Happy Sunday to all my friends, followers and family. This last week, and really all summer, has been filled with all kinds of family and fun, so you haven't heard much from me. In light of that and September being National Recovery Month, I'm committing to writing once per week!
In my last post Faces of Addiction, Part 2, I shared more of the consequences that I began to experience as a result of drinking and drugging. As you might imagine, it doesn't get better as long as the problem is left untouched. By 2007 and my 21st birthday, I had racked up a couple DUIs, several minor consumption charges, and a few other disorderly conduct type charges.
I don't remember most days after I turned 21, but do remember that I began to wonder more and more what was wrong with me. I had many people asking me about my partying throughout my late teenage years, but I was always able to justify my behavior, at least with myself. At some point after I turned 21, I remember a very specific and deafening conversation with my late cousin Scott. He asked, in the face of what I had lived through in life and experienced with my father's alcoholic death, why I not only drank, but why I drank in the fashion in which I did. I don't remember the answer I gave him, if any, but I didn't have a sufficient answer for myself. The "logic" was no longer there, not even in my own irrational brain.
When I share my story to a group in recovery, I let them all know that I hope and pray they all make it to that point of not having any more "logic." You see, when my cousin asked me that and deep down my only answer was "I don't know," I was simultaneously experiencing the worst and best points in my addiction. There is no worse feeling I've experienced than that of the hopelessness that comes with not having any control over or knowledge of why I behaved the way I did. At the same time, that's the very first time in my life that I didn't pretend to have an answer. And I believe it's only at or past that point that recovery is possible. Now, that doesn't equal recovery. I managed to continue killing myself for several more years. But, again, there was a chance for a real solution, I just didn't know how to find it.
By the spring of 2008, I had found a job working at a machine shop. As I have mentioned, work was never a huge part of my life. When it, or the paychecks, did show up, it didn't take long for any bit of positive momentum to disappear. I ended up turning back to the one thing that killed me more than any other - methamphetamine. I would work most of the week, then party very hard for a few days. One of those weekends in the spring of 2008 had me extremely intoxicated by Friday morning and a lost cause by Saturday morning. All I can remember is beginning the day with a few Bloody Mary drinks and a handful of prescription opiates. That day ended with me locked up with a felony drug charge, as I had passed out sometime Saturday afternoon on a couch in the lobby of the Eagles club in Owatonna, during the biggest pool tournament of the year.
I can't emphasize enough how embarrassing, shameful, and terrible it feels to wake up in jail, looking like I do below, knowing I was the spectacle of the weekend, again. I had been drawn on and laughed at for hours while passed out. I had several small bags of cocaine in my pocket, and when the police arrived to check me out, they found them all. I read my intake papers to tell most of the story of the weekend, a normal occurrence for an addict. I was convinced, with the help of my cellmate, that I was headed to prison for several years. I was so full of terror, and when I was let out that Monday afternoon, the walk of shame back to town from the detention center was the worst experience I had ever had.
On that walk, I had a long conversation with myself. I had no idea if I'd end up in prison, but I knew the only thing I had control over was never touching alcohol or drugs again. It was my final bout with chemicals, that was for sure. I found some change, called my roommate, and made my way home to hide from the world. There was only one problem, I was still dealing with the most baffling condition on the planet - addiction - and it was untreated. Less than eight hours after making that promise, I landed in the same bars while doing the same drugs and drinking the same alcohol, with the very same people.
I'm going to tell you all something I hope you never forget, regardless of whether it's you or someone else dealing with addiction. There are many times in active addiction that we who are afflicted make promises to you that we're done. Some of those are just attempts to get you off our backs. Some of those are sincere promises that we only wished we could keep. But there's another kind of promise you never hear. As I walked back to town that day, I didn't have you by my side. I didn't have the judge. I didn't have the cops. I had me. All I wanted at that point was to stop the destruction, not create more of it. I wasn't lying to me. I was telling the truth. I was promising to myself. But still, I had no solution to partner with the resolve...
I tell you all of that to tell you this. Please, please, please...stop yourself from being one of the belittling, condescending, ignorant humans that destroys recovery. I understand tough love and know that it's many times needed, but shaming and bashing someone in the worst of their times doesn't do any good. I promise. I was shamed, talked about, badmouthed, laughed at and written off for the incident that changed my life forever. And it could have killed me. I'm one of the lucky ones, because it does kill people. Guilt, shame and remorse stop people from ever reaching out or opening up. We who struggle with drugs and alcohol find and create enough of those feelings on our own, and adding to it externally literally kills hope for recovery. Instead, educate yourselves and find out how you can help.
The felony drug charge didn't go away, neither did the addiction. The next two and a half years might have brought more misery than the previous 21 and a half years combined. Over the next few weeks, you'll hear all about it. Until then, do some research, reach out, or ask others about the disease of addiction and how it can be treated. And always remember, this disease does not discriminate. I would NEVER wish it on anyone, but I can tell you that some of those same people who belittled and looked down on me now struggle with the same disease. Be kind and lend a helping hand. So many of those you read and hear about wake up every day wishing to defeat addiction again. Worse yet, so many wake up wishing they hadn't woken up at all because it's too damn hard to look the world full of ignorant judgment in the eye. Your understanding can change it all.
Go tell someone battling addiction, or someone already clean and sober, how courageous they are to be in that world!
Until next time, people.