"You don't have any idea what it is like. There is no way you can even imagine it." said Alex.
I'm reading of relapses, rehabs troubles, a fatal overdose and general anguish and anger by parents coast to coast. E-mails are coming into my mailbox and I have even gotten phone calls. Must be getting close to the holidays.
I can pinpoint the exact time I got it. I moved farther and closer to understanding addiction than any time in my life so far. It was that light bulb moment.
Alex had been using we had our normal argument with me screaming at him. The anger, fear and frustration coming out that only another parent of an addict can understand. After I had hollered at him as long as I could I calmed down and we both sat down at the kitchen table.
Tears in my eyes once again I pleaded, "I just don't understand, just quit using drugs and everything will be OK."
In the next three minutes Alex taught me more about addiction than I had learned from all the counselors and meetings I had attended up to that time.
Alex ask me to play a game with him. "Dad, hold your breath, and I will make an effort not to think about drugs, want to use drugs or what drugs feel like. Dad, you will win the game every single time. You can hold your breath longer than I can go without thinking about and wanting to use. The only time I can go without me wanting to use more than anything in the world is when I sleep and even then I dream about drugs."
In that very moment I got a glimpse of what addiction must be like to an addict in active addiction. The urge and need to use is as strong or stronger than my need for oxygen. That was the very moment that I realized everything I was doing would never have an effect on his addiction. Everything I had done up to that point hurt me and hurt him but had no effect on the monster.
Based on the title of this, "Outlaw Breathing" this essay isn't about legalization of drugs. Truth is, I still don't know exactly how I feel about that, there are too many other concerns right now. This essay is about illustrating how overwhelming addiction can be at times. Even with periods of sobriety.
Even after ten years of effective management of diabetes a diabetic can go on a one day sugarfest and end up in a coma or dead. It's the same with addiction, the past is important, success builds upon success but the absolute most important day in the world it today.