Tag Archives: school

But You’re So Smart

But You’re So Smart

One sweltering hot August night, Aaron and I were up at his brother’s house. We were all sitting outside in their West Virginia garage drinking, and listening music with my sister -in-law, her brother and his wife, and my mother-in-law. At around one in the morning or so, after hours and hours of drinking, my mother-in-law turned to me and said, “Amy, you are so, so smart, I will never understand why you make such dumb choices sometimes.” Touché mama!
She is not wrong, though, and she didn’t mean her remark as an insult, more as an observation. Her issue (and the vast majority of societies issue) is that I am seem as an anomaly. I have been asked in all seriousness why I make such bad depictions when I have an above average intelligence. He easy answer is : the drugs, but that is a cop out answer, and in all honesty, is not really the answer that they want. What people want to know is why I let myself develop a heroin addiction when I am so smart. Why did I throw so much away when I seemingly had everything going for me?
Even today, in the year 2014 people seem to have a hard time doing anything other than equating addiction with stupidity. Only an extreme lack of intelligence would allow someone to ruin their own life over and over again. I think that comes from the fat that it is easier and ultimately very comforting in allowing yourself to say that you could never develop a drug problem because you are far to intelligent to do so. Facing the reality that you could become an addict as easily as getting in a bad car accident and being prescribed heavy pain pills and becoming physically addicted to them is ultimately terrifying to people. Especially people who hate to surrender any control at all. Addiction takes the control of your own life out of your hands and into the hands of your drug of choice.
Looking back, the answer as to how I could have let myself become a heroin addict while being “so smart”, is that I was too smart for my own good. After my first arrest, which was sort of a fluke in which me, my sister, and my husband (who was just a friend who I saw occasionally at that point) were arrested for theft at a grocery store. Since my car was left in the parking lot of the Korean shopping center where we were pulled over and arrested, my mom had to pick me and my sister up from jail. (Also, my sister was a minor.) she wanted to know why we were stealing so much baby formula from the store. I had to sit her down and explain that we sold the formula to corner stores in Baltimore. Of course, she was perplexed as to why we would be needing to do this at all. I then had to tell her that I was using the funds to buy heroin and crack. Yeah, that was fun.
She immediately signed my sister and I up for the juvenile outpatient program at Mountain Manor rehab facility. I remember doing my intake interview with a counselor there. I was explaining to him how I didn’t need to be there, at it was all my mother’s idea. I explained at I could get high for two weeks straight and then do nothing for a month. Or I would get high two to three days a week for two months straight. I was never sick. I didn’t need heroin, I just liked it. I could stop if I wanted to. See, while I may be smart enough not to let YOU trick me, I will easily allow my own brain to trick me. When the counselor asked me if I thought that I could keep this pattern of using and abstinence up forever, I told him that I knew that I could. I was an honor student at one of the top 25 schools in the country, drugs would not take over my life.
Oh how wrong I was. That’s the thing, heroin doesn’t care how smart, or nice, or pretty you are. It will fuck your life up all the same. I think that my brain, my intelligence, was ultimately a reason to get high. I quickly discovered that when I was ripped as balls, my brain slowed down. My thoughts stopped whirling at 200 mph. I stopped stressing, over-thinking, and questioning everything. For a brief period of time, I was able to stop hating myself. I was able to take a break from thinking about all the reasons why I hated myself.
I read a study that was saying that higher intelligence lead to higher addiction rates. Over time the humans that have survived, that have succeeded have been the people that were willing to try new things. People with higher intelligence are more likely to try drugs as apart of their mission to try everything. The problem is that it is hard to just do drugs a few times. I think it also comes from people needing to shut their brains up for a brief period of time. It is a vacation from your own mind. If you Google “geniuses with drug problems”, it is surprising how many people are listed.
It is important to realize that NO ONE is too smart to be sucked in by addiction. The smartest thing one can do is to understand that you are not smart enough to control heroin or meth or coke and it’s potential control over your life. Once the drug has you, you make what outsiders will view has stupid choices. These are really calculated risks that you are taking. For example, you know that stealing is illegal and you could get arrested, but you scope out the scene and decide that the risk is not all that high and they are odds that you are comfortable. You are willing to take that risk because while there may be a small chance that you could be arrested and then get time if you commit this crime, or you could be arrested for actually buying your drug if choice, there is a 100% chance that you will be sick as fuck if you don’t come up with money somehow and purchase the drugs.
I’m not saying that I didn’t do some dumb shit while getting high, I most definitely did. What I am saying is the things that look like such dumb actions, my arrests and convictions for example, are really times that I rolled the dice and lost. Obviously, the arrests are just the tip of the iceberg of things that I regret, but that is a whole other bag of worms.
Really, at the end of the day, what I am trying to say is, people far smarter than you or I have fallen victim to the trap of drugs. Don’t be fooled into thinking that you can control drugs or control your life while using drugs, you can’t, they will control you.


