I still struggle with what to call myself. Sometimes I will tell someone I am a former addict, but that doesn’t seem quite true. Former alludes to past and although it isn’t an active part of my present, my addiction resides in me at all times.
It has complicated relationships with lovers and kept me at a distance with friends. Although I no longer seek out drugs in the ways in which I used to, I never want to be in the same room as them.
My drug came in tiny bags and bottles, but my drug also existed inside me. Addictions often arrive in multiples. Though I consumed in front of others, I preferred being alone. It was my secret. I never wanted anyone to know how much or how often or the amount I was spending or what I was doing to get it. It was never cool or something I felt the need to confess to others. I always felt shame.
As I approach the anniversary of my birth, I look back on years of blurred breathing. I tried various modes of treatment, but what continues to work is arriving at each day approaching every hour one tick at a time.
As I write these words, I find myself watching letters lunge onto the screen and then disappear. I think: That is too much. You shouldn’t write that. Or no one needs to know all this about me.
We are living in a time when people post pictures of every meal they eat and document each moment of their day. We are no longer keeping things in. I struggle with giving too much away. I’ve kept a lot of secrets. I’ve lost lovers and friends because of this addiction as well. I don’t really feel the need to tell you about my intake of food or share a picture of myself on the subway in a bar in a dance club on the street in a bathroom.
What leads me to unzip, unfold and release some of this is because I know I am just one of many. Each time I ask someone to hold out their hands and I let something private slip out of my mouth, I feel closer to forgiveness of my self. All around us, people are dying due to various addictions and secrets that cause the ones who survive to ask questions: What could I have done? Should I have reacted sooner?
If I can save one person from starting, I’ll turn out my pockets and give them all the memories I stuff in there. I’m trying not to hide anymore. It is an extremely difficult procedure. To give away. To reveal. I can take off my clothes far easier than letting you know the traditions and lineage of my scars.
So there is no end to this, but some things have changed. I no longer seduce medicine cabinets like women, batting my eyes at milligram content and side effects. I (do my best to) stay far away from pills and prescriptions. I say no a lot more to remind myself that I can. I remind myself of the time I’ve accrued, but do not obsess over this. Addicts regress, but this doesn’t take away the strength of sobriety. This is why one day at a time is stitched into pillows and posters and bodies and meditative mantras. One can never say never again. It is an unfair summation. It just isn’t that easy.
So we mention today. Which will guide us toward tomorrow. And the day after that. And beyond.