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[ Personal Narratives ]

Active Addiction: The Lies She Wanted to Hear

There is a beautiful life available to us all. A life free from active addiction.

This is my story…a story that played on repeat for years. Thankfully, this is no longer my reality. I have been free from drugs and alcohol for over 2 years, but it took a long time for me to get where I am today, and I still have a long journey ahead.  This is a story I wrote to remind myself how sick I once was, and how grateful I am to be where I am today.

6:45am…

She wakes in the morning, and immediately feels the pain of her head against the pillow. She feels embarrassed, but she doesn’t know why. This is not unusual. She often feels ashamed before she even remembers what happened the night before. This is the new normal…waking up each day full of regret and fear.

She tries to put the pieces back together… She remembers putting her daughter to bed last night, leaning over her to get a good look at her adorable face.  A real life Sleeping Beauty. She loves that little girl so much. She wonders what she did to deserve her? She tells herself she wasn’t always like this…she doesn’t think so anyway.  Wasn’t this beautiful baby proof that she was good once? That she had a life and a future? She was able to stop while she was pregnant, after all. What was different now? 

She remembers promising her daughter that “tonight was the last night” as she softly stroked her smooth, rosy cheek. No matter how painful it gets, no matter how much it sucks, she will be done. DONE! She had said it with such conviction too…

She wasn’t entirely sure she believed herself anymore. The last thing she remembers is walking out of her daughters bedroom, switching off the light and then everything went black…

Now she sits up in bed, trying to remember what she did after she left that room.

She walks down the stairs and into the kitchen to find her husband getting ready for work. He doesn’t even acknowledge her presence. She wonders if he is angry with her? Did she start a fight the night before? Did he find her stash? Maybe he is just tired. Maybe he didn’t hear her come in. No, that’s ridiculous. He knows she is there. She continues to feel out the room, before opening any lines of communication. And then he speaks…

“I am going to take our daughter to daycare this morning, I can’t trust you anymore. Do you even plan on going to work today? They are going to fire you if you call in again. You understand that right?”

She nods her head, yes…she understands.

There it was, the shame…it hits her like a freight train. What did she do? What the hell did she do?!? She needs some time…time to think. If she can just sit and think for a moment, maybe it will all come back to her. 

Everything is moving too fast. She wishes he would stop looking at her like that. She wishes she could disappear, or run, or just…stop. Why can’t she just stop?!? She knows this is not normal, but she no longer feels normal without it. Can’t he understand that? She wants him to protect her, to tell her she has to stop. She wants him to save her, to tell her he loves her and he won’t let her die like this. She wants him to want her to stay…

He packs up his things, picks up their beautiful little girl, and heads out the door. She kisses her daughter’s soft forehead as they pass by her. He doesn’t even make eye contact with her. Why should he? She is disgusting. This she knows, if nothing else. He used to kiss her every morning before he left for work. There was never a day that he left the house without first telling her he loved her. Those days are gone now, they disappeared a long time ago.

She wonders how long it has been? How long has she been stuck in this perpetual cycle? The same thing, over and over and OVER. Nothing EVER changes! 

Has it been months? Years? The days seem to run together now. So much so that she depends on her phone to remind her what day of the week it is, and sometimes, to determine whether it is 6:30pm or 6:30am. She’s lost the ability to tell one day from the next. This is it, she thinks to herself. This is hell. It must be…

She realizes she has been standing there alone, torturing herself in silence. She slowly makes her way up the stairs, holding onto the railing the entire way. When she reaches the top of the stairs, she is exhausted. She turns the corner into their bedroom and sits on the bed, breathing so hard you would think she just ran a mile. She has to take a shower, but she knows she won’t have the energy to stand for that long. She starts to panic…and it begins…

She tells herself she will just have one, just enough to give her the energy she needs to get herself ready for work. But that’s it, just one. Even though history has taught her that it is never just one, she almost believes she can do it. Why is that? She believes the lies she wants to hear. That’s why…

No, not today! Today she is going to will herself to stop, because the praying hasn’t seemed to work at all. That’s all it is right? Willpower? “Just say no?” Whoever came up with that slogan had no fucking clue what this felt like. No clue! She wishes it was that simple.

Just one, that’s it! In that moment, she believes herself too…She is determined. She feels strong. Just this one, she tells herself as she feels it move throughout her body, calming her nerves and slowly boosting her mood. For a brief moment, she actually thought she felt happy.

