I had no story before addiction.
I’ve never been addicted to heroin or drink. My habit has been idealism. I’ve ridden on high horses more times than I care to admit. I’ve been quixotic and delusional. The other day I remembered a student of mine that I had tried to fix. His parents (from where I sat on my high horse) were neglectful. My student read who I was and got all of the mileage out of my “heroism.” In the end his parents may have been rotten, but the kid knew how to get out of schoolwork with only the hint of a tear and sad tale.
“I have absolutely no pleasure in the stimulants in which I sometimes so madly indulge. It has not been in the pursuit of pleasure that I have periled life and reputation and reason. It has been the desperate attempt to escape from torturing memories, from a sense of insupportable loneliness and a dread of some strange impending doom.”Edgar Allan Poe
Like Edgar, I lug a knapsack of desperation and doom into every new relationship, but my addiction is a little more hidden to the untrained eye. I’ve heard it said that addiction is seeking escape by means of a lesser god. My addiction is my attachment to being a god. All delusion. Addicted men adore me. Maybe I will be the god to replace the god that is killing them. I’ve never felt like a martyr. I am more a shadow. I can hide behind the BIG stories of a mate’s chaos. I can feel maybe a little more perfect — but this too is chasing a first high with decreasing returns.
My very first boyfriend, John, still haunts me at times. I don’t know if he is dead or alive. I saw a picture in my friend’s eighth grade yearbook when I was fifteen and spent the entire summer before high school imagining his perfection, staring at his beauty. Out of all the boys on those pages I was drawn instantly to the boy destined to overdose more than anyone else in our high school. I have a sixth sense about those things, though I was obviously innocent of any self-awareness at the time.
It’s no surprise then that my first novel is about addiction and the main character’s name is John Weldon. But would it surprise you that, as I wrote the pages, I had no inkling that I was idealizing all of the addicts I have ever loved? The idea of a strong female heroine irritated me back then. I didn’t like the idea of it at all. I could not relate. Katherine Weldon was the shadow I needed her to be. She was truth for me. She still is sometimes.