What The Hell Are You?
This question plagues your mind each day, but the answer is simple.
A goddamn drug addict.
You often feel as though you have expired, with the exception that your biological shell seems to continue to battle. Your heart still manages to beat.
This, you do not get.
The drugs want to kill the walking corpse you have become, what’s left of you.
But what they don’t know is that you have already won.
You are dead.
You died a long time ago.
What a bad fucking day you’re thinking as you storm out to your sedan. People are so damn petty; it’s just retail for Christ’s sake. You struggle with your keys in the pouring rain, ruminating in the anger and resentment for your current employment situation, one filled with only the uncouth and odious. You feel panicked, almost terrified, as you finally sink into the solace of your grisly car, a Pontiac Grand AM that seems like it has been through a demolition derby. What do you do? you think, in order to shake this feeling? You can’t believe you even ask yourself the question. You knew the answer once you opened your eyes this morning.
You must get them.
You throw your car in drive and race off with the anxiety comparable to a newbie ambulance driver who has an expiring patient in his backseat. You are in a frenzy involving road rage and edginess until you get to the parking lot of your local office supply store. As you walk into the store, every member of its staff stops to stare at you. They knew what you were buying. They knew why. This was a day after day visit for you, your schedule revolved around it. You make trivial, yet frantic banter at the counter to seem like you might be more than an addict, hoping to give them at least a tiny tinge of skepticism in their very accurate judgments. You ditch the receipt at the counter, no paper trail. You never ask for a bag, for it contains a store logo and as you pass the outer garbage can, your hands tremble as you pluck the very distinctive straw and tab off of each can you purchased.
No Evidence, Just You And The Cans.
You try not to walk to your car so fast, sensing that the store workers are scrutinizing you still. Once in the car, you immediately hide all the cans but one. You spray it once, continuing in your rituals you follow each day, and place the canister in your mouth. You inhale the spray as deep as you can without dry heaving.
The rush is immediate. The rage? The anxiety? You don’t even remember what those words mean. All you are able to feel is…satisfaction. You smile as you maneuver out of the parking lot, like you’ve just heard your favorite song on the radio. You are holding your breath for as long as possible. You feel that tingling sensation in your brain, your eyes glaze over, and you already begin to shake. You know you will be unconscious soon, but you don’t fucking care. All you can do is grin like Lewis Carroll’s goddamn Cheshire cat.
That was written my first day of rehab. My first day of recovery. This was my inner dialogue, as a self-loathing, self-pitying addict. It describes how I was feeling perfectly, a feeling with which I can still identify, even smell my drug of choice at times. I often ask myself how I went from the straight A, twenty-three extracurricular activities, and an Ivy League contender, to becoming a drug addict. I was a late bloomer as far as I’m concerned; I didn’t smoke pot or try my first drink both until I was 18. Seemed normal. But as I got into my 20s, something was not right. I was terribly depressed, with anxiety, severe anorexia, and suicidal ideations. I did not know why at the time.
Living With A Predator
As a child I grew up in an abusive household: emotional, physical, and sexual, with the predator still living in our house. At the time we lived in Saudi Arabia, where the women and children must have the husband’s permission to leave the country. We were held hostage, as the abuser was the male head of the household. We finally returned to my home state of Rhode Island where the battle continued. I had to testify in court on seeing a sister of mine being molested when I was 6, and when the court case came to an end, the abuser was awarded supervised visitation; the supervisors being his parents…When that visitation first began (age 9) every time I would eat I would get physically ill, yet this only happened every other weekend during the visitation. One can easily look back now and realize it was extreme childhood anxiety, followed by depression at 18. So, I guess what I’m saying is that I did not know how impacted I, or my sisters, would be by the volatile houses we grew up in, the parents we had or didn’t, and our primary caregivers.
The anorexia continued from age 9 to 26, the same year I went to treatment for inhalants on the show Intervention. Since all of my friends in college were drinking, smoking weed, and doing cocaine, I, the control freak, could not allow myself to be that disconnected for so long, because as my childhood trauma irrationally taught me, the world was unsafe. Someone suggested I try computer cleaner, as it was a 5 minute high. And it was. Initially. Until I found a way to check out of all that I was feeling, and very rapidly my use went from maybe a couple hits every couple of days, to 12 cans daily. I would take a 10-minute drive to the store, but was craving to such a degree, that it would take me 8-10 HOURS to drive back home because I physically could not restrain myself to just wait the 10-minute drive. I had NO idea of the dangers of inhalants. You could pass away from Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome your first hit or your 100th. To this day I cannot do simple math in my head and there are gaps years long that I cannot remember as a result of my use. But I am aware of how lucky I was. I had to take a leave of absence 2 weeks before graduating from college, I had lost my husband, I could not control my use.
An Addict Bound For Glory
I fought like hell in rehab because I’ve been fighting my whole life. Fighting to be loved, safe, appreciated, not criticized, or emotionally abused; thus, I went into survival mode. There are still parts of my body and psyche that I cannot get in touch with from living through so many traumas, abandonments, and conditional family love. I stayed at rehab for four and a half months, and in that time, there was not an “A HA!” moment, I just slowly gave in to the process. And the more involved I got, especially in the sober community, the more surrender came to me, and slowly I gave in to my new lifestyle. Through the help of the Clinical Director, I was able to begin working on my unprocessed and unconscious traumas and things began to drastically change, in my mind. The urge was gone.
I have continued my journey over the past 8.5 years by running drug and alcohol residential treatment centers and opening my own company to handle behavioral health insurance for clients. I also just finished my Masters in May and am currently a Clinical Psychology PhD student. Thus, by staying on the right path, the universe seems to keep everything status quo, which I am so pleased with after my once crazy lifestyle. I find that as long as what I am doing is right, am true to myself and another, that all will work out in the end. It is not going to be tear-free or easy. But the people that we surround ourselves with once out of our active addiction, in conjunction with processing our core issues, life feels lighter, people seem friendlier, you don’t let people down, and you can rest your head each night on the pillow knowing what a well-deserving, better version of yourself you have allowed yourself to become.
Allison is a graduate of Boston University, Pepperdine University, and is currently obtaining her PhD in Clinical Psychology at Pacifica Graduate Institute. She is also a Certified Administrator for the Department of Social Services, interventionist, Notary Public, and Registered Addiction Specialist intern. Allison has worked on A&E’s Intervention, the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition, and Alliance for Consumer Education, where she has appeared on several talk shows, public service announcements, and as a guest lecturer at several addiction venues in the fight to prevent the use of, and further the education of, inhalant abuse. She has just recently created her own LLC, Inner Source Solutions, specializing in facility licensing, certification, and insurance utilization review.