Today, I thought I would share something I wrote back when I was struggling with addiction. At the time, I was reflecting on my situation, my future, my relationships…my life. I hope you enjoy it.
For a long time, I’ve failed to fix my problems. The main issue being that whenever I would try to fix my problems, I kept using the wrong tools. It was as if I broke a vase and all that I had to fix it was scotch tape and wood glue. These tools would enable me to put the vase back together…but only just barely. If I worked hard, I could get the vase to stand, but beyond that it failed to perform its function and would inevitably always need almost immediate repair.
You see, I think I never fix the vase properly because some part of me always wants to have a vase to fix. I somehow got stuck in a routine—one that was self-destructive and harmful but nevertheless offered a sort of comfort. It became my normal and transformed me into a person who always has a vase to fix.
When you do something for five, ten, then twenty years sometimes it seems like that’s what you want—like it is simply who you are. But I had lots of friends who stopped bothering to fix their vases, or who never tried anything new in the repair area, and, well, I had these friends at one time. Most of them, at least I think—and here I am merely speculating—just got tired of staring at the broken vase. They got tired and sick of themselves because every time they tried to fix their vase, they never fixed anything. It wore them down—the friends and family pleading with them to change—even wanting that change themselves—but their craftsmanship always failing.
Finally, in some cases, they pushed all the people away who wanted things fixed, kicked all the pieces away so they didn’t have to look at them, and they finally allowed themselves to fade away…becoming, out of desperation and frustration, fertilizer for flowers. Becoming, like their vase, nothing more than a bunch of pieces scattered around until the whole is no longer identifiable. Then, like so many things that cease to be whole, time works its sad but necessary magic and they fade away.
In other cases, my friends had fixed their vases, and in some cases had even done a nice job. At least that’s how things appeared. In secret, they would smash the vase and put it back together when no one was watching. But in secret is dangerous, especially when you haven’t fixed or broken anything in a while, and, when no one was looking, they accidentally went too far.
The truth is—well at least what I think the truth is—I don’t really want to repeat everything over and over. I want to fix my vase. I don’t want to end up like my friends. To be sure, it seems appealing at times, but that is just the part of me who is tired, who is anxious, and who has a hard time seeing what the finished product looks like. If that’s what I really wanted, that would be easy, but I don’t want it…even if I must fix the vase forever and lose everybody in the process.
I know I don’t want it to end, and if my story is one of endless repetition, then I’ll be like Sisyphus: I’ll do the same task over and over again because that’s my fate, and I’ll do my best to accept it and make it my own. In truth, I want flowers and a partner and a life that isn’t controlled or dictated by continually putting a vase back together. A life like that is not a real life, at least not one that can be lived with others. It involves, intentionally or unintentionally, using people and lying, because it is the only way to exist ambivalently in two incompatible worlds—especially when you are not really a part of either.
No addict envisions him/herself as an addict forever. Most, I think, imagine a best of both worlds scenario: A world where they succeed in fixing their vase, but can still revisit it from time to time to enjoy smashing and rebuilding it. There is comfort in this thought and a certain sense of (apparent) self-control and freedom that is appealing. To be sure, there are times when one might resign oneself to one’s situation. Perhaps the repetition wears you down and you think things couldn’t possibly change so you might as well embrace your situation. In such cases, your resignation is akin to a sort of survival mechanism.
Or perhaps things are going well, you can afford your habit and things haven’t completely fallen apart, so you embrace it because change is hard. Or again, perhaps you are more or less high functioning—which, as in the second case, means you have been able to navigate life and do reasonably well even though you are an addict. In the end, it doesn’t matter how you fair, because even if you are high functioning, a part of you will still want freedom. That is to say, a part of you still wants to choose on your own, to live free of addiction.
This feeling, for me, often comes with recognition of money wasted, of events or times things were ruined because I couldn’t participate in or enjoy anything without drugs, of the time wasted, and reflections on what I might have otherwise achieved had I been free of the monkey on my back. A monkey that is a crafty, conniving little bitch, one who knows you well and who is schooled in the rationalizations and justifications that are most likely to appeal to you; and so, even when you escape it, it seems to find its way back on. It finds its way in your dreams, when you imagine your future, in your boredom, and in all the reasons you self-medicate.
The real problem is that even if one is truly high functioning, it doesn’t mean one is insulated from all the negative or traumatic consequences that will occur. Importantly, it doesn’t mean one is free. Even at my most high functioning periods, a part of me still longed for freedom—longed to have an efficacious will. A part of me wants to truly be in control, to make my own decisions unimpeded by addiction, to see—or at least imagine—what I am truly capable of when I am clear-headed and able to exercise the full extent of my capacities and capabilities.
The crazy thing is that I have no idea what that is! I don’t think I’m a particularly strange case, but this has been me for my whole adult life. In a certain sense, I literally don’t know how to live otherwise and have no practice doing so. Is this something that is often overlooked?
Perhaps the most difficult thing, at least from my perspective, is that a part of me will always imagine and, indeed, pine over the idea of another possible world wherein those people that I’ve lost are still with me. These difficulties and the suffering they entail can be a trap, as it were, that leads one astray back into the prison of addiction—that monkey is a little bitch, but a friend and a comfort as well, or so we lie—a prison where one is one’s own torturer, where freedom is both extremely close and impossibly far away, and where one’s imprisonment isn’t determined by a judge or a jury, but simply oneself.
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If you liked this piece, check out these related articles and posts: A Monday Reflection, What we can learn living underground, Philosophy Teaches Us, Kafka and man’s search for meaning, Life is Beautiful, How to Face Your Fears – 6 Simple Steps to Realize Your Goals, Developing a Positive Mindset – Discovering Small Delights, and How to Stop Lying to Yourself.
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