Today I will step outside myself and try my best to describe my heroin addiction in a completely different way than I am used to thinking. With the help of my colleague and critical cofounder Michelle, I will push my mind further to reach more people and genuinely appreciate the support.
So in my post today I will give the way I felt in active addiction “personification.” Writing helps me think differently about my disease and how I may be able to compare it to share my experience with those that don’t understand what’s going on in the mind of a heroin addict during active addiction. Being on the other side looking in at a friend or family member hooked on dope is extraordinarily stressful and can do almost equal damage depending on how close your relationship is with the addict. You will ask yourself “why are they doing this to themselves?” or “what happened to their willpower?” It all comes to a point where it isn’t about figuring out “why” but convincing them that they need help. Unless you have been an addict, it is hard to fathom what drives a person to meet these ends only to destroy themselves in the process.
Let me share a story I heard before to describe the way a person becomes entangled in this hell.
Picture yourself getting a baby tiger, so cute and cuddly, you play with it, and it makes your stress level go down. It’s lovable and doesn’t need too much; you keep it in a bedroom at night. This baby tiger brings you a sense of comfort and warming feeling inside, and hey it doesn’t cost much and is too small to draw attention. You know that you’ll get in trouble for having it, but it gets unnoticed and is your little secret.
All your friends stop by, and they get hooked on petting the tiger, but you get greedy like the “Gollum” in “The Lord of the Rings” protecting your “precious.” Everything starts going by the wayside as time goes by I’m noticing the baby tiger has grown. It cost more to feed him and is taking up more of my time and money.
Naturally, the teenage tiger is getting a little restless in the tiny room I have it locked in. Every time I feed him, he gets bigger and bigger and more dangerous. People in the neighborhood are wondering what is going on, and I’m spending more time trying to contain this secret, but it is obvious I’m up to something.
Now the tiger is fully grown; I have to throw hundreds of dollars away to feed him every day. When I open the door, I risk being eaten alive, and the police have me on their radar and are closing in. I lost my job to care for it, and all my friends and family worried by the years I spent focusing on something that will eventually kill me or get me thrown in prison, not to mention all of the innocents that could get mauled if I lose control of it.
Obviously, you see where I’m going with this; the tiger is my addiction to heroin. It slowly grows and becomes more dangerous and out of control. At first, the tiger grabs attention from others but then scares them away while it eats my money up, or it will eat me! The cute warming comfort it used to provide has grown too large; I eventually become a slave to feeding it or I will fear it will eat me. The psychological obsession is that of a ring-obsessed monster from a fantasy story.
The feeling you get from not feeding your addiction leads to serious withdraws. Unless you have experienced them as I have for many years, you would fully be able to understand. The feeling is not just extreme physical sickness and discomfort if it were it wouldn’t be nearly as hard to kick. When your withdraw is physical and mental, it is a whole other surreal nightmare.
Every day you have to plan to get your fix, or you’ll go through crushing withdraw, your mind becomes a Salvador Dali/Pablo Picasso painting and the obsession of elevating your discomfort is stronger than an F5 tornado to end the pain! It screams in your ear as you wiggle around like a worm in the dirt getting roasted by a child with a magnifying glass. Your skin crawls, and you become extremely restless, and your eyes feel like they are bleeding. You’ll have the “runs” for week’s and “sweats” freeze and burn at the same time while only being able to drift off into a nightmare every few hours at a time. Sickness weakens you, and you become vulnerable to anything or anyone. Your mind is so twisted you cannot think straight, and your skin feels like a nasty mess. Your senses are on “overdrive,” and everything around u smells, and your watery eyes blur vision, and your nose will run like a faucet as your mucus membranes begin to work.
In the movie “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” you curse the light. The word’s Dracula speaks “the blood is the life!” trigger your brain to hit the vein and to watch the blood shoot back in the needle, as I know it means instant relief and “life!.” Without an opiate in my system withdrawal can last for 3 to 14 days, then comes the long period of being lifeless like a zombie waiting for life to come back to your mind and body.
There are many more obstacles you will face for a very long time, but this is the reason junkies continue to use. The discomfort and fear, the misery and total loss of feeling even normal go out the window. It also is a very long and miserable process that a shot of dope can stop the nightmare instantly, but just continue the cycle back to the beginning. Here I only pointed out a few of the reasons it is so hard to quit; there are many more that keep an addict going back over and over in this self-destructive cycle.
Just remember that a person that is in active addiction is truly suffering, I’m not saying to enable them or feel sorry, just a fact that being addicted to any drug is a feeling of hopelessness that grows more day by day. For those that don’t understand, you have to realize that this is a progressive disease before someone becomes a full blow addict they don’t realize how fast the turn is from being a controlled casual user to stuck in an endless nightmare.
They have a statement from Alcoholics Anonymous that sticks in the mind of everyone who is an addict “cunning, baffling, and powerful!”
This statement is so true it gives me chills when I feel an urge pop into my mind for a brief minute or two to use again. No matter how much we learn, or the amount of time an addict or alcoholic has in recovery, our disease is waiting in the shadows to strike, which in my case would possibly mean death.
I won’t minimize my situation, and I’m constantly on guard against myself like the Secret Service guarding the President. In my mind; a highly trained, vigilant defense system built within myself at work every day to identify the threats and immediately eliminate them. This job never ends and won’t be easy. I have different defenses for different thoughts and emotions, every adjusting and learning while trying to remain balanced. All jobs I believe gets easier in time.
Think of relapse prevention as you would think of getting a new job, at first it can be very confusing and difficult. Over time you get better and better at it, more proficient and efficient. After an extended period, you become an expert. My defense I have set up against myself so to say. If I feel too relaxed or complacent within my program of recovery, I need to change things up to stay invested in the process.
I think of how I feel over a period like a Wall Street stock-broker, my investment is my time and feelings. The stock can be anything outside my control (people, situations, places, etc.) and I give them a value. Over time I decide what the trend shows. Did I invest too much or too little into this or that, should I redirect my funds (energy) to another stock that’s more profitable to my well being? If I invest my time and energy appropriately, my profile will become well balanced. If one of my stocks crashes, I have something else that won’t take me out of the game.
As long as I look at everything in this sort of light, nothing can get me to go off into extremes that can lead me to relapse. Always will be something else to back me up or I feel accountable too.
So far I am highly satisfied with my life now compared to what it was, it is truly a night and day change, and I have many reasons that keep me on the right path.
For some people, you might not see these changes immediately, and life might get boring and isolated, get yourself out of yourself don’t let your mind take over. Get out to a meeting and engage in anything that doesn’t involve drinking or drugs and stay busy.
Isolation and boredom are the enemies, in the beginning, realize there is plenty to do and produce. All our lives have to mean, and if you are anything like me, you have already wasted many years on this addiction and want to catch up. Be patient; nothing makes me happier than seeing someone that struggled for so long finally say enough is enough.
Hopefully, I gave some examples to the addict readers out there. And I thank you all for the time you spent to listen to a crazy addict like me ramble on and on, thank you I am humbled and grateful even one person would take his or her time to read what I write, it’s astonishing.
Thanks for reading