This one is a tough one, but let's talk about it. Let's just get it all hashed out. I'm fed up with holding it in and not really getting at the true guts of why I'm an addict. Just sufficed to say, being a person with depression, PTSD and a load of abuse over a long number of years, I was willing to do anything to stop hurting. That's where my addiction comes from. It comes from my brain being broken and having my coping mechanisms that are basically shot to hell.
Let's go with my most persistent drug. Nicotine. Yep, a smoker for 20+ years. Why did I start smoking? Because someone handed me a cigarette and taught me how to smoke it when I was 16. After the coughing and choking incident that directly followed, I didn't pick up another cigarette for another two years. On my 18th birthday, after seeing countless girls light up in the bathroom at the high school I spent my senior year at in Florida, with the implicit knowledge that it was forbidden by my parents, I went to the 7-11 across the street from the high school, bought a pack of Capri's, parked myself in the parking lot of the high school and I lit up and taught myself how to smoke. Truth be told, Capri's are like smoking a tampon. Little to nothing comes out of it, but, I wanted to rebel. I had no inclination towards any other drugs, all I wanted to do was break the rules and declare my freedom. Rebelling made all the emotional pain I was feeling secondary, so I kept smoking.
After that, I became a stress smoker. If I felt stressed, I'd light up because the nicotine would calm me down. Instead of separating my emotions from their root causes and the possible issues being reflected on me from the people who were causing the stress, I took the cigarette as my way of walking away from the issues causing me stress and it gave me downtime away from it. Yep, there it is, in plain terms, I'm a runner. If I feel attacked, if I feel abandoned, if I feel anything that causes me stress that I don't understand, I run. If it's a conflict or abuse, I want to break into a full out run and get as far away from it as possible. It goes back to Dr. Drew talking about how addicts, when they feel attacked or abandoned, put up a wall as if the people who are triggering them don't exist. That's what the cigarette did. It smelled, it made me smell and it kept people away from me.
As far back as I can remember, even as a little girl, I remember laying on my bed crying so hard I could feel my heart shattering into small pieces inside my chest. It felt like my soul was being sucked out and leaving me completely hollow. Everywhere I turned, it was ugly and mean and horrible. Incessant yelling, incessant belittling, I never felt a pure source of love that didn't ultimately turn into pain. I was always faced with the fact that if someone told me they loved me, they would always hurt me. So I coped with how I felt by isolating myself. If nothing came near me, then nothing could hurt me. I would run away as far as I could to get away from the pain. All I looked for was a safe place and a way to find peace. I never found it.
Then, in my search for peace, things got out of hand. If I couldn't run from the pain and I always woke back up from sleeping to the same horrible world, why not go to sleep permanently? I remember my first suicide attempt. I was 16 and I took a handful of aspirin. Yeah, I wasn't too bright. I ended up falling asleep. My second attempt was a bit different. I was 26 with tears sliding down my face and a butcher knife in my hands slicing at my wrists. My roommate found me and they called 911. I spent the night in a psychiatric hospital completely freaked out, with a nurse the next day telling me that I didn't do that bad of damage, that "I was only looking for attention." When I told the psychiatrist at the hospital the next morning what the nurse had said, the nurse later came back, physically pinned me against a wall and threatened me with, "If you want attention, I'll make sure you stay in here for the rest of your fucking life." No kidding. I needed treatment and I got threats in its place which reinforced the whole idea that someone who was supposed to care would only be hurtful.
