Disclaimer: I am only speaking about myself and my own personal experiences when discussing NA. I have spoken to my home group leader about this, as a writer I simply am sharing my truth. A vial part of my recovery is admitting I am an addict, but through NA and the wonderful people I have had support me along with my therapist I finally feel like I am on the right path :). I was a bit confused in the beginning if I could even speak about NA, but he assured me that it is perfectly fine as long as I am only speaking about me. I would NEVER, EVER reveal anything about anyone else and I am in no way whatsoever speaking “for” NA. I am simply reflecting on my own journey. ❤
I came across this photo in a recovery group I would like to share:
Around 2013, I felt I had hit rock bottom at 22. I moved to NY to stay with my half sister Josephine, but by the time I arrived her mother had gotten wind of this. She met me once, at 3 years of age but as I am the product of a second marriage after her and my dad divorced, I assume she hates me for merely existing at all. Apparently she was helping Josephine with her apartment deposit. Upon learning that I was going to stay with her, she refused. I later learned it was my father who had informed his ex wife of this. I still don’t know why he told her, why he talks to her at all. After my father she was married to a man who sexually molested his own daughter for years.
So there I was, 22, struggling with PTSD and anxiety and a recent cyclothymia diagnosis. NY was brand new to me, as I still feel most of US is to me as an adult. I felt abandoned and betrayed by my family and had no friends to speak of. I went from couch to couch on airbnb but I didn’t want to be a burden to my mother financially. It was already abundantly clear to me that my fathers half of the family didn’t care, so why should anyone else? Some nights I slept in subways or park benches. I had never felt so alone.
But let’s back up. How did I get so screwed up in the first place? Cliff notes version: I moved to the UK at 16, doing my A-levels at Stafford College from 17-18, and moved to London right after turning 18. I graduated from University with a degree in Creative Writing, I was working part time doing promotion and as a shot girl for central London clubs before turning my focus to modelling and dominatrix work when I was not at Uni or working on my dissertation. I had an internship at Literary Review for an all too blissfully short time (I was a temporary fill in for another intern) and one of my dearest friends Rose stopped by the office to drop off purple jeweled fairy wings for an upcoming photo shoot. Life was good. Sure my internship involved fetching lunch and coffee and transcribing cursive handwritten letters onto a computer, but it also involved lots of going through books for the magazine and dividing them into piles; which were worthy of reviewing, which were not. My biggest slip-up would be I would often get quite involved in skimming the literature and would have to stop myself from over-reading. Little ol’ me, a lowly intern and freshman at University, was deciding which books were worthy of this esteemed publication.
It was a great time, a time before drugs and abuse and grief and insanity. Life was fresh and exciting and full of possibility. I created a blog on wordpress called http://www.alisonadventures.wordpress.com for my university but it was how my life felt: Like an exciting adventure with so many wonderful things to do and see and experience and explore. I kept that blog running for 8 years and while the more recent entries reflected my more somber and nihilistic mental state, my earlier posts show how while I still had stress and problems like anyone else, the real joy and enthusiasm I had for traveling, friends, events and masked balls, poetry and love.
Things would only get better as I started modelling more, meeting more people, making lifelong friends I consider family today. Apart from writing and modelling, I had since childhood longed to be an actress. When a prominent film producer invited me to audition for a part (a lot of this is still blocked out of my head, I can’t even remember the name of the script he sent me) at Elstree film studios, I thought it was my chance. It all seemed perfectly legit. I was buzzed in by the downstairs secretary to go into the producers office. I could see the filming of Sherlock Holmes 2 taking place outside. Unlike the HW scandal, there was no sudden change of venue, no female assistant taking me to a hotel room. The producer offered me a glass of champagne as he sized me up and I politely took a few sips. I wanted to stay sober but as he talked about how I would have to change my look completely if I was to be taken seriously as an actress, I was apparently perfect for playing the part of myself with my long platinum blonde extensions, pearl necklace and polka dot vintage dress I had gotten at Spitalfields market; as an actress I would have to be more malleable, able to slip effortlessly into multiple roles.
