Navigating the Gauntlet

It was a weekday, maybe a Tuesday, and I was downtown with people who I thought were friends, but like me, they had punched their one-way ticket to Pain Station without reserve. ALL ABOARD!! It’s amazing how little your problem seems once you’ve surrounded yourself with “good company.” The definition of a parasite is an organism that lives in or on another organism and benefits by deriving nutrients at the host’s expense. I had become a parasite to life and was comfortable with that notion – it worked for me. We would begin another endless bender that would lead nowhere, but this night was different. It would later become the backbone of an existence in which death, or sobriety would be the only way out, but that comes later. I remember walking outside to smoke a cigarette in the sea of college kids all lining up for the slaughter. Happy, joyous, free – how did they do it with such ease? Did they feel like I felt? Regardless, something had to drown out the noise. I was a shell of a human being trying to navigate consciousness the best way I knew how – oblivion through my use of drugs and alcohol. The crowd parted like Moses commanding the Red Sea and out emerged this guy with the answer to all of my problems. I walk up to him, fascinated, “Hey bro…that jacket is dope. Where did you get it?” Not realizing how close I came to having my teeth handed to me in one of those red solo cups on the ground…he states, “Bro, are you messing with me? If so, I suggest you stop.” I wonder what would’ve happened if I had never started that conversation?

It’s amazing to me today how I use to navigate such dangerous situations without the thought of consequence or harm – literally putting others and myself in harms way, but somehow I survived – some call that grace, others may call it luck. The disease of addiction doesn’t care about consequence, thought, or action – it wants to rob you of your mental, physical, and spiritual constitution. Navigating sobriety can be just as challenging, especially when the holiday season approaches, emotional booby traps are set, and for the first time, drugs and alcohol aren’t available to wash away the sickness. It’s time to feel, and that’s going to suck at first. My first Thanksgiving visiting my family after treatment was the most uncomfortable time for all of us. The tornado that ripped down the fence was back and nobody knew what to expect. I had to use this time to connect with my family, build a support system, and start on the path of creating sober history. Getting sober doesn’t mean that I hide from life experiences; it means I finally get to enjoy them.

Be it carving a turkey, exchanging presents, or watching the ball drop – don’t be afraid of the experience, embrace it. Keep your mental, physical, and spiritual malady in check, just for that day, and all things will work out.

Need something to do this holiday season? Check out the link below.

My “Beautiful Boy”: David Sheff on Bringing His Family’s Story to the Big Screen