Curses and Blessings of Addiction

Addiction carries a curse. This morning I was greatly saddened by seeing a photo of my brother and his wife at their second home in Port St. Joe, Florida. Jim and I will probably never be close again, if we ever were. As a young person I used drugs. It made my brother furious.

Later as I continued to live a chaotic disorganized life, Jim was frustrated that I didn’t do expected things like have auto insurance. I finally found 12 step programs, managed to stay drug free, and went to graduate school, but during my early recovery it was discovered I had malignant melanoma.

When my brother transported me to my first oncology appointment, under the stress of my recent diagnosis, his anger surfaced at a most inconvenient time. He shouted at me about not having auto insurance in years past, though I had it at the time I was diagnosed with cancer.

I began the process of trying to make up for lost time, jumping from state to state advancing my career at record speed. In only six years I took my career from substance abuse counselor to clinical program director, but after many years drug free I turned to process addictions after my parents’ deaths. I spent much of my siblings’ inheritance money, and ran mom and dad’s credit card up to more than I could repay, after they were deceased.

To this day, my only understanding of how I could have done such a thing was that I used shopping, rather than drugs to kill my pain and feelings of abandonment related to losing my parents. After years of working to improve my image in the eyes of my some wealthy, others upper middle class extremely successful family, I had destroyed it all in only a few months. I had to tell my brother I had spent his inheritance money. Mom and Dad were poor so it was not much money, but the behavior I had exhibited drug free brought me more shame than anything I had ever done while using.

My brother told me I was forgiven, but I’m not sure I ever really was, or deserved to be. My family values wealth and success, no matter what they say their values are, and I have never measured up. Even the best addiction related profession will not pay for two homes or frequent trips abroad as most of my family has been accustomed to enjoying, and the one family group that does not own two homes or travel abroad at will is bonded by their years spent in close proximity of each other. I spent those years moving from state to state trying to develop a career that would measure up to my family’s standards. If I don’t remind them, I don’t even get invited to local family birthday parties, though they are less focused on money or success than the others.

My problem is that I wasted years being addicted that could have been spent building a successful career, and cultivating a marriage that would have also brought financial stability into my life. Then I could only relate to what I knew, addiction, so after six more years spent obtaining emotional stability and a drug free lifestyle, I chose a profession that offered little money and few choices. The time wasted and bridges burned with family whose respect I lost, and never quite retrieved are the curses of addiction.

My only hope of being on equal ground or footing with any of my siblings is to somehow measure up to their financial status and success, even though if reading this, they would deny it is so. If I could do that, pay my brother back the amount I stole, all would be forgiven. So in publishing my novel, I have attempted to create a blessing from the same seed that brought forth my curse, that seed being my addiction. My first motivation in writing and publishing my first novel is to achieve equality with my own family. If I do no more than that, I will consider my effort a success.

Still, I also feel a need to do some good in the world, to educate other families, and would be drug users on the far reaching, long term destructive nature of wasting time on the pursuit of cheap thrills or deceptive methods of killing pain through them. Drugs and other obsessions do not kill pain; they create it through the loss of dreams to procrastination and nonproductively, through mistrust and the severing of family ties through betrayal of those you hold most dear. If I can stop just one spirit from self destruction through an advance warning, I will consider this effort more than successful.

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