Many eons ago I was in a dual-diagnoses work/treatment program. Looking back on it, it feels like a whole different life, like I was never even there and it was all just a dream. We lived on a farm and we worked in the woods, with the animals, in the garden, and in my favorite place: the auto shop. I was good at auto-mechanics, especially small engine repairs. When I left the program, I stayed in a halfway house and Mike, the shop leader, let me come on as a paid apprentice. I did that for a year. I lived in the halfway house and I discovered spice and no one knew because spice, although it feels so similar to pot, doesn’t show up in piss tests and I was beating the system. Every night after I came home from work, I smoked spice. After three to four months of living in the halfway house I got to live in my own apartment. I was court-ordered to stay here for a full year and although most residents had to stay in the house for at least six months, I was moved to an apartment because they knew when my time was up, I would run; it was my plan all along. They wanted me to have some experience living in my own place before I took off. So I started drinking again and smoking weed and they all knew about it but I didn’t care and neither did they, it seemed, because they knew the alternative; it was either here or 10 to 15 years behind bars and no one wanted that for me. After a while they were just like: We’ve Had Enough. Although I didn’t claim to be a drug addict/alcoholic, I was using like one; and they could not keep me here if this kept up. I received a letter from my parents that said when my probation was up, I could not return home. I was so fucked, and alone and lost and hopeless. So I started going to meetings. I got a sponsor. I told the world I was clean because I was: except for the Ritalin and suboxone I was using. Ritalin—because I was already prescribed to it and they had no way of knowing. Suboxone—because it doesn’t show up in piss tests unless they are advised to test for it specifically. This program did not test for it and I got high, so high, every night I got home from the meeting. I went to some meetings and nodded off throughout. I was so speedy I wrote like a maniac in my journal for the entire meeting. I chaired a meeting while doped up and manic. I watched the floor turn to water and move like the ocean. It was working; no one knew. Then Samantha responded to my email and she told me she was clean. She was clean and I was trying to get clean but nothing was enough of a reason for me to stay clean. Until her, of course. I came clean about my using. Told everyone. Agreed to do it for real this time. Because she was back and she was clean and we started going to meetings together. She lived in Boston and I lived in Rutland, VT, and on the rare occasions I’d see her we’d go to meetings together. Then I found out she smoked a ton of weed. I mean: A Ton. But she was clean and she didn’t consider weed a drug. But I did. Anything I can abuse is a drug to me. She was as sick as always and I was trying to better myself. Every time we fought I got high because she was my reason for getting clean and when that reason failed me it was: There Is Nothing to Lose. I had nothing to lose. I got so high every time we fought. Of course, she started drinking again and I found a much better reason to get clean which is: Stick Around and You’ll Find Out for Yourself. I started to do it for myself. I worked the Steps. And I worked them hard. Even if I was spun on my own medication, vivance. How else was I going to stay up all night and write? How else was I going to work the Steps? Last time I abused my Ritalin I was lucky I didn’t die—so lucky my heart didn’t give out!—but I was always honest every time I took extra Ritalin. Honest with my sponsor—he never fired rejected or abandoned me. Honest with my therapist—he was always so accepting and understanding. Honest with my doctor—she was always so forgiving. Until I took enough to kill me. She immediately took me off of Ritalin and put me on vivance, which is supposedly better and much harder to abuse, and said if I tried to abuse it she’d take me off of all stimulants—for good! But I needed a stimulant because my ADD was so bad. So I took a little extra here and there, just enough to stay awake longer, and I ran out early every week; but it was no issue because I was happy now and I was doing so well and perhaps everyone knew and just looked past it. I came clean about it after I moved to Burlington because the doctor said I would have random pill counts and I knew I had to come clean. He didn’t condone this behavior but I’m pretty smart and I made it seem like what I was doing wasn’t as bad as it was. It was bad! I wrote the doctor a long letter justifying it. He bought it. I continued to beat the system. I got married and a year into the marriage Michelle said she couldn’t do it anymore. It was either her or vivance. I chose her but it was hard because my support system was stripped away from me. I had to do this and over time I learned I did not need this stimulant anymore and over time I was back to normal, or closer to it. In the end we are all drug addicts. Someone once told me that if I went the same lengths I went to get and stay high and did something else instead, I’d be surprised at how far I would have gone. At the time I didn’t understand what he meant. Because when he said it—I was high as God.
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