiety medicine to take at night. Now, I take my medicine every day with no problem. I enjoy doing it because I know it helps keep me grounded. I’m also not ashamed of it. Getting to know myself again, was an experience I can’t describe. Because drugs and alcohol do damage to your body and brain, you learn what you like and don’t like again. I remember walking into the grocery store about three months in and just standing there thinking “has it always been so colorful here?”. Things happen to you that I can’t describe and you’ll never know if you don’t go through recovery. Your parts of yourself, but gain parts as well. You learn that you can’t control your thoughts, but you can control your feelings, and yes, they’re separate. I learned to meditate and how to deal with fear. I am a different person that I was a year ago. I am a stronger person than I have ever been in my life. I am a survivor, and I’ve let go of my fears. Fears bond with you and hold you back. Let them go and continue forward. You’ll get there, just trust the process and work hard at it. It’s going to be the hardest thing you ever do, but it will be the best thing you ever do.
We live on the cusp of death and think “it won’t be us.”
Well, it is. It’s you; it’s me, our parents, grandparents, kids, best friends, it’s us.
*This post is dedicated to my wife, whom I wouldn’t have made it through this process. She never doubted me. She never questioned whether I could do it. She let me avoid places that made it hard but eventually made me face those fears. She didn’t let me run, digress, or give up. She gave up everything for the last year, to help me. She stayed through the worst of addiction. She knew that the addict I was, wasn’t who I wanted to be. She could see through those demons and gave me hope that there is a future. When I questioned my existence, she’d hug me, pull me close and say without me, her world would end. This year, my process, my recovery, is dedicated to you. Despite my lies, the decisions I made that hurt her, the neglect she’s felt for the last few years, she stayed. She stuck it out, and I want her to know, if it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t have made it. I love you.