THIS MONTH'S GUEST SPEAKER: "Anonymous"
Originally posted in July 2003Taken from the Basic Text fifth edition P. 125 in lack of a new story.
(The author retains all rights to this material)
I WAS UNIQUE
I had nowhere to turn, I felt that no one could help me, as my situation was so much different from others. I thought that I was doomed to continue in an insane drive toward self-destruction that had already sapped me of any determination to fight. I thought that I was unique until I found the fellowship of Narcotics Anonymous. Since that day, my life has a new meaning.
I came from a white, middle-class background where success was almost assumed. I excelled academically and went on to medical school in California and in Scotland. I looked with smug disdain on my schoolmates who were experimenting with drugs. I felt that I was too smart for that. I thought that a drug addict was a weak-willed, spineless creature who must have no purpose in life or sense of worth. I would not, or could not fall into that trap, as I was an achiever, winning at the game of life, and felt to have such great potential.
Sometime after having started my internship at a prestigious west coast hospital, I had my first experience with narcotics. Call it curiosity (I thought), but perhaps I was looking for something better. I was amazed at the way patients in severe pain would relax when a small amount of morphine was injected into their veins. That was for me! Over the next few weeks, several personal tragedies led to my world crumbling about me. Experimentation quickly led to abuse and then addiction with all the bewildering helplessness and self-condemnation that only the drug addict knows.
Shortly after starting my residency training in neurosurgery, I sought help from a psychiatrist, as the delusion that I could control my narcotic use finally evaporated. I was hospitalized in a mental institution for a few days until I felt better, and then convinced my psychiatrist that I was well enough to return to my training program. He was either naïve, gullible, or ignorant of drug addiction and let me go merrily on my way. I lasted a few months before relapsing. With no changes made in my thinking or behavior, relapse followed relapse, and I established a pattern that I would maintain for almost ten years. I continued to try psychiatrists and mental institutions (five hospitalizations), but after each I would relapse again.
After having performed over one hundred surgical procedures while loaded, I was asked to leave my residency. Another hospitalization followed and I returned to my pattern of relapse. Besides institutionalization, over the years I have tried job changes, geographical relocation, self-help books, methadone programs, only using on the weekends, switching to pills, marriage, health spas, diets, exercise, and religion. None of them worked, other than temporarily. I was told that I was incorrigible and that there was no hope for me based upon my track record. After about five years of heavy using, I started to develop a physical allergy to my drug of choice. Insidiously at first, but progressively, each time I used, a small amount of tissue would around the injection site. This soon led to open sores and draining wounds. I found that I could prevent the process by using cortisone initially, but after several more years it returned in spite of the cortisone. In the meantime, I developed all the attendant side effects of the cortisone, e.g., obesity, acne, ulcers, and propensity toward infection (as my immune mechanism was knocked out). By the time I reached my last hospitalization, I had a large open wound in the left forearm with exposed infected bone. I had destroyed several tendons so that I could not raise my wrist, and the scar tissue prevented me from extending my forearm. On admission, I was very heavy and my hands and feet were swollen and full of fluid. I must have been a sight to behold as I was a physical wreck. Worse yet, I was totally demoralized and suffering from a spiritual bankruptcy of which I was unaware. The denial and self-deception were so great that I hated to see what a pitiful creature I had become.
I entered a chemical abuse treatment facility in San Diego. There, for the first time, I was confronted by physicians who were addicts themselves. They asked me first if I wanted help, and then if I was willing to go to any lengths to recover. They explained that I might have to lose all my worldly possessions, my practice, my profession, my wife and family, even my arm. At first I balked. I figured there was nothing wrong with me that a little rest and relaxation could not set right. But instead, I made a pact with them: I would listen and take orders without questioning. I had always been independent and this was certainly a change for me. This was my first introduction to the tough love that has helped me so much in N.A.
During that month in the hospital, a great change came over me. I was forced to go to outside N.A. meetings. At first, I was rebellious. These people were not like me; they were common street people, junkies, dope fiends, pill heads, and coke freaks. How could I relate to them? They did not come from my background. They had not experienced what I had experienced. They had not achieved what I had achieved. Yet when I listened, I heard my story, again and again. These people experienced the same feelings, the sense of loss, doom and degradation and I did. They too had been helpless, hopeless, and beaten down by the same hideous monster as I had. Yet they could laugh about their past and speak about the future in positive terms. There seemed such a balance of seriousness and levity with an overpowering sense of serenity, that I ached for what they had.
I heard about honesty, tolerance, acceptance, joy, freedom, courage, willingness, love and humility. But the greatest thing I heard about was God. I had no problem with the concept of God, as I had called myself a believer. I just could not understand why He had let me down. I had been praying to God as a child asks Santa Claus for gifts, yet I still held on to my self-will. Without it, I reasoned, I would have no control over my life, and could not survive. It was pointed out to me that perhaps that was the whole problem. I was told that perhaps I should seek God’s will first, and then conform my will to His. Today, I pray only for His will for me and the power to carry it out on a daily basis, and all is well. I have found that his gifts are without number when I consistently turn my will and my life over to His care.
I have found a new home in the Fellowship of Narcotics Anonymous. My life again has meaning. I have found that I have but one calling in life and that is to carry the message to the addict who still suffers. I am so grateful to God and N.A. that I may do this today.
I have found that you are just like me. I am no longer better than or less than. I feel a real love and camaraderie in the N.A. Fellowship. My great spiritual awakening has been that I am an ordinary addict. I am not unique. There are still those who refuse to join us and take the path that we have chosen, because they feel that they are unique. They may die. But may God bless them too.