racing in the morning

For as long as I can remember, I have been addicted to something. Whether it was the rush of trying to steal things when I was a little kid. Or singing in front of crowds. Or gymnastics. Or starving. Or drugs. Addiction is just part of my make-up. I get intensely passionate about the things that matter to me and make me feel good because I’m constantly chasing a high.

A lot of my friends didn’t understand how when I started drinking and using drugs, I was able to eat more normally. Or why when I got clean, I all of sudden started working out more and eating less. Truth be told, I knew why. It was because something else was filling that space in me that needs to be fed. The part of me that thrives on an internal high. Of feeling like I’m invincible and flying.

I constantly check in with myself because I know this about myself. I know that just because I’m not ingesting substances, doesn’t mean the addiction is better. It means I’m not currently using those things. But it could very well mean I’m running away from things or not eating enough. It could mean I’m obsessing about anything or everything. Because that’s what addiction is. It’s wanting everything and nothing. It’s never knowing what’s too much.

If you know what I’m talking about, you’re not alone. If you don’t, be grateful. The highs are great, but the lows are a whole other story.

I have found a couple of ways to cope with having an addictive personality. Hopefully they can help you too. One way is through writing out what I’ve been doing and thinking. Usually if I put it on paper, I can see if there’s a pattern. You can’t change unless you know what’s wrong. Another way is to try and see it for the good it can bring you. If I’m constantly fighting it and denying the personality trait, I usually get lost and hurt. But if I really focus on using it for good, it can be so rewarding. There are two sides to every trait. And addiction can become passion when used correctly.

The most important thing I have found, though, is having a group of people around me who know how I act. This way they can also point out my behaviors to me. Because denial is real for addicts and can be hard to see through. If nothing else, having at least one person who knows my patterns can be so helpful. 

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, head here for resources. You can also text 741741 from anywhere in the USA to text with a trained Crisis Counselor. 

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Image by Rulles


I started smoking when I was 15 years old. It was an impressionable time, as I’m sure most of us can remember. It was a time when we were leaving behind the innocence and naivety of childhood and attempting to forge for ourselves a semblance of adulthood (or at least what adulthood appeared to be from the point of view of a teenager).

In my peer group, there was a rush, a distinct barreling, all of us competing with each other to be the most “grown up” or “mature.” Most of us can look back at this time of our lives and laugh. Yet, to completely dismiss it as just some wayward phase is simplistic because the habits we formed in these impressionable years tend to stay with us through our adult lives. That is until we make a conscious decision to change them.

I ended up becoming a smoker. It happened in a blur of alcohol and nervous teenage laughter. Before I knew it, my “habit” had crept up to almost a pack a day by the time I was 18. At 16, I was diagnosed with depression. It was around this time that I made the transition from being a social smoker, only having a couple at parties, to being a smoker in my own right.

At the time, it felt like the cigarettes helped. To this day, I’m not sure whether they actually did, or whether it was entirely a placebo, but that didn’t really matter. All I knew was if I felt upset, then I could just smoke and feel a little better. As time went on, my cigarettes became my “little friend,” a constant companion through the heartaches and the joys of emerging adulthood.

As the last few months of my sixteenth year went by, I went through one of the hardest periods of my life and developed a new addiction. The pain I felt seemed too strong for cigarettes to help with, and I began cutting. It was my last resort, but I was desperate to feeling something other than sadness. I had no regard for my future or for how people would perceive me as an adult with scars running down both forearms. The pain was simply too great for me to slow down.

These two addictions soon came to be intertwined. I eventually managed to overcome my cutting and stopped just before I turned 18, but the smoking continued. In fact, the scars my cutting had left me made it seem almost necessary. When seen alone, I thought I must look a “freak,” a perfectly normal teenager except for the signs on my arms, seemingly screaming to everyone around me, “I’m different!”

When I was smoking, the feeling was still there, but it changed. I felt I was the epitome of the “rebellious teenager,” dark and brooding, misunderstood. I believed smoking gave me a sense of character. When people saw my scars, they wouldn’t see me as a “freak” but rather as someone who was just “different” or “unique.” Instead of helping me deal with my pain, my smoking transformed into a way for me to deal with the consequences of the pain.

