How I started my recovery from drugs and alcohol addiction
This SpunOut.ie reader talks about their first steps on their road to recovery and how support groups have helped
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Waking up in hospital
“Cocaine! Amphetamines! Opioids, Xanax, Lyrica…” The doctor trailed off. His voice was more so an echo of a distant whisper, trapped in a never ending nightmare.
I was dozing in and out of consciousness, the blurry outline of my mother’s olive complexion the only familiar image in a sea of machines and wires. Blue scrubs scurried past the curtain that was trying to preserve whatever dignity I had left.
Rewind, two days ago, I was up in Dublin, sitting on the floor of my friends apartment, cross legged, clutching a bottle of bombay gin between my thighs, and the very familiar feeling of tingling and fullness running through my body. The sitting room table looked more like a scene from leaving certificate biology, with powder, weighing scales, measuring cups and of course a mountain of crystallized cocaine - my first love.
Little did I know, that 48 hours later I would be lying on a hospital bed, my head in a neck brace from trying to climb off the bed, nearing the end of my drug induced psychosis.
Every so often, I would come out of my hazy unconsciousness to see my mother's soft face, her brows furrowed and worry lines trailing across her forehead looking at me in a loving, worried, yet disappointed trance.
Only a mere two hours ago I was scratching at the walls, experiencing delusions and hallucinations. It was the time my body had finally said ‘I'm so tired. I can't take any more of your drugs for you.’ I had finally hit rock bottom.
I used drugs to escape from my insecurities, my feelings, my sensitivity, but they had finally become a prison. I lived to use. I could not imagine a life without my two crutches - cocaine and alcohol. Before, I felt emotionally held captive. Drugs allowed me to feel free. I should of known I couldn't run forever. Eventually, my legs would tire and I would need to sit down.
Overcoming my addiction
Becoming clean was like learning to walk all over again. I am now 33 days clean and I have experienced more emotions throughout this past month than I have my past twenty two years. Being a survivor of sexual assault and being diagnosed with PTSD, severe anxiety and Fibromyalgia, I felt like I was at the end. I was so used to covering up my feelings. I had buried 22 years of pain with dirt. The further I was from the surface, the better. Now I am learning to slowly dig away all my protection and rise from the pit to feel the wave of wind across my face.
It can be difficult to show weaknesses and vulnerability. We hear things like 'man up,' 'be a man,' 'cop on,' when we open and express that we are struggling. Life isn't meant to be a flat sea. It's meant to be full of gushing water, mountainous waves and it's about learning to enjoy the adventurous ride. Ignore the cheesy pun.
The first step in my recovery
The first step to recovery is admitting you are powerless over your addiction. People think freedom is being able to do whatever you want. If you think you can do whatever you want, you are a slave to temptation. I think freedom is being able to admit you can be powerless, that you are human. Wearing my heart on my sleeve is something I always used to have difficulty with. Now being able to admit I feel really anxious or I feel hurt and vulnerable has allowed be to access parts of my brain and body I never knew were there.
Right now my anxiety is at an all time high. I wouldn't expect it to be anything less right now. I know in time, it will eventually get better and I will be able to appreciate the content feelings, the pure happiness and bliss so much more. If we didn't experience the bad in life, we wouldn't appreciate the smell of a beautiful perfume, the chirping of birds, the smell of fresh sea air. I used to wallow in self pity. 'Why did this happen to me?' 'Why do I have to have an addictive personality?' But I have never been more grateful. If I had not gone through these difficult times, I wouldn't have learned how amazing it is to walk through life open and free. The freedom to express your feelings, really and truly is the ultimate heaven.
You are not alone, there is help out there
Addiction doesn't care who you are. It can happen to anyone from your neighbour, to your best friend, to your little niece. If anyone is struggling with an addiction, I want you to know you are not alone. We need to alleviate the stigma around drug or alcohol users.
There are fantastic Narcotics Anonymous and Alcohol Anonymous meetings in almost every town. It is a room filled with people that have struggled with the same insecurities and hardship as you. It is non-judgmental, free and the most welcoming community I've ever walked into. I have finally found my tribe.