Conspire alum and newest board member Lauren Johnson continues her guest post series about incarceration, addiction and life in general.
The first time that I recognized that drugs were becoming a problem for me, I was in my teens. The drug at the time was cocaine and I was spending a lot of money on it. I was a trustworthy user, and it wasn’t something I compromised my integrity over for a long time. I didn’t steal, lie or hustle for the drugs I did. I worked hard and paid for them. Sometimes I would get “fronts” which is essentially credit from the dealer. When I noticed what a recurring cycle it was becoming, I would make attempts to stop for a while and then get pulled back into it within a period of time because I was doing the club scene, where it was prominent. My will power only went so far.
I had been with guys that shot up (IV drug use) but it never really interested me. One guy, who I dated for two years, always told me that if I ever did decide to try it, he wanted to be there. Towards the end of our relationship, I decided I wanted to see what all the hype was about. I told him I wanted to try it and after talking about it for a while he went ahead and mixed it up for me and injected me. At first, me being the bad ass I was, I said I didn’t feel anything. Then a second later I stood up and felt what can only be described as a whoosh. It was similar to the feeling you get inside from a roller coaster ride. Then, an almost orgasmic sensation. I could see immediately how this could become a problem. The boyfriend and I went to a hike and bike trail with the dog and when we returned he asked me if I wanted to do it again. I said no. When he asked me why I told him that I liked it too much to do it again. Fearful of what I would become if I did.
Fast forward about 5 years and two more relationships, one with another IV drug user. The one following was not and my year with him I had put on more weight than ever before. When the relationship ended I began using cocaine on a nearly daily basis with the goal of losing weight. The end of the relationship devastated me and there was definitely a feeling of emptiness that plagued me. It wasn’t until October of 1998 that things went so far out of hand that I didn’t know what to do.
I wound up going to school to get licensed as a nurses aid . During that time my aunt, who was having complications with her pregnancy, was in the hospital. I went to visit her and they were in the middle of moving her to another room, so I began to help transfer her things. Because of the classes I’d been taking. I was under the impression that the things in the old room could not be used, so I put some of the thermometers, band aids and syringes in my purse. When I got home I put them all in a cup where they sat for a couple of months. Then one day for no particular reason, I decided to try to shoot up. I wasn’t sure that I knew how, but I wanted to see if I could. Maybe that was the reason – I just wanted to know that I could. That was the beginning of the end.
I have a logical personality, but my own thoughts and feelings defied that logic. If someone else had told me they couldn’t stop themselves then I would have thought that was weak, stupid and nonsensical. Yet that is exactly how I felt. I would do things to try to keep myself from doing it again. I didn’t know you could buy syringes in single packs, so I would buy a whole box. Then after a night of drug use, filled with disgust for my actions, I would throw the box away thinking that would keep me from doing it again. Only to find myself going to any length to do it again. I tried moving to get a fresh start but no matter where you go, there you are. I didn’t tell anyone about what I was doing. Even the people who shot up too, I didn’t want to know. At one point I felt on the brink of being suicidal. I knew something had to give. I even called to find an NA meeting. I got there and listened to the people talking and someone there had said “I am here because I don’t want to use drugs”.
The thing was, I was there because I did want to use. I don’t know what I expected going in. Maybe I thought that if I went for one hour that I would hear some magic words that would help me stop. I didn’t feel any better when I left and didn’t think going back was going to cure me. Finally, I called a friend and told him what had been going on. He didn’t know how to help either but telling someone was a step in the right direction.
I was recently asked the question, what method worked best for me to gain sobriety, and stay there? I have mentioned before that it is a process, journey if you will. I don’t think any one thing can take the credit. There are several factors that played key parts in my sobriety. The one thing that I do tell a lot of people that want to stay sober is that as much as you are working on NOT doing drugs you need to find something that you want MORE than drugs. Not moving away from something, but toward something was a key element for me. Having goals to focus on instead of looking behind me at what I am moving away from. The principals of AA/NA which can be found here in more detail(http://www.nawol.org/2008_12princ.htm) are a really good foundation as well. Out of those I think that honesty may be the most important in my life. I have found that the reason for relapse for me, was centered around being dishonest. I was dishonest with myself, and those around me. I have found that being honest and not allowing secrets to hold any power over my life has freed me. I find that the more time that I put between myself and using the easier it becomes not to. I do know that it only takes one time to be right back where I left off at. On the rare occasion when the urge does come I just remind myself of everything that I have to lose. I remember that it isn’t all euphoria and good times. I get honest with myself about where this will lead me and choose to continue on a different path.