Recovery Matters

Toni B – Cat and Meth Addict’s Success Story

Cat and Meth Addict’s Success Story

Rapid, blinking, bright lights are blinding me. I am lying naked on the cold tiled bathroom floor. The left side of my body is completely numb, I smile at the numbness, I cry at the numbness. The cold tiles on my bare skin helps ease the anxiety… I start to feel a tingle through my left leg that rises to the left corner of my mouth. I didn’t die. I don’t know whether to smile or cry over this… I smirk, realising that I have more time, more powder and more chaos to embrace.

I get up slowly and reach into my over sized and over used hand bag. My fingers pry for the decrepit cigarette box that has been lying in wait for the past 10 minutes. I’m back. I grab it and pull it out, feeling a sick excitement rise up quickly through my stomach. My ritual begins. First I pull out the medical aide card and my Exclusive books card, these two gems line the sides of my cigarette box. I always giggle at the irony of the medical aid card and I enjoy the ‘intellectual’ significance of the Exclusive Books card. I place the cards neatly on the plastic toilet seat that has seen countless interactions just like this one. Then the blue plastic knot is pulled from the bottom of my cigarette box, my heart pounds, my bowels turn…
I have knotted my sparkling delight tightly inside the plastic. I have to pry the knot open using my teeth. The plastic opens and there it is… my shiny dusty diamond… my meth. I drop a little rock onto the toilet seat, carefully pick up the medical aid card and crush the meth methodically. I employ the services of the Exclusive Books card now, both cards work together simultaneously, creating fine lines of twinkling excitement.

I pull out the perfectly severed straw, this little devil appears from the cigarette box too. And there it is… heaven. I know that I will experience more numbness, more acidic puking, more hallucinations, more exhaustion, more drama… and fuck it, it’s worth it.
This is the height of insanity. At 26 years old I am the mirror image of a mummified corpse, I am dying, I am exhausted, my memory is blurred… and I just want more. I was clean a while back, for a good 60 days and I hated every second of my sobriety. I manipulated my way through my second rehab centre and lied flawlessly to my counsellors and to my family alike. They all believed I was not an addict. Yes I had been to two rehabs, but I was just suffering complex post-traumatic stress syndrome. Poor me, poor me, pour me a drink…

This relapse will kill me. This relapse I can’t hide. They all know I’m using. My mother can’t look me in the eye… I can’t look her in the eye, hence, I selflessly offered to look after my aunts house. I am away from prying eyes and I am free to indulge my depravity as I see fit. This feels like the perfect life.

Isolation, bile, palpitations, mini strokes, hallucinating, stealing and paranoia. Yup… that was my perfection. Believing in that ‘perfection’ was my insanity. I was free. I was experiencing life. I was invincible… oh, and if I did die, I really didn’t care because I had ‘lived.’ Funny, looking back I never lived… ever. Only now, two years since that last line, do I know what living is. I was merely existing. Two years ago there was no sleep, the days molded into hours and Tuesday would become Friday in the blink of an eye. The exhaustion is what hurt me the most. The insanity that comes with sleep deprivation is what drove me to absolute madness.
I don’t know how it happened, but somehow I landed up locked up in my father’s office. He would not let me leave. I would be shipped off to rehab the next day for the third time. I had no way out. But in my mind, as soon as I finished the rehab program I would use again. There was no way I was going to get clean, there was no way I would change my lifestyle, there was no way I would ever live my life sober.

I hadn’t slept in a week. All I remember is sitting on the bricked driveway waiting to be collected by a counsellor. I cried – but only to make my father feel sorry for me. That did not work, he looked through me, he knew this routine too well. I was fucked. No way out. It was time to manipulate, survive, do my time and go straight back to using upon my exit.

So when did this all start? I wish I could pin point the exact moment I began my self-destruction, if only it was that easy. It’s not. The more I look into my past the more I realise that I have always been, well, different. Different in the sense that I have always been addicted to something or someone. I had only ever put myself in tumultuous situations. I never made good decisions, I always took that wrong turn. I wanted to explore that side of the life – the forbidden.

I have been to rehab three times, four if you count an outpatient programme I did for about a year. I have been in and out of institutions and on and off meds since I was 15. It all began with what I describe as my primary illness, my true battle and my hardest endeavor – anorexia. I was in and out of therapy throughout high school and varsity. My weight hit a low of 34kgs, and since then the highest my weight has been is 45kgs.

