The Sobering Airport Trip
The 6:00am rush at a busy New York City airport — generally a fairly hectic experience. Standing in a line almost a quarter mile long, I waited nearly 35 minutes just to earn a spot at the security checkpoint, where of course I was then “randomly” selected for a more intensive search.
After finally making it through security, I gathered my belongings and began the immediate search for a coffee. As I waited in another line that could just as well have been for entry to the Pentagon, the lady next to me almost took my head off with her backpack as she stood there arguing with her partner. To the other side of me, a fatigued-looking couple scolded their child about behaving on the last leg of their trip.
It is now five minutes before boarding time, and the cashier presents me with my sacred morning coffee. I take the first sip, and quickly realize they gave me the wrong coffee. I take a deep breath and say a quick prayer. With all of this chaos going on around me, I feel free. I feel grateful to be traveling this beautiful country, and having the chance to visit family who are back in my life.
Just two years earlier, I was at this same exact airport but in a very different set of circumstances. I was irritable, restless, and stressed that my drug dealer was not answering the phone so I could have a fix as soon as I returned home to Boston. The arguing couple, long lines, and other things completely out of my control really got to me. This time, I felt at peace. I did not need to search my backpack for the magic pill to relieve the stress. This time was different: I was sober.
The last 20 months of my life have been nothing short of amazing and easily the most enjoyable and fulfilling 20 months of my adult life. I have regained friendships that were nearly lost. I have mended relationships with family members who I thought would never forgive me for the pain I caused them. I have had the opportunity to travel to multiple places across the United States, attend my best friends wedding, and most importantly, I have learned to love myself. For the first time in my life, I am able to be in alone in a room and completely at peace. That is a feeling I have not felt in a long time.
White Picket Fence
I grew up in beautiful suburb 30 minutes south of Boston in an area that most families would dream of raising a family. I had two loving parents in my life, an older sister, and a house that looked right out of the movies, white picket fence and all.
As I sat in rehab two years ago, my therapist would continually probe for an event or situation that first triggered my fifteen-year drug habit; but the reality was there was no possible way I could put the blame for my addiction on anyone other than myself. My parents had argued and eventually got a divorce when I was in college, but it was an amicable one and certainly did not lead to me shoving pills down my throat on a daily basis.
It was not until I had about a year sober that I began to realize my addiction stemmed from character defects I had been born with or developed early on in life — my own personal character defects.
My self-esteem was always low, and being teased was an everyday occurrence when I was younger. When I was nine years old, I was diagnosed with Tourette’s syndrome, a nerve disorder that caused involuntary tics. At a time when my confidence was already low, this made it even more difficult for me to love myself. This caused a lot of physical and mental stress, and eventually led to an eating disorder. I had severe body image issues and barely ate, out of fear I was getting fat.
It was not until I went to treatment that I realized the diagnosis of both of these disorders was tied to my substance abuse later on in life. I continued the rest of my early childhood doing everything I could to be popular. I often acted out in class, and did self-degrading things to gain respect from my peers. I was insecure, scared, and uncomfortable in my own skin. I also feared change, and the transition to high school was a difficult one.
My ultimate goal was to be liked by people and have many friends, so I was excited when I was invited to a party on the first day of school. The entire day I thought about what I was going to wear, and envisioned myself making everyone laugh and being the life of the party. I arrived to the party, and within ten minutes I was handed a beer and was passed a joint of marijuana. I was in love. I finally felt comfortable in my own skin, and this feeling was something I never wanted to let go.