"It was a Monday night, almost midnight, and I was alone. So high from sniffing my body spray that eyes were barely open. I was sleepy, and had a headache from the fumes…when the tears began to roll. There would be no intervention for me, because no one knew. I had hid my addiction beneath my degrees, beneath my executive career, beneath my smile, and the chronic depression which warranted my being alone and groggy looking all the time. I had hid it in the pages of my poetry where my clandestine confessions blended in with the meter and rhyme of the verse. I was an addict just like the ones on television. Shrouded in shame but with no recollection of my life before huffing, I had done it my whole life and hid it my whole life too.
I had been successful at destroying myself without anyone noticing. No scars on my arms. No catalog of suitors waiting to publish accounts of my sexual prowess. No empty alcohol bottles beneath my bed. No inconspicuous weight problem. To the naked eye there was nothing. Only I knew the truth of what had been eating me for so long.
I had carried the pain of losing my mother for my whole life and had secretly blamed myself for what happened. I felt like I wasn’t there for her when she died. I felt like I never told her how much I loved her. At ten, I couldn’t deal with watching my mother wither away in front of me. Her body frail, dark, and bald because of the chemo. Her attitude short and volatile, because of the steroids. My family broken and compromised upon losing its matriarch. So, I retreated, and by the time I came to, she was in a hospital dying. As much as I wanted to be there for her, I couldn’t. I was too young and just didn’t understand what was happening. For all the years that followed her death, I made it my mission to absolve myself of this sin by punishing myself daily for what I hadn’t done for her. I didn’t think I deserved to be happy. I couldn’t hurt myself enough. The huffing became my purging process. Gently ushering me into a cloudy haze of indifference. I didn’t want to care. I just wanted to be sleepy. Numb.
-Taken from "emptyS P A C E: Where is my Stuff."
I didn’t plan on writing about this today. I almost wish I wasn’t so overcome with the need to write this today. But I guess all those prayers I sent up to say what needs to be said are being answered. So here it goes, I was an addict for about 15 years of my life. I’ve been completely clean for about 8 months. *does the cabbage patch* Go ME!!!!
The story above is taken from the Destruction and Creation chapter of my book. It’s about the moment I realized I was an addict. It was one of the most cathartic moments of my life and I wanted to share it with you today, because I felt like somebody out there needed to hear it…see it…feel it. You see, here is the crazy thing about being an addict. At the root of any addiction is the desire to disconnect from either the self or the world. It’s a wanting to be a part from. To ingest a substance, or participate in an activity that separates you from everything else. The irony is most of us already feel so separate from the world and from ourselves, for that matter, that we don’t understand that our desire to disconnect really comes from a need to connect. In our minds we think, no one cares about me anyway. No one understands me. No one even knows me, and if they did…they definitely wouldn’t love and accept me. Sound familiar???
We then use this false reality to as fuel for our self-destruction train.
Some people do it with food. They sit in dark room with only their pain and regret for company, they force the food in until no more tears can come out. Others with alcohol…constantly drinking and drinking until they are unable to remember the pain that monopolizes their mind and keeps them from sleeping at night. Some use sex to destroy themselves. They figure that sooner or later they will sleep with enough people to BE as worthless as they feel. Still others become martyrs. Sacrificing themselves for other people. Purposely allowing themselves to fade into the background. The way we destroy ourselves isn’t really the issue. The why is much more important.
I did it because I had a gaping hole in my life after my mother died that no one could feel. I was too young and understand the immense pain I was in. So I decided that feeling nothing would be better. Over the years, it became my coping mechanism. Huffing was how I dealt with any type of emotional dis.ease. It was also my secret. Something that no one could take from me. It would never leave me, like my mom did. I didn’t see my behavior as destructive. Even when I began to notice my slurred speech, memory loss, anxiety, and constant fatigue (all side effects of huffing). I ignored that too. It wasn’t until I saw that show that I realized what I was doing to myself. I can remember thinking about how lucky those people on the show were because at least the people around them knew they were addicts. At least someone was coming for them. But that wasn’t the case for me; NO ONE was coming because NO ONE knew. I had worked my whole life to make sure that no one would know. It was completely feasible that I could kill myself in my room one day…and the world would have to put the pieces together from the tear stained pages of my journal.
