If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything. Fitting in is the opposite of belonging. If we don’t have a sense of belonging, then we will attempt to fit in where we definitely do no belong. Water seeks it’s own level; low self esteem, and low self worth create low standards.
Ain’t that the truth?
I actually settled into Valparaiso quite well, once the awkward newness fell away. I knew that I would have an in to make some friends no matter what, and that in was baseball. But this world that was Valpo, as we call it for short was a little different than the other towns I had experienced. Here, the kids who played sports were the cool kids. I certainly did not consider myself cool at all. Hell I didn’t even know what cool was. I actually had no idea who I was at all. I had like zero identity, zero direction, and zero sense of self. I basically felt like I had just emerged from 12-13 years of absolute chaos- like that of an Atom Bomb explosion. Giant mushroom cloud erupts, death all around me, screams, cries for help, chaos and panic everywhere, and then I emerge a complete and total stranger to myself. Like I had just appeared, with only the painful memories from the explosion left inside of me. I didn’t know who I was, what I wanted, or where I belonged. Totally banged up from it all.
I had only what I could carry remaining; trauma, shame, guilt, insecurities, fear, loneliness, self pity, an inner child that never felt good enough, worthy, valued, or noticed, a desire to feel like I mattered, and a love for baseball. (Not a victim stance, not Hyperbole. This is where I was in life). I was so inside my own little world so often, that, I know it’s hard to explain, but looking back, I was never fully present. I escaped with everything. Music, riding my bike, baseball, movies, T.V. I really do believe that I was fully disassociated for most of my life. Just kind of floating along all accidental like on a breeze. I would think about my life up until then often. I would remember back to all of the ugliness and pain that I endured. I remember many times actually pondering on my life, and actively probing myself. So, Stevie, this is what you have experienced up until now. What are you going to do about it? That type of stuff. Thank God that I did have people intermittently throughout my life who believed in planting seeds. For without them, it would have been incredibly easy to just become what the world had tried to make me into. A cold hearted, scorned, spiteful, hateful, resentful, mean spirited person. But I wasn’t going to allow that to happen. I had seen some really kind heartted things, in spite of the chaos and trauma that ensued. And I just knew that when I was given the chance, I was going to be a difference maker one day. I knew that deep down inside I was a good person. I was just dealt a really shitty hand, and one day soon I would be able to step out on my own, if I could just hold it together one day I would get my chance.
So I just kind of went through the motions as best as I could I suppose. I played baseball and I had a couple friends that I rode bikes with all over town. Immediately after school, if I didn’t have practice, and all weekend long, if I didn’t have games. I was gone. I was out of the house with my buds riding bikes all over Valparaiso. Sometimes we would go fishing and sometimes we just hung out at a friends and played video games. I never said no to a friend asking me to hang out. It made me feel good. It made me feel like I fit in somewhere. And that ended up blessing me with friends from all over the “grid” so to speak. The jocks who played sports, because I played sports, the kids who once rode my bus, but now ride bikes to school, so now I rode my bike to school too. The couple buddies of mine who loved WWF wresting like I did. A couple buddies who loved fishing like me, and a couple buddies who loved video games. I was constantly trying my hardest to always be on the go, and to always be “in” somewhere. I had no actual consistent group of friends, with but a couple exceptions. But even those friendships drifted apart eventually. And this is why I feel like my first “drug of choice” was Acceptance.
Acceptance from friends. Feeling seen. Feeling like I fit in somewhere. This was a very dangerous thing for me, looking back, because couple that with low self worth, which equals low standards, and couple that with little to no moral compass or direction in life and I now stood for basically nothing. So I would fall for anything. Does that make sense? Like, throughout everything that had happened so far, I still somehow managed to come out very naive. Lack of mentorship and guidance will do that to ya. Plus couple that with growing up in chaos, which left me with this innate need for “adventure”, which is actually the ‘comfort in chaos’ response to it all and I was fucked. It was only a matter of time until just the right “carrot on a stick” was dangled out in front of me.
I have heard a lot of people throughout my life say this exact phrase over and over again: “I believe I was an addict before I ever even used a drug.” I myself have said this countless times, and every time I shared it amongst other addicts it was received with head nods of agreement. But what does that mean, and how can that be? I think what that phrase really means is probably something like this: “I suffered through extensive trauma throughout my life, and the very first time I used a chemical it worked. It numbed me and took away the pains. It was a remedy I found that I hadn’t known I was looking for, and I was hooked on mind and mood altering chemicals ever since. Anything that gave me a head change is what I wanted. I had previously used other outlets to escape and self medicate, but once I found drugs and alcohol, why, self medication just became so much easier.” Yep. I think that’s it.
