It is my one-year wedding anniversary.
Somehow I managed to not only piece myself together and stay sober, but I managed to be an equal to another human being. Another person who accepted my faults, my flaws, and stood with me on this journey. It’s amazing, amazing how Chris stuck with me during my mess. During the lies. Through rehab and relapse. Why are the people we love the most the ones we are harshest to? Why are the ones who love us the ones we push away? He watched a child fall on his face over and over again, watched me stumble and cry in defeat until finally, finally those little shards of light seeped through the cracks.
And I began to emerge.
The today me.
The person who writes these words.
Not just writes them, but lives them. The person who shares from experience instead of fear. Who stands tall. Not the kid in middle school hunched over, head to the ground, shrouded by a black hoodie.
No longer the person who said he was going to a gas station across the street then disappeared for an hour. Disappeared because my dealer was late. Or worse, didn’t show. Then the mad scramble to find a backup plan B. Only to come home with Chris wondering why it took so long to get gas.
I got lost, I’d say. I’m so bad with directions.
Then I couldn’t find my credit card. Searched for like a half hour, I’d say.
And a few good songs came on so I drove around to listen, I’d say.
I’d say, I like to take my time.
I’d say something like, the gas station was closed so I drove to another.
Or saw an old friend and we chatted.
Or someone hit my car, but luckily there was no damage.
The lies just poured out. With no thought. No plan. Simple as turning on a faucet in my head, then out pours a flood of bullshit. And for whatever reason, people believed it. Maybe because I believed it. Which is the scariest part of all. I began to believe the crap spouting from my lips. I guess a good liar knows how to improvise on command, but a great liar – the addict – believes his own lie.
It’s an art of survival.
Because to be a successful addict, reality is tossed out the window. And by successful, I don’t mean a hailstorm of cash falls from the sky into your lap. I don’t mean you can have a life beyond your wildest dreams while still using drugs. I think we all know that is impossible. A successful addict is the one who moves full steam ahead at all cost, no matter who or what he hurts in the process. The successful addict has a tool belt of lies, stories, vices and means to get whatever he wants. The successful addict is an unstoppable tornado.
Until he stops.
Or is stopped.
I’ve got the flawless addict track record. A scorecard that qualifies me to share my experience with hopes someone will take something from it. In hopes someone makes the same mistake and realizes they are not alone. In hopes someone possibly puts the drug down.
The bottle down.
The gun down.
And see it’s okay to own the past.
It’s okay to embrace who you are.
Where you’ve been.
Because our path is what gives us life. It’s what makes us human. It’s what gives us a story to tell and light to share.
I heard someone in a meeting once say she became a wife in AA. She became a mother in AA. She became someone respectable in AA. I remember hearing her speak those words and thinking to myself –
I want that.
Today I ‘m able to say that I am a husband. Today I can say I’ll be a father by this time next year. Today I can say no life I ever imagined for myself could compare to the life I have today. No grandiose dream of being the greatest movie star, to win three Academy Awards, to be the most famous celebrity – it could never equal the authenticity of my life today.
I don’t know how it happens, because it’s not easy. It is one of those day by day by day things when some of those days feel like everything is crashing down. Other days I’m skipping across a rainbow toward a pot of gold.
Yes I went to meetings often and still go about once a week.
Yes I worked with a sponsor through the twelve steps.
Yes I worked with sponsees.
Yes I went to outpatient therapy for over a year.
Yes I see a psychologist regularly.
Yes I do things to fill me with esteem – and, yes, it takes work.
Yes I get lazy.
Yes I still have a tendency to isolate.
Yes I want to run from AA sometimes – and I do.
Yes I can be negative.
And yes, I am human.
Very much a work in progress and always progressing. Little by slowly, day by day. But with an open mind, an open heart and honest willingness. Willingness not to go back to old habits and familiar pain. Because that pain can still be so unbelievably exhilarating and comforting. It’s what I’ve known for so long.
My mind wanders back to a time when I worked for a storage facility. I was probably twenty-three years old, about a decade ago. Recently arrested for a DWI, driving while blacked out on Xanax. A life in less than pristine standing.
Here’s some background facts to get you in story mode:
I began dating a guy I met online.
My parents kicked me out of the house shortly after.
Me and the new boyfriend moved into a shitty old duplex together.
