Paula F.

paulaDOB: 8/4/53; Baltimore, Maryland.

Click Here for Addict Out of the Dark and into the Light – 22_Paula.mp3

Right about that time I began to get a whole lot of feed-back that I was attractive.

I started to be able to attract the men that I wanted around and that was a high for me too because I spent so many years feeling ugly.

My first memories are memories of pain and frustration. I never . . . I don’t have any childhood memories, or very few childhood memories, where there is happiness or a sense of peace and contentment.

My first recollection of life was always wanting to be older, cooler, well, then I didn’t call it cool, but more. . . somehow I didn’t feel like I fit in. I felt different and I felt that there was something wrong with me, the changing of which would make everything okay, but I didn’t know what it was that I had, so I was frustrated.

My earliest memories were painful frustration, upset, alienation, isolation, and I didn’t know what to do about it. But I knew if I did it, I was smart enough to know what to do about it, everything would be okay. I felt defective.

I had a lot of fear. I had horrible separation anxiety ever since I can remember. If my mother wasn’t in the room I didn’t think she was there. When my parents went to bed at night I would scream and cry and get hysterical because I couldn’t see then, and I didn’t think that they were there, I didn’t believe that if you weren’t in the room you weren’t real and I was alone and I panicked.

There was a lot of panic as a child, fear of the dark. To this day I sleep with the light on and not just a night light. A light, a room light. Fear of the dark. I used to hallucinate creatures on the wall and stuff. I used to have to call my Mom and ask her if anything was going to like come into my room, do terrible things to me at night. I had a problem. I was an only child and I had a real problem sleeping. I always had to have my Mom come and sleep with me and it was really disruptive to the household. I was just phobic about being left alone.

I can honestly say that a whole lot of my life has been spent figuring out ways not to be left alone. Because it terrifies me totally. I used to sleepwalk and I had, and I still have, very bad nightmares where I wake up shaking and screaming — very afraid — and my Mom used to have to walk me around the house and have me touch familiar things, try to bring me back to reality.

I did not blend with the other kids my age. I didn’t even go out in the backyard by myself till I was five years old. I didn’t have friends. I wanted to have friends but I was a geeky little kid and I was an outcast. Nobody wanted to be my friend. Some of the most painful memories I have are running around behind little girls in my class in like first and second grade and begging them to be my best friend. I was always like running behind, trying to catch up with somebody and saying, will you please be my friend, and people would laugh at me, and shit, it was really awful.
I used to get teased and bullied a whole lot because I was real skinny and had red hair and I had thick wing tipped glasses.

And orthopedic shoes and I was just a total geeky kid. I was just miserable. I think my parents, my mother was very . . . she needed very much for me to need her and she nurtured my fears unconsciously, but she nurtured my needs for her so that I didn’t step out when most kids do and try to start making myself socially interactable to other kids because I could always hide behind my Mom. And she sort of nurtured that and I think that was really bad, although I know that it was unconscious on her part.

I never sort of got kicked out into the world. It hurt me a lot of years later. It still hurts me today when I realize that there is no place to run anymore. My mother is not there any more. She is there, but not in the same capacity.

I do have some happy memories. A few I remember: lying on the backyard lawn with my father, star gazing, and trying to name the constellations, and that was . . . I always felt real peaceful. And then I remember taking long walks with my Dad and trying to find different kinds of rocks and stones. I felt real peaceful when I was with my Dad in a recreational way, but it was very rare that that happened. Most of the time we were fighting.

My father and I had a real adversarial relationship, most of the time when we were interacting at all, and then most of the time we didn’t interact. My father was eighteen years older than my mother, so he has always sort of been an older man to me. He was pretty secluded and not . . . a very introverted man, a very, not an emotional person.

He didn’t show a lot of emotion at all. So I never really had a real relationship with my father, but the few times, the scattered times that we got together and related, I loved it. I experienced some peace.

I feel like I would have been a little bit happier had I been able to have more of a relationship with my Dad. But circumstances as they were, it just didn’t happen.

School was terrifying for me, mostly because I was an outcast and terrified of the other children. I totally did not fit in. Not in my thinking, not in my feelings, not in my appearance. I was just not all right. It was just like one long painful process in my childhood.

There were, of course, like scattered moments when things worked out well, but most of the time when they did, all I could think of was, well, you know, this is nice but it’s fleeting, it’s temporary. I just didn’t believe there was any such thing as happiness for me even since I can remember. There was a gnawing sensation of pain inside me that I didn’t know how to fix when I got it.

