On August 29, 2010, the brick of Post-it notes struck me right where it counted: In the head; which makes total sense because I was out of my freaking mind, at the time. Drugs’ll do that to you. Who knew, right?
By the grace of my Higher Power, it turned out that was the last hit I got or needed. That brick of Post-Its saved my life. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s rewind…
I remember all those ads, growing up (“I LEARNED IT FROM WATCHING YOU!!!” or the scrambled eggs, “This is your brain on drugs” campaign that made me more hungry than anything else, if I’m being honest) as a little boy, but honestly…the disease of addiction doesn’t really give a shit about ad campaigns. All it wants is complete control.
And by the end, I was completely under the control of cocaine. I know it might seem uncouth to name my actual D.O.C. (Drug of Choice), but hell, it was what it was. Snorting that white powder, which I still can smell in my nostrils, every so often (which scares the absolute shit out of me when it happens!), made me feel like something I never felt before: Control.
I felt like I could do anything. I felt like I had some authority, for once in my life; like I could conquer the world.
Rewinding the tape back a little further, in 1988, when I was seven years old, I was paralyzed from the head down due to an autoimmune disease called Guillain Barré Syndrome. That may not seem like it has much to do with anything, but once you’ve been trapped inside your own body, you tend to want to feel like you have at least some modicum of control. But in the end, without even realizing, I found myself back in the same place. I was a prisoner again in my own body. Worse, I was a hostage…and it was me holding the gun to my own head.
You know you’re in deep when you’re driving to the ATM and, the harder you cry because know what you’re doing is wrong, you know you’re stealing money from the family piggy bank (“HEY!!” the drugs said, “YOU’LL MAKE IT ALL BACK!!!”) and ruining your life, your foot pushes that much harder on the gas pedal to get the means to your end — your fix .
Until August 30, 2010, Doing The Right Thing or even The Next Right Thing was never easy for me. Maybe it’s because I was always so good at being Bad.
The truth is, before that day, on any given day, I was more than likely trying to hurt myself. If that wasn’t good enough, I’d try to hurt you, too. But hurting myself was always Number One. I was – am – addicted to a myriad of substances: Alcohol, pot, cocaine, meth (tried it a couple of times, but thank G-d, that one didn’t take!!), even food. When it comes right down to it, I can make anything that’s thrown at me part of my never-ending battle with addiction, including sugar. Yeah, you heard me. People laugh, but anyone who tells you sugar isn’t a drug has his or her head up their ass. Lord knows, Pixie Sticks were what led me to my final downfall with a certain White Lady.
Believe me, I don’t fool around when it comes to doing anything in excess.
So, what is being an addict like? That depends on where my brain is. In active addiction, I will lie to you, steal from you, do whatever it takes to get what I want. If that doesn’t work, I will hurt you; not physically, mind you. No, I can be a pretty gynormous bastard without even lifting a single finger or fist, when I want to be manipulative. I’m probably not as good at it as others, but then again, I’ve never really been all that competitive about it. In the end, I’ve done some pretty awful things to a lot of good (or not-so-good) people that have had the misfortune of being in my destructive orbit.
To be honest, it’s hard to write about this shit. I still feel the shame I felt when I fell from grace. That is, when I had to finally face the music and admit to my wife, my parents, my friends (I was actually uninvited from who I thought was my BFF’s wedding. Not gonna lie. That shit still stings.) Yet, I feel somewhat inspired, right now. I guess I just need to get out of my own head for a little while. So, in other words, like so much of my life, I’m winging it, one word at a time.
Looking at my life now versus then, just thinking about how my life imploded in front of my very eyes after a hearty downward spiral with substance abuse is an absolutely surreal experience. As tantalizing as the temptation is, I really don’t feel like telling “War Stories” (Hey, kids! Wanna know how to lose a fairly prestigious temp job faster than you can say “Pokemon Go?!” O.D. on prescription drugs at your desk at the office, in front of all of your co-workers only to be resuscitated by said coworkers!!!).
So, let’s talk about the good stuff? Well, as most of you know, I’m a married man of eight years, now, and a clean and sober addict — also of eight years (and boy, wasn’t that certainly an interesting and busy first year of holy matrimony!)
In most of the 12-stepper meetings I regularly attend, they will ask you, after hitting a milestone such as mine, “how did you do that?” My answer would consist of two words: Not alone.
Now, comes the Oscar Speech I’ll probably never get the chance to give!
My wife, Amanda, is my rock. Pure and simple. Could I have accomplished all that I have – and all that I still continue to work on, on a daily basis – without her? Perhaps? Maybe? I don’t know. That’s a tough call. However, I doubt if I could have ever rooted my feet as firmly to the ground as I did after that first night; because as I was sitting on the couch, alone, hugging myself, sobbing quietly to myself, dumbfounded as to how I could have let such pure, unadulterated chaos consume myself and so many others I loved, Amanda wandered out of the bedroom, planted herself next to her sorry husband, took my hands in hers and told me to come to bed, as opposed to having me sleep on the couch, giving me the slightest measure of hope.
She also gave me a choice: Divorce or rehab.
Within a week, I placed myself in an outpatient recovery program. I can’t speak for everyone, but somehow, it just stuck. All the while, I began to attend various 12-step meetings and encountering people who pretty much told me my own story in their own words.
Life began to change, slowly but surely…and for the better.
I’d like to thank my original knight in shining armor, my first sponsor Dave M. My journey toward this amazing life began with coffee and a blueberry scone. I am eternally indebted to him for glowing as he did, making me want what he had, that Thursday morning, and showing me how to put one foot in front of the other, on the road of recovery.
I’d also like to thank Dan C., my second sponsor, who continued to point me in the right direction, kept me on point, and called me on my bullshit when it was necessary.
I’d also like to take a moment to thank Marty, a fellow drunk. Wherever you are, right now, all I can say is this: you were right. I needed that hug. It was the first of many. More importantly, it was the first one that helped me realize that I was worthy of being touched, loved, even if it was by a total stranger. With all due respect, even kissing my lovely bride at my wedding, didn’t have that kind of power, couldn’t give me that sensation of feeling complete for once in my life. My current friends in recovery have helped to further ingrain that once-unclear notion.
Above all, I thank H.P., or to the uninformed, my Higher Power–sometimes named God, other times going by the handle of M.O.E. (My Only Everything), or yes, even The Force. Without Him/Her/It (My H.P. speaks to me in many different ways), I’d be nothing.
Growth continued…and it continues to grow, every day. As a once-jaded young man, the greatest gift recovery gave me was the ability to be surprised and to surprise myself.
I guess I could ramble on, but there’s not much more to say other than to be that annoying “Old-Timer” that pulls you aside and offers you the advice you didn’t really ask for in the first place:
If you are in the throes of addiction, alcoholism, substance abuse … whatever!! … there is another way of life. If you want to sit and whine and tell yourself that you don’t deserve recovery, then earn it! I can’t tell you what will happen tomorrow. I have no answers to your questions or even my own. I’m just taking things easy. If there’s anything I’ve learned, in the last eight years, it’s that I don’t make up the rules. I just follow them.
One day at a time.
My name is Hal. And I’m an addict.
Check back in tomorrow to read Hal’s review of the new movie Beautiful Boy.