What It Feels Like to Be Tangled in Temptation

By Rob Silva // As Told to Kara Galarneau


Valerie Rosek

Freshman Ariana Nikolov is seen with cigarettes and a Juul tied in her hair to represent the addiction one can be tangled in.

By Kara Galarneau, Antioch Community High School

My life was normal. From the outside you would never assume my life would lead to what actually happened. Nothing traumatic needs to occur for someone to be put in my position; you just need to be human. We all have our insecurities, things we don’t like about ourselves, but mine just compacted into one perfect storm. As I grew up, my sense of how others viewed me heightened. I never felt good enough. I wasn’t who society wanted me to be. I wasn’t manly enough. I wasn’t strong enough. I would ask myself what the perfect image of a man should be and I never matched up to that. Everything I did or said just felt stupid. The only thing that could numb my constant doubt with myself was drugs.

I walked up to my friends house on that chilly October night. I was nervous, shy and not comfortable with my friends yet. I just moved to Antioch. We all stood around the bonfire when they sparked up a joint. I was scared, not knowing what to do with it. It was passed around from person to person. When it finally got to me, I took a hit. I didn’t want to be the odd man out; I wanted to belong. When the weed finally kicked in I told myself I wished I could feel like this everyday, with no cares in the world; and for the years to come, I did.

That night I smoked and it felt good. I laughed. I enjoyed myself and I forgot what other people thought of me. Then the next day I wanted to do it again. The day after that: again. Almost instantaneously weed became a part of my everyday life. As I slipped further and further into my addiction- weed before and after school became an everyday thing. It wasn’t an issue to me until weed wasn’t enough anymore. By sophomore year I was using pills. Later on it became cocaine, then heroin. My whole time in high school was just a blur of drugs, constantly trying to stay high. That was my goal in life, to stay high for as long as I possibly could. When I was high it was an escape from my reality of not feeling good enough and an escape from my insecurities. When I was high nothing mattered; I had no worries and I didn’t care what people thought of me. Without drugs, reality set in and all my problems flooded back to me. I became the most evil person on the planet. I became a full blown junkie when I started using needles and there was nothing I wouldn’t do to get my next fix. It didn’t matter if I was taking change from my niece’s piggy bank; if it had value, then I would take it to buy more drugs. In reality, it was just a full time job to get high and I didn’t make any money. It all just funneled into me getting high again. There was no career direction for me. I didn’t think 30 years down the road; I would only think about being high right then and there.

I graduated from Antioch in June of 2010. Soon after I started shooting drugs. From then on, I was either getting out of jail or leaving rehab. Three months after I left rehab, I was sent to prison for a year. There were barbed wire fences everywhere and I was put in a small cell for over 20 hours a day. I’d live with two meals a day and one hour to go in the courtyard. I got into a few fights and that led me to solitary confinement.That means separation for 24 hours a day, for as long as they tell you to be in there. The longest I was there was a week- left with nothing but my thoughts, losing track of time, nothing to do but think and maybe push ups. It was as awful as it sounds; rehab was even more difficult. In prison you’re trapped and there’s no way of leaving to get high, but in rehab the doors are always there. I always had that choice in the back of my mind, that I could leave and go get high. The worst pain I’ve ever felt in my life was the withdrawals after quitting cold turkey. It’s the worst feeling, mentally and physically; it’s literal hell. Hell is crawling out of your skin and not being able to sleep or eat. The only way to make it stop is to get high.

When I finally hit rock bottom- homeless with no family, no friends and nowhere to hang my head- that’s when I decided to try something different. Life beat me down so much that I was willing to at least try to change for myself. I tried to get sober many times before because my mom told me countless times I was killing myself. I tried to get sober for my ex wife, my family, the court system and my job; it just never worked. At that time I always had this thought that I can get high and not face the consequences. There’s a very fine line between trying to keep fighting and death. That’s the point: I was willing to try something different, to try something that wasn’t my idea and do it for myself, not anyone else. I was ready to change.

I went to treatment in West Dundee and there I was told I needed to start a 12-Step program. Immediately, things started to change. How I felt started to change and the part of me I lost started to reappear. I’ve been sober for three years now and my relationships have slowly started to rebuild again. I’m not going to lie, there are times in my life when things get rough and I have a brief thought that getting high would take away these feelings. Then I remember it doesn’t take them away, they just disappear for a few hours and come back. As long as I continue to work through my program, I will be less likely to fall back into those issues I had. I am not ashamed; I don’t regret what happened to me. My experiences have made me into who I am today and I have a deep appreciation for life that I couldn’t have gotten if I didn’t go down that path. Crossing the line between life and death led me to sit here and share my story. Inspiring others is my way of making amends.

This story was originally published on Sequoit Media on March 22, 2019.