Tuesday, March 20, 2007

"I was addicted to oxygen"

One woman's heartbreaking story

Note: this is another piece of writing from my past. December 1999, to be exact. It was written as space filler for a project in my Media Graphics course. I had to design a magazine-page layout with only two pictures at my immediate disposal: a girl and a tree. I filled the remaining space with a parody ad that only residents of Lafayette, Louisiana, between the years of 1985 and 2004 would get. Long story. Anyway, here:

It was one of those things that the average person doesn't think could ever happen to them. But for 22-year-old Samantha Gannon, the frightening nightmare of addiction came all too true.

Caption on picture of girl: Samantha Gannon looks back on her 22-year addiction as an attempt to quell her personal demons. "My body thought it could never function without it," she said.

It all started from a very early age. From the beginning, Samantha had been exposed to the substance that would soon make an irreversible impression on her life.

"Throughout my growing years, everywhere I went, massive supplies of oxygen came with me," recalls Gannon. "I particularly recall family parties, where oxygen was heavily consumed and enjoyed by my relatives, and I would notice how it always seemed to put them in a festive mood."

By the time she reached high school, peer pressure eventually pierced through Samantha's strong will.

"I took up the habit full-time in high school. I was at a wild party at my friend's house--her parents were out of town--and about halfway through the night a group of my best friends came up to me and said, 'We're going outside for some fresh air. Wanna come?' If only I had said no," she recalled, collapsing into tears. "I would have avoided years of heartbreak and broken dreams!"

By her sophomore year in college, Samantha's oxygen habit took total control of her life. She was now breathing up to 24 hours a day.

"My life came to a complete standstill," she said."Once you're addicted to oxygen, there's nothing you can do without breathing. It really destroys your functioning capacity."

By this time, nearly everyone close to Samantha was deeply concerned about her habit.

"I had been denying it for years," said her mother, Martha Gannon. "But all the signs were there, and I knew something had to change, and quickly."

In a futile attempt to combat her addiction, Samantha started smoking. But that would prove difficult.

"It's one thing to say you're going to start smoking, but actually doing it is the hard part," she said. "Especially when glorious oxygen is just a breath away."

Frustrated, Samantha quit tobacco and moved on to marijuana, hoping that its infamous buzz would cure her ills. "Not a chance," she said. "After those didn't help, I would smoke anything--oak tree leaves, notebook paper, matches, steam--nothing doing. So I quit trying all that and went back to oxygen every time."

At this point, Samantha began to question why she was even bothering to quit, when it was apparent she never would.

"I've always been a spiritual person, and I began to think that maybe God didn't want me to quit. I consulted Scripture, which said that God breathed life into Adam.

"But then I realized that if God did indeed breathe into Adam, that means he had to breathe out into his mouth," she went on. "Then I thought about it. Carbon dioxide! That's what he was breathing into Adam!

"The next night I was watching Baywatch. I was deep into the plot of that particular episode, but not too much to where I didn't realize that someone was doing CPR on a fellow oxygen addict going through withdrawal. And what was it that brought that kid back to life? Carbon dioxide! This was too much coincidence for me to ignore. That's exactly what I needed to cure my habit!"

Excited by her revelation, Samantha hightailed it to her doctor, Lance Thompson.

However, Thompson had reservations. "I was skeptical at first," he said. "I mean, Samantha was talking about coming up with a way to inhale carbon dioxide. The only way I could think for her to be able to do this would be to become a tree."

He explained that through the process of photosynthesis, trees intake carbon dioxide normally exhaled by animals and put out oxygen. It would also help Samantha expel the oxygen that she had collected over the years.

"I told her it wouldn't be easy, becoming a tree," added Dr. Thompson. "I mean, that isn't the sort of procedure that happens every day.

"There are lots of things to consider, like giving up your current lifestyle. But Samantha thought about it and was definitely willing to make the sacrifice."

She was soon to learn just what kind of sacrifice she was about to undertake. Being a tree would turn out to be the hardest thing she had ever done.

"But I would not change a thing. Being free of oxygen is the greatest feeling in the world. To be able to take a deep breath and finally realize I am free from addiction! It's wonderful!" Samantha cheered, flailing her branches with joy.

Caption on picture of tree: Samantha today, enjoying the fresh air. "The only really annoying thing is when wiseguys tell me to 'leave'," she says.


Mia said...

That was a truly beautiful story. I am currently in the middle of a tiresome struggle with an oxygen addiction, and this story has given me the strength to continue trying to improve my life - without oxygen

Anonymous said...

Laughed my ass off... I always wonder what people mean when they talk about stuff like "food addiction". I mean I eat pretty much every day of my life. If I go without food for more than 8 hours, it becomes the only thing on my mind. Oh noes, I'm so addicted. Thankfully there's 1000s of super helpful "expert" books that I can buy to help myself!