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[ Opinion ]

I Did Not Choose to be a Drug Addict

I’m Rick, and I’m a “junkie!” Yes, I really did say I’m a “junkie.” This particular word may cause you to think of many different things. You may have had an image or two pop in your mind or it may offend you in some sense. If you do find the word junkie offensive I apologize sincerely. Oddly, I have come to accept and be proud of being a “junkie” that no longer abuses venomous substances to deal with life on a daily basis. I no longer have to get high to survive the world. 

Most importantly, I have no shame or regret for being who I am.

I can now look into a mirror and not be utterly disgusted, I can look into other people’s eyes and feel human, and I can get out of bed in the morning and not wish to die. In fact, within my entire being I feel a sense of gratitude for being a “junkie” and everything that has gone with it.

Of course, I am not proud of or do not excuse the pain I caused everyone around me and society as a whole. However, I do completely accept the journey I had to travel to get to where I am today. Believe me, this journey was not easy, and there were many times that I resented being a drug addict.

Realistically, it is truly a miracle that I am not dead after the things I have done and experienced while in my active addiction to drugs, mainly heroin and crack cocaine. There are many human beings that I have known and countless others that have done the same things I have and are no longer with us due to this fatal disease. I am truly aware and believe within my heart that I am living on borrowed time and I plan to use it productively to help those suffering this insidious illness.

I was fortunate to live 15 peaceful and productive years of recovery. These years were absolutely unimaginable in regards to the mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of my life. I became the human being I always aspired to be. I lived my life with passion and purpose always placing the act of helping others who were suffering first. I was also rewarded with all the material things I have ever desired. There was really nothing that I did not accomplish concerning my goals and aspirations. My ability to achieve what I put my heart and soul into was genuinely almost supernatural in a sense.

I was inspired early in my recovery to pursue my education in order to become a helping professional in the field of addiction. This career introduced me to the most incredible, intelligent, and creative human beings who suffered from the disease of addiction. It was a great gift to enter the lives of these people. As my career progressed, I completed graduate studies, worked in outstanding facilities and eventually ended up in paradise on the beach in the Caribbean, working in a field I truly loved with all my heart.

My recovery continued to bless me and I accomplished additional dreams such as writing books, sharing my message of hope and recovery with the world. I had beautiful twin boys and my entire life was as close to perfect as it could possibly be. Recovery and whatever Divine Source is out there freely gave me everything and all that was required of me was to continue to grow as a sober compassionate human being.

Unfortunately and almost fatally, somewhere near the fifteenth year of sobriety, I turned down a different road and this deadly disease came out of remission. I recall going through a tough time and enduring a lot of emotional pain prior to my relapse, however it was a very subtle onset as I look back upon it. My worst nightmare had come true and I was an active “junkie” once again. Just like that my life became the opposite of the dream I was living.

Terrible consequences came quickly and my will to live diminished. Each day became entirely devoted to death. Each day was a new suicide mission and I was taking everyone that loved and cared about me into this bottomless black pit. As much as I was spiritual in my recovery, the opposite became true when swallowed up by the disease. I was stuck in this bottomless hell and somehow it exponentially increased everyday. I traveled endlessly to try to escape the nightmare I was living but the disease and possession chased after me faster. I joined up with other suffering addicts and we pursued death together. I can recall waking up countless times shocked and actually enraged that I was still breathing. I had absolutely no desire to continue living the way I was and had absolutely no hope, not even a tiny thread of hope, that I would ever stop using drugs again.

Addiction had an indescribable grip on me. It felt as if I was being choked to death and I had no will left in me to fight or even loosen the hands around my throat. Even more dreadful, these hands were also choking everyone that loved and cared about me. Eventually, I accepted the choking and surrendered to the fact that I was going to die gasping for breath.

I could not wait for it to all end. Actions such as intentional overdoses and slicing my wrist became normal to me. Somehow, even the earnest attempts to die did not materialize. This continuous cycle of self-destruction persisted each day. My only hope was that it would soon be over for me and everyone involved. This disease is extremely selfish and at this point of my life, death felt like a gift to me. It just needed to all end. My final destruction would soon come and I was adamant to make sure of it. In my mind, the final destination for my life as I knew it was going to be Camden, New Jersey.

Camden was certainly a place I knew I didn’t belong, but in my delusional and diseased mind it was where I was going to end it all. Well, there were other plans in place that were certainly not mine. I used drugs immensely in Camden and attempted to overdose using intravenous heroin several times. I was in situations where I should have been killed or died countless times, however on my last day there I recall being confronted by someone who wanted to kill me. But, somehow this was not meant to play out. I vaguely remember running for my life over the Ben Franklin Bridge going into Philadelphia, gasping for breath, exhausted, beaten down, but for some reason running for my life.

I ended up at the doors of a crisis center in downtown Philadelphia where they quickly admitted me to a unit for the treatment of mentally ill “junkies.” It was over! I had enough. I had absolutely nowhere to go, not a dime to my name, cuts on my wrist, and a body screaming for more drugs and the finality of death. I was numb and could not function at all. I had no life energy and only one thought and that was death. I did not even feel human. I had no heart, no soul, and no love anywhere within me. I wanted annihilation and nothing else. My tortured mind screamed out in agony to whatever or whomever would listen. I needed a fucking miracle!

Something “out there” listened. I am here writing this. I am breathing. I am spiritual. I am sober. I have hope. I am alive! I have no answer to the who, what, when, where or how of this. Not a clue. What I do know and will not question is there is something out there that creates miracles. I am a miracle.

Right now, I desire to live and help anyone that is suffering. All I can really say at the moment is that the torture I endured for this long arduous three-year relapse taught me many lessons. I can sincerely say that I am grateful that I experienced it. Don’t get me wrong I don’t wish to repeat it, but I am grateful. It gave me incredible clarity and a new outlook on my current life. My purpose and meaning has become very clear and the appreciation I have for being alive and being loved by so many is astonishing. Like I mentioned before, I am certain that I should be dead. Why was I saved and many others not? I don’t have any idea but I think about the souls that have been lost and I will live my life for them today. I’m not going to waste this opportunity I have been so gracefully given.

I want those suffering from the disease of addiction presently to know that I understand and that there is hope no matter what you may be feeling. I am objective evidence that the construct of hopelessness does not exist. Recovery is possible for everyone and I want to share that message with the world. I’m going to do whatever it takes to stay alive and sober to demonstrate to other addicts that no matter what, you can get better. If you are a “junkie” like me you do not have to live the way you are living anymore. I understand completely that the way we live is not a choice at all. Our choice is gone when the drugs enter our system. We don’t choose to hurt the people we do or the decisions we make. The disease chooses and demands what we are to do. I know you because you are just like me, but I also know that there is life outside of addiction. There is actually a spectacular life and I’m waiting here to show you.

And for all you “non-junkies” out there please don’t throw us away, or judge us and most of all don’t give up hope. Addiction is a deadly disease that we didn’t choose, but I’m here to say recovery demonstrates who we truly are as human beings. Above all, recovery from the disease of addiction is possible for anyone. As stated in 12-step recovery programs, “No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we can benefit others.”

Richard Singer is a recovering addict, therapist and author. More info available at www.RickSingerBooks.com. His new book Eastern Wisdom Western Soul can now be purchased on Amazon.com. 

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