I’m Uncertain, That’s for Certain – John’s Story
I started thinking...Is My Life a Mess Because of My Addiction, or am I Addicted because My Life is a Mess?
For 6 years I’d been using a variety of drugs and always washing those down with a fifth of whiskey. It’s what I do. Or, it’s what I DID–at least until I landed myself in rehab–TWICE.
I was trapped and alone. For a long time, I was certain that all of my problems stemmed from my addiction. I lost my wife. My children hated me. I didn’t have my parents to fall back on anymore because I had robbed them blind. But it wasn’t me–it was the addiction.
I continued on a path of uncertain certainty. I was uncertain of who I was or what I was doing, but I certainly was managing to ruin my life in the process. And so it went on for years. One by one, day by day, hour by hour and minute by minute I lost it all.
A great job. A great family. A loving wife. — but WHY did I use drugs to begin with? That’s what I really had to figure out if I was ever going to actually get sober. So I started thinking about all the problems I had created SINCE I started drinking in college and subsequently began using painkillers following a football injury.
I was thinking about the loss in friendships and the changes I had made to my life. I was thinking about the things I had said and done to my family, and the things they had said and done to me. I thought as far back as I could remember and I realized something–I realized that life wasn’t perfect BEFORE my addiction either.
That’s when it hit me….
I started thinking…Is My Life a Mess Because of My Addiction, or am I Addicted because My Life is a Mess?
I just didn’t know anymore…I didn’t know if I was an addict because of my life or if my life was a wreck because I was an addict. To anyone that hasn’t ever dealt with addiction, this may sound silly, but to me it is was REAL as it could possibly get.
I’d recently started thinking that I couldn’t really trust what my mind believed. And who are you really when you can’t trust yourself?
My life was such a wreck–and it had been for a VERY long time. In fact, it had been a mess for so long that I was not certain that all of the problems were actually caused by my addiction to Oxycodone and alcohol. I mean, I KNEW that those tiny pills were definitely a HUGE part of my problem, but my mind kept playing tricks on me and I kept wondering….
“Was it always this bad?”
Does anyone else think that maybe their addiction isn’t to blame for ALL of their problems? Is anyone else feeling like the problems came before the addiction?
One morning in August 2016 my parents and my wife whom I was legally separated from at the time approached me. It was an intervention. Their way of saying “we love you” and “we want you to change.” I won’t lie and say I was “ready” but I also won’t say that I totally wasn’t ready either. Another time of certain uncertainty–I was certainly not ready for rehab, but I was equally uncertain as to whether I wanted to continue living life the way I had been for so many years…
My First Time in Rehab
I won’t say I had fun…because I didn’t. I won’t say I enjoyed it…because I didn’t. I won’t say I focused on my recovery…because I didn’t. I focused on how many days I was going to be stuck there before I could use again. I focused on how pissed off I was at my wife and parents for doing this to me. I focused on everything BUT what was important at the time which was to get SOBER.
I spent 30 days there. In a residential center that was supposed to HELP me get sober. The problem was, I didn’t WANT sobriety. I wanted to have fun. I wanted to spend time with my friends. I wanted my family to accept me for who I was and get over it. I wanted to just keep living life the way I had been.
I left rehab in almost the same level of disarray that I had started in–with the exception of having made my way past the sleepless nights of withdrawal and managing to be a tad bit healthy as compared to when I had entered treatment a month earlier.
But I was anything BUT sober….
I called my connect before I called anyone else. And thus, my path continued to spiral right back in the wrong direction. Some things may never change.
Life: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
I continued down this path of using various drugs and “living” the life that I was so uncertain about for many more months. My parents refused to speak to me because I started using again after they had paid so much for me to go into treatment and my wife filed officially for divorce. Those parts of my life were over now…
I had nobody to please. I had nothing important to do. So I just sunk into a hole of depression and general malaise as I continued to abuse anything that I could get my hands on–cocaine, pills, weed, and of course, a fifth of whiskey that I was so accustomed to washing my worries away with.
Late one night, about 6 months after my first trip to rehab, I was meeting up with a friend for drinks. I, of course, had already taken a handful of oxys and had a few drinks myself–all was good in this crazy world. I hopped in my car to drive across town to meet my buddy at the bar.
I made it about a mile before I got pulled over. This was it–I was going to jail.
The cop said I had run a red light at the previous intersection, I don’t even recall seeing a traffic light there (how awkward is that?). Immediately the officer asked if I had been drinking and I of course lied and said, “absolutely NOT.” He, of course, saw right through my lies and asked me to step out of the car.
Arrested: DUI & 4 Counts of Possession of a Controlled Substance
I knew I was going down for DUI. I had accepted that as soon as I saw the blue lights. What I didn’t realize is that it was bound to get MUCH worse than I had anticipated. I still had a few pills in my pocket and in my haze of having taken some already and drank before leaving the house, I forgot they were there.
The cops found them upon searching me and they were submitted into evidence. This would be my first time being arrested for a felony. For years I had abused drugs and alcohol and somehow managed to walk away unscathed in terms of my “legal record.” At least until now….
