“They tell me I needed to write a letter. I’m in rehab and my therapist said one of my assignments is writing a goodbye letter to drugs and alcohol. They told me it was an important step in my sobriety. So here I am, writing that letter. Although, when I think about it, I have no idea what to say.
When I was told by my therapist (she may be a counselor, I don’t really know) that this was the next thing I had to do while in treatment, I understood but I asked some questions. ‘How is the letter supposed to sound?’ was one of them. She told me that I should just write it from the heart. I’m not certain what that meant, so I just decided to sit down in my room, put pen to paper, and just start writing.
I don’t know if this is supposed to be a letter that sounds happy or sad, angry or indifferent. How do you write a goodbye letter to drugs? ‘Dear Drugs and Alcohol, I am writing this letter to tell you goodbye?’ The whole thing feels very weird. It sort of feels like writing a ‘Dear John’ letter- you know, one of those letters where someone breaks up with their significant other while leaving a note?
Dear Drugs and Alcohol…we had some good times together, but it’s time I move on. Is that how this is supposed to go? We did have some good times together; a lot of good times together, in fact. I actually just heard a guy in one of the Alcoholics Anonymous meetings they brought into the rehab say that alcohol was fun, then it was fun with problems, and then it was only problems. I related to that, especially the fun part. Because I had a lot of fun with drugs and alcohol for a long time. In high school and college, it was all fun. Sure, there were the blackouts where I couldn’t remember what I had done the night before, and the arguments with my girlfriend about my drinking. My grades suffered in college, which I guess had a lot to do with my partying and drinking, but I was able to miss class and make it up on the tests thanks to Adderall. So does that balance things out? I partied a lot, which was fun. But I got into a lot of fights and I got into some legal stuff and a DUI, which definitely wasn’t fun at all. But the feeling I get looking back at using drugs and alcohol at that time wasn’t all bad, although a lot of bad stuff actually happened if I’m honest about it.
Maybe that was both fun AND fun with problems? It definitely wasn’t just partying. I drank way too much and took Adderall and painkillers and would pop my girlfriend’s Xanax probably more often than I should have. But I got through it. I really think stuff started to hit me after college. I felt kind of useless and alone. A lot of my friends left school and went onto careers, stuff they have planned on and prepared for while in school. I just never knew what I wanted to do. So, I moved home, got a job company I didn’t care much about, and watched my friends start their lives on social media. I fell back in with a lot of kids I knew in high school; you know the type- the ones that never left and stayed local and just got high a lot. I’d go to work, and then right over to their apartments, just hanging out and drinking beer and popping pills. I felt kind of sorry for myself, like I wasn’t good enough or worthy enough or worth anything. I hated that feeling but I didn’t know what to do about it. Pills helped a lot. I would use anything I could get my hands on to not feel that way. That’s when I really took a turn and got into opioids. Percocets, OxyContin, and then the same old story, heroin and fentanyl. Then all the stuff that comes with that: physically addicted, high tolerance, stealing and doing other dirty stuff because the money from work wasn’t enough to afford my habit. Getting physically sick and doing anything to get money to get dope to get well. Trying to detox myself, sometimes getting through it and sometimes not. Sometimes buying suboxone off the street to help with the withdrawals. But I’d always go back. Life got more complicated- violence, constant arguments with my parents, my brother and sister not speaking to me at times. I stole from them all. But I had become a junkie like in the movies. “The kid with all the potential” the adults used to say about me. I get that, but that scared me. Potential scared me. Success scared me- I didn’t think I was good enough to achieve anything. But failure scared me too. It’s really confusing when you think about it.
