A dirty word.
Updated: Oct 15, 2018
“I thought we were flying. But maybe we are dying.”
Story by anonymous.
Journal entry from rehab, 2014
Addiction: such a loaded word. Clean: Such a dirty word. Clean. I hate that word. Overused in treatment, it has such cloudy connotations. Its negative and its derogatory. I was never dirty when I was using, nor was I dirty before I stopped taking my medication. I was just riding away into point never. Never growing, never changing. Nothing was giving. And of course, I had nothing to give to anyone else. I was stuck. Stale. Stolen. But here we are, using the word clean again - into my third week of being completely free from any chemical substance. It might not seem like a big deal to anyone else, but to those who understand the vicious and unrelenting cycle of addiction, this is quite the achievement. Not that I think I deserve any praise for this - this is how it should be. Once you know how it feels to be shattered by your own decisions and at the total mercy of something inside you that’s more powerful than your own will, to be able to go to battle with the dark beast and to win twenty one days in a row - really is some kind of wonderful.
I am a drug addict. I have been heavily abusing substances for 15 years.
After somehow stumbling my way through University and graduating - which was far from smooth sailing let me assure you - I made my way to Melbourne. By this point, I was a full blown drug addict, unable to get through any moment of any day without some sort of substance running through my veins. For months, it was wonderful. A new city, all of my friends, one big party that never ended. We were young, reckless and completely carefree. But I was hiding the fact that my party didn't even end on Monday mornings when everyone else went off to work. I burnt through cash. My weight plummeted. My speech was starting to slur, I was repeating myself. I was constantly sick, breathless, itchy, scratchy. My tremors were getting to the point where I couldn't even hold onto things. I couldn't walk up the stairs without becoming short of breath. My body was giving out on me. I was 23. I had been severely abusing drugs, both prescribed and illicit, for over a decade. The looks on my friends faces turned from enthusiasm to concern. Then from concern to a deep seated fear. I knew they were onto me. Interventions were attempted, but they ended up in me overdosing, terrified to have to face up tp the state I had let myself get to. My hands and my heart were blue. I was seeing things, hearing things. I was fired from 3 jobs, I couldn't pay my rent. Luckily I had parents that were willing to prop me up, but I was gravely ill. One night, after ending up in hospital after yet another overdose, I was finally taken into the system and placed on Suboxone, opiate replacement therapy, or the new age methadone. Only my closest circle knew I was on opiods at that stage. It was a terrifying time for all.
I was admitted to a detox facility, Wellington House, where I stayed for almost 3 weeks drying out from oxy’s, morphine and then because of its lower price tag, heroin. I was very, very sick at this point, weighing only 42 kgs and totally non-functional. The withdrawal from these drugs - for those of you lucky enough to have never experienced it - is far worse than you can possibly imagine. I’ve decided to include an excerpt from my journal, written during and just after the withdrawal, to try and describe how horrific it truly is. Trust me, never, ever touch heroin.
‘Another wave of nausea overwhelms me. My insides contract and up comes a delightful combination of bile and the saline liquid they have been pumping into my system, as well as some dry blood. This isn’t as shocking as it sounds. I have been bringing up blood like this sporadically for a few years. I used to think it was from swallowing pills that had been cut on the street with brick dust and sometimes glass (yes, monsters are real and they sell drugs made of glass to sick children). But then I just resigned it to another symptom of my lifestyle. My stomach was always a mess and so I never gave the blood any real weight. Naturally, the medical staff took a different approach and made, in my opinion, a slightly irrational scene over this. They rushed in the doctor who ordered tests and of course prescribed medication. One nurse stays behind to be with me while the nausea makes another unwanted appearance. She holds my hair back for me while I bring up my insides and presses a cold compress into my head as I lie back on my pillow. I am sweating. I am shaking. My body is convulsing. I look up at her and our eyes lock. She cant hold my gaze for long and she lets go of my hand and buries her own hands in the deep pockets of her nurses tunic. She fishes out a pen to scribble down the vitals on my chart. I watch her. She is kind, her face soft and etched with years worth of the little lines of life. It’s creased deeply with concern. I hope it’s for someone else and not me because I absolutely do not deserve this kind strangers sympathy. This is it. This is the hell of heroin. Here it comes again, and I wonder to myself how many times I will put myself through this, dancing with the devil, holidaying in hell. I jump out of my bed and press my body to the cold hard floor in a desperate attempt to counteract some of the heat burning through my body. It didn’t work. I don’t even know if I am hot or cold. I am ice on fire.
