The Gift of Desperation

The Gift of Desperation

I woke alone in a dimly lit bathroom surprised to be alive. As I stood and gazed into the mirror I saw a shadow of myself. Who was this stranger looking back? A criminal. An addict. An addiction. A Junkie. I had even failed to kill myself the night before in this very room – I couldn’t do anything right.

In many ways I do not fit the stereotype of a heroin addict – maybe few do in the beginning. Maybe we become the stereotype as we follow that dark, dead end path. Afterall, I was raised in a upper middle class family. My father is a successful lawyer and my mother a school teacher. My home was not broken, and my parents have been married for over 35 years. I went to the best private schools. I had been a great student with many friends. My childhood was in a lot of ways a fairytale compared to others.

Addiction doesn’t care about any of that.

My parents sent me to rehab each time hoping that this time it would stick and I would stay clean. That I would be “fixed.” But I wasn’t ready. I did not yet truly want to be sober. I could not fathom a fulfilled and sober life. Afterall, I was young and partying was not only expected, but a rite of passage. Maybe it went too far a time or two, but I wasn’t that person. I wasn’t the junkie you see on TV. I was still a good person –  I still had friends. I was even a college graduate.

Addiction doesn’t care about any of that.

I still had a roof over my head. I had a job. My parents bailed me out when I really needed them to. Sometimes with some money to keep me afloat. Sometimes they literally bailed me out of jail. I may have continued to occupy this gray mist somewhere between life and death if not having been forced into a reckoning with my life and my choices. Mine took the form of a really bad car accident. I injured an innocent family while driving high on heroin. The pain my actions caused that day went from being an emotional toll to a physical one. I hurt people. Except:

Addiction doesn’t care about any of that.

I was using again the next day. And now I was confronted with the reality that I could not stop even given the dire consequences of my addiction. I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about that, but I knew that I needed the heroin and that I could not face the day without it. My family decided they had had enough. They were instructed by a counselor to severe ties, and with the help of their support group mustered up the courage to cut me out of their lives and no longer be my enablers. Gone was the financial help. Gone was the roof over my head. If I wanted to be a part of the family – my family – I had to seek out help on my own, and I had to stay clean on my own. However:

Addiction doesn’t care about any of that.

I was angry. I felt abandoned. Through some tortured mental gymnastics I decided that I was the victim. Who were they to abandon their son? So I told them I didn’t need them. I told them to get lost – and in the process convinced myself that this was my decision, not theirs. But as time went on and the gravity and despair of the loneliness of the life I had chosen for myself came into stark focus, I decided that I did not want to use any more. Unfortunately:

Addiction doesn’t care about any of that.

My family was important to me –  it was how I was raised. But despite that, I could not stop. I felt like discarded trash and I believed that’s what I was. At some point, little by little, balloon by balloon, day by day, I had compromised and discarded everything about myself until I became that stereotype. I didn’t want this. I tried to quit. I went to rehab and tried to stay sober. Sadly:

Addiction just doesn’t care.

I couldn’t manage it. I couldn’t control this thing that I had unleashed. I couldn’t control my life or my actions, and in the process I no longer was able to recognize myself. More than anything a desire to end this cycle I had fallen into began to take hold. I was committed to ending my life as an addict. I was committed to ending my life.

I decided to intentionally overdose and so  I loaded up a giant shot, a grand finale. The final act in a tragic and pathetic play. And so then I stepped off the ledge and into oblivion. Suprisingly:

The next day I woke up.

Back now to that dimly lit bathroom. There I found myself alive against all odds. As I stood there staring into my reflection I hoped to find there some spark of a soul – maybe even just a flicker. I could hardly stand to look at myself. I felt confused that I was not dead. I should have been dead. I felt disappointment, I felt relief. I thought about making another attempt and within that thought something else occurred to me, I thought to myself:

Do I really want to die?

I found the answer in that mirror. I knew that I wanted to live. I dimly understood that the attempt at suicide was evidence that I cared enough not allow myself to become any more of the thing that I had become. Suicide was the only path I believed I had enough control left within myself to carry through. Only somehow I didn’t die. It was an act of desperation but it was not a solution to my problem. I wanted to live, not only to exist in limbo. I wanted my family back. I wanted to be a complete person again. I wanted to be successful. And in that moment of failure, shame and helplessness – I surrendered any illusion that I was in control of anything. I was not in control of my life and not even in control of my death. In that low, dark, sad place I finally hit my rock bottom.

I asked my family for help, and this time with no motive beyond my own recovery. I made the decision I was going to do whatever was  asked of me, whatever my family asked, whatever the counselors asked. For now, the decision that I wanted to be somebody was the only one that was important and so I let that be my compass.

Addiction:

There is no stereotype for addiction. Addiction doesn’t care about stereotypes. Death is an equal opportunity destroyer. Despair knows no social class and is blind to wealth and privilege. Whether you come from a good family and had advantages others did not, or whether you come from nothing, and nothing is all you’ve ever known: In that moment at the bottom we are all equal and there is no such thing as advantage. In that moment at the bottom when we choose life we are all broken and alone. Helpless and hopeless.

The way out:

I had believed back then that my family had given me the gift of desperation. Desperation saved my life. It allowed me to make that decision to help myself. However, the desperation was inside me all along. In the end it was I who made the choice. All I had to do was reach out and ask for help. I was ready. I was willing then to do anything, and no matter how difficult the path it couldn’t possibly be more difficult than the one I was on.

The acceptance of our utter lack of control over our addiction is the first real step forward we all take as an addict.

Take back your life:

The next step is to ask for help. We will be that help.

(512) 534 – 9440

Please reach out. It’s never too late, it’s never too hard.