What Addiction Sounds Like - Page 2

By Anna David 02/20/12

I snorted so much cocaine that I couldn't do anything but try to avoid the insistent beeps of my computer. I failed every time.

Anthology of Addiction Photo via

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I’m not sure how long it took me to realize I was depressed. I’d been down for so long that I forgot what not feeling down felt like. The fact that I had a propensity for depression, that depression was in my family, was in my blood, and that depressants like alcohol and cocaine were surely exacerbating that, wasn’t something I could afford to think about. I needed cocaine—and though I told myself I didn’t need alcohol, I had no interest in giving it up, either. I needed cocaine even though it had gotten to the point where I’d buy it, flush it in a fit of shame, and then call my dealer for more. I needed it when it left me living in fear of a beep I couldn’t escape.

It began to dawn on me that my relationship with cocaine was less than healthy. I had, I could admit, an issue with it. I don’t think I was comfortable using the word “addiction.” But I knew that if I had the drug on me, I couldn’t stop ingesting it until the supply was drained and I had the additional problem of not being able to resist calling my dealer to replenish. I knew what had to be done.

I understood that drugs and alcohol were doing this to me but I was certain I couldn’t live without them.

I quit cocaine. It wasn’t easy but I did it.

Of course, I needed some comfort through this deprivation, so I allowed myself to drink. And, in fact, I drank quite a bit because my alcohol consumption had increased with all the cocaine use—only because I needed it to come down—and what with giving up coke and everything, I didn’t see why I should make myself suffer needlessly by trying to tone down the drinking.

A month passed. And I reasoned that no one who has an issue with cocaine gives up the drug for an entire 30 days.

And so I went back to using it.

I did the quitting-for-a-month thing a few more times. The experiments had variations: during one, a guy I was dating, a pill popper, told me he thought I had a problem so I asked another guy to take me to a 12-step meeting. God, I hated it. The people I met there all insisted that there was no way I could have an issue with cocaine but not with alcohol, even when I tried explaining how little I enjoyed drinking anymore. But, I reasoned, I could go along with their program. I could be sober.

I made it 10 days.

Ten days where I was regularly taking the Vicodin that my then-boyfriend agreed to share. After 10 days, I’d had enough. Fuck sobriety, I said, really believing I’d been sober.


The very last time I quit cocaine but continued to drink, I wanted to die. And not just in the passive way I’d been wanting to die the previous few years. I was really there. I understood that drugs and alcohol were doing this to me but I was certain I couldn’t live without them. I didn’t have the courage to go get razors or swallow pills so I considered driving my car into oncoming traffic. I never considered the fact that if I drove my car into oncoming traffic, I could hurt or kill someone else.

Then it occurred to me that getting sober might be better than dying. I figured it probably wasn’t but reasoned that I could give the sobriety thing a try and if it turned out I was right—that it, in fact, was worse—I could always reconsider the whole dying thing. 

That was over 11 years ago and I haven’t reconsidered it yet. The 12-step program I hated so much at first glance has come to save my life. This doesn’t mean that I now see sunshine and rainbows where I once only saw darkness and jittery nights. I still experience depression—just not nearly as often as I used to and I almost always understand that it’s going to pass. Essentially, I have a real life—one filled with pain and hope and panic and peace and, at times, the instant pain relief and euphoria that alcohol and then cocaine once gave me. I’m still a writer, but now I actually do it. My fingers don’t hover over the keyboard, unable to move.

I haven’t heard The Beep in over a decade. Luckily, I still remember exactly how it sounds.

This essay appears in the anthology Writers On The Edge: 22 Writers Speak About Addiction and Dependency, edited by Diana M. Raab and James Brown. Reprinted with permission by the publisher. Anna David is the Executive Editor of The Fix and the author of the books Party Girl, BoughtReality Matters and Falling For MeShe's written about sex addiction and gambling addiction, among other topics, for The Fix.

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