It’s wasn’t a crack house, it was my crack home. It was a Monday morning, or was it Tuesday? Slumped over a kitchen sink on my birthday with a needle hanging out of my own arm, swept well and truly off my feet, to cavort with the hero of the underworld on the dark side of the moon. Never had the term Happy Birthday been said with such decadence. As I slumped into a slothful repose with the purity of the dose in heart ache, of my eyes dripping with sweat, staring at the blood daubed walls on a cold, damp floor strewn with empty vodka bottles, rolling papers, crack pipes and powder-covered spoons.
Who better to understand the attraction of the life of an addict than an addict in recovery? In recovery I have formed close bonds, made friends, heard others’ worst secrets, listened with a loving heart and started to see through caring eyes. I was carried through the early stages of recovery when I was first finding my feet and most importantly I was given love.
When I went into recovery I was told ‘Get a good set of clobber there will be funerals ahead and if it’s yours we’ll have something nice to bury you in’. Just as in active using people come in and out of our lives, some without saying hello, never mind saying goodbye. Some we see others never again, but not a day in my heart goes by when I don’t think about them.
In my early recovery I have seen people who don't make it back. Life for some is just too difficult and has too many sharp edges. Some overdose, some die of aids, and you ask yourself 'why them and not me, and if I had known their pain could I have done more’?
When I use, something different happens to me that does not happen to regular people. The mental aspect of my disease is that I think differently, I'm obsessive, I’m compulsive, and the spiritual part is my total self centeredness, I don't even consider someone else; they don't even exist in my world when I am using.
Most addicts can't tell you what it is they need but after a while most have the same story. What they really need is to be loved and to give love. Love is such a powerful thing. In recovery I felt the love. I picked up the recovery programme quickly, if I need to fit into a group I will fit into a group but for some change is just too difficult. I have a friend who has been in and out of recovery since forever and a day, and today is in recovery. And I have other friends who will be in recovery for now and forever. Through recovery we share the pains and together extinguish the flames that have set ablaze to our aching hearts and scarring our soul. ‘‘My neighbours sexually abused me when I was a child’, ‘I believed my own psychosis’, ‘my friend date raped me’, ’I hid under the bed for two days,’ ‘I had a broken heart’, are only a few things I have shared through recovery.
A wise man in recovery told me, if you can spot the little demons in someone else it usually means you have them in yourself. I recognised the addict traits in others for ten years of my using until I finally saw it was a reflection of myself that I was looking at.
For too long during addiction and even before I was in its grips, I had been at war. At war with myself esteem, my self respect, my past. I’d loathed myself and I tried numerous suicide attempts - and failed, put cigarettes out on myself, I had stolen, been raped, lied, and danced with the devil when I put a needle in my arm. But more importantly I lied to myself to the point that I did not know who I was any more. Through recovery I have forgiven myself which has been a major part of my healing journey. When I surrendered to addiction I felt like the lion who decides to roll over during a fight to save himself a savaging. Just because he rolls over and surrenders to the physical fight it doesn’t mean he does not know how to roar. Just like the lion I choose to surrender.
A friend recently asked me what was the worst thing that drugs pushed me to do, but it’s hard to explain to someone who has no understanding of addiction. The getting and the using and the finding the ways and means to get more just becomes ‘normal’ and everyone’s story is so similar. I know what is terrifying with surviving though. It’s the little things like working out how to answer the phone when you want to be left alone inside of your own mind, or figuring out how to turn your day back into night, it’s usually the most obvious normal things that are the most tricky and can be more terrifying, than the lonely withdrawal at the devil’s hour sat at the hands of Satan and his destruction itself.
Let's face it what does a junkie like me know about anything anyway? I’m just a crazy unwell girl who rambled her way unarmed into a warzone and made more enemies than she’ll ever know. I’m emotionally stunted, and putting my ducks in line. Forever more I’ll be a work in progress and a girl whose heart went up in flames. I’m known as ‘that girl’ who got herself into trouble wherever she went and made the decision to walk out of it with enough debt and excess baggage to last her until she’s one hundred and twenty one and if my luck is anything to go by, I’ll still be here at that age.
My name is Gia Marie Barbera and I am a recovering addict.