She sits down in the bathtub and turns the shower head on. She puts her head on her knees and feels the water on her back. It is painful at first, everything is painful these days. The sound of the water running is the only thing that can comfort her anymore; the only thing that can drowned out all of the noise in her head. Well, not the only thing…

She steps out of the shower and looks in the mirror. She doesn’t even recognize her own face anymore. She is a stranger, even to herself. She wonders if people normally age this quickly? She pulls at her tired eyes and removes the chunks of hair that have fallen out of her head. She’s losing so much hair every day, she wonders if she will one day go bald.

When she finally gets herself together  and makes it to work, she is relieved. She feels accomplished. She thinks of texting her husband to inform him that she is there, as if she just climbed Mount Everest or something. She reminds herself how absurd it is for a grown woman to want to brag about making it to work like every other responsible member of society. But lately, adulting has been difficult for her, so she will take any tiny victory that she can get. 

The day goes by in a blur. 10am, 11am, 12pm. She is on auto pilot.  She believes she might actually make it this time. 1pm…1:15pm…1:27pm. Suddenly, everything is moving in slow motion. She knows the exact time her withdrawals kick in. Her body tells her that within an hour, she will start shaking. Her body is right…it is the one part of her that cannot tell a lie any longer…and she wants to cry, but the tears never come. 

She looks around at her coworkers. She wonders if they can see her shaking? If they can hear her voice shake when she speaks? Can they can see it in her bloodshot eyes? She swears they are whispering about her, about what a mess she has become. They have to know she has changed. She’s been there 6 years and doesn’t even resemble the woman she was when she first started. 

Her heart is pounding so hard, she can feel every beat in her eyes and fingertips. She can barely see straight. She feels like she is going blind. The voices in her head are back, and they are so loud. She can’t concentrate. So much noise, so much static…she swears her ears are starting to hurt. Is that even possible? It has to be! She fears she might be losing her mind. 

“Shut up! SHUT UP!!!” She silently begs as she places her hands over her ears. “Please,  just shut the fuck up!”

Suddenly there are too many people talking all at once. She can’t breath. It feels as if someone is standing on her chest. Why are they looking at her like that? Stop looking at me! Please,  just stop! She runs to the bathroom and closes the stall door. She leans her entire body against it as her head spins. She feels like she might pass out…and the internal tremor begins to consume her.

 “Am I dying?” She wonders. She is afraid.

She makes it back to her desk and she packs up her belongings as fast as she can, shaking the entire time. She needs to get out of there, she can explain later. She always does. She heads for the door as fast as her failing body will allow her. 

She gets to her car, sits down and places her head on the steering wheel. Her breathing is erratic.

“Ok, you are ok now. Just take a deep breath. You just have to make it home. Please just make it home! ” 

She begins the long drive through the city traffic, hands clenched tightly around the steering wheel, knuckles bone white and screaming for release. The sun… it is too bright…it hurts. There are too many horns honking, why is everyone honking?!? She cannot take her eyes off of the road. She has tunnel vision. Heart pounding, body shaking, sweating profusely now. She just needs to make it home.

She lets out a soft cry…agonizing to hear out loud. Was that even her? It sounded too sad, too hopeless, too afraid. It sounded so much different than the screaming going on inside her head. The devil is speaking to her again…

“Why do you do this to yourself, you will never get better! Do you honestly even want to? Isn’t that why you keep coming back to me? You need me, admit it! You want me. If you don’t have me, you could have a seizure, a heart attack or worse…die. Is that what you want? To die? I won’t let you die…not today. I like to see you suffer. It makes me feel powerful. I can ease your pain, you know?  I can make it all go away! Just say the word. Better yet, just turn right here, just one more time! And tomorrow you can leave me. I promise…”

The devil knows this is a lie, she will not leave him tomorrow or the day after that. She is not strong enough to leave him on her own. He has already staked his claim to her. She sold her soul the moment she crossed that line; a line she didn’t even realize she was crossing. She belongs to him now.

And before she even knows what she is doing, her right blinker is on, and she is pulling over…stopping at the exact location she swore she wouldn’t stop at today.

“Just one more…” she tells herself. “Tomorrow I will stop, I promise…”

Once again, she tells herself the lie she wants to hear. And for a moment, she almost believes herself too…


Vanessa D. 

Milwaukee, WI

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