I Had a Dream
When I was younger I did not dream of being a drug addict. Alcoholism was not on my long-term bucket list but nevertheless it happened. I often ponder looking back if I could identify the moment that I knew I was different. The moment that I knew I was different than my friends, cousins or the other neighborhood kids, but I can’t seem to find it. Sure I could make one up like a movie where on one specific doomsday everything changed forever…but it would be a lie. My addiction was slow and progressive overtime.
I do remember always feeling anxiety. This feeling I felt, this rush in the pit of my stomach, to hurry up and get to the next thing. Whatever the next “thing” was. In order to get to the good stuff of what has happened as a result of my drug and alcohol addiction I have to start at the beginning. I need to start off by explaining where it all began and all the devastation that it caused on my life and the people in my world.
My Family Growing Up
Let’s start with my family. Often I hear parents of drug addicts wonder if it was something that they did that caused the addiction or if there was anything they could have done better to help off set the destruction that addiction would inevitably cause on the entire family unit.
The short answer is yes. The long answer is yes. Yes, the family plays a huge role in the addiction of their loved ones. Now, I do not want to say that my mother and father were the sole reason I started smoking crack cocaine and heroin every single day for years, but they were participants even if unknowingly. I think that is why I want to tell this story. I want to explain what my family could have done better, what happened. In turn maybe this experience will help another family somewhere along the way.
I grew up in an average middle class family. I only changed schools once when we moved from an apartment complex to a house a county away. I have a who is 14 years my senior. She was my hero in many ways growing up and as a young kid I was always tagging along with her and her friends. I was exposed to a lot of things and attribute a lot of my taste in music, food and culture to growing up with people far older.
Interesting to look back and reflect on this now considering I haven’t spoken to my sister in almost 18 months and the last I heard she was homeless in Philadelphia going in and out of psych wards and taking advantage of the good matured church folk in the area. However that is another story for another day.
I grew up in a normal(ish) family. Mom grew up super Jewish. Dad grew up Super Catholic and both wanted nothing to do with religion. Mom was married once before to a heroin addict and left when my sister was 2 years old. He has since passed away as a result of his addiction.
I grew up loving bagels and tuna fish and my mom over compensated with Christmas decorations starting in October of every year around the house due to never celebrating it while growing up.
So to recap normal life was matazball soup on Christmas with two loving parents with a cool older sister. Life was good. I never wanted for anything because I always had what I needed. However that feeling of being different was always there lurking on the inside. Okay, so I think we get it at this point what it looked like growing up.
A Latch-Key Kid has All the Fun
Fast forward to 8th grade of middle school. Since I was in 4th grade I was what you would call a latch-key kid. I walked home everyday and would take care of myself after school until my parents came home from work. In middle school I started to have friends come home with me off the school bus. Innocent stuff really: walk to the mall, attempt to figure out how to make the blue box of macaroni and cheese and mastering the art of 6 way phone calls while watching TRL on MTV. If you do not know what TRL is it is a music video countdown that would come on everyday with good ole Carson Daily. Good times. Shame on you for not knowing what that is.
Okays so in 8th grade I had 4 best friends. 2 were female and 2 were male. They all hated each other, which is funny now to think about. As a matter of fact they still all hate each other.
Anyways my two favorite best friends were males. Considering now one of them is about to be an attorney and the other a music producer I have to come up with alternatives names, so John and Mark it is!
Nicotine is a Gateway Drug
One day John and I decided we were going to smoke a cigarette. We stole three from a neighbor and jumped on our bicycles and rode over a mile to a park. We ducked down behind some bushes and found the perfect place to start the best decision ever. John grabs the first one out of his pocket and it was crushed in half. Strike one. He grabbed the 2nd one of his pocket, put it in is mouth and lit it. Shortly there after we noticed we had it backwards and lit the wrong end of the cigarette causing the filter to burn and force him to cough and me to laugh. Strike two. This was not off to a very good start. 3rd times a charm.
We lit that bad boy up and each took a few drags coughing out loud every single time before we stomped on it in the grass next to us. We looked at each other and decided that was the grossest thing ever as we jumped back on our bicycles and headed back towards my house to wash our clothes and freshen up before we got in trouble from our parents.
This is a pivotal moment of reflection. This was an act of something that we knew we should not be doing, which is why we worked so hard to hide it. We knew it was wrong but did it anyway. Going against my moral compass, which was something that would happen for the next 6 years.
I have no real idea how long it took before that cigarette experience turned into a marijuana experience. I do know that before the end of 8th grade we were smoking marijuana regularly. Yes, and cigarettes regularly as well.
On to the Next One
John and I then decided our next big adventure would be good old alcohol. We had it all planned out. John, Mark and I would drink on New Years. We reached out to John’s other sibling and secured us a 6 pack of Smirnoff ice. Now back in those days there were 2 flavors consisting of plain and raspberry. Nowadays I see all sorts of delicious flavors!
Okay back to the scheme. We would go to John’s house early for the New Year’s Eve party his family was throwing. We opened a window in his bedroom and his sister’s boyfriend snuck in a backpack filled with the 6 pack. We also got enough marijuana to enjoy a bowl. We were ready we just needed to find the right time.
We waited nervously as the hours crept by until finally all signs pointed to yes. The 3 amigos and a backpack were off! We walked out the front door and down the street to a dead end at which we had to hop a fence. Yes we hopped a fence and walked along the outside of a canal and ducked down by the main road. Fully covered from all view. We then took a seat said cheers and proceeded to drink 2 bottles of plain Smirnoff ice each.
We were kind of short on time so we had to drink fast. We then took out the bowl and puff puff passed it around till it was dead. Up we went back around the canal, over the fence and on our way back to the New Year’s party to watch the ball drop. On the walk home it happened. I looked over at John who was perfectly content and happy. I looked to the right at Mark, my super cute little Cuban friend had a smile that meant “best day ever.” Then there was me. MAD. I did not feel like they did. I was not as happy as them nor did I feel as content as they did. I must have not drunk my two bottles fast enough or maybe I was inhaling the weed wrong? I was not sure why I did not feel like they felt. I felt cheated. I needed more. More is what I got because when we made it back to the house, my friends joined the party watching the ball drop and I stole 2 Jell-O shots and a cup of Sangria and drank alone in the bathroom.
From the very first time I drank with the intention of getting drunk, something happened both mentally and physically, which made me want more. I now know that as alcoholism.
The summer leading up to high school was filled with smoking weed and drinking every single day. I found a journal recently which depicted that summer day by day. My two other friends were girls and we made a ton of male friends. We would hang out all day and do nothing but get high. I do not think we did anything else all summer long.