I Forgot to Die: Khalil Rafati

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.

You Are Enough: Mandy Hale

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.

“Sometimes it takes getting pushed to the very edge before you can find your voice and courage to speak out again. Sometimes it takes hitting that rock bottom to realize you’re done descending, and it’s time to rise. Sometimes it takes being told you’re nothing — being made to feel like you’re nothing — to help you see that you are complete.” – Mandy Hale

I came across this book on goodreads.com and the title itself was enough to draw me in. I have never really felt like I was ‘enough’ at anything.. Whether it was grades in school, relationships, friendships, sports, etc. So I figured it wouldn’t hurt me to pick this one up off the shelf.

This book was a bit of a change of pace for me because everything I’ve been reading lately has been about addiction with some mental illness thrown in but not as prominent. Mandy wrote extensively about her journey with crippling anxiety and depression. She detailed the events that led her to rock bottom, what rock bottom can feel like, and how she climbed her way back.

One thing I appreciate so much is Mandy’s openness when talking about treatment for her depression and anxiety. Although our society has come a long way there is still so much stigma around mental illness and reaching out for help can be very difficult. Mandy attended first a partial hospitalization program (PHP) and then an intensive outpatient program (IOP). For those who are not familiar with this level of care,  PHP is normally where individuals attend group therapy Monday – Friday for anywhere from five to eight hours and usually consists of individual meetings with therapists and psychiatrists. IOP is a step down, in my experience three days per week for three to five hours.

I have participated in multiple IOP programs for my mental illness and PHP programs for addiction so I could relate to Mandy’s anxiety when she first started. Walking into a room full of strangers and having to talk about such sensitive subjects is so difficult. Reading about Mandy’s success and the amazing friendships she made while in PHP and IOP really made my heart full. It also kind of made me want to go back. That may sound weird but when I was in IOP a couple years ago I felt like I could actually relate to the people around me and felt comfortable talking about my illnesses. While I love having the support of my family and friends, sometimes I just need someone to talk to who has been through what I have.

One aspect of the book that initially caught me off guard was the sections where Mandy discussed her religious beliefs. Normally the minute I start reading about religion I stop because I have had a lot of bad experiences and I don’t feel like being pressured to believe anything specific. This was not like that for me. While Mandy did talk about her own beliefs and road to spirituality I feel that I actually benefited from reading about it instead of being turned off like I have previously.

Mandy struggled with feeling like she was not good enough for most of her life. She really made me (and I’m assuming most readers) understand that we are enough. We may not be perfect, but who is. Even though I have this madness in my brain and have a history with addiction that does not mean I am not worthy of life and love.

In My Skin: Kate Holden

I spend a very significant amount of time reading and learning. It has always been a passion of mine and I’ve decided that I want to incorporate it into my blog in some way. I am going to call these book reviews but they are mainly going to be made up of my thoughts and opinions on what I read and how I relate to them. The books I write about will focus on mental health and/or addiction in some way including memoirs, self-help books and educational resources. I am going to be doing about one of these per week!

I recently finished Kate Holden’s In My Skin for the second time. I didn’t realize until after I bought the book that I had read it previously when I was fresh out of rehab. I actually like to read books multiple times through because I always pick up on and learn new things.

Kate’s journey with addiction is very similar to mine. Like Kate, I had what people may call a ‘picture-perfect childhood’. Supportive parents, a great sister, ideal neighborhood and given every possible opportunity I could imagine. But addiction doesn’t discriminate. Kate began using heroin with her boyfriend occasionally while still holding a job and studying. It doesn’t take long for using only on the weekends to turn into a few times a week and then eventually to every single day. After stealing money from her place of employment Kate was fired and eventually resorted to prostitution to fund her habit. I could relate wholeheartedly to every stage of Kate’s experience. I know what it’s like to lie, cheat and steal in order to fund a habit. I appreciate Kate’s honesty about what heroin addiction is really like as well as being a sex worker.

Kate attempted to get clean multiple times and her parents were always there to help and support her in whatever way they could. Incorporating Kate’s parents struggle with boundaries and enabling made this book stand out for me. Families of addicts struggle to understand the disease of addiction and are often torn about how and when to help. I would recommend this book not only to those struggling with addiction themselves but also parents and families. Reading about Kate’s struggles and triumphs and her overall experience gave me hope.

Kate attempted to get clean multiple times and her parents were always there to help and support her in whatever way they could. Incorporating Kate’s parents struggle with boundaries and enabling made this book stand out for me. Families of addicts struggle to understand the disease of addiction and are often torn about how and when to help. I would recommend this book not only to those struggling with addiction themselves but also parents and families. Reading about Kate’s struggles and triumphs and her overall experience gave me hope.

This book was a bit triggering for me due to trauma I have from my own experience with prostitution and drug use but I still enjoyed it and am glad I read it again. Reading about someone’s experience that paralleled mine so much made me feel less alone.