Book Review Disclaimer: These are my thoughts and opinions on books that I read related to addiction and mental health. They are in no way formal book reviews, that’s just the best way for me to describe them. Thank you for reading! If you have any book suggestions, I am always looking for inspiration.
First things first, this book and the man who wrote it are absolutely incredible. What caught my eye originally was the mugshot on the front cover. It reminds me so much of a picture I have of myself a few weeks before my second trip to rehab. Face sunken and picked at, the despair and powerlessness in my eyes. I had to read this guys story, and I’m so glad I did.
Khalil starts his memoir describing his upbringing and what lead him to drugs to begin with. I didn’t relate to much of what happened to Kahlil as a child and adolescent but I could relate to the emotion and feelings he described. Although I did not experience major trauma and lived with both my parents and sister, I suffered silently for many years, eventually leading me to drugs.
Khalil goes in depth about what it is really like being addicted to heroin and crack. He does not sugar coat it or leave anything out and that I appreciate because active addiction is scary and messy and lonely. He writes of multiple overdoses where he should have died (in one case did die and was resuscitated) and what it felt like to wake up in an emergency room with no one there. Khalil describes asking a nurse or doctor where his girlfriend and friends were, that surely they knew he had just overdosed and would be there to check on him, but no one was there. The truth is, when you are at rock bottom like that and so is everyone around you, those people won’t be there because they can’t focus on anyone else when they are trying to stay above water themselves.
I cried reading that section of his book because it reminded me of a time this past year that I ended up in the hospital. At the time, no one in my immediate family/support system knew I was using again. I had overdosed at my friends apartment and was resuscitated much like Khalil described during this scene of the book. Once I woke up at the hospital I was alone. The “friends” I was with were not there, I had not confided in my family or partner and was too afraid to call them. The doctor asked me if I could find a sober ride and let me leave. I was still falling in and out of consciousness because of the amount of heroin in my system and I just took off to get more. This was a real bottom for me, and realizing that the people I was spending all of my days with were not true friends hurt me more than anything because I genuinely cared for them. I will write much more in future posts about my experience with active drug use but I wanted to tell this story because I related so much to that empty feeling Khalil described.
” When I was alone I struggled with that. Being alive. I shouldn’t have survived the places and positions I’d put myself in. Most people don’t. Why had I? It certainly doesn’t have anything to do with being tougher or stronger because, trust me, many, many people who were stronger and tougher than I am didn’t make it. Too many people who were smarter than I am, kinder than I am, and just better human beings than I am died. And I don’t know why. To this day, I don’t know why. I still wrestle with guilt and confusion about it sometimes.” – Khalil Rafati
This quote resonates with me in a profound way. I have lost close friends and family to addiction in some way or another. Whether it was an accidental overdose, a car accident or suicide, addiction played a role. It may seem very strange to feel guilty about being alive but I feel this and know many others who do too. I ruminate on what I’ve done to myself and others while actively addicted to drugs and feel that I don’t deserve the life I have. It is confusing and something I struggle with a lot of days. I think Khalil describes the feeling perfectly.
Khalil does go into great depth about active addiction but also what it’s like to recover. What he has accomplished since getting clean is outstanding. I couldn’t help but want to be like him one day. Sharing my story in order to help other addicts is something I’ve always wanted to do and this book has inspired me to do so. I could go on and on about this memoir, it is that good. I strongly recommend it to anyone who either struggles with addiction or wants to learn more about it. Or if you just want to read about how a really messed up guy completely turned is life around.