I regret everything

Recovering addicts say they're grateful to have learned from their mistakes. Personally, I wish I never made them

Topics: The Fix, addiction, Recovery, Cocaine, Methamphetamine, Crack,

I regret everything
This article originally appeared on The Fix.

the fix My poor little sister.

She’s still just in high school, and she’s already been through the addiction mill: my father (who is also her father) and I have both written books on the subject, we both go on national speaking tours talking about addiction, and she actually lived through my addiction herself. Then she was recently assigned a book about a crack addict to read for one of her classes.

Not only that but the crack addict (now a former crack addict) came to her high school and spoke and she’s supposed to write an essay about the book and his talk and her impressions.

Before writing the essay, she called me to talk it over. She said she was impressed with the book, but unimpressed with the author’s answer to a question one of the students asked him.

Do you regret being an addict, and all the things you did and went through when you were smoking crack?

His answer was simple: he regretted nothing. He was grateful, in fact, for all that he had been through. Addiction made him the man that he is today. He wouldn’t take back anything.

This upset my sister and she wanted to know what I thought. Was she wrong to think that this was not only an irresponsible answer, but also a callous and arrogant one? And do I regret what I’ve been through and what I’ve done? Would I take it all back if I could?

Certainly this author’s answer that he was grateful for his addiction is not a unique statement. I’ve heard many, if not most, AA members sharing similar sentiments in meetings all across the country.

But I strongly disagree.

After all, how could I possibly tell my little sister, who witnessed the hell our parents’ went through, who had to watch me getting arrested literally right in front of her when she was five years old, that I was grateful for my addiction—that I regretted nothing? How could I possibly tell her that the pain and suffering I caused her and my family was all worth it in order for me to become the man that I am today?

That would be way too fucked up.

And the truth is, I do regret my past.

I did terrible things—stealing, breaking in to people’s houses, lashing out at my family and loved ones, costing my parents tens of thousands of dollars in treatment costs. Not to mention all the damage I did to myself—the ramifications of which I’m still dealing with in my life now.

You Might Also Like

Emotionally, I am fragile and unstable. I’m on all sorts of medication: 1200 milligrams of Lithium, 90 milligrams of Prozac and 200 milligrams of Lamictal a day. I have to go to psychotherapy twice a month and remain cautious and protective of myself.

At home, with my wife, cat, and two dogs, I am safe and happy. And I have been getting better and better at being around people and socializing, but I am still awkward and have a hard time stepping outside of the little world I’ve created.

Of course, I do love my wife and family and am very grateful for my life. And none of this is to say that there is no hope. There is a lot of joy and love in my life. Writing, hiking with my dogs, going to movies with the few friends I have, spending time with my family, speaking at high schools and colleges, reading, art, music—these things all bring me a tremendous amount of happiness, peace, and contentment.

But I am not grateful for my addiction.

My addiction sucks.

And I missed out on so much of life.

Now that I am married and want to have a family of my own, I worry about passing this disease down to our children. I also worry about supporting my family (writing certainly isn’t the easiest way to make a living). More than anything I wish I’d stayed in school, worked my way through college and learned a trade I could practice that would be consistent and offer me and my family security.

I wish I had taken advantage of the opportunities that were given to me.

I wish I’d never put my family through all that pain and suffering.

I wish my sister hadn’t lived her whole life with the shadow of my addiction looming over her.

Because it is ever present. As much as I try to escape it, it is there with me always. And I regret it thoroughly.

That is contrary to what the Big Book says. I do regret the past and I do wish to shut the door on it.

Of course shutting the door on my past is not a possibility.

But I sure as hell wouldn’t tell a group of high school kids that I’m grateful for my addiction. I would tell them the truth—that if I had the chance to be a “normal” person, I would take it in a second. As I said, addiction sucks. And I’m one of the lucky ones (as is the author of that book).

Nic Sheff is a columnist for The Fix and the author of two memoirs about his struggles with addiction, the New York Times-bestselling Tweak and We All Fall Down.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 13
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    Young Daya has yet to become entirely jaded, but she has the character's trademark skeptical pout down pat. And with a piece-of-work mother like Aleida -- who oscillates between jealousy and scorn for her creatively gifted daughter, chucking out the artwork she brings home from summer camp -- who can blame her?

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    With her marriage to prison penpal Vince Muccio, Lorna finally got to wear the white veil she has fantasized about since childhood (even if it was made of toilet paper).

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    Cindy's embrace of Judaism makes sense when we see her childhood, lived under the fist of a terrifying father who preached a fire-and-brimstone version of Christianity. As she put it: "I was raised in a church where I was told to believe and pray. And if I was bad, I’d go to hell."

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    Joey Caputo has always tried to be a good guy, whether it's offering to fight a disabled wrestler at a high school wrestling event or giving up his musical ambitions to raise another man's child. But trying to be a nice guy never exactly worked out for him -- which might explain why he decides to take the selfish route in the Season 3 finale.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    In one of the season's more moving flashbacks, we see a young Boo -- who rejected the traditional trappings of femininity from a young age -- clashing with her mother over what to wear. Later, she makes the decision not to visit her mother on her deathbed if it means pretending to be something she's not. As she puts it, "I refuse to be invisible, Daddy. Not for you, not for Mom, not for anybody.”

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    We still don't know what landed Brooke Soso in the slammer, but a late-season flashback suggests that some seriously overbearing parenting may have been the impetus for her downward spiral.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    We already know a little about Poussey's relationship with her military father, but this season we saw a softer side of the spunky fan-favorite, who still pines for the loving mom that she lost too young.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    Pennsatucky had something of a redemption arc this season, and glimpses of her childhood only serve to increase viewer sympathy for the character, whose mother forced her to chug Mountain Dew outside the Social Security Administration office and stripped her of her sexual agency before she was even old enough to comprehend it.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    This season, we got an intense look at the teenage life of one of Litchfield's most isolated and underexplored inmates. Rebuffed and scorned by her suitor at an arranged marriage, the young Chinese immigrant stored up a grudge, and ultimately exacted a merciless revenge.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    It's difficult to sympathize with the racist, misogynist CO Sam Healy, but the snippets we get of his childhood -- raised by a mentally ill mother, vomited on by a homeless man he mistakes for Jesus when he runs to the church for help -- certainly help us understand him better.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    This season, we learned a lot about one of Litchfield's biggest enigmas, as we saw the roots of Norma's silence (a childhood stutter) and the reason for her incarceration (killing the oppressive cult leader she followed for decades).

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    While Nicki's mother certainly isn't entirely to blame for her daughter's struggles with addiction, an early childhood flashback -- of an adorable young Nicki being rebuffed on Mother's Day -- certainly helps us understand the roots of Nicki's scarred psyche.

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>