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March 20, 2019

Closing open loops from my past to combat my addiction.

In the past, I’ve been annoyed when others used clichés to console me during deep emotional seasons when seeking (what I deem as) meaningful guidance. This used to be a complaint I voiced about AA and NA groups. For instance, I recall sobbing to a fellow addict about the fear of relapse, to which he replied “Keep coming back!” Huh? That’s not exactly the profound gem of wisdom I was expecting.

In the moment I decided that my fellow addict either had no idea what to say or didn’t care in general. As I’ve matured in my sobriety, I realize the implications of that phrase so it doesn’t seem so marginalized now.

Another cliché that has illuminated my journey lately is “closing the loop”. This is a phrase I heard at nauseam while working in the corporate world referring to finalizing a task, or assessing a project. I’ve come to realize the transformational growth that can result from closing a personal loop in my life, whether it be the act of amending wrongs I’ve committed or getting closure on unanswered questions. Let me add color by describing a recent closed loop:

It was a Friday night in uptown Charlotte, North Carolina. Flashing neon and blaring music battled for center stage as the city streets flooded with roaring crowds. This level of stimulation could be overwhelming to anyone, so how much more was it to me, high on Meth and having been awake for nine days? Every beat of bass startled me to my core, strangers repeatedly ran into me shoulder to shoulder and I could hear my name being peppered in the conversations of passers-by all the way across the street. Sleep deprivation brought on a thick fog that blurred my environment until I was briefly convinced I was trapped inside an arcade game. Fright overwhelmed me.

I had just been forcibly pushed out of the back seat of a car in the midst of this chaos. I don’t recall now why my “friends” were upset with me, but I can remember flashes of them both turned around in their seats screaming from the front and I yelling back, grasping my travel bag containing the only possessions I had to my name. They drove off and I sat cross-legged on the pavement for what seemed like hours as the raging flood of strangers changed course to avoid me; no one stopped.

What now?

Where am I again? Looking up at the bright-colored lights atop the Duke Energy sky scraper, I thought “Oh, there’s the star on Mill Mountain. I’m in Roanoke.”

I was still in Charlotte. I had spent a considerable amount of time in Roanoke, Virginia over the prior few months.

The next three hours are still a blur. I can only recall flashes of images from that night. I walked aimlessly down the streets, looking for a safe haven. Paranoia made me believe that people were following me and plotting against me, so I had to find a spot that was hidden away where I could gather myself to get on my phone and figure out where I was going to go. One way or another I found a crescent-shaped bench where I felt safe enough to stop and devise a plan. Setting my bag down, I took out my phone and it had died.

There is not a word to describe the level of helplessness and panic that is felt by a meth addict with a dead phone.

I rummaged violently through my bag looking for the charger. I ended up turning the bag over and dumping everything out on the pavement. The charger had been left in the car. Within the fog of my mind I walked away from my pile of belongings, which contained my clothes, laptop, toiletries, etc. I went looking for a charger. I wandered the streets in the August humidity of the night for hours. I couldn’t find a charger and now I couldn’t find my way back to the crescent-shaped bench.

I was crashing.

The streets had practically emptied now as I stumbled through alleyways trying to piece together the layout of downtown Roanoke. I was looking for the “Circle in the Square” area because from there I could get my bearings. In reality, I was still in Charlotte. My shirt was soaked through and adhered to my skin, pants were literally dripping with sweat. My muscles were beginning to be overcome with fatigue. I remember standing in a parking lot frantically looking around, now sobbing, confused and never so hopeless.

Across the lot I could see the headlights of a police car. Somewhere in the corridors of my mind I reasoned that it was time to give up. I ended up turning myself in to that officer as I had a warrant for my arrest. That was the last day I used Meth.

After getting out of jail and working my way back into the resemblance of life, I would intermittently search for that bench. There were days when I had free time and would walk or eventually drive around trying to find that bench so I could achieve a sense of closure. I needed proof that something from that night was real; affirmation that I wasn’t totally crazy. There had to be a familiar crescent-shaped bench somewhere in uptown Charlotte.

Then last week, almost six months later, I parked to go into the salon where I used to get my hair cut as a sober man. Making that appointment felt like such a gratifying accomplishment and milestone of my recovery. On my way in I passed it. The bench. It was nestled in a hidden area positioned behind a fence and tree. I’ll bet I had chosen that area to hide from the crowds. I stood there staring at that bench, tears rolling as I recalled the desperation and fear of that night. I could see myself sitting there, scared and desperately searching for a phone charger. I sat on the bench, taking a deep breath of reflection and slowly recounted all I had faced and overcome over the previous six months. Through misty eyes I smiled as I looked up and saw the Duke Energy skyscraper. I knew where I was and where I was going.

The man who sat there six months ago had died and a higher version replaced him on that bench. And at exactly the right moment. The loop closed, and a new one began.

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