“My name is Leila and I am an addict.”
“Welcome Leila” , their chorus almost piercing my ears.
“Leila, would you like to share your story with us?”. I look up at her, this wrinkled lady in her red woollen jersey. I wonder how she could also be an addict like me, ‘Add ict’, the word seems so far removed from what I have become.
“Y Ye Yes” I stammer. The time has come and I know I must talk but where do I begin.
My name is Leila and I was born in Bosnia, in a city called Tuzla. The war started in 1992 when I was fourteen and in 1994 my family was lucky to escape to Germany. I loved Germany, it was new and exciting and I loved my new school. My dad and grandma were both very sick and almost a year later my father passed away. My mother worked many hours to support my younger brother, my sick grandma and I. The first time I had my first cigarette was in my second week of school, I coughed for a long time after the first drag of it. I remember that first time, I felt the smoke go down my throat and just catch there as I tried to swallow it. The coughing didn’t deter me though, I knew everyone was expecting me to smoke it. I didn’t want them to think I was a coward. I inhaled again, the smoke going down my throat and spreading through my lungs and I exhaled! I did it. After that I never really was without a pack of cigarettes.
Things at home were really depressing, my mum was always working and I had to take care of my grandma and younger brother, I hated being at home. I had met a guy, Franko, and we used to hang out abit and he introduced me to marijuana. I couldn’t believe how good it made me feel, everything disappeared when I got high, I couldn’t feel anything, I was floating above my head, watching everything from afar…
I stop talking.
My hands are starting to shake.
I need a hit. I can’t concentrate. The voices are screaming in my head. They are looking at me. Stop staring at me! Get in control! STOP! STOOOOPPPPPP! I sit on my hands and the lady in red reminds me to breathe. I swallow great breaths and breathe, breathe, breathe. I keep looking down, I don’t want them seeing the hunger in my blood shot eyes.
Silence, while they all look at me, waiting. My name is Leila and I am an addict. I remind myself.
From marijuana I moved onto Ecstasy and I started to go to nightclubs. Things got out of control at home, it seemed like my mother kept preaching to me, she kept wanting me to do things, pray, take care of your brother, your grandma, wash the dishes. It was too much.
I left school. I wanted a job so I could earn money. I wanted to help her but all she did was cry when I told her my plans. I wanted to help her and all she did was cry and look me with that look of disgust and shame. I walked out.
I can’t remember when I started to drink Alcohol. I grew up thinking it was forbidden but then when I tasted it I liked it. I liked the feeling that it gave me. Everything felt loose, all the tension just drained. I felt like a wet noodle. I liked feeling that way.
I found a new boyfriend. He said he loved me. I lost my virginity to him. I hated sex. It pleased him. I liked to please him. I fell pregnant.
My mother found out when I screamed it at her in an argument we were having. I can’t forget the look on her face. She stopped. Mid sentence. It was it someone had frozen her in that second. Her mouth was sill open. She could barely utter a word. Served her right I thought. She sat down eventually and just cried. I felt abit bad then. I wanted to tell her I was scared, I walked towards her and she looked up, her eyes frozen, ” You little slut! You are not my daughter!” She didn’t even scream, she said it with such venom that it brought instant tears to my eyes. She mocked me and told me not to cry and take my bastard child and leave her house immediately.
I moved in my with my boyfriend. He insisted we couldn’t afford a baby. I had to abort it. I bled for a long time after that. The Alcohol helped. Whatever the Alcohol didn’t numb, the marijuana did. He kicked me out a couple of months later.
I moved from friend to friend for abit. One night I met Druz in a bar, I was drunk, he was horny and we went back to his place. I woke up the next morning and lit the spliff he had already rolled, I spent the next few weeks in a stupor, I never bathed, I hardly ate, I either used marijuana or alcohol to keep me floating and numb. I watched everything from afar, people came and went, the TV always on, he would come and go, he would talk to me, and I would answer and he would fuck me and I would lay there. I would think of something I wanted to say and I didn’t know how so I would drink more because I made myself sick.
One day he brought lots of friends over, it was a party, it was fun, there was lots of alcohol and then I found my body being pounded by someone, my legs over his shoulders but it wasn’t him, I didn’t know who this guy was. I heard a laugh, I tried to get up but I couldn’t, I heard him screaming in my ear as he orgasm-ed inside of me. I vomited.
I became a prostitute. It was easy money. He would just bring his friends over and all I had to do was lay there and it earned us enough money to live on, enough to keep us in supply of alcohol, marijuana, heroine. I didn’t care what they did to my body, I couldn’t feel it. I thought that, was pretty funny. I couldn’t feel them!
I went to open the door one day, I let the young man in, I rattled off the price list as I started undressing. “LEILA!!!” he screamed, horrified and only then did I realise who it was.My brother. My mother had died. Accident. Three months ago. No one knew where I was. My brother and ailing grandmother were living on my mothers savings. He was a teenage boy now, handsome, clean, grown up. He told me and walked away ashamed, told me not to bother. I needed to tell him I’m sorry but the words wouldn’t come out.
That night I lay underneath this man while he squeezed at my breasts and I knew I had to stop. I went to my mother’s house the next day and vowed to start over.
I told my brother that he needed to help me and then I’d be better. I’d take care of all of us but first he needed to help me. I made him lock me in a room. I shivered. I shook. I screamed. I sweat. I urinated all over myself. I cursed. I hallucinated. I banged my head against the wall. I scratched myself till I bled. I fought the demons remembering my mothers face.
I made it through, I got a job. I took care of them. He went to College. And everyday I craved a drink of alcohol, a long drag of a spliff. He was smart, he got a scholarship. I craved the minute the heroine started coursing through my veins.
My grandma died. I cried for my bottle of vodka. I attended my brothers graduation. I desperately wanted a spliff. He found himself a job in another city and he wanted us to move there. I said to him I’d prefer to live in this house, we’d meet when we could. He drove away and I walked into the house and sat on my hands, begging myself, pleading with myself to NOT do it. I lasted an hour. I drank the entire bottle of vodka even before I reached home.
I lost my job after the fourth time I came to work drunk. I’ve avoided seeing my brother in a long long time but now he is moving back home. I can’t stop drinking, I can’t live without heroine. I thought I’d come here today, I thought maybe you could help me. Is it possible to help someone like me. I MUST stop.
I look at the wrinkled lady in the red woollen jersey. My eyes plead with her. I look away. I look down.
“Thank you for sharing your story Leila, We all welcome you here today. You are not alone. We will all help you get through this. The first step to your recovery is admitting you have a problem..”
“My name is Leila and I am an addict.” I can’t stop the words, “My name is Leila and I am an addict”. It’s almost cathartic.
Hands reach out for mine, I gulp, the cry gets stuck in my throat and a weird sound escapes, I hear soothing words from everywhere and the wrinkled lady in the red woollen jersey smiles at me.
Please God, if you listening, Help Me!