How I Stopped Chasing the Dragon & Started Chasing Life

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They say addicts are always trying to experience the same feelings they did the first time they got high. I know it was true for me. But soon, I realized I was trying so hard to relive that same, original high that I eventually stopped caring about anything else.

My First Time

The very first time I got high on cocaine, I was in college. My friend took me to a party with lots of people I didn’t know. I wanted to fit in, and when someone offered me a line, I told myself it was okay. It wasn’t like it was heroin, and it would wear off in a couple of hours. Soon it kicked in.

I had never experienced anything like it, and never will again. But that wasn’t something I could accept at the time. I felt good, strong, excited. I felt comfortable in my own skin, like I had energy for days. And the minute the drug wore off, I wanted more.

I decided to be smart, though, or so I thought. I tried not to use the drug again immediately afterward. But when I tried cocaine again a week later, it wasn’t the same. I felt the rush of euphoria I expected, but it didn’t seem as strong. And after I’d been high for a few hours, I started to feel bad. I got angry and paranoid, and once the drug wore off, I felt really tired and sad. As it turns out, this isn’t uncommon (Center for Substance Abuse Research).

Chasing the Dragon

There’s a phrase that describes what it’s like to be a drug user constantly trying to re-experience that first high: chasing the dragon. While it usually refers to heroin addicts, I feel connected to the phrase because it completely fits my experience. I started using drugs more and more, usually cocaine but sometimes other types too. I did it because I was always trying to get back that same feeling, that feeling of my first high. It’s like chasing something mythical you’re never going to catch. Unfortunately, I spent years of my life doing just that.

A Wake Up Call

One day, I finally realized this was what I was doing: trying to recreate a feeling I was never going to have again. And what did I have to show for it? I had dropped out of college, I wasn’t speaking to my family, and my health was getting worse and worse. At first, I told myself I needed to stop and that I could do it on my own. But again, I was wrong.

Once I finally went looking for help, I was in bad shape. I was dangerously thin and had a weak immune system. I was also starting to experience strange psychological effects like frightening hallucinations and memory loss. I kept telling myself I could stop on my own, but then, the promise of maybe experiencing that first high again kept me going back. But all I was really doing was just avoiding my own withdrawal symptoms.

Treatment Helped Me Make the Change

The doctors, nurses, and volunteers who took care of me in rehab saved my life. When I started going to therapy, I learned most people who use drugs are still trying to experience the same high they first did.

“It was never as good as the first time,” I told my therapist. I was nervous to be this honest, but I really wanted to make a change.

“If you know that, then why keep hoping it will be? Why not focus on yourself instead?”

When my therapist said this, I knew it was time to start chasing something real, something I knew I could achieve. Everyone told me I could start over, get healthy, and have a better life if I stuck to my treatment regimen and practiced what I learned. And they were right. Even though fighting the temptation to use can still sometimes be difficult, I know I’m going in the right direction now. I know I’m chasing the right dream.