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How A “Just One More” Mantra Brought Me From Severe Drug Addiction To Running

A story published from @meandering.marathoner

The Almost Deadly Mantra

“Just one more.”

This had been my mantra before I knew what a mantra was. It was what punctuated every “last” cigarette over the course of a decade. I genuinely believed the affirmation every single time, neglecting the illegitimacy of the previous failure to quit. I ignored the long list of reasons I already had to quit, and I was persuaded by the smallest reasons why one more was warranted. I was convinced that it would, indeed, cease after “one” this time, because things were somehow different—I was somehow different. It never did, and I never was.

The only difference occurred in how thick my delusion became. After each failed “last” and each successful genuine belief, another brick of delusion was set, like a layer of scar tissue. Each one previous served as counter-intuitive reinforcement, when they should have dissuaded the cycle. Each layer strengthened the mass of scar tissue that would eventually need to be broken through.

By the time I had turned 17, I had already accumulated a giant amount of delusional scar tissue—whether due to my many “just one more” reiterations during quitting smoking or from, well, just being an angry and emotional teenager. That barricade served as a solid and tragic foundation.

A few months after turning 17, I was introduced to and fell in love with heroin. “Just one more,” became infinitely more lethal.

I was still smoking cigarettes at that time, and THOSE made me feel like like death. “Just one more” had the power to perpetuate something that made me feel awful before, during and after using it. Imagine what the mantra could be capable of when paired with something that made me feel as close to perfection as I had ever felt.

My first bag lasted me a week. I even went a few days after that week without thinking about it. I thought it to be a one-time mental and emotional reprieve without realizing I was already clawing my way toward hell. Inside five months, my economic usage of that first bag would culminate into 15 bags, 160 mgs of Oxycontin, and (occasionally) morphine. Per day.

I Couldn’t Quit

Much like cigarettes, I ignored the extensive list of reasons I already had to quit. I had overdosed twice. I had been held up with a gun to my temple. I had to wake up every hour for minuscule snorts to avoid breaking out into full-body sweats and convulsions. Much like cigarettes, I gave into justifications to continue on. My writing was so much better, my grades were even higher than they had already been, I was getting along so well with my family, and my mood swings and anxiety and OCD were non-existent. It wasn’t until my third and final overdose that it had even occurred to me to slow down.

After the third, I immediately excised the prescription pharmaceuticals from my opioid diet. I tapered the amount I was using down to five bags a day over a seven-week span. “Just one more” became “just one less,” in that respect.

In later weeks, it finally occurred to me that I could try to stop completely. And that is when “just one more” returned and showed its true strength for the first time.

I had already cut a significant quantity from my consumption, yet I continued to disperse those five bags throughout a twenty-four hour span. My bloodstream was introduced to a new opioid kiss every few hours, day and night. It then became my mission to sleep through the night without using in an effort to increase the gap between fixes. The clock face became a handheld folding fan. Little by little, my usage crept from constant to confined to daytime hours—although the daily dose remained the same. Recognizing I could survive the night, an eight-hour span, without using gave me the confidence to trim my allotted daytime hours of usage. As the hours of my scheduled usage reduced, as did my daily dosage—getting high had ceased to be the goal, preventing withdrawal symptoms became the new.

I eventually weaned myself down to one bag every other day. I unfortunately began to enjoy it, again. Some days I would do half one day, half the next. Others, I would binge on one day and give my body a break the next, without wanting to acknowledge I could go an entire day without becoming sick, physically sick, that is. The sickness of “just one more,” came back.

“I can do just one more. THEN I’ll give up.”

I fabricated reasons for wanting a cigarette while quitting smoking. No creation was necessary for heroin. Despite my low dosage, whenever I’d make it to two days clean, my body would recognize what was happening and begin to show signs of withdrawal. Full-body cold sweats. Hot flashes immediately followed by freezing chills. Skin sensitivity that would make a caress feel like electrified sandpaper. Muscle cramps. Organs screaming as though I were being disemboweled. Aches that made it seem feasible that every bone, ligament, and tendon my snap or shatter with any motion. Face damp with tears and a running nose. Each sneeze triggering more pain, more temperature changes, more sweat. My lips tight as to not let whimpers escape.

“Just one more.” Relief. Perceived happiness. I didn’t really want to stop entirely.

The cycle continued. When I was ultimately (and thankfully) caught by my parents while in a state of withdrawal, my heart was only 50 percent invested in entering treatment. Even in that state, I recognized that I was fortunate to have insurance and the opportunity to be admitted to a facility. I knew realistically, my whole heart would never be invested in the unpleasant yet necessary challenge of getting clean. My mind had the will to continue; my body had no will whatsoever—and the fear of having a heart attack during withdrawal was incredibly real. So I went.

The Mantra And Running

“Just one more.” Relief. Perceived happiness. I didn’t really want to stop entirely.

I passed the 22-mile marker. I emerged from my state of meditation where many runners had warned me that the marathon begins. I had lost myself in my breath around mile five and considered myself fortunate to have gone so far in a state of blurry bliss. My mind had the will to continue; my body had no will whatsoever—I grabbed for my energy chews and fell toward the next mile-marker. 23.

“I can do just one more. THEN I’ll give up.”

I was covered in my own sweat. Goosebumps became permanently published on my legs, natural braille telling horror stories of the muscle fiber, tendons, ligaments and bones of which the over-stimulated skin entombed. Each stride caused a flutter of my running skirt against my thighs: 50 percent spandex and 50 percent serrated blade (or so it felt). My neck and shoulders felt like they were held in proper positioning by swelling, strain and maybe some sorcery. The organs within, shifting fluids and viscera inside and out. I ignored the extensive list of reasons I already had to quit.

24. “Just one more.” I couldn’t give up, yet. I could walk, my pace was that of a walk anyway. The thought of how many more seconds of agony I would endure invited tears to flood. I inhaled deeply through my mouth, my lungs hiccuped choking in more air. Audible sobs were in the periphery. No. No sobs. I had felt worse than this before. Stopping nor walking were options. I picked up the pace until I saw 25.

I remembered the pains of the past. My withering body with 8 percent body fat. Muscle fibers convulsing and veins ready to implode. A body aching for something that never belonged to it. A body void of serotonin, strength, and integrity.

My running pains tethered me back to the present. I looked down at my body and saw quadriceps, with mass. I saw engaged knees. I saw feet moving forward, carrying me. This pain and exhaustion was the result of being, of doing, and of working my strength to the extreme. This pain was infinitely more than those pains of the past. This pain was beautiful.

“One less.” 26.

If someone who has never run a marathon ever verbally rounds down the distance when measured via Imperial system, they will more than likely be corrected. “Twenty-six point two,” with an emphasis on “point two.” Many will agree, at mile 26, your headspace changes and the relativity of time perception becomes apparent. For some, it is arguably the longest distance of the entire marathon.

I thought back to the first time I tried heroin. I thought back to my overdoses. I thought back to my first day out of treatment. I thought back to my first university acceptance letter. I thought back to my first lecture. I thought back to my first time getting off all my medications. I thought back to my first time holding my diploma. I thought back to hopping on a plane to explore another continent. I thought back to all the events that I once would have never thought could happen and all the events that almost prevented them from being possible.

And then I crossed the finish line of my first marathon.