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