“Our common welfare should come first, personal recovery depends on AA/NA unity.”
-The First Tradition of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous.
When I first started using chemicals, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. Hell I smoked cigarettes “The wrong way” for like two weeks before my buddies had finally had enough of heckling me and showed me the proper way to use one. I hadn’t been inhaling them, I didn’t know how. I just wanted to fit in and be one of the guys. The same when I first started drinking, smoking pot, and so on. I didn’t even know what drug was what. I just knew that I liked the feelings of acceptance, escape, and to be honest with you- being fucked up. So I just kind of developed this insatiable desire for blotto, no matter what the chemical was. And I believe this is why we addicts refer to our drug of choice as “More”. Did not matter. What’d’ya got? I just wanna get high like you. And this is one of the many reasons why I referred to myself in my using days as a “Junk box”. I didn’t care about what I was putting into my body, as long as it got me loaded and took me away from reality. So as I began to progress into the netherworld of drug addiction, it was kind of like I was in the classroom of the counter culture. I remember asking some of the older cats that I was running with what they were into. What to look for in my house, in my parents medicine cabinet, under the sink and in the freezer. It was all learned behaviors. I didn’t know what I was doing and I certainly had no idea what I was getting myself into. I moved on from chemical to chemical like fucking Pac Man. Just gobbling up any thing I possibly could to constantly stay as loaded as I could. From cigs, to booze, to weed, to pills, to powder. More. Gimme. More. Let’s go. All the while learning and re learning the lifestyle, sharpening my manipulations, honing my craft. How to lie. What my parents would believe. How to sneak out. When to flip on the tears and how to twist the truth on my feet when caught up in my bullshit. The hope shot- The promise that I’ll get my shit together, go to school, get back into baseball, and later on in life- get a job. I Promise you I am going to do better. I’ve actually got a couple job interviews next week. The Sympathy ploy: I’m sorry, okay? I don’t know what I’m doing. Do you think I wanna be like this? I know I’m a loser do you think you could make me feel any worse about it, I’m trying my best! Sorry I’m not as good as you. damn. The guilt trip: Well if you were actually here for me or gave a fuck about what was going on in my life maybe you would have actually been able to stop me. This isn’t all my fault, it’s your fault too. Damn, Take some ownership yourself. I mean, shit, I took the pills FROM YOU. Don’t be such a fucking hypocrite. And the fear Monger: Fine, Fuck you too then. You’re gonna ground me? I’ll just sneak out anyways, but this time I am never coming back. When I turn 18, I’m outta here. I’m gonna go out and intentionally over dose just to get away from you. you’re never gonna see me again. I hate you. And the list goes on and on. But I never acted like this until I got around others who did. AND I AM NOT SAYING THAT IT’S THEIR FAULT, I MADE CHOICES. I take full ownership of that. But what I am saying is that I had to learn: who was doing what, what drugs would do the trick, where the parties were, how to obtain the drugs, the people I needed around me to get what I needed’s lingo and find an “In”, how to infiltrate the circles that had the strongest drugs, Where to get them, how to use them, and all the dope fiend tricks to keep the life style going.
And this is why they say that you are the average of the 5 people you associate with most. I became my environment. I became the people that I ran with. To a fucking T. But what’s weird about it all, is it was almost a subconscious thing all at the same time. I didn’t wake up each day, put my feet on the floor, stretch, grab a cup of coffee and say to myself, “welp, time to go be a drug addict today.” I didn’t even know what the fuck a drug addict was. I thought I was just having fun and being one of the guys. I thought this is what Life was. I had no idea what battle ground I was walking out into. Honestly, looking back on things I did not do these things intentionally, I did them instinctively. It was all almost as natural to me as breathing air, or eating food. It’s as if, when I took my first puff off of a cig, my first swig of booze- that I activated some vestigial “on/off” or “stop/go” mechanism. And it just took over. I never once, throughout all of my using woke up and had the thought that “today, I want to make my Grandmother cry”, “Today, I am going to lie to my brother.” It never happened. But it was as if, the chemicals were actually re wiring my brain to be constantly puppeteered by them. I always say it was like the tail was wagging the dog. I know that that may be hard to believe or understand, especially by those who don’t understand addiction, but I swear to you that’s exactly how it is. And it just gradually progressed over the years. And this is why they say that “Bad company corrupts good character.” It didn’t matter that deep down inside I “knew right from wrong”. I was in the grip. And my moral compass was gradually moving in the wrong direction.
