Sunday, May 27, 2012

Addictions can be subtle and tricky things.

Tonight I have been thinking about my past, old relationships, friends, and things that once seemed so important to me.  I started smoking before I graduated high school and I am a smoker still to this day, but I have been through many different addictions.  Some of them I didn't even know were addictions, but now as I look back upon some of the crazy stupid things I have done in my past, I can see that they were real and true addictions whether I could admit it to myself or not.  I learned early when I was serving in the Navy how to rationalize my actions to myself and everyone else around me.  It wasn't until I got out of the Navy that I realized I had a drinking problem, which got worse when I was diagnosed with cancer 2 months after I received my discharge. Good thing that I had to go through chemotherapy and radiation because that really broke me of my need to drink.

For many long years, after I got better from all the cancer treatments, I dedicated myself to education and getting a career.  I had a good run of good health, from 1995 till 2004, I completed my bachelor's degree and master's degree and even got a great job.  I accomplished my dreams. I had met a friend and we moved to Atlanta, we built a pretty good life, and around October of 2004, I had my first encounter with a drug called Crystal Meth.  Now, let me tell you about this subtle drug can alter ones whole life and you don't even realize that it is happening.  I have to tell you this before I go any further, I tried Meth for several months from October till December of 2004, but at the end of December I got sick again,  now I had a great job working for the State of Georgia, 2 houses, owned 2 cars, and 2 dogs, and a cat, had relationship that had lasted 12 years and I got very ill that December.

I went through 9 major surgeries removing a large portion of my large intestines, and quite a few portions of my small intestines.  I had an ileostomy put in which I still have today.  I am telling you all of this because during all these surgeries, downtime and doctors visits and everything else I had no exposure to meth.  Seriously, I was laid up from December 2004 till September 2007, with multiple incisions and surgeries, I had no opportunity whatsoever to do drugs, but alas that was not to last.  My partner and I had broken up by this time but he was doing meth and it wasn't long before I was back on the drug again.  I never thought I did a lot and that I could quit at anytime that I wanted to, really I was only doing it a some every couple of weeks, but that was extremely short lived because it went from every couple of weeks, to almost every weekend, then in the summer of 2009 it was up to several times a day and doing more than most people I knew.  I had started smoking meth, and by December of 2009 I was shooting it up.  I can tell you this meth is a subtle drug, and most people don't believe that it is addicting.  However, the truth is that this drug is addicting in a more dangerous way than cocaine and crack, those drugs are physically addicting where meth is a psychological addicting drug.

The difference is much harder to explain and so much harder to escape.  Crack and cocaine and other types of drugs that are physical you do them for the high and if you stop you go through withdrawal and can get physically ill for stopping cold turkey, sometimes another drug has to substituted like methadone so that the habit can be broken.  The problem with meth is once you start using the drug, you do it for many different reasons, and trust me when I say that the excuses can get pretty wild.  But honestly, I used it at first to get past the embarrassment of having the ileostomy bag, and the daily pain that I have felt since the very first surgery, it is true that meth dulls the pain, it also relaxes inhibitions so you feel more comfortable and can do things you normally wouldn't do.  However, it goes so much further, I also did meth so I could have sex, see when I had my colon resection done there was a narrowing and tightening of the colon tract, and unless I did the drug I couldn't have sex.  I won't go in to great detail, just understand that it became necessary for me to have to drug so that certain sexual acts could actually take place.  However, over the years of usage of meth and the damage done by surgery had caused the re-sected portions of my colon to calcify and loose its ability to stretch and actually got hard and stiffen to bonelike hardness.  Eventually dehydration, lack of eating and other side effects of doing meth caught up with me.  It is extremely likely that the years of usage have helped speed up damage to my kidneys, liver and colon itself, resulting in the situation I am in today. There is some evidence that meth hid or masked some of the symptoms and pain that would have let my body know something was going on.

In December of 2009, I was fed up with what I was going through and the constant scrounging around for drugs, and the people that were always around me, so I made a clean break and left and went to Pennsylvania, was off the drug again for the whole year of 2010.  Though honestly I fantasized and thought about doing the drugs, missing the sex that I was used to and other things that I felt when I was on the drug, but for a whole year I neither touched the drug or any other.  But as soon as I went back to Atlanta and got involved with the same people over again, it was like I never stopped.  I started up again with a vengeance and continued right up until the day before I moved back to Florida.  However, my usage level was down because I was broke all the time and homeless and a myriad of other things were part of the picture.  However, every once and awhile I would find the money to get the stuff and be high.

Now, why I am dragging all of this up and talking about it here is because, I have been clean for months and months now, but yet I started thinking about doing it, how it felt and wondering what my friends are doing this holiday weekend.  A part of me would love to do some but there isn't a burning desire and I am not going to go out and do it. With all of that being said if it was offered to me at this very moment I am not sure I would refuse it or not.  The advantage I have now is a clearer understanding of what is going on within my own body, and I know that the drugs both prescribed and illegal have damaged my system to the point that it cannot be repaired.  The HIV medication in conjunction with the meth has left my kidney's severely damaged and if I were to do it again my body would fail in many different ways and death would come quickly to me.  I am not saying that I would drop dead instantly but with each usage the damage would become greater.  That small voice in my head wondering if my friends and ex are out getting high this weekend and another friend posting on facebook he was hosting a party tonight with favors, etc just brought all of this up, and I realized exactly what that small voice was, it is the subtle, hidden, possibly sleeping addiction that is still lingering within me.  I know that if I were to go back to Atlanta, I would be right back on that road to self destruction and the drug would be right there with me.

I have written all of this to warn you of the small things, to point out that the subtle voices might be lingering addiction that are speaking to you. Be wary, and be honest with yourself, if you continue to rationalize, make excuses and refuse to change you could end up in the same boat as I am with only a short amount of time left.  Don't throw your life away, get help if you need it, but do yourself a big favor, if you really want to break from an addiction or habit you must distance yourself from it, you must change your surroundings, your friends and everything about your life, or trust me you will fall back into the same pitfall and trap.  It becomes second nature to lie to yourself and make up reasons why you have to do something, but it becomes much harder if you don't know where to find it, and you aren't around anyone who does it.  It is very important to listen to your body, know your limitations and don't push them.  When something doesn't feel right, you need to get it checked out. Do something different, make a change and a conscious decision to walk away and stick too it.  Trust me I know it is hard, can be a long battle and you may need to get some help along the way.  I made sure that everyone that was important to me and a part of my life in the past now knows what I am facing the amount of time I have left and have urged them to stand by me as I remain steadfast and resolute to leave that world behind me and live what time I have left to the fullest and by the minute.  Not day by day, but by minute by minute, doing for myself finally and not all the others I have been doing for besides myself.

I hope someone out there reads this and is helped by it, or inspired to make a change for themselves.  Because you can't change for anyone but yourself, and only you can make the difference in your life to make the affirming changes needed to break the habit and cycle of addiction.

As always my hopes and dreams are with you,

Uncle B