I thought it was time to remember what it was like to feel alive. But it’s not what you think. It’s not even what I thought, at the time.
Because this chick, couldn’t feel a single thing and I was anything but alive. Plus, my version isn’t something you choose to remember.
Sometimes though, like in this case, you don’t have a choice.
Because no matter how you spin it, I was at it again. I wish I could tell you that I know what I was thinking. But I can’t. I guess you could say, I wasn’t thinking at all. Because even if I was, those are not the same thoughts I’d have today. It’s just, I did a lot of shit without really understanding what I was doing. And I definitely didn’t see the gravity of it all either.
Metaphorically, I said, “I’m going to lay down for just five more minutes. I need to rest my eyes a bit longer.”
Well, five minutes had long since passed. It had been hours, in fact. And as it turns out, I was way too comfortable to move. So I don’t. Why would I? I needed a breather anyway. I mean, I had just spent the last 40 days institutionalized. I went directly from detox to rehab without a second thought, which is what they want you to do —so you don’t have time to figure out that one part, a rather large portion of your brain didn’t actually want to be there.
And that’s the thing about addiction.
Just as cardiovascular disease damages the heart and diabetes impairs the pancreas, addiction hijacks the brain. As I’m sure you’re aware of, drugs are chemicals. When you put them into your body, they tap into your brain’s communication system. They change how your nerve cells send, receive, and process information. Different drugs —because of their chemical structures —do different things within our bodies. We know there are at least two ways drugs work:
They imitate the brain’s natural chemical messengers.
And, they overstimulate the brain’s reward circuit.
Opioids, like painkillers and heroin, have chemical structures that mimic neurotransmitters that naturally occur in all of our bodies. In fact, these drugs literally “fool” our receptors by locking onto them where they activate and overstimulate nerve cells. However, they don’t work the same way as a natural neurotransmitter would. The neurons, a specialized cell that transmits nerve impulses wind up sending abnormal messages through the brain and inevitability to the rest of our body.
That right there can cause problems for both systems. Normally, like when you don’t do drugs, our internal reward circuit responds to feelings of pleasure by releasing the neurotransmitter dopamine. By definition, dopamine is a chemical messenger that carries signals between brain cells. In short, it creates feelings of pleasure. I can firmly say that back then, the only thing that brought me pleasure or made me feel alive were those damn pills.
This flood of dopamine is what causes that “high” feeling or intense excitement and happiness referred to as euphoria. That’s why if you use drugs for a long time, things that used to make you happy (like going for a walk or laughing with friends) don’t anymore. That said, our brains are wired to make sure we repeat healthy activities, such as eating and sleeping —by connecting those things with feeling good.
Whenever this reward circuit is kick-started, the brain notes that something important is happening that needs to be remembered. It teaches us to do it again and again, without thinking about it. But because drugs come in and “hijack” the same circuit, people learn to use them in that same way. Oh, and after repeated drug use, the brain starts to adjust to those surges of dopamine —meaning, you’ll need more of that chemical to make you happy or at least, that’s what an addict’s brain is telling them.
That’s what mine told me.
This happens because when you do drugs for a while, the neurons in your brain eventually stop producing dopamine or they’ll make less. When there’s not enough dopamine signaling in the brain —and because drugs are toxic —some neurons may die. As a result, the ability to feel any pleasure without opioids is significantly reduced. The addict feels flat, lifeless, and depressed. Like I said, I was unable to enjoy things that once brought me pleasure.
Because now I needed my drug of choice just to make my dopamine levels normal or as I like to say, back to zero. So every morning when I woke up (during my addiction like before detox and rehab), I’d have to snort 60 milligrams of oxy just to feel OK since while I was sleeping, I most likely, wasn’t able to snort anything. Therefore, it had been a few hours since my body got its medicine.
But what if I wanted to get high and not just feel normal?
