I was an addict. I was a drug addict.
It took me a long time to utter those words in my own head, let alone speak them out loud or pen them down.
Looking back on my past as a drug user, I can tell you that we, us ‘addicts,’ never intentionally set out to become that way; we never intended to hurt ourselves, but most of all, we never intended to hurt you.
We are sorry. I am sorry.
Here is how it works: something strikes our lives that is not emotionally or physically bearable, and we seek help. Oftentimes that ‘help’ results in medication. At first, the medication is a welcome reprieve from the pain and torment our bodies and minds endure each day. We are trying to medicate against sad things like the death of a loved one, a physical injury, a disease, or some other emotional or physical burden.
The medication takes us back to the place that we so desperately longed for, the place of ‘normal’. We just want to feel the way everyone else seems to ‘feel’. We want happiness; we want a morning that doesn’t start with pain and agony or mental anguish.
The orange bottle filled with tiny capsules brings us hope each waking morning. That bottle is what gets us out of bed and gives us the motivation to start our day. Without it, we want to fold ourselves delicately into a ball of pathetic mush, crawl into our bed… and sleep. Being awake is half the battle. We want to be alone in the pain. Drug addicts are lonely creatures, mainly because we are jealous of the happiness everyone around us seems to have, yet we cannot seem to find ours. So, we retract from life.
Typical tasks for you, like waking up and washing your hair and brushing your teeth are agony to us. Life becomes mundane. The things that once brought us joy are no longer joyful, they are painful. We watch as everyone laughs and enjoys themselves at family dinners while we focus on ourselves, what our body/mind feels like and how we can correct that feeling.
Here enters the medication–the ‘drugs.’
Drugs dull the pain. It makes life more tolerable and we’re able to laugh and enjoy dinners, family barbecues, and all the things we searched to find happiness in just as we once did. The medication ‘fixes’ that.
We feel better.
We have our lives back, so long as we have that little orange bottle within arm’s reach at all times. We take our medication in a timely manner as prescribed. But it’s not long before the comfort fades away and the pain seeps back in.
In my case, this is where the ‘medication’ became my ‘drug.’
Nine times out of ten, a person suffering from debilitating pain or anxiety is prescribed some sort of controlled substance that is not only addicting, but within a short period of time, we find that it is no longer as effective as it once was. Imagine your first cocktail. Remember the first time you felt that buzz from alcohol? As you’ve aged, that has worn off; three glasses of wine now does what one glass used to. Alcohol may not be the best analogy here, but it is the best and most relatable one I can think of to give you an idea of how this works for us.
Our medication dosage stops working. So, we start taking more. And more. And more.
Before we know it, our prescription refills run out long before we have a renewal script so we are left to improvise. We are aware that this is our fault; we know we shouldn’t have taken more than prescribed, but now we are stuck in a self-perpetuating cycle.…and we cannot get out. Our bodies are dependent on these drugs. Without them, we feel sick; we feel worse than we did before we started down the pharmaceutical path.
Withdrawal is not something I’d wish on my worst enemy. What you see in the movies, the shakes, diarrhea, dripping nose, the sweats; that happens, and it happens bad. It is the scariest and darkest feeling, both mentally and physically.
This is our fault, and we know it. However, we can’t stop.
As soon as that refill is available, the first thing we do is pop as many pills it takes to make that feeling go away. We become numb again and that ‘happiness’ comes back. We feel ‘normal’ again. I don’t expect you to ever understand that if you’ve never experienced the demons of withdrawal; how could you?
We are now caught in a vicious cycle. We lie to those around us and tell them we are taking our medication responsibly. We are not. We are scared to tell doctors the truth out of fear that they might retract our prescription altogether. That is the most frightening thought of them all: the possibility of losing our prescription. We know that the loss of that lifeline to happiness, however synthetic and weak, will send us into a withdrawal so bad, we fear the consequences could be, honestly, death. This may sound outlandish, however, it is my truth.
A lot of us improvise by making really ill, and often, illegal choices. We do things that we know in our heads are wrong–things we would never advise doing or ever think of doing in the right frame of mind. However, what you don’t understand is that without that medication, without those pills, we cannot survive. We cannot function. Imagine the flu, then multiply that by 1000. That is what we feel when our medication/drug wears off. We would go to the ends of the earth to avoid it.
And we do.
Our life is now a fog. We don’t remember anything, we are not responsible, we do not care about anything but one thing: our prescription or drug of choice. We are sucked into a cycle that is never ending and it feels impossible to get out of. Not all of us know how to get out of it. Some of us don’t care to get out of it.
It’s not just as simple as stopping the medication as I am sure you can imagine if you’ve read this far. It’s opening up and essentially coming out of the closet to all those that you’ve lied to and told countless times ‘I am fine. I am good.’ We who over-medicate are not fine and we certainly are not good. Being honest about the fake facade you’ve shown for so many years is one of the most difficult parts of putting an end to this nightmare.
It is embarrassing. It is scary. You know once you let your secret out, you have no choice but to follow through with the advice of your family, whether that be rehabilitation, detox, etc. To a drug addict, that thought is terrifying.
Some of us, myself included, can tell you that asking for help, admitting we are fucked up and don’t know how to escape is the hardest part. It is embarrassing as we are headstrong seeing we have rebutted all of the arguments over the years claiming we were NOT drug addicts.
But we were. We are.
Some of us make it out. Some of us open that door leaving the darkness behind us, completely scared of what lays ahead; frightened beyond belief that what comes next could potentially be worse than what we’ve put ourselves through.
To those of you who are still there, who are still hiding in the darkness, I empathize with you. It is so hard, it is so scary and I understand your choice to stay and your fear to leave what you know.
All I can tell you is that I promise you, I promise you, leaving the darkness and coming into the light with honesty and the mentality that you are ready to kick this shit is the only thing that will save you from this. It’s the only thing that will save you.
It is up to you.
To the family and friends of loved ones entangled in this mess with us, we are sorry. We never intended to drag you into our miserable drug-filled lives. Trust me. Don’t give up on us. Don’t hate us. Separate yourself if need be, but just remember who we were before the drugs, have hope that we will see the light and make the choice to come out of it. Ultimately, it is our choice and sadly, one that is incredibly difficult to make.
We are sorry. I am sorry.