Name: Jesse Myers
Sober Since: 06 / 17 / 2019
Sober For: 2 Years & 339 Days
What it was like?
When I think of grief, I think of dope and a syringe. Over two years ago, I found myself overcome with loss and weak with grief. It was a quick moment from before to after. I found myself in the midst of the perfect storm: wrong place, wrong time, wrong frame of mind. And just like that, I was an addict. I would spend the next year and four months grieving and using and grieving and using, and all the while, dying from the inside out. I can, with piercing clarity, still recall the sharp sense of relief that fell over my body in waves the first time I sought comfort in a needle and spoon. It was an indescribable reprieve from months of unrelenting pain. Those of you who are like me, of course, will need no description. From the very start of my use, I knew I was in trouble. I knew enough about addiction to know that by starting with intravenous use, I had bypassed many years of using, and were I to continue, I would already be in the terminal stage of addiction. But all too quickly, the walls closed in, and I belonged to my grief and the poison running through my veins, and nothing else. My entire world shrank, to exist essentially within the four-block radius between my home and my kids’ school. Our life disintegrated. The house fell into disrepair. We struggled to get to school on time, if at all. I used only in my basement, and the basement became off limits for my kids. I felt this constant rotation between my life upstairs, and my life downstairs. I am sure my children felt this as well, my constant rotation out of their lives. I managed to care for my children, but just barely. I was incapable of being fully present; they deserved more of me and I deserved more of them. We both deserved more, and I robbed us of that. How many perfect moments did I miss, even as they happened right in front of me, because I was so consumed with myself, my pain, my grief, my heartbreak, my crumbling business, my addiction. I was unable or unwilling to break free from the cycle I had created. Over and over and over again, I found myself using the Band-aid that is dope to cover what was still a gaping wound. The choice to use was too easy to make, the momentary relief too attainable, even if I knew it wasn’t sustainable. Every day of my use, I had the sense I was on a quick moving train, with inevitable, impending destruction only just ahead, just around every corner. There, there, now, surely now. I knew I would either get clean or die. And that my children would share in whatever end we met. I knew I was not resilient enough to spend years using. The descent had been too quick, and too devastating. I knew I was up against something darker and heavier than any grief I had ever carried. When I was up for days at a time, I knew it. When I fell asleep talking to my son, I knew it. When I needed to start my day with a needle to even consider facing my life or the responsibilities of it, I knew it. When my daughter stayed up all night and part of a day because she was mimicking my sleep schedule, I knew it. When paramedics had to bring my ex back from the brink of death while I sat there thinking that the cold concrete floor of my basement should be the last anyone sees as they lay dying, I knew it. This knowing permeated every aspect of my life, as if waiting for me to decide, what life it was I was going to live, or what death I was going to die. Once, as I laid on our bed, my head hanging off the side of the mattress, my unfocused eyes tracing the lines of the unfinished ceiling of our basement, waiting to feel the sting of a needle at my neck, I thought to myself: “How had I lived a life of such potential, how had I birthed two beautiful children, how had I transformed a passion and talent into a successful business, earned a college degree, volunteered in third world countries, truly had so much good in my life, been smart, and young, and healthy, and capable, and talented, and still come face to face with the knowledge that I was a slave to a needle and a spoon? How?”