That’s usually the addict’s goal but not always a reality. I say that because, in the beginning, I was using to get high. But over time, I needed more of the drug to create that initial dopamine flood —an effect known as “tolerance.” As my addiction grew stronger, so did my tolerance. Without my pills, I was below zero. Negative. That’s why addicts experience withdrawal when they go without. So every morning, I’d snort some oxy in an attempt to maybe get a small buzz but overall the goal was to not feel sick.
Even when you don’t want to use anymore, your brain tells you otherwise and your body is screaming at you for its medicine. Like it was a good day if I was able to get high. Because as you know, I needed more and more of the drug just to get to the level I wanted to be at —the level I felt when I first started. But if I can be honest, I was chasing highs and falling short everytime. And because I needed more drugs, I also needed more money, which is why I became willing to do just about anything to get more.
Does it make sense now?
In short, my brain was fucked. At the time (post-treatment while I was a resident in that halfway house), my tolerance was pretty low. It had been over a month since I last used but that wouldn’t last. Regardless though, my brain wasn’t fully recovered. If I did decide to use again, I’d essentially be reactivating my brain’s need for those chemicals. I say that because it takes about a year for the addict brain to heal. If I abstained, I would have healed sooner. But like I told you earlier, I still wanted to get high.
I don’t think I ever stopped wanting too.
Probably because my brain was like where the fuck is that chemical that makes me happy. Since I couldn’t get my hands on that chemical, I was telling the staff at that treatment center I just left, what I thought they wanted to hear. I was telling them those things so I could leave and figure out how to get high. I knew it was just a matter of time before I picked up again. And when I did, it was like nothing changed. That surge of dopamine came flooding back and at that moment, I felt alive.
But my brain wasn’t my brain anymore. Those opioids had taken over again. It was almost like the past month was all for nothing. Because one time turned into the same old shit I thought I ran away from. Yeah, there was a point when I thought the other part of me, the good part —like the one that didn’t want to do drugs anymore would win. But no. These drugs were too powerful. They still are. Because my first time relapsing turned into another and then another.
Before I knew it, I was addicted again.
I remember being at my halfway house, right before I got kicked out. I kept telling myself, “Just one more time, Macey. Then, I’ll stop for good again.” I was bored, depressed and in lust with another pill popping boy. I recall trying to justify my relapse. As an addict, I could rationalize my way in or out of everything. Most of us are really good at that. I remember thinking, “I earned it, after all, right?” Wrong.
I was playing the waiting game I told myself I’d never participate in again. But as you know, I told myself a lot of things I’d never do but eventually, I always did. Probably because my prolonged drug use changed the circuits in my brain and those changes can still be there even after you stop using. This is more likely to happen when a drug is taken over and over like in my case. I mean, I had been on them for at least five years. Once again though, that’s the thing about addiction —it’s a chronic brain disease.
A disease that causes a person to compulsively seek out more drugs, despite the harm they cause. The first time someone uses, it’s usually of free will. I did my first pill at a party. It was game over after that because I never did stop. Today, I understand why. In short, I was self-medicating —a big reason a lot of us get addicted. I remember thinking, holy shit. I actually feel normal. Prior to that night, I never did. I think it was because my type one diabetes was lying deep below the surface my entire life.
Even though I was only recently diagnosed.
So from that moment on, if I wanted to feel that kind of normal again, I knew what I had to do. So I made a vow with myself to do anything to get that feeling back. And there I was five years later. I knew it was wrong but I did it anyway. In the literal sense though —I was waiting for my drug addict boyfriend, Nate, and his buddy Nick to return with my pills. I wanted to go with them like I had all the other times this week. But his normal guy was out and since I needed to get high, I meet them anyway.
I was worried Nate would beat me even though we were dating. I mean, he too was an addict (you know the type). I tried to think positive since I knew he was into me. And why would he beat me if he liked me? I was praying that was enough. It’s just, as an addict, even when that person likes you, if you’re not physically there, there’s a big chance he or she will take your money and use it to buy themselves drugs. I say this because I did that exact same thing a bunch of times before.
