NO CHILDHOOD TRAUMA TO BLAME- YET STILL AN ADDICT
My name is Steve and I'm a drug addict.
Often as I sat, broken, in the nightmare of my life as a using addict I questioned how this had come to pass. There was no early life of social deprivation, no traumatic event on which I could pin what had become of me. I was born into a comfortable, loving, middle class family that had worked it's way up from humbler roots. Despite the comforts I enjoyed my parents did their best to instil in me the virtues of hard work, humility and moderation. Needless to say, despite their noble efforts they were not successful. I was lazy, awkward, shy and spent most of my time in a fantasy world. It seemed to me that I was an alien to all around me.
Different and distant from family and peers. Only fear of the disapproval of others kept me on the straight and narrow and my head down to achieve moderately well at school.
On leaving home for Polytechnic, free from the afore mentioned fear, drugs entered the picture and everything in terms of my experience of life and myself changed, instantly. Suddenly Steve was cool; Steve was free to be whoever he wanted to reinvent himself as. I thought I had chosen to invent myself as someone who wanted to be the best at taking the most drugs. Some kind of revolutionary anarchist shaman. I told myself and anyone who would listen that I was on a noble quest to explore the deepest recesses of consciousness to benefit mankind, leading it to a better future on some other dimensional plane. Clearly delusional now but it made perfect sense at the time. The drugs must have been good back then.
These wonderful, exciting days lasted but a few years before the curtain of delusion was pulled down. It became all too apparent that my Shamanic mission had been a failure and that all I had done was take a lot of drugs. My peers had left the party and started to get on with building lives for themselves so I decided to do the same, enrolling as a trainee Psychiatric Nurse. I considered myself well qualified as a result of all my psychedelic research. I had no intention of stopping taking drugs. Merely applying some moderation in order to fit it in around my life as a student nurse. This plan lasted about three months before I dropped the whole thing in favour of a return to full time drug taking, experiencing huge relief and peace as I did so.
I won't bore you with repeat stories but suffice to say that over the next twenty years the story played out again and again. Countless attempts to take on positions of responsibility that required drug taking to take second place such as jobs, educational opportunities and parenthood. The re-emergence of my disturbed, discontented, fearful state of mind and a headlong rush to return drugs to centre stage and the peace and comfort they brought me. What did change was that each time I returned to the drugs I used harder and used harder drugs, bringing about more destructive consequences as a result. Paramount among these was the increase in my selfishness in order to get what I needed (more drugs mostly) and the wearing thin of the patience of those caring, tolerant folks off whom I leached my existence.
Abandoned by these caring friends and family I was forced to drag myself around with those addicts whom I had always looked down upon. To be honest I still did look down on them. While they seemed content with their lot at the bottom of the social ladder and continuing to use, I was giving up and headed back to the position of prestige I rightfully deserved. I was, however, always doing this tomorrow. I turned up to score so often with a declaration that I was getting clean that I was given the nickname of 'Giving Up Steve'. How dare they mock me, didn't they know I was better than them? Appalled at this lack of respect I became ever more reclusive, confining my social contact to that necessary to obtain the drugs I needed.
However, those drugs were no longer working. They still got me high but the escape from my fearful, disturbed mind was brief at best. Often crying onto the foil as I smoked more and more, desperate for relief from myself. Each night I would resolve to stop in the morning.
Each morning the resolve was gone. I knew that it was going to take something dramatic to enable me to stop but was clueless as to what. Heaven forbid that I should swallow my pride (ever massive despite my circumstances) and ask for help. It had to be my brilliant idea.
Throughout the previous few years a dear friend, now living miles away, had been regularly and patiently suggesting that meetings and the 12 steps may help. It had certainly had a miraculous effect on her life as she enjoyed, yes enjoyed sobriety. I was horrified by the idea of attending meetings. I had the sneaking suspicion that it would require honesty on my part or that the folks there would see through my lies. I was also convinced that I would not be accepted as being a real addict. I had never shoplifted (too scared) and I had tried Crack once and didn't like it. Surely they won't let me in. Any excuse to avoid levelling my pride and asking for help.
That same friend had visited and made amends to me. That was surely the key. I decided to give up all my personal possessions in a dramatic ascetic gesture. I hit the road with a bag on my back to get the drugs out of my system in the beautiful wilds of Britain and say sorry to family and friends along the way. A bright, romantic future lay ahead as a spiritual wanderer. I would be welcomed back as a hero by those to whom I apologised. My plan did not work out. The skeletal sight that appeared before those I visited horrified them and caused more harm. My appalling spiritual condition became ever more apparent to me. Even the birds and bunny rabbits that I thought would bring me joy became subject to my hatred. I wanted to end it all but lacked the courage. I knew that using would bring me some relief but that going back to that would mean an unbearably empty existence. One I feared that would not bring me death soon enough.
My pride and my faith in my ability to solve my drug/life problem was broken. Despite still clinging to all the same fears of what I would find, I got to a meeting of DAA. More of an instinctual survival move than any decision on my part. What awaited me there was beyond anything I could have hoped for. I was welcomed without question or judgement by friendly helpful faces, despite my desire to shrink into a corner and hide. I don't remember what I heard that night but it was enough to know that if I was like these guys (I hoped I was sick like them) that the solution they practiced just might work for me. More driven by something than through any choice on my part I found myself at the end of the meeting asking for a sponsor to take me through the 12 steps.
Following the actions he suggested had an instantaneous and profound effect on my perception. By thinking of and acting for others, no matter how I felt about myself, my own spiritual wellbeing transformed. As I prayed for a clean and sober day I found the strength to resist the temptation that was all around me. This dramatic shift, new hope and lust for life was the fuel that propelled me through the rest of the work. Even when horrified by the truth around my selfishness in my step 4 or fearful of having my ego cut down to size while making amends, this power that filled my spirit and a sure knowledge that I would return to using if I faltered kept me going forward. I was directed to and gratefully accepted numerous opportunities to be of service to my fellow addicts and with large amounts of the resentment, fear and guilt that had plagued my spirit cut away, I found that I was better equipped to be of service to others than I had thought possible. Gradually I found that I was able to be of service to many other areas of society and the more I focussed on what I could give and had faith, the more my own needs were met without effort on my part.
I'd be lying if I said it was all plain sailing. My ego is far from down for the count and shit happens. However, so long as I've been willing to apply the principles of the 12 steps, been willing to be of service to my fellow addicts and willing to turn away from my selfish, fearful impulses and towards a power greater than myself, I've been ok. More importantly, I haven't had the desire to use. Thoughts yes, desire no.
I am blessed with an amazing gift and just like the guys I encountered at that first meeting I wish for nothing more than to give it away, for fun and for free.