The power of addictions
by Danny Ashton Earll
Addictions come in all shapes and forms. We can’t really limit addictions because truthfully, we as human beings can become addicted to almost anything. Whether it is drugs, alcohol, self-harm, money, suicide, education, food, power, exercise, shopping, nicotine, caffeine, or sex, addictions can be dangerous and they alter who we are as individuals. Addictions can hurt the good we can do as people and also hurt those we love and who love us. As someone who has addictions, I know the effects it has on the person and those who love them.
We come to be addicts when we constantly feel the need to escape our own thoughts and emotions of everyday life or specific difficult situations. Addictions help us to put off our emotions and deal with the stress that we face. We feel that the addiction is something we can take power over and control. The vice we choose to use becomes our way of taking control and we use it to tell the world that we do have control over at least one thing; until it becomes an addiction. Once the vice becomes a need to fill a void or deal with emotions, it becomes an addiction. We need it; we crave it; we obsess over it; we will do anything to get it; just one last fix before we promise to quit just to go right back into our addictions’ tempting black embrace. No longer do we control it but rather, it controls us. We become slaves to the very thing we were using to help us find some power.
At an early age I dealt with self-harm and suicide attempts. Not realizing just how damaging this could be, I continued into young adulthood. I had become addicted to cutting and suicide. An odd thing to be addicted to, suicide — especially if one is still alive — but nonetheless, I am addicted. Cutting was the biggest addiction and remains to this day. The urge to cut was there any time I was dealing with high stress situations or felt extremely depressed. I didn’t cut to kill myself but rather it was a release of pent up anger, frustration, fear, and overall rampant emotions. I had to see the blood, and I had to feel the pain. It comforted me to know that even though I was somehow the wrong gender and loved women, I bled red just like everyone else. Scars cover my arms, wrists, and chest from the pain I inflicted on myself. I became ashamed of my scars, especially whenever I was caught cutting. Sometimes it was a lover who found the fresh wounds or it was a friend. I’ll never forget the pain in their faces as they realized that I had done it to myself.
I kept most of my cuts on my upper arms so I could still wear t-shirts and pretend that I wasn’t cutting. It worked for a while until someone discovered my new trick. I was mad. I was so angry that I was yet again being scolded about my cutting. No one understood. No one knew the pain and the drive that was there. No one knew what it felt like to combust inside your own veins. I had to cut. I had to do it. I was powerless against the intensity of my addiction. I started using pocket knives when I was a teenager but as a young adult I discovered how much easier it was to use a razor blade. I found I could cut more and not cut as deep and still get the blood I needed and the release I so desperately sought. Discovering the razor blade however increased the frequency of my cutting episodes.
After my first girlfriend broke up with me I got lost in a world of depression. I hated myself for being unlovable and began cutting every few weeks. There were times in life where I would go a few months not needing to cut but when the urge came, I was hopeless to resist. I felt that I was going through so much in life that I could have my one vice. I’m lucky I never cut so bad that I damaged anything. Only damage is scars on my first few layers of skin and most of those scars have faded.
I had a period of time where I swore I was going to stop cutting, and I got a tattoo to cover up some of the scars on my right arm. The tattoo represents all the pain I suffered and all the years I spent cutting. Many of the barbed wire spikes look like they are ripping through the actual scars. My tattoo artist really brought my vision to life. It remains my favorite tattoo as it represents the promise I made to myself. While I didn’t stop cutting at the point I got the tattoo, I did make it several months being clean. I struggled with my cutting and really had to watch myself once I started performing in the Diva Show at Myrna’s. I knew I couldn’t keep hiding my dark secret. I had to stop, but my resolve wasn’t super serious when life situations hit me yet again.
At the time I was living with my friend Dez who worked late. I went home with a bottle of Pendleton Whiskey I bought at work since I had covered an early shift instead of my usual closing shift. I had two razor blades left at home and a movie I had rented. I put on the movie and began drinking my whiskey and coke. The movie I had was a bad one to watch since it only triggered me even more. I was down to only one-quarter of the fifth of whiskey left when I grabbed my razor and attacked my left arm and my chest. I was drunk and depressed and didn’t pay any attention to how much I cut or how deep. I didn’t care. I fell back into my pillows and dropped the razor. I was about to pass out when I heard the door open; Dez was home. She knocked on the door, but I didn’t answer. She poked her head in my door and saw the bloody scene before her.
I laid there not wanting to hear a lecture but being so out of it that I wasn’t quite sure what was happening. Dez put her bag down and came to my bedside. She looked me over then left. A few moments later she returned with a warm wet cloth, Neosporin, and bandaging. Dez cleaned me up without saying a word, having to go rinse out the cloth a few times in between. She finished bandaging my self-inflicted wounds, tucked me into bed, kissed my forehead and walked out whispering Goodnight Cowboy. Love you.
Several months later I went in for my first testosterone shot and as the needle penetrated my right butt cheek, I vowed that I would never cut myself again or put anyone through what I had put Dez through that night. I am proud to say that two and a half years later I am still clean. I got rid of all my knives and razor blades and do not keep them in my home or my car. I love knives and always loved to carve wood but the risk of my using them to cut remains too strong. I still have the urge to cut on occasion, especially when life is really stressful and things build up. I have to work really hard at controlling myself when these urges arise. My mood changes and my body gets tense like it’s a full body Charlie horse or I’m going to turn into the Hulk. I have to do something to release the tension and built up emotions. Most often I work out. I love to lift weights and the burning in my biceps from the bench press is equal to that of cutting although a lot healthier. When I feel the need to cut I have friends that I can call or text and vent to. They know that a lecture will only make me more upset and push me further into my addiction so instead they listen and remind me of other things I like to do instead of cut. The urges come farther and farther apart now as I have learned to control my emotions and work out on a regular basis which I am grateful for, but the support system I have is one of the most important aspects in my recovery and staying clean.
