What Is Normal?

By Aaron Emerson

Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of people claim there’s no such thing as normal. Maybe so, but in my eyes there definitely is.

Recently while in treatment, I brought this up during group. When it was my turn to share, I simply said “I just want to be normal. I don’t want to be an addict. I know I can’t change it but I fucking hate this life.”

My therapist started to say “I don’t like the word normal.” To be honest, I kind of flipped out when she said that. To preface, she isn’t an addict so it truly pissed me off when she started saying that.

“Have you ever sat in your bedroom, isolated from the world, smoking and shooting dope, wishing you were dead, all while your family is right outside hurting?” I responded angrily. “If you haven’t, then don’t pretend you have been an outcast, because I’m not normal.”

I didn’t handle it the best way, but it sums up the way I’ve been feeling the last year. I fucking hate addiction. I hate it with every ounce of my being. I know I have so much potential to offer the world, but my relapses set me back.

You see, I can get sober with the best of them. I can jail, go to rehab and do amazing for a while. But then after a few months, when my mind really clears up, the flashbacks and nightmares start. They take me back to a time when I was hurt by people who were supposed to help me. A time before I ever shot heroin, a time before I was an adult. A time I was sexually assaulted.

As soon as that happens, my mind goes on auto pilot to what blocks those images out: dope. It’s the only thing that’s ever worked for me. But then I use and my life falls apart again and I’m stuck back in the cycle. It’s a cycle I want out of but can’t seem to shake. I’ve talked about it in therapy, but it doesn’t seem to help.

I keep trying, though. I’m not ready to give up. I’m still living up in Traverse City at a sober living house. I’m in outpatient but I’m struggling some. I’m struggling to find my place in the world. I’m struggling to cope with my demons. But life goes on and I’m alive.

When you can’t seem to fit into society, though, being alive doesn’t sound too charming. I like to think God has a plan for my life, however. And I am a father. I would do anything for my daughter, but I’ve realized I can’t stay sober if I’m not doing it for myself. So that’s what I’m trying to do, learning to love myself even when it seems hard.

What is normal? I may never know. Maybe it doesn’t exist. Maybe it’s besides the point anyway because I have to get this, normal or not. I used to say “fuck normal, who wants to be a regular, boring person?” At this point, though, I’d take it because I can’t stand this life. In the meantime, I’ll keep coming back and continue praying.

Author: Aaron Emerson

From Lansing, Michigan, I am a recovering heroin addict and alcoholic. I share my story to spread hope, raise awareness and erase the stigma of addiction. I am a huge Detroit sports fan and have a seven year old daughter.

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