Addiction sucks. It doesn't just destroy the lives of addicts; it also destroys the lives of those who love addicts.
I'm one of the fortunate ones. I have found freedom from active addiction. Just for today, I never have to use again. Just for today, I have a chance of dying with this disease instead of FROM this disease.
Not all addicts are so lucky. Many addicts will die from the disease of addiction.
Last week, one of my friends died from this disease. I met this guy while I was involved in structured service. I loved this guy to pieces; he was funny, he was sweet, he was the miracle.
However, he quit treating his disease and he relapsed. He was found dead last week.
I have been sad, afraid, and grateful since hearing the news. I am sad because I have lost a friend. I am afraid because his death is a reminder that no addict is immune to relapse--not even me. I am grateful because I am clean today.
It's hard being an addict. In the almost 8 years that I have been clean, I have seen hundreds, possibly thousands, of people come into the rooms of 12-step fellowships. Of those multitudes of people, a few have stayed for some length of time. Of those few, a very small percentage have actually stayed clean.
Losing a friend to the disease of addiction has been like a nuclear shock to my psyche. I don't know why; we're addicts, and the nature of addicts is to use dope. That doesn't make it any less painful when a friend relapses and dies. It doesn't make it any less frightening for me; after all, I have this disease too. It isn't a disease that wants me dead; it is a disease that wants me alive and using and miserable. It is a disease that doesn't discriminate; it doesn't give a shit what color I am, what god I do or don't worship, what language I speak, or where I find love. This disease doesn't care whether I am short or tall, fat or skinny. It is a disease that is progressive and fatal and incurable. The best I can hope for is a daily reprieve from the horrors of addiction.
I am mourning the loss of my friend. To have seen someone experience the joys of recovery is one of life's most precious gifts for someone who has walked through the hell we addicts have walked through. To see that same someone relapse and die is a brutal reminder that the hell we addicts have walked through is still there, waiting for my return.
Losing my friend to the disease of addiction makes me want to go grab another recovering addict and hang on like my life depends on it. Ultimately, my life DOES depend on other recovering addicts. Together, we can do what none of us can do alone--stay clean for one more day.
I will end by sharing with you the message of Narcotics Anonymous and the one promise that N.A. offers.
N.A offers only one promise: freedom from active addiction (Basic Text, fifth edition, page 102, I think second paragraph). That seems so simple and so minimalist, doesn't it? Yet along with that freedom come many gifts. I can't even begin to count the gifts that recovery has brought me. One promise, many gifts.
Our message is simple. It is this: that an addict, any addict, can stop using, lose the desire to use, and find a new way to live. I once heard that message broken down so beautifully that it would make sense to anyone who heard it; I won't attempt to do that right here. I will say that the guy who broke it down had used a dictionary and it really was the most unbelievable speaker I have heard to date in the fellowship. That message seems complicated, yet is is so simple. A junkie, any junkie, can stop using dope, lose the desire to use dope, and find a new way to live. That, my friends, is a message of hope.
The message is hope, the promise is freedom.
I'm going to go find some hope and I am going to hang on to it for dear life.
Because when one of my friends from recovery dies of an overdose, the future looks bleak indeed. None of us addicts are immune to relapse. I'm going to go hug an addict like my life depends on it, and I am going
to find that CD I have of that speaker breaking down our
message--because my life depends on that too.
And I am going to grieve my friend.
Addiction sucks ass.