Question: Briefly tell us your personal experience with addiction and how it negatively impacted your life and the life of those around you.
Answer: When drugs were fun, they were really fun. I know this is not a very PC thing for someone who works in recovery to say but it would be dishonest to say otherwise. I know now that my childhood experiences and my genetic predisposition had everything to do with my becoming an addict but my subjective experience was that my life had been the typical 1972 suburban adolescent experience then drugs came along and made it Technicolor. For years I had a great time getting high. I met a lot of interesting people, had adventures, and experienced excitement I would have never had otherwise and I believe my life is richer because of it.
There were consequences from the start but the thrill of getting high was worth any price. For example, the very first time I bought a nickel of hash, my parents found out about it. I denied it venomously. I didn’t to worry or hurt them. Besides, I knew beyond a doubt that I was not going to stop. From that point forward, my main concern was to be crafty enough to never get caught again. I succeeded with this mission until I showed up at their door sixteen years later asking for help. Compared to getting loaded school, which had never been a challenge for me, lost my interest completely. At fifteen, I sat before the entire Board of Education for Toronto and convinced them to permit an honor student to quit high school. To this day I cannot believe that I sold them on this crazy idea but when I had my sights on something I was unstoppable. I did manage to get accepted into the University of Toronto five years later without a high school diploma.
In middle-school, teachers would take me aside to warn me about the bad company I was keeping and tip me off when they would be busting the cigarette smokers. At twenty, when I was pulled over, the cop took me aside to warn me about the criminal past of the boyfriend in the passenger seat. Meanwhile a syringe and an ounce of coke were hidden in my motorcycle jacket pocket. I came across like a normal, rational, healthy person. In the 80s, mainstream society was too caught up in cocaine, the non-addictive drug of the beautiful people, to suspect someone like me. I was like Marilyn Munster. I was the heroin addict next door.
My drug use became complicated as soon as I tried to control it. This became the endless cycle of disappointing myself. I was smart but I wasn’t smart enough to figure out how to get my using back under control. I hid this fact from everyone but the long-term damage of addiction started there. Every time I told myself “This is the last one” I let myself down. After years of this negative dialogue, the internal damage went far beyond the external ravages of addiction. While I suffered from homesickness by being in a different country from my family, the real suffering was in my own heart for the damage I was doing. I hated myself for failing to control my using.
It never occurred to me to give up drugs. I simply wanted it to go back to the way it had once been – when it was fun and in Technicolor. Once addiction had full possession of me, I chose it over all my relationships. For years my parents would believe my stories for all my fuckups - why I had forgotten my flight after they had driven hours in traffic to pick me up in Buffalo. Meanwhile, my brother had a shadow figure for a sister who continued living far away throughout his childhood. I didn’t understand when my husband said he felt alone in our marriage. I couldn’t see how my actions hurt others and I refused to believe it would be any different if I were not on drugs.
When my marriage ended, I gave up trying to keep it together. I drove to California in hope of a miracle to put my life back together. It came in the form of complete destitution. I began stripping and living in cars and abandoned buildings, completely disconnected from everyone who loved me. On one trip to county hospital, where they feared they would have to amputate my arm, I realized after a year in LA I had no one to call. I was completely alone. I spent my 28th birthday in a jail in Hawthorne only to be released to find out the club I danced at had fired me and the girls who were going to let me move in changed their mind. Crying in the parking lot of a strip club with a garbage bag full of costumes my only option left was to go to a world convention for a twelve-step fellowship. Three months and a lot of suffering later, I finally gave up trying to control my using and went to rehab.