Trying sobriety in the trenches of addiction

This is part two of a three-part getting sober series, which explores some of the more memorable moments that led up to my sobriety date, Dec. 19, 2008.

As a drug addict, I spent most of my time engaged in some type of inappropriate behavior. Lying, stealing and abusing drugs were some of my favorites.

Occasionally, I would get caught pulling some pathetic drug addict move and would end up always feeling humiliated. It was a crushing defeat. A moment of clarity that threatened to brush away the intricate webs of denial I had created around my drug use. Every fiber of my being shriveled up when this happened. My heart sank into my stomach. I wanted to die.

I hoped to never feel like that again. Unfortunately, forgetfulness is the  cornerstone of addiction. The humiliating memories of my past would slip away. The obsession to use heroin would propel me through the fear, and I would do it all over again.

Within an hour after being released from jail, my parents had already dropped me off at a drug treatment center. I moped around like a defeated soldier during my first day. Another patient said I looked like a scraggly puppet from Fraggle Rock.

At first I hated it there. The other patients were chummy with one another and already knew the ropes of the place. My first reaction was to run away. I tried to figure out a way I could escape and get loaded, but still be able to live with my parents.

There was no way. I stayed put.

I didn’t know how to socialize sober. Sometimes I would sit near a group of people and not say anything. Just being near them was comforting. Within days, however, I was making friends, laughing and having fun. I was shocked. I had believed for years that I was unlikable.

Yet in the back of my mind, heroin still lurked. I daydreamed about finally getting the opportunity to score dope. It made me giddy fantasizing about my dealer handing me a dime-size wad of black tar heroin twisted up in plastic. The best part about getting sober for the heroin addict is getting high again once the incredible tolerance has been reduced. The insanity told me that the high, the rush of heroin would be like it was when I first started shooting dope. If I waited long enough, perhaps my veins would heal and plump up, too.

One day an old druggie buddy walked in to the treatment center. He said he was defeated too. It only took a few days though before he asked me if I wanted to get high. He would sneak it in, if I could front the bill. He said he could even pay me back. It was the worst plan. I was doing so well here. I liked being sober. I said OK and gave him the money. One last time, I told myself. No one would find out.

A couple days later I tested positive for opiates and was kicked out. Caught again. I had only made it two weeks of a 28-day program. A counselor escorted me through the treatment center with my suitcase in hand, past all my new friends. None of them would even look at me. They couldn’t. Most of them wouldn’t last long either. Out of the 30 or so people I met there, only two I know of stayed sober.

Once again I was drenched in shame. Once again I saw the disappointment in the eyes of people around me. I vowed to keep sober. It was just a one-day relapse. I could persevere. Even though the counselors kicked me out, they helped smooth things over with my parents.

I went directly to a sober living house. It was a ranch, with pigs, horses and chickens. Sober living houses are meant to help recovering addicts and alcoholics stay sober by providing a structured environment that includes daily house chores, mandatory 12–step recovery meetings and nightly curfews.

After about 30 days sober, for no real reason, I said fuck it, called my dealer and went to get heroin. My dealer made me wait for an hour in my car outside his place before he arrived with the dope. For a whole hour I said fuck it over and over again. It was the only excuse I could muster up.

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