Once upon a time, after eight years of doing any and all drugs that came my way, I decided that I wanted to be sober. My friends (all of whom were users at the time) didn’t buy it and neither did my family. Which is not surprising because after all, I didn’t know if it was what I truly wanted myself; I certainly still enjoyed getting high, and furthermore I saw using almost as an aspect of my personality. I’m not sure I fully understand, to this day, why I suddenly got the idea to live sober, but I did. Maybe all those moments in the dark when reality is at its densest finally just added up. Perhaps it was the inevitable aggregate of all the traumas I had suffered over the years.
I had no money for rehab, and due to my previous experience, AA was out of the question. I chose instead to spend every minute of my free time, at a local 24-hour pancake house where I could smoke, drink endless amounts of coffee, and write to let the poison out. This way I could stay clear of temptation, and if anyone wanted to find me they knew where to look. So there I was, sitting at a table in a 24-hour-pancake-house with two of my friends who had come to try and lure me away from my storm cave.
They started in with the usual bullshit about how I should go party with them and I didn’t have to do anything I didn’t want to do and besides it’s not that big a deal if I just have a couple or hit a joint once or twice…
Don’t get me wrong, they meant well in their own way; unlike many of my “friends,” they genuinely missed my company; they knew I was down and just wanted to cheer me up the best way they knew how.
Anyhow, they were obviously high already and fairly loud especially because they were trying to get me excited about hanging out with them, and so my regular server who was busing a table nearby made some comment that to this day I can’t remember and the following short dialog then occurred:
Friend 1: So you don’t get high?
Friend 1: Never?
Server: No, and I never will
Friend 1: Why not?!
Server: … [shakes head]
Server: Do you really want to know?
Me: I do
Server: Well, I had this friend…
Friend 2: Wait! YOU have friends?!
So she rolled her eyes and walked away from my friends uproarious laughter. Later, after I had declined repeated invitations and my friends had gone, I asked her to finish her story; the awkward exchange was still pulling at my mind because I had truly been curious, and for the first time, I felt embarrassed by my friends behavior. She did then, but it is not my place to recount it here, so it should suffice to say that like so many people, she had been hurt by someone close to her because of their drug use and had reluctantly cut them out of her life. It was a simple story, and one everyone knows, but for some reason it resonated in my mind. Suddenly, I was picturing all of the people and relationships I had ruined or lost in favor of partying and these thoughts coalesced into a vision of a different server in another restaurant who had once been a close friend and romantic interest of mine telling one of her regulars that same story about me. I couldn’t take it, and it was in that moment that everything changed. I finally understood how my actions effected those who cared for me, and further that the decisions I made could irreparably damage the people and relationships I valued. I spent the better part of the next two years sitting in that restaurant and then…
I turned 21.