I had nothing to my name except for debt. No furniture, no accessories. Maybe a hundred dollars in my bank account.
I dropped out of college after a nervous breakdown, which was largely caused by an excess of drug use and depression.
I spent most time taking pills, drawing and learning monologues for an acting class I started taking.
That’s the background.
So I worked at this storage facility where I let people access their storage units and managed the property. My boss had an immense amount of trust in me because I can be a very charming, good worker when I want to be. And she was an alcoholic who had absolutely no idea of my history. I never shared my secrets with anyone.
She left me alone most days.
It started purely as curiosity.
There were tenants who hadn’t paid their rent in over a year. Those accounts were delinquent, usually with abandoned belongings. Like a garage of secrets. I was obsessed with finding out what people left in their unit, so I had an idea to cut the locks and see for myself. Besides, they were probably never coming back anyway.
Like a true Mission: Impossible effort, I stopped the security cameras and found spare locks to replace the ones I cut. In a few days I stocked up on dishes, glasses and random knick-knacks. But nothing exciting.
I soon realized these people abandoned junk and my curiosity in the delinquent accounts lessened. However the units kept up-to-date became much more appealing. I realized I could furnish our new apartment by cutting those locks and taking whatever we wanted.
My boyfriend rented a U-Haul. He pulled into the storage facility as I walked around with bolt cutters, emptying our findings into the truck. A full dining room set, silverware, two couches, a side chair, accessories, paintings. It was like shopping.
And to me –
To me, this shopping spree made perfect sense.
Because I needed it more than they did. I had no money. Was young and starting a life with my new boyfriend. We needed these things, essentials for our home. And it wasn’t stealing because we planned on putting it all back once we could afford our own. We were borrowing.
Borrowing isn’t stealing.
And no one would ever know.
And it’s really not a big deal.
And we should go get high now.
I showed up for work a few days later. It was raining. My boss looked as though someone had been murdered. She said the other employee was stealing. That she had been walking through the halls and noticed locks were being changed, like someone was cutting them. She was going to call the police.
This woman trusted me so much.
So much that she didn’t even suspect out of her only two employees, I was the thief. She automatically assumed it was the other guy.
My only option was to tell the truth. And I did. You could see the storm in her eyes. The billowing of grey clouds in her pupils, the thunder of a heart breaking.
She said I could go to jail. I didn’t mention I’d been there two months ago.
She then asked me to leave.
I don’t think she ever told anyone.
And me, somehow, I eventually pushed it out of my head. I felt so guilty, the pain so strong. I remember driving home in pouring rain, my heart pounding. I remember getting high with my boyfriend immediately after. I remember thinking I’d just get another job. Then thinking something local would be more convenient because the storage facility was like forty-five minutes away from our new apartment. Thinking how much better it would be to have a job nearby. And the storage facility wasn’t really a career path. I was better than that kind of work anyway. He and I laughing about the whole thing.
Thinking, everything worked out for the best.
The mind of a successful addict.
Today that memory fills my gut with ache.
I recount what happened, a story I used to gloat with pride, and now can’t help but wonder if it’s even wise to share.
Because it’s shameful.
But it’s true.
Today is my one-year wedding anniversary. I will be a father soon. I have a husband who loves me, parents who are proud of me. I have good friends. I’ve held the same job for six years. I own a home and furnished it honestly.
I am sober.
I am healthy.
I am an equal.
I am a good person.
Today I am happy.
Today I am someone worthy of marriage. Of a strong, beautiful relationship. Today I try to speak the truth, even if it’s uncomfortable. Today I am not the same person I was a decade ago. I’m not the same person I was a minute ago. We are constantly changing, learning. Bettering ourselves for the road ahead.
Because there is always something in the horizon worth fighting for.
Today I celebrate a year of marriage.
And today, today I accidentally forgot to get my husband a card.
I love you, Chris!
About the Book: Ryan Michael Sirois is author of the memoir,King of Stars. A modern coming of age story with themes of drug addiction, sexual exploration, spirituality and self-acceptance. The story follows Ryan as he faces issues of sexual identity and addiction, balancing worlds of light and dark, discovering himself by losing himself along the way. King of Stars shines light on the uncomfortable, on situations often left hidden in shadow. It is a voice for anyone who is searching, hiding, or standing still. Ryans book is for sale at ryansirois.com under the About the Book section.