Many people (in and outside of recovery) believe that an addict has to “hit their bottom” before they are ready to get clean. I don’t think that is the case for everyone, though. Don’t get me wrong, things had gotten pretty bad for me, especially in my last 100 days as an addict in active addiction. But, I am certain that I was headed for way worse had I not gotten help when I did.
My last 100 days of active addiction…
It is hard to write about this but, not because of any emotions I may have been feeling; in fact I was quite numb by the end of my run. I say it’s hard to write about because my memory is a little hazy. Go figure…years (about ten) of substance abuse really takes its toll on your brain and, especially memory, or at least in my case it has. The good news, I have learned, is that the damage is not permanent; drugs don’t actually “fry” your brain like many believe.
The last 100 days of my addiction would put us somewhere around May-ish of last year. Let’s see, what was I doing? I was holding down a pretty decent job as back-up head teller in one of the top five largest banks in the country. That means I had control over large sums of money on a daily basis. And I never stole any. Yet. I was living with my mom because I couldn’t afford my drug habit. I mean, my own apartment.
When I wasn’t working, I was constantly on the hunt for my next drug. The thought of being dope sick terrified me. Years ago, I had sought help in the form of a methadone program without really researching what it was that I was getting into. And just as ignorantly, after about 8 months on the junk, I up and decided to quit. Cold turkey. Yes, you read that right. Two months of being dope sick was a big enough lesson, I thought, to keep me from ever going back out. It wasn’t. I didn’t have recovery in my life then and it was just a matter of time before I started using again.
But I digress…last 100 days…OK.
Working at the bank, living with moms, spending all of my money, time, and energy on getting drugs. I started buying Suboxone off the street to keep me from getting sick. That was holding the opiate withdrawals at bay but, like a good addict, I sought out other ways of getting high. I started shooting cocaine and crack. I would abuse my Ambien prescription, taking sleeping pills when I couldn’t get my hands on the other stuff. I was desperate to not be stone cold sober – to keep from being aware of myself and my feelings.
Several key events had occurred leading up to and during my last 100 days of being an addict that eventually led me to the front door of a treatment center. One profound experience was my birthday weekend, in early March. It involved me “celebrating” with a number of different substances which then resulted in a trip to the emergency room via ambulance. The hospital staff didn’t know what was wrong with me. I was forthcoming with everything that I had taken but my blood tests indicated a different and more alarming problem. Nurses evaluated me for signs of stroke. At 32, I thought, I’m way too young have had a stroke. I was kept in the hospital overnight for observation. I found out that my tox screen indicated that I had almost every drug in my system. As an active addict, my motto was always “Go Big or Go Home.” At first, I thought it was funny that I had managed to hit virtually every panel of the drug screen. But in the following days, intense feelings of guilt and shame began to eat away at me. I didn’t want anyone to know what happened. If anyone casually asked me how my birthday was, I was hit with yet another pang of shame.
Around this time, my father mentioned the idea of treatment to me. This pissed me off. He was hardly in my life, who was he to say what I needed? I didn’t speak to him for 2 months. During that time, though, it was if a seed had been planted in my mind. I started to realize that banging dope in the bathroom at work and smoking crack in gas station bathrooms wasn’t “partying.” It was problematic, to say the least.
I toiled over the decision to get help. At one point I decided: either go to treatment or kill myself. It had really become that black-and-white for me. In what many people call a “God moment,” I had a moment of clarity: I would go to treatment. Once I had made the decision to get help, I felt a sense of relief and calm wash over me. I was weightless. It was a knowing, a certainty, that I was going to be alright.
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