Part 4 - A Functioning Addict
It is often when listening to an addicts story you hear how they lost everything and became detached from society and loved one’s. That is not always the case, nor is it my story of addiction. Their story is far more heart-wrenching and a harder road than mine. Yet, I do understand the desire to stay stupefied once introduced to the intoxicating feeling found in a drug.
I started smoking and drinking when I was twelve. During the year I wrote back and forth with the missionary, I smoked, though ceased to drink. When we started our relationship I quit. He was convicted in his faith and believed all substance use to be a sin. Yes, as an adult I also find this perplexing. He believed smoking, drinking, and drugs to be an offense against God, yet he slept with a 14-year-old at 22. I cannot speak for him, or how he thought, I only know I wanted to please him.
I moved out of my biological parents house when I was 15 as my only means to end my relationship with the missionary. I moved into the back of their health food store I was running. My first action was to revert back to smoking, when that wasn’t enough to calm the chaos inside me, I started drinking again.
My parents chose the missionary, he stayed in our house when I left. My missionary let me go, my older brother who had been my best friend was now his. He continued to attend our church and interact with church members which made me feel as though I didn’t belong there anymore. However, I was also struggling with a self declared surety of damnation, which didn’t make me want to face anything that would remind me of such. I couldn’t tell anyone what happened between us, so I played the part of the girl who broke the great guys heart. And at night when the store was closed and I was alone, I chain smoked as the weight of my sins played loudly in my head then muffled the words as I drown them in alcohol.
I lived in the store for a time, walking to friends houses to shower. A rumor got started in the shopping center I was living there, I was warned there was talk of calling the police. This would have been a blessing, though I would not have ever gone quietly into the night during this era. I had been grown for too long to revert back to a childlike mindset and accept the presence of authority in the system or another’s household. I left at closing every night where I would be seen by the other shop workers. I bounced around staying with different friends. I was smoking a lot of marijuana by this point.
I met a friend who allowed me to live with her. She was a hard worker and the mothering type. She used different forms of drugs. She never encouraged them, when I expressed interest, she insisted on education. She informed me anyone who chooses to use drugs, should be able to recite to her how they are made, what is in them, the likelihood of them being laced, bad batches, how it reacts in your body, the aftermath of use, and the statistics of death. And thus began drugs 101. She taught me to not allow the addiction to overcome me, drugs were meant to be enjoyed recreationally, not as a means of escape. Life is hard, deal with it, drugs will not fix your problems. She taught me to pay my bills first, then necessities, and always lastly drugs. She taught me to never stay awake more than two days on a stimulant such as cocaine or crank. She taught me to force myself to eat something light and flavorless like crackers on the second day of speeding. Weed was her drug of choice, and always the go to for coming down, she encouraged this one as a, “Safe” drug. One that would not devastate your income, make you violent, cause depression, or ruin your health.
By age 16 I was chewing lortabs (Narcotic pain meds), smoking marijuana, taking Xanax, smoking meth (Crank), snorting cocaine, I could take 16 shots of tequila and still care for my puking friends, and smoking a pack a day of Newport cigarettes. I would later try methadone, acid and ecstasy.
If there is such thing as a responsible addict, it was me for a time. My education in my friends introduction to drugs class, proved me to be an ideal pupil. I did exactly as instructed with my substance abuse. I used at nighttime, not generally before or during working hours. I rarely used speed passed the recommended two day timeline, I always forced myself to eat on the second day, and would do speed on my off days. I paid my bills first and foremost, and if there wasn’t extra for my addiction, I would do without. I did not brag about my use, nor did I ever try and appear as though I did drugs. My customers, bosses, and friends who didn’t indulge in drug use with me, were all unaware of my late night endeavors, though I’m sure suspected and mused at times.
I was arrested once for marijuana use. My fault, I was high and opened the door with a cloud of fresh smoke for an officer who was looking for a runaway. The judge was lenient on me for being a working teen with no prior offenses. He gave me a lump of community service hours, and said he didn’t want to see me again. I became far more careful after this, and he never did see me again. I worked from 6-9 at the hospital doing laundry, before going to my parents store to work from 10-6. That was my first of many experiences working two jobs, and it sucked not getting paid.
I knew some people who did crack, their experience terrified me to never trying this drug. I’ve never liked needles and with the education received, never had a desire to do anything that entailed their use. I used acid one time and had a bad trip that was terrifying, I never did it again. I only remember trying ecstasy one time too. The only harsh drug I consistently used was meth. I used cocaine on multiple occasions but never liked the short term affects, the drain, and the harsh come down. Meth was my drug of choice, the high would seemingly last forever, it completely took away my appetite, which was appealing to a teenage girl with low self esteem. It was as though clarity found me instantly upon inhalation. My scalp would tingle, my mind would reel, my pupils dilated, and I could accomplish the most tedious projects with perfect focus and efficiency. It was an internal fight every-time I used meth to stop on the second day, to eat, and to not use more than once a month. I broke away from that very few times, I worked on a meth high a couple times, and used more than one weekend a month a few times. Having to pay for my drugs was the best thing for me, I never steered away from my teaching when it came to budgeting drugs after bills. However, I became friends with my drug dealers, and was desired by one, which made getting free drugs easy. I never slept with my dealers for drugs, or promised favors, they simply liked me enough to share. They didn’t leave me with free bags, but they would swing by and indulge with me out of their own stashes. I enjoyed the high enough to never turn down an offer of free use, this hindered me from adhering to my rules strictly at times. The most significant tell-tale signs of meth use is red irritation around the lips from dehydration and licking, and weight-loss for a user who isn’t excessive. Of course there are the sores, tooth decay and loss for those who cannot limit their use, though with my deeply rooted code of use, that was never me. I got down to a size zero, which is too little at my height, and had some comments of concern. I lessened my use after that.