I was a brainy kid. I was real smart and real talented artistically. I used to draw things and in fact that was discouraged by my teachers. My teachers would yell at me when they would find me drawing in class, and I remember one time a teacher ridiculed me really strongly in front of the whole class because I was drawing things while she was talking and made me kind of feel like there was something wrong with my desire to be creative. So I didn’t do that. I do it now, and that’s how I make my living, but it’s taken me a lot of years to realize that that’s what I want to do.

Anyway, I was a real brainy kid and I was pretty. Kids are cruel and weird. Kids made fun of me because I was smart. It was another way for me to feel different. And I wasn’t in a sort of smart school environment, that kids didn’t like other kids who were real intelligent.

It was cool to be dumb, I guess, but when I got to junior high school, it’s like I made a decision that I had been in enough pain for enough time and I didn’t want to be in pain any more, and I looked at the people that I wanted to be like, the people that belonged, the people that fit in. And they were the kids that weren’t following the rules, and I wanted to be a part of that gang. They looked like they were having a lot of fun.

I can remember making a conscious decision to learn how not to be a nerd, and the only way for me to do that was to misbehave and be worse than they were, so that they would look up to me. And I did that. And I got in with the crowd of kids that was a lot of fun. They weren’t really doing anything too awful but they were just sort of the bad kids. I did everything that I could from that time on to promote being accepted by those kinds of people and to devalue everything that was established as the proper way to be. So I took everything to the extreme. I hurt and I wanted to feel better.

By the time I got to high school I pretty much found myself fitting in but I still had the feelings about myself that I was an outcast and I was a fraud and I was acting the part really well. And if anybody found out I would no longer belong to that social club. So my life was about convincing people that I was cool.

And my two best girlfriends in high school were like really beautiful, they had really beautiful figures and I was like a stick and I really. . . my body at that time, because I had no breasts and was really skinny, and they were really voluptuous and all the men wanted them and it was really a set up. I felt miserable.

Then when I got to be like a junior in high school the old hippie thing was in full swing. I discovered I could shed my bra but they couldn’t and I started to be a little bit more of what cool was all about and I maximized that and I started taking pills. The first drugs that I ever did were, well, the first drug I ever did was alcohol and I got really drunk. I guess I was 15. I drank some beer and I didn’t get really, get really drunk, I got tipsy.

That same year I also got pregnant. It was like maybe the second or third time that I had ever had sex and I got pregnant and that was a really harsh thing. I had an abortion. It was before abortions were legal but my Mom took me to some psychiatrist and said I wasn’t fit to have a kid and so I had like an abortion in the hospital. All I cared about at that time was that I wasn’t throwing up every morning. I never really even thought about it until much later.

But anyway, the first drug I ever did was, alcohol and you know I wasn’t all that crazy about it. But in school a girl gave me some pills, some speed, and I really liked it a lot and I knew that’s what I wanted to do with my life from that moment, was to take drugs, ‘cause the minute that I found myself totally altered chemically I was very happy and I did not have to deal with the empty hole inside of me and I felt confident and able to function and I knew that I had found the answer. And I started smoking dope and taking acid and I was just a drug machine — anytime, anywhere, that I could — I did every drug that I could get my hands on.

From that point on I spent a lot of my time totally wasted. I liked amphetamines the best and I really don’t remember a whole lot about high school after that. I was always high. All I remember is that I didn’t want to do anything that had anything to do with the future. I was only interested in how I felt right now. So I had lots of boyfriends and I had lots of drugs.

Right about that time I began to get a whole lot of feed back that I was attractive. I started to be able to attract the men that I, wanted around and that was a high for me too because I spent so many years feeling ugly. So it was drugs and it was boys and the future — the hell with the future.

I moved out of the house when I was seventeen, got a job. I worked at a day care center for little kids. I used to go to work tripping on acid, which was really weird. I lived with a couple of girls for a while and then I lived with a guy for a while and took lots and lots of drugs for quite a few years. And just tried to mend, tried to heal myself, tried to medicate myself. At one point I weighed ninety seven pounds. I’m five foot seven and I weighed ninety seven pounds. I guess I was about twenty two, because I did so many amphetamines.

