Guest Post: Dean Robertson on Addiction, Chasing the High

I contacted Dean Robertson about half a year ago, and ever since have been so grateful for her help in editing my manuscript and navigating the publishing world. I appreciate not only her advice and wisdom with book publishing and editing, but also her honesty with the struggles she has overcome herself.

I am a recovering alcoholic, drug addict, compulsive overeater, and bulimic. Before I stopped drinking and drugging at the age of 40, my favorite legal drug was a mug of room temperature Guinness stout with a chaser of vodka from a bottle my favorite bartender kept in the freezer for me. My favorite illegal drug was marijuana. I never snorted cocaine, smoked crack, or dropped acid—mostly because the opportunity never presented itself at a moment when I was drunk enough to say ‘yes.’ My favorite legal drugs, other than alcohol, were prescription medications. I believe the unattractive term for me is “pill head.”

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To this day, nearly thirty years later, I cannot have mood-altering prescription medications in my house for long. I would get up in the middle of the night; I would have an argument with my son; I would wake up with worse-than-usual back pain or what my mother called a “sick headache”—and I would take double or triple the prescribed dosage.

I would take pain pills for depression or just to take the edge off; I would take an extra capsule of my neurological medication to be sure I get groggy enough to sleep; I would take Dramamine with Excedrin for a bad headache (the combination stops the headache and, if I take two Dramamine, gives me a buzz).

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When I was in the grip of my eating disorder, I ate all day. I got up at night and I ate I ate raw vegetables and I walked across to 7-11 at midnight for ice cream. I gained weight. The weight gain depressed me. I took extra pills for the depression. Sometimes, when I had eaten enough to make me sick, I threw it all up, firm in my belief that it would prevent more weight gain. Sometimes, I took laxatives with the same faith. For several months, a few years ago, I had a bout of nearly constant diarrhea; even a glass of water would bring it on. This malady, which was certainly inconvenient at best, had a stunning advantage: it allowed me to eat anything and everything and lose weight. I was, for that short time, literally having my cake and eating it, too. The leaching of nutrients and fluids from my body created a kind of manic high. I liked it.

Back in the days of my worst drinking and drugging, I would periodically go on a crusade to “clean out my system,” a project which involved, among other things, long periods of fasting. Water only. I discovered that, with no help from vodka or marijuana or valium, I could reach the stars. I could, in fact, achieve the greatest, and best, and highest high of all. No hangovers; no DUI’s; no fear of the police. No consequences. I discovered that I am one of those people who suffers no ill effects from prolonged fasts—no headaches, no muscle spasms, no weakness, nothing but a better and better rush as the days go by. I once told someone that I drank to hear the angels sing. When I fast, I hear them every day.

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And, incidentally, before diagnosis and medication to treat them, my temporal lobe seizures produced the same results—powerful “spiritual”experiences that went away with the anti-seizure drugs. There are days when I long for those visions and even consider stopping the medication.

In July of this year, my first book was published. I wrote that book in seven months of non-stop, day-and-night, midnight-to-dawn writing. I didn’t eat; I slept very little. I was in what athletes call “the zone.” I lost weight; the circles under my eyes got darker; friends and family worried. It was a terrifying and exhilarating time. I loved every frenzied minute of it.

I am an addict. I am always—always—chasing the high.

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Dean Robertson spent thirty years of her life teaching literature in independent secondary schools and in small private colleges. When she retired, she cut off her schoolteacher’s bun and headed to the Tidewater region of Virginia. In February or March of 2014, after a bad fall and recovery, she began writing about a Bible study she taught at the Lydia Roper home. The result, published on July 24 2015 is Looking for Lydia; Looking for God.

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