The LAST high. A thing that too many addicts reach only on their deathbeds. I know so many recovering addicts today and I can solidly say that only a few of us knew when we were using for the last time. Whether that be because some of us were having one last blowout before rehab or because we knew that after that one, we were just done. Either way, some of us knew, some didn’t.
I did not.
The last time I used I had every intention of getting high again. I was 3 months away from turning 23 and had finally gotten off of opiates 3 months prior. I was however, still smoking copious amounts of pot. I’m talking an ounce a day of really good pot. It was the only thing I knew to do at the time to ease the transition off of long-term opiate abuse. Granted, I smoked just as much on opiates. Regardless of that fact, it helped me sleep, eat, function. Those things are all true, even in retrospect with almost 3 years clean. Living in a chronically ill body is not an easy task. I spent many years smoking weed to ease the pain I felt physically, as well as mentally. I relapsed multiple times by smoking because I just wanted to sleep or eat and actually keep my food down.
So, as stated above, I was smoking a lot of pot; yet I still felt as horrible as I did when I was strung out on opiates. Days ran into nights ran into days. An endless loop of deep seeded rage, emotional turmoil, and violent mood swings, combined with immense physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual pain. My ex and I could barely get along, I hated my job with every fiber of my being, and most of all, I just couldn’t stand myself and all the things I had done anymore. I thought getting clean off the opiates would change all that. Yet there I was, 3 months later, feeling just as awful, even though my life had become much more manageable not having to maintain an expensive opiate habit. All I wanted, so badly I dreamt about it, was to feel like myself again.
Throughout this time I lived right across the street from a church that help NA meetings 5 days a week at noon. I knew that NA had given me happiness and a life before and was willing to try it again. So many days I attempted to go to this meeting and would fail miserably due to working till 3am every night. I would wake up the next morning (afternoon), see the church outside my bedroom window, and feel an inkling of failure. An inkling that I would immediately stamp out by smoking 2 blunts back to back. I did this day after day after day. Another endless movie that I just couldn’t stop being a part of.
Then there was a day, April 1st, 2013. April Fools Day and trust me, it was a fitting day for this to happen. I worked a long day shift and came home ready to get as high as I possibly could (because naturally, that was always my goal). And I did. I had roughly a half ounce left and spent that day into that night smoking the last of it. I had smoked my last blunt around 11pm when my ex informed me that he had court at 9am the next morning, an hour and a half away from our house. Me being a night owl and living on a night shift schedule, I knew that sleep had just flown right out the window. So I call all my dealers trying to get some more bud to smoke through the night. Of course, everybody was out and I was pissed. So I spend the night watching Netflix and eating.
The next morning rolls around and I drive him to court. We get out of there around 10:15 and back to Allentown at 11:45ish. We always took this same short cut around the church to get to the alleyway where we parked. In order to get to the alleyway you had to cut through the church parking lot, cross our street, and dip into the alleyway. So don’t you know we drive through the church parking lot, stop to let some cars drive down our street and I look at the clock. It was exactly 11:58am. And I think of the meeting. By some stroke of sleep deprived, pissed I’m not high luck, I thought of that meeting. Instantly, I got really nervous. I spent what felt like an eternity considering whether or not I wanted to go and ended up asking my ex if he would come in with me. He said no because he “was too tired”. Now seeing as I was so nervous about going in alone after years of active drug addiction, that was the only reason I needed to not go. And yet, I did. I got out of the car right there and just walked in.
Let me stop there for a second to say that that was not me who got out of the car that day. I would have crossed our street, parked, and called someone for drugs the second I got in my house. I would have used him not coming as an excuse to not go. I would have spent another 6 months trying to make it to the meeting that wasn’t even 300 feet from my house. Something else (which I now call a high power) walked my ass into that meeting that day. Because the Ashley that had just spent 4 years strung out on opiates and living as a degenerate would not have.
And yet I did. Not only did I go but I raised my hands and said something along the lines of, “My name is Ashley and I’m an addict. I’m really nervous so if I stutter I’m sorry. Um I had 2 years clean a few years ago and ended up getting prescribed opiates. I got off of them back in January but I’ve still been smoking weed. I haven’t gotten high today though. I don’t even know why I’m here. Honestly, I just want to die. (This is where I started bawling like a baby) I can’t do this anymore and the only reason I’m here is because if I’m going to eat a bullet I figure I might as well go to one meeting first. So please just fucking help me if you can. I feel like I’m fucking drowning in this life that I just can’t find a way out of again. I don’t believe that I can get clean again, I just don’t know if I have it in me. I thought if I stopped taking opiates it would get better but it didn’t and um, I can’t live like this. I’m fucking suffocating and I wake up so angry everyday that it’s eating me alive. And I swear if there’s any other way I’ll fucking do it. I don’t care if you tell me that I have to jump up and down while patting my head and rubbing my tummy, if it will keep me clean, I’ll do it. I don’t know. That’s all I got. Thanks for letting me share.”
I spent the rest of the meeting crying but I felt like I could breathe for the first time in years. When it was over I was immediately surrounded by 3-4 women who gave me so much love and acceptance that I didn’t know what to do with it. They didn’t treat me like some piece of shit junkie or the stupid “new girl”. They asked me to come back the next day and help them make coffee. I agreed and went home. My ex (who was still awake by the way) asked me how it was as my roommate stood beside him in absolute shock that I had gone at all. I told him that it was really good and that I felt really good. I said I wasn’t going to buy any weed “just to try it for one day”. That lasted until about 8pm when I picked up my phone to text my dealer. As I was writing the message a strange number called. I answered it and it was a woman from the meeting. To this day I don’t know how she got my number but she sat on the phone with me for 3 hours and I survived my first 24 hours clean. By the grace of whatever the fuck lives in the sky I got up on time for that meeting the next day and everyday after that. They gave me the coffee commitment to do on my own and I spent many nights/mornings waking up at 4am because I couldn’t sleep and pacing the length of my apartment until 11:30 hit and I could cross the street to go set up the meeting and make coffee. Eventually I got more time clean and started greeting people at the door, being the meeting secretary, and then the chairperson. I was so excited to get every key tag. 30 days, 60 days, 90 days, 6 months, and 9 months. I moved out of the county right before I got a year but I continued on with my program in the new county too.
I spent much of that first year sicker than I’ve ever been. My blood cell counts were all messed up and I spent countless days in the hematology and oncology offices. I was severely immunocompromised and they thought I had leukemia or lymphoma (an answer I’m still in search of now). I remember chairing meetings with a trash can next to me so I could lean over and throw up when I needed to. But I went anyway. I went when I was sweating through my clothes, shaking like a leaf, and too sick to hardly move. Because I knew that my life depended on it.
So the last day I got high was not some big blowout. It was nothing special. When I finished that last blunt I never would’ve guessed it’d be my last and if you had told me it was, I probably would’ve laughed in your face and told you to go fuck yourself. Nonetheless, I haven’t gotten high since April 1st, 2013, making my clean date April 2nd, 2013. In 18 days I will have 3 years clean. It has been the hardest and best thing I’ve ever done. I have true happiness, peace, and quality of life today.
End Note: I in no way represent, speak for, or am an example of NA. I am nothing more than one addict sharing my experience with and perception of the program.
by Ashley Hebner
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