Written by Anonymous
When I was a child, I never found myself fantasizing about becoming an alcoholic. If I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I spewed generic answers like firefighter or veterinarian, depending on the crowd. I wanted to spend the spare moments of my adult years writing poetry and playing music and laughing with good people... Strangely enough, abusing substances never made it onto that list.
No one ever grows up with the intention of walking down a dark and dreary path that offers so few exits before reaching an abrupt end. No child wants to be a junkie or a drunk. When they see friends around them trying new things and seemingly getting away with it, curiosity gets the better of them. Even after the first occasions, it is near impossible to know what lies ahead.
With my addiction, there constantly existed this idea that I could outsmart whatever demon I was dancing with. It took time before I realized I couldn’t, but for all too many people, time runs out first.
I was one of the lucky ones. I heard legends from my siblings about what my parents and other family members were like in active addiction well before I was born. I grew up with sober parents and the horror stories kept me away from any drink or drug for the early portion of my life. I always said it would not be me, never that story. I was destined for greater things and I was determined to achieve them.
Sure enough, I had my first drink, right on the cusp of the emotional turmoil that would later be titled “My Teenage Years.” Everyone around me was drinking and there was no glimpse of horror. No one had been arrested or beaten or even passed out. The way my esophagus burned and my face felt warm, a sort of warmth that spread into my body and loosened my limbs and soothed my brain. I was in love. My relationship with alcohol and other drugs spanned the course of more years than I cared for. First, we encountered the honeymoon phase— naïve puppy love and warm nights. I introduced my beloved to many of my friends and we all got along just fine. Other substances came and went, but none like my first love. By a year and a half, we spent every night together and had a blast if everything went as planned. Three years in and things got toxic. I wanted it even if it made me sick; as a matter of fact, I liked when it beat the shit out of me. I began looking for love elsewhere; in the bottom of baggies or pill bottles. The ensuing years became a blur of bad decisions I never thought I would make, decisions propelled by a fear of leaving behind the only coping skills I knew and facing the void on my own.
"With my addiction, there constantly existed this idea that I could outsmart whatever demon I was dancing with. It took time before I realized I couldn’t, but for all too many people, time runs out first."
The best way I can describe this void is as a beautiful home. Upon a plentiful plot of land, the home rests among sculpted flowerbeds and pristine landscaping. It is visually appealing and clearly tended to. Inside the home there are countless rooms, each meticulously decorated in a carefully chosen theme and with corresponding furniture. However, there exists in this home one empty room. You, as the homeowner, can’t decide what this room should be and have left it as is until inspiration strikes and your wallet is full again. Nonetheless, it keeps you up at nights. You do not think of these other comfortable rooms to ease your troubled mind, but rather you are encompassed by the emptiness of this one last room. After so many nights of feeling the emptiness of the room creep into your brain, something snaps within you. You leap out of your warm bed, take a single piece of furniture from one of your established rooms, and place it strategically in the empty room.
Satiated, you return to your bedroom and rest easy, knowing that the room makes a little more sense now. You forget that the furniture removed will not be replaced, but have decided that the room can still function as it should. Just a few nights later, though, the near empty room haunts you again. You repeat the procedure for a second time, this time removing furniture from a different room so as not to tip the scale of appearance. Unfortunately, this process repeats itself— more frequently and more chaotically than the time prior—until the empty room is now filled to the brim with mismatched and misplaced furniture, piled up in the messiest of fashions. The other rooms of the house, which were once so dashing and functional, have little to nothing to offer. Some are just as barren as the “empty” room once was. You even began pulling shrubs and floral arrangements from your surrounding land and tossed them in with the hope that you could sleep soundly. That never became the case for you, because you could not find peace with your empty room.
For me, the other rooms were a stable job, academic success, fulfilling relationships, a clean record, spirituality, passionate hobbies and the like. I gave up these things bit by bit with the hope of filling my own void. Rather than accept the mostly functional home with the empty room and return to it nightly, I spent my nights driving further and further away. I drove deeper into anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, and sleepless nights. I arrived at abusive relationships and trouble with the law, while drunk driving and popping pills through the thick of it. I can assure you, it was never the home that I wanted. I didn’t want to make my peace and accept my reality. Eventually, propelled by the haze of self-hatred and impending doom, I bulldozed the entire property. Luckily for me, I have since spent my days rebuilding.
"Eventually, propelled by the haze of self-hatred and impending doom, I bulldozed the entire property. Luckily for me, I have since spent my days rebuilding."
As a child, I did not want to become an alcoholic. I didn’t want to go through the struggle of planning for and building an entire home. I wanted to be satisfied with the house that was built by my ancestors, passed down through generations and given to me in exchange for a lifetime of tainted blood. I wanted to ignore the void of the empty room using the same methods as those before me. As an adult, I’ve come to understand that more often than not, what I want and what I need are on two opposite ends of the spectrum. While I can fantasize about what I want, I rarely know what I need. I needed this struggle. Had I not gone through the dark tunnel and come out the other side, I would not know what light is. I would not be half the person I am today. After all, I am destined for greater things. With the help of a clear mind and good people, I am destined to achieve them.