I am a big fan of drugs. I adored it and was in love with it for a long time. Although I lived with a wonderful girl and we had a son together, I had a great job and many friends, they could never satisfy the needs that drugs did. It wanted me for itself only and it finally managed to separate me from anything that meant anything in my life.
Looking back now, my relation to addition started in my early childhood when I started inhaling exhaust pipe and glue. Around the age of 14, when I had my first real drunkenness episode, I found out it helped me feel free, as if all my inhibitions let free and all my anxiety and fear I used to feel since early child had stopped. At that time (in ex Yugoslavia) you couldn’t get drugs easily so getting drunk (in school or when I started going out) became a regular habit. So regular that my friends already knew that when I would start drinking, I didn’t know when to stop and they had to carry me home. But all that was seen as a normal part of living, that it would come to pass.
Reality turned out to be different. Drinking continued and this inability to establish control over the alcohol was something that became common for all other drugs I used. When I went abroad and started taking other substances, such as marihuana, my behavior was the same. Just as I started with the alcohol, so was it with the weed, at the beginning it was ok, social, relaxed, and a good fun, until it turned out an obsession. I used it compulsively, first thing in the morning and before going to bed, and during the day, I had paranoia if somebody was following me, or that somebody is talking about me, or whether I will have enough or do I need more, and so on.
Taking it together with alcohol in large quantities, and the paranoid hallucinations that followed, became the norm for me. I didn’t even know what was real, and what was not anymore. Under the influence of weed it was normal for me to smuggle it through the border when returning from Amsterdam, or to carry big quantities in my car for selling. From something I thought was helping me to relax and enjoy, I misused marihuana just as I misused codeine, valium, diazepam, ecstasy, cocaine and anything else that I would come by.
When I started taking heroin, I thought I had finally solved my problem. I felt like I finally reached the place I had always searched for. After several months I thought it was time to stop and I found out what abstinence crisis meant. I also found out that methadone can help me get off heroin, first as a medicine, but later to also get the same effect heroin gave. I spent the following several years with these two drugs, and life became harder and harder every day.
Although I loved my son and my girlfriend, drugs came always first. The business I had stated declining. It became normal for me to lie, or to always have a justification that it was somebody else’s fault. At the end I lost everything. My girlfriend left me, because she couldn’t take it anymore. All my friends who were worth something and wanted to help me also lost hope. I promised to stop so many times, but despite my best efforts, I simply couldn’t. I tried to decrease the dose, to take drugs on specific days only, to change my place of living, to find a new girlfriend (who knows how to take drugs smartly) and to go through an abstinence crisis now and then, leaving everything for a week or a month or two, but I always returned to the same situation, the same world, the same people I used to take drugs with, the same isolation which became commonplace to me. I felt helpless. More specifically, I was helpless. I was helpless over the drugs obsession (constantly thinking about it), helpless over my compulsiveness (my inability to stop taking), helpless over my selfishness, because at the end, the truth was that most important for me was to satisfy my need for drugs. Today I understand that these are exactly the characteristics that make me a dependent person. The problem is not in the drugs, but in my relation to it. There’s simply something in me which, when I use any kind of drug, makes me lose control over it. I have the relationship to gambling, food, pornography, sex, a person or any other addictive things.
I started losing hope that I would be able to stop, and I started accepting that I will die a junkie. I was desperate and at times even thought of taking my life but was not brave enough to do it. I was completely aware that I had lost the battle to drugs and that I had no choice whether to use it or not. I simply had to! It was one too much, and thousands too little. But it seemed that this surrender in my struggle against the drugs was what I really needed. I started opening towards the possibility that somebody else, outside of myself and the ones I used to take drugs with, could help me. I started going to doctors, to institutions with psychotherapists, I started reading about Zen Buddhism again, but I could not find a way to stop. I wanted to go back to regular life, I yearned for it, but didn’t know how. I knew no other addict who had managed to stop.
I came to the NA after a typical drug user’s drama of deceit, larceny and violence, all related to drugs. In all that despair, not knowing what else to do or where to go, I remembered that an old acquaintance mentioned NA to me and that it helps dependent people. I decided to call and to this day I consider that to be the most important phone call I had made in my life. It was the first time I called somewhere where I could get help instead of calling the dealer. It was the first time I heard a voice that gave me hope that understood the language of a dependent person, and told me where to go to an NA meeting.
