I went to see an old friend of mine recently. He was in the Porter County Jail. Again. He had been on Methadone for a while now and just could not seem to get off of it, or stay on just methadone. Which is something that I have come to find out. Most, who end up on methadone stay on it for the rest of their lives, or for a very long time. It is very difficult to come off of methadone, because the providers tend to move you up so fast and to such a high dose that people become horribly dependent upon it. Add that to it being so addictive- most would agree that the withdrawls are worse than Heroin itself, I wouldn’t know. I was never afraid of Heroin, but Methadone scared the shit out of me. The detox from Methadone is from what I’ve witnessed absolute Hell. And this young man was in the full throes of it. He wasn’t shaking, in the typical sense of the word. The only way I can describe the way he was moving is, that he was Quaking. Like there was an epicenter of pain sending seismic vibrations from deep inside his core. His skin was an ashy grey and splotchy. His pupils like that of a Giant Squid; huge saucers with zero colored bands around them. I could see the way his hair matted to his skull from countless hours of non stop sticky detox sweats. He couldn’t stop sniffling. He was so sick. God I don’t miss that.
I could tell that he was not so pleasantly surprised to see me. Surprised? Probably. But not in a happy way. Usually when they see me, they know what’s coming. I am rarely in front of drug addicts with happy news. But this was truly different. He was an old friend of mine. And I wasn’t there to intervene or scare him or give him some kind of Come to Jesus Moment. I was just there to talk to my buddy. A person who I have always been quite fond of. And at first he was quite resistant. Which is so interesting to me by the way. Here is a man, almost 40 years old, sitting in jail, strung out on dope, no job, no car, no apartment- not two nickels to rub together, and yet still so full of Bravado, and Ego. Why is that? Why are we addicts ALWAYS the last to know that we’re licked? It’s like that Meme where the house is on fire and the little character is in the middle of the picture, “This is fine.” No big deal. I got this….
We do not got this.
It took about 30 minutes to really get him to let his guard down and start openly talking with me. At which I asked him a very simple question, but to the addict who still suffers is a very hard one to answer. And I ask it all the time: “What do you want?” One of my favorite quotes that I use all the time, is “If you don’t know what you want, you’ll damn sure never get it.” And That was the case for me, and my friend here. He didn’t have a clue. As with many addicts that I talk with. The only thing that we have ever known is the getting and using and finding ways and means to get more drugs, so what’s the fucking use? Dreams? Goals? HA! Not a fucking chance, I just wanna get high and fuck shit up. That’s what I am and that’s what I do right? *Because that is the IDENTITY that we CREATED for ourselves. It is what and who we associate with. I never, until I got clean, had anyone challenge me about priorities, or goals, and success. I just had a bunch of using buddies that I got high with. I had no fucking clue what I wanted, or who I was, or who I wanted to be. This is common for us addicts, especially during our first 5 years, which I lovingly refer to as the “wooden Nickel”.
And My friend here didn’t even fully understand the question. He repeated it back into the air, not really back to me, multiple times. At first He repeated it back at me, with kind of an agitation. Kind of like he was pissed off that I would even dare to ask him such a thing. Like he knew that I knew that He didn’t know. Because I did. I didn’t either for a long time. And he was kind of insulted at first, but I maintained the flow, and kept emotions to a minimum. Kept control. Stayed calm. Led with love and respect. “It’s just a question, buddy. It’s just us here.”
“I don’t fucking know, Herb. What do I want?”
“Only you can answer that man.”
And He kind of zoned out. That dissociative “1,000 Mile stare” of a truly broken man. I could see him traveling his rabbit hole of secret places, the way only a truly lost soul can. We can time warp and introspectively transcend all of our past, our present, our desires, our longings, and our fears concurrently, while thinking about a present question or situation-OR merely trying to avoid it. It’s like watching a movie in our hearts and heads, behind open dead eyes. While asking ourselves a thousand questions that we simply cannot answer. Only to snap back to reality, typically with an “I’m fine”, or, “I don’t know” dismissive response. God I hate that I know that. Ugh. It’s such an empty and awful feeling.
