Thursday, May 22, 2008

An Honest Question

I'm reading through Donkette's latest series of posts about her recovery from what seems to be very heavy addiction. It's informative, and something I hope her daughter is reading and aware of.

But I have a question. Not just for Donkette, but for all the recovering (and non-recovering) addicts out there in our little world. Why?

I grew up in a fairly stable middle-class family and never really wanted for anything. I'd say my childhood was average - filled with friends, extra-curricular activities, school, scraped knees, and all those other things one would expect. I went through a tough stretch in grade school where I was essentially friendless and depressed, but that turned around before high school, and I found my niche. High school was standard, where I got good grades, had good friends, and had fun. But here's where paths seem to diverge - I generally stayed out of trouble and NEVER did drugs.

Bear in mind - I was introduced to booze when still in single-digits. Standard curiosity I suppose - dad would have a beer and I was curious. One day he let me have a drink. I suppose most kids screw up their faces and say, "ewww!" But I liked it and wanted more. This isn't a story of addiction though, as I've never come anywhere near alcoholism. Dad would pour me a shot glass of beer every once in a while when he was having one, and I'd sip it. That was all. By my teen years, wine with big family dinners or the occasional beer were no big deal. I never had the desire to have more.

In high school, I hung out with the druggies and the smokers. Not once was I pressured into trying anything. In fact, I became the guy who could be handed a cigarette to hold because everybody knew I wouldn't even be tempted to take a drag. I didn't see the point. Why would I choose to start smoking? It looks ridiculous to have a smoldering stick of paper in your mouth. My generation was well-educated on the perils of smoking and what was actually IN those things. I had no desire to inhale tar, nicotine, and the countless other chemicals and poisons found in a cancer stick. If my friends did, that was their call. I reeked of smoke, but never once took so much as a drag.

Same with the drugs. I'd watch them take speed, drop acid, and smoke up in the park behind the strip mall. Then I'd laugh endlessly as they freaked out over having two left hands or claiming the drugs hadn't kicked in while they were chasing fireflies that nobody else could see. Again, after being asked the first time and refusing, there was never any pressure on me to join in. Maybe they were actually my friends, and not junkies looking for codependents. Hell, I'm still friends with those that didn't get burnt out or fucked up. The hard stuff was seldom seen - there were a couple of them who discovered coke, and tried heroin, but that was kept behind closed doors.

Ditto in University. More than once did I find myself at a party with a bong being passed around, which I gladly passed to my left without even a thought of trying it myself. I was happy to get drunk and loud... but even at my slurry and wobbly-best, drugs weren't an option as far as I was concerned. By this time, anything harder than weed wasn't really seen among my current group of friends, although many had tried others in the past.

I'd seen the burnouts, the freakouts, the flashbacks, and the pathetic lives that resulted from overindulging and addiction. I knew going in that these were all very real possibilites. The seldom-used rational part of my brain seemed to be working here and it was clear to me that the consequences weren't worth the high. Add in a healthy fear of getting caught and the illegality of it, and I was staying clean as a whistle.

I'm honestly not trying to come off as holier-than-thou here. I'm just trying to lay out why I'm confused by this. Most of the stories of recovery that have come out in our group start with "I had a good childhood." Middle-class, stable families with strong values and lots of love. Then they seem to turn on a dime with "I started using drugs around this time." With little rationale behind WHY people started. Was it boredom? Peer pressure? Rebellion against authority? Straight-up stupidity? I mean, if your stories started with "My dad was an abusive jerk who beat my alcoholic mother and me when I wasn't out with the street gangs." I could understand the cultural and societal pressure to some degree. But these stories start with descriptions that could just as easily be my life... why the other path? I even get smoking and weed, to a degree, as they're fairly comparable to alcohol in terms of recreational use. I'm not asking about why you KEPT doing it, or why you couldn't see you were an addict, or why you turned to harder drugs... I'm asking why you tried it that first time, because frankly, I don't get it.


OhCaptain said...

I had a similar background to you. I was pretty much not tempted in high school. I knew people that were using, but I didn't have many friends and the ones I did have, well, we were nerds.

When I got to college, I didn't want to be a nerd any more and was just hoping to find a more exciting group of friends. Many people were experimenting with drugs and alcohol. I found out I was good at drinking it. I tried some other substances and figured something out. I didn't like being high. I'm a control freak. I like being in control. Getting high meant someone else or something else could be in control.

A few of my friends there didn't find that path and some got pretty messed up. We called one friends parents to come get him and take him to treatment. He was out of control by college guy standards. Another friend of mine figured out how to spend tens of thousands of dollars on coke. His parent's money. My parents would have been homeless I had I tried that.

I saw this happening to people and it made me very uninterested in exploring further. Kind a like the feeling I have now playing top two pair. Sure, people say it may be good, but it scares the crap out of me.

I consider myself lucky. I had chances to go down the road that leads to trouble. After leaving school, I had a job working in a bar as a DJ and periodic bartender. Meth was on the way in. I saw more people just destroy themselves. I stuck to beer. Tastes good and gets me full.

More people I knew were getting their life destroyed.

I quit working in the bar when I met my wife. I didn't want to lose her and working in a bar like this was bad for our future. I knew this. My new found love didn't drink much. Her mother is an alcholic. I didn't care. Drinking wasn't that important to me.

Astin, I don't understand why people chose to go those paths and I don't think we ever will. We are the lucky ones. The decisions to us seem simple. I know some of the people in my life that have become addicts were very smart people. The friend in college doing the coke, he had a 4.0 GPA.

One thing I do know. I applaud the people that make it back. I hug them and am so grateful that they are clean. I help them in any way I can to stay clean. I refuse to enable anyone, but I never assume I understand what its like to be an addict.

SirFWALGMan said...

Why is the million dollar question of human existence. Why is my sister a total screwup and I am successful by societal norms.. Why does one person get hooked on alcohol and someone else on video games or cooking(heh). Who the hell knows what makes one ghetto kid a stellar student and a benefit to society and another a lifer. Sometimes I think it is just as simple as the choices we make and other times I think it is far more complicated than that. Who the hell can really answer a question like that? I am not sure.

Alan aka RecessRampage said...

I totally hear ya. Like you and I could swap childhood and we won't know the difference.

Donkette said...

I'm not really sure there is a concrete answer to the question. It's certainly nothing that one would aspire to be.

Wwonka said...

Why? Why do some people Drink every day after work? Why? there are alot of different reasons. Some cause they like the taste some to forget their problems.

I grew up in an Upper Middle Class Family. I played football in High school but hung out with the stoners too.

I have never been a huge drinker But I love to smoke to relax.

Just my drug of choice After many years of experimenting I have found that Alcohol just doesn't agree with my body. College was a blast drinking and smoking every day one big party.

Its funny I have always wondered what made people take the next step to a certain drug. I tried Cocaine 4 times and decided that it wasn't for me. Acid, crack heroin No thank you. I was and still am that that shit could Kill me.

Why cause it was there and I wanted to.

Schaubs said...

That is one long ass question.

I think the answer you are looking for is:

It depends.

Unknown said...

I will defer to the age old adage.......

If you have to ask, you'll never understand.