On July 24, 2014, I ended my ten-year career with Carolina Ballet, where I reached the rank as a soloist. The director of the company listened to me ramble on about how “this (ballet) wasn’t for me” and finally said, “If you need to get help and come back, do so.”
Growing up, I viewed a substance abuse addict as the beggars, vagabonds, the outcasts that no one wanted to deal with. People who I ignored while walking on a street. I never saw an addict as the famous dancers, actors or athletes I idolized, and I never thought in my wildest dreams I would consider myself one. I have quickly learned that I am one “yet” away from a tragedy.
At 18, I was hired to dance for Carolina Ballet. Extremely optimistic and eager to learn and yet full of fear, I didn’t know what it truly meant to be a professional dancer. Although I was full of fear, I was a hard worker and in the middle of my first year, I was promoted from an apprentice to the corps de ballet.
Even though my hard work was being recognized from the Artistic Staff, I was desperately trying to gain the approval of my peers. At the beginning of my career, I was faced with negative comments such as, “You’re dancing like a woman. Why don’t you try doing that step a little more masculine?” Feeling less than in the dance studio, I found that the way I gained the approval of my colleagues was through social drinking.
I had never tried any substances of any type before my professional career. Growing up in a Preacher’s home, we didn’t drink. I also come from a home that was broken because of addiction, so I guess it was never on my radar. Free from my family’s rules, I found myself at a company party and willing to fit in – by any means necessary. That’s where I had my very first taste of alcohol, my very first taste of social acceptability, enjoying my company.
From that moment, I continued to chase that same feeling. That led me to experimentation of other drugs; none of those drugs led me to the sensation of freedom that cocaine did. Each year I was in the company, I started to dance more, more principal roles and promotions started to come my way, as well as the desire to be known. My focus began to shift from becoming the best artist I could be to how popular I could be.
Pretty soon, I stopped hanging out with company dancers and became a frequent staple in the city’s social scene. I found myself dancing on stage eager to go out, several times texting my dealer(s) during performances for me to get my next fix. As the years went on, I was not getting rest or eating well, and my body started to decline. Things were rapidly spiraling out of control and then injuries started to come.
Each time I was injured, I used drugs to cope with the pain. I mainly used drugs to cope with my depression, anxiety, and fear. In all honesty, I had no fear of losing my roles, status in the company or even employment. My fear was that I would lose my social life.
At this time, the director of the Carolina Ballet and some of my colleagues expressed their concerns. I was defensive even though I was at a point of no return. I knew I was a slave to the drugs. I didn’t know how to stop using, I was scared to stop using. In 2014, I was a full-blown addict, my reputation was hanging on by a thread, as was my body. At this point in my life, my love for the drug overpowered my love for ballet. I left.