Condemned to death. Seeking a path away from pain with booze, Xanax, crystal, oxy, heroin. Street drugs, prescriptions…like the mythical lotus eaters, the addicts feast until they forget their homelands. They forget who they are. Addiction is a scourging, it comes with a crown of thorns and a crucifixion.
At first, seeking relief from pain: the pain of embodiment, personal history, or existence itself. Agony initiated by a car accident, childhood abuse, a fall, a failed surgery or an unfortunate collision with genetics.
We sit with them. We bear witness, we coax out truth. We cry with them, we shake our heads, we push for acceptance.
The acceptance comes and goes. The pain of withdrawal brings relapse for some. They fall, once, twice, three times. The relapsers disappear for weeks, months, years. Sometimes we find out that they have died – an anonymous letter, a newspaper obituary, a phone call. Stripped of their garments and nailed to the cross.
When they are sober they tell their stories. They tell their stories to each other in meetings in church basements. They tell them to us in the small sterile rooms of our clinic. I am learning to listen without judgement or the need to offer advice. I have learned to cry with them. To cry without shame, for myself and for them. The tears make a different kind of track mark on us. A mark that brings us out of the tomb and into the light.