“Work out your own salvation. Do not depend on others.”
— Anonymous Buddhist
I am an empathic, or highly sensitive, codependent addict, meaning: when I was younger I had discovered abilities and traits that separated me from everyone else, which developed into a compulsion to people-please. I wanted to be accepted by others—who didn’t? This gave me a need to make others happy and not be upset with me. I would give and give to people, expecting nothing in return. Sadly, that was how I proved my self-worth and told myself I was being satisfied. When in reality, all it did was create more issues in the future, like anger and resentment. These beginner introvert issues came from being overstimulated around people, which made me uncomfortable in social situations. These with the combination of having a low-esteem produced early signs of a codependent life ahead of me.
Before I go on, let me talk about the 20% of the population that are highly sensitive people. We are more stimulated from our nervous system because we process stimulation with more detail than others. As children, negative or traumatic experiences greatly impacted most of us. As a result, when we are adults we have more difficulty adapting and coping with difficult challenges.
We possess disparate traits than others, these are a few: being super-conscientious; more stressed by loud noise and bright lighting; liking and needing to be alone; show emotions easily and quickly; show a stronger response to music and art; notice subtle details and things others don’t; are uncomfortable in social situations; are shy (if introverted); and can pick up someone else’s feelings, if nearby.
In the past:
I already had a natural guilt, but after Brianna passed away, it became an intimate friend of mine. I used to feel guilty about things that don’t concern me. Even if I wouldn’t cause a girlfriend any stress, I would spend all my time trying to make her feel better. If I couldn’t fix her problem, my anxiety took over, drilling me to no end.
My codependent sensitivity made me fearful, as well. At night, I would yell and cry when I am asleep—I still do sometimes—what my parents and previous girlfriends would say. During the day, I was always on edge, making me easily startled and surprised. It could have been due to the post-traumatic stress from losing my girlfriend and then losing my best friend. Or, it could have gone further back before I went to school and had attended Day-care, when my parents lost me for an hour in a mall. It made me think there was something gravely wrong with me.
I could have asked for help, but I didn’t. I refused it. I didn’t deserve the help. Since I was always giving, if someone tried to return the favor, I rejected it. I wasn’t worthy of the offer. It simply didn’t fit into the life story of trying to please them.
Happiness was a long-lost treasure buried down deep somewhere in my psyche. My ways of seeking peacefulness had disappeared, as well, before that, leading me to seek what I’d lost in outside relationships. If I found what I was looking for and was content with my partner, I’d do everything I could to protect her, for she held those pleasant feelings. The reason I did this stemmed from insufficient self-esteem and lacking the fundamental act of loving myself before I loved them. My new drug of choice was much stronger than heroin and came with suicidal withdrawal symptoms. My craving for another human was profound. What I wanted invariably was a girl.
There was a compulsive need to be with whoever she was, I had to be under her influence. The need was so strong that, most of the time, I didn’t even take a second to see if they were good for me or not. Instead, I put everything I had into the relationship, proving to myself I truly was the one deserving of their love. After investing my heart and soul into them, I had no intention, or time, to hang out with friends, play music, write, or read. It wouldn’t even cross my disordered mind.
Later, in the early High School days, the stress caused by anxiety from an over-stimulation of emotions while in a social setting, such as school, almost every day, made me tired all the time. These lethargic feelings were the inner depression and hopelessness wanting to come out. If you remember me in the hallways with my headphones on, yawning profusely, this is what was going on with me. I wanted to be alone, away from everybody because most of the time, all they wanted to do was help. I couldn’t stand that, so I isolated. Whenever we started taking my boat out was the worst. I was a people-pleaser, so I became incredibly distressed when I had to tell people ‘No, you can’t come,’ because there was already too many people going. Then they would be upset with me, and back then, that was the worst feeling, with my undying need to be liked by everyone.
Then I found alcohol.
Alcohol helped me come out of my shell and brought happiness back into my life while giving me access to self-confidence. The best thing it did was lower any stimulation, turning it down so I was not over-aroused in social situations, which made me distressed and uncomfortable. However, what I had not known back then was, on the inside, I was escaping. I discovered a love for drugs, too, with each one possessing disparate effects I’d use contrasting my mood. If I was down, I’d do an upper; if I was up, I’d do a downer. I was unwittingly escaping from what I was dealing with at the time — a combination of my inner depression, social anxiety, codependency, and high sensitivity. Drugs and alcohol had become my main priority.
How did this happen?
As humans, we are all born helpless and dependent on our parents for nurturing. As we grow, we learn to mimic them which leads us to eat, speak, walk, and gradually become more independent. Being shaped by our genetics and environment, the community becomes part of who we are, as well. Years down the road, we are more grownup, this, our next step is join the community as we attend school and make friends. The environment we are in gathers us together and reflects who we are back to us. The child then needs to move forward from its family into the larger world. This is where I messed up, I believe. Due to my alcohol and drug abuse, I had trouble learning all the proper skills to become independent.
Every time I moved out of my parents’ house to try making it on my own, my addiction stepped in, destroying any independence I had made for myself — which wasn’t much. I relied on my parents for everything. They helped me with everything, including, how to pay bills, pay for gas, car, phone, insurance, etc. But with the unwelcome addiction that was my ball and chain then, whenever I tried being on my own, it would shut me down. Whereas, compared to my friends, who were getting married and having kids already, I was falling behind.
I knew everyone has their own lives and based on our decisions, we turn into the people we are today. It hurt though, seeing all of them succeeding in having what I dreamed of having — a family of my own. If I kelt up what I was doing, I’d never see that happen.
My memoir mentions all of this and more but in concrete detail, with strong imagery full of clear descriptions and figurative language.
It’s about being a highly sensitive person with clear-cut codependency, dealing with love, loss, grief, and spirituality, while also struggling with a fierce addiction to heroin and cocaine. It’s not another cautionary-tale, nor an addiction/recovery memoir. Those have been played-out and don’t sell as well as they used to.
I’m doing everything I can to have mine stand-out of the crowd to get a message out there. The central theme is about impermanence and transformation, with the message: to move forward and be whole, you have to embrace your past as you transform it into something that gives you wisdom and compassion, especially in a time when there’s an abundance of dehumanization circling around the issues of mental health, addiction, and highly sensitive people.
I’ve researched everywhere and cannot find any book remotely similar to it, making it the first of its kind. Its complex structure alone sets it apart, being a bookended parallel narrative plot with interweaving narratives told in media res, with flashbacks.
Its dedication goes out to those who don’t yet understand, and to those who do, but can’t find a way out…