Popper Virus

A virus; slowly fighting its way into your system, it’s sleeping at first and it’s bearable. But once you slip, it’s like a scorned lover. I’ve kept the urge locked in a vault. No longer did I consider myself addicted to the past. I fought for a cure to this relentless hell – finding it in writing and music – but now I’m building an immunity.

I found myself sorting through ideas. How could I find some pills without allowing the people around me to know? What could I get my hands on? The weight I’ve placed on my delicate shoulders is shoving me into the ground, trying to bury me six feet under. Honestly, that’s where this problem would end.

But I’ve promised to not go back to that version of myself. I never liked her. She hid in purgatory and settled for routine. I’d like to blame the conversation topic for my struggles, but avoiding what I know won’t help. And honestly, it’s nobody’s fault but my own. I feel like I’m locked in a dark room, screaming to be let out. This is torture. But I guess I can fight it. Or I guess I have to.

I remember being called popper as I navigated seventeen. My desire to do better seemed to evaporate each time my friend brought a baggie of brownies with some white motivation. I’d take it happily and stuff it in my bag. For the rest of my days, I slacked in class, waiting for the clock to move hours ahead. 

It wasn’t even pot that drove me to pills, but instead, a driving need to escape a depression that I battled alone. Pills helped numb the pain. And I always grew up telling myself I’d never walk down this road. But addiction is a virus that sleeps during the day and wakes you at night. One time is just one time…until suddenly…it’s not. 

2 Weeks, 12 Hours

The room is daunting – hauntingly devastating – because I gaze at the padded chairs and I’m asking myself if I’m really here.

I am.

It feels like failure. But I keep reminding myself that this is a step in the right direction. The room is poorly lit, probably to set the mood, because bright lights are a deterrent in the eyes of the hungover. My hands are shaking on my knees as I settle in a spot towards the back. People pour into the small space, smiling the entire time. How could people be smiling as they walked into a meeting? Strangers approach me with comforting hugs. I’ll never forget the first woman who wrapped her arms around me.

“We hug around here. We don’t do that shaking hands.”

I was terrified. But everyone in the room made me feel accepted. There were better places for me to be on a Thursday night…but this was okay. I had to keep telling myself that, because if I didn’t, I might book it out of that building.

Halfway into the first speaker’s story, I realized my breathing had become strained. 

Calm down.

Panic attacks we’re nothing new; I just didn’t want it happening at a church in Philadelphia, during a Narcotics Anonymous meeting. 

I sat and listened to people share their stories of recovery. A few people spoke about cousins and parents they had lost to some overdose. Here they were, at a meeting, talking about their sadness like they were completely alone. How was tragedy suppose to be uplifting?

It wasn’t.

But as I thought about it, maybe we just needed a place to let go of our demons. Maybe this was a way to the cure.

NA. AA. These are not happy places. They are not where you want to find yourself at eight o’clock at night. But that does not mean there isn’t a purpose.

I was crashing on the couch; and I don’t mean ‘crashing’ in the sense that you’re staying the night at a friends place. I mean I had finally run out of cocaine after a five day binge. Cold sweats had my hands shaking and my brain couldn’t focus. I felt alive and dead at the same time. And all I wanted was more. I wanted to go back to swimming through the clouds.

But once the crash settled in – or maybe sanity found its way back home – I found myself asking:

“Why am I doing this to myself?”

The reason we keep buying more drugs is because the come down brings us deeper into a depression we’ve been trying to avoid. Of course we could stop. But why would you willingly twist your bones until they are nothing but ash?

“How long have you been sober?”

The question has me stumped for a moment. It’s like life came to a sudden halt. I hadn’t been paying attention.

“Two weeks,” I admit. And I slump deeper into my chair, thinking about the bottle of whiskey, waiting for me in my room.

The Morning After

In my dreams, everything is alright. I have a smile plastered on my face and I’m surrounded by friends. In my dreams, hatred doesn’t exist and neither does pain. So I wake with the same expectation. But the turmoil of the night before is lingering like an old wives tale. It sets a knife between my ribs and slowly pushes forward, causing me to feel like a problem.

And the thoughts are back again, reminding me that this isn’t worth it. I locked myself in a room and fought the urge to relapse. I was a bother to everyone I cared about; even isolation was the wrong choice. All I could do was wrong. 

The morning after a peaceful dream, I wonder why I can’t stay. These thoughts are drowning me and there’s no one to throw a raft.I’m lost at sea and I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be swimming with the intent of finding shore. But at this moment, I want to create my own.Because the truth is, I want to be okay on my own.

So I’ll grab a notebook and scribble some ideas. I’ll lose myself in my art, and drown out the heated words and uneasy glares. I won’t let my happiness depend on people’s approval of my choices. And I’ll sing a song for the ones whose love I miss. 

I’ll be okay.


It was just a day ago that I promised to stay sober. Failure is easy to come by, however, and I’m too familiar with the concept of relapse. As I’ve said before: no one tells you that relapse is so damn easy.