On the flip side, however, when I first started trying to get clean, it was the same, equal, but opposite process. It is very strange to envision and think about as I write this. I wish that I could just “download you” with my life’s experiences. I think that maybe that would be more effective to convey to you how intricate this shit is. It’s like watching some fucked up movie. But when I first started attending meetings and such, I was very apprehensive. I was very cautious and closed off. Which in and of itself is super fucking ironic and offers a glimpse into the addict’s mind alone. I have absolutely no problem driving into the worst neighborhoods and projects in the city of Chicago, waiting for fucking hours for some dude named “Lysol” – who is ALWAYS “Finna pull up” to bring me some mystery powder that was probably tucked in his ass cheeks on the way over- and trusting that this mystery substance is what he says it is and that it is going to do the trick. I have no problem trusting THAT process. So why in the hell are we addicts so apprehensive about trusting the recovery process??? And the answer is why we started using to begin with: ITS FUCKING UNCOMFORTABLE. It’s weird. It’s different. And it involves me looking at myself and being honest for the first time in a very long time.
But anyways, I was closed off. I didn’t know how to articulate what I was feeling. And even if I did, I wasn’t gonna share it with you. I don’t even know you. This shits weird. But I did know without a doubt, that I did not want to use anymore. So I was kinda caught between a rock and a hard place. This was double uncomfortable. I didn’t wanna use, but I definitely didn’t wanna do all this work. Addicts are so funny some times. “I’ll do ANYTHING to get clean…..Exxcccceeeppttt that. Nope. Not that.” But I did possess some degree of open mindedness. Enough to keep showing up anyways. I knew I was fucked if I went back to using. And just like when I was younger, and when I was constantly looking around for “who’s who”, and “who’s got what” “Where to go, and how to find it”, I started noticing that these guys were speaking my language. They were sharing my story! I didn’t even have to say a word. They talked about using like I used. Crack hotels. The same shitty city streets that I once ran. I started to hear My truths. From them. And I just kept sticking around, and finally got myself a sponsor and working the programs. It takes some time, and some serious work, honesty, and willingness to try- but as the months and years continued to pass, I was once again becoming my environment. But this time in a good way. Good Company was “corrupting” my Bad Character. Stuff was starting to wear off on me in positive ways. I was learning to trust people again. I was learning to trust myself. I was praying and I was doing the next RIGHT thing. I could wake up every day with peace in my heart, and though life can and will kick our asses from time to time- addict or not- that’s life- I knew that as long as I kept trying to be the best version of myself that I could be, even if I made mistakes- they were honest ones and I would be forgiven, so long as I could survive a little bump to my pride. And I started to notice a subtle change to my identity over time. I was moving on from “The drug addict Street person jail bird” to the guy who got clean and turned his life around. And it feels pretty damn good. I hope this is all making sense. To me it is effortless writing, because I literally just write as fast as I think. Which is nice. I don’t have to try and force anything. But the moral of the story here is actually quite interesting. Almost contradictory of the old school ways of thinking as I understand them. Quite paradoxical. I had to learn how to be a drug addict, I had to learn how to get dirty- from drug addicts. Then when the time came- I had to learn how to be clean and recover- From fellow drug addicts. Pretty damn interesting to me. See, I had been through all of the “classes”- all of the groups led by people who went to college to help people like me- AND PLEASE DO NOT TAKE THIS THE WRONG WAY- I know that you have big love in your heart if you’re one of these people and I have NO DOUBT that you have helped hundreds, if not thousands of people along your way- but FOR ME, For Herb personally- I just couldn’t connect. I needed something Raw, something Visceral, something “no bullshit” from someone who had walked my walk and someone who could talk my talk. someone who had felt what I had felt and been where I had been. So the classes never really stuck with me, But they did plant many of seeds, for which I am truly grateful. But they didn’t really start to sprout until I got around others who came from where I came from, and were going to where I was going. When we ask for directions, I guess it’s best, for me at least- to ask someone who has been to the destination I seek, and who can lead me there at times.
I had to learn how to use from a drug addict, and I had to learn how to be clean from a clean addict. Iron sharpens Iron. But bad company corrupts good character.
I used to know Dope Fiends.
Now I have Dope Friends.
Thank you for loving me.
Never give up on yourself. You are capable of amazing things.