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When I Think Back….

A Capital City Strangled By Addiction

Recently, I was out running errands in a tough part of a tough city. It was some important business that I had no choice but to be doing. I wasn’t in that Capital city because I wanted to. I thank my every progressing mindfulness skills as I had thoughts and a moment of clarity as I was walking back to my car.

Now, it still is quite often that I think of those horrific day of active drug addiction. Especially the daily feelings of withdrawal and sickness. But this moment I had this morning, seemed to truly be mindfulness in action. The visuals in my mind were clear, and were as if the thoughts and memories were all in slow motion. I have experienced several of those moments of clarity throughout my life. But this one was a constructive mix.

As I looked around, I recognized every inch of that difficult world. I used the term constructive mix, because on the obvious side, I was thrilled like a kid in a candy store about not feeling so darn shitty every single morning. I mean, this was morning time, and my ass was up and alive. Yet, on the other side, a bit sad about the overpowering decay that has poured onto this neck of the woods, and all over a city, that was at one time, one of America’s best little cities. This was the stage set, for the country’s eventual epidemic.

In this world for us addicts, the point and question are often being brought up or heard of. The ones about being careful about getting careless, forgetting about the rough parts. Only remembering and romanticizing the “good times” of the active addictions. I myself never really looked at it that way as an addict.

That philosophy is not really a main talking point or reason for my endless amounts of relapse days of the past. I quickly, fell out of love with that romantic part of addiction. Mine was more of where I did it, as a way to step out of the world as much as I could. Seeking a dimension where problems were numbed.

Whatever the case may be, the views of the scary side streets, the smell(s) of a city worn down, and the endless amounts of century old buildings, once beautiful mansions, now run down trap houses, brought me back to a time not long ago, yet somehow, a lifetime ago.

When I think back, I remember the illness. The clothing each morning so wet with sweat, it could be rung out and cause a waterfall. Sweat that was freezing, yet so very hot too. One of many symptom oxymoron’s. The mornings themselves, being signs that another long torturous night was survived. Sleeping with the drugs leaving your system, was an adventure in hell. Endless bouts of sleep, lasting less than five minutes each. Tossing and turning, painful in itself.

When the term “kickin” is used to describe withdrawing from drugs it’s for a reason. It has quite a specific origin. As it is those nights in bed where we kick our legs, over and over and over again. Restless legs being an understatement. When we weren’t kickin, we were curled up into a pathetic ball.

As eight hour nights went on, it clearly felt like days. Maybe there were times where morning, we’d find drugs. But it was frightening when morning came, and the empty wallet was all we had.

A day starting with no drugs, no cash.

Mentally scary is all I could call it.

What else was there? Well there was leg pain, and back pain, and pain in every joint. Bright lights brought pain, eyes burning, even in shade. Each morning brought diarreia, another guaranteed event. No food, no drink, no appetite at all. A sip of water, itself brought nausea and vomit.

They were for sure, scary and sad nights. Those experiences so negatively powerful, that as I laid in bed, when the sunrise brought each new day, I would be so angry, that I had woken up. Ashamed that life would have to then go on. Embarrassed for the endless hunt for money. I didn’t want to live for another miserable day. Not to mention, while thinking all of that, I was feeling miserable. If there had been a misery scale of 1 to 10, I would had scored an 11.

You may have heard me say this before, but what changed me, was I had a bit of an awakening, where I refused to keep accepting that waking up in full blown sickness, was just a normal part of life.

I wanted to wake up each morning, able to get up like a normal adult. I stopped accepting, that daily illness and withdrawal was “normal.” As if anybody can even define normal.

Photo by Author

Now, back to that Capital City. I clarify that I am by no means bullying or bashing the town. I am not kicking the city in the head when it’s already down. The history of Trenton, and its contributions to America were once great.

I grew up one mile from that Capital City. I loved it at one point. I think I still do. I do not love Trenton for what it is. But I do love, the potential that could be bestowed on it. Once one of America’s top manufacturing cities. Second in steel, only to Pittsburgh.

I don’t really have the answers to solving this problem. I think even if there was a solution, it would take so very many years. This town saw decades of prosperity, that did not end overnight. The heroin epidemic, has made this Capital City a place that sometimes is scary.

It’s a place strangling itself.

A double edged sword is seen in some ways. It seems as if, with each passing day, a new opioid detox center opens up. How does that compete, when it’s one new detox facility a day, versus endless amounts of new addicts. The fact that the city is still standing, proves its strength and resilience.

It’s a place I’m now never in, unless it’s errands or travelling, that can’t be helped. I thank God for the flashbacks, for the awakenings, for the clarity. Also, thank you for the the fear.

I’m too afraid of addiction now.

It’s a fight I’m no longer built for.

The towels been thrown for a longtime.

A choice, that gives no regrets.

One of the most historic cities in America, is not immune to the pains of addiction.

(Washington, arriving at TRENTON 1776)

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Author, Publisher, Survivor



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Michael Patanella

Michael Patanella


Author, Publisher, and Editor. I cover mindfulness, mental health, addiction, sobriety, life, and spirituality among other things.