Lorelie Rozzano is a guest blogger for Vertava Health.
After Pawning My Children’s Christmas Presents, I Gave Them The Best Gift Of All
— The snow falling from the sky overhead matched my festive mood. “Jingle Bell Rock” crooned from the speakers. The tree was adorned with shiny silver and gold tinsel. I had just finished wrapping my last Christmas present. I was thrilled imagining my children’s faces as they unwrapped their gifts. Under the tree was a PlayStation for my son and a two hundred dollar gift certificate for my daughter to go shopping. Up until now, my children had paid dearly for my poor choices. My relationship with drugs and alcohol came before their needs and robbed them of more than material things. There hadn’t been joy, laughter or excitement in our sad little home for so long- but all that was about to change. I took my last drink of wine, put the glass down and surveyed the idyllic scene. It was such a great feeling not to be a screw-up for once, but the feeling didn’t last. Now that everything was ready, I felt strangely let down. I poured another large glass of wine and sat down to watch TV. Or, at least, that’s what I meant to do- but suddenly I couldn’t sit still. I wanted to tell someone of my great accomplishment and how I was feeling proud of myself for once. With only fifty dollars left in my wallet, I exited my apartment and wandered two doors over. My friend, who was also my drug dealer, answered the door. She invited me in and offered me a line. I accepted. I always did. But only one line was never enough. [lorelie-callout] One line was like one breath. How long can you hold that for? Maybe thirty seconds? It’s like that with drugs. Before the high even fully hits you, you want more. And more. And more. My fifty dollars didn’t last long. The money meant to purchase groceries for our Christmas dinner went to drugs instead. “Oh well,” my mind said, “I’ll figure something else out. I always do.” If those words weren’t comforting enough, my mind spoke again: “you’ve been good. You deserve a reward.” That’s the scary thing about addiction. It lies to you in your own voice. I bought a half gram and went home. Twenty minutes later, I was back. After fronting me once, my friendly neighbor morphed into a scary dope-dealer. She told me to go ‘F’ myself. Bottom line, I was not getting more drugs unless I had cash. Back in my apartment, I stared at the tree. The old familiar itch for more drugs was on. Insanity returned. My heart screamed “don’t do it,” but my mind didn’t listen. I was on a mission. I didn’t think about tomorrow or next week. There was only now and my insatiable need to get as much dope into me as fast as I could. I picked up my children’s gifts and walked across the street to the mall where I’d purchased them. For those of you who don’t understand this illness, imagine this: someone sneaks up behind you and places a plastic bag over your head. You have five seconds of air left. In those five seconds do you calmly assess the situation and try to reason with your murderer? No. Your brain automatically reverts to fight or flight mode. You thrash and pull at the plastic bag trying to rip holes in it so you can breathe again. It’s like that with addiction. Your brain sends out signals; get dope or die. Addiction is living in a body that fights to survive with a mind that tells you to die. Returning the gifts was easy. Thirty minutes later, I was buying more drugs. Thirty minutes… that’s all it took to ruin everything. On Christmas morning, there wasn’t a single present under our tree. There was no food in the cupboard, no turkey in the oven. My children weren’t present either. I’d done one thing right. I sent them away to my family. My kids never did return to the high me. A few months later my chaotic lifestyle took a turn for the worse. Addiction is a progressive disease. It always gets worse. I lost my home, my partner, my family and my job. Penniless and out of options, I entered treatment. That’s when my life took a serious one-eighty. I learned healthier coping skills. Once I grieved the pain of my past and changed my behavior and thinking, I was able to open the door to my future. An amazing future that held an abundance of opportunity, love, laughter and joy. Since then, my children and I have shared many wonderful Christmases together. Today there are presents under our tree, love in our hearts and more food than we can eat. Going to rehab gave me the gift of time. As I continued to work on myself and make changes, my children learned to trust me. It was their first real experience with a healthy mom. I went from being an emotionally absent parent to a fully present one. As I became healthier our relationship blossomed. In active addiction, I was an empty vessel incapable of loving myself or anyone else. Going to treatment changed all that. If you struggle with addiction, there’s hope. The best Christmas present you’ll ever give the people you love is the gift of your recovery. If you or someone you know needs help, please call this confidential support line for assistance. 888-601-8693.