It was around that point I remember feeling dizzy. I struggled to stay clear headed-what was wrong with me? I had only taken a few sips of champagne. The producers true intentions would soon become clear as he inched closer to me despite my repeated cries of “I’m sorry, I have a boyfriend.” I tried not to think about that day for years. Being forcefully smashed into a wall and down on the black leather couch as he overpowered me. Meeting said then-boyfriend Ben at B @ 1 for cocktails after he noticed my bra was undone. I couldn’t tell him-it was 9 months before I could even begin admitting what had happened to myself. I stammered “I-I don’t know. I don’t remember.” He didn’t press then, thankfully, although he told me later on he suspected.
That was the beginning of my downward spiral in London. I started going out more, I had always loved a certain goth club and still do to this day but I started going every weekend, staying from midnight until closing at 7AM. I started going to afterparties. I had tried coke once or twice previously but apart from a couple of happy hour cocktails and pro-plus (caffeine pills) to get me through classes, I didn’t mess with much else until that time. 19 1/2. I tried most things- Pills, Acid, Ketamine, Speed, 2cb, even GHB once. Anything to make me forget. Anything for that escape. I became Dorothy, losing sight of the yellow brick road, stupefied in the poppy field of forgetting.
But London, like Oz, was still a magical place. I met others who wanted to forget, whether it was with drugs or alcohol- their own pain and trauma. Sure I pissed some people off by passing out on GHB in their flat during an afterparty at their home, or taking ages trying to buckle up my black PVC platform demonia boots when said afterparty was over. But we all had our moments. We didn’t want to be wreackheads, not really. We just didn’t see a way out, or were too afraid to try. In a way, that club was the best place I could have gone when wanting to escape the flashbacks, the anxiety, the brand new borderline/cyclothymia diagnosis. I met Cassie. It was surreal. She was also a model, beautiful and brilliant on the inside and out. She graduated University with an English Literature degree. She also loved writing and Gothic Lolita fashion, travelling and we both would share and devour books like most would food. We even had the same demons; eating disorders, mental disorders, abuse. We would finish each others sentences. We made a plan: Only ketamine on weekends. We both wanted to be truly healthy, to conquer our addictions. All we really wanted was acceptance and to find peace in this crazy fucked up world.
Some of my fondest memories are of our adventures around London, dancing, trying on each others clothes as we played with her cat Bella. Tony and Ben and me and Cass conversed about pharmaceuticals or quantum theory, literature and writing, modelling and adventures, fashion and the universe and our disordered minds. We invited our fabulous friend Ant over to watch Rocky Horror after a day of meaningful talk and racing about the capitol. I was at my happiest when I was with her, knowing her was to truly know what it meant to have a “twin flame”. We always wanted to be together.
However that was not to be. My student visa was expiring, I planned on visiting family in Florida then returning, hopefully more sane. Her and her boyfriend Tony took me to Heathrow. My last memories of her was of us both hugging each other tightly, bawling. She texted me right after: “I can’t believe I made a best friend just to lose her. We will be together again soon xxx”. Anyone who knows me or has read my writing is well aware of what happened next: Her dying of an accidental overdose. Her calling people, so many people (including my future abusive ex) but no one picking up. I don’t even think she had my US number. Lots of people said they did not know where she was. I would have. She was at Tony’s, of course. Despite their recent breakup it was always obvious how very much in love they were.
