Up in Smoke

I have had reflections about what addiction means for a while now.
Time goes up in smoke.
The years go by and we party our youth away and then we have to slow down.
While drinking and taking drugs can be fun and fabulous, I realized that it is necessary to take care of one-self in positive ways.
It is also fundamental to have fun with others in simple ways, playing and laughing together.

I’m from a family where alcohol and weed are ordinary substances, not to be abused, but consumed on a daily basis. I have my own history with both, but I’m way more conscious of myself now than I used to be.
Addiction made me think that smoking or drinking is an activity, but it is not. There are many more things to do while I am alive.

I turned 25 last winter, and gone were the happy hangovers of previous days.
The day after my birthday, I felt physically depressed, like I was coming down from chemical drugs.
The dazed and confused times had to end at some point.

It frazzles me now when I see people my age or older get too drunk.But that’s because I went into and out of it. I have used weed and alcohol to cope with failure, sadness, shame, loss, and loneliness.

Younger, I had a drinking problem in London, UK. London is a city where alcohol flows constantly and glasses are emptied in a New York minute. I was 19 and trying to understand what life was in one of the world’s biggest and harshest cities. For almost a year, I worked in pubs and venues and lived at night. Even though I was partying too much, it was encouraged at work and in social gatherings.
I remember that every social encounter was planned around alcohol.
We would either be going to the pub, enjoying a bottle of wine, having a pint on a patio, going to a house party, going to an art exhibit, etc.

I realized that I had a problem when I went overboard on the night of my 20th birthday.
I went to work at a bar. I didn’t want to work on my birthday, but I had to, because I needed the money. It was economic recession and times were hard.

The night before, I had thrown a house party in my then-home, a 70s caravan in East London.
While it might have been a tiny party, it was a lot of fun. I was with my then-boyfriend, roommates and coworkers, all of us hanging out in my quaint living room.

I went to bed late and hazy. The next day, I woke up groggy and dreading going to work.
I had a drink before I left, as well as a hashish joint (something I barely ever smoke) in order to ease into the night. Suffice to say, it wasn’t a good idea.

I was already slightly out of it when I entered the bar. My boss told me that I had to work on my own on the second floor of the pub. I paid myself a drink, but my boss came up and told me that it wasn’t a good idea. I shrugged, like a blasé teenager. I was thinking: ”whatever!”.
Plus, my boyfriend had told me that he was going to come and say hi.
He ended up texting me saying that he couldn’t make it. I felt sad and lonely, and far from home.

I kept telling people that it was my birthday, and they kept buying me shots. I came to be too drunk to work, and could barely finish the night. I don’t remember all of it. It felt like being trapped in a nightmare. I could not pull myself together.
The owner saw me and decided right then and there that my time was up. My sweet friend Stuart put me into a cab, and I went home and slept. The next morning, I realized that I probably went overboard.
I felt guilty and stupid, and talked about it with my boyfriend.

The following week-end, the bar did let me work one last shift.
I had learned my lesson and I was hoping that I could still be forgiven.
That night, I worked extra-hard and didn’t drink a drop of alcohol.

A couple of days later, they had to tell me the hard news: they were letting me go.
It was a valuable lesson and although it was painful to live, it was a wake-up call.
It woke me up to the pitfalls of addiction and of burning the candle at both ends. Luckily, my boyfriend at the time was great at helping me calm down. Coincidently, he’s the one having a drinking problem now.
I know that we both have a documented story of addiction running through our families.
It’s hard to talk about substance abuse without stigmatizing myself or even worse, seem to be pointing fingers at others. It’s a work-in-progress but my ancestors aren’t going to solve my problems. The sad thing about addiction is that people can help you, but you have to start by helping yourself.

I just know that this is something that a lot of people struggle with, and if we can talk about it, we are already doing something positive. Substance abuse is not a fun topic to talk about but it’s important to. I am at this stage when I am realizing those things, and it’s better to, otherwise they’ll take too much room and hold too much power in my adult life.

I feel more way more toned now at 25 than 20, when I was drinking alcohol most days, besides those when I was nursing a hangover. Today, I’m taking care of my body in ways I did not 5 years ago.
But the problem with having an addiction-prone personality is the need to still be addicted to something. I do sports everyday: yoga, spinning, Zumba, swimming, whatever I feel like that day.
I always force myself to go. I feel better afterwards, and less likely to drown my sorrows in illicit substances.

I can’t stand drinking a lot anymore. I know what it’s like, feeling like being permanently sea-sick, sad, and out of shape. I counteract that by being aware of the amazing things that I can learn and do everyday. I’m still learning how to take care of myself, and it’s not always easy. I eat way better, I drink more water and less alcohol, I still smoke weed sometimes. My balance might not me perfect yet, but I feel healthy and grounded now in a way that only comes with experience. The thing is, a joint once in a while makes me smile and relax. But when it gets too much, it gets negative.
Is it worth having a raspy throat all the time? No. Taking breaks is important, but what’s more important is to learn how to be freed from addiction by respecting what the body and the mind needs.
The years have gone up in smoke. I am realizing that time passes by quickly. It is important to be awake and to do great things.

I went to play ultimate frisbee last night with my school friends. It was oh-so liberating to run around the field, playing together. I felt like I was flying. One of the best kind of highs.

Lili Monette is a multidisciplinary entertainer and writer, and the Montreal editor of Blonde. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre & Development from Concordia University and is currently a student in the Master of Arts in Journalism program at the University of Western Ontario.

Photo: Anthony et Lili. 2012
By Olivier Gariépy, http://ogariepy.tumblr.com/

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