Sometimes I’ll reproduce here an interesting letter that I get at my other site, an advice column I write. Here’s one that came in recently.
I’ve been trying to stay clean because when I don’t, things tend to happen. For example, last night when I felt the desire to use I went out for a walk. I’ve been told this is a self-care strategy that can tamp down the urge. It was a cold night. I wore a coat and gloves and hat, but I hadn’t realized just how freezing the night was. It was late, and the wind was up. Within a minute of stepping out, my face was stinging and my nose running. I walked as fast as I could just to keep from freezing to death. I tried to think calming, meditative, positive thoughts. It was hard to do when shivering, but in reality, that bone-chilling cold was bone-crushing loneliness. My eyes got teary in the wind but I kept walking and made some turns and wasn’t sure where I was but soon recognized the neighborhood. The old neighborhood. There was this bar on the next block I once frequented and I went in and got a drink. I know I shouldn’t have. But inside was so warm and welcoming. I saw a guy that works there, a cook I kind of knew from before, let’s call him “Gus”, and we went back in the kitchen next to the cooler and did some lines and I bought some more from him. I started feeling a lot better. The music was perfect and people were laughing and drinking and having a good time. I had a few more drinks. I struck up a conversation with this woman, let’s call her “Sophie”, and we hit it off. She was so pretty and friendly and interested. All that lonely stuff from before just vanished. We had drinks and I told her I had coke and she invited me back to her place where she said she had pills. We each took two. We did the rest of the coke and had fantastic sex, and then a bath together, and even though I was having a great time I felt bad inside. I’ve been having this problem for years and it’s cost me. My fiancé left me and says she won’t take me back until I’m 100 percent sober. I used to have a career where I made bank and now I can’t even tell you what job I’m doing just to get by. And then I throw everything I make on a bender like last night. That’s why I’d meant to stay home and do nothing, maybe watch some TV or read a book. But I got so antsy. I couldn’t calm down. I was desperate. And lonely. Like I said, it was crushing. That’s how I ended up going for a walk and before I knew it I found myself drinking, popping pills, and snorting coke with Sophie. She was so much fun. She had this candle next to her bedside and at one point it tipped over and almost started the sheets on fire. I slapped the flames out with my hands and now I’ve got blister burns on my fingers. I’m in a lot of pain and am really at a loss about what to do. How do I keep this from happening again?
–Too Anxious and Very Insecure (Taavi)
Yes, we all make mistakes but we can learn and do better. I suggest next time you make sure the candle is a safe distance away from the bed.