Adderall and the memory of snorting pills doesn’t leave me. No matter how much I want the pills to dissolve into emptiness and nothingness – they stay with me, forever ingrained – as if they are still a part of me.
My relapse dreams consist of different years and chapters and scenes, but the plot is always the same – me, snorting a pill, hating myself for losing my recovery time, and then lying about it – most often to my parents and to the friends who wanted to save me in past years. I can’t disappoint them again. I don’t want to. It will break their heart. I lie to keep the truth protected, to keep my parents proud.
There is a Macklemore song I listen to on my daily runs – Starting Over – about throwing away three plus years and what he will do and who he will tell and how is he even capable of telling this truth. There is a line that always gets to me: “And you know what pain looks like/When you tell your dad you relapsed/ and you look at him directly into his face.”
I know exactly what Adderall will do to me and who it will destroy and how my brain will quickly turn into a pile of messy psychosis that never ends – paranoia, delusions, hallucinations. Forever paranoid on any amphetamine or stimulant. It’s my truth. I stand in it. Yet, it taunts me – this love of my life – that was actually the reason for my destruction and the years in which I killed myself slowly (sometimes quickly).
Even lovers I have loved more than words are gone – faded – they rarely ever appear, if at all. Humans, I can leave, and they can leave me, but the memory of Adderall won’t leave me no matter how many times I’ve left it behind. It’s still there. Adderall haunts me in my dreams.
When I am not sleeping, when I am awake for my life, and showing up – Adderall is not something I crave, or desire, or want. In fact, I don’t want any pill, or any drink, or to even smoke weed or trip out on psychedelics. I want none of that. I want the life I live now.
But why, if I want this life so badly, does my unconscious tell me another thing?
I stay vigilant. My recovery is always my number one priority. I never stop thanking God for it. At 67 days sober, I cried tears of joy for the first time in six years. The goosebumps, the disbelief, the undeniable gratitude – it hasn’t left me. The miracle of my existence. It swims inside of me. I carry it with me. Close. Closer.
I hear stories of people relapsing after 10 or 20 years of sobriety – even those who stayed vigilant and committed – they picked up again – some of them got sober, some of them died, some of them are still in it. A few of them are my friends and I know one of them is my angel who used to sit next to me in rehab to make sure I ate. Because I was deathly skinny – because I was dying, because I weighed 72 pounds and didn’t give a fuck about life.
It was one month after my father called my mother and sister to tell them to start planning my funeral. My father found my in a dirty hotel room in downtown Hollywood with cockroaches crawling on the bed and a distant addicted lover. I was hiding from everything – so fucking psychotic that I couldn’t even see my own life. My dad was sure I was going to die from malnutrition. It was one of the few times I’ve ever seen him cry.
I still sometimes imagine them, my family – carrying me in an urn – walking down fourth street to Hotchkiss park in Santa Monica– to spread my ashes across the earth in which my dog, Cookie, and I used to play. It was my favorite place. When I was there, I was just happy to be alive.
I wonder if my parents would have memorialized me for who I was, as an addict, or for who I was as a human. The lines had become so messy that I think anyone who loved me really only knew me as Lara, the addict. That’s how I knew myself at least.
Sobriety sometimes feels so easy – so breezy – like a fucking Covergirl commercial because I love it that much. And that love, at times – will fuck me up – because I think it shouldn’t be so easy – and I wonder what I should be doing, if I should be more social, if I should help more people, if I should read another book, or exercise more, or go back to therapy – but I know, I am stable and finally at peace. (And I stay close to God, always).
This year, 2019, it has become one of the greatest years of my life and it’s so fucking good, that I have an unending fear – that it will end – that this goodness and peace will disappear and that when it does – I will say, “wow, I should have appreciated it more.” But I don’t know how to appreciate my life or my sobriety any more than I already do. My love for it grows, day by day, and I so often think that I don’t deserve this, even though people tell me I do.
I was so bad for so many years. I hurt so many people and because the drugs I used fucked up my brain, I barely have memories of all the people I hurt. I only remember when someone brings up a name or an event or when I am chatting with my mom and dad about my book and they remind me of times I had forgotten - and not reminding me to punish me but reminding me because I asked. Because I want to tell my story as honestly as I can.
Last week in Florida, my father prepared me for his death – as if he thinks this is something I need (but knows I don’t want). He says, “I’ve lived longer than 50% of people who have had this surgery.” “How long has it been dad?” I ask. “Ten Years.” He continues, “People have only ever lived as long as 17 years.”
This means, my worst fear is coming to life. I could lose my father in 7 years. I don’t know how people stay sober during the death of a parent – I just know I will. It’s a no matter what. It’s a never question the decision. I don’t know what to say to my dad besides, “That will be the most traumatic thing to ever happen to me.” He smiles and jokes and says, “I sure hope so.”
My dad had open heart surgery in September of 2009 – I was away, working – but really, I was just leaving my truth and my body – not allowing myself to feel pain, because I wanted to fuck the director I was working with, because I wanted to smoke more weed, because I wanted to drink myself silly and then pop an Ambien just because. That was the beginning of the end. I deeply regret not being by my father’s side.
My father’s death is truly the thing I fear most – losing him (or my mom or my sister). My dad, the hero, the angel, the kindness, the silliness, the wit – the way he never stopped believing in me, the way he always showed up for me – the way he saved my fucking life – on more than one occasion.
My dad deeply loves me, unconditionally, without regard for faults or mistakes or disappointments or how many times I lied to him or screwed him over or manipulated him. To be loved in this way – this doesn’t leave you – in dreams or in real life. And I know how lucky/blessed/privileged I am to be loved in this way. Many people aren’t.
I don’t want to be a character in Macklemore’s Starting Over – I don’t want to look my father in the face and tell him I relapsed. I don’t want him to ever die - and when he does, because death is inevitable, I want him to look down at me from heaven and see his sober girl, his daughter - her life of recovery and living amends. I want my dad to feel my love.
I don’t ever want to live another moment with a pill or a drink in my body – and I never want to destroy myself and blow up every good thing I have. As the poet Zach Nelson says, “I never want to have to want all this back.”
And the relapse dreams… they are just a reminder of the beauty of my life. The dreams are the stories in which I will never live, a life I will never return to.. I am sober, no matter what. More simply, I will never betray myself.