I am addicted to caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, marijuana, olanzapine and mirtazapine, and happen to be in the lucky position of being too poor to afford anything else. I have a collection of addictions. I remember each point that they started, what drove me to them and how they affected my life.
I got addicted to caffeine when I was thirteen and started having bad migraines and sleepless nights. I got addicted to alcohol when I moved out of home and had my first psychotic break. I got addicted to olanzapine and mirtazapine when I dropped out of uni and had my second psychotic break. I got addicted to cigarettes after a breakup and a poor decision to spend a night with a bottle of vodka, a packet of Winfield blues and an album of sad western music. I got addicted to marijuana after a breakup and a poor decision to spend a week with a ping pong table, a bag of ak47 and Jimi Hendrix.
Addiction is not something that stops with a revelation or a decision. Quitting means standing on a knife edge for a long time. I don’t know how long. I have never quit long enough to find out.
I woke up on the morning after my 25th birthday and quit weed. I wasn’t as hungover as I should have been and my mood was dark. I barely spoke to the remnants of the previous night’s party. Instead I sat and frowned and thought. I had been able to watch some tv lately and what I saw wasn’t good news.
I thought about how I was twenty-five and that I heard that was supposed to be the point where your brain is at its peak. I thought about how I was twenty-five and I hadn’t had sex in 18 months, I hadn’t been employed in six years, and I hadn’t been in an unaltered state of mind in twelve.
I said to myself “Three days”. Three days and it will be out of my system. Three days and my head will be clear. Three days and I can make a decision. I went to my father’s house for lunch. I slowly deteriorated into a shaking gagging mess. I got home and stopped quitting.
I quit until 5pm the next day, and then until 7pm the day after. Both days I spent on the couch, frowning and thinking. Unable to act or communicate. Drinking too much coffee and smoking too many cigarettes and struggling with inner demons. I couldn’t seem to control which way I walked or thought. My hands were alternately shaking or clenched shut. I threw up and got bouts of hiccups periodically.
I waked and baked on Wednesday. Tried not to think about how I had quit three times in three days and gone backwards. Tried not to think about how much control over myself I had lost. Tried not to think about what would happen if I lost the disability pension and was thrown back in the deep end of a world I was so far removed from. I did alright. I made a doctor’s appointment at 11pm.
I slept until the afternoon. I didn’t smoke when I woke up. I wanted to be sober for the appointment. Wanted to have a moment that was important to me, without intoxicants making me think it was. I was a nervous wreck. I lit a cigarette on the walk to the medical centre and bent over coughing and gagging half way through it.
I sat in the almost empty waiting room until it got dark and cold. I sat in the seat furthest removed from the other patients and in the best position to see if the doctor was calling out my name so I didn’t keep him waiting too long.
I said two sentences and one word to the doctor. I said hi when I walked in and he said hi and sit down. I said I needed a referral to a psychologist and he printed me a mental health plan. I said I had been having panic attacks and needed valium. He said yes of course. I shook and didn’t look him in the eye the entire time.
I stopped shaking as I walked out of the pharmacy, hand in my jacket pocket, grasping the bottle of valium like a stress ball. I stopped frowning. I lit a cigarette and breathed it easy.
I spoke to myself in the strongest voice my mind could muster. Ian Mckellen. I said this is not a cry for help. This is no plea for time or ground. This is me going down swinging. Fighting tooth and nail. I do not take handouts and do not let people fight in my stead. I take only the help I need from the people who stand on my side.
Weakness is the human condition. It is not a passing thing or a temporary fall from grace. It is the fuel for progress and the building blocks of triumph. It is the thing that connects us, the gap where other’s strengths fit in.
In a way my addictions have kept me alive. They were replacements for problems I could not face alone. I understand where my true strengths lie. I understand that trying your best can still fall short. I understand that every person has their own addictions.
There will come a time where I must stand upon the knife edge for as long as it takes. I never had good balance but that is what makes it worth it.