Finally, it was over, and I came back to the world. I was released from Wellington House, and entered an outpatient recovery program, designed to keep addicts clean and help to rehabilitate them into society. I wasn't working, but was still living in the house with 4 very close friends. They all thought I was clean, and that was the deal: you can stay, but no more drugs or alcohol. On my third session in the program I shared a cigarette with a young, rugged but attractive guy, Adam. He had long dark hair that he wore in a top knot, and dirty white chuck taylors. He had the bluest eyes I had ever seen. It took all I had to look away from them. I knew at that moment that this man was going to alter the course of my life forever. Isn't that funny? As I write this I don't know if I’ve dramatised that part, or if I truly believed it at that moment.
We kicked around the streets for a bit chatting until it we reached my train station, then I left. In the 10 minutes it took to walk to the station I learnt he was a herion addict, but an injector (I had never injected) and he had been clean for 5 months. He had recently moved from Perth. I could hardly wait for the next session to see him again. I was obsessed. I couldn't get him out of my head. On my way to the next session I was terrified he wouldn't be there. But he was. I saw the dirty white chucks first, and then he looked up at my with those eyes. His hair was covered with a cap today though. I think by now you know where this is going so I’ll skip ahead to the part where we went and had a ‘casual drink’, followed by a joint and then scraped our money together to score some coke. They are right when they advise you not to become involved with someone else in recovery. But we couldn't get enough of each other. We went to the park after we scored and had the most glorious day. Laughing, joking, talking. It was beyond perfect. I was completely in love for the first time in my life, with a person and not drugs. He understood me in ways I never imagined I could be understood. He had the same darkness that I had, he was crazy and beautiful and damaged. We were both very, very sick, but we gave each other a reason to smile. To laugh. To feel comfortable being vulnerable. And that felt wondrous.
We went to get more coke, as you do, and the Asian dealer offered us a taste of H. I looked at Adam. I could see the pleading in his eyes - pleading with himself to say no. To walk away. To not let the devil win. I was having the exact same conversation with my own head. We both lost. We paid the man wearing a much too shiny watch and slacks that were too short for him, took the green balloon we handed us and went to the needle exchange. Adam led the way, this was all new to me. They handed us ‘hit kits’. I felt like we were in a very disturbing movie, heading towards a train that was going to hit us. But I also couldn't stop thinking about getting high. Adam and I went on a 3 month heroin binge, and I started to inject. No one knew a thing. We were masters. Far too clever. While the world was at work, we would hide. At the beach, the park, in his bedroom, Bon Iver playing, smoking joints in between hits, and totally lose ourselves to each other. We turned ourselves over completely to the mesmerising melodies of the drug.
‘They drove for hours to the ocean. Just for the proof they had been. They watched the sunsets splendid colours. They left before the sky had darkened. falling away to the sea. And this night, it learnt their names. With their fingers tapping light. That would have put the moon to shame. Ten million stars all tried to stop them. To beg them to stay and see more. Instead of hiding under the covers. Where their only constellations were the cracks of light that danced across the ceiling. But they sent their one word answers, as a substitute for feeling. And with the traffic as their soundtrack, they soon drifted off to sleep and didn't even slightly stir, when all the clouds began to weep’. “I thought we were flying, but maybe we are dying.”