The problem is none of this was real. As anyone who has gone through addiction will tell you, whether it be cigarettes or something else, our addiction tricks us into thinking we need it. At first it was for the pain, and later, I “needed” it to deal with the scars. Yet, part of growing up is facing the world as it is, not as you construct it in your head. It took a long time and much reflection to realize this is the way I had built my own prison of addiction. It took even longer to break free.

I was worried that doing so would leave me distraught, unable to deal with the real world. In reality, the opposite is true. Now that I am no longer hiding behind my addictions, I can face the world in a healthier way. I’ve come to terms with my scars and what they mean, and I’ve stopped caring so much about what people think. At times, I even see it as an opportunity to educate others about something that isn’t often discussed due to the stigma surrounding it.

My hope is someone reading this will use my story as motivation for their own journey. Quitting an addiction, no matter what it is, is scary and difficult, especially if the addiction has manifested itself as a faux-necessity in your life. Addictions are complicated things, interacting with so many different parts of life. Some people reading this may not even want to quit and that’s OK!

Yet, despite how hard it can be and despite the feeling that I could never do it, here I am. 1743 days cut free and 85 days smoke free.  And you can do it too.

Image via Thinkstock.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

When I was 22, I decided to stop drinking. Considering my history, the decision happened after a rather insignificant night.

It did not happen the morning I woke up in the hospital with hypothermia and alcohol poisoning.

It did not happen when I spent 30 days in rehab after getting into a drunken fight with my parents and chugging a bottle of mouthwash and a handful of prescription pills.

It did not happen after a 50-something-year-old bartender told me I needed to kiss him to get my ID back, which somehow led to me bringing him back to my dorm and upon realizing I regretted the decision pretending to be passed out as he pressed his naked body against mine and repeatedly whispered “Don’t fall asleep on me, babe.”

It did not happen after I had to run away from a homeless man who led me to a park and exposed himself to me after I asked him for directions in Providence.

It did not happen after I almost left a New Delhi Men’s Fashion week party with a man who said he was a model but was actually a pimp and hours later texted me trying to sell me an hour in a limo with a boy or girl for $400.

It happened after what was, for me, a rather routine, if not tame, night: I went out drinking with my friends, blacked out and had to be brought home.

When I woke up in the morning, I felt like I was reaching the surface of water just as I was about to use my last breath of oxygen. I had been so consumed by self-created chaos that I had not had clarity of mind for years.

“What if my friends hadn’t been there?” I asked myself. “What if they hadn’t brought me home?”

Of course, I already knew the answer, but for the first time I allowed myself to let it sink in: If I didn’t stop drinking I was going to wind up killing myself, either intentionally or accidentally.

And it was going to happen soon.

I had been drinking regularly since I was 15. Yet the issue with high school and college drinking is the blurry line between typical – if dangerous – experimentation and blatant drinking problems. It wasn’t that bizarre I hid a bottle of vodka beneath the floorboards in my parent’s attic, but I crossed beyond standard teenage rebellion when I’d pour vodka in my mug full of Sprite as a I did my homework.

As a gay teenager in an inner city high school, alcohol took on an extra significance. Drinking is the great equalizer; anyone can do it. Though I loved my close friends, I always felt different, apart. I used alcohol as a means to bond with classmates with whom I otherwise had nothing in common.

In retrospect, the truth was glaring and obvious. By the time I graduated from high school, I had been hospitalized three times for alcohol poisoning, completed a month-long stint in rehab and spent a night in a psychiatric center after a drug-induced breakdown.

After going to rehab – in my sophomore year of high school – I stayed sober for a few months while I completed an outpatient program, but my heart was not in it. I was convinced I did not have a problem. After each hospitalization I would have a window of time where I essentially “grounded” myself from alcohol, but within a few weeks I would lie to my parents and find my way back out.