So I tell Nate, I have a few extra bills and maybe a happy ending —all with his name on it, if he does what he said he’d do. Because yeah, even though I was pretty good at reading people, places, and things, I did get beat a few times. Except, it only occurred when I let someone else do the work for me. It’s just, sometimes, like this instance, you don’t have a choice. But that’s the cost of buying drugs. Charge it to the game, they say.
There is no formula.
Since there was nothing left to do but wait, I park my emaciated self on one of the benches outside that Dunkin Donuts. Am I really back here playing the waiting game? Unfortunately. I hated this part. It was the worst. Would they return like they said or would I never see my money or boyfriend again? Just when I was beginning to lose hope, they pull in. The ironic part is, I later learned that Nate actually said to Nick exactly what I feared.
“Dude we could totally beat Macey, take her money and buy ourselves more bags, but she’s hot. I think I really like her.” Luckily, Nick had my back. He was a good friend of mine. We met in treatment and anyone who has ever been a resident at an in-patient program, you know there’s an unspoken bond between all of you. So Nick emphasizes to Nate that they shouldn’t beat me. “Come on, Man. I know you like her. Don’t be a dick.”
And so, they return with my drugs in hand. Perfect.
I walk over to Nick’s silver Accura, jump in the back seat and say, “Thanks for not beating me.” Nate’s exact line back to me, “If I would have beat you, I wouldn’t get to see you again and you have a face I could look at for days.” I was flattered. I was flattered in a drug-dealing junkie kind of way. Nevertheless, off we go. Nate was riding shotgun and Nick was driving. I do remember Nate turning around a bunch of times to look at me. I liked it. We pull over in some random parking lot to shoot up.
So eventually, I became one too. It was such a different feeling when you injected it versus snorting it. And by different, I mean life-changing. It’s just, I didn’t know how to shoot up by myself, but I did start mainlining it every time after that. I just needed whoever I was with to help. If I was alone though, I’d snort or smoke like I always had but, now I was craving the needle. Anyway, Nate gets out of the car and walks to the back where I was. He said he wanted to tie me off first, which kind of turned me on.
I liked how he took control. He knew exactly what he was doing. It was like he was this tough bad boy, yet gentle with me. After I go, they do their thing. Before long, we’re back in the car chain-smoking cigarettes. After that, Nick said he wanted to swing by this pawn shop to see how much he could get for his old guitar and a few pieces of stolen jewelry. So we drive. I remember pulling in. Nate and I get out with Nick but we decide to chill out front of Citi Pawn on Dixie Highway instead of going in.
All of a sudden, I feel Nate’s arms around my waist.
He grabs my hips and turns my body so that we’re facing each other. Our eyes connect as he kisses me. I kiss him back. After, I take the red fitted hat off his head and place it on mine. He quickly adjusts it as he leans in a little closer. He says, “I’m about to kiss you again.” I reply, “What are you waiting for?” He gives me a quick peck and then it’s kind of a blur. I say it like that because it ended up turning into more of a make-out session than a simple kiss. But I liked it.
It felt really good. In fact, I felt more alive than ever. A few minutes after that, we see Nick exit the pawn shop. He yells, “What did I miss?” as I wipe my mouth to make sure there weren’t any ruminates of Nate’s saliva. I assume due to his elevated mood that it went well. Looks like we can get more. We walk back to the car and Nate grabs my ass. I still liked it. Next stop, Molly (Nick’s girlfriend and my B.F.F.). We had to pick her up from her parent’s house where she now lived.
When we arrive, we learn that she just got out of a heated argument with them.
