Ever since I can remember, I have struggled with depression. For the longest time I found myself seeming to be significantly less happy than those around me, even though I certainly had no reason to be. After all, I was born into favorable circumstances. I grew up in a wealthy family that supported me through most of the things that I did and had the resources to provide me with every thing else that I needed to develop through adolescence.
However, once I reached 14 or 15, (I can’t remember exactly when), I came to believe that I needed something other than what I was provided. I began to resent being born in to wealth; I did not realize the value of what I had been given and thought that if I had not been given these things I would be all the better for it. At the same time I started to gain lots of weight because of a limited diet and a lack of motivation to exercise. Maybe this lack of motivation was due to my depression and the medications I was put on because of it, but I figured that I lacked motivation because I had been given too many material things that I wanted. I figured that I had never worked for anything and that this made me less of a man. My already low self-esteem plummeted even further. Up until this point, I had been very social and outgoing. However, around this time I seemed to develop an overbearing sense of self-awareness, and I started to become more anxious and afraid to socialize with those around me. I started to imagine that no one wanted to associate with me because I was embarrassingly unattractive. At 15, I was fairly obese and disgusted with myself and with those around me.
Right on time, heroin was introduced in to my life. (I obviously say this ironically.) I was fascinated, though, with the people that used it. After all they had to hustle for all the things they wanted, something I believed I had never done. Its weight-loss effects on my body were attractive as well. For me it seemed like a one-stop shop to fix all of the things that seemed to be wrong with my mind. Instantaneously, with one quick shot, my anxiety vanished and I experienced a profound apathy that made me forget about any negative thoughts that may have filtered through my mind.
For a while I had limited access to heroin. I reasoned that I could take it or leave it, so to speak. However in this time, from age 15-17, I tried everything else imaginable, now that I knew I could quiet my mind, the mind that would race and race with no end in sight when I was sober. I tried to find a good chemical substitute for heroin, some thing with similar effects, but there were none. It is a wonder I did not get arrested in this time, as many of my friends did. My family did eventually find out about my usage, though. At its worst, my drug use was just a source of contention between me and my family, because they barely knew the extent of it. I did not care much about anyone but myself at that point, though, so I could not have cared less about their concern.
Then I found an easy, 24/7 connection for heroin, and my whole life changed. I was able to hide my use, even through my first overdose that ended in a hospital visit, from my family until I left for college. My use accelerated at a quite literally lethal pace; I died for short periods of times several times in college from IV injecting heroin and cocaine, only to be awakened by some one stomping on my chest or dumping cold water on my face. At least my mind was quiet, and I was making lots of new friends who needed my connections, though.
Towards the end of my first year of college, word got back to my parents that I was selling heroin at college and the surrounding areas. While this was actually true, I managed to convince them that it wasn’t. I returned home for the summer and continued my use as usual even after I got a DWI and was forced into an outpatient program, neither of which had much effect on my use.
Everything reached a climax when I finally overdosed in my parent’s home. The cat was finally out of the bag. Suicide was certainly an option as all my lies came crumbling down around me. After I woke up and sobered up to some extent, I wished that the girl I was with when I overdosed had not successfully revived me. My parents threatened to not send me back to school. School is very important to me so I decided to cut them a deal: I would check in with them in person periodically during school and attend 12-step meetings as well. I did both of these things after school started, but I didn’t mean business. I continued to use and sell any drugs I could get my hands on, mainly heroin.
Of course, this didn’t last for long, and when I was caught again I faced a harsher deal: either enter inpatient treatment or be homeless. I had been homeless for brief stints before, so the choice was obvious, and I finally got some help.
My motivations for entering treatment weren’t great. I was mainly trying to get my parents off my back and still mooch off their resources and get back into school. I had been high every day for the past five years or so, though, so a 30-day period of forced sobriety actually allowed me to regain some of my mental and physical faculties. After the withdrawal symptoms subsided, I rode the “pink cloud” for a while, feeling like everything was going great. I was also finally a normal weight after losing about 70 pounds over an intense 1.5 years or so of use. I actually experienced a sense of good self-esteem and natural lack of social inhibition. It was great.
I was not setting myself up to maintain this, though. I figured I would go home and sell drugs but not use them. That was a dumb idea that luckily did not come to fruition. Thankfully, after inpatient treatment I decided on somewhat of a whim to move into sober living in the northeast, far away from my home in the south. Here I was introduced to what recovery really was. I started with simply getting the first available sponsor in a 12-step program and just followed his suggestions by working the 12 steps. It was that simple. And while I did not complete the 12 steps with any semblance of perfection, it was much easier than many people made it out to be. As long as I did what my sponsor said to the best of my abilities, I was granted “a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of [my] spiritual condition,” something that the big book of AA promised me and that I found to be true.
After some time being sober and working the steps, I found that I was not only able to maintain and improve my physical condition, but I also nearly effortlessly found relief from my mental and spiritual ailments that I had experienced in the past. It was almost disappointing how fast they vanished. It was almost as if I expected a bigger struggle. This is not to say that I never feel depressed and anxious any more, but the conditions have certainly been mitigated, as I now know how to deal with these things these days. I have come a long way from the dark days when suicide was undoubtedly an option.
The tipping point into my death spiral was my use of drugs, so I had to realize and concede to my innermost self that I couldn’t use drugs (including alcohol) because I react differently to them than most people. Also, I felt that I had to use them because I couldn’t bear my own thoughts when I didn’t use them. Today, though, I have a spiritual solution to deal with my thoughts: a solution I found in the 12 steps. I have been sober from every thing for nearly 11 months now but that is not the only thing that recovery granted me: it granted me a new solution to quiet my mind the same way heroin did. Heroin killed me several times but recovery has yet to do any thing but help me as I trudge purposefully through to another day of happiness, joyousness, and freedom.