I made myself a victim. When people tried to talk to me about my behavior, whether it be adults or friends, I would lie and if they kept pushing then cry.

My biggest blessing and curse in high school was that I was able to achieve despite all of my struggles. I was the valedictorian of my class and was accepted at Brown University.

I left for college with high hopes. I wanted to study International Relations and become a human rights lawyer. But without the structure of high school, I quickly fell apart; I drank almost every night. Where I had been admired for my work ethic in high school, in college I schemed to do the bare minimum. Though my grades were lower than high school, they were strong enough that I was able to maintain a façade of being OK. I ignored the changes happening to me. I no longer took any joy out of learning, or any joy out of much anything at all, besides partying.

I hid my past from my friends at Brown, but as time went on my troubling relationship with substances came to the surface. By the time I graduated, I had been hospitalized an additional time after an alcohol and cocaine binge and had a Xanax addiction. I’d black out a few times a week. I was aggressive and reckless. I constantly started fights I couldn’t remember, both with friends and strangers.

When I wasn’t drunk, I was hungover. My anxiety was through the roof. I had trouble sleeping, and would take whatever I could get, whether it be NyQuil, Ambien or Vicodin, just to get through the night.

After college, I moved to New York without a job. My low point: After drunkenly breaking up with my ex-boyfriend at a party, I tried to run into heavy New York traffic while two friends walked me home. They pulled me back. I was in a complete blackout. They tell me I sobbed for an hour and passed out. I awoke the next day at 2 p.m., completely disoriented, and barely remembered anything from the night before. I stopped drinking for a few weeks, and sulked that I had to. Within the month, I decided I was going to try drinking again with strict rules in place. I would drink only during the weekend and would have no more than three drinks spread out throughout the night.

Needless to say, I was soon drinking during the week and blacking out routinely on weekends. And so on the Sunday morning of the second weekend, I woke up and decided that the only way I might ever be happy is if I never drank again.

If you’re a heavy drinker, that decision can seem impossible. I always ran with a hard-partying crowd. For someone young, the thought of losing access to the social situation they’ve always known is terrifying. Whenever I would try to become sober – which happened at least 10 times before it actually worked – the voice inside my head would incessantly shout: What if I’m less funny when I’m sober? What am I even going to talk to this person about if I’m not drunk? I can’t dance until I’ve taken a few shots! Sleeping with someone without alcohol?!

I told myself that drinking is what made my world feel magical. My first couple of drinks gave me manic energy and a sweeping sense of happiness, and I would spend the rest of the night trying to not only maintain that feeling, but to make it grow. I remember sitting at my kitchen table during senior week at Brown. It was around noon and I was incredibly hungover. I felt completely flat and empty but as soon as I chugged a beer I came back to life. My depression temporarily subsided and I was bubbly and talkative and vivacious. I gleefully proclaimed, “Wow! I love drinking!” I was convinced I’d lose my true self if I gave up alcohol, because at that point it was rare that I felt happy when I wasn’t drunk.

Alcohol felt like my lifeline, and it was only on rare occasions – during common morning panic attacks – that I might even briefly acknowledge it was actually destroying my life.

One minute I would be drinking and dancing with my friends at the bar and then my next moment of worldly awareness would be when I woke up completely disoriented, panicked, unsure of where I was. Whether I found myself in my dorm basement in my underwear, naked in someone’s bed or on a beach in Costa Rica missing my shoes and a wallet, I was never really that shocked.

More times than I would care to admit, I woke up in a pool of my own urine or with vomit splattered against the walls as my phone repeatedly rang or a concerned friend pounded on my door. I often didn’t ask questions about what happened the night before, because I didn’t want to know the answers.

For me to admit I did not remember the insults I hurled, or that I did not mean what I had said, would have meant acknowledging I was out of control.

For me to admit the sexual situations I found myself in were scary or shameful would have meant reevaluating my own habits and addictions.

