Six hundred and seventy-four days ago, I took my last hit. That hit is so much more important than the first one. The first one just sort of happened. I don’t think anyone says, “Hey, you know what I am going to do today? I am going to go get high and then in a week or two, hope that I am an addict.” No. Addiction doesn’t happen like that.
For me, it was carbon monoxide seeping into a house, silent, but deadly. I was in pain and the doctor prescribed painkillers. I took them as prescribed the first day or two, but quickly discovered that they helped me sleep. What was an extra painkiller if it meant that I could sleep after six months of night terrors and flashbacks? So, in gratitude, I began swallowing an extra painkiller at night to bring sleep.
Oh, but those painkillers soon proved themselves invaluable in my fight against the flashbacks of being abused … and who would dare tell me not to take them? I was in emotional and physical pain as I relived the many assaults on my body. And swallowing one or two extra pills during the day, what was that really going to hurt? In fact, those little pills actually seemed to help me function.
But just like that, I was hooked. The pills weren’t enough to get me the relief that I needed, so I reached for my old friend vodka whom I hadn’t visited in more than two decades. Truthfully, I would have preferred the burn of whiskey, but vodka is quiet, harder for others to detect. I knew this from past experience. And so, I mixed it with whatever I happened to be drinking. The pseudo-peace that the mixture of painkillers and alcohol delivered I mistakenly thought was a blessing.
When I dumped the pills and alcohol, the withdrawal began within twenty-four hours. And I went back to the pharmacy with a story of having spilled the painkillers down the drain. The pharmacist refilled the prescription for the last time. That is when my life became something out of control, unexpected, so far from what I ever wanted from my suburban, Christian life. I began to venture out to find my hit.
Eventually, my supplier told me he wasn’t going to sell my favored drug anymore, but he would give me a few free hits of something so much better. I knew what I was doing was wrong, so wrong, but I was so desperate not to feel, not to remember, that I let him slide the needle in that first time. And it was so good and so awful. The poison made me so sick and yet, desperate for more at the same time. The guilt and shame of using such awful drugs were all-consuming and required an extra hit to silence. Too easily, poison had captured my heart.
Even now, just remembering it, I want the needle – and yet, I hate the poison. It is awful and controlling, destroying all that is right and good – a thief that steals and lies. The terrible thing is that I knew that the drugs were lying to me, but I didn’t care. The peace the poison delivered was temporary and left me more desperate than the memories of abuse.
The first time I spoke it, I was whispering it to my therapist after months of therapy. Her quiet, sad smile and tear-filled brown eyes were accompanied by the words, “I know. I have been waiting for you to trust me enough to tell me. No one lives through the hell you have been through without something. Most women are dead by your age or so strung out on drugs they are selling themselves on the streets. You are one of the lucky ones.”
Today, as I celebrate sobriety, someone out there is still fighting to find the strength to make it through the withdrawal, detox, whatever you want to call it. It isn’t easy. But here is the good news: it is possible and you are worth the fight. No matter what led you to addiction, the God who made you loves you and sent His Son Jesus to set you free from every chain that binds.
If today is day one for you, HOORAY! You have chosen a path that is hard, but oh so worth it. Learning to walk in sobriety is a process that takes time. The very hardest part is the first couple of weeks as your body learns to function without a hit. Could I just encourage you, wherever you are on your journey, to reach out for help? Find a support group that will help you with accountability, will help you learn to walk in the freedom that God created you for.
If you are struggling with life issues, mental illness or in an abusive relationship, reach out for help. If you go to a church where you trust the pastor, reach out to him. I encourage you to find a good therapist, one who understands drug addictions, trauma, and mental illness – and how they are all connected. If you are in active addiction, find a place to go through detox. Don’t try to go it alone! Stepping out of addiction is so crazy hard and you are so brave to take the necessary steps. By God’s grace and with His help, YOU CAN DO THIS!!
For me, having people support me on my journey to wholeness has been so key. I am involved in a 12 step program that has not only helped me overcome my addictions, but has also helped me find healing in Jesus for the harm that was done to me. I have been involved in intense therapy for the trauma that I lived through. My therapist is a Christian who uses Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing and other trauma based models of treatment to help me process the abuse I went through.
I wrote this poem a while ago, mostly because I wanted a hit so badly that I did not think I would make it through another hour without one. I was reminding myself of how hard I fought for sobriety, how hard the withdrawal was. Breaking free from slavery isn’t pretty. The Red Sea did not part for me and I did not walk into sobriety on dry land – it involved a lot of sweat, blood, tears and vomit. But the good news is, I still made it to the other side and so can you!! And let me tell you, my life of sobriety is so much better than my life of addiction!
Easy, peasy, she says good-bye
to the prick of the needle, that good high,
confident sobriety will prove worthwhile
so begins day one with hope and a smile.
Shivering, shaking, body so aching
wishing and begging and wanting a hit
she wonders if her life is worth this s***
day two has begun but will she survive
to learn, to grow, have something to give?
Sweating and steaming, body screaming,
wishing and begging and wanting a hit
how fully did she to sobriety commit?
Day three has begun, but so much worse,
so far beyond the prior day’s curse
Nauseous, aching, head must be breaking
one hit…just one…would stop all this shaking.
She confesses her sin, begs some for prayer,
explains she needs heroin more than the air.
Day four she survives, but’s feeling deprived.
Heart racing and shaking, her whole world is quaking
wishing and waiting, pleading and praying
for her world to cease spinning, stop swaying.
There is a chance that she might be surviving
hope begins whispering to her on day five.
Waking and quiet, body near still
perhaps she’s summitted withdrawal’s hill?
A shiver, a shake, not quite a quake,
she is surviving that ache
without a fix, she realizes day six.
Constant the battle and craving wear on
praying for the good day to dawn
that puts an end to this consuming desire
to have the needle quench the dark burning fire.