This I Believe

Ryan - Albuquerque, New Mexico
Entered on April 24, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: addiction

Once an Addict Always an Addict

…at least that’s what they tell you in NA meetings. And I use to think it was a silly cliché, but over the past few years I believe I’ve become walking proof of this statement.

By 16, I was a full-time nicotine fiend. In addition, I was a daily user. I’d get high early in the morning before my first class, then I’d disappear from afternoon classes to use again, and late at night I’d make a call to refill my prescription. Today, I am lucky to announce that I’ve been sober from narcotics for three years.

I say I’m lucky because I nearly lost my life before deciding to come clean. When my dad found me I was out cold on the floor of my room. He said that I rose from a dead sleep and said, “Save me.” Then my eyes rolled into the back of my head and I passed out again. He called 911. I spent five months in rehab, worked the twelve step program, and became free from addiction, or so I thought anyways.

Nearly three years after rehab, and two Fridays ago, I celebrated my 21st birthday in Las Vegas, Nevada. And from the addict’s point of view, I wasn’t in some ordinary city; I was in paradise. I walked freely with my Amaretto Sours, Coronas, and Jack ‘n’ Cokes from casino to casino, in broad daylight, and much earlier than 12 o’clock in the afternoon, even on Sunday. I put in overtime on the nicotine intake, and found myself enjoying every minute of the self destruction.

In one hand, the party in Vegas wasn’t anything like the life I lived at 16. While I may have gone a little overboard with the booze, I’m now sober, back in class, and maintaining my responsibilities. On the other hand, I am aware of how easily it would have been to relapse had the opportunity presented itself. And now that I’m 21, the whisper of temptation just got a little louder.

After rehab, I failed to realize that I was only given the tools to silence that whisper. Putting those tools to use is my choice to make alone. There isn’t a twelve step program in the world that can cure a person of addiction. It is disease that begins with one form, like drugs, and if care is not taken to keep it in check, it transforms itself into other forms including smoking, drinking, gambling, and even sex. For this addict, sobriety is not an achievement gained with five months of rehab or three years of clean time. I believe it will be a challenge that I must face until the day I die.