Another close friend Zak would pass on soon after that. Legally, I could not make either funeral due to a previous detonation when then were both still alive and my family booked my ticket for too long due to a recent law change. I will never forget the day when I was finally able to return to London on a masters degree visa (unsurprisingly I failed that time. I don’t think I took it seriously; I really just wanted a chance to grieve with my friends.) It was the Alternative Bring and Buy Sale. I had left most of my worldly possessions with Cassie, she was safeguarding them for me. In the last photos of her she is wearing my dresses and coats. Looking back, its nice to see a tiny part of me with her in the end. I always hoped they kept her warm. I was informed that her mother sold everything after her daughter died; but there she was, at the sale. I wrote a prose piece about that, if you would like to view it here: https://alisonadventures.wordpress.com/2015/07/13/id-rather-be-a-fairy/
The last line was about my hopelessness, life seemed unbearable. “I just want to make the sadness go away but I can’t and so I continue my journey into the make believe. I’d rather be a fairy than a human anyway. ” The last two stanzas were a metaphor about my ketamine addiction, even it was slowly killing me and how I would rather escape into the blissful embrace of using than face my own reality.
Obviously, this was a dark time. I will never forget the look in her mothers eyes, knowing she was outliving her only daughter. Sometimes I think about that look when I think of taking my own life, how I don’t want to do that to my own mother. I know she did not either, not really. It was just she screamed out for help and no one was there to listen. Her mum recognized me instantly. “Your the one she got the passport for” she said and I simply nodded, unable to speak for the lump in my thought. Upon graduating, Cassie’s mother said she would finance a trip for her to go anywhere in the world. She was going to see me in Ft. Lauderdale but my mom was afraid, having one crazy daughter was enough for her to handle I guess. It’s still incredibly painful to think about but I know, she couldn’t have known how amazing Cassie was, how brilliant, how much she truly wanted help. It’s still hard to think about: If I was dishonest with my mother, would she have allowed Cassie to stay like I know she would have Rose? If I didn’t say she was so much like me, like finding a twin halfway around the world? But what happened, happened. No one could predict the future. Upon finally getting a studio with my future fiance on NY’s upper east side I sent an excited message to Cassie “Please come stay with me in New York! I have my own place here now 🙂 Miss you loads ❤ xxx” that was the day she died. She never got the message.
After losing Cassie and Zak I just wanted to sleep and sleep and not wake up. I could not fathom my life without them, without virtually any friends and support. I had already started down the path of addiction before they died, not long after arriving in New York. Upon becoming and meeting other homeless people, one couple introduced me to heroin and as it was only $10-20 a bag as opposed to the extremely high cost of ketamine in the US, I thought why the fuck not? I hate my life. I hate everything. I felt empty and hopeless (Cassie was very worried for me, the tragic irony of that is not lost.) I came to my senses in a few weeks, luckily one of my American friends I met in London (ironically also named Cassandra, after Cassie passed when mentioning her to mutual friends I often had to say “the one who isn’t dead” to avoid confusion) was flying back to her home state in NY; it was out during a Midnight Mob concert I met said future Fiance Twist.
Meeting him changed everything for me. We fell in love upon a week of dating, and apart from a brief period of separation are now engaged. I had to stop using. And so I did a cold turkey detox off H, yet still relying on Nyquil and Benzos to get me through. I was off it for 3 months, before getting a facebook message from my friend Hannah. She didn’t want me finding out online, but no one had my new US number. Cassie. In shock I called up Ant. It was only when I heard him crying on the phone that reality set in. She was gone.
Lots of other unfortunate events followed, but this is not meant to be a post about my past except to briefly summarize it as an explanation for new readers. I felt the need to explain, at least for the most part, how I ended up here. But what is here? And what does any of this have to do with radically changing my life?
Here-at the moment anyway- is a Jersey city one bedroom apartment with my fiance and dog. They are not the problem.
Drugs I am legally prescribed: Seroquel 100 mgs at night (this is actually down from 300 mgs) Diazepam 10mgs 2 to 3 times a day “as needed” (never mind this is a physically and mentally addictive substance like the Seroquel and I started getting massive anxiety attacks and agoraphobia over not having diazepam if venturing outside my bulding.) Suboxone (Tapered from 14mgs to 1/4th of a strip at night. However I have been “tapering” off this for 4 years. I started going to NA meetings and discussing the nature of drugs and addiction with others and their experience over what a nightmare substances like methadone or suboxone truly are.) Adderall 10mgs once a day in the morning.
Drugs I take recreationally: Ketamine (obviously) and weed/cigarettes. I don’t actually smoke very often so on those 2 I don’t view as a major threat. Ketamine I have gone through various stages of not using and then relapsing. I had a pretty bad relapse after my cat died recently, more family drama, etc but in a way that relapse is what motivated me to start going to meetings.
I feel like I am in a medication tango. I take the Seroquel to sleep, the Adderall for any amount of morning energy, the diazepam to stop my heart from pounding out of my chest with anxiety, the never ending taper of suboxone.
I do believe that drugs, legally prescribed or otherwise are half of the problem.
Attending NA groups in NY was a massive wake up call for me. At first I struggled with thinking of my addiction as a disease. I was convinced I was just a weak self destructive person. My self esteem had been at an all time low since my last relapse. Luckily, I found a wonderful meeting close enough to walk to. For once, I listened and I thought. After my last trip to Florida, I could not sleep for a week while there. I was worried about my parents. I felt so stressed that upon returning to NY I started vomiting violently for 2 days then slept another 2 out of sheer exhaustion. Mental strain and illness can induce physical illness. Sick is sick. Nitpicking over terminology was ridiculous.
Some quotes from NA literature that particularly resonated:
“When our addiction was treated as a crime or moral deficiency, we became rebellious and were driven deeper into isolation. Some of the highs felt great, but eventually the things that we had to do to continue using reflected desperation. We were caught in in the grip of our disease. We were forced to survive anyway we could. We manipulated people and tried to control everything around us. We had to have drugs regardless of the cost. Failure and fear began to invade our lives.”
“One aspect of our addiction was our inability to deal with life on life’s terms. We tried drugs and combinations of drugs to cope with a seemingly hostile world.
We dreamed of finding a magic formula that would solve our ultimate problem-ourselves.”
Once I get fully clean, I still may have a ways to go. I had an eating disorder at 13 and there is all that lovely PTSD and anxiety and mood swings to contend with :P. I do worry-without the drugs to suppress them, what demons will come out? But how will I ever know, or even try to cope and deal with life on life’s terms naturally while have all these toxic chemicals in my system? I can’t, and I won’t. I need to separate my addiction and any mental disorders or trauma in order to not just survive, barely holding on and waking up crying praying for death. I need to be clean in order to plant that first seed, take that first shaky step in order to walk. For the first time in years, I actually have hope that without these drugs in my system I can know I am happy without constantly questioning it. I started feeling happy in groups, when people called me and asked how I was. A warm feeling that came from my heart and spread throughout my body, drug free.
It had been so long since anyone in NY apart from my dog and fiance seemed to genuinely care that I even existed. My half siblings live a tube ride away yet would leave me and even our father who loved and supported them his entire life and now has Parkinson’s and is wheelchair bound-homeless and destitute during a category 5 huricane. Yet here were these amazing people who only met me maybe once, twice, three times, calling to see how I was or offering me lifts to meetings as I cannot drive, even if they lived far away.
I am still so new to NA but the kindness and compassion I found in these people restored a fragile sense of hope and faith I thought had died when my best friend was buried six feet under.
” At times, we were defensive about our addiction and justified our right to use, especially when we had legal prescriptions. We were proud of the sometimes illegal and often bizarre behavior that typified our using. We “forgot” about the times when we sat alone and were consumed by fear and self-pity. We fell into a pattern of selective thinking. We only remembered the good drug experiences. We justified and rationalized the things that we did to keep from being sick or going crazy. We ignored the times when life seemed to be a nightmare. We avoided the reality of our addiction.”
The thing about taking mind altering chemicals, “prescribed” or not, is your body will build up a resistance. Since being initially prescribed diazepam at 19-20 my 20-30 mg a day dosage barely keeps my anxiety at bay. I am now 26. Of course after 6 years any drug prescribed you will develop a tolerance too. “Tapering” has never worked for me; I’ve been “tapering” off suboxone for 4 years and am still not off it. I am down from 300 mgs of Seroquel to 50-100 mgs but I get the worst withdrawl symtoms from that too. I feel very feverish and nauseous most days and have to alternate my “productive adderall days” with my “I actually have an appetite and can stand the site of food days.”
I was prescribed even more damaging horrible drugs but my body would usually have an immediate allergic reaction. The amount of drugs psychiatrists have tried prescribing me is so high, I often forget all the names. Lithium. Carbamazepine. Topomax. Far from helping, I find many psychiatrists hand out highly addictive or dangerous substances like candy-all for that paycheck from “Big Pharma”. And as a young adult with a frayed mental state due to things like rape or grief or depression, you want to believe in your doctor. Take the orange pill for this, the blue pill for that, the white pill chills you out the dark blue hypes you up. I strongly wish especially in the US such practices would be kept much more firmly in check. In the UK, the highest dose of diazepam Tony, Cassie’s boyfriend who suffered with schizophrenia was prescribed was 2-5 mgs, 5 mgs was the highest legal amount allowed prescription on the NHS. Where as I am on 20-30 mgs per day. My physically and mentally abusive ex, who lied about his recovery from drugs and alcohol and would steal my parents food money to spend on his substance abuse, was prescribed 25mgs of Seroquel, where I was initially prescribed 300mgs.
(To avoid any confusion, when I say “my abusive ex” I am referring to someone named Ath I briefly dated in London during me and Twists separation period-not Ben, my very lovely college boyfriend I dated when Cassie was with Tony. )
I truly believe, when I first was seeking help at 18/19, I should have been referred to a therapist (I have an amazing therapist who is a miracle worker I am thankfully seeing now-she said she would only treat me if I went to meetings, and I believe her help and guidance is real magic in this world.) I should have been perhaps referred to NA then (sadly this does not exist in the UK….while prescription-wise they have the right idea, I was told I should have been hospitalized the time I went down to 75 lbs but they would have let me die because they “did not have the funding”) my treatment plan should have been encouragement to exercise more, learn to cycle, learn to film, make things. Dance. Create. Focus on what I loved, and be gentle and kind with myself when I could not make the tears stop. (I am trying to do these things now but its extremely hard when in this physically ill/feverish and mentally chemically altered state after years of narcotics)
Instead, I was prescribed a heavy and ever-revolving cycle of drugs. Vulnerable and naive, I took them. Part of me always knew this was bad, this was wrong, but it was also so easy. I had a mental disorder! I needed these pills for my very survival! In terms of addiction, Sometimes I feel like we *want* to believe the lies of Big Pharma because its literally legally prescribed drugs.
The rationalization’s of addiction are endless. But once I woke up, I truly saw what I was trying so goddamn hard to suppress for years. Drugs are a temporary solution to a long term illness. In using drugs you are not dealing with life, you are suppressing and escaping. Whether my drug use came in the form of powdered speed from a dealer in a club, or adderall (compressed speed in pill form, which is a street name for amphetamines.) I have literally been legally prescribed some of the same drugs I used to escape while clubbing.
I need to remember my addiction is a disease like any other mental disorder I may have. Its my short cut to happiness, my best friend who will never die. When I am high it shuts me off and parachutes me to heaven. And that is why I am so terrified of using again. Anything that amazing makes you crave it, obviously. Some people with my mental issues (bipolar/borderline/PTSD/Anxiety/Insomnia) are actually prescribed ketamine in small doses in nasal sprays and if used properly, same as occasional benzos for planes and such, I am not saying it could not have therapeutic benefits (if I even use small amounts or are coming off a hit I still get lots of chill and euphoric vibes).