Addiction And Intelligence

My last post was written in a fit of rage at four in the morning after someone had so very ignorantly told me that “smart people are not dumb enough to let themselves become addicts”. In my blog post I had said that I didn’t think that the addicted population tended to be any smarter, dumber, moral, or immoral than the rest of the population as a whole. That we were probably representative percentage-wise of the rest of the world.

Later that day, after I posted, as I sat steaming, I got to thinking. See, I had already googled “geniuses who struggled with addiction” and came up with a staggering number of names. Who knew that the father of modern surgery, Dr. William Halsted, was an addict? I started to think about how my brain is going 24/7, how I cannot shut it up, how I overthink everything. When I was on the run with multiple (and by multiple I mean four) warrants how I would wake up stressed, non-stop stressing and agonizing about my warrants and impending doom. Getting high was the only way that I knew how to relax and not over, over-think my problems.

As usual, my mind started to over-think this story, this issue. I was remembering how, when I didn’t have better coping skills that I have since developed, how I routinely used drugs to numb my brain slightly. More importantly, I remember the first time I used heroin, and all drugs really. I worked so hard in school, studied non-stop, I needed a break. You know what they say, “work hard, party hard”. I would do E on the weekends, coke at the parties, weed during the week. It just gave me an escape. My GPA never dropped below 4.6, I got a academic scholarship to a few schools, but went to University of Maryland College Park as an honors student. Drugs were a release, but they never inhibited my life, school work, social relationships, anything. So when heroin was offered to me as a way to come down off of coke, I was initially hesitant, but wanted to try something new. I needed to come down, I had been doing coke for two days and had to come down to do school work. I said “fuck it”. 

I also started to remember that in college, lots of the lab kids, who worked 20 hours straight, used drugs, especially uppers. Combining my drug usage, with what I remembered from the hard working kids in college, and my google search of “geniuses that struggled with addiction”, I decided to google a hunch. I looked up “intelligence and addiction”. What I found, confirmed what I had been thinking all along. I found numerous studies that showed a direct correlation between higher intelligence and drug use. Studies showed that individuals with an IQ above 125, or what is considered very bright, were far more likely to have tried or used drugs than those with an IQ below 85, or what is considered very dull. Actually, the studies showed that the higher the IQ, the more likely the person was to have tried drugs.

Obviously, I felt a personal  sense of triumph and vindication. More than that, I felt a certain amount of vindication for all addicts. The person who made the original rude comment, eventually turned the argument around into, “addicts have no one to blame but themselves”. This is a point irrelevant as to the argument if addicts are stupid or immoral. Of course we only have ourselves to blame. I don’t think any of us has denied where the fault lies with respect to our personal addiction. The thing is that once I presented facts that disproved his logic of “addicts are much dumber than the rest of us” he resorted to what basically amounted to name-calling. Now it was “you only have yourself to blame”. I should note that he did the typical passive aggressive tactics of “addicts are dumb,” “I am not dumb enough to stick a needle in my arm”, etc. You know, making blatant references to me and my husband without saying that he is talking about members of his family.

So yes, it is my own fault that I am addict. It is also my own triumph that I am clean now as well. It is any addicts own actions that have made them that way, as it is any person’s own action that make them the person that they are. I can now, at least, with some amount of authority tell you if you are an addict that lack of intelligence is not to blame for your struggles with addiction.

Writing, Blogging, Therapy?

This blog has even up for about three months now. In this time some really remarkable has happened. I got a free therapist. I have been able to write about issues and emotions that ai could never bring myself to speak aloud, even if within the confines of a shrinks office.

