Getting off E. Empty that is…
I’ve already been asked why I write so, candidly about not only my drug use but about my recovery as well. The simple answer is…Freedom. I have written from the heart for many years, and for many years I was the only one who was privileged enough to read what had magically appeared on the screen. A lot of it was stream of consciousness bullshit that made sense only to me. The funny things, I let others read, relieved that they laughed at the appropriate times. But I never tried to get anything published. A few times I found myself defending what I had written as funny and not sick or perverted. What can I say? They didn’t get it. You see, I was different. I thought I was unique and nobody else could really understand me. A lot what was written and then lost was never seen by anyone other than me. And what was archived, I thought too controversial for public view.
Once I let my business partner and 3 other people read the first couple of chapters of my book. The three others said it was great, funny, and moving. The best compliment was, “I got goose bumps reading the scene about the concert.” Coming from a musician, that compliment should have meant more to me than it did. The guy still throws quotes at me from shit I wrote 10 years ago. Stuff I don’t even recall.
Sadly, the feedback I was looking forward to the most never came. My business partner didn’t say a…word. Not a peep. I even asked if he had read it, fishing for anything even if I was going to be “That sucked.” One of the three asked me in my partner’s presence how the book was coming and what other people had thought? I candidly said, well within his earshot, “I only let four people read it, three liked it and fourth didn’t say anything at all.” I figured a little shot of passive aggressive manipulation might prompt a comment. Dead silence. Now this caused me to go back and re-read, dissect and agonize over what in those three chapters could have affected him so much. I wasn’t writing about him, the subject matter wasn’t overtly controversial, especially if you were desensitized to the whole underground hippie pot smoking, drug using culture. I was honest when I wrote that it came from the heart.
But his denial of the validation which I sought was such a blow to my ego. I just lost the fire. Then I started to think, something I do too much. Drug fueled paranoia was manning the helm on this journey - What am I doing, how can I write this? My parents will never understand where I am coming from. I can’t pass this off as fiction it is too real, too close to home, a confirmation of what they have always suspected. Remember drugs were involved in this decision making process. I had a simple solution. I’ll write the book and then get it published when they die. That way they don’t have to know what a deviant I am. I mean…this was the plan, seriously!
Fortunately, for my artistic and linguistic independence, I experienced a run of bad luck, financially, spiritually and physically. I said fortunately. For years I could smoke pot and have a couple of drinks, maybe some pills. The big parties would involve psychedelic drugs and other anesthetic barn burners. I could handle it. Work hard and play hard. As things began to unravel, I was playing harder than ever and working less. And ultimately I was not working at all. Workman’s comp did me no favors. It fueled the progression of the disease of addiction to the point where I was scheming, scamming, selling my possessions, manipulating friends and relatives, prostituting myself in a drug fueled dysfunctional relationship. Prostituting others and worse…stealing from my child’s piggy bank. I’ll never forget the look on her face when she opened it up to find it empty of the 90 dollars it had previously contained. I acted out in such horrific ways all so I could get high and keep the dope sickness at bay. There is a hell of a lot of honesty in that last statement. It was this bottom that freed me and set me on the road to recovery.
My parents had to know what was going on with me. It has taken a few years to finally understand what was happening to their baby, and how he grew up to be the person I was. They came from a different time. Could they really understand how this could happen to their son? Mom busies herself these days constructing anti-war protest signs, which she proudly displays at weekly demonstrations. She does that because she feels it is the right thing to do, as sure as she knew that World War II had to be fought. We were fighting an easily identifiable enemy for all of the right reasons. And she did her part then to help the troops just as she is doing today. She wants to help me in my war but is unsure how.
At least she realizes that I am fighting a war against a disease. And what has happened to me isn’t a mere character flaw or moral issue or more scathing – a lack of will power. With every battle I win every, split decision, even though I wanted to use, I fought the urge and I won the battle, that day, hour or minute. It is another step toward absolute and total freedom. I have found strength in my defeats as well determined not slip back into the lifestyle and getting my ass back to a meeting, pronto. It is not only the meetings that give me strength, but an extended network of the diseased who rely on each other to struggle and persevere through recovery and Freedom from addiction and character flaws that kept us in such a grim state of existence.
This freedom allows me to be brutally honest in what I write these days. I have to be if I successfully write my first step which is - I admitted to myself that I was powerless over my addiction and my life had become unmanageable. That is some heavy shit for an egotistical, well read, artistic, perfectionist to acknowledge. I may have been all of those things, but I was a dope fiend - a crack head and a junkie who was running with the wrong crowd, turning my back on those who truly loved me, and hell bent on self destruction. I am fortunate to have gone down the road as far as I did, and come back relatively unscathed. This freedom allows me the motivation to finish my book. I really don’t care what people think at this point. Anyone who knows me sees me as a decent compassionate person. Any scandalous diatribe I can concoct based upon my experiences in active addiction will have to be accepted as coming from who I was not who I am - the person with whom they interact work and love.
I am what you call one of those high bottom addicts. I have the disease. Even in active addiction I landed and held two very decent jobs and maintained all of the necessary trappings to produce the image of success skating a very thin line on even thinner ice. One wrong move and it all could have collapsed. I always had a survival instinct which was strong enough to raise the white flag right before I died, got arrested or killed somebody else. I always knew what I was doing was no way to live. But it is in recovery that I am finding myself, the person I never knew, the person who never lived on his own and fended for himself. And most importantly, I am learning how to be a Father and not a Daddy. It is the road I traveled which causes me to call all of the shame, degradation, desperation, and sickness and insanity a fortunate event. It brought me to where I am today. I could have easily kicked heroin, sworn off the crack and happily gone back to being a pothead for the next 20 years. But that is not recovery. If I smoke some herb or have a Jack Daniel’s and Coke, I may very well be done. I may walk out that door and never come back. I sold weed for years to sustain my supply. I could easily slip back into that mode with other felonious substances looking at some serious jail time when, not if, I get caught. And the promise of true progression is that your bottom can always get lower in the blink of an eye.
I have been granted Freedom. I have the Freedom to walk down the street without looking over my shoulder. I have the freedom to make wise choices. I have the freedom to take my kid to a movie and not have to fret about spending 12 dollars on popcorn and soda because that could buy me two bags of dope. I have the Freedom to say what is on my mind and write freely about my experiences because everyone now knows who I am. I am grateful that I wake up every morning with the Freedom to not obsess about how and where I am going to get the money to buy some dope so I can get off E. Getting off E…Empty, that is.
As always you can find me…Running Hard out of Muskrat Flats.