Drug Addiction and the Lasting Curse of Immediate Gratification

During my fun little stint as a full-time addict, my entire life revolved around immediate gratification: drugs and sex, in that order. I did what I had to do to make the most money possible in the shortest amount of time. Those funds went directly to my dealer. I would snort lines for most of the day, crouched alone in my room with a growling stomach and a pounding brain. Many nights, when I felt somewhat sane — by my own distorted standards — I would invite someone over to temporarily relieve my overwhelming loneliness with his dick. I was completely dissociated for most of these encounters; I figured “if the sex is shit, at least I’m high.”

Those two activities occupied the vast majority of my time. On the days I had to actually leave my room to go to my psychiatrist, the subway ride from Bed-Stuy to the Upper West Side felt like a motorized march to the gallows. I cemented my status as Crying Girl on Public Transportation that summer — a title I still often live up to to this day, but thankfully not as consistently. Although she was well-intentioned, I felt extremely judged by my psychiatrist; one day I remember I was on the phone with her trying to explain why I hadn’t shown up to my appointment while simultaneously texting my dealer my coordinates.

My sole vocation consisted of using — and gathering the cash to do so — in order to alleviate my crushing gloom. There was no long-term planning or hopeful daydreaming or excited anticipating. I felt I had to immediately quell my hopelessness as opposed to actually feeling and grappling with it, which turned out to be a Sisyphean labor.

Up until very recently, I’ve been the type of person who has sought to do the bare minimum to get by and get shit over with, so I could maximize my free time (not that I would do anything productive — I just wanted as many opportunities as possible to stew in my misery). In high school and college, I rarely studied; good grades came without much effort. When I would write an essay, I’d wait until the last possible minute to start it, then churn out some eloquent bullshit and send it to the professor without bothering to proofread. I wanted to simply stay under everyone’s radars so that I could self-destruct without being a nuisance to those around me.

And up until I weighed well under 100 pounds and finally gave up, I succeeded in keeping my addiction relatively under wraps.

Now that I’m over four months sober — after several relapses post-rehab — and the “simple” abstinence from substances has become ingrained, it’s become time for decisions and plans and schemes and relationships(?) and classes and jobs and savings accounts. But when the effort put into these meaningful tasks doesn’t produce instantaneous and spectacular results, I find it exceedingly difficult to find within me the resolve to persist. The sad fact is that I’ve never really developed a work ethic, and my addiction only served to further entrench my dependence on immediate gratification to feel fulfilled.

My DBT therapist made an observation back when I was in my first couple of weeks of sobriety that seriously fucking blew my mind. We were discussing the variety of people in my inpatient program, and how many of them were much older and had lost careers, spouses, and/or children on account of their addictions. I remarked that I almost wished I had lost something(s) concrete and quantifiable, like others had, because then getting clean had a very tangible and obvious goal. And she said, “You have to basically just have faith that it’s worthwhile, because it’s not about what you’ve lost — it’s everything you haven’t gained.”

This has been another installment of “Life in Early Sobriety is Really Fucking Weird and Difficult.”