You have to understand I had no choice but to be a responsible addict. I didn’t have anyone to fall back on, if I didn’t pay my bills, my choices were homelessness or moving back to my parents house which was worse in my mind. Before my mother filed bankruptcy and closed the store, I was the only one working that branch. My two brothers moved on with their own lives to better jobs, the missionary quit when I left him, my two younger brothers never became old enough or educated enough to work before my older sister essentially adopted them in raising them as her own. If I didn’t work to keep that branch producing a steady income, my parents would lose everything, and I would lose everything. Despite my experiences, I loved them at this time, I did not view them as bad people, simply sick people, and I cared about what happened to them if I left as my brothers did. I felt an obligation to care for them.
I only ever metaphorically flipped my mother the bird one time in my teens. She purchased my first vehicle on a loan, it was a Chevy blazer. I ran the store that produced the income to pay the payment when she gave it to me at 16. Yes, 16 before I even had a license I was driving this vehicle around town, ten miles out to her house to bring her groceries, and the 50 miles to the second branch to place orders and exchange orders between the two stores. Anyway, after the closure of the store due to her bankruptcy, I was offered a job by one of my customers. I closed the store a final time on a Friday, and started my new job on the following Monday. I continued to pay the payments on the blazer for a over a year on my newly established income. I was headed home from a shift one night when a deer ran out in front of me. I killed the deer and totaled my vehicle. Since the car was still in her name, she took my insurance money and yet expected me to continue paying the payments on it. I’ll be honest in saying this pissed me off for the first time. Of everything she had done, I never felt truly angry, until this moment. I was working two jobs and still helping her as much as I could on free time. I dumped the blazer in her front yard and metaphorically said, good day. She called her daddy who always bailed her out of her messes, and he took care of it.
I had been living in an apartment under her name. I made it on my own for a year before she finally agreed to sign for my first apartment. Shortly after I started working for my new boss and former customer, she informed me I had to be out of the apartment. My boss owned rental properties and allowed me to make weekly payments on rent with my checks. With my roof finally in my name, I bought my next vehicle in my name, and I never tied myself to her in any links again. I’m a slow learner, but I learn.
Pain medicine was a big drug in my hometown. I’ve chewed more lortabs in my short life than I even care to recall. I hate pain meds today. I had a hysterectomy a few years ago, I had to go back to my doctor after and request a nonnarcotic pain medication, I could not tolerate the powerful prescription. What used to be an enjoyable narcotic itch, is now a nuisance, what used to give me pep to accomplish obligations now makes me nauseous, tired, and often I stop breathing when under narcotic influence. If I never take another pain pill, it will be too soon. I rarely even take ibuprofen today.
Marijuana was my long-term drug. I used it consistently for years. I do believe it is for lack of a better word, the “Safer” drug to use. The greatest threat to marijuana use is obesity and laziness. And hey, let’s be honest here, I’m fat and I haven’t smoked weed in years and years and years. I live in a state where it is illegal, however, I would not indulge in its affects even if I did reside in a state where it was legal. I have read lots of compelling studies on medical use, and believe it has powerful healing properties when used correctly for medical reasons. I also have read and viewed pictures of lungs after years of smoking weed, and therefore feel it is not the best form of use when medically necessary. The bottom line for recreational smoking in my opinion, is negative. I’m an advocate for a healthier lifestyle, though I do not judge, nor does it bother me that I know individuals who indulge in recreational marijuana use. If a person does not allow it to affect their family, work, financial, and social life, more power to them. I absolutely feel it is better than alcohol. I do believe it is a gateway drug for teens. Smoking weed is a positive experience, no one ever has a bad trip, and therefore it builds your confidence in trying something else. I am a realist in certain aspects, I know the probability of my children making it through their teens without trying weed are slim to none. I will do my best to educate them and hope I succeed in discouraging their curiosity for dangerous drugs. If marijuana is the extent of my babies rebellious years, I will feel as though I succeeded.
