The lonely recovery from addiction made lonelier in quarantine

A short road with many ways out, that will inevitably come to an abrupt end.

PC; "drug addict" by Imagens Evangélicas is licensed under CC BY 2.0

A short road with many ways out, that will inevitably come to an abrupt end.

By David Joaquin, Middle College High School

The over a year-long quarantine has no doubt affected many people negatively. Going out, seeing people, doing things we like, not being bored and just getting that natural serotonin. Cutting off from the world, losing that vice that makes you happy and makes the world spin faster, losing that instantly, going cold turkey, is an all-too familiar feeling for people battling addiction. And from personal experience, it’s hell on Earth.

Simply breaking the habit is easier said than done, because sometimes it’s hard to realize the addiction has already begun. Craving something, needing something to help you function–on the outside, it seems obvious but it never is. You feel like you found out the secret to a happy life, the cure to sadness, anger, anxiety, everything– but really you’ve already started digging the grave to the end of it, and it’s happening quietly.

It’s a popular love story; you don’t realize how madly in love and obsessed you are. And like all loves, this one makes you just as blind to the world. This toxic romance makes you give up everything in your life for them. You’ll turn your back on family, betray friends, sabotage relationships and just vanish from the planet because all that matters is them.

In the beginning you always say, I promise it’ll only be for a little bit, it’ll be fun, just a small fling, nothing serious, but somehow you find yourself committed and unable to let go. Even if you actually find a way to let go, your life becomes like a broken record: thoughts, memories, feelings and cravings are always on repeat.

My story followed a similar structure. I was super into athletics, and I always pushed myself as far as my body could go, probably too far sometimes, and that caused me to get injured, a lot. I didn’t realize it then because I thought, Oh it’s just another injury. I’ll just take more medicine because I need to keep training. Then, I just took it for the pain, but quickly it led to something I depended on. I was able to walk without help. I was able to throw away my crutches, but I was already on a new pair that I needed to get me through everyday.

In my mind I thought I was too young to feel the things I did and want the things I needed. I wanted an escape from my own mind and this gave me that. I pleaded to find an end to my misery because I didn’t think I was strong enough to face my demons on my own.  This needle gave me the numbness I needed to survive. But at the end of every high I was back on Earth and you feel this does not feed the black hole that is your desire. You want happiness, but that seems almost impossible now. You try going deeper into your addiction; maybe this will make you happy but it doesn’t. You think the impossible and maybe quitting will help. But everytime you quit your body doesn’t let you. 

I wanted help. I wanted to ask for it, but I was too disappointed in myself. I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror anymore, and when I told myself I’m going to quit, I’m going to stop, today is the day, I always found myself in my own thoughts, What have I become? Am I going to be another story people hear about on the news or get told about on a TED talk? What’s wrong with me? I’m so lost, and I don’t know how to find my way back! Am I too far gone for anyone or anything to help me? This was my life now– getting high to escape these thoughts. Which looking back on it, I wish I would’ve known they were human and people do understand.

I finally did start looking. It only happened after a friend of mine asked me if I remembered anything I did with them, and I didn’t. This person at that time was so important to me, and I couldn’t remember anything that happened between the two of us to save my life. Same thing went for my family. I became distant, and I was always out or stayed in my room. 

I still didn’t want people to know I needed help. I’m afraid of letting people see me when I am so vulnerable, so I fixed what I could on my own, so when I did get to tell someone, I wouldn’t be such a burden on them. Let me tell you that was one of the hardest things I have ever done.

You feel tired, sick, and you’re sweating when you’re cold for no reason. You get anxiety attacks all the time, you think you’re seeing things, you feel crazy, you’re shaking, you feel hungry but you don’t want to eat, you feel angry and yell at everyone. Your best friend becomes the toilet, because you’re throwing up everything that’s inside of you. And you know what your body needs to make it all go away. I always find myself doubting my ability to quit because I wasn’t strong enough to stay away. And of course that brain that just won’t shut up is yelling at you all the time saying, Why am I trying? Why do I think I’m strong enough to quit? This is pointless? I can’t do this alone!

You don’t know it most times when you see them, but on the inside we’re screaming, I don’t know how I got this way, and I don’t know how to stop, but talking to people never feels like it’s going to help. It doesn’t help how the media and people in authority portray and talk about addicts– making them out to be these gross junkie people who you should stay away from. The fear of letting someone in to help you is always lingering, because people weren’t there to help when you started, and you feel like they let you get this away. You’ve seen how this side of you has caused people to go away from you. The people you thought closest to you now want nothing to do with you anymore, but can you blame them? But then you finally get the help you need, and your guardian angel comes and helps you find the strength inside yourself to beat this addiction. And that guardian angel can be anything or anyone including yourself, but it’s never a bad thing to need someone to lean on.

You’re going through withdrawals, but you’re not alone this time. They don’t run away when your emotions get out of hand because they know that’s not the real you. You start feeling better and finding other things to do with your time because you start to really feel every second of every day when you’re clean. You find your vice and maybe it’s working out, hanging out with friends, cooking, art, or just anything that makes you smile and turns hours into seconds. 

Life is going good. You have good people around you, you’re doing things you like, and you’re still an addict because that’s a part of you now and forever but you’re addicted to being happy by being the best version of you and doing what’s best for yourself.

***

Then quarantine hits and it sets you backwards by a lot. All of a sudden everything you worked for is all for what? Nothing? Did I never get over my addiction? Quarantine is almost begging ex-addicts to start again, and it’s hard to resist. 

I found it impossible too. I’d wake up with a splitting headache, sweating buckets and shivering until noon. I tried my best to stick to what I have learned, find my vice, use it instead, but there was only so much work I could do before my body got tired. I tried keeping in touch with friends and family but over-the-phone relationships don’t feel the same because they’re there but not really; all you get is a box of them, and they get a box of you. I started noticing every second as it passed, like, Geez is the sun ever going to set? Because napping all day doesn’t get me there any faster.

To add on, the whole world seems to be depressed. Everyone was just putting negative energy into the air for people to soak in. So you fall off the wagon. And this time maybe I just won’t quit because it was so hard the last time, and everything is just easier when there’s stuff in your brain stopping you from feeling– reliving memories or seeing bad futures. Besides, you’re all alone now so no one will care the way they did before, because they didn’t when you were sober. Imagine now.

A dark place made only darker by quarantine. It sucks, plain and simple. And your whole world gets turned upside down. 

But for someone who already got sober once, they must have the strength somewhere deep down to do it again. 

Those people that supported you in this tough time and the hobbies that you picked up along the way are all ways that wake up a part of you that’s already there. That strong part of you that can stop and do what’s best for them is already inside of you. You are the maker of your own fate and it’s okay to mess it up a couple times because that will only shape you into the strongest version of you there is. 

Stay strong and don’t lose hope; there is light at the end of this tunnel.

This story was originally published on The Spellbinder on April 21, 2021.