THIS MONTH'S GUEST SPEAKER: "Billy"
Originally posted on July 2000(The author retains all rights to this material)
I’m Billy. I’m an addict.
I really don’t know why I started using drugs. Even now, looking back, I can’t seem to find a reason. I do know that there was no abuse, physical, emotional or otherwise in my family while I was growing up. In fact, my early years were pretty normal. There weren’t even any addicts in my family. Anyway, I like to blame it on “the times”. After all, we are talking about the late 60’s early 70’s here. You know, Woodstock, Hippies, Viet Nam, Black Panthers, Nixon, Kent State, Race Riots, Bob Dylan, Abbie Hoffman, Chicago Seven, and all that stuff. That’s when I started drinking beer and wine and smoking weed (wasn’t everybody?). I was a high school senior and at the time, using didn’t seem to effect my daily activities. It wasn’t long, however, that getting high became my daily activity. I managed to make it through high school and went to a college on Long Island, about 10 minutes from New York City. My freshman year I must have tried every drug we knew about; uppers, downers, ludes, peyote, hash, acid, hits, cocaine, and what quickly became my drug of choice, heroin. Of course, alcohol was always in the picture.
Needless to say, I dropped out of college. The times were changing, but my love of heroin was growing stronger and stronger. Back then, we bought dope in Harlem in $50.00 bags they called “quarters”. There was a whole lot of white powder in the bag, and most of it was cut. As much as I loved dope, I hated needles, and putting so much cut up my nose was painful. I’m sure I would have progressed to mainlining if I hadn’t discovered $10.00 bags of a much purer form of heroin on the Lower East Side. For me, it was love at first sniff.
For the next 15 years, my life revolved around the drugs. I was in New York City every day, sometimes twice a day, buying as many $10.00 bags as I could afford and bringing them back to Jersey to sell for $20.00. For a while, I even took a job in NYC. Hell, I was there every day anyway. The police must have thought that I was a big-time dealer, but I never made any money even though I usually had a job as well. I never could afford necessities such as rent, insurance or utilities. I usually lived for free, sometimes with an equally addicted female on welfare, or sometimes with my 80 year-old grandmother
I’m not saying that I didn’t have a life during this time, because I did. I just wasn’t living. The times had changed, and left me in the dust. While I had started out using drugs, by now the drugs were using me. Not only did I not see a way out, I wasn’t even looking for one. As long as I could stay one step ahead of the cops and have money for a ‘wake-up’, I thought I was fine. I thought I would go on like this forever. I was about to be smacked with a rude awakening. They called it “crack”.
I’m not even going to attempt to describe what my days were like as a full-blown dope fiend/crack head. If you don’t already know what that’s like from personal experience, you probably wouldn’t believe me anyway! After three or four unsuccessful detoxes, and several stints on Methadone, I had burnt every bridge with anyone who cared anything about me. With no where else to turn, I ended up in a long-term treatment facility. I stayed for the entire program, even receiving a ‘diploma’ after 18 months. Thinking I was cured, a promptly ignored all of the suggestions of Narcotics Anonymous and relapsed a week after ‘graduation’.
Apparently something that I heard in the rehab stuck because I continued to attend meetings after I picked up again. I knew that I didn’t want to continue using, but I was looking for some kind of “magic bullet” that would instantly remove my desire to use drugs. Being high at the meetings made it nearly impossible to hear the message of Narcotics Anonymous. The message that an addict, any addict, can stop using, lose the desire to use, and find a new way of life. Despite my inability (or, more accurately, my refusal) to surrender, I was welcomed at every meeting with hugs, and departed each meeting with echoes of “Keep Coming Back!” ringing in my ears.
I had already hit a physical “bottom” years before, and as soon as I got my weight up in treatment, I would be right back off to the races. After years of running from my self, I hit a spiritual bottom. Surrender, complete and total, was my only option. This time, when I asked for help, I didn’t try to tell the help what to do. I had finally found the reason for my using that I had been so desperately seeking: I am an addict!
By keeping it as simple as that and following the suggestions of the Program of Narcotics Anonymous, I have stopped using, lost the desire to use, and, one day at a time, I’m in the process of learning a new way of life!