The Ugly Truth about Recovery & Addiction.
I am a recovered drug addict. I recovered from addiction by finding connection. Connection with myself, others and most of all, God.
Despite this, the insanity never stops in my mind. The moment I am lulled into a false sense of safety is also the moment of my own peril. Because for me, “recovered” does not mean “cured.” The f*ck it switch in the mind of this addict may never go away. (I’ll let you know in 20 years if it’s still there.)
I must always be aware of my thinking. I must be a constant observer of my own mind.
No matter how many years of sobriety pass, I will always have a desire to get high—to run away. A challenge arises, and my mind whispers: “Run.”
The only difference is now I don’t have to act on those thoughts. They’re just thoughts. They no longer dictate my actions as they once did—but they sure as hell still come.
I’ll never be “normal,” and interacting with life will never come natural or easy to me. Throughout my life, I’ve watched others interacting with life with seeming ease and comfort, and it often felt as though they’d received a manual for living that I never had. There is still a touch of this feeling which lingers in the back of my mind some days. Only now it doesn’t dominate me, driving me to the fringes of society.
Instead, I’ve looked it squarely in the face, and I’ve taken it upon myself to examine my beliefs and perceptions about life—and in most cases, I found I was highly deluded. When I accepted the fact that, for as smart as I was, I actually knew very little, I found almost instant freedom from my misguided perceptions. Life became much easier.
And I got sober.
Now I have everything I could want in life.
I am alive, and I am free from the bondage of active addiction. I have a job I love. I have an amazing and loving husband, who I love beyond words. I have friends. I have fun. I have laughter in my heart most days. People want me around. I want to be around them (most days). I have food to eat, money in the bank, a car, and the police aren’t looking for me. I have feelings, and I can express them! I can communicate. I laugh, cry and feel. I am alive.
These days, I am responsible, accountable, reliable, honest and present in my life.
Yet, I can still pause in the briefest of moments and think to myself, “Who needs all this ‘life’? Do I really want this?”
Because no matter what I do—no matter how sober I get, how spiritually I live, or how faraway I get from active addiction—one thing remains, and it’s that part of me who wants to be an addict, do drugs and live on the fringes of society, alone. That part of me is my deepest shadow—and now, I love her too.
The sooner I accept and embrace the shadow aspects of myself, the better for my own sanity. Denying her existence only feeds her power. She will always be there. In honoring her, I see that I don’t have to allow her to call the shots anymore. I no longer have to be prisoner to her chaos or destruction. Like a “dark goddess,” I have a destructive and chaotic element to my being.
And to counter the darkness is another element of my shadow—the light-being. The energy worker and healer. The intuitive, compassionate empath who I have denied for an even longer period of time. The part of me who was locked away by my ego so many years ago for protection. The part of me who cried every single time I got high again.
She’s there too.
Every day, I must choose. Every action I take each day, every behavior, every word spoken and every thought entertained takes me either toward the darkness or the light.
Some days it’s a dance, back and forth, all day long. The bitter thoughts take over, and I want to run. The inner voice whispers of fear and failure, once again telling me how I shouldn’t bother trying to do more, because I’m nobody anyway. The thoughts can get really heavy sometimes. And loud. That’s when I want to shut them up. And one thing we addicts know how to do is how to stop the incessant barrage of negative thoughts playing in our mind.
One shot…and then oblivion.
Sometimes I entertain the thoughts all the way to the point of imagining the moment I get high, even though I consciously never want to go back to the life of a junkie ever again. But when there’s pain, or I feel overwhelmed by the chaos of the world as we know it, my mind will start to make that option look really appealing, despite the blessings and happiness I have in life.
I know how that sounds—and yes, it’s very easy to judge me and point how how I “should” be grateful. I agree 100 percent, so if you’re looking for an argument, you won’t get it from me. It doesn’t matter anymore what I “should” or ‘”shouldn’t” be.
The only thing that matters is where I am at any given moment.
I feel as though addiction is a severely misunderstood and stigmatized problem. The people around addicts are unable to understand why we choose a cycle of destruction over and over again, and they often take it quite personally when we cannot stop. People are so often personally offended by an addict’s life choices, and there is so much judgement placed upon us. For some reason, the topic of addiction pushes people’s buttons in the same way politics do.
It’s not a choice. No one chooses to be the one who ends up having no control over a substance they decided to try for fun. It just happens, before we even realize what’s occurring. Then, once we’ve realized, it’s too late. We’re off the deep end. The viscous cycle is then fed over and over by our own judgements, as well as everyone’s around us.
And if you think your thoughts and judgements about someone you know with addiction were harsh, you should hear our own thoughts and judgements. No one is harder on themselves then an addict.
One day, if we’re lucky, we find ourselves beaten down enough to try a new way of life. We ask for help and actually accept it. Life turns around and begins to look up. We start to feel better, look better, eat, sleep and contribute to society. We start to heal, love and forgive. We connect with God and maybe live a spiritual life. We get jobs and pay bills. We integrate.We connect.
The memories of the stark, cold, painful desolation of active addiction start to fade a little bit. They aren’t so sharp. I store them in a little box somewhere inside, and I go about life in a society that is always rushing around from one thing to another. A society where people are losing their humanity. A society that I still don’t really understand.
I recall the days gone by, when I was on the outskirts, when I was being judged by everyone (and myself) for my selfishness, my perceived weakness and my lack of respect for my life and others. I look around now, and I see a world rife with these very traits, and I have a realization: a drug addict is the epitome of all the negative shadow elements that are rampant in society right now.
A drug addict serves as a mirror to society, and that’s exactly why society cannot accept an addict, and instead ostracizes them. Because society can’t bear to look in the face of it’s own reflection.
We’re all damaged. We’re all wounded in some way. We all have trauma and scars of the past. We all have negative aspects and positive aspects, and it’s only in denying any of them that we cause ourselves suffering. In trying to repress and deny, we do nothing but give the very aspect the power over us.
The sooner we can look another human in the eye—with compassion and love, no matter where they stand in societal conformity—the sooner we will be able to heal our race and this planet.
I choose integration. I choose connection. I choose healing.
It begins with me.
Author: Lindsay Carricarte
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina