Monday, March 14, 2011

Twenty Years

Last week I celebrated 20 years of not putting any addictive substances—alcohol, marijuana, pills, ec.—into my body. It’s been an interesting two decades. On the one hand,
sobriety has kept me alive, of this I’m persuaded. Twenty years ago I was
actively addicted to any substance that would change my outlook, allay my panic
attacks, and give me some relief from the terrible angst that beset me daily.
On the other hand, I often wonder whether, with discipline, I could have led a
life allowing me to partake from time to time without due consequences.

On two separate occasions snce 1991, I accidentally drank some alcohol. It was my fault both times; in he first instance, I left my drink—a glass of iced tea—unattended at a party
and picked up someone else’s. It was an iced tea as well, but it had a generous
amount of vodka in it. The second occurrence happened when a hostess served me
what she thought was sparkling cider. It was champagne. Both times I made my
way to the kitchen and, as discreetly as possible, spit the liquids out.

Three years ago, following sme minor surgery, I was prescribed painkillers known to be addictive. I took tem for four days then switched to Tylenol.

Here’s the thing, though: I am never very far from a drink, or from some psychoactive substance that would alter my consciousness. Recently, I hurt my back, and the doctor prescribed Flexeril, also known as cyclobenzaprine. Flexeril is a muscle relaxant; it
relieves the discomfort caused by muscle injuries and, taken just before I went
to bed, it helped me get to sleep when no supine position was pain-free. In no
time at all I started obsessing about what I would do if I ran out of the drug.
Would I ever be able to sleep again? Surely the wise thing would be to get
another prescription filled quickly—I might lose the first one, and at any
rate, wouldn’t it be sensible to have some extra pills in case I hurt myself
again? If I didn’t need the Flexeril, I could always throw it away or pass it
on to ailing friends.

This is called addictive thinking. It never, ever goes away. There is a part of me that has not
forgotten the first few times I drank or did drugs, and the pleasures derived
from such experiences. I will put aside the memories of the much more frequent
miserable times, the aching, trembling and vomitous feelings that came with
over-indulgence. I will forget the pain, the embarrassments, the costs in both
money and emotions.

Its rare now for me to undergo the treacherous and euphoric recall of earlier years, but the
remembrance is there, just under the surface. I suspect it will always be there.

But twenty years… Imagine that…

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