My Shield Against the Demons of Active Addiction.


by J.D

A mass of demons, far as one can see. Glimmering malice in their eyes as they rush forward, relentlessly charging.

But before them, stands a single man.

Muscular, blue, spandex costume, with an iconic five-pointed star on his barrelled chest, Captain America swings his arm, and in a blinding speed, his large round shield, made of the near-indestructible vibranium alloy, shoots at an angle and ricochets off dozens of these demons’ heads – causing them to explode in fire and brimstone – before spinning back to his outstretched hand.

Yet, the demons still come, and yet he still unwaveringly faces them.

This is my most recent dream of the most noble of the Avengers. Why is he so recurring? Maybe because I always get a sense of feeling safe in these dreams, protected by a symbol of selfless struggle in defence of the defenceless.

I guess I fear falling to my own demons. I struggle with them every day. And not just with Addiction, but my bipolar disorder – which is caused by how my malfunctioning frontal cortex processes emotions.

And I do get so, so emotional…

There was an advert I saw off YouTube. An award-winning ad.

The music that plays throughout is soulful and a little sad. An old man lives in an apartment with his dog. The ad starts off with the veracious canine leaping onto this older gentleman’s bed and licking his face with great affection. Now awake, the old man enjoys a cup of tea while petting his best friend. And then, goes out into the city, with his sweet-natured animal companion always by his side.

The old man walks about, stopping off at places such as a bakery or a cafe, and his best friend sits waiting patiently outside.

The ad cuts to the old man in his apartment, watching TV on a sofa, his dog beside him. Suddenly, he holds his head in pain. Next, our ears hear the whine of an ambulance’s siren, as the old man sees, through its backdoor window, his loyal companion chasing desperately after him.

The old man is wheeled into a hospital on the ambulance’s stretcher, with medical staff attending to him. One of the medics closes the hospital’s doors just as the dog tries to come through.

The sad, but soulful, music continues to play. There is a quick flit of scenes, all with the dog waiting close by the hospital entrance, to show time passing. Waiting patiently for the human he loves. Day. Night. Sunshine. Rain.

The dog rests his head on the ground, and we can feel his weariness, but undying loyalty.

And then, finally, the hospital glass doors are opened, and a woman is wheeled out by her family. The dog gets up, no longer mournful, and runs to her, putting his paw on her lap. She strokes his face as she smiles.

The screen fades to black and we see:

Become an organ donor.

I watched it while around people I work with. I started choking and rushed to the bathroom, where, once out of sight, huge blobs of tears streamed down my face.

I tried my best not to think of that ad for the rest of the day. When I came back to my desk, my work partner looked at me knowingly, and then said – as his eyes darted back to his computer monitor – “Quite an ad.”

I just nodded, suddenly struggling to breathe.

Most people were moved by that ad. But I nearly dried into husk from the water lost through my tear-ducts. That’s my experience of living with an intense mood disorder, which I once used strong spirits to inure myself from. Alcohol did the trick. Till it eroded away my life, and I drowned in demons I couldn’t deal with in a functional way.

Now I’ve learnt how to live with bipolar. Even though every emotion is overwhelming. Anger threatens to boil into an all-consuming rage. Love throws me headfirst into an enveloping ecstasy of madness. Anxiety reverberates the world around me – I can’t breathe, I can’t do anything, but silently scream desperately to escape. And sadness spins into a storm of misery, quenching the sun from the sky.

And the worst. Rejection, from anyone, especially friends or romantic partners, is like being cast out of Eden, forever. Feeling like your soul was laid bare and found severely wanting.

Using substances became such a demonic way to control or suppress my emotions. Now I cope with them through writing, by painting, and photography. I cope with them by following the suggestions of Houghton House’s staff. And of course, through implementing, in my own way, the tenants of recovery.

When I was in my darkest place, in the depths of active addiction, when the horde was overcoming me, Houghton House rescued my soul. And now, because I continue to see my councillor every week, she stands by me, making sure I always hold a shield made of indestructible hope, ready to be hurled spinning against the darkness.

I don’t know if I’ll ever defeat my demons. But I’ll be damned if I ever give up the fight.

Living a life of recovery, that is my shield. It helps me become something I never thought I could be: to myself, a hero.

For standing against our demons no matter what…

We are all heroes.