Super thrilled to bring you a story from David Greenspan. Ch-ch-check his bio out after his magnificent tale of recovery. - Laura
Sounds like a bold, not to mention nonsensical, claim, right? In many ways it is. On the surface, drug abuse saves no one’s life. On the surface, drug abuse, especially teenage drug abuse, is a public health problem second to none. This isn’t the surface though.
Teenage drug abuse saved my life. I stand by that statement. I even say it with pride. See, my name is David Greenspan and I’m a recovering alcoholic and addict. I’d like to share with you my story. It’s not much different from thousands of other teenagers’ stories. This one, though, is mine.
I’ve always felt “different.” I can’t remember a time when I didn’t feel like an outsider looking in. I can, however, remember being in second grade and getting in trouble because I wouldn’t sit in my assigned seat. That seat was in the middle of the classroom. I couldn’t sit there! People would be behind me, looking at me, judging.
This gut level discomfort, this ingrained anxiety, followed me through elementary and middle school. I could never be myself because, well, myself wasn’t good enough. That’s what my diseased thinking told me.
I was suffering from three diseases – depression, anxiety, and addiction. See, addiction isn’t all about the drugs. In truth, it’s hardly about the drugs at all. It has much more to do with my thinking, my emotions, my relationships (strained as they may have been), and my reactions to life. Addiction is, to me, a maladaptive way to exist, rather than live.
In eighth grade, at the age of twelve, I smoked pot. I immediately felt a release. I felt like a balloon with all the helium let out. I can’t begin to describe how wonderful that felt. I didn’t care what others thought of me. I didn’t care about not measuring up. I didn’t care about anything other than what was happening right then, right there.
To say I was addicted from the very start feels true. Remember, though, I believe I was born with the disease of addiction. If it hadn’t manifested in compulsively using drugs, it would have manifested elsewhere. Perhaps it would have popped up in overachieving at school or work. Perhaps I would have become a fitness junkie and run no less than ten miles each day. Perhaps I’d become codependent and a serial monogamist, always looking for relief through people.
I can’t be sure where addiction would have entered my life had it not been for drugs. I’m not sure if I’d have ended up a despondent middle-aged man. What I am sure of, one of the only things I’m sure of in this life, is that drug addiction brought me to recovery. And recovery, readers, has brought me to peace.
Returning to my story, I began drinking and taking pills not long after I first smoked pot. The progression only intensified from there. By fifteen I was doing cocaine and had tried opioids. By seventeen I was physically addicted, strung out as some say, to heroin and painkillers.
What followed was two years of pure hell. I bounced around the country, from New York to Florida and back. I bounced in and out of rehabs, detoxes, counseling groups, halfway houses, and the streets. I had periods of abstinence, but never of recovery, never of knowing freedom from the incessant feeling of inferiority in my mind.
I make the distinction between abstinence and recovery based on my understanding of addiction as a disease. It was explained to me as a three-part disease – physical, mental, and spiritual.
I have a mental obsession with anything that changes the way I feel. Once I start thinking about something, be it drugs, alcohol, food, women, etc., I won’t stop until I have that something in my hands.
I have a physical allergy to drugs and alcohol that ensures I keep using them until I’m stopped. That can come in the form of going to treatment, going to jail, getting into a car crash, or having a loved one lock me in a room to detox. I’ve experienced it all. The bottom line is that, when in active addiction, I need something or someone to physically stop me from obtaining drugs.
Finally, I have a spiritual malady. This last part, this spiritual sickness, was the source of my gut level discomfort. It was comprised of all the turmoil that made drugs so appealing in the first place. Upon treating this void, this emptiness, I began to recover.
I began to recover in the rooms of a twelve-step fellowship. That’s my personal experience and I begrudge no one their choice of recovery methods. There are a million and one ways to kick drugs and alcohol. For me, though, a spiritual approach worked wonders.
And just what do these wonders look like? Well, for the first time in my life, I’m able to sit in the middle of a room, surrounded by people, and not worry about their thoughts or opinions about me. I’m able to proclaim, loudly and with dignity, that drug abuse moved me from existing to living, that drug abuse saved my life.
David Greenspan is a writer and media specialist at Lighthouse Recovery Institute. He’s been sober since 2008 and finds no greater joy than helping the still struggling addict or alcoholic.