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16) One Year Sober!

Today is an exciting milestone for me. I am 365 days clean. 365 days of continuous sobriety. It is a tremendous achievement, as I had trouble, at the end of active addiction, going 10 minutes or two hours without cocaine, let alone days, weeks, months, or a year! If you had told me then, that I would be celebrating an entire year of sobriety, I would have laughed in your face with disbelief! You see, I was strung out. I was a bonafide junkie. I remember walking to the subway in the morning, passing all the unhoused people at my subway stop, thinking to myself, there is absolutely no difference between myself and them. Yes, I was in my business casual work clothes, on my way to my 9 to 5 job as a therapist, but yet, I related to these men and women on the street, crouching under boxes acting as shelter from the elements. They were, without a doubt, strung out. Erratic and loud, or at times passed out, in dirty, ripped clothing, I felt as if I should crawl onto the hard concrete and take my place between them on the damp cardboard. I knew I was one of them. The only thing protecting me from their fate was my immense privilege. White privilege, economic privilege, educated privilege, every kind of privilege you can think of. I am supremely privileged and that plays the deciding factor in preventing me from landing on the streets. Without my privilege, who knows where I would be? I shudder to think. I appreciate my family for all they have done for me to prevent me from being yet another unhoused person on the streets of New York City. It could have happened. It would have happened.

At this time, 365 days ago, I was ending a five day cocaine bender. By this time in my use, I was going on benders that would last days at a time. I would sleep minimally--perhaps grab 2 hours here, 3 hours there, but essentially, I was up around the clock. On this morning, a year ago today, the worst thing happened that could ever happen to a junkie: my drugs had run out. It was what I feared more than anything in the world--the moment when I had scraped the last white particles out of my baggie, trying to form one last skinny line. I would get down on my hands and knees and start searching for specks of white dotting the floor around my bureau. I would use my finger to press into a white speck, which was usually not cocaine, but a particle of dust or piece of fuzz, but I would frantically snort that up my nose. Hoping, begging, for one last high. Indeed, all hell broke loose when I finished my supply. There is no feeling more desperate in the world to a junkie, to be honest. Because the inevitable would happen. I would crash. I would have to sit with myself and my awful, terrible feelings, as the glitter and sparks of the past few days would wear off and my body and mind would adjust to being sober again.

That last morning, I was consumed by my typical feelings of shame, remorse, guilt, and impending doom. I felt trapped in a nightmare and there was no way out. I began to cry and tremble and shake. A wave of fear--really terror--came over me. I realized that I no longer felt safe with myself. I felt scared and out of control. I knew for a fact that I could not stop doing cocaine. That was for certain. I knew that I would call my dealer in just a couple hours, unless something or someone intervened right in that moment. Feeling unsafe with myself was my rock bottom. Not being able to trust myself not to use--that was rock bottom for me. I felt like someone would have to handcuff my hands or tie me down to prevent me from calling my dealer to continue using. I was powerless. It was in that moment, when I knew I had lost control, when I knew I was a danger to myself--that was my moment of surrender. That was my Step One. The first step in the 12 steps of recovery is to admit powerlessness and defeat. In that moment, I was completely powerless. I wanted to die. I felt like taking my own life was the only way out. But yet, I didn't want to destroy my mother's life, so I prayed for an "accidental overdose." I felt like an "accidental" overdose would be easier for my family to digest. They could say I didn't mean to die, that it wasn't planned--that I would never actually kill myself. I prayed for my supply to be laced with fentanyl. When I had heart palpitations, I would do more and more cocaine, hoping for a heart attack. I knew I was close to death. I knew I would die, if I kept using. But, anything, to put me out of my misery. Anything to stop the emotional pain.

On that morning, 365 days ago today, I broke down in tears: sobbing, shaking, and wanting to die. I called my parents. Then I called my therapist. Then I got on the phone and called all the rehabs in New York City that took Medicaid. I found a spot in one called Urban Recovery and secured my bed for the next morning. How little did I know about what was to little did I know, that once I got sober, my severe mental illness would almost kill me too. If you would have told me that I would be in Cape Town, South Africa, a year later, thriving and living a peaceful and content life, I would have never believed you. The promises that the 12 steps outline for us have started to come true. Quite simply, I am living a life beyond that of my wildest dreams. Today I live life on life's terms. I am happy, stable, and most importantly, sober. What more could I ever want?

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