Near the end of my use, I was raped, and it was videotaped. The weeks following this event, it seemed my addiction became volatile in ways I had not yet experienced. I would say some of that time was spent in a broken, painful psychosis. I’ve heard it said that when one area of your life becomes particularly violent, or descends into chaos, that area of your life is ready to detach. Nothing has ever resonated with me more. It felt just so. Three weeks after I was raped, my boyfriend packed his things and moved out while I was sleeping. I awoke to the police at the door, who were hoping to find my now ex-boyfriend. What they found instead was a family in desperate need of intervention. CPS was called. The social worker who arrived was kinder than I expected. I signed a voluntary protection plan that day. I knew I had reached the end. I was no longer capable of functioning as a human being, either with or without drugs. That day, though devastated and not yet able to see any light in the darkness, I chose to place my trust in something outside of myself, a power greater than myself if you will. I was barely functioning, both metaphorically and literally only just barely managing to put one foot in front of the other. In this case, the power higher than myself, was my own government, specifically the department designed to protect families when families cannot protect themselves. I chose to trust my social worker had both my children, and my best interests at heart. When she told me she would be my biggest advocate, I chose to believe her. And turned out, she was. While this may go against popular opinion, I still credit my social worker and CPS as a whole with saving my life. I have found in my experience, the relationship between mother, even a mother, a parent, who is an addict, and CPS does not have to be an adversarial one. Their involvement in my life played an integral role in my recovery, greatly changed the course of my life and my childrens, and we are better for it. It’s worth noting, as painful as the things that happened throughout the duration and at the end of my use, there is one moment, more than any other moment, that stands out to me as the place I refuse to go back to. Two days after my children were removed, I attended a family therapy session. The session was coming to an end, and my five year old daughter Belle was playing in an adjacent room. She went to put on a little apron to paint, and as she was doing so, the therapist said: “No, it’s time to go. You can paint next time.” And Belle replied: “But I didn’t get to paint.” Now the thing you have to understand about Belle is that she is unimaginably wild, and opinionated, and obstinate. That girl will argue with a brick wall, and this rebellious spirit of hers has always been one of my favorite things about her. And so when she spoke, I noticed she didn’t sound like my precocious Isobel. She sounded broken. I watched her plunge back into the darkness: her shoulders sank, her face crumbled, her voice shook, tears fell down her cheeks, she dropped the apron strings. I could do nothing for her. We cried. As I walked home from that session, I could think of nothing but this: If I were the thing that broke her, she would break easy forever. And the fuck if I was going to be the thing that did that. I have not used since that day, and as I write this, I have over 300 days clean. In a speech she gave at Harvard, J.K Rowling said: “And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.” This I found to be true. I began the tedious, sometimes painstakingly so, process of rebuilding my life, and the lives of my children. I first sought recovery in the rooms of AA because I my dad had been very active in the program and it was familiar to me. When I woke up with 30 days clean, I attended my first NA meeting, and I quickly transitioned to attending NA meetings only, for the most part. While I credit my initial involvement with AA a very important part of my early recovery, something shifted when I stepped into the rooms of NA. Though the programs are quite similar, the men and women in the rooms of NA were speaking a language I more readily understood. There is a story at the back of the basic text of NA in which a man runs his hand down his chest and says: “This is the grand canyon.” When I first arrived at AA and NA alike, this description resonated so deeply with me. And that similarity was a comfort for me. But as hours turned into days, and days into weeks, my world began to shift. It was as if the sky opened up and the light poured back in. And ever so slowly, and sometimes not so slowly, I began to heal.
What it is like now?
Not long before I become an addict, I wrote something that I think foreshadowed my use, and it holds as a warning for me today, a warning to find a way through grief, because there is no way around it: And look, have I not built a home [a prison] here, Painstakingly shifting pieces of hurt like brick and mortar? And have I not rented out every room to those who have long since let me go? Has the foundations not cracked? Are the floorboards not rotting? Are the eaves not crumbling? I have overstayed my own welcome. Too long I have sought comfort in ghosts, And now even they usher me to the door saying: The past is no place to call home. Today, I count myself as saved, as one of the lucky ones. I have returned to life, and all it has to offer. Both the grand and the mundane and everything in between, and really, it’s all a gift. I no longer seek comfort in a needle, because I know I will find no comfort there. This time last year, I was a broken-hearted, hopeless addict. Today, I cannot remember a time when I have been happier. And though I still experience some of same grief I once used over relentlessly, I do not use over it today. That’s the beauty of Narcotics Anonymous, of recovery, and the only promise it will ever make: You never ever have to use again, even if you want to. If you’re struggling with addiction, there is a way out: www.na.org Set yourself free. ??