LETTER TO A YOUNG ADDICT
“You are so young…
I beg that you be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart…”
– Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet
I write to you because I was you.
And just like you, I assumed I wasn’t.
But as you’ll see, I speak your language.
It’s a language I learned the hard way.
Because that’s how people like us learn.
My experience is my qualification.
It’s the only key to an addict’s heart.
And it’s the one I’ll need to access yours.
This isn’t an ominous letter of caution.
It’s not a judgmental lecture or sermon.
This is a letter about us.
It’s a letter about who we are.
And who we desperately insist we aren’t.
Your parents call it a drug problem.
But I know it’s really a drug solution.
Your problem is not drugs.
Your problem is you.
Just like mine is me.
We give off a laidback vibe.
But we are excruciatingly sensitive.
Delicate. Tender. Hyper-conscious.
Substance is your medicine.
It tempers the unbearable intensity.
Smoothens the jagged edge of emotions.
And as of now, it works like a charm.
There will come a time when this changes.
The remedy will morph into a poison.
But until then, your ignorance is your bliss.
Some may think I’m glorifying the danger.
But there’s a reason you tune them out.
Because they try to halt your symptoms.
Without recognizing the plight of your cause.
People will misunderstand you.
And you will be one of those people.
You’re brimming with potential.
Why do you self-destruct?
People assume that you’re reckless.
Or that you’re selfish.
Or that you lack any willpower.
But the truth is that you have a disease.
A disease that says you don’t have one.
A disease that lives in your thoughts.
And slowly chips away at your soul.
Your parents aren’t trying to control you.
They are trying to save you from yourself.
To superimpose some semblance of order to compensate for your dire lack of it. But this is a family disease. Your powerlessness is their powerlessness.
You and your family will do anything to maintain an illusion of control. Even if it means spinning out of it.
Your parents asked me to help end the madness. But we both know the madness is just getting started. The medicine is still working its magic. The romance has yet to boomerang into a horror story. And that’s what makes it so horrifying for your loved ones.
Because an invisible line awaits.
And when you cross it, things will change.
The returns diminish, and turn demonic.
The elixir no longer alleviates. It torments.
The cure reveals itself as the poison it is.
This is your turning point of no return.
You will want to hit the breaks.
But the breaks have been disabled.
This plane doesn’t land. It crashes.
Your disease wants you dead.
But on your way, it drags you through hell.
Hospitals. Institutions. Jails. Cemeteries.
The itinerary is a grim one.
Our odds of recovery are discouraging.
A small fraction of us ever get help.
A smaller fraction will be willing to use it.
And a far smaller fraction will keep holding on to it.
Because this is a progressive disease.
It grows more insidious over time.
Waiting in hiding until we least expect it.
A day. A month. A year. A decade.
It patiently lurks until we forget it’s there.
And then. Out of nowhere. It reminds us.
The reminder comes as a haunting relic.
A part of ourselves we swore was extinct.
But this relic has countless lives.
It doesn’t die until we die with it.
The spiral picks up right where it left off.
And when it does, life is a nightmare.
Every bottom has a hidden trapdoor.
The lows get lower. The darkness darker.
This thing is more powerful than you know.
Medical experts have admitted defeat.
Religious figures have no solid answers.
Rich politicians are brought to their knees.
Addiction is the universal humbler.
You’ve been to overpriced psychiatrists.
But people like us don’t fall for credentials.
We see right through the mirage of BS.
Our parents may buy it in desperation.
But we know a hack when we see one.
There are no experts.
No gurus or wizards.
Just strugglers. And survivors.
We know what you’re going through.
Because we’re going through it, ourselves.
But you may not yet realize what you’re going through. Because this disease thrives on denying its own existence.
That’s what makes this letter so difficult.
I wrote it to the person you don’t yet know you are. From the person my disease will insist I’m not.
So by the time you discover that you qualify as its reader, I hope to still identify with its composer.
Until then, I’ll be saving your seat.
And one day you‘ll do the same for me.
Because that’s how we get better.
We recover together. Or we die alone.