This is where my road to new life started. At my first meeting, I understood nothing and I couldn’t believe I was in a room with around thirty people, most of them clean, looking healthy and smiling. The atmosphere was pleasant and although I was nervous, I felt safe. I started going to their meetings regularly, I started listening and saw that I was not alone, that many have already gone through what I was going though and managed to get themselves clean from drugs. I was hopeful that I could stop, too. Arrogant as I was, I wanted to prove to them that alcohol was not a drug, but rather that in Macedonia it is a part of our culture and that it is normal to have a glass of wine during dinner, or “rakija” on celebrations, that the occasional joint hasn’t hurt anybody. Nobody told me anything, except to keep coming to the meetings. Although from time to time, I would fall into a crisis, and would move away from methadone and heroin, alcohol and weed would bring me back. The world of addictions still had a very strong influence on me, and sooner or later, in the company of other people taking drugs, I would start using again, and would end at the same desperate place, each time deeper and deeper.
But when I knew there was a way, I would go to an NA meeting and would get new hope. People who were clean supported me and convinced me that if they could, I could too. I knew they didn’t lie about how they took drugs, and what their life was, some of them with more difficult stories than mine. They told me that the NA promises one thing only, and that was freedom from the active use of drugs. At that time, I used anything and everything, and I strongly wished to stop. Looking back, that wish was the most important thing I needed, to be able one day, at one of those NA meetings, deep inside to admit to myself that I had lost my battle with drugs, that I was helpless over it and that it had destroyed my life and the lives of all people around me. I was also aware that NA was offering me drug free life, I was with people who knew how I could clean up and stay that way, who wanted to help me and didn’t ask anything for return.
That night, I resolutely threw away everything I had and the next day, July 13th, 2001, was my first day to be clean of all mind altering substances I had been using. Now I know that leaving drugs was not the hard part – the hard part was learning how to live without them. At the NA, I learned how to do that, I learned from addicts who had gone through my experience and who knew what I was facing. I continued to go to regular meetings, I found a sponsor (mentor) who helped me go through the 12 steps, the foundation of the NA program. These steps helped me learn how addiction affected me. They helped me face my past, my great sense of guilt and shame because of the life I used to live. They helped me get my self-confidence back, take responsibility over my life, and become part of the solution instead of being part of the problem. Helped by the NA, I managed to stay clean in the same environment in which I used to take drugs for so long. My life today is completely different compared to back then. Not only am I free from drugs, but in some kind of miracle, I got everything I wanted from the drugs, only after I quit. The calmness I always looked for, I now have inside me most of the time, I am capable of being a father to an exceptional son, to be a brother, or a son as needed. I can have integrity and pride in myself, and not be ashamed to look at people in their eyes.
I still go to NA meetings. I am still an addict (who doesn’t use anything) and I am not ashamed of that, I am free to live my life the way I want. I got all that at NA.
I am in Skopje now for an extended period, and I would like to put forward the message to those who are sick of taking drugs, that it is possible to stop and live without it. I hope that somebody will find similarities between their lives and my story and will come visit us on a meeting. You don’t have to be clean, everyone is welcome.
A short description of the association:
Narcotics Anonymous is a non-profit association, or a group of men and women with a serious drugs problem. We are addicts who try to recover from the use of drug and regularly meet to help each other in order to stay clean. Many of us manage to stop using any kind of drugs. There’s only one condition for membership, and that is the wish to stop taking drugs.
NA does not come with any strings attached. Our association is not affiliated to any institution or organization, no membership is paid nor are there any notes or minutes kept. Everyone can join us and all members are completely equal.
NA today is present in 129 countries of the world with more around 68000 meetings a week. The NA has existed since 1953 and has 60 years of experience from thousands of dependent persons who have managed to turn their failures into success stories.
Today in Skopje we have regular NA meetings on which addicts, without any therapists or experts present, share their experiences, strengths and hopes. The anonymity is the most important principle in order to maintain the safety of members.
Call 077/810-208 or come to our meetings every Tuesday and Thursday at 18:30 and Saturday at 16:30 in Pajko Maalo (Lawyers’ Street) no. 4, Skopje.
P.S. Narcotics Anonymous is not the only organization that enables better life to addicts. Although we are independent and not affiliated to anybody, our intention is to cooperate with other organizations in the field.