I walk down the hallway, my hands already shaking, going over the routine in my head over and over and over before I actually sit down and start it.
When I do, it goes smoothly. I find my vein with no effort, and a small sigh escapes me, even before I depress the plunger.
With the bright red plume of blood in the syringe as I draw back into the clear, brownish liquid, my entire body relaxes. It’s trance-like, watching that swath of red in the water.
As soon as the needle is out and that warm feeling creeps through my body, slowly, deliciously, and my head begins to nod, I go about the rest of my routine. Meticulously cleaning, putting away, hiding. No trace of who I become and what I do when I become that person every few days must be left in sight.
Addiction is not new to me. I was an addict for years. But I had been clean for a decade. A decade without the itch, without the whisper, without the caress.
Then one day, feeling out of control, I decided once more wouldn’t hurt. It would get me through that tough time, and I’d be done again.
Wrong. Liar. I am a liar. I lied to myself, I lied to everyone else.
For months, I justified it. Never around the kids. Never with money that could be used to support the kids. I sold other, personal, prescription drugs that I rightly needed, in order to fund what I would privately and ironically refer to as “mommy’s time out.”
I tried to lay the blame solely on the environment I was in and the people I was with at the time. But that was incorrect. While those were two huge contributing factors, it boiled down to one thing: I’m selfish.
And how do you cope with that realization? How do you deal with the knowledge that you are a parent who loves your children beyond life, yet is so selfish you’d risk death every Monday and Tuesday, just for a little bit of a break. A time out.
When I met my fiance, he knew. He knew before I told him. He was no stranger to that life. He had walked away a long time ago and maintained the strength to stay away. We talked. Many times. Many nights. What it boiled down to was if I wanted him, I had to choose. But not choose him. I had to choose myself and my kids. I had to choose life. I had to understand it in those terms, and stop being selfish. To choose him would once again be placing my needs in the forefront. Something that I clearly needed to stop doing. So, he broke it down that way. Any more needles, and the fringe benefit to life right now, him, would be gone. But I would lose so, so much more. No, he would never betray me in calling me a danger to my children or anything like that, but I would be losing what I was trying to create with him for my childrens’ sake. Something much bigger than my own companionship.
Being a parent has never been easy in the history of parenting. Being a single parent, finally finding a partner, and building a family? Even harder. And I was in danger of losing it all.
So, I did the smart thing. I did what I would eventually come to realize was somewhat self-motivated after all.
I quit cold.
Do I still get that itch? Yes. Sometimes it’s so maddening I tear my hair out and cry and scream.
But I’ve remembered what’s more important. I’ve remembered that there are other ways to get by.
Fiance has helped. He distracts me when I crave. He scoops me up, away from the places of my rituals, makes me laugh, holds me while I cry, assures me I’m not the piece of shit I feel like I am. When the sun comes up, he gathers the children around us and shows me what it’s all about and why this alternative is so much better.
And now, at the end of the first bend in this part of my road, I find myself with even more motivation growing quietly inside of me. Depending on me to stay clean and stable.
I once said I didn’t believe the “once an addict, always an addict” adage. I do now. But what I still refuse to believe is that there’s no hope left. Especially for parent addicts. We get through so much and manage to stay strong. We can get through relapses and come out clean on the other side, too. If you’re reading this and these words ring true to you, know this: I am. I’m making it. So can you. And I believe in you even if you don’t believe in yourself right now.
The poster wishes to remain anonymous.