I’m 5 minutes into a conversation with a woman who works as a hospice nurse when I realize my life has no purpose.
I’ve spent my life trying to create meaning from brokenness. Smash the mirror and the shards reflect rainbows. I’ve told my stories; I’ve birthed a child and made a home; I’ve cleaned bathrooms at the Statue of Liberty; I’ve used up at least 7 of my 9 lives but nothing I’ve accomplished rivals her love for the dying.
I was three when my father died. All I remember of him are pancakes shaped like Supergirl and the day police came to the door to tell my mother he was dead. “Oh, you have the wrong family,” she laughed, with her gravelly cigarette-flavored laugh. A laugh borne of desperation because who dies at 46 and leaves his wife with six kids? My mother wept and wept and then I was sent away to a group home to live.
I learned early how to go away in my head when people did things I didn’t like.
Seven months, two weeks and five days ago I took my last pill. “Fame, puts you there where things are hollow.” I am fameless, yet I live in that hollow place.
I’ve lost the one true love of my life. Opiates stoked the chemical blaze in my brain that told me the world was amazing. Nothing feels right, because nothing feels.
Wake up. Think about pills. Get ready for bed, think about pills. I double cleanse my skin, layering on serums and lotions and think about pills, bribe myself by saying this is self-care, this is MY time, but who really owns time? I’d like to have a talk with that motherfucker about letting the last couple of decades go by without me having achieved anything worthwhile.
My ex and I are splitting custody of my son this summer. We live so far from one another that I am spending my summer on the Garden State Parkway.
I used to love driving. I was a road warrior, a travel mug and ear-splitting music my shield and javelin. I could drive forever listening to Lenny Kravitz’s saxophone oozing out of my speakers like slow brown honey. This blistering summer, driving feels like a punishment for me AND the highway. My tires pummel miles of desiccated asphalt relentlessly.
Another brutally hot summer, my eighth, I was sent away to Camp Rainbow, a broken mirror of a place with a cheery subterfuge of a name. It was a camp for troubled children.
Was I troubled? What troubled me was having my waterfall of cascading red curls shorn into an ugly pixie cut. My mother saved the ponytail for years. Eventually my hair grew back, but in a tumbleweed of unruly curls that jutted out from my head in a frizzy pyramid. The only remnant I had of those silky red waves was encased in a thick plastic bag.
Without the velvet cushioned rabbit hole of opiates, I have no interest in anything. Destroy the dopamine neurons in rats and they’ll starve to death, even with food right in front of them.
I can’t write. The only thing I want to write about is this, and I don’t want to write about it. Peel back the layers to find what? One doesn’t don’t peel layers of onion expecting to find gold. There is only more onion.
Eventually my oldest brother extricated me from that group home. In the year I spent there, I learned that trust is not a thing and abuse masquerades as love. True enough, I was rescued, but my story was of imprisonment, not rescue.
After that, I carried around a blistering orange sandstorm of rage that my small body could barely contain.
I know why the rescue dog bites.
Sea salt, tomato sauce, protein powder, brown sugar – I reorganize the pantry and think about pills. Later, he’ll ask “where’s the protein powder?” and I won’t remember. It was in the doing, not the thing itself. This is a kitchen meditation performed so I won’t vacuum my car and search for pills.
He’s a good man. But I watch him through eyes that belong to this new person, this woman who goes to sleep at 8 pm because being awake hurts.
He is sturdy, both in mind and body. He is earthy and rooted; the perfect yin to my dreamer yang, he of the melting guitar solos and rustic house by the bay and this would be an idyllic summer if only I could feel it.
I can’t feel my life.
There are pictures to prove it exists; at least fifty the day of my son’s 8th grade graduation. What is left now? How can he be a character in my story, now that he’s telling his own? What else can I give him aside from a deeply dysfunctional childhood?
I only hope it will make you funny, and compassionate. ‘Adversity builds character,’ I say, but what else is left to say when the house is gone?
There are amends to be made, mostly to me. I’ve squandered myself feeling excessively and numbing it to survive. This great Empty is not the selective numbing of drugs. Opiates barricade against pain while simultaneously allowing angels from heaven to kiss your brain.
This is nothingness. This is flat line.