Eventually a lot of my friends were getting busted, a lot of my friends were in jail. I was living in the slums of Baltimore. I didn’t comb my hair for a whole year. I had waist long hair that hadn’t been combed for a year. I said I weighed about ninety seven pounds and I basically lived on the street, I mean I had a place to live but it was pathetic. It was like I was on the street most of the time.

And I got scared.

I was in a car accident which totalled my car. Luckily no one else got hurt but me. My face went through the windshield. It momentarily knocked some sense in my head. I mopped up the mess a little bit, and I don’t how I did it, but I got a job. The job paid $3.50 an hour and I thought I was rich. It was like a secretarial thing, like a clerk thing. I knew how to type.

So I called myself, getting clean, because I was afraid of what was happening to me. I was paranoid. I was afraid that I was going to end up in jail. And I, am real claustrophobic and I think I would die in jail. So it was like survival. Within a week after deciding that I couldn’t live the way I was living any more I had moved out, broken up with my boyfriend got an apartment, got a job.

I am not really sure how all that happened but I remember that it only took about a week. I called myself, getting clean. I was not really sick, I don’t think I was like physically addicted, but I was sure, mentally and emotionally, addicted to the drugs I was using, and I had taken myself out of that environment and I didn’t have the same kinds of drugs. I had a bottle of like five hundred codeine pills, but I didn’t have the speed and the acid and pot and all the other stuff. I was determined that I wasn’t going to use those drugs anymore.

Getting busted was my biggest fear. So you know I worked this job and I like reentered society. I had two pairs of jeans and three tee shirts and one skirt and blouse and I wore the same thing to work every day. It was really embarrassing. I felt like I was on some kind of uphill thing. I felt like I was getting better. I tried to become friendly with the people I worked with, because they were addicts. I didn’t know that I was an addict at the time and in retrospect they weren’t addicts and they had something that I wanted and I tried to fit in with those people.

I felt again like a total outcast, masquerading as a semi-normal person. It was really hard. It was the hardest thing I have ever done, to like try to fit in with people who had a real jump start on life compared to what I had. But I did it. I was a good little soldier. I tried really hard to be accepted. I didn’t function very well on the job but I kept it.

I also kept my pain. I never got rid of that gnawing, empty, black, foreboding sensation inside myself that just really overwhelmed me except when I was high. And what I discovered was that I didn’t have to put myself into real danger situations to get high. All I had to do was get a prescription for Valium from a doctor or get a prescription for codeine for menstrual cramps and I could pretty much scam my way into having some drugs.

So I had completely dropped the hippie look and the whole idea of that and I was really trying to be a part of the society that I didn’t feel a part of at all. But I was determined. I was going to work really hard at it. And I managed to get my drugs another way. And I also discovered that I liked opiates. I like narcotics, I liked to feel downed out.

So I went on that way for years. I managed to become a real good secretary. I moved from Baltimore to Washington, totally impulsively. I just decided one day I wanted to live, in D.C. I had a boyfriend that lived here and I liked the city. It seemed glamorous to me. And one day I was living in Baltimore and the next day I was living in D.C. I just split, I didn’t think about it, I didn’t plan it, I just compulsively left.

My whole life seems filled with really strange, impossible decisions like that. But I had a little bit of time under my belt as far as working and earning a wage and I felt a little more competent. And I came here to D.C.

Well, I had done the EST training and thought that I had it all together. I thought that I had found another answer in that discipline and I did learn a lot of really good things in that discipline, I learned a lot of coping skills, and a lot of communication skills that I think have been real valuable to me.

But it never stopped me from getting high. And I started working as the assistant manager of a retail clothing store, a real hip little retail clothing store in Georgetown, and I did real well at it. I was real respected. I made real good sales, I did real well.

I’d close up the store every night and go down two doors and sit on a bar stool for three hours and get totally drunk and walk across Key Bridge to my apartment which had no furniture in it. I would spend compulsively. I had absolutely no money. I’d get my pay check in cash and spend my money on clothing from the store and alcohol and I don’t know where it went. I know that I was forever penniless.

Back then I don’t know how I did it. But it was like even when I was working and earning a wage I was always poor because I was a compulsive spender. I couldn’t control my spending. It was totally unmanageable all this time, it was just one series of destructive relationships after another.

