I honestly can’t remember the first time I tried drugs, but I can remember why. It was exciting! It felt like I was doing something bad (but not as bad as, say, breaking into a business, so it was still within my comfort zone). I felt powerful and cool. Nobody else in 9th grade had really caught on that stuff like marijuana was around our town and it was a pretty fun way to waste an afternoon. What’s interesting, looking back, is that I didn’t even like the actual substance at first. For a couple of years all I did was smoke weed and drink, and both of those only because of social pressure, for the most part. I didn’t like either of them, didn’t like how they made me feel unfocused and out of it. Oftentimes they gave me anxiety or depression. But I wanted to be cool so I kept doing it. Between the ages of 16-19 I found drugs I actually liked and I started doing them. All the time. A lot of people say that people become drug addicts because they’re trying to cover up unwanted emotions. I guess there was some of that in my drug use. Mainly, it was based on a worldview that there was nothing beautiful or worthwhile in the world and I might as well feel good while I can, because I sure as hell never felt good normally. My depression was definitely a huge contribution to why I started taking so many narcotics. I usually felt either unbearably numb or unbearably sad. Unfortunately, the drugs did such a good job making me feel better – not just numbing me, as many people think – but actually giving me motivation, perceived creativity, social skills, and bringing me the happiness I had always sought. I don’t know when I first realized it wasn’t working anymore but it couldn’t have been long after waking up in my bedroom being held down by a paramedic as I came back from a heroin overdose. My whole body felt cold, my legs were shaking uncontrollably, and I was incredibly confused. How could this have happened? I almost killed myself. That was never supposed to be part of getting high. Many more terrible things like that first overdose happened both before and after. Over the span of 3 years, it all slowly came to an inevitable head. I ended up in rehab multiple times, and started to visit different jails around the city in “field trips” that would range from a night to a week. I lost everything several times, got kicked out of several houses, and lost jobs. So what made the difference? What made the difference was accepting that I simply wasn’t going to get where I wanted to go with drugs. It had sure seemed like it for quite awhile, but for the past 12 months it had started to affect my life in a myriad of awful ways. Unfortunately, the police, my parents, and my girlfriend couldn’t do a whole lot to convince me otherwise because I just didn’t want to let go of the one thing that had worked so well. Sometimes I still don’t want to but drugs take me to places I really, really, really don’t want to be. And not doing drugs allowed me to purchase my own car, to find another job with a company who had previously fired me for getting arrested at my workplace, to move into an apartment, and to actually have some hope for my future. I do go to a lot of AA meetings. I have to, because of the conditions of my probation. But at the same time, there’s a few that I really like. I had no idea what AA was and didn’t care to before I got into rehab. I still don’t know how I feel about the “lifetime disease” model that most of AA believes. I don’t want to think I’m an addict or an alcoholic, or that I have a lifetime disease. I already feel defective enough. The ways AA has helped me out the most have really just been a group therapy environment and the support of a lot of friendly individuals in the program. I take what I can get out of each meeting and leave the rest, but I do try to use it to become a better person. Awhile ago, I told someone close to me I want to make choices that I can be proud of. I still really want to reach for that. There’s such a difference in me, even in my physiology, when I feel proud of what I’ve done. It cannot be overstated that a life of love and sharing and compassion really does feel better than a life of deceit and betrayal – even if the latter gets you high. I’ve caught a glimpse of happiness, here and there. I’m so stressed most of the time it’s hard to feel. Much of the time I feel like I’m stuck in midair, going nowhere. The way the justice system keeps me mired in obligations isn’t just irritating, it’s downright demoralizing. The only way I keep going on is leaning on the people around me. When I discovered drugs I didn’t think I needed anyone and I avoided getting too close to people. Now I think I need people and I avoid getting too close to drugs. The only downside is, certain drugs have a 100% success rate in making me feel better and people don’t. But the difference is people build me up and they give me constructive critisicm and they converse with me. Drugs are silent. They tear me down and are obviously nowhere to be seen when I’m sitting in a jail cell. It’s just moronic to put all my faith in inanimate objects. It’s been such a tough path of recovery I’ve wanted to give up about a billion times. But I still have so much that I thought I had lost, it’s worth continuing to try. I got a tattoo of a rose on my shoulder the other day. I just wanted to. And when my family asked me what it was for, I shrugged a little and said “I just like beautiful things.” And that was true. That was a choice I could be proud of, and that rose represents a lot to me, even if it doesn’t represent something specific. It represents the facet of my core personality, after stripping drugs and everything else away, that is absolutely in love with beauty. And that’s how I want to live my life going forward. Surrounded by beauty, making choices that I can be proud of.