It was argued to me the other night that I was too young to claim that I know what it was like to have a tough time and I was too young and too inexperienced to understand what comes with real addiction. Maybe I didn’t lose enough or as much or lose the same way others did.
I agree. I was young. I agree I was just a kid. I was infected by crazy thoughts. I was infected by my insecurities and infected by an emotional pain. And no, I was never homeless. Never had to sleep on the street but there were times when I was on them and slept in vacant lots and in the seats of stolen cars and one time, I slept beneath a bridge the crossed above the Meadowbrook Parkway.
No, I never found myself on the methadone line and my withdrawal was certainly easier than some I have seen.
In my case, it was less about the withdrawal and more about the avoidance of pain. In my case, the reason why it was hard to become clean is because I had nothing to distract me from the way life is. I had nothing to use as an excuse as to why I behaved irrationally. I had nothing to cancel the ideas in my head or settle the crazy anticipation.
It was not easy for me to clean up young. I certainly had enough reasons why I could have and should have slipped backwards. It was not easy to clean up young because most social settings are based around drinking or interacting at bars. In fact, these things are still a factor. the only difference is me
Truth of the matter is most people use at least one form of mind altering substances. And why wouldn’t they?
Keep in mind, nothing is addicting because it feels bad. And drugs or drinking create a great diversion. They act like the perfect mute button when the world gets too loud.
In my experience, I think one of the most intimidating aspects of cleaning up is what do I do without that magic mute button? How am I supposed to explain myself or my thoughts or feelings if I don’t have to something to use as the scapegoat.
It was easy for me to blame my life away. It was easy for me to say, “I’m sick,” or cancel my responsibilities by saying, “I’m just fucked up,” and accepting the dirt and lies I fed myself. At my worst, I believed that since life was a cycle, since I believed what goes around comes around; I believed it was my place at the bottom or underbelly of that cycle. I thought this is where I was supposed to be suffering and sick, angry and aggressive. And at my worst, since what goes around comes around, if I did something bad to you it was just the cycle coming around to pay you back.
I agree. I cleaned up young. I get that I didn’t have to suffer as long as others; however, I still suffered. More accurately, I endured.
I endured my depression. I endured my memories and the original sins and reasons of why I used and why I chose a certain lifestyle. I endured the pains I felt. I endured my secrets. I also endured the unforgivable things that were done to me as a little boy.
I endured the facts of certain learning disabilities that went unaddressed. I endured my social anxieties. I endured panic attacks, suicide, and I endured my daily discomforts. I also endured the loneliness that comes with the feelings of being terminally unique.
Sure, I wanted to get high. I wanted to scream as loud as I could. I wanted to break things. At times, I wanted to be murderous and monstrous.
I chose to be who I was because it mirrored the way I felt about myself. This is why I was angry or aggressive. At least if I were drunk or high, I could minimize this —or better yet, I could euthanize my thoughts and quiet insecurities by melting them away with the heat of a flame while touched to a glass pipe.
Sure, I used at a young age. I used for the same reasons that people use at any age. It was very hard to clean up young because I had to endure the growing pains that come with life. I had to endure the losses that come with life. And again, I did not suffer, —I endured.
I thought about the person arguing about my spot and claiming that I had no business to be in my position. I admit that I was originally offended but then I thought about this.
I thought about how the person smiled when talking about the things they did, which they supposedly regret.
I thought about what the word regret means and what it means to feel regretful. At no point do I associate a smile with regret.
I realized this opinion had nothing to do with me. This was just someone looking to cancel out what I say because so long as there is a reason to cancel me, there is no reason for this person to listen.
I see this commonly among people that are faced with changes they do not want to make. I see this as a way to excuse one’s self. And I see it this way because I find this to be a common theme within me too.
Sometimes it is easier to believe the lies instead of accept or deal with the truth. And we push it off. We postpone the inevitable. Eventually though, the inevitable catches up.
I do not envy the newcomer. I cannot say that if I were to fall apart or if I were to ever dabble again that I would come back —or make it back.
In my early sobriety, I met a man with 30 years of clean time. He suffered a tragic loss and then as an act of desperation, this man went back to his old habit.
He never cleaned up after this. And it was hard to see him. It was hard to see his shame. It was hard to see him judge himself so harshly because although he cried out in pain and went off in a different direction; I never saw him as less of a friend.
Almost two decades later, I still remember a poem he told me:
A bell does not ring
until you ring it
And a song is not sun
until you sing it
And love in your heart
was not put there to stay
because love is not love
Until you give it away . . .
I I have endured the years and felt the pain. I have made mistakes. I have my share of sins. I have my own mental illness. And above all, wherever I am, one thing is for sure, I have definitely earned my place at the table. And no one can take this from me . . . unless I let them