My intentions for starting up this blog was to serve two primary purposes. One was to put it out there. My life, my past. This was to serve a few different goals. One was to hold myself accountable in my recovery. I had been clean before for almost three years when I relapsed. My hope is that by publicly discussing my actions and my life, I will be less likely to relapse. I know that I can not right about recovery and clean living if I am getting high. This is a thought that is at the forefront of my brain. I now have people all over the world to hold me accountable. I have people that can tell me that I disappointed them if I pick up. To that end, if I do fuck up, I have hundreds of followers to support me on my journey to get back on track.

As a mother, an addicted mother, I am far too painfully aware of the ostrisizm that society can afflict on women – especially wives and mothers- who struggle with substance abuse. For some reason, people seem to have it in their minds that as soon as a woman gets pregnant, their addiction just subsides, disappears into the blackness of outer space. Of course this doesn’t happen. People look at it like it is simply a matter of selfishness. If you loved your child, whether it is an unborn fetus or a child that you are currently taking care of, you would just stop. It is not that simple. Not by a long shot.

First of all, depending on the drug that the mother is addicted to, and if they are pregnant, they can not just up and quit. I was using heroin and cocaine when I found out I was pregnant with my first child. Irony of ironies, I discovered that I was pregnant while doing the intake at a rehab. I was trying to be admitted to a pilot program for suboxone which was relatively new at the time. Along with a drug screen, upon entrance into the program and then weekly, all women were given a pregnancy test. See, unlike methadone, suboxone is not FDA approved to be taken by pregnant women. So on that fateful day, I found out that not only was I not allowed to be admitted into that program, but that I was pregnant. Pregnant at the age of 20, with a drug habit to boot.

I subsequently started looking into programs to go into. While researching facilities, I found out a few things. Firstly, and with the most impact, was that a pregnant woman can not just quit heroin cold turkey. Opiate withdrawls are highly unlikely to kill an addicted adult, but there is a very high chance that they will kill the fetus. So I quit using the coke the moment that Indiscovered that I was pregnant. But for the heroin, I had to find a place. Well, almost no rehab, program, clinic, anything, wants to take a pregnant and addicted woman. This is farther complicated by the fact that methadone is the only drug FDA approved to give pregnant women to get off of opiates of any kind.

I called around to all of the methadone clinics in the area. Not a single one would admit me as a new patient. If you are already a client of a methadone clinic and then become pregnant, they have no choice but to continue to let you benefit from their services. There are not going to take on a pregnant woman as a new client. Too much of a liability I suppose.

Finally, after calling what seemed like hundreds of places, I found CAP – The Center For Addiction And Pregnancy- at Johns Hopkins Bayview. They are an eight day I patient program. Upon completion of the inpatient portion a woman can either continue on with their intensive, and I do mean intensive, outpatient program, or transfer to another inpatient rehab. Once CAP has detoxes you, other facilities will take you on. This is provided that you do the eight day methadone detox, like I did. If you choose to stay on methadone, or do methadone matinence, then you have to stay at CAP. You go seven days a week for 28 days straight. They dose the women who are on the matinence program and everyone (whether they are being dosed or not) attends groups for eight hours a day. After those 28 days, you drop to six days a week (matinence women receive a Sunday take home). After 28 days of that you go to five days a week, and so on and so on.

After I had completed the inpatient and the first 28 day level of outpatient, I tried to have my case transferred to my counties outpatient program. I was not trying to drive to Baltimore everyday. It wasn’t the driving. It was the fact that I only ever went there to get high. I was too much temptation. I was in my counselor’s office while she was on the phone with the Howard County Health Department. For background Howard County is overall the richest county in the state of Maryland. The average house is about $700,000 and this is brought down significantly because of the two clusters of apartment complexes that are affordable. Affordable being $1,250 a month rent for a one bedroom. Anyway I heard her on her end, “Yes, she is addicted to heroin.”. “Yes, she is pregnant”. “No, I understand.” They wouldn’t touch me with a ten foot pole.

So long story short, I write this to help clear the stigma of addiction. To be clear, I do not have some sort of over inflated ego that allows me to think that by me writing about myself, my struggles, and my thoughts on addiction, I am going to change the overall climate on the views of drug addicts. It’s just that when I was in high school and first went on anti-anxiety and anti-depression medications, back in 2002, it was very taboo to discuss or admit to having any sort of mental health issues. Now, twelve years later, millions of Americans are on some sort of psychiatric medication. My hope is that by me opening up and talking about the taboo that still lingers around addiction, I can help to motivate people, if only even one, to seek help, to admit to having a problem.