I always had a man in my life and it was always painful and it was always destructive and it was always bad. It’s kind of a blur what happened to me back then. I stopped working at this retail thing because I found this man that I was living with that was very conservative that didn’t like me staying out late and he used to beat me up when I came home late and I was getting a little scared and he was an alcoholic. I was frightened so I quit.

Well, I told the general manager that I didn’t like working late any more. He fired me, which I knew he would if I told him that. I left that job and went back to being a secretary and got a pretty decent job. I continued to use drugs and alcohol. I forgot to say, when I moved out of the inner city when I was doing all those drugs and I decided to stop being a hippie and I also discovered at that point I was pregnant again.

And I had left everybody, all the friends that I knew and I was all alone in my apartment and I was getting sick every morning and I was frightened and I went to Planned Parenthood and they told me I wasn’t pregnant and I didn’t know what was wrong with me and I stayed in my apartment for about a week without food, with no contact with anyone, just being very sick.

And my mother finally came and got me and took care of me. But it was one of the worst times of my life, because I had no friends and I had nowhere to turn. And I had just exited at warp speed from this lifestyle and I was like in a whole new situation and it was real bad. I had another abortion. It was a very painful thing and to this day I remember it with very, very, very sad feelings. Because part of me wanted to have the baby because I felt like I wasn’t alone.

When I knew that I was pregnant, as sick as I was, I felt like I wasn’t alone. And I felt that there was something right about it, about the fact that I had another life inside me. And when I had the abortion I felt that I had killed the child. And I felt that very strongly. I felt very selfish, so that was like a scar and I still have pain about that.

Anyway, back to wherever I was. I worked as a secretary for a long time and I didn’t like it. And I felt inferior. I am really smart and I can be very articulate and am very well read and I began to notice that there were people that I wanted to hang around with that all had gone to college and had professional type jobs and I saw my being a secretary as being a barrier, that that was keeping me from being around the people.

Again, there was always somebody out there that had something, you know, for grass is always greener and all that stuff. I was trying to climb my way up into some kind of acceptance. Anyway, I began to aspire into doing things other than being a secretary and I had always been very artistic. And I decided that if I could make my living doing commercial art, you know, then I might have better feelings about myself.

So I proceeded to teach myself. Some things I couldn’t go to school for, but I had, I definitely had the capacity to learn. I went to school in the evening and I began to do some free lance graphics on the side and one thing led to another. I was really obsessed with learning how to do graphics and learning how to do design and I worked an eight hour job during the day and then I would go home and work another ten hours at night, trying to learn how to do this stuff because I thought that that is what would fix me.

Eventually I got a full time job as a graphic artist and I really felt that was it. I had done it. I rode that high for a long time, till I realized that I was just as unhappy as I had been before and yet there was more that I needed to do. I had to change my title, I had to earn more money. No matter what I did it was never enough, except when I got high. I could get high enough.

I was working in a hospital in a department where I worked with physicians a lot and I did like lecture slides, that’s where I learned how to do photography. I did medical photography. I trained to do that and so I had a lot of casual contact with physicians and I sure did maximums on that, and I got. . . not only did I get to see a lot of doctors for a lot of sports injuries and you know, stuff that I got a lot of like prescriptions on the side too.

A doctor would come to see me to do some lecture slides. I’d say, by the way I have got really bad cramps today, can you give me some Tylenol III’s and they always did. So I had it pretty with that and I was real active, I played racquet ball and I ran. And I was always pulling something or straining something. I was getting Percodan or whatever.

Anyway, to make a long story short, I took that job from a twelve thousand dollar a year job to a thirty one thousand dollar a year job in seven years. I created a demand for myself and I filled it. I wanted to be a professional. I wanted to have a fancy title. I wanted to make a lot of money.

I wanted to feel secure. And I did all those things. I was just fucking determined to fix myself. I realized one day that I had everything that I said I wanted. I owned a home. I was engaged to a man who was the picture of security. I was making a lot of money. I had a new car. I wore suits to work every day and I hobnobbed with all the very best people. I dragged myself up from this little street dope fiend hippie to a person who commanded respect.

And I still wasn’t happy. I was still trying to fill up the hole inside me. I was miserable. I was a workaholic, amongst other things. I was maniacal about my job and I was totally miserable and I decided impulsively, just like I moved to D.C., that I was going to quit my job and become a photographer. So I did.

I was about fifteen thousand dollars in debt on all my money credit cards and I just quit. I just turned over the job that I was using as like a mainline to everything. And decided that I was going to be something else. It’s so weird.

