Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Series: Addiction: Near Death Experience #1

When it comes to life, there is always the danger that accidents can happen. When it comes to substance abuse, the risk of any type of accident is increased ten-fold. Depending on your substance of choice this is usually in the form of an overdose. That does not exclude all the other potential life threatening situations that may arise when one is a substance abuser. Irrational and insane decisions are commonplace in the world of an addict. Several times through various stages of my addiction I have nearly ended my own life. This is one of those occasions.

It's funny how there are some things that are easier to remember than others. I have memories from before I was two years old and yet I cannot recall much between the ages of five and ten. Some of my memories have been permanently removed as a result of substance abuse and the inability to retain memories while under the influence. This particular memory is still quite clear in my mind.

In 2005, my drug of choice switched from alcohol to ecstasy. The high I got from dropping a hit of ecstasy was beyond any I had ever experienced. The high provided me with such a joyous and blissful feeling of love and harmony that one cannot truly express into words; one can only experience it (and I strongly advise against it.). It was in September and I had access to a large quantity of ecstasy tablets. On this particular night I was with several friends and we had decided that a road trip from Calgary to Banff was in order 'for something to do'.

I remember thinking to myself before doing it that I wasn't sure it was a good idea but for the first time I opted to take two hits of ecstasy at once. Prior to this I had never taken more than one as it had always been sufficient; or more than sufficient. I had no idea how I might be affected by the increase in dosage. After taking my pills, we piled in the car and started on the way to Banff. We had a full car, all the seats occupied. For the record, we did have a sober driver; the rest of us were taking something.

We smoked several marijuana cigarettes (joints from here on out) on our hour long journey out into the mountains. We arrived very late at night; perhaps near midnight. We took frequent trips to Banff for the sole purpose of smoking a few joints and then returning to the city. We got to Banff and drove down to the river just below the Banff Springs Hotel. We were all in good spirits and having a good time. We broke out some drinks and smoked some more joints.

As the combination of all these foreign chemical substances in my system began to take hold of me, my logic, rationality and common sense had already taken the night off. As we stood around laughing at ridiculous things, boredom, due to the extreme amount of energy I had from the intoxicants, soon set in.

When I was a child, I remembered playing around on cars. I remembered, for some reason, at that moment. I immediately challenged my friend to attempt to drive around the parking lot with me on the hood. I boasted that there would be no way that he could throw me from the hood; I was Superman after all (or so I thought.). So I jumped on the hood and he behind the wheel, and we started slowly around the parking lot.

Now, from my memories as a child playing around on cars (parked), I remember being able to get my fingers all the way under the hood, near the windshield, which provided for a very solid hold. To my surprise, and soon to my dismay, newer model cars do not have this. There is a curved plastic addition which forces your fingers to curl and not permitting for that strong hand hold that older model cars provided.

As he circled the parking lot, I egged him on to do better; I was winning. At this point he increased his speed to around 30km/h and cut the wheel hard left. What happened next is still as clear as any waking moment. As the car veered left, my body slid right. I remember flying off the hood of the car; kind of like Superman. I watched as the concrete came towards me. In slow motion, my head connected with the pavement. I rolled forward, like a flip, and as I was floating through the air I remember thinking 'Wow.'. As my head collided once more with the concrete, I flipped once more and came to rest on my back; lying as though crucified to the ground.

My initial thought was that 'this is going to hurt in the morning.' I'm unsure how long I was laying there but suddenly I could hear voices and screams, a mumbling fuzzy sound, starting as tiny whispers and quickly growing into loud, audible sounds. When I heard the words, 'Oh my God, I think he's dead,' I raised my right hand in the air, making a fist and shouted out 'I'm all good.' I wasn't.

My head swelled up to the size of a basketball (this is not an exaggeration) within just a few minutes. Now the smart thing to do would have been to go to a hospital; we weren't smart. We drove around a tourist town looking for somewhere to buy ice. After 45 minutes without success, we realized that there were dozens of hotels and motels that provided free ice. The swelling reduced to almost nothing within half an hour of icing it. The ride home, it was dawn by this time, was scary. My vision was blurry for hours, I could not concentrate and my teeth were grinding so much I cracked several CD cases I had tried to use to stop the grinding.

It was four years before I saw a doctor about this incident. Fortunately I did not suffer any long term damage as a result of this absolutely reckless action. I was lucky that night; I was lucky several more times; I am extremely lucky that I survived my addiction. There are so many more life threatening and dangerous possibilities when one is an addict than an overdose. In fact, during my entire battle with addiction I have only come close to death from overdose on maybe two or three occasions; compared with the dozens of occasions where death nearly caught me as a result of some action undertaken while under the influence.

I was afraid of my injuries; so I didn't go seek professional medical help. I was afraid of my addiction; so I suffered on in silence. Fear is a dangerous thing if we are unprepared with dealing with it. My suggestion to you, my friend, is to stop being afraid. The consequences of inaction or action due to fear could result in the abrupt ending of your existence. There is nothing to fear so much that should result in your own death. You cannot live in fear; only die.