The latest narrative of trendy personal transformation is that we are the masters of our own destiny. What first world arrogance it is, to claim that we alone are responsible for our own stories! New age frivolity has tricked us into believing that we are the average of people we spend time with. As if the nuances of spirit, essence, energy and inclinations are mathematical things.
Some of our stories are contracts with God, written before we have a chance to tell them. Long before I learned the meaning of the word “innocence” I had already lost mine.
For years I kept my addiction private, like a small secret talisman I carried around in my pocket for good luck. Now I need to loosen the choke hold it has on my life. I share this story as a chemist, hoping to dilute its concentration and in doing so, create a new solution.
When I do feel, it’s anger. The stigma attached to my addiction has devoured me from the inside out. Why are women permitted – encouraged, actually – to be impaired, as long as it’s from alcohol? The boozy, wine-soaked mom is a tiresome social media trope. Where are the memes playfully celebrating mothers who pop Oxy?
I’m no longer ashamed of my addiction, nor do I judge those addicted to food, love, religion, sex, exercise, status, material possessions. You’re no doubt reading this on a smart phone you’re addicted to.
It’s inevitable. We have no chance against the science used to ensnare us in our own impulses, trapping us in the dopamine loop of mindless consumption. An individualized mass psychosis as a response to being human in a toxic world.
What is left to believe in? To whom do the faithless pray?
There must be something. It is a beautiful accident that we even exist; that billions of years ago fiery, chaotic forces swirled through empty space and formed our planet. Somewhere between the poles of life and death exists hope.
The story I tell now is of time, and numbers, and counting. It’s been seven months, two weeks and five days since I last used.
One day at a time.
One hour at a time.
One minute at a time.
Talk to me.
Join me on Facebook, so I can have friends without leaving the house.
How wonderful to see you here, Samara. How wonderful to see you. xoxo
Thank you Brenda. Love to you, always.
I love you.
I feel the same way. And I miss your face.
It is interesting, the vices, the addictions that are socially acceptable and how those have changed over time.
Your pills are no different than the coffee I’ll be drinking all day. Your pills are no different than hit of dopamine from seeing the post was liked and commented on. That’s a double hit. And runner’s high. And that glass of wine buzz. And and and.
It’s been over ten years since in last popped a pill. I stopped counting. I haven’t stopped wondering what it would be like to roll again. I never will.
I’m so glad to see you here. I’ve been shitty about reading other blogs, and it’s good to see my old friends.
You don’t need to roll. You can be sweaty, hyper and sleep deprived from raising two small children.
I’ve been shitty about reading other blogs as well. The only reason I saw yours was because you are one of a handful I subscribed to get emails for… Emails, apparently, I still see.
I’ve pretty much shut down everything else though.
I don’t need to roll. It’s true. Children… the check off all those buckets. Pretty sure I even hallucinate a little here and there because that’s the only explanation for how fast they are growing…
Love you, too, my friend.
I see you. You are strong, and brave, and determined to overcome the dark days, even when you don’t feel it. Onward my friend.
Thank you. I don’t feel any of those things, you’re right. But it’s good to read it.
Hard blink. I was on the pavement looking under the seat of my car for the lost pill less than 24 hours ago. Replacing one (tramadol) with another (effexor) so I can cope. Dealing with weighing 50lbs more than I did last year, downsliding on the other side of the age hill, wondering if there is a “what’s next?” When I read what you write I can keep going for a little while. Grin.
i’m right there with you. Let’s keep each other going. xo
Powerful and moving. Keep on doing what you feel you must do. And take pride in yourself.
Thank you for reading. xoxo
Here and wanting to say what an incredible thing it is you put down the pills. Whatever the vice/need/want/savior/cushion/blinder/novacaine/magicspell it is we crave (I’m part of the current boozy trend myself. You are so right about that, p.s.). …. It is amazing that you took a step and put the fucker down (even though it’s so pretty and sparkly and feels Better). The bravest thing is to be with yourself. …. Ridiculous that it’s true, but it is. …. You’re an incredible person, Samara. You will find your own sparkle/shine/glare without the numbness. You will. It just takes time. ….. As for the wanting and the thinking, I still feel those things from time to time. 3 years later. But I know I am better without it, and so are the people I love. …. Reach out to other pill-ites and other addicts of any type. You are not alone. It feels better when you know that and feel that and connect with others. Truly. Hang in there. It’s fucking hard/awful/shitty/difficult/challenging/not fair/bogus/stupid/the worst, but it gets better. -HM.
