‘A’ word With The Darkness
(From an Addict’s perspective)
By: Athena Arcayan
Photo taken in 2012, from L to R:
Danny, myself and Tony
I spent many hours of the day and night with my friend, Tony, talking about the ‘A’ word. We would refer to it as The Darkness, a tongue-in-cheek reference to the band but in reality, it was too fitting and apropos a description.
Sometimes the Elephant in the room, the bane of so many is: Addiction.
Tony’s drug of choice was Heroin aka Smack. I asked him once if the feeling ever went away.
‘You mean: me wanting it all the time? No. Never. It never goes away.’
I’d have this mental picture of a Dark Cloud always hovering over him or near him. I thought if I ever did a painting of it, this might be an accurate depiction.
I’m an Addict as well. I can easily check off all the boxes of infamous NA* and AA* meetings I’ve attended. AND, I can certainly relate to OA* and SAA*. If my Addiction were to ever be painted, it would be a painting of me with large holes in different spots on my body, especially around my heart. They’re very much like empty spots, unable to be filled by anything but disease and the hunger of addiction.
My journey started years ago with alcohol and then turned to pill popping. I struggled with it for decades until I received a wake up call where I had to choose between living and dying. When I finally decided to remove them from my life, I replaced the alcohol & drugs with food, sex and other distractions. It took many many hours of therapy, friends, spiritual work, ceremonies/rituals to help heal and tend to the ‘holes’ of my heart, mind, body and spirit.
I wanted to share a little bit of my story, with the intention of attempting to share my friend’s pain because I think it might help to bring some semblance of understanding and to also shed some light.
Why? (Some might ask.)
Recently, a friend of a friend lost someone she cared about to his Addiction. He had also OD’d on heroin and I can almost hear her inner dialogue of grief:
- ‘Why didn’t I (insert anything from call or be there more, etc.)?’
- ‘Why didn’t he/she call me?’
- ‘Why do I feel so guilty?’
As my friend stood still, doing her best to not look me in the eye as tears rolled down her face, I grabbed her hand and told her:
‘I’m sorry this happened. It wasn’t your fault. There was nothing more you could have done. You did all you could do.’
And that, unfortunately, is the sad truth for so many, too.
This Darkness is much bigger than ANY of us.
It blocks out Love.
It is never satiated and is ALWAYS hungry.
It never has enough and always wants MORE.
It’s as though it were a Black Hole, sucking the breath and life all around it. It Takes. And what it gives back in return is pain, suffering, longing, and inevitably: death. There is the temporary euphoria and reprieve from pain, but it comes at a very high cost. At times, in the end, your Life is cashed in as payment.
It’s a similar feeling to those seeking solace at the bottom of a glass or bottle (of alcohol). The difference is it comes in liquid form and from a societal standpoint, it’s more socially accepted (less judgement, in my opinion).
The Root Cause? The source of where the suffering stems from varies person to person. Some have suffered from a myriad of abuses throughout their lives. Some of it is hereditary. Some come from good homes and normal/healthy upbringings with no history of Addiction whatsoever. Some had little to no coping skills on how to maneuver and manage their emotions throughout their life.
My friend, the one who walked with his Darkness finally succumbed to it after nearly 4 decades of struggling with it. I, like many others, was a phone call away but instead he fed his unsatiated hunger, which resulted in him dying later of a cardiac arrest.
News of his death spread fairly quickly. Disbelief, shock, anger and tears rippled throughout the community of friends and loved ones. It’s taken me a year to write about it and finally share.
My heart went out to my friend as she struggled to put words to her grief and name the culprit who was responsible for the death of someone she cared for deeply.
When we can name things and share things authentically, it can help those that still live with ‘The Darkness’. It breaks my heart to know that many feel alone and are too steeped in their suffering to see any other way out.
For those of you who live with Addiction and this Darkness, you are NOT alone and there’s always help. I pray that you have the willingness and trust to reach out and ask for it. There are people that care, love you and want to help. Trust and Believe me with All My Heart.
I’ve been to the bottom of the Pit. One thing I know is this: there’s only one way out of that Pit and that’s UP.
For those of you grieving, I am sorry for your loss and my heart goes out to you. I think one of the most challenging things is not the actual death part but being left behind and not being able to be with the ones we love anymore.
For me, to have gotten to this place I’m at today is due to the willingness of being HONEST with myself. When I got to that point of realization, the next step I took was allowing myself to Feel everything. All. The. Feels. Then, I found people I could trust to share what was going on/what I was feeling, etc. After that, I made healthy choices physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I found a practice (or a series of things) that helped me to work through things in a positive way. I participate in regular Ceremonies/Rituals. I write and create. I decide every day if I want to be Happy (or not) and extend Gratitude to both the good and bad. Others have found that yoga or hiking, etc. help them. Or they go to the gym or find a church because they’re in need of some kind of Community. Some join AA, NA, etc. Find something that resonates with you. It’s out there.
‘The wound is the place where the Light enters you.’ -Rumi
The Darkness can only live within if you continue to feed it. When the Soul Sustenance is Light and you truly welcome Love to nourish you, that’s where you can begin to experience freedom from suffering.
Please know I hold you all in my heart with Gratitude and infinite Love.
Let’s help one another.
(Listed Below are links that may assist with information on addiction, counselling, etc.)
- Alcoholics Anonymous:
- Narcotics Anonymous:
For the Bereaved/Grieving:
- Project Know:
- New Beginnings Rehab:
SAA=Sex Addicts Anonymous
(Background story of the photo above: This was taken in 2012, outside the tattoo shop Danny owned and Tony worked at, just before I left for Europe. Danny died in 2013. Tony followed him 4 years later in 2017. Both struggled with drugs and addiction).