Addiction Awareness Scholarship Campaign 2020 – I only planned on having one drink

Name: Zoie Danielle Lind

I only planned on having one drink

I wish that I could
tell you that I saw it coming. My father, both of my grandfathers,
great-grandfather, sister and aunt are all addicted. My mother tried
to protect me from it. Unfortunately, sometimes love isn’t enough.
I was completely broken and confused as I sat in a chair in the
admissions office of a drug and alcohol rehab center at age 23. It
seemed like yesterday that I was a 10-year-old girl in the passenger
seat of my dad’s pick-up truck, trying to shake him and wake him up
because he was losing consciousness behind the wheel. We were on our
way to the methadone clinic a couple of counties away and my dad was
very sick. I thought to myself “I am never going to be like that, I
will never allow myself to become like him.” I had no idea where
the next 13 years of my life were headed.

I found solace in a
bottle of vodka and little blue and white pills. That changed me. It
did something to me that I had never experienced before; it gave me
peace. I think a lot of people consider drugs and alcohol “the
problem”, but for me, it was the solution. It solved all of my
problems, anywhere from a stubbed toe to a broken heart. I never
imagined in a million years that those very things that stole the
majority of my family from me would rob me of my life too. It just
didn’t seem possible with some of the things that I had
experienced. I thought that knowledge was enough, as I think many
people do. I’m so thankful that on June 1, 2017, I reached out for
help. It was either that or die. I had walked the tightrope of life
and death many times before and I felt it in my heart that the end
was near if I did not get help for my addiction. I wouldn’t make it
through another round of alcohol poisoning or another opiate

I believe, as I
have stated before, that people believe that knowledge is the
solution to addiction. In reality, from personal experience,
knowledge is what opens the door to recovery. You still have to step
through that doorway to the other side, which requires action.
Bringing light to the addiction crisis and understanding that
addiction is a disease, a sickness like many others, creates a safe
space for open conversation. It creates acceptance and awareness, but
it does not keep the addict from going and getting drunk or high
again. I knew alcoholism and addiction were prevalent in my family
and over time, it became apparent to me that I, too, was addicted,
but that did not stop me from using.

We created this
problem. Life is fast, busy and overwhelming for many people and it
has become the “norm” to go to the doctor when you experience any
sign of nervousness or sadness and ask for a pill to fix it. It has
created a society that relies heavily on chemical solutions to
normal, everyday problems. As an addict, I was hospitalized many
times and I was put on many heavy antipsychotic medications for
showing symptoms of depression. Of course I was depressed. The
alcohol and drugs I was using were depressants. I think that, as
humans, we are meant to feel our feelings. We were given these things
for a reason. Who isn’t going to be sad when their significant
other breaks up with them or nervous when they are starting a new job
or class? This doesn’t mean that we don’t treat people with
legitimate mental illness with medication, but putting someone that
is alcoholic on a heavy, sedating antidepressant is not going to
“fix” their alcoholism. For me, I didn’t like the way it made
me feel so I went back to drinking. On the other hand, alcoholic
propaganda runs rampant in this country. We advertise booze like we
do fast food and hair products. It is normalized here. I never
intended to become alcoholic, nor am I blaming anyone for my
alcoholism. Our minds are molded by the society we live in and when
you see a beautiful girl sitting on a barstool drinking a Budweiser,
our brains are conditioned to think “ I want that.”

I believe that
providing more support through public health systems and making
treatment more accessible to everyone would allow many addicts to
open up about their problem and seek help. Trust me, I know I was
lucky to have insurance to go to a treatment center but many people
see this as an obstacle standing in their way. Treatment is
expensive. You should see the bill I got in the mail. Substituting
treatment for jail time for first and second time offenders would
also break down some of the barriers that keep addicts from getting
help. I know from experience, once you’re “in the system”,
you’re stuck. My father has spent the majority of my life in jails
and prisons. Let’s be honest too, jail is not exactly the best
place to try to get sober.

The consequences on
an individual level are exactly what my experience has shown me.
Losing family and jobs, throwing away once-in-a-lifetime
opportunities, struggling to create connection with other people,
being unable to get back on track with your goals and ambitions
because you have gone so far down the rabbit hole that you don’t
see the use in trying anymore, these are just a few of the personal
consequences I have experienced. On a societal level, this creates a
divide. It’s “us” and “them”; the addicted and the
non-addicted. It creates judgement and misunderstanding that could
easily be avoided if talking about addiction wasn’t taboo and if
people didn’t feel their tax dollars were going to something that
“isn’t their problem.” I remember a lady coming into my work
one day and saying very sarcastically “ Man! I just wish they would
start opening more safe-spaces for junkies to shoot up with my tax
money!” That hurt my heart to hear. This could easily be avoided if
we could offer community education on this problem and spoke freely
of addiction. It isn’t just the man under the bridge that suffers
with a drinking problem. It’s your next door neighbor with a good
job and a nice home; it’s the girl on your high school cheerleading
team; it’s the little lady down the street who has lost her husband
and doesn’t know how to cope. It could be your sister, brother,
daughter or mother. It can happen to anyone.

The remedy to this
crisis is compassion and understanding. I am not a guru on politics,
nor do I believe that there is one solid solution. This is
complicated. Addiction is as complex as the minds of the people using
the drugs. Recovery is complex too. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all
approach. I do believe that compassion will allow those that struggle
to open up and ask for help. It is an addicts biggest fear to be
judged by others because we are our own worst critic. Understanding
would allow us to view each other in different light. We are not bad
people. We are sick people. We were dealt a different hand in life
and just like other people who need a little extra support, so do we.
The idea that addiction is a self-inflicted problem does not help
people to embark on a road of recovery. Everyone is entitled to their
beliefs, but coming from someone who has first-hand experience with
addiction, I did not intend for this to happen. After all, I meant it
when I said I was only going to have one drink.