Communication. It’s the first thing we really learn in life. The funny thing is once we grow up, learn our words, and really start talking, the harder it becomes to know what to say. As babies we were easy. One cry meant we were hungry; another we were tired. It's only as adults that we become difficult. We start to hide our feelings and put up walls. It can get to the point where we never really know how anyone thinks or feels, even ourselves. Without meaning to, we can become masters of disguise with only surface level relationships -- void of true connection or intimacy. I think this is something all humans tend to experience, addict or not. In addition to overcoming this obstacle, being an addict doesn’t lend itself well to the making of friends – maybe because life and mortality are in our faces all the time. Maybe because in staring down death every day, we’re forced to know that life, every minute, is borrowed time. And each person we let ourselves care about is just one more loss somewhere down the line. For this reason, I know some addicts who just don’t bother making friends at all – I was one of those people for a long time. As I got older and slipped deeper and deeper in my addiction, the more I distanced myself from loved ones. The only new connections I really made were drug connections. Since I usually had ulterior motives, I assumed everyone else did as well – so I kept people at a distance, not really trusting anyone.
A brain study revealed that when placed in an MRI, our reward center lights up when another person sits in the room. Neurons fire when we talk to someone or think about someone – and they go haywire when we hold someone's hand. Our brains and bodies are programmed to seek each other out and connect. In prison, the worst possible punishment (arguably equivalent to death) is solitary confinement. Human connection is such a basic need that even innocent prisoners would rather interact with rapists and murderers than be alone. In fact, the brain is so ill-adapted to isolation that it drives people mad. Prisoners in solitary confinement become anxious, angry, prone to hallucinations and wild mood swings, and unable to control their impulses. If so many activists and psychologists consider solitary confinement torture, then why do so many of us self-isolate and convince ourselves it’s “because we prefer being alone?” Why do we often run for the hills when we feel the slightest connection? Why do we feel compelled to fight what we're hard-wired to do? Maybe it's because when we find someone or something to hold onto, that feeling becomes like air and we're terrified we're going to lose it. And trust me – you can get pretty good at being alone. But, most things are better when they're shared with someone else. We’re supposed to feel. We’re supposed to love. And hate. And grieve. And break. And be destroyed. And then build ourselves again. That’s life – that’s the entire point of being alive. We can’t avoid it or extinguish it. At some point, we have to make a decision.
Some people make it look so easy, connecting with another human being. It’s like no one told them it’s the hardest thing in the world. But now I’m making it my job to move that line, to push each loss as far away as I can. Because just like we need food and water, humans need each other. I lost both my best friend & my boyfriend to this disease, among countless other friends. Despite the deep pain & grief that accompanies death, not for a moment have I regretted the close relationship we had and letting them in. In fact, I wish I didn’t waste so much time putting up walls and making them work so hard to tear them down. The only thing that haunts me is at night is wondering if they truly knew how much I loved them. What I'm learning in recovery is that these walls don’t keep other people out, they fence me in. Life is messy. That’s how we’re made and how it’s supposed to be. So, I can either waste my life drawing lines, or live my life crossing them.