Tuesday, 6 December 2016

I don’t think I am going to make it out of this alive.

Periodically throughout my adolescent years I kept a journal - rarely with real conviction or consistency. Reading back through some of this now I get the impression that little has changed throughout the 15 years elapsed from my first entry at 13 and my most recent at 28.

The key theme I note throughout the years – this is the writing of a spoiled child. He wants more. Often, he thinks he knows what he wants, but when he gets it, it is not enough. He is trying to fill a hole. He tries material matters, emotional experiences, friendships, substances, a career, love. Unfortunately for him, these brief encounters are but a trap, as for a fleeting moment they provide the answer to life, that missing piece of the jigsaw that completes the puzzle. Harmony. It never lasts.

I spent 6 months travelling in 2010 - where I picked up my habit - but only remember it as the best time of my life. 

I find study of the brain fascinating. My mind struggles immensely with euphoric recall. My interpretation of this phenomenon is simply an unconscious trick my mind plays whereby it holds on to these moments of happiness like a mother to her new-born child. There is no letting go.
In some senses, I suppose it is a form of misguided nostalgia. If I look back on my early childhood, some of my fondest memories are attached to spending hours upon hours immersing myself in video games. Nintendo have built a business on this nostalgia. For me personally, Zelda, Mario and Pokémon franchises defined the years leading up to my adolescence.

Every few years, Nintendo release a new console with updated versions of those original franchises and I buy into that as it evokes the memories of joy I had playing those games as a child. There have been a small minority of games within these new franchises that have captivated my imagination in such a way as those early games, but the memories are overpowering, they defy the reason centre in my brain so that I act against all logic, buying into each new franchise, often to be disappointed. I think this has less to do with the games themselves, which are in all honesty fantastic, but more to do with the fact that I cling to the hope that by beginning a new Zelda quest it will bring me back to a happier time in my life. Perhaps this is just me, but I challenge anyone who played through Zelda: Ocarina of Time to watch the new trailer for Breath of the Wild and see what emotions this brings up for you. For me, the excitement watching this gameplay trailer was on a level with the rush and excitement I feel when I have finally found a quiet bathroom to sit down in, cook up my shot and then finally see the blood ooze out into the needle as I have registered in a vein.


It is this feeling that my mind remembers. Not the running around for hours on end before that moment trying to get together money to score, the sickness, the pain I have so carelessly inflicted on parents, partners, friends, myself. The paranoia, the insanity. Yes, my rational brain is aware that these are all consequences of my using. But do I feel them? Do I connect with them emotionally? Not one bit. I simply connect with the perceived feeling of euphoria, painlessness and satisfaction that comes when the drugs enter my system. I feel the good feelings. I don’t feel the bad feelings. Intellectually I know they exist, but when the mind feels so strongly the anticipation of a reward, those good feelings, and cannot connect with the negatives, it is no surprise that the behaviour loop repeats time and time again, despite those negative consequences getting worse, and worse, and worse. Last week I sold my Nintendo collection, my childhood happiness, the false nostalgia. I sold those lies to get money to buy more lies. All to fill a void, all in the search for happiness.

Even writing this now puts me in an extremely dangerous, vulnerable headspace. In 30 seconds, I have gone from fondly writing about video games to planning an escape from my current situation. Complete disregard for my family, their feelings. It’s Christmas? So what. I want a fix. I don’t care what gets in my way, who I hurt, I want what I want and I will do what I must in order to get that. Flashback to the 13 year old writing his first diary entry, spoiled child. If you get in my way, I’ll hurt your feelings with complete disregard of any consequences.

This is a habit loop. An animal instinct which resides deep in the core of our brains. To ignore what has over millions of years become a survival instinct: trigger à routine à reward, as I have found out over the past few years, is beyond challenging. But millions of people across the world who have suffered from mental health issues including addictions to both substances and behaviours have found ways to overcome this.

My rational mind knows that using drugs brings with it misery, poverty, homelessness, disease, ultimately death, and those are just the affects to myself. For those loved ones who still cling on to hope that their addict may one day recover, I argue that they suffer even worse. All the same feelings of hopelessness, despair, fear, wide ranging mental health issues, but unlike the addict or alcoholic they suffer these feelings without the substance to numb the pain. At least the addict finds temporary relief with each fix, no matter what pain they may have endured to get there.

I have read many inspiring accounts of addiction and recovery, and many of these have been truly gut wrenching. I do not use gut wrenching simply as a generic expression that I’ve heard used time and time again to describe the actions of alcoholics and addicts, because I do hear the term thrown around frequently in meetings and in first-hand accounts of others who struggle with problems like these. I chose these two words carefully as they describe exactly the physical sensations experienced by myself when reading some of these harrowing accounts of active addiction. First comes the nausea, a sinking feeling in the abdomen, physical symptoms in my stomach, tightening, increased heart rate, anxiety escalating to full on panic when certain passages really hit home. For me, the most painful part of this that I live with every day is the simple fact of how my actions have devastated the lives of those around me. Unfortunately, in my experience, and I’m sure many can relate, it is those that we love most who get dragged through the shit, deeper and longer than anyone else.

