I woke up choking. The air wasn’t getting down my wind-pipe and I was almost positive that I’d gotten sick and almost asphyxiated. I had thought that the night terrors of him were gone. But, almost 6 years clean and sober, practicing recovery every second of every day, I still am human and prone to err.
I was sick this weekend. This was the first weekend that I’d been sick in a very long time and the weather didn’t help. It was extremely humid, I had the flu, and with horrendous sleep apnea I was having problems functioning properly. I felt very agitated and that my mind was blank during the day, but while I was sleeping I was having these night terrors, again.
I couldn’t make out what the night terrors were about on the first night, I just remember something with my dog and my dad. But the second night things had gotten worse. I saw him…
He—my old partner in crime, the guy who'd shot me with heroin the first time—was riding around in his old beat-down escort that we would go pick up dope in. His hat was slicking his hair back and the two front buck teeth he had were glaring out at me. Before I knew it wasn’t on the sidewalk anymore, either. I was sitting right next to him! It felt just like the “old days,” and it wasn’t a pleasant feeling.
We're doing all of the same old things that we would in our addiction, and while everything felt so real, I knew that it couldn’t be until he pulled out a needle and I wasn’t waking up. I felt paralyzed in my sleep and was screaming at myself trying to snap out of it, but I couldn’t. I was told that sleep apnea would give you a paralyzing sleep, but I didn’t know it could be this true.
I’d always struggled with PTSD inducing night-terrors in my early recovery, and they were always of this same scenario, this scenario... but I thought that I’d gotten over it! But just like everyone else on this Earth, I’m human too. There are no resentments anymore, but maybe only with this dream, it was a triggered fear that I’d kept hidden secret until my body said, “I can’t handle it right now.”
I was running a fever both of those nights, and whatever the trigger may be, the flu sure felt like being dope sick again. That? That is something that I’m deathly afraid of, too! So what did it do? It triggered me back into my same old habits and thoughts but only through a dream that I couldn’t wake up from.
The nightmare dreaded on and we proceeded to head down to Detroit where we were copping some heroin and our old buddy was there at the roundabout ready with two 50’s just like the good (or bad) ole days. This same scenario that I try to keep locked away in my book, ILLICIT: Life in the Eyes of an Addict, seemed to be reading itself to me while I slept! I try to keep my book a closed story so there are no wartime reminiscence and the recovery can move me forward instead, but to this day the only thing to trigger me so hard is the flu and its similarities to feeling dope sick.
And the moment I woke up, it was terrifying, but I didn’t let it control me. I woke up to the drop of the dope going down, and immediately choking. My wife looks over at me and asks if I’m alright, and you know something… here’s the kicker. I told her NO! “No, I’m not okay!” and that’s the best thing that I could’ve done. Why? Because we don’t have to struggle in any of these battles alone. I thank the Lord each and every day that she is there when I wake up because she’s there for me as much as I am for her.
So whether you experience this or not, the ultimate conclusion from this story is that 1) You’re not alone and 2) It’s 100% okay to ask for help! So don’t let an old horse keep you down, in fact let it grip you up, and grow you stronger. Because if any pop music and lyrical citations are needed here we can use it: “IT WAS ONLY JUST A DREAM!” and by asking for help we keep it as a dream and not a reality. Don’t make it a reality. You and I have worked too damn hard for our recovery, so get out there and kick today’s @$$!
And now I ask, "Do any of you feel like this?" It’s completely normal and I know people with 3X as much clean time as me that still get these feelings and emotions. But being someone who tries to lead with example in recovery I must tell you that I am no celebrity figure, I am no different than you in this struggle, and I may have a great example to lead by, but I still struggle and the answer to this problem is that it’s okay to do so, too! Just remember to not let it ruin you, control you, or become you. Remember to wake up and kick addiction’s ass with a dose of recovery nonetheless, no matter the situation!
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