I am writing this to you.
I write this to the mothers and fathers. I write this to the wife or husband and I write this to the girlfriend or boyfriend. This is for the friend or family member to settle the questions you may have. And how ever many questions you may have and as large as the questions may seem; it all comes down to one word: “Why.”
I do not say my story is like every other—however; I write this to you as an explanation from my world with hopes to answer that one unanswerable question.
My Mother used to ask, “Where did I go wrong with you?”
She would ask, “What did I do to deserve this?”
The Old Man would argue, “How could you do this to yourself, kid?”
He argued, “How could you have so much and throw it all away?”
But when they asked, they asked with an overall sound of guilt or responsibility for my actions.
They too asked the same unanswerable question.
I hid in the basement of a storefront on Merrick Avenue at the corner of Front Street. My nose had been bleeding throughout the night. The blood would unexpectedly roll down from my nostril, spill through the divot in the middle of my upper lip, and then over my mouth and onto the floor.
It was passed midnight and the mix of rain and snow had been falling heavy for several hours. I was crouched down and hidden behind a series of wooden crates and cardboard boxes, which belonged to the sports bar on the floor above.
The boxes were filled with empty bottles. The basement was dark and cold and the cement floor was covered with a thin layer of brown dirt. My only source of light was the glowing orange at the end of my cigarette. Then there was the flash from my cigarette lighter, and of course, the candle which I used to cook up small batches of based cocaine.
The shadow from the candle flickered, causing my paranoia to spin into overdrive. I believed I saw shapes in the shadows. I believed, “Someone is coming,” because after hours with the cocaine demons, someone is always coming.
I had in my possession, one glass pipe, and a small bottle of water. I had a bent spoon to cook the ingredients. I had a small amount of baking soda, a bag of cocaine, plus one extra packet of white powder, and the candle to cook with.
On occasion, I watched the shadows of what seemed like enormous rats scurry by. I could hear them screeching too. I could hear the sound of laughter coming from the sports bar on the floor above me. I could hear the sound of music muffled through the wooden floorboards–and I could hear the sound of my heart beating inside of my chest. I could hear my own breathing and the imaginary, paranoid whispers that screamed into my ears.
This was the first time I thought I was going to die of an overdose. My left arm tingled with pins and needles, and my breathing shook in a frightening way. I could not see properly. I could not breathe right and I could not stop the rush of adrenaline that flooded my bloodstream. All I could do was cook up another batch, smoke it, and hope to feel better.
When the cocaine was through and the demons finished their trip through my veins like angry soldiers complacent with their own suicide—I turned from one extreme to another. I went from a speed-like numbness to a warmer, cocoon-like sense of weightlessness, which is also known as Heroin.
Once the new powder switched places in my system, I swiveled downward and at last—I felt nothing. I lost my concern about the owners of the bar on the floor above me. I forgot about the paranoid whispers and intense jaw-grinding that came along with the cocaine buzz.
As bizarre as it sounds; this is what I intended to do . . .
But I never knew it would get like this.
I never expected for it to be that bad. At my worst; I weighed somewhere near 80 lbs. My skin looked sickly and almost green. My eyes were sunken above dark rings at the top of my cheek bones and I often had white burn marks on my lips from smoking a glass pipe.
I euthanized myself on a daily basis. And by euthanized—I mean I performed a partial suicide in small but unmanageable doses. Each day, it seemed as though I had to do more. True, I wanted to accomplish the same thing, but the price of admission seemed to always rise higher. I was dying, yes, but only because I had no idea how to live.
In fact, I felt most alive while closest to death. And this—this too is something people seldom understand.
But let me try to explain . . .
I was an awkward kid looking to feel normal. I often rehearsed things I would say in the mirror so that I could seem cool when I said them in public. But that never worked.
I felt uncomfortable and insecure. I was too small, too thin and too weak to defend myself. I was never very good at the insult games, or the “Momma jokes,” that went around.
I was neither good looking nor ugly—I saw myself as the unnoticed in between. I struggled in class. I struggled with the subjects and I went through years of schooling with an undiagnosed learning disability.
No one asks to have special needs. No one wants to be stupid or laughed at. And the same as no one asks to be picked last or made fun of, no kid wants to be unnoticed or painfully average. That’s how I felt. And that’s why I did what I did.
