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Nature is my drug of choice

Back when I made sandwiches for a living, I worked with a guy named Kenny.

Kenny was a heroin addict. Having never “caught the dragon” myself, I asked him to describe what it was like.

“It’s like there is a part of you that is missing … has always been missing,” he said. “When I shoot up, I find that lost piece of me and I’m complete … I’m complete for the first time.”

Then he went back to slicing pepperoni for the lunch rush, unfazed. I, on the other hand, looked like I’d just seen Steven Hawking dance the tango.

Those who use heroin, literally, do not care about anything else. I love chocolate, but I’m not going to steal cars and rob liquor stores so I can suckle a Hershey’s Kiss. The point is that yes, heroin will ruin your life … but that wasn’t anything I didn’t already know or hadn’t already heard.

What left me wide-eyed and a slack-jawed was how he said it. He wasn’t remorseful, angry or even a little ashamed. He was smiling.

Genuinely.

It made me sick. 

This is the first time I’ve ever really thought about or spoken of that conversation since it happened nearly a decade ago, and it still turns my stomach.

Not to put myself above Kenny in any way, mind you. I’m not better than him in the same way that I am not better than you nor you me. Come to think of it, the similarities in our lives were striking.

Kenny and I were from the same town. We attended high schools that were less than 20 miles apart. Our parents had similar jobs, we were the same age and, at that point in our lives, we worked for the same company. The only real difference between our lives was that when I was a kid, I had the woods.

My grandparents had a house in Michigan where I spent every summer and most of my winters. Nestled deep in the country and resting on the shores of a lake resembling Flathead, the only break in the thousands of acres of woods was for the occasional house, cornfield or dirt road.

I loved that house. When I woke up in the morning my toughest decision was whether I’d spend the day fishing, hiking, swimming, or shooting my bows and pellet guns. I would spend entire days in those woods, often getting lost on purpose so I’d have an excuse for why I was late for dinner.

And to this day I firmly believe that because I had those woods and waters as a child, I do not need drugs like heroin as an adult.

For Kenny to be a whole person, he must first find a vein. For me, it is as simple as walking into the woods, finding an old trail through several 100-year-old cedars, and seeing where it takes me.

For all intents and purposes, nature is my heroin … And thankfully, I don’t think it’s a habit I’ll ever kick.  

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