Alcoholism has taught me you really can convince yourself of anything. Instead of recognizing I needed help, I convinced myself that my outlandish behavior was what made me interesting. Deflection was my weapon of choice. If I woke up frightened, I would tell the story for a laugh. Though people would occasionally confront me, most acted as if I were entertaining. Besides, I quickly realized, if my “partying” pushed a friend away, there were always five more people who wouldn’t notice, or frankly care, how many drinks I had or how drunk I got so long as they didn’t have to physically carry me home.

It was only toward the end of my 22nd year of life that I was finally able to admit to those I loved – but most important to myself – that drinking wasn’t worth it if I would one day wake up seriously hurt.

If I woke up, at all.

Learning to live a sober life, in many ways, has been like trying to walk when you’re used to crawling. I still remember how easy it was drink and how much more effort it has taken for me to reach an emotional place where I’m strong enough to choose against it. Besides, whatever problems or feelings I would drink to escape came back, tenfold, the morning after.

For me, the hardest part of sobriety has been learning to be comfortable with myself all of the time. Every day, it gets a little easier. I’ve had to teach myself how to communicate thoughtfully without poisoning my speech with the fury of alcohol. I have had to learn how to flirt and pursue romance without being a histrionic drunk, lacking both grace and inhibitions.

I understand I have a long way to travel before I achieve self-acceptance or real serenity. But what I do have, finally, is the peace of mind of knowing I can wake up every morning remembering all I did the night before – for better or worse – and knowing, in the end, I will be OK.

Update: On Thursday, Nordstrom released a statement saying it would no longer carry Moschino’s Capsule Collection. 

People are not happy with fashion brand Moschino’s latest collection dubbed the “capsule collection.” Currently sold online at Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue, the collection, addiction activists say, glamorizes opioid use and prescription drug abuse.

Moschino @beckermanblog photo @theshark #justsaymoschino #fashionshow #moschino @itsjeremyscott

A photo posted by Moschino (@moschino) on

Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S., with opioids responsible for more than 40 percent of overdose-related deaths. While the Capsule Collection does not directly reference opioids or prescription painkillers, protesters say the designs and the collection’s “Just Say Moschino” slogan blatantly promote drug use.

Moschino’s collection features bags, shirts, dresses, backpacks and other accessories either emblazoned with pills or modeled after pill bottles and blister packs. Moschino is known for creating designs based off everyday products. Other collections have featured items including a purse that looks like a stop sign and perfume modeled after window cleaner. Products from the Capsule Collection range from a $175 umbrella to a $1,095 crossbody bag modeled after a blister pack. 




  A photo posted by Moschino (@moschino) on


On Saturday, a petition was launched on asking Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue and Moschino buyers to stop purchasing items from the collection. “Do you have any idea of the message your company is sending to those who have suffered the loss of a loved one due to a drug overdose?” Randy Anderson, who launched the petition, wrote. “I work as an alcohol and drug counselor in Minneapolis, MN and I can tell you firsthand the havoc addiction has on the individual, the family, the community, the healthcare system and the country.”

So far, more than 1,000 people have signed Anderson’s petition. “I raise money to purchase naloxone, the reversal medication for opioid overdoses, and then distribute rescue kits of it to those at highest risk of overdose. Your willingness to profit off this epidemic that’s killing thousands astounds me, and I will not shop at Nordstrom’s until these items are removed from your stores,” Laurie Fugitt, RN and cofounder of Georgia Overdose Prevention, said, commenting on the petition.

A video posted by Moschino (@moschino) on

“I lost my son to this insidious disease and don’t want anyone else to go through the pain of losing their child,” another petition supporter wrote. Moschino and its buyers have yet to respond to the petition of the controversy.

The Mighty reached out to Moschino for comment and has yet to hear back. 

h/t STAT

Three years ago, I stopped drinking. Yesterday, I spoke to my dad, who is also in recovery, about the upcoming anniversary. He wanted to share something someone once told him. “When you stop drinking, it won’t solve your problems,” he said. “But you’ll be able to know your real problems, and not just the ones you’re creating for yourself.”

