If you have ever spent anytime in rehab or gone to enough NA meetings, you would have heard more sad, terrifying stories than you could even try to remember. This got me to thinking, are we born as addicts, predetermined to a life of misery and hardship? Or have we been forced to overcome more pain and trauma than any one person should ever have to endure or are self medicating?
Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
My mom definitely experimented with drugs in her youth. She was an acid dropping hippy, who went to every festival, and has seen every cool rock act, from Hendricks, to The Beatles, to the Doors. She was married to a dope head, con-artist, and did her share of experimenting. That man was not my father, and my mother left said con-artist because of his drug habit and aparrent tendency to pawn all of their belongings, claiming that they were getting fixed at the store. She never developed any sort of problem, and can get tipsy off of one glass of wine. Her and my father both smoked weed occasionally. My point is that neither of them had addiction in their past. It is not anywhere in my extended family either.
I guess my addiction came from nurture more than nature. The only thing that I can say that could be considered “nature” is that as far as I can remember I have been sad. I can not, even as a young child, remember extended moments of levity. As a young kid, I was oddly preoccupied with anything that I thought was apart of the “underground” society. As aberrant as it sounds, I always knew that I was going to do hard drugs. I just never thought that I would become a heroin addict.
Throughout my life I certainly endured enough trauma to send me reeling down a path of destruction. One day at about the age of five, my cousin and I were in my basement playing dolls. She decided that we should play “house” and we should roll around naked like her parents. Next thing I know she is making me kiss her “down there”. I was too young to know how wrong this was, but I felt weird around her and feared her coming over. I honestly can not tell you how many times this sort of molestation happened, only that it occurred multiple times. I was young, and honestly did my best to block it out for most of my life. This did instill my deep seated distrust for basically all people.
My childhood pretty much stayed on a normal path after I was able to somehow stop seeing said cousin. That is until middle school, and the death of my father. I wrote an entire post about his cancer and death called “Daddy Dearest” so I am not going to rehash every single detail. But my younger sister and I were lied to about his condition up until the night that he died. We were told that this was dine for our benefit, but it only made his sudden death hit all the harder. It seemed all the more cruel to make us think that he was going to be fine when he wasn’t. I was 11 and had never know a single person to even have, let alone die from cancer. When I was told that he was going to be ok, I believed it.
My mom felt guilty. Weather it was because she has mislead us or because she just felt so bad that we had our father cruelly ripped out of our lives, I don’t know. What I do know is that we went shopping. A lot. We were at Bloomingdales or Nordstroms every weekend. My wardrobe was 95% Calvin Klein. (For some reason I adored Calvin Klein). This had some unfortunate, and unforeseen consequences. I was very naive to how deep the jealousy of a group of middle school girls could really run. One day all of my friends, friends since elementary school, decided that I thought that I was better than everyone because of my new clothes. The ring leader of this was a girl who, through her parents recent divorce, went from upper class to barely hanging on to middle class. She moved from a HUGE house on my street to an apartment in one of the cheapest areas in the county. I did not at all think that I was better than anyone, but I think she saw in me what she used to see in herself. So now I was out a father and friends. Irony being what it is though, the kids who took pity on me during this sudden ostracism was the super popular kids. So, their plan had the up intended affect of making me more popular.
My mom, understandably, was a wreck. We were fortunate that she had always been the bread winner, so while it hurt to loose an income, we didn’t loose the house that my father literally built. She tried so hard to do everything on her own. Her thing is, “You do not ask for help. Ever.” To her pity is a most deplorable sentiment. She never went to a grief councilor. Some times she would flip out on my little sister and I and leave, telling us that she would never return. I knew that she was bluffing, but my sister, at all of six years old, would cry until she passed out. We eventually made it through, and I will say that my mom and my sister are my best friends.
So next comes high school. I am a straight A, honors student. In tenth grade I meet this new boy, he was a black goth kid with chin-length braids. He wore all black and played electric guitar. I had never seen anything like him. Soon enough we were best friends. To him I confessed my deepest secret of being molested, and he told me that he had been molested as a child too. He was in love with me, but too afraid to say or do anything about it.
One day at a party, I met a friend of his from another school. Soon enough we were dating. Goth boy was jealous, but never told me. My mom loved said goth and would let him come over and spend the night all the time. This night seemed no different. Except that he kept trying to get me to drink. That wasn’t odd for me, but he never drank. I soon found out why. He fell asleep on the floor of my room, as he had done a hundred times before, and I went to sleep in my bed. I woke up to feel his body on top of me, ripping my pajama pants off. I was too startled or scared or shocked to scream. I just cried and pleaded. Once I saw that the pleading would do no I good, I continued to cry, but tried to move out from under him by wiggling my hips, trying to free myself. He, in the most sick, painful part of the assault said, “Yeah, baby, I like it when you twist your hips like that.” I was trying to free myself from this nightmare and all it was doing was enhancing his pleasure! Once he finished he told me that I was a slut and that my boyfriend was going to dump me for sure. He left the room laughing in hysterics.
I had already drunk beer and smoked weed, but this is when I started experimenting with other drugs. Ecstasy, Special K, then eventually coke. So a couple of years later when my next boyfriend and I were snorting coke all night and he offered me dope, I thought, “Why not?” My little sister who was at five years my junior, all of fourteen did it. She was using a needle already even. I thought, “How bad can it be if my little sister and her friends are shooting it?” Boy was I wrong.
Was my indifference, my extreme callousness due to a gene that was lurking inside me? Some dark force, hiding, lying in wait for the right time to jump into action? Or was I so quick to do something so risky because my life was just so shitty that I just didn’t care anymore?
I am not trying to use my past as as an excuse, a cop out. Many people go through many horrible, awful things and work through them without the use of chemicals. When the drugs were there and presented themselves to me, I was more than willing to let them into my body, into my consciousness. At that point in my life I didn’t care whose life I ruined because of my actions because I felt so wronged that I felt entitled to do what ever I wanted to numb the pain. And also, I honestly did not think there would be any consequences. I was going to be different. I was not going to addicted. I was too smart.
The reason that I am drawn to downers or depressants as an addict are that I normally feel too much. I have severe PTSD. I have been depressed my whole life. I think that after living in such excruciating pain my whole life, I was willing to do anything to not feel.
In sociology I learned about nature versus nurture. I have always tended towards the nurture. I just am unwilling to believe that we have a certain gene and thus are predisposed to be a certain way. I don’t think that I was born an addict, anymore than I think that kids in the ghetto are born to be drug dealers or gang members. Take those same kids and raise them in the suburbs, and send them to decent schools and see how much of a difference it makes.
This is comforting to me as well. If I was made, not born in to an addict, than there is hope for me. There is not some chip in my brain that says that I must be that way. It is a behavior that I have learned and perfected over a long period of time. It is hard work to change your tendencies to turn to drugs when you are feeling any pain, but it is just that, a tendency. I don’t think that I was born an addict, and while I may be one for the rest of my life, I am comforted that, with hard work, I will die a sober and recovering addict.