Same Pen, Different Me
Chantal Johnson

The Road Home

My recovery began slowly, after a two year addiction. The sudden withdrawal from my drug of choice led me to an April where most nights and days I was left to my own defenses with meager strength, mustering all the courage I could just to exist. This began in the middle of nowhere with outside chill frequently measuring below zero, family and support system 1,500 miles away. No one could know my pain, I wouldn’t allow it, those extraordinary and nearly constant physical and emotional aches. I experienced anhedonia like never before — eating was for those who sought to live, the urge to laugh failed to tempt me. When I could conjure a performance I would saunter my way into work then often find myself locked in the medication room staring fearfully at the plethora of unsupervised narcotics, sometimes holding a bottleful with a cup of water in the other hand. Other nurses had to request I return home. I was scared of myself, to say the least.

My addiction led me to buckets of tears and steady, uncontrollable thoughts of suicide. How insanely evil those thoughts were. “How do I do it without incurring more pain?” “Do I leave a note?” “If I slit my wrist this way…” Internet searches for the best drug combos to end it all were numerous. Secrecy and avoidance of responding to the doorbell for the few who’d developed serious concern became normal. My addiction swelled over the two years of being drowned in this force. Two years of love and hate, of extremes. Two years of “I will” and “I promise.” Two years of being one. He was my addiction, he nearly drove me to insanity, then to death. It happened late in March of that year. That lonely April was without a doubt the hardest month I’ve had to live. In order to grasp the whole picture you must understand the escalation to that point.

Two years prior I quit a long-term boyfriend and California to fall in love with New York City, then a man. Within that first summer, really the first two weeks, I had managed to do both. And it was reciprocal, his passion for me was even more intense. He too left nearly everything behind to be with me. Three turbulent months passed without a steady home. Some nights I slept in cafes, never knowing when my next bed would come or when my days at an acquaintance’s home would expire. He quickly proved to be one of the few I could count on, finding me room and board when he could barely manage to find such for himself. Not a day passed without him by my side. Three months gone and we finally saved enough to find an apartment…together.

The following eight months was a rollercoaster. We quarreled often and hurt badly, sometimes I could feel the pain lodge in the pit of my being. Still, our making up would quickly ensue. The savagery of those intimate moments would call on a death to the rage, at least for a short while. Other times we engaged in serious marriage and child discussions. Then there were moments where I felt like he didn’t want any of it. He did, however, zealously support my artistic ventures and I rooted for him to earn steady work in his career. Evenings meant coming home to him faithfully sitting in that dimly lit bedroom, typing away on freelance work, then stopping for my big welcome home kiss. It was our favorite thing, to be together that is — cooking, planning, learning from one another. He’d teach me about the music industry and graphic design and I’d tell him about my nursing prospects. It seemed impossible to find a nurse gig in New York as a new graduate, so one day, after receiving a random email regarding a job offer on a Native Reservation in South Dakota, I begrudgingly told him I would take it. I would be gone exactly one year. It was for a better life. I was doing it for us.

The year drew on — one of separation, anxiety, unfair spending requests, suspicion and turbulent household affairs. Six months into isolation and our relationship was in the gutter. We dissolved a month before Christmas. He promised me he’d seek anger management. He never went, but somehow he missed me enough to resolve to make it the best December yet.

That January he got his first big job as a graphic designer in SoHo of all places. He’d finally made it in New York! He found a suitable but temporary apartment and bought fashionable clothing. On my return trip while in search of a job and apartments for us I met his co-workers, and that’s when serious trouble manifested. He’d morphed into another person, didn’t seem to want much of me. “I’m too busy,” he would often say, followed by nights of tears after my calls were routinely thwarted. I felt so betrayed. You see where this is going. So one fateful day I pulled to the side of a bare South Dakota road and poured my heart out as he expressed his disinterest in continuing with me. There was such a dearth of emotion it was almost implausible. Then, April came.

The end of April marked the end of my term on the reservation. I finally withdrew from my month-long depression and made an ambitious and hasty decision to return to New York for myself, rather than to San Francisco out of failure. My dad flew in, we drove across the country and 14 days flew by just like that, from decision to the arrival of a charming Brooklyn apartment. Within that new space I made a pact to heal myself one day at a time. I made a new best friend, Prospect Park, it became more of a sanctuary. Sometimes I’d cry quietly to the trees, and everyday I would visit even if only for 10 minutes. I gathered momentum in meditation and ventured into the world that was New York, but this time, alone. Each day as I found fascinating places and met all sorts of interesting strangers the memories eroded bit by bit. My new place brought with it a new headspace. It’s like the sun finally peaked through and began to disperse that wretched storm. Suddenly I found not only was I able to fall in love with Brooklyn, but with Brooke as well.

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