You never had a problem with buying weed from me in junior high. You seemed to appreciate my proclivity for procuring high quality acid in high school. But when I started smoking meth during my senior year, you called me “a worthless tweeker.” When I missed the SATs because I partied too hard the night before the test, you pointed out how I failed more times than most have tried. When I sunk into a deep depression because my friends were walking out of my life, you said it was because I wasn’t “ever going to amount to anything.” It still hurts that you wrote me off because you thought I’d never get clean. I internalized your beliefs about me. I could never shoot, snort, or smoke enough dope to silence the memories of being shunned for having a disease. You looked down upon me from your socially acceptable, stable perch. You went away to a four-year university, and I set my sights on becoming a big fish in the drug dealing pond. You turned a blind eye as I sunk lower and lower into the grips of addiction. Strung out and suicidal, my disease had progressed to mainlining a mixture of heroin and cocaine. I had hoped that you would give me a call, or maybe even stop by my house to let me know that you still gave a crap about me, but you didn’t. After all, I am just a lowly drug addict.
You screamed, “You could stop if you really wanted to!” Heck, I was even convinced that I could quit whenever I wanted. I am sick with a disease and it is called addiction: an obsessive-compulsive pattern of using something outside of myself to change the way I feel. I couldn’t stop using, even when I had the desire to. I didn’t enjoy the rush of experiencing the nearly fatal cardiac arrests which accompanied a string of coke overdoses, and I didn’t possess anymore superhuman energy when my meth habit turned me into a meager little 115 pound tweeker, and there surely wasn’t anything chic about my dependence on heroin after numerous injection site abscesses cost me one of my lungs, a body riddled with scars, and 9 months in the hospital. Being a drug addict stopped being fun for me before we ever parted ways during our senior year. I kept using, despite the consequences because I was trying to escape the pain of childhood trauma: sexual, physical, and emotional abuse. I needed a way to shut up the voice in my mind that constantly tells me that I am unlovable. I am an addict and my story is not uncommon with those that are affected by our affliction. The disease of addiction cannot be cured; however, it can be arrested and managed with adequate support and development of healthy coping tools.
At first, you cringed when I publicly spoke of it. You whispered to your friends, “How in the hell could anyone be so proud to be in rehab?” Nobody believed that I would actually stay clean. You gave me two weeks at most before I had a needle in my arm again. You asked, “What is this guy talking about?” My emotions were raw and I couldn’t keep them bottled up anymore. You laughed and wondered just how many brain cells I had fried. You were cautiously optimistic when I took that first step by admitting that I was powerless over my addiction and that my life had become unmanageable. I proudly showed you my clean time key tags and boasted about my progress with undoing years of wreckage.
You never understood how hanging out with a group of addicts could help me stay clean. You pictured us meeting in a dimly lit room reeking of stale cigarette smoke while we sobbed over the opportunities that we squandered away. You didn’t realize that being an addict in recovery is the ticket into an elite club. The price of admission is quite high, as one must hit rock bottom before gaining full entry into a fellowship of soulful fighters, strong-willed survivors, and humble spiritual gurus. My pain and embarrassment were well worth it when you consider the company that I now get to keep. My inner circle consists of creative geniuses, unstoppable overachievers, tireless doers, and kind-hearted helpers. You don’t believe me? That’s because you’ve never met Jason, the English literature student who is more intelligent than most of his Sonoma State University professors, or Kendra, the self-made real estate mogul and big pharma consultant. These are the addicts who took me under their wings, and showed me how to sublimate my addictive nature into a healthy, productive means of operating with success. They embody the recovering addicts’ mantra: “We keep what we have only by giving it away.”
The recovering addict has a tool kit of effective life skills which most normies never develop. We dedicate our lives to being of service to others. But first, we must dig down to the deepest depths of our wounded spirits, make peace with our past, understand ourselves to the best of our ability, and correct any personality defects which affect our relations with others. The final step of the healing process requires us to make amends to the people we have harmed. To sufficiently maintain our newfound serenity, we inventory our relationships, feelings, and behavior on a daily basis in search of areas in which we can improve. This is our recovery program and it is a lifetime of cyclical work. We are given a set of moral principles to guide our lives and we do our best to apply them in all of our affairs.
I can’t keep myself from laughing when I hear you say “addicts lack drive and ambition.” Apparently, you weren’t paying attention when that addict hustled you into buying their next bag of dope. A using addict will lie, cheat, steal, or deal drugs to feed their habit. Did you really think that we lost our street-smart mentality when we got clean? The recovering addict now lives by a strict spiritually guided code, but we use our dope game survival skills for more socially acceptable objectives, such as excellence in education, fitness fanaticism, or skyrocketing success in our chosen profession. You failed to recognize that the core of our disease is obsessiveness; it’s our gift and our curse.
I gave up the title of being the biggest screw up from Rancho Cotate’s Class of ’98 a few years ago. I’m something entirely different now: the resilient, hard-working, straight-A college student. You call me “a miracle.” However, I’m really just a typical addict in recovery. It happened as quickly as it all started; you turned your back on me twenty years ago like rats fleeing from a sinking ship; now you flock to me like I’m a mid-western suburban heroin dealer and hang onto to my uplifting words like Tea Partiers with Donald Trump’s rhetoric.
Are you ready to admit that you were wrong about me and addicts in general? I won’t hold my breath while I wait for an apology. I’ve worked on my resentments, so I’m not going to hold your misconceptions against you. It’s great that you root for me, but be honest: you needed for me to recover. As I pulled myself out of the gutter, I motivated you to overcome your own troubles. You told me, “If you can do it, so can I.” You failed to realize that I can do it because I am a recovering addict, not despite of it. You’re in awe of our inner-strength, centered peacefulness and ability to accomplish almost anything, no matter what the circumstances are. I hate to break it to you, but you’re going to have a hard time keeping up with an addict in recovery. It’s too bad that your normie status doesn’t allow you the opportunity to join my tribe. We’re a generous bunch, so we will share some of our insights with you. Who would’ve guessed that the worthless junkies would become the source of inspiration and sound advice to the same folks who shamed them? It’s cool — we’ve all made mistakes, and we don’t mind being your hope dealers.
Ryan Sansome is a college student hailing from Northern California. He’s an impassioned student of addiction recovery and treatment. Ryan is a budding blogger, and the creator of the #HopeDealers movement on Facebook. Courageously sharing his painful past and journey to redemption on social media, he inspires addicts all over the world on a daily basis. He’s currently working on a memoir and several college degrees. Ryan humbly creates everything good in his life to the 12 Steps.