I remember when my friend handed me the oblong, white pill with little red specks. I knew what it was, but I thought I was different from my family. I soon realized that I was exactly the same. At 13, I knew the difference between the Vicodin in my hand and the Oxycontin I was dependent on. Both were prescription opioids (stolen from my father) meant to stop physical pain. With my underdeveloped prefrontal cortex, and the descriptions from those I had met in the hospital, I knew this would help my emotional distress, as well. As soon as the drug reached my brain, the hamster wheel slowed. And then, it stopped.
Hi, my name is Nickel, and I’m an addict. The word addict is a loaded term. Most will think of people on the streets shooting up – not a high schooler, let alone an eighth grader. Or they think of the 12-step recovery program known as Alcoholics Anonymous. Stale coffee, chain smokers and, of course, the iconic introductions. Stereotype? Sure. But still mostly true. Alcoholics Anonymous is far more than a fellowship of old men drinking bad coffee. It gives people hope. I am one of those people. We are people within the grasp of a deadly disease that, if not arrested, will send us to institutions, jails or our graves. There is no cure for this disease, but treatments used in 12-step programs can rein it in, and recovery is then possible.
May 3, 2020. I am in my bathtub (fully clothed) and praying to anything, to anyone to cure me of this disease. I know I am sick, I see the red flags. Rock bottom has its claws in my neck.
May 3, 2021. Bagel time! It is my one-year celebration of sobriety. My friends and I sit around eating bagels and drinking (good) coffee. We pass around my 12 sobriety coins, the weight in my hands seemingly lifting the weight off my shoulders. Chattering and chipper, we tell stories about the scars on our bodies and hearts.
That night, I went to the aforementioned Alcoholics Anonymous. My acceptance speech was long and dreary. I ranted on about how I felt I was constantly racing against the clock.
Something changed that night. We’ll call him Bart for anonymity’s sake. Bart listened intently to my ramblings, and when it came time, he said something I still think about. He told me time was my greatest ally. It seemed so wrong to me. Why would I want to be allies or even friendly with this thing that consistently mocked me from one step ahead? Cynical and pessimistic, I didn’t believe Bart or anybody wanted the best for me. But having someone not only hear me, but see me, made me feel less alone.
When I decide on my own course, I end up where I was three years ago. But when I keep an open mind, listen and allow my higher power to guide me, I can admit to my powerlessness. I can move toward controlling what I can and leaving what I cannot. Freedom springs from this choice. Recovery is not only the accumulation of days sober, but the spiritual and emotional progress we make in those days. I can waste time on booze and oblong pills, or I can use it to better myself and help those who are at a crossroad on the yellow brick road, thinking it is their only path to happiness. That’s the deception of addiction. Once the curtain is pulled back, you see the true motivation this disease has for you. Only through the tenacity, camaraderie and inner serenity I have found through recovery have I been able to return to Kansas, Toto in tow, ready to do the hard work of staying sober and paving a new path to the future I have reclaimed.