The Choice of Recovery from Addiction

I’m drawn towards words like a moth to a flame. Little corner bookstores pull at my insides like my bones are made of magnets. Language is music, the notes like chords in the ether, spiraling through my brain like those 80’s streamers kids would play with, long snaking fabric malleable to the slightest movement.

The walls are covered with poetry as my eyes find their way along the pages tacked into the board, hanging trophies. And this one beckons like a curled finger. “Lift your right arm, she said,” I whisper aloud for myself to hear.

When I get to the end time stops in my breath and my mind races backwards like a rubber band snap.

“All right, I said. Tell me to lift my right arm.”

I think about the monotony of lifting an arm, of putting it back down. I think about how we’re conditioned to do what we’re told to do and after so long of doing it, we become incapable of having our own voice, our own unique thoughts.

I think about addiction, about the urge the compulsion to get the next fix. Single focus. Single focus. Fuck everything else. Everything else is background noise. Those that love us – push away the guilt and shame. Those that are concerned – they know nothing, resolve to tell them less or nothing. Those that want to help – no one knows my life or understands me. I am alone in my addiction. I am special. I am unique and different.

But we’re not.

I read books on drug use, on people blacking out with alcohol and missing half of their lives, chucks of memory cut out like a melon ball. And I think – I know this. It’s a different flavor ice cream, but I know ice cream. I highlight all the emotional similarities even though every story is different I find myself in the shadow of it.

The through line is the emotions that we don’t know how to face, that we don’t know are there, that we are uncomfortable feeling and choose to numb out with whatever poison we choose to call our very own. We chose to worship something and think that it can save us from feeling powerless, from rejection, from social situations, from childhood, or memories we’d rather erase.

The through line is the emotions we don’t face but rather try to burry with our particular brand of poison. Ice cream all has the same texture, the same way it melts in the sun. The same way poison will eventually kill us all if we chose to drink it. We are not superhuman even though we think we’re so.

I’ve met people in rehab who have died once, twice, four times from a heroin overdose. Others have lost their kids to foster care or DCFS. Others who’s kids have died from being in the wrong place at the wrong time, simply by being born to a parent who didn’t have their shit together and was doing the best they could in their own cycles of abuse and trauma.

I think about a story a friend told me when she was a house monitor and how she finally chatted with a student who was anorexic and 85 pounds. When the girl agreed to go to the counselor to get checked they told her she couldn’t leave the office because she was at risk of having a heart attack simply by walking up the stairs.

Lift your right arm.

Most of us, at some point in life whether through addiction or otherwise, will find ourselves doing things because they are the way we’ve been told to, the way someone or something has conditioned us into being.

Put down your right arm.

In addiction, we are conditioned to follow this voice that whispers and screams its demands. Eventually, we are so broken we concede with slightest motion of its voice. One trigger, and just the sound of its breath activates the deep neuropathway of our particular poison ice cream.

If we live in addiction long enough we lose trust for ourselves. We lose part of us. Our own voice is silenced and filled with the voice of the addiction that tells us in various forms to life our right arm, to put it down.

What struck me most was the honesty in the last sentence. When no one is telling me what to do, who am I?

Recovery always involves realizing we’re a little lost, or a lot. It involves putting ourselves back together without the incessant drum of addiction.

Recovery is realizing that for however long we’ve lifted our right arm and put it down cue. Recovery is realizing that now we have a choice. We don’t have to do what it says anymore. We don’t have to be its puppet.