Have you ever been daydreaming or thinking some random thought and it leads to some complex recollection that reminds you of a person or a group of people that you encountered briefly, people that really mattered, but who you will most likely never see or hear about again?
This is a complicated thing to explain, because I have to begin by saying that I spent about two months the summer before I graduated university in a rehab center.
I may or may not have mentioned that on my former blog, I can’t recall, but to sum it up as quickly and simply as possible I’ll say this:
I am an abnormally anxious person who is very easily depressed and there are times when I have very sudden mood swings, obsessive behaviors and sometimes even unwarranted paranoia. The diagnosis that seems to have been slapped on me the most is GAD and that seems to sum it up pretty well so that’s what I assume the condition is. I’ve had it pretty much forever and I imagine I always will.
Anyway, the anxiety and depression got worse and worse throughout college and in the end I was pretty much self medicating via alcohol. Basically drinking myself into oblivion almost every night just to forget how awful reality was feeling and it was getting me into a lot of trouble. Not legally, but pretty much everything else. So when I finally had my little breakdown and called my parents for help, the first thing my mom wanted to do was find me some therapy, but therapy that also included some kind of counseling for substance abuse.
At first I really resisted the idea. I didn’t think I was an alcoholic, but it did scare me how one beer so easily became six or ten or twenty without my even realizing it anymore, so I agreed to do the therapy/rehab combination. My skepticism eventually turned into hope. Maybe all these torturous thoughts and ideas going on in my head were the result of being an alcoholic. At least then I could just not drink and it would eventually all go away. But after the first month I began to realize that drinking wasn’t the problem. It was a result of the problem, but it wasn’t the cause. I stayed though, because the community I found myself in was supportive and kind and caring and usually sincere.
The fulltime people in the group were of varying age, social class and gender. There was Larry, an alcoholic who actually walked a straighter line with those drunk goggles on than off. He came to rehab because his addiction was so bad that when he got the flu and couldn’t drink he went into seizures and nearly died.
There was Dave, a hyperactive cocaine addict who actually used in order to calm himself down (they don’t call Ritalin “poor man’s coke” for nothing).
Rose was a heavy set woman in her late 40’s or early 50’s. She was so sweet and motherly and for a long time didn’t think she was an alcoholic because she was only drinking wine, although sometimes it was a bottle of wine a day.
Megan was a couple years older than me and she lived in a halfway house for heroin addicts. One of her main difficulties was that the halfway house was split into two parts; one part for recovering users and the other for users who just needed a roof and bed. Sadly, the two parts shared a bathroom and it was really difficult for addicts trying to get clean to see all the used needles in the bathroom stalls all the time.
Pat was a sweetheart and worked in some kind of security business. He smoked crack and was caught during a routine lab test of the employees. His job basically depending on him being able to get clean through the rehab.
There were other people that came and went through that room. Some of them admitted they were struggling and wanted very much to get help. Others made it clear they were only there because they had to be and they only wanted to do the court-prescribed amount of time and then go right back to how they were living before they got busted.
Anyway, for two months while I struggled with what my issues really were (and still are to some degree), the people I listed above were my main support. They didn’t know my past, they didn’t judge me on my old behaviors. They only knew I was struggling, like they were struggling, and they supported me like I was one of them, even though in the end I wasn’t.
So today, when I smelled the fresh odor of cigarettes hanging on the teenagers that sat in front of me on the tram, it made me think about the one single time I’ve had a drag off a cigarette since I quit smoking over three years ago.
It was at my bachelorette party here in Gent and I took one quick drag off a colleagues lit cigarette, thinking that it would probably be disgusting.
But it wasn’t. It was so, so good and the taste was so familiar and comforting. I could picture myself smoking the whole thing without hesitation. So I quickly put it down with the realization that I did know what addiction felt like. Not with drugs or alcohol, but most certainly with cigarettes.
And I suddenly the faces from that summer floated in front of me: Larry’s strong Pittsburgh factory worker drawl, Dave’s tinted glasses and goofy smile, Rose’s flowery clothing and hugs, Pat’s laughter and goofy sense of humor, Megan’s good natured attitude. I wonder how they are and what they’re doing.
I know that statistically the odds aren’t good, but I hope they’re all doing well and have found happiness and a healthy lifestyle.
And even though the memories will settle again into the dark stillness at the back of my mind, I know they’re only a a thought away from being a ripple right back at the surface.