High school was defined by my eating disorder. Varsity was defined by my drinking. Every night was a black out. In fact, I can honestly say I don’t really remember much of varsity – only that everything was a drama, everything was anxiety and everything was vodka. During this time I got kicked out of my parents’ home, lived with my cousin, partied all day and all night and at my tipping point – tried to run over a group of my friends and wrote my car off in a golf course (having to call those friends to pick me up). The next day I went to my first rehabilitation centre. I stayed for a week. I was cured in my mind – so I left. When I left I experienced something so traumatic that I swore to stay clean. three months later I was vomiting on myself in a dingy club due to alcohol poisoning. I could not stay clean.

Then I discovered drugs – they kept me thin and I didn’t have to drink anymore (no one could smell alcohol on me and everyone thought I was doing well.) My first line of crystal meth ended in a 72 hour binge. My heart felt like it was going to explode – I vomited, I shook and I did more and more. In three days I had lost weight, in three days I had discovered something I had been seeking all my life and in three days I knew I was addicted.

I went from CAT to crystal for years. I was skin and bone, destructive and dangerous. At first I was out with friends for weeks at a time and then it ended with me, staying in my room or my car for days, using by myself, surfing pro-anorexic websites and meeting dealers in the dead of night. I thought I was happy. Legitimately – I thought I was in heaven.

I was caught by my mother and ended up in my second rehab. I stayed for 21 days. I was both in the eating disorder and Dual Diagnosis Unit. I lied my way through – left and relapsed on alcohol. Then I found my way into the rooms of NA. I stayed for about a month and relapsed after picking up some weight. This relapse was terrifying. I knew I would probably die or have a heart attack at some point but I couldn’t stop – I didn’t want to stop.

Again, I got called out. This time by my father. I was locked in a room and taken to Houghton House in the morning. I tried to jump out the car on the highway to avoid this fate. I did not want to stop using. Even after being hospitalised for a week while in Houghton House for pre-renal failure – I still wanted to use! I reluctantly entered rehab planning my relapse upon my release. That was two years ago.

The relapse never happened.

Houghton House changed my life and I still, to this day, do not know when the change happened – it’s still happening. I just do not want to go back to that point… ever.

The first time I cried in years was while in group at Houghton House – and it was a cry I needed. It was ok to be vulnerable. Another lesson I learned while in Houghton House was structure and learning to manage my life. We were given a schedule and we learned to stick to that schedule. I have taken that with me to this day. I keep to a schedule – one that makes my life manageable and makes me feel accomplished. I also learned how to tolerate people. In a rehabilitation environment you are faced with numerous people, with different opinions, in different points of denial. I lost my temper a few times but I was given the tools to handle these situations – and I use these tools to this day. The 12 step programme is a lifestyle and it is my lifestyle two years later. I am forever grateful for the tools I have been given.

After eight weeks in rehab I left for home. I refused any other treatment but upon my return home, upon witnessing myself in a dangerous environment, I made the choice to go to a halfway house where I stayed for six months. I then moved to a Sober House for a year and now I stay with two recovering addicts in our own place… our very own ‘sober house.’

During this time I got back onto my feet and to my surprise – I got the job of my dreams. To this day I have that job and I have soared in a work environment. I never thought I would get to this point, I thought I’d be dead before I had to become self-sustainable.

I have a fantastic relationship with my father and brother. I see them every Sunday. The strained relationship I had with them was deemed unfixable. I thought I had lost them and in all honesty I should have lost them. I have a family again – and I am damn proud of that fact.

I have put up boundaries, I know how to handle stress and I know when to recognise that I am slipping into old habits. I have an incredible sponsor, I have a solid relationship (one that is without destruction and drama) and I have felt real love for the first time in my life.

I am clean. I am grateful. I am me. And I have Houghton House to thank for that. After facing my demons (ones which I cannot mention), I have flourished. I no longer need drugs to cope – I have the tools. They come naturally now. Recovery is possible.

One more thing:

Admitting to your own vulnerability, suffering through it, genuinely acknowledging and working through it, is undeniably an agonizing, vein opening journey, fraught with epiphanies and of course, severe self-indulgence … but in the end it all leads to this awe inspiring moment… when you see not only yourself for the first time, but people for the first time. When you see them for who they truly are. And when it hurts to see the real you, and stings to see the real them… that’s when the veil of vulnerability lifts and strength seeps in… and you discover a little thing that you seem to have neglected – self-worth. And it’s beautiful.

Thank you Houghton House.

I owe you my life.

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