If I had only known then the hopelessness of chasing after things like that. At the same time that I decided I wasn’t going to work anymore, I realized I wasn’t going to work that job, I realized that the man I was with wasn’t my type. And I had to do a complete change and what I wanted to do was become radical again. I had come full circle.

I had come from a radical hippie lifestyle, anti-establishment to a totally acceptable, suburban, wealthy, well not wealthy certainly, well off, and now I was going to go back to the other way, because I wasn’t being satisfied artistically. So I dumped the job and I dumped the man. I started doing photography for local musicians and all the time I was drinking heavily, and taking my pills, but I again . . . I was not physically addicted to anything yet.

I had been, I forgot to say, I had been seeing a shrink for about three years. I had been diagnosed as having “acute depressive disorder” and I had been on many different antidepressants and my shrink had me on Valium. I had been taking Valium for three years and it wasn’t strange for me to take ten Valiums at a time and drink a pint of Jack Daniels and I didn’t ever. . . it’s like for some reason I was still able to stand after I did all that.

And I never got much flak about my using drugs. People, I guess, they didn’t know or . . . But anyway, right around that time I had been ice skating and I injured myself pretty badly on the ice and I had to take lots of painkillers and started to really go after that stuff. I started to really work that and really work the alcohol and started to hang out with local musicians and that’s like a bad combination right there.

I felt that the more into the scene I could get the better I would feel. Typical: chasing my tail. And at this point we could get a lot further into the scene if you had drugs. So I was giving people Valium and I was giving Percodan and drinking a lot. I had a lot of money, so I would buy people things. I would take people to dinner and get people drunk. It didn’t take me long to sort of get into the heart of things that way and when I pretty much got into the heart of things.

I had a very good friend that was very dear to me at the time who was a heroin addict. I had a couple of friends who were heroin addicts and. . . but this one particular person took me one time into an environment where people were dealing heroin, and I remember being very freaked out.

Because these were some really rough characters and knowing that I liked opiates so much I thought that I would probably like heroin as payment for running this person around a little bit. I was given half a bag of dope. And I tried it a little bit at a time and I didn’t really get off very much but that one contact with those people all of a sudden launched me into another set of folks that always had heroin.

And I remember, as I can’t even remember the exact circumstances, but again as payment for a favor done I got another half bag of dope and this time I did the whole thing all at once. I snorted it. And I like O.D.‘d. I mean I was like I couldn’t walk. I was throwing up. I was sweating and the girl that gave me the stuff had to walk me around for a really long time and I had to drink lots of milk. I didn’t like O.D.

So I had to go to the hospital. But I definitely took too much. So of course the first thing I wanted to know when I got out of it was how to get some more. And at that point I had had enough exposure to heroin addicts and junkies to know what the deal was. And it was like I made a decision. Somehow or another it was my disease. This is it. I’ve found my drug of choice, really found my drug of choice.
I just burned from that point forward.

I found out how to cop and I bought ten packs of dope and within a month I was totally physically addicted to heroin and I was snorting it, so I just blew my nose out. To this day I don’t have my sense of smell. It’s definitely not right, but I went from thinking that I could get happiness from money and status and position to thinking, to knowing that I couldn’t get happiness from that, and just deciding that drugs were going to be my best friend and that all the years, I mean for twelve or fifteen years that I had busted my tail to make something of myself, I didn’t care.

I still hurt. I still had a big black hole inside of me, and I gave up. I just gave up. I just chose to make drugs my best friend and my lover and my family and I remember making that choice. I kept the facade that I was going to be a photographer and I was going to be this free lance artist and this and that, but all I really cared about was getting heroin, and the people that I had come in contact with that had freaked me out suddenly became my best friends.

My dealer was my best friend. I didn’t talk to him or nothing but he was definitely my best friend. As dealers go I suppose he was really good to me, because he well, anyway, I blew my nose out completely and I would stand up and blood would just run out of my nose. And it was very uncomfortable because I would snort my dope and instead of being dope sick I would have this terrible searing pain inside my head. I couldn’t enjoy my high. I swore I would never use a needle but I was, my entire consciousness, was in my nose. I couldn’t stand it any more.

So I had a junkie girlfriend who kept suggesting that I use the spike and finally I decided that in order to save my nose I was going to start running my dope. No one even had to tell me how to do it. I just instinctively knew what to do. It was really amazing. From the first night that I ever shot heroin I was shooting dope ten times a day.