There were nights that went on forever. We were both the most perfectly formed version of fucked up anybody had ever seen. He always had that look about him, that look of otherness, of eyes that see things too far and thoughts that wandered to the edge of the world. And when I looked at him, it was like holding up a mirror. He could feel all my tears, and I his - and they fell around us. First a drop, and then suddenly an ocean. Years of hidden pain, coming out all at once. I surrendered to the peace of the water. He was there with me. I was safe. My insides were suddenly warm. How ironic that my icy bones come back to life the very moment I let go?
Have you ever thought about how much you can fit inside a syringe? I didn’t, the first time I shot up. If only then, at that moment, the realisation hits. If only one realised how so much more than a life fits inside the small clear tube. Much more than a life. Because what it can hold, can suck the life right out of a person. Until all that’s left is a hollow empty shell. With a blackened soul. No chance for escape. That little liquid bullet becomes the only thing that matters. And just like that, it becomes your entire life. You’re seduced by the weakness of your own habit. You dote on it. Adore it. Worship it. Is this love? Or is this a reverse kind of hate? A trick of the mind. It’s consuming. The curse is entirely between your ears. The wind is constantly changing. It never rests. It has to be this way. Otherwise I will find the quiet and rationalise another reason to get high. Again. The negative thoughts come and go. When they come, they leave a mark. An open wound. That soon turns into a silver scar.
Three months, that's all we had together. The one person who knew how darkened my soul was and loved me anyway, possibly even more so because of it, left me alone in the world. Our love was so mutated that it became impossible to know when we ended and the drug started. Adam died of an overdose while I was high and oblivious, lying next to him in his bed. My arm was even draped lazily across his chest and it would have been there when his heart beat that one last time. I came to, my drug induced stupor wearing off. I saw him. Vomit running out the sides of his mouth. Cold. Hard. Blue. I started to scream. I didn’t know where to go or what to do. What the fuck do I do? I suddenly don’t know where I am. I couldn’t comprehend what was happening. His flatmate came running in and I can't remember much from that point on. He called the ambulance, but I ran. I left him. I left him there.
But not before I took what was left in his syringe. No, that was mine, my kiss goodbye. His final high.
And then I ran. As fast as my skinny weak legs would carry me. I could hear voices yelling at me to stop. I stopped two blocks away, positioning myself so I could see the door to his apartment. I sat, waited and then watched as they arrived. They went inside. And they came out carrying a stretcher. Covered with a white sheet. Get.on.the.train. Close.your.eyes. Try.to.forget. In that order. As as the memories come running back into my head, I relived it over and over again. How can this possibly be happening? He can’t really be gone. How can he be gone?
Will I ever get used to this silence? This dream of being in control? The greatest place I’ve ever been was with him. This is one of the great ironies of using drugs. You use them to block and to erase. To go numb. But when the high runs out, the feelings that are left behind - the taste that’s left in your mouth - well these things are simply unimaginable. And worse? You never learn. You repeat this mistake over and over. Almost expecting a different outcome. The definition of madness. Your days are consumed by blocking out all of the things you don’t want to remember, only to remember to forget them again. Another journal excerpt to share the agony of this withdrawal, combined with the grief and horror of what had just happened:
‘It is still daylight outside. But darkness wraps me up tightly. I must be blind, I can’t see anything. Why wont my eyes work? I try to breathe. To calm myself. I do a quick check in with the real world. I’m on the train - how bizarre. I wonder where I’m going. Nowhere. I have to get off. I must get off this train. My vision returns. The sounds return. I’m so far from home, what am I doing? Everything’s still blurry, fuzzy. The effects of my hit are wearing off. I hear crying, hysterics. They must be mine. I come round and I’m back in hospital. I knew exactly how this story went, I had been here many times before. But nothing could have prepared me for the shock of this sickness. Its vicious, relentless. Completely unforgiving. And 100% self inflicted. This hell is exactly what I deserve. Darkness comes and goes. My body can’t adapt to the hungry cravings. It’s in shock, I always would have fed it by now. This punishment goes on for hours. Days.
