life, death, and choices

It’s been four years

There are days in your life that, on reflection, are a crossroads. The most consequential always have life-altering ramifications. So it was for me.

I didn’t make much of the four-year anniversary of being opiate free (I am careful to make the opiate-free distinction, rather than a claim of sobriety since a drug is a drug, even the less troublesome ones). Maybe four years wasn’t important, other than a passing day. It wasn’t.

Just over four years ago (four years and four months), I was well and truly addicted. I was in downtown Phoenix and I was at the fork in the road. One consequential and glaringly obvious. Maybe being tired of letting everybody down, especially Diane, or the exhaustion of worrying about your ‘dose’, I finally chose the right path. 

There was another part I was cognizant of now. That was fear. Fear of dying. I had nearly overdosed several times. And I knew it.

An examination of an overdose

You are falling. Not quickly, just sinking. It isn’t water, but you know there is no air all the same. You become equally aware it is because you are not breathing. But you must breathe. BREATHE! BREATHE!

You are struggling against yourself. Your body is giving in, but your brain isn’t and IT KNOWS IT IS DYING! SO… FUCKING… BREATHE!

it’s been too long. you are dying. you will be dead soon. just let entropy envelope you. it is better this way. you won’t be anybody’s problem anymore.

this is it…

The world comes into focus before you do. You whisper to yourself that it is okay, more in surprise than relief. You catch your breath and try not to pant noticeably.

Blame it on apnea. That you are tired. 

breathe until the fluffy cloud holds you again. the inconsistency of its buoyancy is no worry.. no one will know. no one should know. it is my weakness that is killing me. not them. breathe. you didn’t die… yet.

The room travels circular while you travel angular, your brain stuck to the wall like a cyclone ride. Whether in a darkened room or one with others watching, you know something bad happened. Did anyone notice? It was apnea. You are tired.

But why was it even a hard choice – I mean, just say no, right?

I don’t know. If I understood it, I wouldn’t have been addicted to it, you know?

Near-Death Experiences and momentum

I was never suicidal per se (though, I certainly have been there). It is an attitude like, “So what if I go?” 

I was survival ambivalent.

I haven’t felt that way in the last four years. I finally had the momentum to get out of a twelve-year-deep rut. I realize that my impulses can drive me back the opposite way, into the depths of depressive terror.  

All those trips to the brink of the void catalyzed one thing in my mind. I deserved better. All the horrible things I had wrought and had been visited on me conspired to tell me that I deserved what was happening to me.

Those accusing thoughts are wrong, but when you can’t breathe and you don’t really care if you do, they dazzle in your life’s rearview. 

The impetus of life can be as much reverse as forward. To be sure, my life since that day on a Phoenix sidewalk hasn’t always been easy. I have had tremendous health challenges. These linger and can be tiring, but at least I made a choice to go in a direction.

straight asphalt road through the desert

The point or is there?

I don’t think I need to summarize. I am happy, in spite of my life’s challenges. I didn’t think that was possible in the heat of the desert valley all those (1574) days ago. 

I am grateful for everything that I have received in the meantime. I am grateful to the people who have stuck by me. Most importantly, I am grateful for a future. It isn’t easy and, to paraphrase Betty, growing old isn’t for wimps. 

Still, the future is worth fighting for. I deserve to be here. I didn’t always believe that. I am going forward. I wasn’t always doing that.

I cashed in 10+ years by sitting in one place, feeling sorry for myself for being an addict, and still getting high. Honestly, I would like those years back. I will always want that. 

But I don’t have those days, I have these days.

Published by Just j

Author, photographer, music nerd and just this guy, you know.

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