The Demon You Feed
I am a recovering addict. I share this part of my life with others as a way of sharing my “experience, strength and hope to the addict out there who still suffers“, and as a cautionary tale to those who are tempted to try a drug for the very first time. I’m not a big meetings-goer, but there was a saying in the rooms of NA that we didn’t become addicts overnight … it was a gradual process, so we should go easy on ourselves. I’ll go along with that. I have been clean and sober for almost 3 years now; my demons grow hazier and harder to make out as I look in my rearview mirror and see where I’ve been … and more importantly, where I’m going.
I first began experimenting with street drugs — mainly marijuana, at the age of 13 as a way of self-medicating. I was still reeling with the guilt and shame that I felt from being the survivor of sexual assault at the hands of a schoolmate’s older brother. Back then in the mid-60’s, you didn’t talk about your assault or rape like people do on talk shows all over the television nowadays. You just ate it … suppressed it, bottled it up and shoved it under the proverbial rug, because after all, if you were braver … stronger … smarter … that ugly thing never would have happened to you.
Marijuana was a fun drug. At least, that’s the way it started. I felt loose, relaxed, and free when I smoked it. Music sounded great, comedy bits were funnier, and that ugly rape that happened didn’t loom so large on my mind. I didn’t feel anything when I smoked. And that was the whole idea. I smoked so I wouldn’t feel anything, because feeling meant I had to feel bad. Very bad. Smoking it meant I fit in easier with my peers, and I was all for that, because I already stood out like a sore thumb because of what happened to me. Everybody knew. My enemies threw it in my face constantly, testing me daily, while my friends just never mentioned it and accepted me, warts and all, for who I was. Welcome to my childhood. My teens morphed into a time of mindless hedonism; pursuits of pleasure aimed strictly at avoiding anything of depth or substance.
College years found me still using pot, but now every day, several times a day. I was attending a local small business college — taking a 2 year degree program in Commercial Art, and made the dean’s list my first two semesters. When it became obvious to me that I could “coast” and still make good grades, I became your classic underachiever. I smoked pot constantly, attended class when I felt like it, and watched as classmate after classmate passed me academically. I didn’t care. I was enjoying life, or so I thought. I graduated, but hardly with any distinction. I was clearly in the middle of the pack, and nobody that would stand out in any employer’s mind upon interview for an artist’s job.
After several futile years in the grist mill of the local artist’s job market as a proofreader, galley corrections specialist, and paste-up artist, I decided I wanted to see the world. Or at least get the hell out of Buffalo for a while. So I enlisted in the Coast Guard for four years, where my recruiter told me I could become a photojournalist without much complication. I liked the idea of writing articles and taking pictures and avoiding some of the harder labor that accompanied sailors. By now my drug of choice was a regular routine for me and something that I just took for granted as the way I woke up every morning. Wake and bake. It became a way of life for me, and I didn’t blink twice.
The years came and passed, I floated through meaningless art job after art job, and I was still feeding my habit. Looking back, I could have done life so much more positively than waste so many years — not to mention thousands of dollars, on my drug of no choice.
I heard a parable somewhere about a troubled Indian who struggled with alcoholism his entire life, and finally in desperation went to his local shaman to ask for help. “My son,” said the shaman, “the demon that grows is the one you feed.”
That story hit me like a bolt of lightning. I had been feeding my demons my entire life with drugs that neither profited or lifted me up. In an effort to escape from my childhood demons, I had exchanged a spiritual path of seeking God and relying on Him for the enemy’s counterfeit. I am pleased to share with you that I no longer feed my demon. I feed my spiritual soul, attend synagogue weekly, and even play guitar in the praise and worship group. If you’re struggling with anything — be it gambling, overeating, drugs, booze, whatever — just remember. The demon that grows is the one you feed.