THE BIRTH OF ADDICTION
I always knew that I was going to be great. From a very young age I was convicted that I was special, and that I was going to go on to either become a professional hockey player, Rockstar, or end up some famous actor or something. I didn’t necessarily know what it was. All I knew is that I was going to be great. Unfortunately, what this really did, was set me up for decades of shame, pain, disappointment, addictions, and feelings of failure.
It all started when I was 4 years old and my first true love; hockey. Growing up in a town of 2400 people in the middle of nowhere, Canada, that was what you did, and I was going to be great. Starting at the fresh age of 4, with a future Stanley Cup winner beside me, I was destined for greatness. The only problem was that at 4, you spend 4 years in what is aptly known as “peanuts”. This meant that for 4 grueling years, it was all practice. No games, barely scrimmages, just endless drills and practice.
Unfortunately for me, at the end of my 4th year, my father sat my sister and I down at the dinner table and told us our mother had asked him to move out. Apparently knocking up your girlfriend at 16, marrying her, and having another kid (me), didn’t exactly ensure a lifelong happy marriage.
At this time, feeling confused and alone, I decided to reach out for attention, and told my father, “I don’t think I want to play hockey this year”. What I was expecting as a response was something along the lines of “Don’t quit now son! The 3 boring years of peanuts are over now, and finally you’ll begin the all-exciting games you’d been waiting for!” Instead what I got was “ok”.
This was the first time I’d felt abandoned, and unsure about the future. All I was looking for was a little encouragement, but it never came. As the winter went on, I still regularly went to public skating on the weekends, but it was a far cry from playing hockey. During the entire season I wanted to go back the following year, but was afraid I’d be behind the skill level of the other kids. So I didn’t. I never did. At 8 years old I’d already felt like I’d missed my calling in life. This was the beginning of my addictive behaviors, and my monkey mindset.
The icing on the cake came years later when I was about 19. My schoolmate, who’s dad was also our childhood coach had told him, that I should have never quit hockey, as I was progressing faster than all the other kids. Including the one who went on to win 2 Stanley Cups, and make millions of dollars. But at this point, this was just validation, and the icing on the cake. Someone was going to suffer for my missed opportunity, and more than anyone, it was going to be me.
If anyone with addictive behaviors looks hard enough deep into their past, they are likely to find something that caused them a significant amount of chronic pain. Some are obvious, like those who suffered from physical abuse, sexual assaults, and so on. Some are harder to identify, like the 8 year old boy looking for validation and encouragement to stay with his childhood passion.
Mind Altering Substances
My first experiences with mind altering substances came when I was 15. I was working on the local ski hill where we used to spend our Saturday nights. One of the older kids busted out a marijuana joint. From day 1 I was hooked. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I had stuffed away the pain from quitting hockey deep inside, and was going to spend the next several decades proving that I was right to be angry. That somehow what the world had owed me had been stripped away from me. And sedating my mind was going to help me through this.
I still got good marks in school, but unfortunately for me, some much harder drugs like LSD and mushrooms hit my town during my grade 12 year, and I managed to go from the honor role, to barely graduating. Needless to say, I decided I wouldn’t go straight into university, but I’d hang back and test out some harder drugs like cocaine, crack, and what turned out to be my biggest vice, alcohol.
I won’t bore you with the details at this point, but lets just say that for the next 12 years or so, I would sedate myself daily, get excited about a new possibility in life, only make sure I was set up for disappointment. My monkey mind was in full swing.
December 20th 2005 I’d hit the beginning of my “rock bottom”. I was working a dead end job, living in a shitty apartment, mourning over the fact my girlfriend had left me. Drunk, I decided it was time to end it and headed off on a walk towards a large overpass bridge near my house. I stood on the edge looking down at the concrete below, contemplating whether splattering into the pavement would hurt, or if I’d die quick enough I wouldn’t notice. But then I thought of my mother, and how much it would hurt her. So I went back home, called my parents at 1:30am and said “I want to kill myself and I don’t know what to do”. This was the first time I’d ever been so blunt, or said anything remotely close the idea that I had some sort of problem.
