LH Blog: Sober for the holidays
Holidays are tough; sobriety is tougher. With my first sober holiday season outside of a treatment center, learning to enjoy life without substances will be an uphill battle.
For many, holidays are times of over-indulgence and celebration.
In Baltimore and beyond, there will be tearful reunions with friends and family, plentiful meals and sentimental decorations retrieved from labeled cardboard boxes in the attic. Others may have more glasses of wine than they would typically imbibe at an early dinner.
As a recovering addict, holidays have always symbolized a seemingly unattainable form of normalcy, where joyful, inebriated celebrations among loved ones add a new round of memories to the family catalog.
I have always had a great deal of love for others, but my love for drugs and alcohol proved much stronger. So much so that I was left despondent; I had no love left for myself.
This year, for the first time, sobriety will be my gift to myself and my loved ones.
My incessant attempts over the past decade to drink or use drugs "normally” during occasions such as the holidays proved futile. I could never stop. I became a shell of myself, someone who replaced his moral compass with callousness.
Over the past four years, using consistently proved that substances would undoubtedly result in me sooner or later being hooked up to an IV in an emergency room and receiving medication for my debilitating withdrawal symptoms.
A stay at a treatment center would often follow. And for someone who complained about the life-saving facilities so much, I sure did end up back there a lot, I liked to joke.
But addiction is no laughing matter. And I'm lucky to be alive.
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At least 525 Baltimore residents died from an overdose in the first six months of this year, according to preliminary data published by the Baltimore City Health Department.
That potentially forecasts an increase from the numbers in 2022, when 990 or more overdose deaths were reported.
Unfortunately, many of those people weren't considered individuals suffering from a disease, despite that diagnosis now being considered the consensus among medical experts.
Rather, as a result of fear-mongering campaigns that formed public opinion since the 1970s, many were demonized and looked at as subhuman.
But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Those were fathers, mothers, sons and daughters. Some were considered distinguished members of their communities. Every single one, at the very least, meant the world to someone else.
Perhaps they weren’t all addicts, but they left this world by similar means. And they won't be able to be with family and friends this holiday season.
I'd rather not be included in overdose death statistics this holiday season or anytime in the future. I hope that I, along with others plagued with addiction, will be able to be present at the dinner table for years to come.
This will be my first time experiencing a holiday when I'm serious about sobriety. In the past, I lied to myself, treating month-long stays in rehab — often during my birthday and holidays — as simple tolerance breaks before I could use again.
I can’t maintain that pattern, though. It’s untenable.
That being said, even while maintaining sobriety, I’m unsure whether I will be able to be with all of the family members I once regularly visited by year’s end. Not as much as I’d like to be, at least.
I'm also unsure how long it will take to, or if I will ever be able to, rebuild the relationships I burned down into embers while in active addiction.
For years I neglected peoples’ love, choosing instead to isolate and escape reality with substances.
When I did happen to be around, I'd hide bottles of whiskey throughout the house or steal pills from relatives’ old prescription painkiller bottles.
"Logan has been so sweet," my grandmother would remark to my parents.
"That's because he's drunk," my parents would later recall they had thought in response to her joyful comments.
That is a place that I never want to return to. I'd like one day to have the agency to fully express love for those around me without being under the influence of a substance.
But recovery, just like active addiction, is full of uncertainties. There is no telling what exactly will lie ahead.
At times, I wonder if I will ever fully tame the disease and place it on the back burner.
For now, however, what is certain is that I am damn sure I won't pick up a drink or drug this holiday season. And to my loved ones and myself, that's all that matters for now.