They were mad at her. I mean, she relapsed and got kicked out of our halfway house. Getting high was the only thing on her mind. Luckily, I still had a few hundred dollars left. Thanks, mom. She was so happy I was in a better place. She was trying to help me stay there. Little did she know, the very thing she was most afraid of, was the exact thing I was doing with the money she gave me. It’s like I cared, really I did but once again, the addict brain won. I guess you could say I didn’t care enough.
I remember thinking I was too far gone, so I’ll just stay high, which happened to be what we were doing. We pick up a few more bags and now that I was fucked up again, I could breathe. Nothing mattered. So the four of us are in the car driving back to Boca via I-95. Nick’s driving but this time, Nate’s in the back with me. My legs are entwined with his. He couldn’t keep his hands off me and I still liked it. A few minutes after that, he looks at me and asks, “Macey, do you wanna be my girlfriend?”
He waits for a response as he moves a piece of my long brown hair out of my face and places it behind my ear. Remember, I just met the kid a day ago. But Molly and Nick didn’t have the most gracious beginning either so I thought why not? I figured it would make the times us four hung out even more fun. Plus, I was genuinely feeling him. And so, crazy Macey says yes. “You know what, yeah. I will be your girlfriend.” I somehow believed he was my ticket out. Clearly, I knew nothing.
The definition of insanity.
You know —when you do the same thing over and over again expecting different results. It’s like I secretly thought that dating another drug-dealing boy would solve all my problems. I thought because he could get me drugs, he’d continue getting me drugs. He had the connect and since I lost all of mine, I thought it was perfect. Oh, and I knew I liked him when I was on drugs so I figured I’d still like him if I wasn’t. I also knew I liked to get high and I knew he could help me stay that way. So yeah, I was definitely insane.
Because drugs and money only go so far until you have to do bad things to get them. The truth is, he was broke. Yeah, he knew a shit ton of dealers, but he had no way of getting to them or getting shit from them without some help. I guess I forgot about that. I also forgot that this kid (or any kid for that matter) wasn’t actually going to help me be happy. I mean, I once thought these pills were keeping me alive, when really, they were killing me —one line, one bag, one needle at a time.
Next stop, the Boca Mall.
For any of you who don’t know, this mall is probably the prettiest I’ve ever seen. I mean, some parking spots come with a free car wash. Technically though, it’s called Boca Town Center —a very classy town center; the classiest, in fact. But we were about to put the ass in class. High as fuck, the four of us stroll hand in hand as we walk in. We were just killing time. My halfway house thought I was at a meeting. Nope. American Apparel it was. Molly and I go straight to the body con dresses. We pick out a few we liked.
Then, we head to the dressing room to try them on. We had no intention of buying anything. I mean, we had to save our cash for drugs (obviously). And even if we wanted something, we couldn’t afford anything at this store anyway. But we were still going to have a good time —starting now. Nate sneaks into the dressing room with me. He kisses my neck as I unzip my pants and throw on a dress. He says I looked really hot. I walk out to show Molly who ironically is wearing the same thing.
We strike a few poses while Nate takes our picture.
We walk back into the fitting room after that. I wasn’t about to steal a dress (even though I kind of wanted to). I say that because I’m pretty sure Molly did. I was an addict who would do anything to stay high but I don’t steal. Well, I don’t steal shit from malls. Back then, I would have stolen your pills or something expensive to pawn for them but that was it. Anyway, a few outfits later, we put our normal clothes back on.
Nick was hungry so we head towards the food court. Nate and I were so high, food was the last night on our minds. I had to pee anyway. Nate says he knows a nearby bathroom so he shows me the way. It happens to be a one-room backroom with a lock. For some reason, he wants to come in with me. “Are you really going to watch me pee?” I ask. He turns around and says, “I’ll be a gentleman and look away.” I finish, wash my hands and as I’m about to unlock the door, he stops me.
I guess this was his move, which I still liked. I even had the chills.