However, as an addict, I cannot use ketamine responsibly. It is my kryptonite. While I can stop at 1 drink, smoke half a spliff at the end of a long day, I am a glutton for my drug of choice. I cannot use K responsibly because unlike alcohol, which makes me angry and aggressive after 1-2 drinks, ketamine makes me feel more and more euphoric the more I take. When using, I just wanted to climb to that peak of the valley of the dolls. Of course, same as in Jacqueline Susann’s cult classic, once you reach that summit, there is no where to go but come crashing down.
This Placebo song is literally called “Special K” and describes the experience of this drug really well:
“Higher mental and emotional functions, such as conscience and the ability to love, were sharply affected by our use of drugs. Living skills were reduced to the animal level. Our spirit was broken. The capacity to feel human was lost. This seems extreme, but many of us have been in this state of mind.” (This does not seem extreme at all to me, its how I feel all too often.)
I had long known my life was depressing and unmanageable, but I saw no way out apart from misery or eventual death. I journal a lot and my most recent entry stated the following:
ATM I feel like my options are:
- Die by own hand
2. Waste away over time (I almost did this once in London from sheer depression and over use of k, my mother had to drag me back at 75 lbs, only 1 lb over 74 when I was initially hospitalized at 13)
3. Semi function while being secretly miserable most days, some days are high and euphoric and happy, some days you use and feel invincible, other days you feel empty and too weighed down to kill yourself.
4. Radically change my life completely, or at least remove the drugs from my system to find out who I even am anymore and if I can find healthier ways of coping.
1 doesn’t seem to have worked so far. 2 and 3 hurt everyone including myself and I am tired of the cycle. 4 is the only option for me or I feel I will die, and I don’t want to die this way, without my novel written, without feeling I am trying my goddamn best to live in the best way I can, to be truly happy ever again.
So 4 it is.
“Insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results.”
In order to achieve 4, I believe I need to be hospitalized to get primarily the diazepam out of my system, on the dose I am on for as long as I have been on it going cold turkey at home is not an option. I have talked to both medical professionals and other group members about this, there is simply no way I can do this alone. I could get a seizure and die, I could self harm in a moment of sheer terror, and the whole point of wanting to build a life for myself is not to die >.< (https://luxury.rehabs.com/valium-addiction/)
I also want the suboxone, seroquel and possibly adderall gone too. (I only take half every other day or so if I can help it and it really does help on depression/total lack of energy days. I can also have the attention span of a fly and it helps a lot with focus and productivity. But once I am off the other drugs, hopefully I won’t need it…. I guess I will have to wait and see on that one.)
Unfortunately, finding a good hospital or rehab facility may prove challenging. I had horrible experiences in hospitals in the past, but there is one vital difference now: I want to commit myself. I feel like I need to in order to break the shackles I feel every time I take a pill or strip of suboxone.
I believe I need to be hopefully briefly hospitalized for necessary medical and mental reasons. Sometimes you have to admit defeat in order to rise up like a phoenix from the ash.
Of course I am worried. I want to find somewhere I can go outside for fresh air and cigarette breaks. (Once I am off the subs, seroquel adderal and diazepam I will focus on smoking but NA says one day at a time for a reason.) I would like to be treated with dignity and allowed books and to write and visitors, ideally. Hopefully they will have a good aftercare program.
But I honestly believe this is a necessity right now. Tomorrow I will look up places and pray to find somewhere decent that accepts my insurance. But I am done apologizing for now. I am done feeling like a suicidal hopeless burden. I may need to ask my family for a loan, but its hardly like its for a convertible.
Of course I am terrified…. but I’m also excited of what awaits me on the other side.
Don’t know just where I’m going
And tomorrow, it’s a little overwhelming
And the air is cold
And I’m not the same anymore
I’ve been running in your direction
For to long now
I’ve lost my own reflection
And I can’t look down
If you’re not there to catch me when I fall.
If this is the moment I stand here on my own
If this is my rite of passage that somehow leads me home
I might be afraid
But it’s my turn to be brave
If this is the last chance before we say goodbye
At least it’s the first day of the rest of my life
I can’t be afraid
Cause it’s my turn to be brave