I find myself sitting here as a hypocrite. I’ve reminded the ones I love that drugs only destroy – that you can get clean and live a happy life. Yet here I am, doing the deed of flying high because I have the opportunity. And though today my recovery starts over, I can’t help but feel thankful for the experience. Now I understand why people become so desperate to get their hands on some kind of euphoria. I no longer judge or protest against it.

So mom and dad, if you’re reading this, just know I’m doing my best. I promise I’m doing just fine. And it won’t be this way forever. Please understand, and don’t stop being proud.

And to my brothers, I finally understand. Maybe we’re more alike than you thought. I’d love to sit and chat and recover together, but we no longer talk like we did when we we’re kids. I miss that, even though I don’t ever voice it. Just realize your baby sister is grown, and I will always be here for you, and part with the wisdom I’ve gained, to help you. 

I really think I need my family to get through this. I have a family of my own, composed of friends I admire, but I crave the people of my blood too. I just don’t know where to begin, or how to ease the pain of this new knowledge I’m sure you don’t know. I’m not trying to be a burden. I just think I need you. 


Hello, my name is Shana…and I’m an addict.

I’m not really sure where to begin. These cold sweats have me itching for more.

More pills, more liquor.

Anything to make the pain disappear. Because that’s all I ever truly craved; an escape from the demons of my childhood.

The shakes remind me of the fear that tugged on my throat while his hand bruised my wrist. Seventeen never seemed so grown up.

Its been two days. When will my aching body find release? I fall to the cold tile, leaning against a locked door. Tears melting on hot cheeks. A blade clutched like safety in my weakened grip as cuts begin to color my wrist crimson. Eighteen never seemed so deadly.

I’m reminding myself that this hell isn’t worth the recovery process. How could it, with fire coursing through my veins? I’m letting my conscious convince me that it’s all for nothing. And I believe it, because nothing is what I’ve felt in the clouds. Twenty-one never seemed so hopeless.

But between these dark days, I’m told that there is more to life. Sobriety escorts the invasive thoughts out of my head. I feel protected. Time passes by and I’m investing my soul in these words I love so much. They’re causing me to search for hope. Is this the start of something new? Twenty-two never seemed so hopeful.

Have A Margarita With Your Pain Killers

You carried yourself like a goddess; no flaws, just a walking piece of art. And if I hadn’t known any better, maybe I would have believed it. But I watched you throw back the drugs like candy and wash it down with a little bit of liquor. I could time it down to the hour.

It’s four o’clock and you reach for the bottle. I guess I learned from the best. I’m eighteen years old, taking thousands of milligram pills from the neighbors. And in my head, I know it is wrong. I’m looking in the mirror, a handful of pills, thoughts racing around my head.

How did I get here?

I can’t stop myself from washing them down with a cool drink. I walk back to the little gathering we had every weekend. I’m sitting in the living room, smiling faintly and sipping on my drink, trying to focus away from the lump in my throat. An hour passes by and I feel myself slipping away, but I don’t really care. I feel sick to my stomach, but the only thing left on my mind are the remaining three and a half pills in my pocket. I’m fighting myself, wondering if I should take them now or save them for later. I settle for the latter, because I’m not really sure that I can continue hiding the fact that I’m high as a kite. But my secret I had to keep.

Did you ever struggle like I have? Was there a reason behind your ritual? Did you even care about the example you set? Or maybe the fault is all my own; I swore to never be like you, but I hate to say I may be a spitting image.

Now I’m sitting here, debating whether or not to go back to NA, because though I haven’t slipped in the past few months, the thoughts never left. There is a creature lurking in the darkness, scratching my skin as I daydream in silence, waking me from a slumber I’ve managed well thus far. Is there a cure for this hell? Will I find it in a room full of strangers, though I never found it among friends? Am I crazy to believe that anything will help?

I watched you sip on your drinks and throw back pain killers like it was nothing. It became a habit even before I had access to the drugs. And though I don’t really blame you, I can’t help but wonder if it would all be different, had I not watched your example.



I stare at an empty bottle like a loaded gun. And maybe it is – I’ve never sat and thought about it – but I’ve warned you.

“Hello, my name is Shana and I’m an addict.”

But meetings never changed who I was – only suppressed what I did. I often wondered if it ran in the family; maybe I was destined for this life.

I woke up drunk on New Years day and pretended to be sober.

Now the sun has fallen and this empty room is crashing down on me. It is crushing my lungs and I’m struggling to obtain precious oxygen. Here it is. This liquid devil reminding me that something is wrong and the solution will only ever be found at the bottom of a bone dry bottle. I guess what I need to say is the truth.

Drinking isn’t fun anymore.

In simple terms: I am an alcoholic. I will drink as quickly as possible because I know what comes after. Clear, blue eyes gaze at the people around me and a smile hides that I’m dying inside, just contemplating on whether or not to buy another bottle.

I don’t drink anymore because I know who I am. I cradle bottles with the intention of finishing them; and when left alone, I’ve never failed. But this habit I have controlled with substitutions of substance abuse. I’ve crawled out of a somber hole, just because I felt like creating a prettier one that falls farther into an abyss.┬áSobriety is a lesson I should have learned second-hand, however, I suppose the message didn’t get through my thick skull.