I have had a few mothers thank me for talking about addiction and motherhood. This is not to say that men are given a free pass at being addicts. Not at all. It is just that motherhood just adds one more obstacle to push through in order to have people accept you. It means the world to me to have some one thank me for writing about, vocalizing, my story.

That has been the big surprise of writing this blog. I had no idea just how therapeutic and beneficial just putting this shit out there could be. By writing about being raped, I was able to finally process it in ways that I had not been able to do in the thirteen years prior. I was able to forgive my rapist. We will never be friends, nor do I ever want to see him or speak to him again, but I am fianlly able to begin to heal. I couldn’t begin to move forward with my life until I let go of the hate and pain that was attached to the refusal to forgive. That rape, whil traumatic, painful, and awful made me a stronger person. I still don’t really trust anyone which is incredibly isolating, but perhaps with time, I will work through that as well.

Recently someone suggested that perhaps I should stop writing about so much personal shit. They were saying that it was a bad look to talk about all this drug shit. To this, I say a big, hearty, “Fuck you!”. Most people knew or had some idea of my addiction. Not everyone, some people were totally shocked, but people in my family, they knew somewhat. Now instead of the whispers and the gossip mill of the fake as motherfuckers that would smile in mine and my husband’s faces and run their mouths behind our back, they have the truth. There is nothing to gossip and whisper about because I have copped to my past. I own it, and that is a huge weight off of my chest. Also, I have been clean for two years in July. These stories of things that I did while I was living in the on-going hell that is active addiction is just that – stories – past tense.

I have to write. It keeps me same. It keeps me sober. Even from a purely selfish stand point, I can not stop. I will not. Besides that, I have received enough positive comments from people to feel like for once my addiction is serving some small, tiny good in the world. Maybe this is my calling. I have never figured out what my path was supposed to be, what my place on this Earth was. Perhaps it is to write, or to be a social worker, to help people overcome their own demons and battles with the monkey on their backs.

As for if this is my true calling in the world, it is too soon to tell. What I do know, is that this here, this blog, this is me. For the first time in my life, something feels so right, so natural. I set out to document my struggles with addiction, but I had no idea just how much I would gain in the process. This has been and continues to be a true lifesaver. To everyone who reads my posts and comments, thank you so much. It means the world to me, and I hope to continue to have your support. I look forward to hearing your comments.

Irrevocably Broken

Today is my one day of the week that I go to my methadone clinic to receive my take homes for the week. (Actually I should only be going once a month, but my insurance will only cover six take homes at a time.) On the way home, as I drove down the dark highway, a thick coating of fog blanketing the road, I started crying. Uncontrollably and inconsolably.

There is really no good reason for me to be so upset, which of course is all the more upsetting. I am “doing good”. I am clean going on two years. We finally were able to get a new car that we didn’t pay cash for. The monthly payments should help improve our credit (along with the cell phone, car insurance, and credit cards). My husband has a good job. A union job that has benefits. Best of all, I am earning back the respect of my mother again. Slowly, but it is happening. So why am I so fucking sad?

One reason I feel like the weight of the world is on my shoulders, is that before I started to get high, is that I was not just on the right track, I was ahead of schedule. I graduated from high school with a 4.5 tGPA. I had an almost full scholarship to the University of Maryland College a park as an honor student. My life was planned out. I was on a path for success. Then I started getting high.

Years of addiction, clean time, and relapse followed. Multiple arrests and convictions and probations ensued. Saying that I veered off of my path is an understatement. Granted, I am now back on the trail, and moving forward, but I wonder, did I travel so far backwards that I will never catch up to where I could be, or should be?

I look at the Facebook profiles for my high school friends and become painfully aware of how far ahead of me they all are. This is part of the reason that I didn’t go to my high school reunion. I am humiliated when I see the shocked looks on everyone’s face. I was the girl who went to the straight A breakfast every grading quarter. The girl who tutored other students in my classes. The girl who got into NYU, but went to UMCP for a boy of all things. And yet, I am the girl who let almost her whole graduating class surpass her. It brings up the inevitable, “But you are so smart? What happened?”

