I’m not an addict. I’m too good to be an addict. I’m better than that.
I worked 3 jobs to graduate from college! I work for a Fortune 100 company! I have a picket fence, 2 dogs and a big ol tree in my yard (feel free to vomit at anytime).
At the beginning of every year (right around this time) I spend a day setting goals, reviewing goals and making plans. I’ve done it since I was in 8th grade. Why?
Because if you plan, every minute of every day, and every month and every year, then you maintain control. And control ensures that...you never become an addict.
I’ve seen what addiction does to people...
A woman who is addicted to a man, gets slapped, punched, kicked and thrown down the stairs. And her body is no longer her own.
A man who is addicted to alcohol, slaps, punches, kicks and throws his wife down the stairs. And his mind is no longer his own.
A girl who is addicted to drugs, sells her body, begs for money, puts needles in her veins and steals from the people who love her. And neither her body or her mind are her own.
I’m not an addict. But I’ve loved addicts.
And, that is why I’m here tonight. It was a hard place to find. The parking lot was dimly lit. The portable building was old and dingy looking. My heels clanged loudly on the metal stairs leading up to the door. I almost turned around, but something made me go in.
4 people turned and stared at me.
(What in the hell am I doing here? I screamed inside.)
I cleared my throat. “Um, I don’t know if I’m in the right place?”
(The sound of my voice scared me. It was shy, timid. It sounded like a little girl)
The old man at the front of the room looked at me and said, “Well that depends on what you’re looking for sweetie.”
“I’m looking for the support group.”
(A support group? wtf! What was I thinking? I could be at home window shopping my eharmony account. Instead I was here with 4 strangers in a stinky portable. Stupid girl!)
“You’re in the right spot.” He gave me a wink and continued on with his conversation.
His wife was an addict. Red wine and pain killers. 13 pills a day. He’d been through hell and back with her. She’d been clean for several years now and was a counselor at the recovery center. They devoted their lives to helping addicts and supporting the people who love addicts.
The man next to him...his grandson was an addict. Meth. 24 years old, living on the streets. He hoped he’d be coming home soon, he always came home when it was cold. When his grandson returned, he hid his wallet and his wife’s purse. There wasn’t a drop of alcohol in the house and he pretty much slept with one eye open. But it was worth it to him, he loved his grandson that much.
The other young man...his fiance was an addict. An alcoholic. He told her if she didn’t go to rehab he would leave her. She attempted suicide the same night. He was celebrating 60 days of her sobriety. He hated the addiction, but felt responsible for her and was unable to leave.
I sat in a blue plastic chair, silent. Silent, except for the tears that streamed down my face. I couldn’t make eye contact with whomever was speaking. The pain was overwhelming. Their stories were my story. I knew I was supposed to be there.
And then, she opened her smug little mouth...”I’m just here as an observer. I’m a nursing student at Delta. We’re in the psych portion of our schooling and supposed to observe a support group. So I’m just here to listen.” (She shrugged her shoulders, smiled at the rest of us, opened up her notebook and was poised to take notes.)
F that! I wanted to pop her in her smug little face. You’re not better than me. I’m not your guinea pig. My pain is not on display so you can write a term paper about me. My story is not to be repeated to your friends so you can point and laugh. I hated her at that moment and I didn’t even know her name. (Plus she was a pretty, skinny, little bitch and that made me hate her even more!)
And then, it dawned on me. Is that how I make April feel? That I’m better than her. Just here to observe and pick up the pieces. That I’m incapable of being an addict. Always in control of my life, feelings and emotions. Never weak enough to be seduced by addiction. “You think you’re so perfect!” She used to scream at me.
I was sick to my stomach.
Every time she needed me, I was there. To buy her groceries, to bathe her, to wash her clothes, etc. I always took care of her. But, I did it from my pedestal of self righteousness. Believing that I was better than her.
I didn’t know any better. I only knew how to do the tangible things.
We’re at a different stage in our recovery now. Yes, our recovery. Because we are both recovering.
She doesn’t need me to buy her food, to bathe her or wash her clothes. She needs me to sit beside her and hold her hand. She needs me to be vulnerable, to talk about my fears, hopes, dreams and disappointments.
We went through a lot as kids. Saw and experienced things that no child ever should. I hate talking about it, I put all of those memories in a box and stuffed them away. Because I can maintain control if I pretend those things never happened.
She can’t forget them or pretend they never happened. She’s not ashamed or afraid. She understands they’re not her fault. And so, we talk about them. It’s hard and it hurts. When we talk about those memories, I come down from my pedestal of self righteousness and I sit beside her.
It is then that I realize she is holding my hand. And perhaps, she is a lot further along the road of recovery than I am.
Control is a facade. It’s a mask I wear because I fear vulnerability. It is a means to control my environment.
I’m learning to take the mask off...sometimes. I’m learning that when I surround myself with the right people, control is unnecessary and vulnerability a necessity.