Then, since there was no way out, and I had failed twice at suicide, the next stop was drugs. If I could have smoked it, snorted it or taken it in pill form, I did. From pot to meth, cocaine to ecstasy, I shoved it in my body in hopes that my pain would go away. I found quickly that coke did nothing for me, I was already hyperactive as it was, the meth scared the hell out of me because I love to sleep (another escape mechanism) and weed made me so loopy that it wasn't any fun because I couldn't remember the experiences I was having and I'd just end up asleep again. The one drug that stuck with me was ecstasy. Oh yeah. That was my drug of choice for a while. A friend of mine introduced me to it. Now the kicker here is that ecstasy, or X, was developed to help people cope with PTSD, anxiety and depression...that's right, MDMA. But, the kicker is, most X you can get on the street, since it's illegal, has been mixed with all sorts of other drugs. Heroin was sometimes added, speed added to others...it was like playing Russian roulette every Thursday night. I never knew what I was going to get, what the cut was going to be, but it was the goal of getting my hands on the MDMA that mattered. For $20 a tab, I felt better, it supplied me with the peace I so long had sought. There was no stress, only love, no anxiety, no feeling inferior or unwanted, just lights, dancing and fun with people who thought I was beautiful. How easy of a sell is it to get addicted to that? For someone like me, very. It had a powerful hold on me. I'd work all week long and just wait for my Thursday night so I could get high and feel "normal" in the sense that I could finally feel like everyone else did, with no anxiety, no pain, just happy and fun. There was no pain, only ecstasy. The problem was that with my high came a very large low life, who just happens to look exactly like Hayden Christensen (oh gods, I still have trouble watching the Star Wars prequels, they could easily be twins), that's why, while cute, Hayden Christensen will never be on my hotties list, no matter how anyone may beg. Yep, he was an abusive boyfriend who cheated on me every chance he got, who manipulated me and beat me on a regular basis but I turned the other cheek because he was where the little pill came from that I could take and everything would be filled with joy as soon as I took it. Yeah, right. After finally being fed up with being held up by my throat against a wall for the bajillionth time, I wanted to be rid of him, and luckily for me at that time, my ex-husband had arrived on the scene.
The ex, for all of his shortcomings, before we got romantically involved, saw what was happening to me and he literally picked me up and put me onto the path to sobriety. He saw me through detoxing, through the psychological hold the drug had on me and finally cleaned me up by helping me get rid of the low life. He removed all of the physical negatives from my life, leaving me to only deal with the hardest ones to conquer, the psychological. Every day, he would watch me in horrible destructive patterns, and every day he gave me a new positive focus for my energies. Instead of staying up late, I had to get up early to teach school groups to kids. He gave my creativity an outlet and a path to finding self-worth. I have to give him props for that. He was the first truly positive influence I ever had. Truth told, he's still a positive influence. Even though he's done some pretty horrible things to me, we've become friends. I still call him up with good news about school (in one part to rub his nose in it, the other to hear the encouragement he never fails to offer) and my latest triumph, fitting into a very sexy pair of size 10 jeans.
But it's been a long road from shoving all that crap into my body to where I am now. I still smoke. That's the one thing I just can't quite seem to shake, but recently, my 10 years of sobriety has sat teetering on the edge again. That's right, prescription meds and alcohol reared their head to play havoc on my addictions. We know I have anxiety. Trust me, if you had my life, you'd know why. I suffer from it all the time, it's part and parcel of depression as well. So, I bounce back and forth like a tennis ball on some days, and truth told, for the last eight months I've been unintentionally flirting with danger again.
Now, we all remember the horrid $11/hr job that was keeping me from school. The fact that I was doing manual labor when all I wanted was to finish school and land one of those fancy, high paying jobs for doing what I seem to do best, write. So, as you recall, standing shaking like a leaf in a doctors office, he substituted the Xanax I liked so much that eased my anxiety within its' prescribed usage without making me loopy or high, with Valium. But, here's the kicker, both drugs are in Dr. Drew's hated benzo family...benzodiazepines, which are ludicrously dangerous when mixed with alcohol.
Oh, let's just out and out say it, eight months ago when I was having a horrible panic attack, when I couldn't calm down, when the Valium by itself just wouldn't knock the edge off, I decided to have a drink. Yep. Go ahead. Put your palm to your forehead and give me the OMG that just needs to happen. What I didn't realize at the time was that I had just mixed a death cocktail and not even known it. Sure, the pill bottle reads "do not take with alcohol," but when the pain inside is so much more than you can handle, you'll do whatever it takes to get it to stop. So, when I found out how well it worked and how I felt better when I combined the two, I proceeded to knock back a Valium with booze when stress would even try to rear its head. That went on for a good little while almost on a daily basis.
Then my chronic nightmares started popping up again, you remember the gruesome one I'm saddled with at the moment...I wrote about it just a couple of weeks ago...I'm not writing it out again, you go back and find it...the point is, that when I saw in the dream that the drug was the thing holding me together, I realized my sobriety was in serious jeopardy. I had to stop everything. The pill bottle is sitting on my desk looking at me, daring me to even touch it. I was offered alcohol during the holidays and wouldn't touch that either. It was at that point I realized that my addiction was being triggered in a really big way and I had to do what I do best when things like that happen, I had to shut it all down and get away from the things that were stressing me out and causing me to use.