It was like I had absolutely no ability to not stick that needle in my arm. I was gone, I was gone, I was dead. I just had no ability to not use. I had money in the bank which swiftly went away buying drugs. I did it with a vengeance. There was like somebody else inside my body that was trying to kill me.

I just . . . it took about six months. I was giving up veins left and right. It was just so fast. It went from being something that made me feel more creative and more enthusiastic and more able to deal with life to something that was just killing me. And I believe that I was trying to kill myself, because I was used to some very grim pleasure, out of realizing that I was an addict and I kept saying I was going to stop but I never did. I just couldn’t. And things I had said to people that I would never be like them, I was like them instantly.

I can remember spending time at my dealer’s house and I can remember saying to myself at one point, I’ll never ever come back to this place again and next thing I know I was there every other day. So my money was running out. My veins were running out, my health was running out, my friends were running out. I was just bleeding to death.

I could not, I found I could no longer keep up the pretense. I was wearing long sleeves, I mean long sleeves buttoned to cover my wrists to the tops of my hands, to do the dishes, so my roommate wouldn’t know; never mind that I had lost a tremendous amount of weight in a very short period of time, and I just looked real skeleton — really bad.

But I remember sitting in the bathroom in the morning. I would wake up really dope sick and I would cop and I would come home and I would sit in the bathroom and I would cook up the dope and I would look at it. And I talked to it, I would say: “I love you, you’re my best friend, you’re the only thing that I have got, and you understand how I really feel.” I’d say that a lot. I’d just look at this spoonful of dope and say, “I love you.”

I can remember the feeling of like putting that stuff inside my body and like two seconds later it was like jumping off of a building and landing into a whole bunch of feathers. It was such a relief. It was like huhuhuhuhaa. I don’t have to feel anymore. And I used to lean, I used to put my hand up against the wall, and just hang my head down and say, “Thank God,” because the feelings were gone. That black hole inside of me was like filled for a while.

And I mean how could I stop? It was like I was loved, I was cared for, I was handled. I know it sounds really strange — that’s the way I felt. I worshipped my dope and the dope took care of me.

Then, you know, I took a shower one night. And I looked at myself in the mirror when I got out of the shower and I was really, really thin and my body was just covered with bruises and lumps. I had blown out a lot of my main veins and you know I was working on some others and I got real sloppy and I looked at myself standing there in the mirror, just like I got caught off guard, and you know it was like death was looking back at me out of my eyes.

I got really scared because I knew it was only a matter of time. I think maybe I only had two hundred dollars left to my name and I knew it was only a matter of time before I had to start stealing, a lot or prostituting, to get money. I felt real insecure about that and I knew I couldn’t stop using, so it was time for some desperate measures.

I had tried to detox once before when I was snorting dope. I went to St. Croix and I didn’t do anything, any heroin, for five days and was very sick but I had Valium and alcohol, so I had no idea how sick I was going to get.

I wanted to give it a shot. I was pretty desperate and I thought that was all I could do, unless I wanted to decide to do some real sleazy shit. So I had like a morning shot, which I did, and I stood looking at the telephone trying to decide whether I should call my dealer or go clean.

And it was a miracle that I walked out of the house. I grabbed an extra pair of tennis shoes, an extra pair jeans, and a coat. It was the dead of winter and I went up to Baltimore to my parents’ house and I figured I would just go there for a few days and tell them I needed to relax for a little while, detox and go home.

Needless to say that’s not exactly what happened. As soon as I got to my parents’ house I was jonesing pretty bad and I went into the medicine cabinet and my father had Percodan in there and I started taking this Percodan. I kept the Jones off me for four days with the Percodan and meantime I am sitting in the bathroom for an hour at a time trying to cook the Percodan down and I was cooking down some tranquilizers that my Dad had and just really going through some changes, trying to shoot it into my veins.

And it was bad and I shot some alcohol because I just didn’t know what to do. I was really sick and I was frightened and I didn’t know what to do and the only thing that I could think of was just like shoot anything I could get into my veins to make me feel different.

And so finally, after all the Percodan was gone and the tranquilizers were not working and I knew that I was about to come down with some heavy physical problems, and I got honest with my Mom and told her what was going on and I decided to just go ahead and get sick and I did, I got very, very, very sick, and I was about 24 hours into it when I realized that I couldn’t do it alone, that there was no way, and I was actually too sick.

