My name is Chris and I am and addict; a hearing impaired drug addict. I’ve never felt a part of the world I was born into. Until the age of 4 I wasn’t a part of conversations because I couldn’t hear them. My grandmothers nickname for me was “Mr. What.” Even when I was given Hearing Aids at age 4 I was awkward because I missed social cues and often talked loudly or too much to overcompensate for my inability to listen. I was able to excel in athletics and sports like swimming and baseball to compensate for a lack of interest in school subjects and feeling misunderstood socially. My skills in athletics gave me value in an affluent town where where graduating from top tier universities was the expectation.
Then I found what I had been missing my whole life. It came from god and nature and it gave me purpose in life. Cannabis seemed to be something I could not live my life without. Just like a sports team my friends and I would gather around and go on missions to procure the sweet herb and find the places safest to smoke it while sharing bonds of unity around a pipe, bong or blunt. I was the team captain; I had a cannabis club card to buy it from the medical dispensaries, I was an expert in the field and knew all the strains and intricacies of growing the plant. I had arrived, I was a part of a tribe and I called myself their shaman.
As I moved from High School to College and beyond the tribe changed and so did my drug use until I eventually began going in and out of treatment for what had developed into a full blown drug addiction. Every time I went into treatment I would find myself having a deep need to connect with a tribe and my insecurities or deficiencies would rise up to the surface again. For example: Growing up I thought everyone could see my hearing aids and they made me ugly. Hearing aids, along with my wild curly hair gave me a very low self image and I thought I was ugly. Once arriving in a treatment center, a place that was supposed to support healing, I would overcompensate to prove my self worth and would get romantically involved with as many females as I could. I would do this essentially to prove my value to the group and gain a false sense of self esteem.
Unknown to me what I had developed was an inability to self parent or self soothe and a form of body dysmorphia. My value was directly correlated to how those around me viewed me. In other words, “I needed you to like me in order for me to like me.” The only way to save myself from these feelings of crippling inadequacy, utter failure and disappointment was by getting the ease and comfort drugs provided me. Most people don’t understand, but in my brain the only thing that gave me value or satisfaction in my existence was being high.
Through an al anon connection my mom gave me one last chance at a place appropriately named “The Last House.” As soon as I showed up to the house I started with my old routine, talking incessantly about the things I had done so the other guys in the house would like me and I could therefore like myself. This time, something different happened. The guys at the house told me they didn’t care. They didn’t care about my exploits with women, surfing, or water polo. They didn’t care about how many drugs I did or how much I knew about cannabis. These guys took me to 12 step meetings, hung out with me on the weekends and played ping pong with me. They asked me how I was doing and how I was feeling. They obviously liked me and wanted me to be a part of their tribe and they told me to talk less and listen more. They cared more about what I was doing and not what I had done. This may seem simple, but this was a revolutionary concept for me. They liked me because I was human, because they had struggled like I had struggled and they didn’t need me to prove anything to them.
This was the first time in my life that I was getting guidance from my peers instead of authority figures. These guys were making recovery cool, and I began to engage in the process of recovery because frankly, I wanted to be cool like them. For the first time in my life they taught me how to listen to others. How to hear what they were saying so that I could help them. All the special tutors and audioligists I saw growing up had never taught me how to quiet my own thoughts enough to hear what other people were trying to communicate with me. It then became my responsibility to teach these skills to the new guys who came in after me. The best way to learn is by teaching.
What I now understand is that I was living with a greater handicap than my Hearing impairment. I was living with a voice inside my head that was so loud it impeded my ability to listen regardless of how good my hearing aids were. I now understand that voice was the driving force in my addiction.
Since graduating The Last House I have done things I never thought possible. I have gotten more education, worked fulfilling jobs, started traveling the world and gotten engaged. I now hold a leadership position in the healthcare field and l go visit The Last House regularly to teach the new guys what was taught to me. I now get to be the example of how cool a life of recovery can be. The biggest gift The Last House gave me is that I no longer think I am Ugly. They taught me how to develop my self esteem and it gives me confidence and ambition I never new existed.