I have issues. As I've written before, stress = trigger. Abuse = trigger, inadequacy = trigger, the list goes on and on, but I realized at that point I needed to dig in and fix the triggers so that my addiction can't control me any more. I have to control me. The drugs don't get to have that part of my soul. I'm not going to let it. I've seen where that path goes and I'm not going there. I'm out and out refusing to let my triggers control me.
So, over the last three months, I've been looking at what's triggering me first hand and being present in the moment. There are times I do get uncomfortable when confronting the memories that are the root of my triggers. Sometimes I don't do very well when dealing with them, but there's one thing I've not done and that's reach for either pill or booze bottle while doing it. The last month has been some of the best work I've done in a while. I tackled my inadequacy issues with my family. Those are a work in progress and it's going to take years to really have that come together, but it's a step. I've accepted my actions and their repercussions, I've apologized for a lot, that's another step. I've recognized for the millionth time that abuse is a cycle passed from generation to generation and it's up to me to stop that cycle.
Being an addict is hard. If someone telling you that kicking a habit of any type is easy, they're lying to you. Life is not easy and I honestly don't think it is meant to be easy. No one comes along and says, "When you're faced with X problem, this is how you cope with it." No, you have to find your own healthy ways to cope. When your coping mechanisms are broken, you have to research and read to find out what the healthy way is to do it and you try your hardest to emulate that and make it a habit, much like the drugs were. I've started to replace some of my running habits with standing my ground and refusing to run from abuse, instead I face it and stop it in its tracks. I'm formidable. I had forgotten that. All it took was the courage to stand up and say "no more." The A's I've made in school were done sober and they are a testament not to how smart others think I am, but how smart I know I am. That is a big step. Who was it that said the un-tread upon path is often the harder one to take? It is. But I'm also realizing that abuse, and the issues of others that I so desperately try to fix aren't mine to fix in the first place, I made myself a dumping zone for others so I could forget about my problems and procrastinate fixing them. I've found that people target me because I have a really big heart and that sometimes people are jealous or misunderstand the positive flow of energy that I try to keep going. Other times, I just run foul of people who are just into things for themselves which goes contrary to where I'm going. All that stuff is hard to weed through, it's hard to distinguish one from the other at times.
But, I'm sober. The cigarettes are still hanging around though and I hate that stress still is making me use. Nicotine is a drug, just like all of the others I've taken in my lifetime. It's going to be the hardest battle to win. But until I get all of the other crap in my head taken care of, and learn proper coping mechanisms, maybe there will just be a day that I'll be able kiss all of my addictions goodbye. I sure hope so.
It's like I always say, love is the only truth and worth sharing every day...especially with yourself. You have to love yourself enough on the inside to make it through the tough moments on your own. Only then can someone else love you like you want to be loved. That's one thing I keep reminding myself of every single day. I have to get better, I don't have a choice. If I want to get somewhere in life, I had to do what I did when the ex hit the door, when I couldn't stand being beaten by an abusive boyfriend anymore, I have to pick myself up by my bootstraps and keep walking. No one is going to do it for me, I have to love myself enough to do it for myself.
A couple of weeks ago, I went through a very tough night of having a racing mind that just would not let me sleep, much like now...but some little part of me rose up and said, "Give yourself peace, you're the only one who can." That's when I realized that my search for it for the last 28 years has been futile. Things are always in the last place you look, aren't they? Like I always say, I don't have common sense to pee on, or maybe it just takes a long time to get there.
I hate being an addict. I hate where it comes from, I hate it that my brain is broken. Well, we did yoga...now, how about a good therapist. Dicey proposition at best, especially with my healthcare provider who I've been calling for the last year trying to find a good shrink, but hasn't called back. Well, if I got aggressive with my disease without a shrink this far, I'm doing ok, but I think I need to be a little more aggressive with those damn doctors so I can find a good one and get even better.
The spring semester starts in 10 days. Personal Growth is on the schedule...it may be just the right thing at just the right time. Cross your fingers for me, huh?