Addiction to drugs runs rampant in Lindsay and towns just like Lindsay. It’s all around us — you just have to look a little.
You tell yourself that you have a handle on it, that it’s not so bad. You catch yourself looking down at that scarred arm. And those twitches you have…there was a time when they weren’t part of the package.
Always such excitement, those drugs working on the old system – the getting, so long after the waiting, then the preparing and always the injecting ritual of the purple heroin or fentanyl powder, or the coke; gearing up to take another shot at racing around my heart, and what I’d be seeing maybe for the last time. There were lots of last times, mixed with the multiple times I’d thrown myself at the mercy of sickly, hygienic emergency rooms too busy to be bothered with my unglamorous suicidal cries, sending me right back out the automated doors. They didn’t see my problem as serious or something they would want to deal with.
The sound of a faraway ambulance brings it all back though, that day when I had overdosed and had to be brought back. That was eight months ago. Today it’s a little different. For one thing, I don’t find myself in strangers’ apartments getting high on some mysterious powdery substance. Today, I do not have to come up with creative scams in order to pay for my addiction. Today, I’m not desperate, or sick or having heavy cravings for drugs.
One of the toughest parts was coming off methadone. I used to have to make it into the pharmacy on a daily basis in order to be administered my dose of methadone, a kind of a drug in itself, but it’s prescribed and given to people who are trying to get off opiates, which is bordering on epidemic.
There were 75 suspected overdose incidents from drugs investigated by Kawartha Lakes police last year, including seven deaths in which an opioid overdose was suspected. I know two young girls myself who have died from it in the last six months. Treatment works for some people, if you can even get into one. The wait for your average treatment centre for addiction – including for alcoholism — in Ontario is a good three or four months, and that’s if you’re lucky. Plus, there’s the exhaustive red tape that people in such a situation are not exactly prepared for.
When asked just how I got clean and have been able to stop living the life of regular drug use, I have to stop a moment and think. It doesn’t spring to my mind that quickly. For one thing, I’m not hanging out with the same people that I was before – and that’s huge. I attend 12-step meetings a few times a week and have been working the steps of the recovery program, in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). I have a sponsor now, a kind of a guide that leads you through your new sober life and helps you navigate through the steps.
I try to take comfort in the little things; I get myself into Fourcast Addiction Services twice a week for acupuncture, which is supposed to help with cravings, anxiety and even sleep concerns. Who knows if it is actually doing anything!? At least it's not hurting me.
Filling a void
What to do for the rest of my day? That’s the problem. I have an inordinate amount of free time, which I am still failing to appreciate. There’s so much of it — finding tasks and errands and a hobby is the ongoing game, it seems. You see, drugs take up so much time from one’s life. When it’s stopped altogether it leaves a void — one that absolutely needs to be filled. Building some sort of support network is crucial.
I don’t feel as though I will go back to that life, even if I somehow wanted to. It’s so done, so over-explored until I was just about dead. What is there left to do but get clean?
I spend my days going to the coffee shop and visiting friends. There’s the bakery, the library, working out or doing yoga at the Rec centre. Occasionally I’ll volunteer with Community Care. I’ll go to the Farmer’s Market when it’s open in the spring. I play badminton twice a week at the armoury, and I was attending a weekly drop in group at Ross Memorial before that got cancelled due to lack of people turning up for it.
You look for support anywhere you can find it. I also see a therapist once a week now, which I find vital. We talk about everything — there’s nothing I hide – and that’s made all the difference.
Honesty, open mindedness, and willingness; pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization; restless, irritable and discontent; these are all parables from the 12 step program that keep coming up when someone bravely shares their story.
Often it feels as though it’s just humans regurgitating tired phrases from the “big book” of hopeful stories from AA, but it’s starting to come together and ultimately does make sense in some kind of weird way; I’m always discovering new things in the program of recovery.
Genuine in nature, my spirit is overflowing with compassion and gratitude. Maybe I can even think about giving back some.
Now that I’m among the living, I can show people how I feel about them. Getting fully clean was the best thing I ever did for me.