I found that I no longer had to excuse my behavior when it came to drinking.
I could say, “I was drunk,” and that was somehow an acceptable answer.
If I said the wrong thing or my behavior was off—I could blame it on drinking.
“I was drunk.” And that excused everything.
I found that I did not have to explain my nervousness when weed was added to the mix.
I could say, “I was high,” and that would be a perfect excuse.
But while I was high, I loosened my grip and for the moment, I felt a sense of redemption. I felt the smiles and the laughter. True, the laughter was drug induced—but smiling and understanding what laughter felt like was better than sinking into my awkwardness and feeling too frightened to laugh on my own.
I saw drugs and alcohol as the perfect way to temporarily distance myself. I could not control my surroundings or what people thought of me—but I could control my version of reality by suspending it in the bottom of a glass, or a pipe, which was perfect so long as I didn’t cause too much trouble.
But trouble is the price of admission when it comes to matters like this.
Addiction or alcoholism is a trade—at least, mine was.
I traded my doubts for brief moments of easiness. I traded insecurity for false bravado, as well as anger and depression for happiness in a bottle. I exchanged my symptoms for euphoria, and though these answers seemed brilliant in the beginning, the price of admission would continue to rise.
I stole to feed my addiction. I lied and I cheated. I sold family jewelry and heirlooms. I robbed from friends and burglarized homes. I lost friendships and burned bridges.
And it’s not that I didn’t feel bad about it, because I did feel bad (sometimes).
But I had to survive, and by survive; I mean pay the ever-rising price of admission.
I viewed my drug use as a way to stop the world from spinning. Only, when I fell back to reality, the world continued to spin, and I felt as though I fell further behind. So in order to catch up . . . I had to do more.
The last time I was ever in a car with my Mother and Father at the same moment was on my way to a drug treatment facility. Neither of them understood what happened to me. Even if they could have understood, I lacked the ability to explain.
Twenty five Thanksgiving dinners have passed since I spent the holiday with The Old Man. He passed away without understanding. He passed away without learning an answer to the same question.
Over the years, I have learned there are two sides of addiction, alcoholism and depression. These three diseases affect more than just the infected, which is only one side. They infect families and loved ones. That’s the other side. The diseases affect the innocent bystanders—such as those killed by drunk drivers or stray bullets intended for somebody else.
Which is why I am writing this for you . . . the other side.
I am fortunate to have survived. I still live with the memories. I still have urges and thoughts. Perhaps they will always be with me.
Someone called me brave the other day. I don’t say that I’m brave—I say that I had to learn how to live life on a daily basis. I do not suggest this was an easy transition and I firmly believe sobriety at its best is still as fragile as sobriety at its worst. I made a decision to replace my thoughts with better actions.
There are those, however, that were less fortunate than me. Some died by the drug or bottle and some by their own hand. In either case—they leave behind the unanswerable question to those that loved them most.
Somewhere is a wife that wonders where she went wrong. Somewhere there is a girl that misses the love of her life. Right now, there is a mother and father that weep over the loss of their child, and all they want to know is why?
I cannot speak for anyone –
But if I had to guess, I would expect those that passed would say something like this:
“I never meant to hurt you but I was in too much pain and this was the only way I knew how to stop it.”
I’m sure they would explain, “Sometimes the world spins too fast, and I just needed to stop it for a minute. But it wouldn’t.”
They would say, “Don’t blame yourself,” before telling you, “It was not your fault.”
And last, they would say, “But I’m okay now. So don’t worry about me.”
They would tell you, “I’m not sick anymore,” and that above all is why they died.
They died because of their sickness.
I know this is what they would say.
Because I wrote suicide notes too.
In my heart, I know this is fact. But sadness is sadness and mourning the loss of a loved one is a lengthy process. I can explain, and this may solve the intellectual question. But sadly, intellect and emotion seldom connect.
But you . . .
You that make up the other half. You say I am strong for surviving.
You say I’m brave for staying sober.
But I say you are stronger because of what you withstood.
I say you are braver because your love never stopped, which proves one thing; in the darkest hour, you were the brightest light in someone’s life.