He leans in and kisses my lips moving down toward my neck. His hands are around my waist as he rounds second base for the very first time. He looks down at me (he was a few inches taller) and says, “Ever do it in a public bathroom?” I hadn’t. I turn to him and reply, “There’s a first time for everything, right?” Well, as soon as that last syllable came out, he pushes me against the wall. I’m sure you can guess what happens next.
I won’t give you the gory details but I’ll tell you a few minutes later, he covers my mouth in a sexual kind of way. There was a line for the bathroom so I couldn’t be too loud. He grabs my hair while his hands are still covering my mouth —he knew just what to do. This was freedom, I remember thinking. I felt pretty badass. I was high as fuck doing it in a public bathroom. What could be better? Well, I can think of several better things but that’s how I felt back then.
A few minutes later, we put our clothes back on.
“That was so hot, Macey,” he whispers. I kiss him on the lips. He kisses me back. We wash up and exit one at a time —thinking we are pretty sly. I guess we were because we never got into trouble for it. We start laughing as we pass the others in the line. “It’s all yours,” I scream and then we run away. Sex must have been written across my forehead. It was definitely all over his. We find Molly and Nick sitting at a random table near the falafel spot at the food court.
We take a seat and join them. “What were you guys doing?” Molly asks. “Oh nothing you wouldn’t do,” I reply. We all bust out laughing. I think they knew what went down. And I know for a fact, they loved it. We shoot some shit and once they’re done, I realize I have to get back to my halfway house for our weekly suite meeting. They knew how strict curfews and such were, so they drive me home. I kiss my new boyfriend goodbye and he says he’ll text me first thing tomorrow.
Flash-forward one day.
I suppose word had gotten back to the other girls in the house that I wasn’t attending my daily meetings. I said I was but when one of them asked about me to a friend who ran that meeting, he says he hadn’t seen me in at least a week, which was true. I mean, the last several days, no one really knew what I was up too. But they never had a reason to question me either. Before this particular day, I hadn’t yet been asked to pee in a cup. I figured my peeps at IOP were reporting back to the house manager, Tara.
Until now. So it’s a little bit before dinner. I had just gotten back from a “meeting” but really, I was getting high with Nick and Nate. I think they were catching on. I say that because, I’m sitting on my bed, zoning out feeling really good when Tara walks in. She wasn’t supposed to be here. My roommate, Dani was at work and from my take, she wasn’t getting kicked out. So what was this all about? Deep down, I knew. My heart was racing.
“Hey Macey,” she starts. “I’m sorry to have to do this, but I need you to pee in this cup for me. OK?”
As the words left her mouth, I had no idea what I was going to do next. But I comply. I was trying to play it cool while I thought of something. Spoiler alert, there was nothing left to do. But I walk into the bathroom like I had nothing to hide. It was protocol for the house manager to observe the addict when doing a drug test. And so, when I go to pull down my pants, she’s watching me —all of which I knew. As my butt hits the cold toilet seat, I have nothing. I sit there for a moment longer, still trying to think of an excuse.
Still nothing. I could pretend I was pee shy but only for a minute or two. So after those two minutes, I start crying. I decide to go with the truth. There really weren’t any other moves. I tell her that I’m not going to pass. I emphasize how sorry I am. I tell her that I’ll pack up my stuff and get out right away. I had to sell it. Funny thing was, my tears were real. I did feel bad, most likely because I had just been caught. Still, I’m no monster and now that I failed this test, I had no idea what lay ahead.
I did the crime but I wasn’t prepared to do the time.
I knew my family would kill me. Where would I go? Tara tries to calm me down. I was freaking out. Tears wouldn’t stop streaming down my face as we make our way into the living room (luckily, no one else was home). I remember thinking, OMG. I’m so fucked. I mean, they kicked Molly out at 3:00 a.m. What would make me any different? The consequences of my actions were officially here and this girl couldn’t handle. Tara leaves the room for a moment to call the owner, Janel to find out what to do with me.
