Oh, a storm is threat’ning
My very life today
If I don’t get some shelter
Oh yeah, I’m gonna fade away.

It’s New Year’s Eve. I am listening to Mick Jagger singing the lyrics that Keith Richards wrote whilst on a comedown from cocaine and heroin. Last New Year’s Eve a storm was indeed threatening my life. A self made storm of a life lived in active addiction and I was in the eye of it, unaware that I was about to be exposed to the weather of my rock bottom. Howling loneliness and turbulent insecurities pushed me to tears at midnight, before running off into the darkness of that first night of 2017.

This New Year’s Eve is very different. I am spending it with someone I trust implicitly and thoroughly enjoy the company of. No expectations other than me just being. No need to use in order to don the mask of court jester or harlot, to feel worthy of time and attention.

In two weeks I will celebrate my 1 year clean.

Listening to the song today, I can remember feeling like my identity came from madness and unhappiness. That my unmanageable crazy lifestyle defined me. Feeling like I was destined for the life of a tortured artist, I had visions that I would die using and be “discovered” after I had died. What a narcissistic twat. I romanticised addiction as sexy. I purposefully started drinking Jack Daniel’s and smoking Marlboroughs to set the scene of my demise, in an attempt to wield as much control over aspects of it as I could. I had no control. My hope was fading. The progression of my addiction meant that I no longer had a choice over the substance or brand. I needed every substance as quickly as possible to keep those emotions muffled.

I thought that the only way that I could be creative, was to blot out my insecurities with the haziness of using. Then if I failed, it was also down to my lack of lucidity. I held on to stories of creatives like Keith Richards, stories that feeling absolute pain was the only way to achieve connection. The irony of it was, that I used to block out the pain so I never really felt or tackled it. Only other addicts understood his lyrics as he truly felt them. Other people took the feeling and applied it to their own turmoil. Pain is subjective, as is happiness. Songs of heartbreak, songs of love, they resonate to different people for different reasons. I do not want my creative achievements to be seen by only a certain person, who has been through exactly what I have. I now want to know about and understand other people. To identify with the similarities and not to judge the differences.

I recently celebrated my 29th birthday. I usually spend my birthday in hospital. This year I wrote my 5 year plan. For the first time I felt I had the power to create my own success and not just my own failure. The self fulfilling prophecy of my failures was once the only success I had. I have had to break it down in to manageable chunks so as not to get overwhelmed. But, I did it.

I no longer sit festering in bitterness that no one has come knocking on my door to drown me in adulation for the dreams that had barely escaped my lips. Other people’s success is now something to celebrate with them, or to be motivated by. A wise man said:

By doing something you love, you have to rely on someone who isn’t

People will strive for the same goals as you, they are allowed to. You have to do it your way. You may not always be the best but if you stand in your truth, you will be authentic. Authenticity outlives fashions and failures.

Perhaps listening reflectively to “Gimme Shelter” will be my New Year’s Eve tradition. Well, it’s one of my favourite songs, so I am currently listening to it approximately 16 times a day.. because I am an addict . Still, it is better to be lost in a song about the perils of using, than to be lost in the perils of using itself.
Katrina Lawrence