I can’t even tell if I’m dying. I want to. God, how I want to. Please take me away, take me away from myself. Take me to where he is. My bones are grating against my skin, my head breaking through my skull. I’m delirious, every inch and organ on fire. The kind nurse comes and goes, liquids are refilled, medications administered. Sheets changed. Ice cubes, glucose tabs. Water. Meals come and go - soup, ice cream, jelly. It’s all so meaningless, it’s all so empty. It’s the most bizarre thing, this pain. It’s a comforting distraction from what would be happening in my head if I had the energy to even think at all. All I can do is lurch from moment to moment and hope that things get a little less horrific each time. Conversations with no one but yelling at everyone. My sins swirling in the toilet bowl. Slowly, the moments do get less and less awful. Then, finally, hell tells me my vacation is over and I can pack up and leave. I come back to the present. I am curled up at the end of the small bed. I have nothing left in me. No fight. No light.
And here we are. Rock bottom.
It took me a while, but I’ve arrived, like I knew I always would.
A crash landing, a hard and fast exit from hell to a place even lower than lucifer's paradise.
I close my eyes. And hand myself over. I let it all fade to black. My emotions roared at me, every sound magnified, even from these high drugged heights. Everything below falls far beyond my reach. It’s formidable. I can't face it. Taunting me. Teasing me, Slowly destroying me. Why am I so powerless over the demons that live inside of me? Am I so impure that the light simply can't reach this mere mortal?
My next manic phase manifested itself through multiple unrestrained sexual indiscretions, wild spending sprees, disordered eating and drug and alcohol binges. I remember sitting writing in my journal, and trying to find the right words to match the wild emotions I was feeling. I was holding my breath. I was holding my breath and thinking ‘will it ever get better than this?’ Because I can’t imagine it does. I had my whole life to prove to myself that it will but I couldn't shake the feeling that the hourglass was slowly fading in front of my eyes. I didn't actually believe that I had a whole life in front of me. I didn't think I was going to be shown all the things I didn't yet know, hadn't yet seen, the people I had not yet met and loved. I felt like maybe this was it? I was pushing myself to the physical limits of being human, running purely on sex, a lack of food and sleep and a total lack of any inhibitions.
It all started when I was on vacation. I had the worst relapse I’ve had since I moved away from Australia, since the day I left all everything that I loved behind and changed all my people places and things - just like they told me to. Four weeks it lasted, blasted on coke 24/7 during the European summer. Against the backdrop of the French countryside, the Mediterranean coastline, the Italian Riviera, the ancient and medieval cities that grace Europe’s banks - this became my playground. My sanctuary of all sanctuaries - to come face to face again with my darkest demon of all. And all this in the presence of my mother. Her love for me was uncompromising but as fickle as ever - our similarities and differences manifested more urgently than ever before. Our unbearably complex relationship coming head to head, while I was high off my face and she had no idea. Or just chose not to see. I didn’t want to be responsible for making her sad, hurt, angry, mad. But I couldn't help it. If you choose to never go home, does this mean you are forever lost? All day drunk, high, and hurtling through the graces of my own broken promises. I kept stumbling and finding the new highs I have so desperately wanted to claim back after escaping from the solitary confinement of the desert. It was clumsy. It was without reason and it was without remorse. I felt such a lack of guilt for my behaviour - such a cold level of detachment in these foreign lands that it felt at times as if I had already been there and done it all before.
