“Show me a sane man and I will cure him for you.” ~ Carl Jung
I’m a recovering addict. I’ve abused basically all drugs under the sun but my preferred drug of choice has always been alcohol, which has led me to do some horrific things in my life. Possibly the scariest of which is that I’ll never know all of those horrible things because I was a blackout drinker, but maybe it’s better that way.
Throughout my many years of active addiction, I’ve woken up time and again in emergency rooms, jail cells, people’s floors and beds often with little to no recollection of how I got there. Part of the insanity of addiction or my experience with it at least, is that these things were attractive to me. I was not only engulfed in addiction, but also severely depressed and in a very strange way, the more fucked up the situation I got myself into, or, the closer to death my actions brought me, the more alive I felt. In retrospect, those experiences, sadly, were the only time I felt any semblance of life coursing through my veins.
Today, I’m blessed to live a recovering sober life, but that doesn’t mean I am free from the disease of addiction. The most common misconception about addicts/alcoholics is that their problem is with the drugs and alcohol themselves, but that’s grossly incorrect. The addict/alcoholics problem lies within the mind. The disease of addiction is mental—it is an obsessive and compulsive thought disorder with drugs and alcohol merely being symptoms.
In both Narcotics & Alcoholics Anonymous, the disease of addiction is often referred to as cunning, baffling and powerful, and for someone who has lived through it, even that is an understatement. I had an experience with the baffling aspect last night as I laid in bed going to sleep. Actually, I deal with these baffling thought processes quite often. I find baffling to be an accurately descriptive word because the thoughts and memories I often experience regarding when I was active in my addiction, are nothing short of just that, baffling.
You see, a part of me is still attracted to the memories of those experiences, those dark times. It’s fucked up, but a part of me still feels connected in a way of excitement to going through withdrawals while hovering over a toilet bowl or leaving the emergency room only to go straight to the package store and pick up where I left off the night before, which happened on more than one occasion.
Going back to the memory I had last night as I went to sleep, however. It started with the last time I woke up in a jail cell, again, not knowing how I’d gotten there. I was broken. I’d been broken in life before but this was different. This was despair, depression, emptiness, self-loathing, all of it completely personified. I’d given up. I no longer cared what happened to me.
That morning, I was released on a PTA (promise to appear) for court as I’d been arrested for a DUI. I was stuck 40 minutes away from home as my car had been impounded the night before, and the only way I could get a ride anywhere was to agree with my mother that if she picked me up, I’d go to detox. So I agreed but truth be told, I really only did so because I had no money, and was feeling the onset of withdrawals kicking. Plus, from previous trips to detox, I knew that I’d get benzos (a narcotic sedative) that would at least knock me out so I could avoid the worst of the withdrawals.
I did my seven days in detox and was miserable. I missed my brother’s wedding while there, the wedding I was supposed to be his best man at (luckily, I’m blessed with an amazingly supportive and compassionate brother who understood). I’d been to that detox before, a number of times actually, but this time, this time it was different. I’d never experienced this sense of complete hopelessness. Like I said, I’d been to this detox before, having gone through worse withdrawals, but during those times there was still some glimmer of hope. It was often deep down inside, but I held on to it for dear life, and it got me through. This time however, the light had gone out.
My detox clinician found an inpatient treatment center in New Jersey, roughly three hours from Connecticut where I was residing, as she felt it was a good idea for me to get away from my surroundings for a while. The only problem was there was a three-day window between me leaving detox and a bed being available for me in their program, thus leaving me with nowhere to go for the interim, well almost nowhere.
During this time, I’d been staying with my parents after my ex-fiancé and I split up. My parents were all too familiar with my history of drinking and knew that if they let me back into their home for those three days, I’d end up drinking and make a complete mess of things. So the only two other options I could think of were either staying at a homeless shelter, or a woman’s apartment I’d spent some scattered drunken time at over the previous couple of months.
Now, remember earlier when I said I’ve done some horrific things in my life as a result of drinking, well this right here, this is definitely one of them. The aforementioned woman is a kind soul. We’d actually had a lot of deep talks about spirituality, quantum physics and things of that nature. Unfortunately, I was at least mildly inebriated for all of them, which she was unaware of, and she didn’t come to know the full extent of my alcoholism until probably a week or so into us seeing one another, when I drank myself into a blackout at her apartment.
I quickly saw that she was lonely and vulnerable, and my addictive and manipulative nature preyed on that. Even when she saw me for what I was, which was a complete train wreck who still somehow had a kind heart deep down, she didn’t completely write me off, and that’s exactly what I needed. She was very begrudgingly willing to deal with me, and my alcoholism, again, due to what I think was a sense of loneliness in her own life. It was the perfect storm. It did however run its course sooner than later as she was looking for something more and I just wanted a place to drink and lay my head. Yes, I was a complete fucking scumbag.
