Realising I wanted to live.The New Year’s Eve I spent with my family when I was a junkie was horrific. But their contempt for the state I was in helped me to finally change
It was the looks of contempt that did it. I didn’t normally spend new year with my parents and sisters, but that year I did. I had nowhere else to go really as I’d pretty much run out of friends, and time with my family seemed marginally preferable to time on my own.
To be clear; this wasn’t about them, it was about me. I’d been a heroin addict for 10 years and my life was a mess. I’d done next to nothing other than a few dead-end jobs from which I was invariably sacked and I got by on a round of handouts and petty crime. Lying had become second nature; I’d been to rehab five years previously and sworn blind to everyone that I was off the smack, but the truth was I’d never been clean for more than a few days. My life had been reduced to the getting and using of heroin. Not that I turned down booze or other drugs; it was just that none of them hit the same sweet spot of nullification. That feeling of feeling nothing
That new year, though, I was forced to feel my shame. I’d arrived – late, of course, what junkie ever arrives anywhere on time? – and my parents had made a great show of welcoming me. Several years later they told me one of the reasons they had always been so pleased to see me was because my arrival was proof that I wasn’t dead. I kissed my mum hello and my dad offered me a drink. “Don’t worry,” I said. “I’ll get one myself.” I went into the kitchen, downed a tumbler full of scotch, before refilling the glass to a more acceptable level and going off to the living room to rejoin the rest of the family.
Awkward doesn’t begin to do justice to the misery that followed. My parents began, as they always did, by asking me what I had been up to. I came up with the usual hard luck lines of why what I had previously told them hadn’t happened and how I was sure next year would be different. They sat there and nodded, desperate to believe me. My sisters remained impassive, barely even bothering to say hello.
I can’t remember the rest of the evening in detail, but if it ran anything like every other evening, it will have gone something like this. Every now and again I will have announced that I needed to go to the toilet and disappeared for the best part of 20 minutes to shoot up some smack. I’d have then wandered back into the living room as if I’d only been gone for a couple of minutes and slump, barely conscious, back into the chair. This would have been repeated several times until the clock ticked round to midnight – the chimes of freedom that allowed everyone to slope off to bed after the briefest “happy new year” and to escape the horrors of the preceding hours.
What I do remember is the contempt in my sisters’ eyes. Normally, nothing could touch me when I was out of it on heroin; it was as if there was a protective barrier between me and the world. If people didn’t like me I seldom noticed, and if I did I wasn’t that bothered. But that New Year’s Eve my sisters broke through my shield and their eyes had seen my soul. Or what was left of it. They may not have known what exactly was wrong with me or just how bad a state I was in, but they had seen enough to give up on me. Loving me had become just too painful; disgust was all that remained.
The details of the following morning are equally fuzzy, but something had changed. I couldn’t get my sisters out of my head. Even more striking was the revelation that no matter how much they hated me, it was nothing compared to how much I hated myself. Like most junkies, I often talked to other junkies about how I was going to give up smack. But also like most junkies, I never got round to doing more than getting the occasional methadone script to tide me over a few days of trying not to take quite as much heroin as usual. It was a depressing cycle of failure that only served to reinforce my self-loathing.
Yet that New Year’s Eve had been a game changer, because it was also the moment I realised that I wanted to live more than I wanted to die. It took time. Junkies seldom rush anything and I continued to use, with the overdoses becoming more frequent. But within two months I was in rehab, and this time it worked. That was back in 1987. Fingers crossed in March this year I will have been clean and sober for 30 years.
Source : A new year that changed me: realising I wanted to live, and giving up heroin by Anonymous retrieved from The Guardian