Thank you. The only reason I published this story is because I’m part of a group that understands and gives me strength.
Thank you for sharing this with the world. People have this preconceived notion that as soon as you are on the road to recovery, everything is wonderful and new again. I am 8 years, 8 months and 10 days clean. Most of the time now, I forget how long it’s been. It’s hard for me to admit there are still times I think about pills. I can hear myself crushing one up into a fine powder, snorting it and tasting it run down my throat. The dizzying, mind numbing buzz and total euphoria immediately after and running on that high until the next one. But I also remember the months and days after I quit and thinking, Now what? Your “what” will come. There is joy to be had. With recovery comes learning how to feel again. Forgive yourself and let others forgive you too. Even if they don’t (and some won’t), let it go.
So many thoughts about this wonderfully written piece of yours. Mostly, I love you and love your writing. I’d say how brave you are for writing this, but your courage is so much more profound than sharing a secret, courage most probably can’t imagine.
I pushed the like button on this end of joy article because I’m so happy to see you writing. I have my own ups and downs in dealing with a purposeless existence, but I find my own purposes where I can. Believe when I can and fake it when I can’t, or just be rude so that nobody talks to me about it. Anyways, so glad to see you here.
Sometimes suicidal, always bipolar, faithful atheist, 30 years of time often measured in minutes, hours and days, first 2 years in AA (not a joiner), here to say when I read this, I feel it. Most of the time, addiction stories are wrapped in a bunch of platitudes with “happily ever after” attached. It’s understandable: we search for meaning and try to minimize shame. “Negativity” gets demonized. Fuck gratitude. Honesty helps me. I’m sorry you’re in it, but thank you for writing about how it really is.
I love you so much. I don’t know what to say to make this better. I am glad you are here. I am glad to know you and to have spent time together and I hope to again. I’m sorry you are going through this, I wish I could take it away from you.
This piece helped me in many ways. When my son comes home from treatment , etc. in December I want to understand what he’s going through , what he’s feeling , and how to help him. It sucks that you’re going through this and my hope is that brighter things can soon be upon you. I want to leave Detroit and drive to you and make you all the comfort foods , listen to great music and let you know that it’ll all be alright. I wish for you all good things
Yes, we are all addicted to something. You’re just more honest about it than others. You are doing everything you can do – try to be gentle with yourself. 🙂
Check out http://www.hellomara.com he’s on WordPress ❤️
“The latest narrative of trendy personal transformation is that we are the masters of our own destiny. What first world arrogance it is, to claim that we alone are responsible for our own stories. New age frivolity has tricked us into believing that we are the average of people we spend time with. As if the nuances of spirit, essence, energy and inclinations are mathematical things.
Some of our stories are contracts with God, written before we have a chance to tell them. Long before I learned the meaning of the word “innocence” I had already lost mine.”
I love that!! 💜💜 I am not addicted to drugs. But like you said I have my own things. Don’t look back just keep moving. Just keep doing. ❤️ Easier said than done.
“The struggle is real” 😘
Write all this shit down. We are here for it. Keep counting the days that pass; maybe eventually they’ll blur into an indistinct mass; maybe you’ll be feeling so much you forget to count. I dunno. Just so glad you put this out there — and without the precious trappings of most addiction “revelations.”
You CAN write. And heal. You’re one of the most amazing women I know. It’s not gone. Keep writing. Publish, burn it. Whatever. You may think it sucks. Don’t stop. Writing heals. Let it out. Hugs lady.
So much absolute truth in this piece my head hurts.
I live with Attention Deficit Disorder, which means I need to go skydiving before breakfast just to feel remotely alive. Without that (or the Dexedrine pill I take in its place) I will toss dynamite sticks everywhere I tread just to enliven the banality of existence; a reality my dopamine-deficient brain finds intolerable.
This may be selfish on my part but my hope is you can replace the thrill of the old habit with that of a new habit: writing. You’ve been missed.
“I know why the rescue dog bites.”
I’ve never seen anyone claim this…I’ve not been in that place…but I know why it bites also.
