Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Blog Post Series #2 "Addiction": Addiction: John The Addict

Hi, my name is John, and I am an addict. Words that, as a child, no one would have imagined hearing coming from my lips. I would like to say that I bowed to peer pressure; I would like to say that I was a victim; I would like to say that I had no control; I would like to say those things, but I cannot. My life as an addict was always a personal choice every step of the way. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. The reason behind this new blog series isn't to 'expose' the skeletons in my closets; I have long since cleaned house. No, the purpose is to share and to educate you out of my readers who may know addicts; who have no real understanding or education of the reality of addiction; and mostly to you, who may be suffering through addiction as we speak. There is hope. This is my story and the circumstances surrounding my addiction (circumstances NOT excuses).

I am not sure at what point in my life that I truly became an addict. My best guess is that it began as a act for acceptance from my friends when I began drinking at the age of 15; I also took up smoking cigarettes. Although, it should be noted that it was not until many years later that the real addiction that almost cost me my friends, my family and my very life (which has had many of those "I should be dead." kind of moments).

I will avoid some of the more disturbing and graphic details of my addiction not because I am ashamed of them, rather for space constraints. At 17, I actually gave up drinking. I was, at that time, an avid recreational smoker of marijuana (which from here on out will be treated differently than 'drugs'. I will make clear this statement in a later post dedicated to the subject) and though I did smoke marijuana, it was not as frequent or in much a quantity as my few years with alcohol had been.

Me, Age 20
At 19, after the death of my son, I moved to Calgary, Alberta. Life was acceptable for the first two years I lived there with my girlfriend. At 21, my girlfriend of six years cheated on me and moved back to Nova Scotia. I moved in with four friends between the ages of 18-20. It is here perhaps, where things finally took off. Now on my own, single and having a ridiculous income providing me with more money in my pocket than I had and have ever had, I was surrounded by young, teen-aged party animals. I took to them immediately. Maybe it was the release or maybe it was the thrill of the excitement, I am not sure, but whatever the cause, I was now headed down a very dark road.

I spent the next three years drinking and experimenting with various other drugs. My drug of choice, outside of the booze, was ecstasy. At the peak of my abuse in Alberta, I went on a 30 day ecstasy marathon. Somewhere in there I was thrown from the hood of a car at around 30km/h. Though I suspected I sustained some major head trauma, it would be four years before I saw a doctor (no permanent damage was caused; my head is like a rock thankfully). Around the turn of 2003 into 2004 my new drug of choice was cocaine. I had met a dealer who, it turns out, didn't have many friends. Booze and cocaine would become an every day part of life.

I moved back to Nova Scotia in June of 2004. I took up where I had left off in Alberta, at least with the booze. Cocaine is much harder to find in a small town. Alcohol would be a big part of my life for the next few years. I eventually arrived at a point where I lived with my best friend Bryan (you will get to know him next month), I worked at the busiest bar in town and our friends lived in the other two apartments in our building. Things were great.

In 2005, things went really awry in my life. An argument over women and money led to the ending of a friendship like no other I have ever had the grace to experience. I was suffering a deep depression due to excessive drinking (though I didn't know it at the time) and due to the upcoming anniversary of the death of my son. I was alone in sorrow and though I have omitted stories that would have your heart breaking and oozing with sympathy, I in no way am making excuses for my actions. At every turn it was my conscious choice; life offered me many roads, it was I who chose to walk the ones I did. The point is that this is when I was introduced to Crack.

I won't lie. I had done it a few times in Alberta and that was part of the reason that on my 25th birthday, alone, inebriated and depressed, I sought out the one individual who I knew could locate some 'hard' drugs. Crack was what he could get so Crack is what I wanted to do. From the moment I inhaled for the first time, my fate was already sealed. I cannot explain in words the type of euphoria one gets from such a high but needless to say it is enough to completely blind you to any problems you thought you might have had.

This addiction carried on for over a year. I lied, I stole, I hurt, I put lives at risk and I destroyed (a head on collision with an electric pole was what finally got through to my brain that I had a serious problem despite having already gone through rehab once already). I put many people through Hell and back for the sake of my addiction and this, this is important for anyone dealing with addiction in any sense: addiction is the most selfish 'disease' (it is recognized as a disease by the CMA and AMA. I neither agree or disagree with their acknowledgement) period. I am happy to report to you that through the strongest and most caring network of family and close friends that I have been able to overcome my addiction since 2007 (5 years and counting!!). My success, though not unheard of, was completely dependent upon that network I spoke of. Without it...well, we would not be having this discussion.

Now that I have, as briefly as possible, brought you up to speed on my experience with addiction I want you to know why. I am sharing this so that you know in my future posts that I know what I'm talking about. I have lived it and breathed it. It is also another piece to the puzzle of who I am and how I came to be. To say that overcoming my addiction was a struggle is to sell myself, and those who supported me, short of the accomplishment. The next post in this series will be to share with you the logic and mindset of an addict with the purpose of demonstrating how 'John the Person' is completely different and separated from 'John the Addict'.

I realize that addiction is a very difficult thing to understand and I hope that those reading who have predetermined ideas about it will take a moment to hear the voice of someone who has been to and seen what true Hell is and made it back alive to share his story. The biggest error in judgment you can make is to think that addicts can just stop being addicts; they cannot, but I will save that for the next post in the series.

I hope that as I move forward with this series that you will learn something about addiction, learn how to identify it, but most importantly, learn how to deal with it. It is no easy task to expose one's great failures in life but to quote a great and ancient wise-man, Confucius:

"Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall."

I fell a long way and it's been a long climb back up and though my life is not where I want it to be, it is only because I have not arrived where I am going yet.