The next day I went home and got my first couple of weeks of sobriety in my life. It was during this time I attended my first AA meeting. It was kind of odd being in a room full of self-admitted drunks and addicts, but it seemed like the right thing to do at the time. After a couple of meetings, I headed home, and resumed my life of drinking.
2006 wasn’t much better. Although there was some drunken fun, smashing a guys face in with an umbrella, and facing potential jail time, the future was beginning to look bleak. Not to mention, I found some people who sold crack on the corner near my house, and based on past experiences, I knew this could escalate out of control quickly.
Since I’d been forced to walk out on my job due to the umbrella incident, resulting in a dozen thugs trying to hunt me down for days, not to mention the fact I’d blown all of what was left of my money on booze and drugs, what was laid out in front of me was going to save everything!
Had I known that I could check myself into a detox center and then moved to treatment for 2 months, all paid for, including my rent on the dime of social services, I would have likely done it years earlier. I’d been searching for help for years, and all along, there it was right in front of me! I couldn’t believe my luck! I’d finally found the answer! Or so I thought.
The place I went was a 12 step based recovery center, and I was just happy to be there. I started reading the Big Book, working the steps, and attending regular meetings. I met alcoholics and drug addicts just like me, and through the fellowship of AA,we were all going to admit we were powerless, had an incurable disease, and were going to take things one day at a time, for the rest of our lives. I will say that the one thing AA did offer in abundance was community. Hell I even got myself 2 sponsors! Why settle for one when you can have 2?
I won’t say it’s a bad idea to go through some of the steps and clear out some of the cobwebs from your past. Making amends and coming to terms with some of the shit you’ve caused can definitely be a relief. And I will say this, that since the first time I stepped into that treatment center in 2006, I have not touched crack, crystal meth, E, G, K, or any other hard drugs strong enough to warrant a single letter of the alphabet to describe them.
So after being in treatment for a whopping 66 days, I was ready to begin my newfound, sober life balancing my life as a Rockstar by night, and personal trainer, helping people try to achieve their fitness goals by day. I was surrounded by healthy fitness gurus, pretty girls, and I could freely coach amongst them. I still fit in a couple of AA meetings a week, but about 2 weeks into my newfound career, I got up the courage to ask out the hottest girl in the gym. Naturally she said yes. I mean, who could resist the healthy looking personal trainer / Rockstar?
We decided to go out my favorite Japanese fusion restaurant for dinner. Part of the appeal of this restaurant was that I knew what to order, and how to order it. Without me even realizing it, my brain had instantly flipped from newly recovering sober guy with about 90 days hidden under my belt, to a nervous kid, trying to close the deal here on a girl way out of his league. This was the restaurant I’d taken a number of girls to before entering treatment, and just like remembering how to ride a bike, the cold sake was ordered and with it, my sobriety. I of course told myself it would be just for this evening while I was closing business, but just below the surface I knew that was likely not the case.
The evening went off as anticipated. I’d landed the girl, and the only sacrifice I needed to make was my sobriety. The “car wash”, as short term treatment centers like this had been referred to me as, was overall a success. I had a stable job, was able to pay my rent, had the hot new girlfriend, and for the first time in years had a respectable profession. The music career was going along great, until it wasn’t, but that’s life.
However, my underlying vice had creeped back into my life, and I was back onto the daily booze train. Again, I will give the car was some credit. It gave me the couple of months of sobriety I needed to get my life onto a reasonable track, I was positive, and for the first time in a long time, somewhat optimistic about the future.
12 Years Later
Its now 2016 and I’ve got a wonderful loving wife, a 3 year old daughter, and a newborn baby. I’ve managed to progress to a relatively successful career in the software business, and things are looking pretty good. Unfortunately I’m spending $18,000 / year on booze, have been diagnosed with fatty liver, and am having a hard time using will power to go cold turkey. The thought of walking with my head down to join the others in AA doesn’t seem like an option. But it didn’t have to be, because I have found the beginning of the solution.