This is an amazing piece you’ve written. So heartfelt, exposing yourself for all to get a glimpse inside your head, yet only a glimmer of what happens.
I’m a sex addict, but my fix is in the written word and the pictures. I both read and write this stuff, locked in my own fantasy world, but I do know the difference between fantasy and real life. I just like the occasional escape. I’ll not judge you either because we all are addicted to something…it’s our collective and individual struggle. Even Christians…or religious…are addicted. They’re addicted to their god. It’s what we do.
Your writing is helping those who need what you have to say, as borne out by your following. Your life counts for something. One day at a time. One foot in front of the other.
Thank you for sharing this wonderful written word picture.
What comes to mind is all that anger that went into the bottle when the pill came out. Is that the right metaphor? Maybe. It is going to take time for that backlog to leak out and make room for better, day by day. Having known, professionally and personally, a wide variety of addicts who quit (many, more than once), I gotta tell you that seven months, two weeks and five days (Oh, six days now.) is a good beginning, but still the beginning of the changes, so keep writing so you and the rest of us will notice.
Somebody pointed out to me that I was “A Survivor” the other day. I get the not being able to feel, but you can’t seem to pull off the bleakness…you’ve got too much goddamn texture. Funny seems to like hanging around you too. You can spool out some bleak shit…just don’t try swooning into bleak. You’re not built for it.
Yours is a powerful and beautiful story and I love you for telling it. Keep talking, hon, because we are listening.
The Paradox: you don’t feel, but in your writing, the page is oozing with feel. From you. You feel. Maybe you just don’t want to dig it up and dust it off right now. Save it for later. You’ll know when you’re ready. In the mean time, WRITE MORE.
This is a very compelling read. It helps those who have struggled with or are currently struggling with addiction to stop and think about life and where we are going in it.
Thank you for the thought provoking story.
This article was shared into my Facebook news feed… I read it four days ago and it’s stuck to me. I even told my therapist about it on Thursday. I have never really understood opiod addiction. I didn’t see the appeal. It didn’t really make sense to me.
Why? Because I have taken thousands upon thousands of pain pills this past year in a desperate attempt to control and treat an aggressive brain disease I’ve been battling. I equate morphine and norcos and percocets with death. With the worst days of my life when they told me I was terminal, sedated in a dark hospital room battling to live another hour.
Today, I’m miraculously on the long road to recovery but every time my pain rises and I should take a pill I don’t. Because it feels like failure and tastes like death. And that upsets everyone. That I won’t, don’t take what I should. That I suffer, burn, swell, droop rather than taking pills that help. Because for me they are darkness and grief, they are despair and longing.
And reading this, thinking about it, hearing and understanding the other side of the equation. The euphoric experience rejected so as to live and own your life. It really helped reframe some of my choices and experiences and gave me language I lacked to explain to others my relationship with these things. And, ironically, it’s helped me feel better about owning my choice to take pills, or not.
So thank you.
Your words are so heavy with meaning yet flow with a fluidity of real time awareness, and still there is a sanguine tone under them – as someone who is still reaching out a hand whilst surrounded by darkness. Everyone’s situations are different, but I too suffered and recovered from my addictions in secret isolation. I understand the reluctance to accept the bleak emptiness of life – but it is there where we create the light. Stay strong, keep writing.
I wish I had words to impart that would make it all go away, but I don’t. All I can say is….I understand. My first thought when getting stressed out or feeling overcome is to drink. I don’t, but that thought is always there whenever things get out of sorts. Stay strong, my friend.
Have a birthday blogasm on me. Happy birthday, Samara.
I’m so sorry you are going through this Samara.. I’m glad you wrote about this and told what you are feeling. I hope in some way that helps you in your healing process.
I just want to tell you that you are an amazing person. You will get through this and you will be a stronger person. I also want to tell you that I will be praying for you. I wish you well my friend.. love, light and peace be with you every day. ❤
Funny, isn’t it, how your pain and emptiness brought me something great to re-read on a bleak November day when I could find no other stimulation? Sooooo, there must be pain for there to be creativity? I jealously guard the word “hope” because my daughter is Hope, and no one and nothing else gets that word from me, okay? But I love you enough (platonically and intellectually, that is) from afar that I hope you find, I don’t know, whatever it is that replaces the feeling that the pills brought. Rock the fuck on, Samara.