It is through reading memoirs, blogs, first-hand accounts written by addicts that can dig beneath the euphoric recall and expose the life of an addict for what it truly is. It is so incredibly painful, I think, because I can relate. I know that the actions being described are identical to those I have carried out myself, and if I haven’t quite gotten that far yet, I see the reality of the situation and know that, although I may not have sunk to such depths yet, I know that the path leads one way only. We continue to decline, we cheat, rob, sell our bodies, sell our souls and ultimately take our own lives when we have sunk so far down the rabbit hole, in our isolation we can see no way out.

There is always a way out. Recovery is not easy, it is not natural, it doesn’t happen overnight and to be honest, I don’t think I fucking want it enough. I see my younger siblings getting their lives back on track, my best friends around me getting 6 months sober, throwing themselves into the program, or doing it their own way, it doesn't matter how they do it, just that they're doing it! And they're happy. It makes me so fucking proud of them, so happy for them. It also makes me so upset that I can't be there on that journey with them.

I want to want it. I've tried doing it for girlfriends, family, and sometimes I think I've wanted it for myself. But it doesn't last, and what good is that?

I find myself in a situation now where I have but two choices, recover, or give up. The alternative to recovery at this stage is to dive head first into the rabbit hole. But I know it’s there, I know what I need to do to get there, and I know that I can do it. For me, it is not a matter of how to do it, because the solution is simple. It does, however, require hard work, determination, and an absolute desire above all else to fight for your recovery.

Summer 2014 - think this might have been the last time I was actually happy and clean from opiates at the same time. Love, happiness, its never enough. I relapsed a matter of days later.

I am grateful for those who have managed to capture the insanity, depravity, and unparalleled selfishness of active addiction. Those who have been brave enough to put honest accounts of their stories out there. They help me see through my euphoric recall, and they may ultimately help with my recovery.


  1. Alex, my thoughts and prayers are with you always. I myself am going through this with a family member and I do understand how hard it is for you as the addict and how it all effects the whole family. Don't give up on yourself, no one else is. Stay strong and have faith that one day, hopefully soon, you will beat this devil that has taken over your life. Love always, Lorraine

    1. Thank you Lorraine, love you and your family so much, miss you all and I hope for the best with your own struggles. If there's anything I can do to help, let me know! I'm not exactly Mr. Recovery myself, but I could certainly tell you what I've found helpful from family & friends vs. what's been a hindrance.

  2. We all miss you and can't wait for you to be well enough to spend some time with us and maybe do a big family vacation again. Would love to see your handsome face. Stay well, work hard, don't give up and have faith...Love & kisses

  3. I I remember sitting next to you on many occasions while you played video games - we were probably both about eight years old? I remember you as kind and funny, joyful and generous. Sending you lots of good thoughts for the road ahead.

  4. Loved reading this. You are such an amazing writer! Even when sharing something so personal/difficult you've managed to write some pretty breathtaking stuff. Keep writing please and thank you!

  5. I barely know you so I don't know the context behind your blog post, but I've overcome a few bad habits so I just wanted to share the insight I gained in the hope that it may be useful to you. I'm not trivializing overcoming addiction by any means by comparing it to overcoming other bad habits, I just think (hope) some lessons will carry over. It helps to know that it always is hardest in the beginning, it gets progressively easier as your mind adjusts to whatever habit you replace the bad habit with. It may seem like you don't really care about overcoming your addiction at times. A lot of that is driven by the unconscious drives that you have no control over. The thing is it doesn't really matter whether you feel like overcoming your addiction all the time, it only matters that you act (or dont act in this case). Its the actions and habits that determine what happens in your life, not your feelings. Last, i think it helps to view it just as a physiological urge, same as wanting to sleep or eat. You don't die if you don't indulge these urges, its just quite "uncomfortable." Discomfort is just a biological means of survival. But what is truly discomforting about "discomfort?" Is discomfort truly unbearable, or is it just how we subjectively perceive discomfort that makes it seem unbearable. As far as filling that "void" of happiness, i think it's important to realize its human nature to cling to happy experiences in the past. We feel driven to preserve whatever pleasure we can. But the rewards we get from the same stimulus always diminish. You will never get as much joy from video games as you did when you were young, and you'll never get the same pleasure you got from your first fixes. That may seem disheartening, but that is one of the most beautiful aspects of life. If we could stay happy from the same experiences/stimulus, we'd do the first thing we enjoy in life and never do a single other thing. I think you have to appreciate that the past is the past, and to look in the present and future for new experiences/adventures/stimulus. There are a lot of books that I can recommend to you. But I think trying too many things at once usually doesn't work. So i'll just recommend "the power of habit" if you haven't already read it, and to seek out counseling/professional help. I'm sorry if any of this sounds patronizing. Good luck

  6. Thank you for sharing. Raw. Beautifully written. Talented. Sad. Hopeful. True. Please keep writing. A