An Open Letter About Addiction and Mental Health

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The following open letter was written and submitted by Shane Brooks. DISCLAIMER: Some content in this submission may not be suitable for all readers.

Dear Shadow,

You are always with me, and you are a constant reminder that I am still alive. For without a shadow, I must be six feet under. Over the years, I have tried to box you, fight you, and even run away from you. Why? Well, you are more than just a shadow, you are the keeper of my past.

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You house my demons, my goals, my failures, and my successes. Every time I look at you, I see obscurity. Why do you not show up in bright colors? Why do you not show up at night? You’re shaped like me but have no features. How can you be so blank but yet so powerful?

You remind me of the troubled times, the sad times, and the lost days. From the times growing up, when I was outcasted and sent to hide out in my room. To the times, I drank myself into a blackout. The coked-out days and nights spent popping pills, to the suspect behavior that came from those.

The nights spent in jail, the days at home alone and the times spent in war. This is where my problem with you arises. You never let the past be the past. Instead, you drag it around right behind me, sometimes to the side of me. But the worst is when you are right in front of me.

The sun is on my back, but you and the darkness are in front of me. Well, Shadow, I am done running from you, I have been doing it for over 2 decades now. You might house my demons, but I house my life. For years you have drug me into your eternal blackness, and I have tried to see what you are all about, and the drugs helped me to see you.

Hell, we even became friends for nearly 13 years. We had conversations, drank together and did drugs together. You seemed like the only thing that would ever understand and accept me. So, cocaine and booze brought us together. The two things that made us intimate with each other are the same two things that drove us apart. I had grown sick of your bullshit and mind games.

I wanted you to stop, I begged and pleaded with you to just leave me alone. You never listened; instead, every day and everywhere I went there you were again. Playing your tricks, like a dark witch doctor. When you began to put my family and friends in the path of destruction, I had enough.

I loaded that gun and tried to shoot you. You are not real, so the bullet was not going to do any damage to you. Like I stated earlier, the only way to get rid of you is to be six feet under. I pressed that gun into my mouth, and bit down on the barrel, with my hands shaking and finger on the trigger. No tears were to be seen in my eyes; I was about to be happy and relieved. However, the sun shined on that day, and I felt the warmth of the world, and I put that gun down.

We talked things over and became okay for a little while after this. Until you started to remind me of the events of Afghanistan, my father, and those demons again. Well, this time I was going to get rid of you once and for all. I was going to run away so far, and so fast you would never be behind me again.

I was never going to drag you around again. You knew everything you needed to so that you could play with my mind whenever you wanted. We were going to fight one final time. I popped all those pills, 50 something if I remember right and downed that whiskey to get on your level. This was going to be the battle to end all. One of us was not walking away.

Well, once again, the sunlight hit my face (well okay the lights of the ER). Regardless I felt that warmth still and thought we were going to be friends again. We were for months, and then you brought me right back into the never-ending pit with you.

This time my family came to fight you for me, they loved me enough to put me in a place where your games could not reach me. A place where only the sun shined, and warmth was felt.

They did this because again I tried to fight you and this time with a knife. I was going to cut you away from me literally. I pressed that knife against my skin and was about to feel relief. Even in the darkness of that night when I tried to die and rid myself of you. The sun shined on my face again.

So, I want to say Shadow I am sorry for the battles and for the fights. I am sorry I hated you for so long. I am sorry that our friendship was always on the rocks because you would bring up the past. I am sorry we could only talk over a whiskey on the rocks or after a couple of lines of cocaine.

Well, I no longer want to run, fight, or get rid of you. I have learned that even though you are opaque, and you hold my demons, you are crucial to my mental state and sobriety.

Shadow you have been attached to all the bad and evil in my life for 30 years now. Never once complaining, you have floated around behind me for most of that asking nothing in return. While I focused on the brief moments that you spent in front of me or engulfing me in your darkness.

I forgot to notice you all the years you let the sun shine on my face and went to the back with my demons. I want to say that I love you Shadow, I love that you keep the darkness and the demons behind me and the sunshine and the bright times in front of me. You follow the path lit for me to see where I am going. When you do come in front of me and make things dark.

I now understand it is because the demon that is in front of me is more prominent than those of my past, and I need to be protected until the sun comes out again. I no longer want to be separated from you, hide you, or never see you again. Instead, I want us to be one. For, without life and brightness, I don’t have you. So, let’s keep the light shining, and instead of running from you I want to run with you.

With all the love in the world,

Your human.