From Alcohol to Pot to Crack: The Dangers of Addiction
As I approached the gas station, I looked to see if there was anything remotely resembling a pay phone. My heart skipped beats as my chest swelled in and out and attempted to hold any sort of regularity to my breathing pattern. Just as I was about to roll on to the next place to look, I spotted the black handle and silver coin slot shining in the bright sun. The feeling of relief poured over my anxious body like freshly brewed tea tumbling over cold cubes of ice in a glass. This was the "chicken's coming home to roost" moment. The moment of truth, the silent monster I had been holding onto over the last few months was now about to surface. It had risen from the dirty dingy hole in the ground and was about to face plant my life.
"How did this happen again? What about my wife, kids, grandma, aunt and all the people that love me? How can I ever look them in the eye?" The questions lumbered in my mind like the heavy rock paperweight on the nightstand next to the bed where my wife and I sleep so peacefully close on normal nights. Reaching out for the black handle of the receiver, a quick racing thought of approaching due dates for my Santa Monica College course actually whizzed by. Over the last few months I had slowly but surely turned white lies into bold, outright indiscretions that seem to be splattered with red paint all over my face. You see, "I've got a bad disease. From my brain is where I bleed. Insanity it seems, it's got me by my soul to squeeze." Anthony Kiedis, lead singer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, sings it so clearly through his lyrics in one of my all-time favorite tunes.
Let me introduce myself, "Hello my name is Daniel and I am an alcoholic." I probably genetically inherited these addictions from both my mother and father, but it became very apparent I had a problem about six years ago when I had lost my wife, Megan, and my first daughter Bella, due to my own actions. It's a slowly progressing disease that for me began with drinking to heavy pot smoking. When that could no longer mask my feelings, experimentation with harder drugs became my downfall. Down to a trash bag of clothes, alcohol had turned me from a loving man to a crack addicted fiend that could not go a day without it. I loved Megan and Bella so much, but love is not enough to cure any disease. Before I knew it, I needed to make a choice on my own to change my life.
These changes began when I entered a year long rehabilitation center and before I knew it, I had my whole family back. I completed a year and a half of college. I became an alcohol and drug counselor. I was actually working at the same rehab as my sponsor. We welcomed a new edition to our family, our newest daughter Riley. I figured there was no turning back at that point. My life had a meaning and a purpose to it that it never had before. I was practicing selflessness, helping others, and life came so easily as long as I put one foot in front of the other on a daily basis. Yes, the ups and downs were still there, but much easier to face with sobriety on my side. I also must attribute the new me to the help of Alcoholics Anonymous and a close-knit group of friends that I had created within the program. This was a "me" that my wife was able to count on as a husband and my two daughters as a real dad.
Now here comes that point in every story that the infamous line is chanted, "until one day." My day came when I was prescribed Vicodin, generically known as Hydrocodone, for my persistent pain due to repetitive throat infections. In A.A., one is allowed to take medication "as prescribed" by a doctor, but my throat infections were so often and so severe. Pain meds worked their way into my system hourly. Almost a year had gone by when I became aware that the more pills I took the better I felt. Not just my throat, but my whole body. What a discovery! Well, going into the inevitable tonsillectomy, one could say I was quite overmedicated. This health issue became my first relapse.
Since this was the first time I was considered to be in relapse, with all of my heart, I did not want to admit the truth. I did not want to lose the days I had built up. It is always said "your time does not matter", but it was of great importance to me and each day I had sober was a day that I gained a little more trust and respect with those loved ones I had let down. I had learned in Psychology I, your frontal lobe is numb from some pills and so eventually I found myself thinking, "I can do crack just once and go home." That sounds crazy when I write it out. This is a thought of a desperate and psychotic man, and guess what I learned? Surprise: I didn't. I had to learn that lesson on more than one occasion.
Alcoholism is a progressive disease. You pick up where you leave off and most of the time, worse than the previous time. Even if the idea would pop into my head just once, the disease would have very different plans. I would always end up stranding my wife and kids. I would keep the car and get stuck in a literal circle of buying crack, attempting to get home, but never making it there. It was like a bad dream and the process usually took 24 hours until my wife was able to hear my voice. I would beg and sometimes steal within the first night to finance this debacle; this overnight disappointment to my family and friends, especially to Megan. Imagine building up trust only to turn around and break it at least once a year?
My wife is my soul-mate, a word I do not take lightly. Her hazel eyes reddened with severe disappointment and true saddness were the worst part to take. We fell in love at first sight. We both knew we would marry each other, have kids together, and here I was not being able to put aside drugs for her and these two beautiful kids. The despair, loneliness, shame, doubt, fear, was how I felt each time I went out, so I can only imagine what ran through her soul.
I always went back to A.A. and would get planted, feeling like things were really going to change. I felt like I did the steps, I got sponsors, I had tons of coffee, but every time six months to a year came around something would happen. One lie or resentment and I knew it was all over. I lived a double life, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The doctor would always triumph.
So as the receiver to that one in a million payphones gently pressed to my ear, I readied my tingling fingers to dial, I had already thought long and hard about whether calling my wife was a good idea or maybe this was the time I should leave the car, call the authorities, and tell them where my wife could find my body. I actually had a second stirring thought that maybe being gone for good was a better plan so as to keep everybody away from the hurt that my alter ego causes.
On Saturday, April 4, 2009, her sweet sobbing voice shot threw my body as she wailed, "Baby, please, please, please, please, please baby, don't do this to us, come home. I love you. We love you."
Today, I can say I made a choice in my life to not let this happen anymore to my family or me. I am an alcoholic who desperately wants this chapter of my life over. I stopped and am in recovery. I am a victim no longer. I only have one life and I decided not to let it slip away. With all of my power, I will do the right thing and accept what I cannot change in the world. I will not let alcoholism affect my life any longer. I have found a passion in writing for my future and will be the father and husband not that I have wanted to be, but what my three girls need.
The answers to my questions have slowly come over the last few days. My whole family loves me without question, but there is damage that I have done that cannot be replaced any longer with short-term sobriety. Long-term work that I will accomplish will be cherished and taken care of "one day at a time." I realize that my mind makes the world seem not to be what it really is, but as a distorted image. I need to construct a new set of glasses to see through with spiritual tools and the help people offer me. I am blessed to have come this far. Any one of those times could have been my last. My advice to anyone reading this, similar to me or not, take nothing for granted and love the ones close to you because life is special and you only have one chance to live. "Just for today."