So as you can see, I hope; I hope I have painted a pretty accurate picture of who and what and where I was. I was on a collision course with addiction and didn’t even know it.
Traumatized and violated kid, Naive as shit, need for acceptance, ongoing need for escape, no sense of belonging. Just wanting to fit in. Always on the go. Hardly ever home, unless it was to sleep. No sense of self or identity. No direction. Hardly any kind of moral compass, although I did know right from wrong. No boundaries or understanding of boundaries. A people pleaser. A tag along. I was prime for the pickin’ when the time would come. And it would.
Time marched on. I stayed on the go. Different friends seemingly every weekend, to the point where my parents couldn’t even keep up. Baseball friend, bike buddy, video gamer, this part of town, that part. Rich friend, poor friend. Etc. I was constantly chasing and moving. Always trying to be in the mix as best as I could. What I know now, that I so clearly did not know then is that I was trying to fill a void. I was trying to fix my insides with external validation and influence. I also know now, that then, I certainly would have benefited from extensive amounts of therapy. but, as it goes, hindsight is 20/20. Life can only be lived forwards, and understood backwards. That’s just the way it goes.
I hated cigarettes as a child. I hated cigarettes as an adolescent. Everything about them disgusted me. The way they smelled, the way the butts accumulated in ash trays, the ash. The way they made smokers’ voices sound. Everything. they grossed me out. I hated that my parents smoked cigs. When I was riding in the car with my folks, and they would smoke I would always ask them to roll the windows all the way down, because I didn’t want to smell like the smoke. It was nasty and I could never understand why someone would want to indulge in such a gross and self destructive habit. I was actually embarrassed at times that they smoked. I don’t know, I had grown up around smokers all my life and the idea of it was just nasty. I remember vowing to myself as a child that I would never smoke a cigarette as long as I lived. I hated them that much.
Ya know, it’s crazy how people have so many different isms, needs, morals, and values. Sometimes we are willing to compromise one for another. Like the idea that Americans are lazy, but the only thing that outweighs our laziness is our greed. Case in point, at Walmart, there are grocery carts strewn all over the parking lot, but not at Aldi. Because us lazy Americans will damn sure walk that cart back to the cart return to get that fucking quarter back. A fucking quarter. But I digress. The point that I am getting to here, is that I absolutely hated cigarettes, but I absolutely needed and loved feeling like I fit in somewhere. And eventually the time came, when I was with my bike riding friends, I think maybe I was in 8th grade, going into 9th when I was offered my very first cigarette. Something was gonna have to give here. And because I had such low self esteem and self worth, I was essentially defenseless. I had found myself in a situation that was “low standard”, but I had low self worth, so I lost. It was too easy for me to give in. I had no reason not to. I didn’t love myself enough to say no. Something was about to be compromised.
Do I stand on my moral, do I stand on my vow to myself that I will never smoke a cig. as long as I live, and risk losing a friend? Or do I take the cigarette and gain some much needed style points from this group of friends? Decisions decisions. Well, I took the cigarette immediately, because I certainly wasn’t going to lose my friends and end up stuck back at home more, that was the very place I was trying to avoid. Light me up!
I fucking hated it. The smell, the taste, it made me feel physically sick. I remember having to sit down, because it made me so damn dizzy and I remember my friends laughing at me because of it. Not in a making fun of me way, but in a “I remember my first beer” kind of friendly rubbing. It was gross. “Don’t worry dude, you’ll get used to it.” I was told. But why the fuck would anyone want to get used to this? I got about halway through my first cigarette. A Camel Menthol Light, and the buzz of the toxic smoke had really began to set in. I was in love. Unknowingly to me, this was exactly what I had been searching for. A chemical escape. It was so easy! It was damn near effortless. All I had to do, was light a smoke, inhale and it gave me a head change, and all of my cares, worries, fears, doubts, insecurities, and pains all just melted away. It was like 1,000 pounds of weight had just been lifted off of my shoulders. I had no idea in this moment, that 6 years later I would be a fucking Heroin Addict.
I just wanted to fit in. I just wanted to feel seen. I just wanted to escape. And so I compromised my code. I compromised my values. I sacrificed my promise to myself. And this is when my journey into becoming the Junkbox began. This is when My obesession with getting fucked up kicked in. This was the very first of many compromises to come.
And we get to our rock bottoms, one compromise at a time.
But I had to fill the void.