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Substance.com Substance.com

Substance.com Readers’ Holiday Tales: A Cocaine Relapse on Christmas Eve

Today's installment of our readers' seasonal sharing of their substance-related experiences.

9 Substance

Recently we invited Substance.com readers to share their stories of holidays past that relate to substances or their absence. Today’s reader is Paul, 25, from Mississippi. He describes himself as an off-and-on-again recovering heroin addict of the past few years, and says he has recently found that Suboxone improves his life. Here, Paul shares why his last Christmas was an unhappy one. Our best wishes to him this year.


“The real fun came around 6 am Christmas morning.”

I don’t get to go home much. As a drug addict, tried and true, let’s just say there are trust issues within my family. Once a year, for about three days over the Christmas holiday, is about the only time I’m allotted for a trip home. It just so happens that my birthday is also Christmas Eve.

My life has become easier in so many ways in recovery, and I’ve started repairing relationships within my family.

But my trip home last year was a fateful one. I had no intent to do anything but spend quality time with the family I never see and very much love, but ended up spending Christmas Eve shooting tequila and ingesting copious amounts of cocaine with an old high school cohort who now happened to be majoring in anthropology, as I once was. This resulted in an invigorated four-hour conversation about early hominin evolution and evaluating fucking Big Foot in the same light as actual, recorded Plio-Pleistocene era bipedal mammals.  

The real fun came around 6 am Christmas morning, when my brother and I stumbled home to an already-bustling home that smelled of bacon and pine, full of eager children and piles of presents.  

“I never get to celebrate my birthday,” I told my mother as she hugged me and whispered in my ear: “You smell like liquor and cigarettes, you stupid son of a bitch…it’s fucking Christmas.”  

My brother had already slunk off to his bedroom. He lives at home year-round, so was less of a spectacle. But I’m a drug addict; I’m used to the limelight.  

My mother knew what was up, but surprisingly most of my family, if not necessarily ignorant of my intoxication, played as such—even my unaccepting, conservative-Christian uncle.  

I was still heavily speeding. I slipped away to the bathroom to brush my teeth and was blinded by the light when I flipped the switch. Seeing my insanely dilated pupils in the mirror, I felt like I was looking into my own soul. Luckily it was still early and dark enough to mask my appearance somewhat.  

I was able to hold “normal” conversation through breakfast and coffee. Even into opening Christmas presents I felt I held it together pretty well. I shredded wrapping paper, cut tape, laughed and smiled along with everyone else. But about two hours in, it hit me: that impossible-to-ignore onset of the crash.  

I apologized to my family and hustled upstairs to crawl into bed.  

You know that morning-after feeling, when you log onto Facebook to an instant torrent of shame? Well, that’s what happened to me. Only instead of embarrassingly shot-gunning a beer at some shitty dive bar, I was captured laughing maniacally, opening Christmas presents with a smile on the edge of insanity, hair like pre-cut Russell Brand’s, and dribbled tequila stains running down my shirt.  

When I saw those pictures my mother had so innocently uploaded to Facebook, I knew that I had hidden nothing. My family wasn’t dumb—they were just done with me. They put up a façade in an attempt to salvage their special day together.  

It hasn’t been spoken of among my family since then, but my brother and my friends mercilessly recount the story. Because there is nothing funnier than relapsing, on Christmas, and disappointing your family into silence.