For many, substance abuse is a way to avoid figuring out who you are. It was for me.

To learn who you really are is not easy. You must dig down through all the layers of childhood trauma and the fossilized coping mechanisms you created to deal with it. Dig until you find some little ember; some small part of you that remained untouched, somehow. Then you must care for that ember. Give it fuel, breathe upon it to stoke it up into a flame you can light your way forward with.

This is hard. It can mean letting go of the person many people think you are. It can mean letting go of those people when they can’t accept who you need to be now.

It can make it very hard to relate to people for a while. This can be a lonely, alienating process.

So much easier to grab hold of something external. The bottle. The pipe. The little baggies. These alternatives to developing a personality. Taking this shared experience of partaking as a substitution for a true community. For a family.

When you are on a drug, you become like the drug. When you are drunk, you are a drunk. The drug obliterates the nuances and subtleties of personality that make an individual unique; but in doing so, it gives users something in common with each other.

Your little user squad becomes like a group of shipwreck survivors, each clinging to a bit of flotsam. You have found each other and cobbled your bits of wreckage into a life raft to share. There is camaraderie and the exhilaration of finding other people like you.

Except they aren’t like you, it just seems like they are because you are all high in the same way.

This is not to say the experiences might not be meaningful. For a time. Or that you won’t find a precious relationship here. You might. But as you spend more time in this place, you will increasingly feel the hollowness of it. It will become strained; difficult; unpleasant. As the dabblers become addicts, the pathology of the drug will weigh heavier upon the group. Upon you.

If you are lucky, you will realize early enough that you must leave this place. That you are now creating more fossils to deal with. More weight to drag with you. That you have come no closer to that ember within you. Indeed, you are probably further away from it than you ever have been.

If you are unlucky, though, you’ll have substituted your personality, your essence, with a simple label:


This label can become your identity, and will cling to you like a fossilized exoskeleton. Weighing you down. Dragging you under. It is not an easy one to put down.

Best to avoid it, if you can.

Better to find out who you are.

If you can.

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