So here’s the inconvenient truth. Since most of us work just as hard at destroying ourselves as we do at trying to hide it, there may be no Intervention for you. Your family and friends may not rush into your room and pry the razor from your hand. You partner may not think to pour all the alcohol in the house down the drain one day. Your siblings may not see your messy house and disheveled hair as a cry for help. It’s not that no one cares, its just that life is happening to all of us at the same time. And we are all equally ill equipped to deal with it. If you need help, reach out. Someone is waiting to listen.
The second inconvenient truth is that more often than not our self- destructive behavior is a result of unresolved pain. And honestly, there are no quick fixes when it comes to healing pain. The only way to truly heal is to experience it, fully. Cry. Scream. Hit something. Curse. Do what you have to do to get the emotion out of you and then do the work you need to do to mentally and emotionally recover. The people who are telling you to be strong are wrong. You don’t have to be strong. You can feel what you are feeling. You are not wrong for being in pain. When someone dies, it hurts. When a relationship ends, it hurts. When bad things happen, they suck. It’s okay to be sad and to be angry. It also okay to give yourself permission to grieve and mourn. The reality is if you don’t allow yourself to experience the emotions they will manifest themselves in another way. Usually in a way that is destructive. Our bodies and spirits all exist in perfect balance. Because all anger is rooted in pain, the fact that you’re angry enough with yourself to do something to hurt yourself only means that you’re hurting. So deal with your pain, in a real way. Don’t be afraid of it. Pain can’t hurt you. It can’t destroy you. Only you can destroy you.
I know that learning to love accept and forgive the self is a life long journey for most people. It’s no easy task. But I know from experience that suffering alone is harder.
In Buddhist meditation class, we were instructed to dedicate our meditations to someone else. Mondrub told us to do this because for many people its easier to unconditionally love and accept others than it is do the same thing for ourselves.
Think about it.
Would you put a cigarette in your baby’s mouth? Would you pour a bottle of vodka down your grandmother’s throat? Would you cut tiny slits into the arms of your favorite nieces and nephews? Would you force your best friend to inhale harmful fumes until they were drowsy? Would you strap your partner to a bed and allow countless people to enter their body? We are all connected and what you do yourself you do to them. You don’t know how many times I’ve wished my mother had of thought about me before picking up another cigarette. I know she thought her smoking was just a release. Her way of numbing whatever stress she had in her life. I know she didn’t know it would end this way. I know if she did, she would have stopped. When you know better, you do better.
In our meetings, we promise that just for today will not use. Just for today we will make the healthy choice. I have been able to get through by dedicating each of my days to something or someone special in my life. These past 8 months, I have dedicated my sobriety to so many people; my best friend, my half-wife, my cousin and aunt who raised me once my mom had passed away. It helps to see yourself as part of whole when you have once felt so alone.
So here’s an exercise you can do the next time you feel the urge to destroy yourself. Close your eyes and imagine someone who you have nothing but pure love for. Someone who you only want the best for. You can use a lover or a child, maybe even a friend. When I did mine, I dedicated my meditation to my very best friend. Imagine you and your loved together. Enjoying each other, laughing and having fun. Imagine that person smiling. How does that make you feel? To see them smiling. Good right? I bet it makes you smile. Now, take this same image of this smiling loved one, and imagine yourself doing to them what you are about to do yourself….
Now that feeling. The one you are feeling right now. That sick, eerie feeling that is coming over you as you think of hurting your loved one. That is the feeling of connection you were longing for in the first place. That is how you know you are not alone in this world. You love them, you could never do THAT to THEM.
Where there is love, there is an opportunity to heal. And you have just discovered your reason in this moment.
Today, I am dedicating my sobriety to your healing. I pray that you don’t let your desire to disconnect from the world be the reason another 11 year old girl becomes an addict….