My addictions and the behaviors associated with them have hurt many people and I owe them an apology. My addictions are selfish and cause me only to think about myself. I do not think about the consequences or the pain inflicted on others but rather only on making myself feel better in that moment. Even my smoking addiction has caused me problems with those I love because of the second hand smoke risking their health and the awful smell I bring into their home. My mood swings and angry outbursts have caused hurt and pain where there should be love and friendship. I not only owe an apology, but I also owe a huge thank you. Those who have been there through it all and remained my friends are great examples of strength to me. I know I am difficult to handle on a regular basis, and I can be difficult to love. I’m like loving a porcupine at times: super cute and cuddly looking till I poke my quills into you for doing something I didn’t like. Luckily I’ve been working on changing all of that and am doing much better with my health and addictions, but it doesn’t negate the need for an apology and a thank you.
Kristin, Nicholas, Aar, & Logan; Dez, Paige & Jason, Colleen & Ryan, my brother TJ, my parents, Andrea, Deb, Paul & Jesse, Lucian & Espe & Nik, Chuck & Sue, Rachel, Matthew & James, Annie, Amber, Micah, K Ho, Daphne & Lisa, Alexis & Jay, Kris, Kevin & Mariquita, Lynette Duke of Fairbanks, Daniel, Ma, RJ, Anna & Bushmasters Painting & Landscaping, Char & Lisa, Dana & Suzie, Jess & Constance, Kimtagious, Lis Lis, Sarha, and everyone that I didn’t list that I have hurt, I am truly, deeply sorry. My actions and behaviors the last few years have been sporadic and a roller coaster of ups and downs, and I apologize for all the times I was rude, condescending, angry or aggressive, hurtful, or just plain crazy.
To the following individuals, I probably owe award plaques for how much they have done for me and everything they have put up with. And while this list is only a few, all those above and more, thank you for being my friend.
First and foremost, Kristin: thank you for always being there. Even when I was a downright pain and terrifying, you stood by me and supported me in my decisions and my life. You helped me awaken my passions and my drive for life and the things I love to do. You always had a hug waiting when I needed comfort or a good kick in the pants when I needed to be kicked into action and out of a depression. You gave me a family and accepted me without reservations. I don’t think thank you is enough for everything you have done. You pretty much deserve the Nobel Peace Prize for putting up with me every day and still loving me at the end. You are such a strength to me. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you. Also a big thank you to my boys — those three have grown on me & I love all of you so very much.
Dez: You were there in the beginning as I was lost. You helped me find where I belonged and accepted me as Danny the moment I started at Myrna’s. You have never called me anything but male pronouns and been so supportive of everything I do. You have been through the good, bad, and the really ugly. There were times our friendship suffered because of how difficult I became but you loved me enough to still be there when I needed you; even when others told you not to bother. I rubbah yous okkaayyaaa!
Colleen & Ryan: You guys were there on a day that I remember very little about, but I can’t express just how much it means to me that you were there. You didn’t freak out or lecture me; you sat there the whole morning, day, and night in that hospital with me and answered the doctor’s questions. You held my hand and let me cry and be angry and were there to support my bold move with my mom. You kept me safe and made sure I knew I was loved and worth something. You always check on me to make sure I’m doing okay and for a while let me stay in your home despite my inconvenience. I’m grateful to have you as friends.
Paige & Jason: I remember the first time I met you Paige; you helped me fix my beard for my first drag show at UAA all those years ago. In my moment of greatest fear you gave me confidence and you have continued to do so ever since. You never seem to doubt that I can do something even if it seems absolutely crazy. You have been supportive and understanding even when I deserve a good punch in the face. After the incident you let me stay in your home and even took me out with you to do hard labor and chop firewood (something I love doing by the way). I had so much fun on those outings and the friendship and support from you all was amazing. If I wanted to talk you were there to listen and offer advice or if I didn’t want to talk about it, you were ok with that too and just put a smile on my face.
A big thank you to the following: everyone at the Friday Night Diva Variety Show and at Mad Myrna’s for giving me a home and place to perform. I’ll be back. I love you all too much. The Last Frontier Drag Kings — you guys are awesome. I’m not alone in the type of performing I do, and it’s nice to have friends to work and perform with. I’m honored to be a part of this group and look forward to our next show. The Imperial Court of All Alaska, Operation Morale Boost for a new idea and place to grow my knowledge and talents. I love finally being able to serve the military, and I am proud to be a part of this new organization. To all the transmen that I have met and talked with about transitioning and the emotional rollercoaster that goes along with it. I can’t express my gratitude for all the advice and knowledge you shared. And thank you to Mya Dale who gave me the courage to write down my story; to write down what I’ve gone through and to help those who may be struggling with the same issues; for reminding me that everyone struggles with something whether we see it or not and we need to have kindness and love in our hearts and just accept people and let them know, You are not alone.