I awoke around 4 a.m. in someone else’s bed: the hospital’s to be specific. I felt utterly confused and disoriented. Last I remembered, I was cackling with close friends over a drinking game in my house, like any other night. This time I had gone too far. I lay slumped on a stretcher in the hospital hallway as the bright artificial light pierced my eyes. Initially I couldn’t figure out what had gone wrong, but I knew I had made some near-fatal mistake.
The morning before I was utterly heartbroken and lost. I turned to Xanax because I wanted to be numb. Xanax has the uncanny ability to vegetate your thoughts and turn you into an emotional zombie. I just wanted to pause my pain, if only for a day. But as the negative thoughts kept pricking my brain, one wasn’t enough. So I shoved more down my throat and chased it with beer and whiskey until I blacked out.
The rest of this horrible saga was told to me by the innocent victims of my selfish act: my closest friends. The same people who spent the day taking me out, cheering me up and caring for me were forced to save my life. Thankfully someone came to check on me as I lay on my bed, choking on a mouthful of vomit. The bile was scooped from my throat as a gasp of air shot into my lungs and the ambulance came to rescue my unresponsive body. My vitals were stable enough, but I was reduced to a rag doll: mission accomplished.
In the hospital, a nurse offered me food and warm words as I struggled to orient myself. But my appetite was cut short when I saw my mother seated near my feet. I will never forget her face. She kept her composure for my sake, but I could see a mix of horror, confusion and suffering in her eyes. The nurse then encouraged me, with a soft smile and supportive touch, to try and walk down the hallway. Her face soon changed to a stern look of concern as we rounded the corner.
“We found benzos in your system,” she said. “Did you have anything else besides alcohol last night?”
“I took Xanax,” I replied.
“That could have killed you.”
Only then did it hit me how carelessly I threw my life away, and the extent of my cowardice. I broke a crucial promise that I swore to uphold my whole life, and made my mother’s worst nightmare come true. I had survived an overdose.
When I came to college I picked up unhealthy coping mechanisms: drugs and alcohol. I casually joked about my self-destructive tendencies, and brushed them off as innocent experimentation. It’s infinitely easier to crack a beer or spark a joint than to suffer sober.
When did that become the norm? New Paltz has a drug and party culture that is hard to ignore. So many of our students are in pain, and too many try to party those problems away. We often joke about the party scene being a black hole, but I assure you it’s no laughing matter. I’ve seen so many people whom I love and admire waste away with drug abuse. They decay their minds, abandon ambitions and become slaves to their substance. The poison only dulls the demons, but will never be potent enough to vanquish them. You only prolong your plight and create an uglier issue in the wake.
I wouldn’t consider myself a drug addict (although my words may paint another picture). I’m just one of countless young people who made a series of poor decisions. It almost cost me my life. My selfish actions, meant to cure my own wounds, caused far more outreaching anguish for those closest to me. Family and friends can never unsee this. They can forgive and forget but will always carry a fear, deep in their hearts, for my well being. This was never a burden I wished them to bear and something I struggle to forgive myself for every day. It also served as a severe awakening to my destructive vices: a rough awakening I hope no one has to visit the hospital to attain.
I don’t think there is any cosmic cause for my survival, I just chalk it up to dumb luck. But I am still here, I am still alive. I have an opportunity to learn, to cherish life, to cherish those who care about me and to cherish myself. I can’t keep smothering my emotions with chemicals. For anyone who has even remotely found themselves on a dark path, know that you can’t sustain the lifestyle and live well. We need to appreciate and analyze the pain, because without it, joy cannot exist. And I truly hope that you love yourself enough not to mirror my mistakes.