Sometimes I Forget
I've been meeting a lot of new people, making a lot of new friends recently.
I forget though, of these people, only about seven of them knew me during my 'heavy' years, my fall asleep during conversation or ring them at three am asking to pop over and borrow a lighter or forget to turn up to my own birthday days.
…And these new friends know me differently...they know me as who I am now, clean, (somewhat) punctual, (mostly) functional and (far more) predictable.
So we’re sitting in the pub discussing suicide (the concept and as a theme within 20th century literature) and we get off topic and they start discussing means. One of my new friends says:
So I say:
‘Nah, a few of my ODs were pretty horrific’
…And four faces turn to me, wide eyed.
One guy says ‘What? You’ve done heroin?’
And I reply ‘Yeah, in the past’
And eventually the subject moves on.
We become desensitized, used to those words. We’re no longer at our first NA meeting (us junkies) over analyzing what it means to admit ‘sure, I’m an addict’. In fact, eventually we say it as easily as stating what colour shoes we’re wearing. And with it, we forget what it is like, both to struggle to say those words and to understand why it shocks people to hear them.
I’m at that point in my sobriety that I can joke about it, that most my friends can say ‘Remember when you were on heroin and you fell asleep on that rollercoaster’ and we can laugh. Heroin is no longer a taboo, a word that must be avoided at all costs, lest it should awaken some monster urge in me to go stick pins in my arms.
So I forget, not that I’m an addict, but:
1# That being clean means people who meet me now have no idea that I am an addict.
2# That being an addict shocks people.
And I see all these new friends looking at me like they thought they knew me, but that how can they…like the fact I used to use heroin makes me somebody entirely different. I’m suddenly not the things they thought, the woman, the student, the writer, the graduate etc…I’m ‘the junkie’. And unlike being a woman, which does not exclude also being a daughter, an employee etc, but rather to some extend demands it; you can't just be a mother, being a junkie always seems to exclude or negate all other roles or labels…like that is all you are, all you can be. Because everybody knows a junkie can’t be a mum or an employee or a friend…because you're just a junkie, y’know.
And that’s when I remember…when I get that feeling like my first NA meeting or those moments when I’d think ‘****, I’m an addict’.
It’s a weird feeling. I used to think it’d get less foreign, less strange, but it is actually the opposite…
The longer I’m clean the more people seem shocked to know I’m an addict.
Sometimes I think ‘but AM I an addict now? I don’t use heroin, or hang with junkies or live that lifestyle…’ And then I wake up after eight hours dreaming about scoring or I’m having sex and I’m thinking about heroin or I the nurse takes a blood sample and I shudder and she says ‘Sorry, it’ll be over in a moment’ and I’m actually shuddering with what Freud called the uncanny –the familiar, yet strange.
…and then I remember…yeah, I’m still an addict.
I’m still an addict because I’m irritated by the friends who still can’t say ‘the H word’ around me out of some fear or idea it’ll trigger some compulsion in me to go out and score, yet –if I am entirely honest- I know that, while I can resist looking for heroin, that if it found me, if I walked into a room and someone was cooking up I wouldn’t be able to leave. Unlike a non-addict, my disgust or shock or awkwardness wouldn’t make me want to leave the room or ask the person what the hell they’re doing…disgusted or not, I’d beg on my knees if it meant they’d tick me a shot…even now…because…
I’m LS, and I’m a heroin addict.