I went back to Dubai, which was supposed to be my safe haven, to straighten out and get things back on track. But the violent conversations I had with myself did no good, and the evil angel rose once more to show me what my soul was born to do. The things I have done. The euphoria I have found. The physical pleasures that have reverberated through my body. The nights that I wanted to stay dark and go on forever are sitting heavy and thick in my consciousness. The strangers I let inside. First into my bed, and then into me. Our bodies wild and desperate. Hungrily searching for something. Anything. Clutching onto a reason to scream ‘look at me. I’m not alone’. I lived like this, on adrenaline, serotonin, endorphins, sex, alcohol and pills for weeks. Every time my story reaches this chapter, I always have to push the boundaries that much further. It didn't matter how I got the high, I just had to have it.
Every high, every wave of blissful oblivion, fuelling my need for more hedonistic desires. I dated a married couple and reached levels of sexual ecstasy I cannot ever imagine being topped. I let a sadomasochist into my house, my bed, who brutally attacked and raped me, leaving me tied to my bed with the front door wide open. I seduced friends, both female and male. I had affairs with married partners from work. I had ménage à quatres in my bathroom at midday in my bathroom. I got pregnant and had a miscarriage. I racked up $200,000 of debt. I can never win at these games I play with myself. This I know. But chaos becomes my shadow. My closest companion. This is something I learn the hard way every single time. But at that very moment, the high was so grand and my ego was so inflated, all my bets were on this sleepwalker. She was heading for a revelation.
Of course it didn't last. I had a full blown nervous breakdown. I couldn't get out of bed, I couldn't wash, I couldn't eat. I could barely speak. I couldn't leave the house without having a panic attack. I only left to get scripts filled, totally addicted to benzos at this point. Doctor shopping and sleeping consumed all of my time. I was back in that dark place, once again. I find myself back there so rapidly, without warning. More overdoses, more self-destructive behaviour. While I was in and out of consciousness and lucidity, after one almighty overdose resulting in multiple seizures and hospitalization, my broken brain took me back into the past. To the things I desperately try to block out but fail miserably to do so, and then to some things I haven’t given thought to for months, years even, but still seem to hurt as if they happened yesterday. I gave up. I just stopped caring about anything. I overdosed three times in 3 weeks, and then was sent home to NZ and immediately admitted into hospital under the Mental Health Act.
New Zealand, 2018
I’ve come home to finally get the help I desperately need, or I will die. I have been sectioned off to the psychiatric ward to keep myself safe from myself. I’m so tired. So tired of going round and round and getting nowhere. I know I’ll pull myself out of this, but right now I just want to let the tiredness wash over me. There are so many things I don’t know, I don’t understand. I’m tired of hiding and tired of acting as though I have something to hide. When I look back over my shoulder, I feel the presence of an intense young girl and then a volatile and disturbed young woman. Both with high dreams and restless feet. But I know it’s time. It’s time to fix myself. The depths of darkness I’ve reached this time seem so much more mortal and so much more aggressive than ever before, which scares even me. I actually want to end my life. I have this thought over and over and over again, it soothes me, until the black just peacefully takes me over and lets me float away from the mess inside of me.
I've taken so much from my people, and you all know who you are. I’ve taken your comfort, words, hugs, reassurance, love, laughter, support. I’ve had so many incredible people who have been there when my life was overwhelming and truly felt unbearable. They've held me close when I was crying and convulsing and panicking and ready to give up. They've sat with me in silence and just held me and loved me endlessly. When life was overwhelming and truly felt unbearable, they still loved me. I have a million and one things to thank you all for and I don't know where to start, but I will do this. I will be strong and I will face up to the demons. I will find that higher love that will give me peace, contentment and closure. My people have without a doubt saved me. I know it can't be easy loving me, but they find a way and they keep me here. I love them too much to hurt them. And that's enough for now, One day I will want it for me, nut right now, I’m doing this for them. I have a long hard road of recovery ahead of me, not just from my addictions, but all of my mental illnesses that seem to constantly gang up on me and continue to torture me. I have more than used up my 9 lives, and this feels like my last change to finally commit to healing, to accepting the fact that I just might have a future that isn't soaked in chaos and destruction. It’s time to leave it all behind, and rebuild myself.