In the most basic definition, an addict is an enthusiastic devotee of a specified thing or activity. I couldn’t help but think of how trivial that one word was: enthusiastic. Enthusiasm implies joy; it implies passion and devotion. It implies feeling and wanting something with all of your mind, soul and body. And addiction? Well, there’s no better way to describe it. It takes everything out of you from the inside out. It’s lust and greed mixed into a perfect pretty package that looks like a piece of peace. How do I know this? Because I’ve been addicted before: addicted to more. More of this and more of that. More of bliss and more of misery. But I’m lucky to not have totally succumbed to my desires. I know people who have. People whom I cared deeply about. I’ve seen some die. I’ve seen some live to tell their story in pure rapture. And others who have disappeared… seemingly gone with the wind.
The first person I ever deeply cared about that died from addiction was a white girl called Summer who swore she was a Black girl. Summer was the life of the party. She was, as her name implied, a light in this world. She was addicted to heroine and meth. And when she died, I remember feeling a deep sense of confusion. Like nothing made sense in the world. We bickered a lot about her use of the word “nigga”, but there was never anything but love. When her life ended at only 21 years old, barely legal to drink, it really set home how fragile life is. It showed me how one minute someone can be here, and the next they’re gone. Just a fragment of your memory and imagination.
Summer and I met at rehab, where my step-mom sent me for my weed addiction at the time, and Summer always used to joke about how I was wasting over $20,000 for something that “wasn’t real”. She, like many others, believe that addiction to Marijuana is not real. And unfortunately, this seems to be a prevalent thought within the Black community especially. The interesting part is, when I was at rehab, I literally only met 5 Black people out of hundreds. Four of us survived the post-rehab death-phase. The amount of Black people who have a substance abuse problem but don’t get help for it is freakishly low, something that anyone might argue is rooted in systemic racism and white supremacy.
But one of the most liberated people I’ve ever met, a young lady called Ryan, totally opened my mind up to how bad addiction was ravishing this country and her people. Ryan became like a sister to me at a very low point in my life when I was totally alone. However, I later came to find out that she was addicted to heroine, meth, crack and other substances that we won’t get into in this article. She was the best friend anyone could ask for, but she had an addiction that was beyond a conversation. She would wake up everyday and the first thing she did was hit the needle. It tore me apart to see her killing herself softly, but what more can you do when someone has convinced themselves that this is the life that they want to live? Mind you, Ryan was a former resident in medical school. She only had a year of residency left before she could start practicing as an attending fellow, a task that is not easily accomplished by the way. But she threw it all away. For drugs. And now she lives in her car and bounces from one homeless shelter to another as she spends her stimulus and covid checks. The sad part? She was so influential in my life and helping me decide that I wanted to change my life for the long haul, yet I’ll probably never get to say thank you or good bye to her ever again.
Addiction is a lot closer than you think. A lot of the time it’s easy to point fingers and call people “J’s” (the street language for addict), when the reality is some of the most brilliant people who ever existed were addicted to something. The truth is, in this modern age of technology and overstimulation, people are getting addicted to more than just drugs. But did you know that William Stewart Halsted, the modern Father of Surgery, was a full-on cocaine addict? Yes, the person who is responsible for most procedural processes in the operation room, was a crack fein.
I’ve learned that addiction is a much bigger picture than what is ever uncovered. Some people are dealing with a lifetime of trauma. Others are finding ways to deal with a reality that they never in the least expected. One thing that I learned from being hospitalized so much is that the disease (literally dis-ease) that people are experiencing is caused from a deeply rooted lack of an understanding of self. It’s a confusion between what the heart wants and what the soul and spirit need. The more ground work one does on self, the less validation and/or enthusiasm comes from the things that bind you to addiction. I’m in the phase of learning to unlearn right now, and the best advice I’d give to anyone who is struggling with addiction is to take it one day at a time.
Rest in perfect paradise to everyone who lost their lives battling this deadly disease of a nation: addiction.
Leave a Reply