I’m afflicted with a disease that takes the greatest dreamers amongst us. A disease stigmatized by society and punished with ferocity. I'm forced to live in a shroud of secrecy and deception. I don’t think people really understand what it takes to be an addict. A heroin addiction is not a fun or glamorous. After a brief honeymoon period, it is not even an enjoyable thing. No, a dope addiction is a fucking chore. A time suck. A money pit. A trust destroyer. A soul stealer.
People try to talk to me about how stressed they can be about life in general. Perhaps it is their job, maybe their kids, or, more likely, some menial bullshit they’re placing far too much stock in. Obviously, they’ve never dealt with the stress of a dope habit. I'm not trying to marginalize the lives of earthlings, but the stress of a habit contributes to one if the most intense experiences I've ever encountered, and it occurs on a regular basis. Dealers aren’t exactly the easiest people to deal with, nor the most savory, and dope isn’t really a regulated commodity either. You’re gonna get ripped off. You’re gonna get shit product. You may get something cut with fent and OD likely going out on the greatest high you've ever experienced. You’re gonna wait five hours for your dealer when he said it would take one. You’re gonna race through traffic on your lunch break to score, do a fat line, and finally ward off the sickness so you can get some work done. You may even get a gun pulled on you. You’re going to lie to love ones, destroy relationships, and manipulate those most important to you. You may be rolling in enough dough to finance a few days worth of habit at a time. Enjoy, it won’t last long. Eventually it’ll be a daily thing because you’ll need to scrounge up the cash then and there. The drugs will always run out. There will never be enough. If there is one universal truth for a junky, there it is.
Sometimes I just want to say “Fuck your stress,” but I nod my head, smile, and sympathize with them as best I can. I wish I could spill about the stresses of my life, but I refrain, afraid of the judgement that would come to pass over me. So I’m silent. The friends I once used with no longer hang around me because I’m trying to clean my act up. I don’t know if they feel guilty about using around me or it forces them to confront their own use or they just don’t have any interest in hanging out with a clean me. Some ask me how things are going, but I can sense how disingenuous their act is, and I often feel as though they are just waiting for me to slip up further than I already have. Fuck ‘em. At the end of the day, I'm alone. Alone with my affliction. Alone with my demon, this crude little bastard that sits on my shoulder and whispers in my ear leaving me feeling like Theoden under the spell of Wormtongue. Alone with myself; an individual I hardly know anymore. Even in a room of thousands, I’m still alone with the secret that is slowly destroying me.
When people think of addicts, the general picture isn’t a pleasant one. A google image search results in hundreds of photos of gaunt looking individuals who appear as though they’ve lost every single last bit of hope they’d ever known. Fortunately (maybe unfortunately?), I’m a junky that has managed to maintain some control over my life throughout the periods of active addiction. If you asked 10 people if I were an addict based on looks and surface information alone, all 10 would take one look at me and say there is no chance. I take pride in my dress, keep my appearance up, and spend a few days a week in the gym. I have dated beautiful women and broken their hearts. I hold a wonderful job at a well known company, and excel in my position. I’m totally self-sufficient and rely on nobody else to provide me with anything. I may be an addict, but I’m sure as fuck not going to use that as an excuse to let my life go to hell. Granted, there are many mornings which I show up to work and sound fluish, but miraculously return from lunch looking like a ray of sunshine (and still hungry). Nobody really pays any heed to me, though. Most folks are way too wrapped up in their own lives to notice the subtle hints of my sickness. Still, I feel as if they all see right through me. I wonder what they’d think if they knew. I wonder if they do know, and just don’t have the balls to say something about it. Whatever the case, they’ll never understand my struggle, even if I did sit there and try to explain it to them. My family cautiously watches from a distance. My mother worries, but I do my best to abate her fears. I've destroyed my fathers trust repeatedly, but I've started to be honest with him, and we've begun to foster a new relationship together. He may not be pleased with a lot of my actions, but at least we have a mutual respect for one another.
I never intended to get myself hooked on heroin. It happened slowly. The drug covertly altered the chemical makeup of my brain and it now says yes to drugs before I even have the opportunity to comprehend my actions. I often feel as though I am fighting a losing battle, that the deck is stacked against me.
Addiction runs in my genes. Two aunts on my fathers side are alcoholics (one in recovery), three cousins from that same side are either drug addicts or alcoholics, and my mother comes from a family of hard drinking rednecks. It’d be easy for me to just say fuck it and give into the whims of my impulses.
I’m tired of this game, though. I can’t keep hiding. I can’t keep lying. It has worn me out and I can’t keep it up. I’m slowly slipping and eventually I’ll make that grave error if I continue along this dark and foggy path. Jails, institutions, death. If you’ve been in the thick of it, you know those are the endpoints. So that’s it. I’m giving it up. I’ve gotten myself this far despite rampant substance abuse issues, and now it is time to see what is possible if I live to my full potential. I’m excited about that, but I’m afraid of getting to know myself. I’ve avoided building that individual relationship for so long that I’m frightened I won’t like what I find, but there is hope. Sometimes it may not feel like much, but it is there.
I’m grasping to that sliver of hope as a child would clinch their mother’s hand in a crowded street. Sure, I’ve got white knuckles right now, but that is better than blue lips.