ADDICTION I: Hitting rock bottom
by Derrek Burton
It is impossible to build a solid foundation until we have found rock bottom. As is the practice in building, it doesn't matter how high we build, it will always collapse if we continuously build in the mud.
This was a hard, yet fundamental lesson for me to learn. And I was fortunate enough to learn this at a very young age. My rock bottom came at the age of 20 after a downward spiral fueled by drugs and alcohol.
Everything started out innocently enough. I had a rough childhood. My mother left when I was 6, I was bullied in school, my father did everything in his power and knowledge to provide a stable and happy household for his children. But he had his own struggles with drugs and alcohol as well. The strain built and built through my early childhood and finally reached a breaking point around the age of 13. The boundaries began to fall away. The first few sips of alcohol, the first few tokes of marijuana. The escape a tormented child longed for for many years. A way to forget all the mess at home and school.
It's sad to say this is a story that is more and more common these days. And for some, that's where it ends. But for me, it went much deeper. By the age of 16, my home life had deteriorated almost entirely. I would stay out all night, roaming the streets drunk, high on this or that drug. The weekends were often multi day trips fueled on a head full of LSD or psilocybin. The world of artificial sensation was so much better than the one I faced every day. Then one of the days that would alter the course of my life came about. I was coming down off of some trip or another, probably LSD as it was my favourite drug at the time, and my friend turned to me and asked if I wanted to try some heroin. At this point I had done pretty much anything else that I could get my hands on, so it wasn't even a second thought for me to say yes.
I had my first taste of complete oblivion. I can't describe how it felt to anyone who has never been in that position or hasn't tried it before. Needless to say, for a kid of 16, it was incredible. A complete release from everything. What transpired in the years to follow is nothing short of the complete unraveling of a soul. By 17 I was wholly, 100% addicted. I couldn't get out of bed and face the day without it. My final year of high school was a blur. To this day I still am not entirely sure how I graduated. But I did. And after that I went straight to work on a construction site and nearly every dollar I made went to fuel my habit. I am fortunate enough to say I never stole to feed myself. I was raised with a strong work ethic and to always work for what you have, so I can at least say that even in my darkest days I was a hard worker.
The next 3 years are a complete haze. I look back on that time of my life and it is like watching a movie of a completely different person. The struggle, the sickness, the nights sleeping on floors, under bridges and park benches. I wasn't homeless, I just didn't always go home. Sometimes the comfort I felt in the haunts where I would smoke or shoot up were warmer than the bed I slept in.
But a person can only fall so long before the ground rushes up and stops you cold. And this is a day I can remember clearly. I finished work, hopped on the bus to downtown, met with my regular guy for my regular fix and hurried off to my regular spot to get my daily dose. I remember my hands shaking, frantically watching the spoon bubble, getting ready to feel “normal.” I remember watching my face, watching my eyes as the drug hit and took hold. The transformation in the mirror was surreal. Disturbing. I was a twisted fragment of myself, a monster in many ways. I watched this all happen in a matter of seconds, but it felt like an eternity. And after, I knew, in my heart of hearts that the darkness inside of me had to be overcome.
THIS was my rock bottom. This was when the ground rushed up, smacked me square in the face, and said you can fall no further. This was the day I would begin to clear the stone beneath my feet and begin to lay the foundation of my rebuilding myself into a new version. The next day I walked into a methadone clinic and began to take my life and my recovery into my own hands.
The road from here on was not an easy one, the battle for my soul was as violent as ever. Even though I had made the decision to put down the needle, I was still a slave to my addictions. The next two years were a booze fueled haze. I drank excessively, but never really thought I had a problem. I figured everyone drinks daily and at least I wasn't doing heroin anymore. Unlike that moment of prescience I had with heroin, that moment I knew I had to change, the realization my drinking was a real problem was more gradual. I remember growing tired. I remember one evening, sitting in my usual chair smoking a cigarette and thinking I was just exhausted. Drinking was no way to live and really I hadn't changed much, just traded one vice for another. And with the admission of exhaustion on the level of the soul, I knew it was time to find a new way to live. In actuality, TO LIVE period, and not just waste my days away.
So at the tender age of 22, after years of drinking, drugs and everything else, I once again found that rock bottom. The most solid, the lowest place I could have possibly fallen too. And I CHOSE to begin to build the foundation that would support me for the rest of my life. It was not easy to climb my way back to the light. What followed was years of soul searching, questioning and constant battles within myself with myself and my demons. But the day I chose to live as the master of myself and no longer a slave to myself was the beginning of a new and wonderful life.
It is important to note that everyone will experience this in their own way and not everyone needs a drug addiction to find the rock upon which they will build their new life upon.
To be continued...
ADDICTION II: Taking life back
Author: Derrek Burton
Trail wanderer, kickboxer, kettlebell enthusiast