It was a miracle because I was to sick to get into the car and drive back here and cop and I was too sick to figure out how to cop in a city where I didn’t know where to go. So I was trapped and I told my Mom, I said, “I can’t do this alone.”

And she picked up the telephone and dialed 411 and they gave her the number of a hotline for addicts seeking recovery. So within thirty seconds of me saying, “Mom, I can’t do this alone,” I was on the phone to a recovering addict.

And I will never be so grateful for anything else in my life as I am for that fact. It was like I gave up, I surrendered. I said I need help and I got it. It was the most incredible experience of my entire life to say to somebody, “I am sick. I am coming off of heroin. I have done these things. I don’t know what to do or how to deal with it. Can you help me?”

And to have that person say, “Oh, yeah, I remember when that happened to me, and you’ll feel like this and you will feel like that and go to a recovery meeting. And if you want to get clean then go to a meeting.” So I wanted to get clean. So that night I went to a meeting and I did not know what to expect, but I walked into this room where there were like fifty people and they all looked normal, relatively normal, and they were really nice to me.

And I walked into the room and laid down on the floor because I couldn’t do anything but lay down on the floor. The cramps in my back and my legs were so bad. And after the meeting about a million people came up to me and gave me their phone numbers. I couldn’t write, I couldn’t read, I was . . . But people loved me and I knew that there was something going on here. I wasn’t sure what it was but I knew at that moment that what I was trying to do could be done.

And also it was like this shift in my perception of reality. At that time I suddenly realized that there was a group that I belonged to — no question — I didn’t have to prove myself, I didn’t have to fit in, I didn’t have to do anything. I was just an addict. I was an addict. I had been an addict all my life and I fit in without having to do shit. I belonged.

I couldn’t have put it into words at that time but in retrospect I remember just feeling that shift in the way that I perceived the world. And the next day I picked up my surrender one day white chip at a huge meeting. People had to help me up to the secretary. I was having a hard time walking.

The second day that I was clean I called the hotline and I talked to a man who — I say to this day this man saved my life. He talked to me for hours and he called me back later that evening and from that moment it was like I was his project. He called me and talked me through the night. He had to get up and go to work at seven in the morning. He talked to me from midnight to two o’clock a.m. every single morning that I was detoxing because I couldn’t sleep and he just picked me up and put me on a path that I am still on today, which is like recovery from the disease of addiction.

And I asked questions and he answered them. I said, “How do I do this? Why am I like this? What’s going on? What does this mean?” And he answered those questions and there was no reason on earth for him to care about me. We were from totally different worlds, had totally different interests. It was unconditional love. I felt like I had a friend, I had somebody to guide me. And words can’t express how grateful I am to this person. It saved my life.

I’ve gone to a meeting just about every day since then and it’s nine months later. I learned to make friends with people I had something in common with and it’s this disease. And recovery, like it’s not easy but I have something now that I never had before, and that’s a place where I belong. A family that I belong to. It’s really a beautiful thing. I just don’t think saying it can give it enough emphasis.

And today I know I can go through pain and I can go through everyday life and I am surrounded by a family that saves my life every day, that cares and understands, and not only that, but that I can care about and understand in turn. I have real friends for the first time in my whole life today.

I have got some great guidance and some good exposure to recovery and I was fortunate enough, Higher Powered enough, to walk right into another group of people who were just as serious about recovery and just as committed, and I just sunk myself right into the middle of it and that’s where I stand today.

And I still have a lot of pain and I still want to use, sometimes my mouth waters when I see a new vein popping up, but I know I don’t have to do that. When that hole inside of me starts working me, I have my family in recovery. I just have to look around the room in a meeting and I feel a part of, I feel like I belong. I feel that I have people that care and that I care about and today I can help somebody that needs to talk, that needs to know what to do to get clean.

Lately I have been thinking a lot about what it means to be a part of a group of recovering addicts. My business is working, slowly but surely. I’m getting enough work. I feel that it’s one day at a time, probably going to be a success, and I don’t need success from what I was looking for before, but success from the inside out.

I feel taken care of and I feel love and I am still an addict. I still have some very strange thoughts and some very strange feelings. And today I can feel those feelings and think those thoughts and I don’t have to run away from them. They are not going to kill me.

Click Here for Addict Out of the Dark and into the Light


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