I want to go back to school. I have almost two years worth of credits. Some of those were classes that are only useful to a primary education degree, and are thus useless to me. One day, after I had made a comment on Facebook about how I should have become an English teacher like I was planning to because people’s poor grammar drives me crazy, an old friend of mine commented that it isn’t too late. I could still become an English teacher, she told me. Only, it is too late for that. With my criminal record, I could never be a teacher. So I must choose another carrier path. I have stated in previous blogs that I want to be a makeup artist. Other interests are being a social worker, or more recently a writer.

Choosing a career that requires me to go back to school presents a lot of little battles that I have to psych myself up for. One issue is that if you have ANY drug convictions, be they felonies or misdemeanors, you are inevitable of any sort of government financial aid. To me, this has to be one the absolute dumbest, hypocritical, cruel laws or rules in existence. Here everyone wants to preach about how drug addicts and/or criminals need to stop going down their paths of sin and rehabilitate themselves, but you want to offer them zero financial assistance. It makes no sense. Most drug addicts, both current and recovering, have horrible credit and probably very little money. We all fucked all that shit up a long time ago. As a society, they tell us to turn our lives around, but we are not offered the same aid as everyone else? Yeah, that’s fair.

When I last took many college classes, I was nineteen years old. I taught preschool full time (40 hours a week) and took a full course load at the community college. This was following a year at the University of Maryland College Park, where I lived in the dorms. I used drugs occasionally, but was far from having a habit. Now, ten years, two kids, and seven convictions later, going back to school is going to be very different. I am scared. Actually, I am scared to admit that I am scared, lol. School has always come easy for me. Too easy, really. With an above genius level IQ, I was used to just getting A’s with no real work. I went to college with zero study skills, because I had never needed them. I also have ADD. Once I got to college and there was 250 – 300 people to a class and no one taking attendance, I found it impossible to force myself to go to class. I could not sit through a two hour lecture class and I was used to passing with out work anyway. Not just passing, excelling. If I had a lot of trouble going to class back then, I know that with two kids and a million responsibilities, it will be even harder. Online classes are even worse for me. I will keep putting them off because I don’t HAVE to go to a physical building and my kids will make it almost impossible to do them anyway. I never had to write papers with any real distractions (just the ones inside of my mind). Now I have kids, dogs, a husband, and real life responsibilities to clutter my mind, my time. I am almost afraid to even try because I am terrified to fail.

I am afraid that I went in reverse for so long, that catching up is an impossibility. I know that I face an incredibly steep, uphill battle. The percentages of people who are able to successfully recover from heroin is slim, I am all too aware of this. I am not delusional, I know that I will never be “cured”. Not of my addictions, and not of my depression/anxiety/PTSD/ADD.  The best that I can hope for with diseases such as these, are to be in remission for the rest of my life. And it fucking terrifies me. The fact that all of these demons are brewing just under the lid, waiting to boil over is a paralyzingly real possibility. Leaving the clinic, I was hit the extremely copious feeling that this could be all for nothing.

Recovering from addiction, and depression for that matter, is exhausting. Sometimes I worry that I can not do this forever. It is so much work. I get overwhelmed which in turn pushes me down the long, vacuum powered black hole that is my depression. When I start to get depressed, overwhelmed and frustrated, I am hit with rip tide of doom. Yes, I am aware of how corny and melodramatic this sounds, but it is true, I am pulled under by forceful waves of doom. All of the sudden, it will just hit me like a wrecking ball hitting a brick wall. I will instantly feel that my life as I know it is over. That nothing good is yet to come. Just blackness and stress and tears.

Many times I feel like I am irrevocably broken. There is a strong possibility that I can not be fixed. With any luck, I may be able to keep my diseases in remission, keep them in check, but there is not a super glue out there strong enough to glue me back together. My flaws and past make me who I am, and that’s cool. I am proud that I came through the battlefield alive, but you better believe that I am far from unscathed. I pray that with time, my wounds will start to close, my scars will start to fade. I look to a path of enlightenment and inner peace. It is more than likely impossible to jump back on to the road that I was previously set to drive down and speed up enough to make it to the mile marker that I would have been at if I had not detoured. I suppose that I need to get on a new highway. Possibly even one that is not even done being built. Maybe I have to build it as I go. I just pray for the strength to continue to go forward. For as long as I don’t go backwards, maybe inching ahead, no matter how slowly, is alright. Maybe in life success is really defined as not being beaten down and halted by the hurdles and obstacles that life throws at you.