And here’s the thing: Drugs help with all that! Drugs and alcohol help with that stuff A LOT. They work well, too. Ever since I was a kid I constantly felt like my head could not or would not shut off. Fears, worries, concerns, emotional highs and lows, and a lot of what they call here in rehab negative self-talk. I had all of that. And just that feeling of difference. Feeling different from my friends and my family. Feeling like they understood life and I didn’t, and that scared me and made me feel even worse. Well, all that stuff? Drugs and alcohol helped all that go away. Like, almost immediately. I remember my first drink as a freshman in high school. A couple of us took beers from our parents, met outside in the neighborhood, and just drank them. They tasted like shit, but we kept drinking. And about the end of the second one, I felt different. I felt…okay. I didn’t hear the chatter in my head and I didn’t feel the constant anxiety in my chest. I had no fears, concerns, or worries. I was just….I was just there, being, silent and still, and just…totally alright. THAT’S what drugs and alcohol did for me!
I’m starting to think this letter isn’t a ‘Goodbye’ letter and really is a love letter. Because that’s what this feels like when I think about my relationship with drugs and alcohol. Like a love story. Because I loved everything they made me feel. If I was happy, they made it better. If I was sad or depressed, they turned my frown upside down. To me, drugs and alcohol were my safety, my comfort, my constant companion. They made life bearable and less painful. I love drugs and alcohol.
I do not, however, love all the things that would eventually come from that love story. It’s like a Hollywood movie. Casino or Goodfellas comes to mind, where the relationships are all glitz and glamour and amazing and just look perfect, but by the end of the movies it’s total chaos and pain and anger and resentment and fear. A little egotistical for me to compare my relationship with drugs and alcohol to those award-winning movies, but I guess here we are, right?
I’ve sat in group here in the addiction treatment center I’m in, and I’ve listened to other patients read their goodbye letters to drugs and alcohol. There was one that was like “Drugs, you are a liar and a thief!” There was another one that said something like “I hate you. Goodbye forever!” That’s what was confusing for me, because I don’t feel that way at all. Drugs and alcohol did a lot for me. I don’t think I could have survived this long without them. I’m kind of thankful for them. What I don’t like is the consequences that came from using drugs and alcohol. All the people I hurt. All the illegal things I did. All the lies that I told. Drugs and alcohol aren’t liars, but I certainly am. I am angry, but I’m not angry at the drugs and alcohol. That just sounds stupid to me. I’m angry at myself. I’m angry at the people that are angry at me, not that I don’t understand why they are angry. I’m angry at what my life looks like now. So much for potential, huh?
I guess I’m just feeling a lot of emotions now and don’t have my old friends drugs and alcohol to help me numb them or run away from them. When I think about drugs and alcohol, I get sad. I get scared because coming to rehab means sobriety and no more drugs and alcohol. No more good friends. It’s like I’m not saying goodbye to just the drugs and alcohol, but to all the things that I know. My entire life needs to change, and although there is part of me that finds that exciting, there is a much larger part of me that is completely terrified. I have no idea what that life will look like, but it scares me and I don’t even know if I can do it. Saying goodbye to drugs and alcohol is the most terrifying thing I think I’ve ever done. However, I also know that I have to do it. If I ever want to be a good son or a good brother; if I ever want to achieve anything with my life; if I ever want people to trust me again; and if I ever want to be truly happy, because I don’t know if I’ve ever been truly happy. At least, when thinking about it, I’ve never been truly happy with who I am. And I want to be. So I need to say goodbye to drugs and alcohol, no matter how difficult or scary that is to think about.
I guess this really did turn into a goodbye letter to drugs and alcohol. But it didn’t have to be an angry letter or a love letter. It’s just a letter. A letter saying we’ve had some great times together. Drugs and alcohol never lied to me- they did exactly what they promised and what I wanted them to do. But after a while, I was lying to myself, saying that everything was fine when it wasn’t. This is goodbye because it’s the right thing to do. It’s the right thing to do for me, but also for the people that love me. It’s the right thing to do for my life and for my future. Goodbye drugs and alcohol. We had a good run, but it’s time we say goodbye and see other people!”
-A Patient’s ‘Goodbye Letter to Drugs and Alcohol’, written while in rehab
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