How do you forgive yourself for something unforgivable?
I’ve been asking myself that question for almost eight years, ever since I first stole an oxycodone out of my father’s pill bottle while he wasn’t home. I don’t know what led me to steal that first pill. I was fresh out of high school, struggling with being a new college student in her own apartment and paying her own bills, and had been experimenting with DXM for the last few months. Up until that point, my drug use had been completely legal. I used legal drugs, and obtained them with my own money at actual stores. I wasn’t doing anything addictive or dangerous…to an extent. Basically, I was still at the point where I could have stopped and pretended like I had never touched drugs.
And then one day as I was driving home from school or work or something I can’t remember, I had a realization that somehow had never occurred to me before in my eighteen years. My dad, who had been sick since I was a child and basically had a personal pharmacy on his dining room table, most likely had narcotics in his possession. And I could steal them.
It was like something broke in my brain, or malfunctioned. All the years I had spent being so against drug use, being so honest and never stealing so much as a dime from anyone, much less my own parents, seemed to just dissolve into a vat of irrelevance and I turned into an instantly shitty human being with no moral code. So that was how I became a drug addict. I didn’t even realize I was addicted for about a year.
Every time I ran out of pills, I would get flu-like symptoms that magically disappeared if I took more pills. I thought this was a coincidence, because drugs make you super clever. One day, it hit me that this was what my parents had warned me about all my life. The great and terrible Addiction. It was absolutely terrifying.
I am adopted. My father met my birth-mother when he was a drug counselor and she was a pregnant and scared addict in his program. She basically was being forced to give up the baby if she wanted to keep her other kids, plus she didn’t feel like she could really give me the best life with her situation. My father and my mom wanted kids, but he’d had a vasectomy so they were looking into adoption. It seemed like a perfect match. My parents took care of my birth-mother for the next several months and then took me home from the hospital after I was born. They raised me to fear addiction the way I imagine religious parents raise their kids to fear the devil.
Addiction was in my blood, they told me, ingrained into my genetic code. One pill, one sip of beer, was all it would take for me to fall headfirst into the same path of my birth mother and birth father.
I successfully fought this demon for my entire childhood. I didn’t smoke weed or puff a cigarette or drink beer one goddamn time. I had other addictions, of course – it really was in my blood: school crushes, Harry Potter, Star Wars, Daniel Radcliffe, Pirates of the Caribbean, the nineties computer game Petz, World of Warcraft.
But substances? No fucking way was I going to fuck my life up willingly. I was so proud of myself. It was a vital part of my identity, being clean. It was also a huge part of what bonded Vi and me so tightly – her home life was full of raging addicts, and I was her sober savior.
So when I found myself less than a year out of high school and a literal sweating, shaking, stealing drug addict, it was kind of a shock for me. I couldn’t admit it to anyone, much less Vi who I knew would be absolutely ashamed of me and completely devastated. So it was something I had to face alone.
Lying, stealing, evading questions and human contact, it felt so wrong and surreal. My dad didn’t believe for a long time that it was me taking his pills. He kept thinking it was the pharmacy or his old brain or something else that was innocuous and didn’t involve his daughter stealing from him. He ultimately did figure it out, of course, long before I actually confessed to him. And when I did, he was probably the only person in the world who didn’t think I was the absolute worst. Probably because he was an addict, too.
This period of my life was absolutely the darkest I had experienced… so far. I was completely miserable. I felt like I was living in a nightmare. Every few days I would have to steal more pills to avoid withdrawals, and this would result in a day or two of convoluted lies and tricks to get my dad out of the house. He would try to hide the pills from me but I always found a way to get to them. It was like an unstoppable driving force in my brain, making me do horrible things that felt wrong to my core, and I hated every second of my life.
Vi was absolutely miserable during this time, all because of me. I don’t know how much she knew about my addiction at the time, but she definitely knew something was wrong. I never wanted to have sex, I wasn’t affectionate, I disappeared for hours almost every day and couldn’t be reached, I was sick all the time. It was awful. She just thought I didn’t love her or care about her anymore.
I knew I was hurting her but I couldn’t bring myself to admit the truth. She had told me that if I ever did drugs she wouldn’t be able to forgive me and would pretty much end our relationship, just because she was so traumatized from growing up around addicts. I couldn’t lose her, and I was convinced I could get through this shit by myself somehow without her ever finding out I had been on drugs. I know that sounds absolutely ludicrous but you do stupid shit when you’re on drugs.
Anyway… needless to say, that didn’t happen. I didn’t get off drugs until my dad died, and that was only because the supply was taken from me. By then, the damage had been done between me and basically everyone in my life, most notably Vi. She was distant, bitter, angry, and incredibly sad. She loved me but she didn’t like me. I didn’t blame her. I didn’t like me either.
I’ve done a whole lot of shit that I can’t forgive myself for. I’ve stolen from my parents, I’ve stolen from friends. I’ve stolen from strangers. I broke Violet’s heart. I broke my parents’ hearts.