I couldn’t agree more. Three years ago, when I stopped drinking, I knew I had to. If I didn’t, I was certain I was going to die. For nearly a decade, my life had, in many ways, been defined by my tumultuous relationship with alcohol. There were hospitalizations and rehabilitations. There were relationships ruined and dreams depleted. There were increasingly frightening and common blackouts and days spent in bed, miserably recovering from the night before.

Yet, throughout this, I convinced myself alcohol was what made me happy, what made my life a little less meaningless. I really believed the intoxicated version of myself was my true being. The sober person I left behind felt so sad and deflated, so cautious and needy. I didn’t believe I was truly happy, but I believed with alcohol, I was the happiest I could possibly be. I was more than willing to accept the side effects that came with consumption.

Of course, none of it makes any sense. As a drunken person, I was verbally aggressive. I said mean things to get my way, and in the moment, I didn’t care who I hurt. I was insecure, and I sought emotional and sexual validation. I cried, often and woke up each morning having done or said at least one thing I regretted.

If someone was mad at me or when something bad happened, I always blamed it on the alcohol. I didn’t mean the nasty thing I said, I was drunk. I didn’t actually want to hurt myself. I just had too much to drink. I know I could have died, but I didn’t, and moving forward I’ll drink less.

Those excuses (mostly) worked, and I was able to keep drinking to excess. However, I didn’t “get away with it” because I was so much smarter than everyone else (like I thought) or because my drinking habits were more normal than people were acknowledging (like I truly believed.) I got away with it because, at a certain point, people didn’t really know what else they could do.

You can’t help someone who doesn’t want to help himself. So they were stuck watching a car crash. Some looked away. Others ran away and still more watched, holding their breath, hoping I might come out alive. At the end of my drinking career, when I realized I’d lost everything that mattered to me, joy for life, honest relationships, compassion and self-love, I gave up alcohol.

After more failed attempts at quitting than I can event count, this time it worked. I don’t think it was because I hit “‘rock bottom.” I think I finally opened my eyes and saw how much more darkness lay beneath me and that perhaps there wasn’t a true rock bottom. I realized for a person with such a streak of self-destruction, I would always be able to find a way to hurt myself a little more.

I didn’t want that, I realized. I wanted to be happy, or at least to try to be. I wanted to be functional, reliable and kind. I hadn’t been any of things for many years.

In early sobriety, what I found out quickly was another piece of wisdom my dad had tried to impart onto me a year and a half before when he visited me while I studied abroad in India. At the time, I had a full-blown addiction to my anxiety medication, and I was trying to wean myself off. For days, I could not stop crying. I was blaming my emotional state on being in India and out of my comfort zone. With a blend of sympathy and tough love, he turned to me and gently said, “I think you’re finding out the hard way wherever you go, there you’ll be.”

Early sobriety in many ways felt much like my time in India. I was navigating terrain that was so far beyond my comfort zone, where all of my preconceived notions were constantly being proven wrong. I was in a place where the only constant was what I wanted to most escape — myself.

The initial exhilaration of sobriety and making such a powerful decision made the first week easy. Then, the novelty faded. I was no longer preoccupied with the announcements I was making to all of my friends and family. They already knew. My coronation was over, and now, it was time to do the hard work. It was time to actually be sober and not just to be told how strong I was or how proud people were of me. It was time to not drink for myself.

Like my dad pointed out, sobriety did not mean my problems went away. It meant they were no longer moving targets darting around as blurs in front of me. They were now perceivable and imminent, issues I had to actually face.

Without alcohol, I no longer felt like my bottom had fallen out, but I still felt quite close to, if not on, the bottom. I thought sobriety would be gleeful. I thought I would now be “happy” and more easily fulfilled.

This wasn’t the case. Day after day, I had to wake up and just be sober. I had to accept I didn’t like where my life was, and it was at this point because of decisions I had made. There were some relationships that weren’t salvageable. There were some dreams that would take years to fulfill because I’d spent so long trying to find the easiest way out.

I had to get used to the sound of my own voice. I had to think about what I wanted to say and how I said it because I could no longer use the excuse “because I was drunk.” I had to accept there was still a persistent sadness and self-hatred that had not only been there because I’d been an alcoholic.

