Up in Flames

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Up in Flames

I used to think there would be no getting out of the vortex of my addiction. I waited for my life to stop or for time to pass me by. My life became a series of long pauses and hours spend staring into space, a life full of bad choices and difficult situations; my heart had gone up in flames.

I had been caught in this vortex for twelve years. My drug of choice was . . . all of them. I had been prescribed antidepressants after an abortion, and I had spiraled down from there. I had said I’d never put a needle in my arm; then a needle was in my arm.

I had been slumped in a slothful repose staring at blood-daubed walls and sitting with the devil on a cold, damp floor strewn with empty vodka bottles, rolling papers, crack pipes and powder-covered spoons. I was having the 3:00-in-the-morning, lonely withdrawals. But the biggest devil there was me.

It was impossible to believe redemption was achievable. Yet somewhere, somehow, I found myself at crossroads in the midst of chaos. As I sat crying over what had happened, where it had happened, where it had gone wrong and who had said what when, I was faced with a choice. Crawling toward something seemed far better than sitting still. I chose change. I chose life.

I no longer wanted to be the volunteer rape victim running barefoot in the middle of the night wearing her pajamas through Camden Town with a jar full of coppers to score some dope. Nor the girl with trauma etched all over her face when she tried to smile. Nor the girl focused on the hurt, degradation and humiliation of her life – telling her sad life story over and over. Nor a shoulda-woulda-coulda girl who kept thinking, If only things had been different.

I now stand just north of two years clean and sober. It could not have happened without the help of a stranger who I now call my friend – a friend who sent me to a rehab center where I began to rebuild my life. There I was given the protection, tranquility and kindness to evaluate myself and the insane situations to which I had become immune and accustomed. I could not have done it without the love and support of Narcotics Anonymous.

My behavior had become extremely unconventional and inappropriate – a warm and delusional toxic cloak. I had been doing the same things over and over, knowing full well what the results would be, but doing them anyway – always perplexed by the consequences. In the haze of my addiction, I had been wholly irrational. Could I learn anything from this mess I had made of my life?

Taking responsibility for myself seemed paramount. I knew it was time to accept who and where I was. More importantly, I had to take full personal responsibility for where I wanted to go and what kind of person I wanted to become. I had to either accept the conditions in which I was living or take full responsibility to change them. I had to become humble and say to myself, You got yourself into this, now you must learn how to get yourself out – and then, obviously, I had to get out.

It was time to work on myself and find peace and love where I had known only rage, violence and hatred. It was time to choose to make the rest of my life, the best of my life.

By repeatedly inviting the worst case scenario into my life, I was continually brought to my knees. Now, with help, I could rebuild my life. For the first time, I became the writer, director, producer and the main character in my own life story.

For twelve years, addiction had turned me into someone I was not. I had lost sight of my true self. One of the therapists at the rehab center said, “The journey of someone’s life is not so much about becoming anything; it’s about unbecoming what you were, so you can eventually be who you were meant to be in the first place.”

Addiction was not a choice for me. Once firmly in its grip, I was powerless; but I realized my recovery was my responsibility. Today I have love and compassion for myself and others. Life on life’s terms is difficult; but I’d rather go through the struggle and have a chance at life than to be slumped over a sink on my birthday with a needle hanging out of my arm and heartache in my eyes.

Today, I have a life beyond my wildest dreams. For the first time, I am happy and surrounded by wonderful people. While I remain responsive to the world around me, I also have a plan of action; and I stick to that plan. The people in my life help me make it work.

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What I acquire no longer determines my happiness – who I have become does. I know when I am able to give, I become more. I am a work in progress. I have a vision of who I want to be, and I don’t plan on giving it up.

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