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I know you’ve fallen asleep over there, which I’m kind of glad about, because I kind of feel like I’m going to cry. I mean – how dumb would it look to start crying in the middle of a park? Someone would probably go – what an asshole, dude thinks the sky is so pretty he’s crying. Or they’d think I’m on drugs. The truth is, I’m not on drugs anymore. I say the words aloud, just to hear myself say the words and have them be true: “I’m not on drugs. I’m not on drugs anymore. I was on drugs, but I’m not anymore.

It’s funny – back then when I was a walking poster-child of Florida’s Biggest Problem, I would say the same thing out loud just to cement my denial. I’m not on drugs. I just take them occasionally. Once a day. I mean, I have a job, I’m not living on the streets. I’m not a drug addict. Middle-class white guys are not addicts.
I was so full of shit. I am now somewhat amazed I was able to play the game of mental gymnastics with such Olympic-level skill. The side effects of the drugs were so gradual that I was watching out for them, but I wasn’t prepared for the side effect of lying. Just making shit up all the time is exhausting. Hiding what you’re doing becomes exhausting. The guilt..the lies…the shame. That nagging sense that you’re on the brink of losing control, the paranoia that all your friends know – but they couldn’t know could they?

They had to know about the Vicodin, cause of my car accident and the back pain. But they couldn’t know how many pills. They couldn’t have any idea about the Xanax. Or the Percocets. Or the occasional jag of heroin. They couldn’t know I was going to realtor open-houses to raid the medicine cabinet, or I’d been shopping doctors for prescriptions.

I glance over at Jeffrey. I can’t believe he stuck with me this whole fucking time. I was sure when I got back out of rehab, he would be gone. He was the one who threatened to leave me if I didn’t get some fucking help. I was so blown out at that point that I was negotiating in my head how I was going to get out of this with my little magic pills intact – just go to rehab enough to look clean sober, get myself back down to when I was down to a pill a day – when he didn’t notice – and he would take me back. Looking back on it, I’m disgusted with myself.

Jeffrey does not deserve me. He deserves someone so, so much better. So much more whole. Someone who was not an addict.

Yet he stuck with me through this whole damn time. He kept visiting me, bringing me food and things I needed. Books. Better sheets. Chapstick. And as the drugs began to leave my system, the guilt moved in. I was able to see this man I’d been dating with clear eyes again, and the love came back. And once I let the love do the thinking for me, it began to fight the addiction in full force. I didn’t want to be in love Jeffrey under the influence. I could not do that to him, and should never have done it in the first place. I fully expected to get out of rehab and he would be gone, and I could never tell him just how much his love saved me.

But Jeffery was there in his red sedan, waiting to pick me up from rehab, to take me back to our new apartment in a new neighborhood where we were going to start over. We didn’t go back to normal though. He was scared of me for a week, unsure if the old Brian was actually back

I learned that getting clean isn’t just one act. It comes in waves, and most of those waves involves becoming aware of all the damage you’ve caused. Jeffery didn’t trust me. He would check our friends’ medicine cabinets before we went over there. He checked my pockets. Initially, Jeffery declined intimacy, of close contact, and preferred being friends in the same apartment. I was annoyed at him at first for pushing me away, but then I realized it was because Jeffrery was scared I was going to backslide and he was going to be betrayed and have his heart hurt again. They don’t prepare you for that in rehab.

We went to couples therapy. It got better. We celebrated five years together. I lost my job cause of the addiction, but I got a new one. I squeeze Jeffrey’s hand. It’s still getting better, every day.

Love conquers all. Shit, I’m crying in a public park. What a white guy thing to do.

Text is fictional.


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