It was last December, and I was sitting in an AA meeting at the Onala Club. Of all places to have a spiritual experience, I really couldn’t have picked a more cliche location if I had tried, surrounded by these sad people, desperate for something to believe in other than themselves. I had almost everything I wanted and the things I didn’t have I was at least on the way towards getting. I had the corporate job with a fortune 500 company. I was back in school at Pitt and had just a couple semesters left to get my degree. I had a boyfriend who loved me and was sweet even when I hated myself too much to be kind (usually to him but also more recently to the incompetent service professionals that seemed to have an inordinate amount of power in my shiny new life). I had an adorable rescue dog. I’d even changed some of my core beliefs – namely that helping other people sucked. I volunteered at the food bank and tutored freshmen in accounting. My family trusted me again. Fuck I was happy. Even with the things that weren’t perfect yet. Even in this poorly lightly cesspool of spiritual dis-enlightenment on the side of East Carson Street. I was fucking happy.
Three months later, all those feelings were gone. Nothing had changed but my outlook towards my life. I wasn’t happy, with my demanding schedule, or my pushover, and probably secretly evil boyfriend. Why was I doing all of these things? They were sucking my joy faster than they were providing it. More importantly, the old anxiety was creeping back in. The thoughts of everything that I was doing was wrong, that I was wrong, and they were making me want to methodically remove the hair from sections of my scalp like I’d done when I was twelve. I’d also recently woken up from a sleep walking mishap with all of the dead skin missing from the bottom of my left foot and the lingering taste of sweaty socks in my mouth. I had to hand it to my anxious tics, they had gotten pretty clever. Attacking me with foot chewing in my sleep. At least it was original, but it was only a matter of time before they began their assault while I was conscious. I needed a drastic change if I was going to come out of this with a full head of hair.
That’s when I discovered cough medicine, and how it made me see the world with the rose colored glasses I’d found back in December. I promptly told my condescending prick of a sponsor to go fuck himself and quit AA. I honestly hated 99 percent of those people. No real loss in my book. They were masters at self deception, and after narrowly beating heroin addiction I was after truth. Truth seemed to be lacking in my perfect, sober, well adjusted life. That’s why I fell in love with cough medicine. And really after the heroin, it didn’t seem like such a harmful thing to use excessively and constantly throughout the day. Besides, it made me feel like how I imagined normal people felt every day substance free. Excited to talk to people and learn new ideas, and loved by the people that loved them. It was probably the dextromethorphan binding to the nMDA receptors in my brain, but I will spare you the pharmacological lecture because its not very interesting. Not like trying to find all of the different pharmacies within walking distance of my ridiculously priced apartment that carried my preferred brand of cough syrup. I had three on rotation to avoid any red flags at the cash register. When I found that CVS had started selling the drug in pill form that allowed me to avoid the gag inducing syrup I thought God had shined his healing rays of light directly on my sad little life.
The only real trouble came when my (justifiably) suspicious boyfriend went on a sober witch hunt in my file folders and found my secret checking account statements. I could hang myself from a short tree for keeping those fucking statements. If I had just thrown them in the trash and buried them with old takeout containers I would probably still have my old life. Peacefully sipping cough syrup and performing exceptionally well at the the aforementioned corporate job and full semester of classes at Pitt. Psychologists would probably tell me I wanted to be discovered. That the statements were a secret cry for help. The truth was that I had almost crippling obsessive compulsive disorder and couldn’t bear to throw away a detailed accounting of my erratic spending habits. It was just good information to have on hand when I had a panic attack over where all my paychecks were disappearing to. I could then easily see that it was the cough syrup. Yes, the fucking cough syrup.
When he found the receipts I think he thought that I was buying condoms from the various pharmacies and having secret gangbangs while he was at work. I almost preferred he think that honestly. It was just too embarrassing to be caught rotating pharmacies to hide your raging cough medicine habit. I did what I always did when confronted with the truth, and proof to back it up. I lied. I lied with the emotional attachment that only a pathological liar can summon on command. Dan saw through it, even though he pretended to be convinced so I would stop with my far-fetched explanations. But I knew that he knew, and it was time to stop. Besides, I really felt like I was starting to fry my brain with all of the dextromethorphan. My synapses were worn out and needed a break.
So we decided to start drinking together.
And so came three months of guiltless fun, followed by two months of vicious hangovers and blackout fighting. “You should have really never started drinking again” I told him one morning while desperately searching for a psychiatrist who would prescribe me Klonopin. I couldn’t deal with the rebound anxiety from the alcohol and the shame brought on by waking up to memories of all the terrible things I did and said the night before.
I work well with doctors, and I soon had a script to benzos, my second love. Even sooner, I graduated back to heroin (my first and only true love) because when you are popping Klonopin like off brand herbal supplements, really, what is the difference?
And as it always did, heroin brought me back to hating everything about my life, instead of just most of it.
Cycle complete, my job was finished.
Time to start rebuilding.