They booked me into jail at 2:27 a.m. — why is that number so profound? Because it’s the official time when my sobriety began and while I am uncertain about most things, I am certain that 2:27 a.m. is when my life officially started over.
Jail or Rehab, Which will it Be?
I met with the judge the following day and was given an option–go to jail and await trial or go to rehab and get help. I had been to rehab before so I wasn’t thrilled with the idea, but after just a night in jail, I KNEW I didn’t want to spend months there. Hell, I didn’t want to go back at all.
I chose rehab, and the judge chose a facility for me to go to that night. It all happened so fast and I still wasn’t really ready to admit that I needed this help. So, reluctantly, I entered the treatment center with a half smile and a half “you can’t get me, I’m stronger than you” attitude.
Nonetheless, rehab was going to be MUCH better than jail so I really had nothing to lose. I started feeling REAL bad towards the middle of the next day. The withdrawal was setting in and I knew what I was up against. Shakes and shivers, upset stomach and many sleepless nights lay ahead–I was certain it would suck!
My First REAL Detox
A nurse came to check on me not long after I settled in. She asked about my symptoms, how I was feeling and if I had ever taken this or that….she mentioned clonidine and buprenorphine, methadone, suboxone, Subutex and various other medications. I had heard of some, but not all of them. I felt horrible and was ready for just about anything to help me feel better.
She gave me medication and within half an hour I was feeling MUCH better. In fact, I couldn’t even believe how much better I felt. It was amazing and I was just so surprised. WHY had I let my life spiral out of control for so long just to avoid withdrawal if it was going to be this simple? WHY had I not quit sooner? Why…
The nurse watched closely over me through the next few days as I rested and managed to recuperate from years of substance abuse. She continued to give medication as needed and I realized after about 4 days that I didn’t feel much need to take the medication as frequently as it was offered. I would later learn that this was a process of tapering the meds down so that I didn’t find myself struggling to quit this new drug protocol which had the potential to become “habit.”
Counseling Helped me See the Light
After a week in detox, I was able to start focusing on my recovery. This time I WAS ready. This time I was going to actually give it my BEST effort. This time I would FOCUS on healing and stop acting like I already had this “life” thing all figured out.
I started talking with a counselor and explained that I wasn’t so sure about how my life and my addiction were connected. I mentioned that life wasn’t great before I started college and started using drugs and alcohol. I mentioned the uncertainty that I had been feeling about whether or not my addiction was caused by my life being a wreck or if it really was just that my life was a mess AFTER the repercussions of 6+ years of being an addict.
After daily therapy sessions for the first two weeks after my detox, my counselor helped me to reach an epiphany. It was like a new door had been opened. As if, after all these years, something I had long thought to be true but wasn’t sure of was FINALLY confirmed as truth.
Epiphany: My LIfe was Certainly the Root of my Addiction
You know that feeling when you finally understand something after trying to figure it out over and over? Like if you teach a child to tie his shoes and he tries and tries, the bow just keeps falling short or the knot simply won’t hold…and then, he tries just ONE MORE TIME…and it’s like MAGIC. The shoelace stays tied, the knot is perfectly imperfect and the look on the child’s face is PRICELESS.
That was me when my counselor helped me to understand that I had faced MANY challenges early on in my life and that these challenges had created a deep sense of depression and anxiety for me that required treatment. I never got the treatment–I had been attempting to self-medicate for years…I’m no doctor, so my honest attempts to self-medicate had failed.
But I realized–my LIFE was a wreck BEFORE I became an addict. Sure, drugs and alcohol certainly escalated the existing problems and created additional barriers that wreaked havoc on my mental state along the way, but I was RIGHT! I had struggled before drugs and alcohol came into the picture and I would likely require ongoing support to ensure I never fall into the vicious cycle of self-medicating, ever again.
But with all this, I was like a kid in a candy store. A child who just learned how to tie his shoes. An adult who just realized that his addiction was NOT his fault and that the chaos that had ensued in the past decade was, on some level, warranted–it wasn’t just that I sucked.
I’m Still Not Certain About Everything…But I’m Certainly Recovering
I’ve been in recovery for a little over a year now. SOBER. It wasn’t easy. It’s not easy. But I’m doing it. I’m not certain about a lot of things. I am sure that my addiction was partially caused by my mental illness early in life and I realize now that without treatment I probably never would have stopped using drugs or alcohol so I am thankful for that.
I am not certain that I will be sober forever, because I am learning that sobriety is more of a “one day at a time, one step at a time” situation. I’m navigating the path and each day gets easier than the previous day so that is good.
I’m not certain that I know what I’m doing most days, but I am certain that I am doing better than I was a year or two ago. I’m still working on making amends with my family and friends whom I hurt and they are still working in some ways to make amends with me for the things they said or did to me during the most difficult time of my life.
I’m not certain that recovery and staying sober is easy–in fact, I am most certain that it’s HARD HARD work…but, I certainly am loving myself, loving my life and loving the sobriety that I have worked so hard to achieve.