So it was roughly a month after my time with her ended that I found myself in this detox unit. I called her two days prior to being discharged and laid on the guilt that I had nowhere to go except a homeless shelter and how I’d really appreciate it if she’d let me stay with her. I really didn’t want to stay at a shelter, but I also knew that if I went to stay with her, it would be under the pretense of having sex eventually at some point. It’s not that she was unattractive or I thought I was too good for her, because God knows, at that point I was fully aware of the extent of my shit existence, and the complete mess I’d made of my life, but I just that I didn’t like her in that way. Again though, in my mind, it was better than a shelter and she begrudgingly agreed.
She picked me up from detox on a Sunday and I immediately asked her into stopping at a local pharmacy so I could pick up some necessities like a toothbrush, deodorant etc, but what I really wanted was to buy a couple of large bottles of brown mouthwash. You see, in Connecticut, when this was all happening, it was illegal to buy alcohol on Sundays (the law has since changed) so the next best thing for me was mouthwash. Yes, that’s completely fucking disgusting but it gets you drunk and that’s the level I’d reached in my life.
We got back to her apartment and I immediately found my way into the bathroom and began drinking, which would be the story of the next three days. It’s mostly all a blur. I remember convincing her to take me to a package store Monday morning where I bought enough alcohol to last a week, even though I only had two more days before leaving for treatment. In the back of my mind, I had a last minute plan to drink myself to death, though obviously, that didn’t happen. I really only remember little pockets of time while I was at her apartment. They were mostly when I’d wake up after passing out, which allowed my body time to sober up a little and are basically that of throwing up, having sex and trying to eat, but not really being able to stomach anything. On Wednesday, the third day, she dropped me off at the bus station in Hartford and I left for treatment.
I vaguely remember getting on the bus. Isis was playing on my iPod and I had two large Poland Springs bottles filled with vodka. That’s pretty much my last memory until I was picked up by a clinician assistant from the treatment facility at the bus station in NJ. I was told the next morning by one of the program heads that a cop had stopped the clinician assistant who was helping me stumble my way to the car. I was so fucked up that I could barely walk and the cop thought I’d possibly been drugged or was maybe being kidnapped. I was also informed that morning that I’d completely pissed myself when I arrived at the treatment center and was given a change of clothes. Addiction is glamorous, isn’t it?
The first few weeks of treatment was very tough. They put me back onto a benzo taper because I’d had a seizure in the past from drinking and they feared I may have another one from the amount I’d drank in just those three days after leaving detox. As the weeks passed however, I began to find a semblance of hope again. The light I thought had gone out actually hadn’t, it was just that there was so much darkness inside, more than I’d ever experienced before, that it made the light all but impossible to see.
About a month into treatment, I had a horrific realization. It was during one of our men’s groups while I was sharing the aforementioned story about staying with the woman for those three days, when all of the sudden, I realized I’d literally prostituted myself. Sure, I may not have sold myself for money, but I did sell myself for a roof over my head as well as a place to drink, and pass out. I knew walking in there, I’d be having sex, sex I didn’t want to have, not that it would be physically forced on me, but more of an unspoken agreement.
Over the next month in treatment, and still to this day, I work on accepting, and making peace with this realization. It’s a fucking tough pill to swallow though, knowing that my addiction brought me to such a low place in my life. I have not been able to bring myself to talk with the woman since the incident. It’s not that I hold any bad feelings towards her, but rather quite the opposite actually. I’m so ashamed of my actions, and the fact that I could do such a thing, that I just wouldn’t begin to know where to start. I actually did see her last year sitting across the room at a Kirtan we both attended, and my heart immediately sank while feelings of nausea quickly arose. I did my best to stay hidden and was able to leave without making any contact, though part of me wishes I did.
So today, occasionally memories of dark times such as these come to mind and the sick part of my disease is attracted by their chaotic nature. It makes me feel ashamed and completely fucked up, but I do my best to remember they are just residual thoughts and feelings, they are part of the disease of addiction that I live with on a daily basis. They also afford me the opportunity to cultivate compassion for myself, and all others who struggle with addiction, and any form of pain in general for that matter.
I do my best daily to rest in gratitude knowing that while I’ll be an addict for the rest of my life, I no longer have to live the scumbag ways I used too. I somehow managed to live through that experience, which is not the case for so many others and I have gratitude for life today. I think about all the pain that I not only caused my loved ones, but the collective pain experienced by all loved ones who are affected by addictions of any kind.
It’s almost overwhelming at times when I sit presently with it, but it is also a catalyst which inspires me to be a better person and help others in gratitude wherever I can. It’s the inspiration that gives me the courage to become vulnerable and write an article like this, baring the darkest parts of my life in the hope that by doing so, and showing that through all of it, I’m still here, that others can make a change for the better too.
I’m living a different way of life today, a life that isn’t perfect and always filled with happiness, but a life that is filled with a deeper sense of calm, serenity and connectedness to a Universal love that is far beyond what my limited vocabulary can describe.
So with all this being said… Fuck skeletons. Fuck closets. I am right here, the good, the bad, the ugly and the beautiful, all of it, and it is exactly as it is.
Editor: Kate Bartolotta