I missed the door to hell in becoming a nonfunctioning addict by a Godsend. The year I dated my girlfriend was my heaviest year of drug use. We started dating in a methadone induced state, and remained in some form of intoxication throughout the year of our relationship. I’m not sure the drug we were on the night we decided to rob my boss and runaway from our shit town together? I’m also not sure if it was her idea or mine….. What I do know, where the deposit bag was placed every night that I closed, and left till the following morning when my boss retrieved it. I absolutely believe God saved me from ruining my life that night, and nothing could ever convince me otherwise. I had worked in my position for a time by this point, the deposit was left every night to my knowledge. I did not consistently work the night shift followed by the day, however, I did on occasion. Whether I had worked the night before, or a coworker, when I was present for the day shift, I took note of the deposit bag retrieval. In my drug induced state, I decided it was a good idea to rob the man who had given me a job when I was facing my parents store closure, the man who rented me a cabin and took payments on rent, the man who would later encourage me to go back to school, and work with my hours to make it possible. Yes, my friend who happened to be my boss. I went to his business that night and the deposit bag wasn’t there. Clarity washed over me in this moment as I sobered up and realized what I would have done if it had been there. I would have become a homeless drug addict on the dirty streets of some foreign city not long after that moment. This was a small family owned business. The deposit bag was not a bulging reality. It would have gotten us far from our hometown sure, high, and unable to ever return. Up to that point, I was not a thief. Up to that point, I thought I had everything under control. Up to that point, I had never done something morally compromising because of my drug addiction.
And that my friends, is how it goes. You won’t, until you do. It‘s under control, until it isn’t.
I remember shaking as I walked into work that next day, feeling paranoid that somehow my boss knew what I had been willing to do to his family only the night before. More than the fear of losing my job, I feared he would hate me. I loved my boss, I loved his family, and they loved me. I wouldn’t up to that point, have ever done anything to harm them. Whether he knew or didn’t know, it was never made known to me that he had any idea. I kept my job and was never treated any differently by him or his family. I also never had or acted upon an idea like that again. I was weighted with more unbearable guilt for what I almost did, and faced a brutal realization, I had become the worst kind of addict. This was the beginning of my desire and eventual drive to quit using drugs.
P.S. If my former boss is reading this, I am truly, to this day, sorry. You saved my life and my gratitude was to throw it away to drugs. It does not matter I didn’t steal from you that night. The desire was in my heart, and in my heart it was committed. The offense was certain had the chance been possible.
I had been calling in sick due to wanting to remain high rather than work. I still adhered to my code of conduct, not doing drugs during or before working hours. I was slacking on my work duties when present due to the call of addiction, lack of proper sleep and nutrition. My boss hired another worker and cut my hours. She was gorgeous, my best friend today, but a real threat to me at this point in my life. Having my hours cut was detrimental to keeping up with my bills and drug habit. My new coworker was energetic, personable, and efficient. I sobered up quickly after this, which inevitably ended my relationship with my girlfriend, as our relationship had been a drug induced one. I loved her as a friend, but I was never in-love with her, and couldn’t be as I was truly never gay. My heart had been shattered, I felt abandoned, unloved, damned, and carried guilt I could not deal with. I was spiraling out of control, in what I thought was a controlled destructive path.
To counteract the need for a substance in my body, I turned to drinking….. heavily. I would spend the next almost two years drunk every moment I wasn’t working. I started dating my husband in a drunken state and our first year would be spent inebriated together. The truth is my friends, I am not a strong person. I never ended up a homeless addict because God spared me that life. I sobered up because my boss saw me spiraling and hired another worker to motivate me. I obtained an education because my boss believed that I was intelligent and encouraged me to go back to school, (to be further explained in, “Stupid is as stupid does”). I quit smoking and drinking because I got pregnant again at 19, a month after graduation. I never wanted to be a mother, I felt I was predisposed to be a terrible mother. It was laced into my genes to fall into all my parents inadequacies. I cried for days when I found out. I considered adoption for a time, though from the beginning, I did not want to harm her. I quit drinking immediately and quit smoking after a month.
The night I had my daughter, the nursery kept her while I slept. The next morning I experienced the most overwhelming high I had ever felt in all my years of substance abuse gazing upon her beautiful face. It was in this moment, I vowed to love her fiercely, and my love consumed me. Nothing in this world could ever matter the way this baby did. I would never fail her in the same manner I had been failed. She has been my greatest gift, my deepest love, and my everlasting sunshine in a world of shadows. To this day, I do not use drugs, I often refuse prescriptions and do not take over the counter medicine much, I do not smoke, and I rarely drink. I am consumed by my love for my children, I’m overprotective, overly cautious, overly smothering with my love and presence, and overly honest. I survived my drug years because God spared me a point of no return, I survived my drug years because God gifted me my boss, my husband, and my baby. I survived my drug years because He knew, I could do better, when I didn’t believe in myself, and tried my hardest to ignore His presence.
P.S. My reference to, “A point of no return” only refers to my choice in robbing my boss and forever losing his love in my life. I do not believe there is ever a “Point of no return” for an addict. There is a point that is harder to overcome than mine, but there is no such thing as a hopeless and impossible scenario. EVERYONE can overcome their addictions with the right support system, whether that is through faith, family, and/or friends. My boss was the foundation of my support, my road of recovery without him, would have been a very long and hard one.
If you or someone you know is suffering from substance abuse, please call the substance abuse and mental health hotline. It is free and confidential. (800) 662-4357
Coming soon, “Self-Harm and Contemplation of Suicide”.