I thought back to years earlier, when I’d been at a concert. I’d taken drugs with a group of friends. As it set in, I just kept wanting more. I took another pill, and though most people I was with felt sufficiently high and wanted to avoid drinking, I was seeking it out. The combination made me feel like I was floating, numb and dulled. I felt so close to death, yet present. In that moment, I felt bliss.

In sobriety, thinking back to that moment terrified me. What was it inside of me that sought to destroy my own essence? Why did I feel joy in a moment of danger, when I now felt apathetic and flat in this period of self-nurturing?

Answering questions like this has been the hardest part of sobriety. Hell, I still don’t have all the answers. I’m not even close. Becoming sober wasn’t like removing the exterior layer of paint on a wrecked car and finding there was a perfect, brand new car beneath. Everything I struggled with was still there. The only difference was it was now just much more visible without the mask of alcoholism.

Without alcohol, I still found I had mean thoughts, I sought validation and I sometimes still woke up shrouded in darkness. I realized I could still do all of the same sh*ty things. I could still spend days in bed. I could still have mindless sex to remind myself I was wanted. I could still punish myself. I could still eat too little or too much. I could deprive myself of sleep or not do the things I love.

I could still keep secrets. I could still be guarded and emotionally opaque. I could still be scared. I could still be dishonest about the things I wanted and devastated when they didn’t happen how I’d hoped.

I don’t want that. I want to dig in. I want to push myself to feel joy and to feel whole. Whether that comes through antidepressants and therapy, yoga and meditation, writing and conversation, I am willing to try it all. Not all of my questions are answered and not all of my problems are solved. My urge to self-destruct has dwindled, but it still chirps in, on occasion. My voice of reason is louder and stronger.

No, you shouldn’t drink until you’re physically there but mentally gone. In fact, you shouldn’t drink at all. No, the world is not ending because something went wrong. Sure, you can sleep with that person, but do you actually want to? He isn’t going to magically add meaning to your life. No, life is not just a river you blindly hurl yourself into and see where you end up.

I know each morning, when I wake up, there is only going to be one person who will never go away from me. That person is myself. Three years ago, the fastest way to deny that reality was to get sh*tfaced.

Today, I am OK with waking up and sometimes feeling uncertain. I am OK with not always feeling content, whole, brave or sure. Three years ago, I was scared. Today, I am not. Today, I can see my problems, and I’m ready to fight.

Image via Thinkstock.

Donald Trump doesn’t seem to know how addiction works, at least not according to a speech he gave at his campaign’s New Hampshire rally on Thursday.

“You know what really amazed me when I came here?” Donald Trump asked as he began his portion of the rally. “[T]hey said the biggest single problem they have up here is heroin. And I said ‘how does heroin work with these beautiful lakes, and trees and all of the beautiful…?’ It doesn’t.”

Unfortunately for Trump, living somewhere as idyllic as New Hampshire’s countryside doesn’t lower your chances of being exposed to or becoming addicted to heroin. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 23 percent of Americans who try heroin become addicted. They become addicted not because they live in places less scenic than New Hampshire, but because heroin is an opioid that affects their brain chemistry, and some people are genetically more likely to become addicted than others.

Similar to the platform he built his campaign on, Trump has a plan to stop the rising rates of heroin use and addiction. “I win, I get the nomination and I win, we’re gonna build that wall and we’re gonna stop that heroin from pouring in and we’re going to stop the poison of the youth,” he said. “We’re going to build the wall, believe me. We are going to build the wall, but we’re going to stop the poison from pouring in and destroying our youth and plenty of other people and we’re gonna work on those people that got addicted and are addicted and I’ll tell you what, we’re gonna do a real job for the state of New Hampshire.”

Neither Trump nor his campaign provided any additional details during the rally as to what that “real job” entails or how Trump plans to help those already addicted to heroin. The campaign’s website does not mention addiction services or rehabilitation as part of their health care reform either.

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