Being a drug user is like having an enormous, omnipotent presence by your side. A friend and foe, a shadow that whispers to you constantly, its hot breath against your ears telling you lies about how another hit will be the one that takes you higher than before. Another hit will be harmless and it will make everything so, so much better.
I don’t believe that a non drug user could really relate to this kind of ever present force that pushes and pulls you every which way. When you don’t have drugs, all you can think about is getting them. When you have them, all you can think about is using them. It’s an endless, relentless merry-go-round and its fun at first, but before you know it, its spinning out of control and you can’t get off. You get physically sick, you become afraid, your money is flying out of your pockets at an alarming rate and the world is whizzing past in one long, blurry scene. One day blends into the next and into the next. Moving from one hit to the next hit, round and round and round.
I don’t know how to get off this merry-go-round. I want to. And I don’t want to. Drug and alcohol counsellors call that ambivalence. They would use cognitive behavioural techniques with me or perhaps motivational interviewing, to help me move into a readiness for change. Perhaps they might teach me about urge surfing, about self-soothing techniques and mindfulness. I know all this because I teach my clients about them. The irony is not lost on me. I am a hypocrite of glorious magnitude. I am the teacher, that cannot do. What kind of teacher is that?
For me, being sober is like waking up dazed and confused from a dream suddenly and having to ground yourself in reality, trying to work out where you are and what day and hour it is. You look around and see things that are familiar but it takes a moment to register. It’s as if I have lived my days in the shadows and suddenly stepped out into the sun, blinking and blinded. Everything is so sharp. Everything is so bright and so real. And when I am still, I can hear my own thoughts, crisp and clear. I can feel my emotions, raw and ravaging.
This is what makes me want to scamper back into the shadows. I flinch at the unmasked thoughts and feelings that sit bare naked and unashamedly in front of me. I try not to look at them, acknowledge them. I try to get back onto the merry-go-round so I can escape them. I work, I clean, I scroll through social media. I pause and when reality comes seeping back into my consciousness I get back to working once again. Anything to escape the feeling. The feeling of feeling. The state of simply being. Its unnatural for me and its terrifying.
I don’t know how I got here and I don’t know where to go from here. All I know is that a day without drugs is a day in hell for me. Without drugs, I have to face all that is me and all that is within me. And there is no greater fear than to simply sit with myself and just be.Image by Harpal Singh on Unsplash