Addictions are something I know all too well. I almost feel like addictions are the theme of my life. I started drinking at fifteen years old and I was using drugs by the time I turned seventeen. Looking back now, I can see that my addictions were a result of an extremely low self-esteem. I really did not care about myself and would do anything to be liked or feel loved. I used numerous drugs and did numerous things that haunt me to this day. Sometimes I think that amnesia would be the greatest thing in the world so that I wouldn't remember the terrible things I did. This is going to sound weird, but as ashamed as I am about my past, I'm also very proud of it. I am so proud that I was able to wake up one morning on the floor in some really dirty house and say "this is no way to live." I quit cold turkey. No rehab, just my will to make my life better for myself.
While I was straightening out my life, my big brother Billy was in and out of jail and court appointed rehab. Billy was in jail when I gave birth to my son, but got out in time for my wedding. (I did things the 90's way, baby first -- marriage second). I could start to see in my brother what I could see in myself looking back to my drug days. He didn't love himself, and he never wanted to be alone. He would latch on to girls that he didn't even like, just so he wouldn't be alone. The girls would always leave him and he would be depressed. I would always say to him that he needed to love himself before anyone would ever love him.
He seemed to be doing better for the next three years, or so I thought. I knew he was drinking, but at least for the most part he was staying out of trouble. I always knew my brother was an alcoholic. He had started drinking at the age of twelve. However, I didn't realize how serious his addictions were until January 9th, 2001, when I got a phone call telling me that my brother had died. He had been using heroine for the last year or so. I knew he used drugs occasionally, but I never knew it had turned into an every day thing. He snorted the heroine so it wasn't as easy as looking for track marks on his arms, but I still don't know how I could have missed it. Seven years ago I was him, so I feel that I should have seen it coming.
Billy was larger than life, and I was truly blessed to have him in my life. It comforts me to know that he is now in a place where he can love and be at peace with himself. I have learned from my experiences that self-esteem is the most important weapon in fighting any addiction. I'm sure others think it can't be that easy. Well it is. I quit smoking cold turkey just by telling myself that I wanted to live long enough to see my grandchildren. I love life. I don't want to die. What gratification does a cigarette offer me that I couldn't get from hugging my son? If people would ask themselves these types of questions before they take that cigarette or drink, quitting becomes easier than they could ever imagine. I am still mourning the loss of my brother, however I am now more committed than ever to living a healthy life. I now live life without taking one day for granted, and I wish for everyone the same.
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