For some odd reason, Tara comes back with good news. Apparently, Janel said that she sees something in me that she doesn’t see in anyone else here —verbatim. Holy shit. They aren’t going to kick me out. Instead, they put me on probation. My 10:00 p.m. curfew was now 8:00. I had to attend NA and/or AA meetings every day to gain back their trust. Oh, and to prove I was actually there and not just pretending, I also had to get a signature from the person running it. Ugh. That’s the last thing I wanted.
That’s what I was worried about? Chilling and getting high with my new boyfriend? Ice cold. But I wasn’t going to tell them that. I pretend to be happy and that I will do anything and everything to gain back their trust. That was a bold face lie. Eventually, they find that out too. In short (full explanation here), Nate comes over first thing that next morning to pick me up. He didn’t have a car but his friend did. So I pretend I’m going to a meeting but really, we ride around all day getting high.
I was trying to pretend that I didn’t almost get kicked out. I needed to escape. Before I know it though, it’s 7:45 p.m. I have 15 minutes to get back before trouble starts but I was having such a good time, I didn’t want to leave. And I can’t believe what I’m about to tell you but once again, these pills trumped my right vs. wrong. I knew I should have just gone home right then and there. But I didn’t. In fact, I did the exact opposite. Needlesstosay, I was no longer a resident at that halfway house.
So yeah, my life became a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I created exactly what I feared most. I knew by getting high I would eventually get caught, but I did it anyway. Except, it didn’t go down as you might think. The most ironic part is —I basically kicked myself out. I say that because a few minutes later, I text Janel telling her that I relapsed again. Clearly, I was not thinking straight. It’s just, Nate’s offer to live with him seemed like the answer to all of my problems. Plus, I knew since I was on probation, I wouldn’t get another second chance. This was my second chance.
So, I write to her insisting that I’ll have my things out by the end of the week. I also apologize for everything. I really was sorry. So, what happened after that? Well, I turned my phone off. If I can be honest, I didn’t know what she’d say and I didn’t want too. I made my bed but I most definitely couldn’t lie in it. In fact, I couldn’t do anything —until I did. But not yet. Not for a long fucking time. When I did turn my phone back on the next morning, I had 55 voicemails and about 200 missed calls.
All from my mom, dad, and sister as well as Janel, who just spilled the beans.
Apparently right after I sent the text, she called my family to fill them in on what I had done. So now, they knew I ran away. They were worried. They didn’t know who I was with, what I was doing or if I was even alive. I ignored them all. I was still trying to figure out what the fuck I was going to do let alone tell them. I had no idea what my next move was so I had to stall for as long as it took for me to figure out a solid plan. I snort a bunch of pills and tell myself that I’ll figure it out later. Really, Macey? Yeah.
But I want you to learn from my mistakes because back then, I made plenty. I want you to forget about the fast life. If you really want to fly, harness your power into your passion —that’s what I do because today, I see color. Because it always seems better from afar. I mean, I risked everything to inject chemicals into my body and chain-smoke cigarettes all day? That’s freedom? That’s living? No. Not at all. Like I said though, eventually, I figure it out. But yeah, for a minute there, I lost myself.
I honestly didn’t think I’d ever find my way back. But as time went on, I started making good decisions. And so, the addict brain in me healed. Because it’s not about drugs that make someone a drug addict. It’s about the need to escape reality. When you’re genuinely happy, there’s no need to escape. So honor your calling and yourself. Everybody has something. Trust your heart and a new normal will come. Because we don’t recover from addiction by merely stopping our drug of choice.
We recover by creating a new life we actually want to live in.
*names have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals involved.
Timelines wise, after I was kicked out, I became even more desperate —if that’s even possible. In short, Nate and I both start living on the streets. We couch hop and when we really had nowhere else to go, I end up meeting Satan himself two fucking times. It got worse but it did get better.
For the specifics, until my next post, I encourage you to check out the below, which includes the associated articles (in chronological order) describing just how worse it got.