I was able to kinda nudge my head down, and into his field of vision and regain his focus. I asked the question again, after his journey of introspection. And this time, he locked in and me and spoke some truth. “I still don’t know….A house or apartment? A Girlfriend? A Job? What do I want, Herb?”
And then he found some confidence in his answers. “Yeah. An apartment, a girlfriend, and a job. That’s what I want.”
Now we are scratching the surface. You see, I thought those were the types of things that I wanted when I first got clean, too. But just like anger is a surface/secondary emotion- those THINGS/IDEAS were secondary things too. I thought that once I got back on my feet and stopped shooting dope, that all I had to do was play the country song backwards- the dog would come back, the girl would return, or I would find another one, I’d get the truck and the house and etc. – that that’s what recovery, life, and success would look like. But those are all SECONDARY, or surface Ideas. Those are all Symbols, that I connect with what I REALLY WANT.
You see; and I said this to him, but, when I hear him say that He wants a job; I hear “I want to feel like I matter. Like I can depend on myself. I want stability, and to be able to provide for, and be proud of myself.” “A Job” is just a status, that my mind equates to being self sufficient, and trusting myself to be secure enough in my place in life that I can lean on my self and be what I see as a real man. I wanna feel like I am enough, to myself, and to others, and I want to prove that to my family. That I can make it on my own, and a JOB would be a great way of showing them that.
And when I hear him say that He wants an apartment, or a house, I heard: I want a HOME. A safe place of my own. A sanctuary where I can truly be myself, and make it my own. Free from judgement, a place where I can feel secure, and stable, and protected, and still. I want my own refuge where I can return home to, from my job, and feel PROUD of myself, that I was able to provide this safe place for myself, and I myself am going to enjoy it and take comfort that I no longer have to borrow or beg for a warm place to sleep. I want a place, a location, a spot, where I feel like to truly belong. A place to call my own. Where I deserve and long to be. My very own safe place. Just for me, and maybe a family one day.
And when I heard him say, “I want a Girlfriend”- I heard, “I want a Wife, I want to feel truly LOVED”. True love. Someone who doesn’t judge me, someone who loves me for who I am, not in spite of who I am. A real friend. A Partner and a team mate. Someone who I can TRULY depend on. Someone who isn’t going to leave me, like so many others have throughout my life- whether I pushed them away from my using or not. Someone who I can do life with, and share life with. I want to feel seen, and visible, and appreciated and celebrated. I want someone to CHOOSE ME. Not just be obligated to take care of me because we share the same blood. I want someone who loves me with a fire, and who can’t live without me, or me without them, and I want a dog, and pictures on the wall, and Christmases and a life we can enjoy, in our home, and come home from our Jobs to. That’s what I heard. Everything else was just symbols….
And that’s exactly what he meant too, because when I told him this, the flood gates opened. We had touched a part of him that had been surpressed for so long. HE was still that scared, lonely, broken hearted little boy. We both were. And we connected, and he knew it. He cried, and I listened. And we continued on talking for about an hour. Eventually we laughed, and we reminisced on some of the old times. His light was slowly starting to come on, and for a moment, I could see that he wasn’t in Jail. He was starting to envision his life with a purpose. He was starting to taste that His future and his life could be better than he has ever imagined, and it felt so reassuring to see.
And I think that that’s a pretty common theme for most of us addicts out there. That’s what we want. We just cannot grasp the actual fruit of the idea below the surface. We long for deep meaningful relationships, and purpose, but we have seldom truly experienced them, due to our using. Sometimes all we need is someone to talk to, a fresh perspective. Someone who can help us wade through the murky waters of our secret places. Someone who can reiterate what we just said, right back to us. Someone who can translate things into a language we didn’t know that we understood. Someone who can show us what our symbols and Ideas may actually mean, below the surface.
Money. Cars. Clothes. Status. House. Fences. Pool. Power. Jewelry. Toys. Vacations. etc…
These are all just things. Symbols. What do the symbols of your life say about your true self, below the surface? What Priorities of yours do they reveal?