I remember googling “can an addict change” at one point and all the results were articles about how if you love an addict, you need to give up on them for your own well being because they will always fuck you over. That was really hard for me. I know it must e awful to watch someone you love become a horrible person, but I really feel like it’s a little bit worse watching yourself become a horrible person. How do you live with yourself when you do shit you wouldn’t forgive other people for?
I hit my new low point in 2014/2015, when my daughter was a toddler and my marriage was in shambles. We barely spoke. Vi was getting to a point that was pretty much abusive, which she readily admits now. Everything I did pissed her off. I wasn’t on drugs, but I was drinking every night to the point of puking uncontrollably. I was also in the middle of a seriously manic phase, which didn’t mix well with alcohol. I would do things like go outside whilst shitfaced and psychotic with barely any clothes on in the middle of a snowstorm at three in the morning. That is something I did multiple times. I would lay in the snow while everybody slept and hope I would freeze to death.
During this period, I lost two good friends. One, I had known since age twelve. She was my best friend all through high school and though our relationship was rocky, she meant the world to me. One day, we had a huge fight and she blocked me and Vi on Facebook and changed her Netflix password (the ultimate twenty-first century snub). We had fought in the past and it always resolved if I wrote a long message/apology, so I wrote her a letter and mailed it to her.
A little while later, I received a note inside a piece of Tupperware I’d left at her house. It said something along the lines of “I wrote a longer message but I think it would be best to keep things simple. We should cut ties. Please do not contact me again. Thanks.”
This completely shattered my heart. It sent me into a deep, spiraling depression in which I did several bad things, like drunk texting her and even calling her. I highly regret this, because I wish I could have at least shown her that I respected her enough to follow her request of not contacting her again.
That was a really harsh lesson for me – before that experience, I really thought everything could be fixed. But now I realize that sometimes, you break things beyond repair and no amount of apologies and regret can mend them. Also, people are not obligated to hear your apology.
If someone says DO NOT CONTACT ME, please don’t do what I did. You need to respect their boundaries if you really love them, and that is the best way for you to ultimately show your love and respect.
The other friend I lost was a few months after that. She and I had become fast friends around the time my dad died, and it was a weirdly borderline romantic relationship. This, I think, was our downfall, because I thought of her more like a girlfriend than just a friend. I leaned on her for emotional support when my relationship with Violet was crumbling. I saw her almost every day because she lived just down the road.
The beginning of the end of that relationship was when she asked me if she had my permission to date my high school ex. I said no, because I only dated like three people in my life and that relationship was really traumatic for me. I was still broken hearted from it despite the fact that our relationship had ended when I was sixteen.
The gist of this story is that my friend started dating my ex behind my back, and I tried really hard to accept it but it fucked with my head to see them together. I was also jealous because I was still kind of in love with my friend, and since they were together now we couldn’t continue our weird little romance. I was incredibly bitter and pretty much pushed her away until the relationship blew up and became irreparable.
Now I was essentially friendless and my marriage was barely even a thing. I felt completely alone in the world. My wife had a really toxic friendship with this new girl who would come over to our house and drink with us, and we would all talk shit about the ex-friend of mine and in my drunken, manic state, I got worked up over time into a rage and I ended up doing something, ultimately, that I will never forgive myself for.
One night, when everyone was asleep, I was at my most psychotic, most drunken state. I was raging over my broken friendships and I wanted her to feel the pain I felt now. I went to her house … and vandalized her and my ex’s property. In a very violent way. Knowing my friend had PTSD from being attacked as a child. Not only did I do this once, I actually went back a week later and did it again.
I am pretty sure they caught me on camera doing this, and why they didn’t call the police on me, I’m still not sure. Whether it was to spare themselves pain and drama, or to spare my child from having her mother go to jail, or to spare me, I don’t know. But regardless, I’m grateful, because they easily could have destroyed my life and I would have deserved it.
The shame I feel from what I did to them is unbearable sometimes. No matter what they did to me, whether it was right or wrong, what I did to them was absolutely worse and completely unforgivable. I still don’t know what the fuck I was thinking. To do something so violent, so destructive, so pointless, just because I felt pain…
I tried to justify it for a long time, or blame the fact that I was drunk and manic. But ultimately, I did something horrible that if done to me I probably wouldn’t forgive. I didn’t have to do it. They didn’t deserve it. This will stick with me forever as the darkest point in my life, when I was closest to being a monster.
I truly don’t know how I’m supposed to reconcile my past self with my present self. I don’t feel like I’m a horrible, irredeemable person, but I know they probably think I am. And that’s okay. I don’t blame them. I guess when you fuck up, you just have to accept that some people will never forgive you, and that’s something you can’t change.
That doesn’t give you an excuse to be horrible moving forward. I try my best to be an honest, trustworthy, truly good person these days. I don’t have secrets. I don’t hate anyone except for Donald Trump and Nazis. I try to not talk about people behind their backs like a high schooler. I just want to live my life and move forward. I try not to think about the fact that people I care about might hate me now. I can only live, and love, and do my best to not be a shitty human being from now on.