Hi. My name is Nick and I’m here today because I am formerly an addict.
This is hard for me. Admitting to addiction is not something people are thrilled at doing even though I believe it’s something that would help a great many in this world. That said, I understand the reservation in doing so.
The a-word carries such a negative connotation. Hearing it conjures thoughts of someone who threw away a great life over a short term escape from reality. However, this is all under the false and incredibly ugly assumption that said person with addiction wants to be there.
I’m not here to tell what I was addicted to, what I lost in the process or offer an apologia to the stress and pain I’ve caused. I’m here to say why the image of someone who purposely gave up their livelihood for a temporary feeling of love is not always accurate. Sometimes this is the case but what I plan to explain and what seems to be left out of conversations about addiction is the fact that we troubled individuals were, are and always will be human beings struggling to overcome something.
You see, life happens. Sometimes it works in your favor and sometimes it doesn’t. It’s as simple as that.
How addiction starts is that something traumatic happens and life robs you. In that earth-shattering moment, you lose some thing—some part of you that was vital to you being you! In your healing process, you reach out for and cling to the nearest and most compatible thing to help you heal.
This is how anything can be addictive: food, drugs, romance, exercise, video games, reading, work, alcohol, sex, shopping, etc. You seek out whatever will give you that good feeling and say this will do—for now, at least.
It’s like getting a cut and looking for the most appropriate bandage for your wound. The bandage, the thing you ultimately become addicted to, is not meant to be permanent and you know this when you apply it to yourself. But sometimes the wound needs more time to heal than you thought hence, the bandage needing to stay on you longer than you anticipated.
That old anti-drug PSA was absolutely correct when it said “no one ever says I wanna be a junkie when I grow up”. No one ever wants to fall into addiction. No one ever wants to throw away their life’s work for a thing.
What happens, though, is that your weakened spirit begins to face what feels like greater obstacles and even greater defeats and you ask yourself a question too painful to answer: what’s the point?
You start to care less and less about the things you like to do. You lull yourself into a dream. And during this time, the family and friends you look to for support, look at this new thing that’s become attached to you and turn away from you. Slowly.
You watch yourself lose the people who make you feel complete, who make you feel whole, make you feel like you, one by one. And as the people you care about vanish, the more your thing gains a life of its own as it grows into a part of who you are.
Contrary to popular belief (and from the words of some addicts, I admit), it’s never an addict’s true desire to be alone in this world. We know when these things are beginning to take control and this is when we make attempts to hang out and make plans with loved ones more. Sadly, all they see is the thing that’s become apart of you and not the hurting person and they spend less time with us.
Sometimes this is our fault and sometimes its theirs. We then get mad and lash out that they aren’t there for us so we turn our backs to you as well. However, these clashes don’t come from a place of anger but rather a source of great pain and despair that we’re afraid to let you know of. Nobody likes to admit they’re weak.
That becomes harder for our family to see as the thing we choose to cope with puts a smile on our face when we want to cry. Thus we both end up missing out on life together as we replace you with that thing.
It starts to be there more and more to make you laugh, to comfort you after a long day, to put a smile on your face in the morning and to tell you everything will be ok when you’re sad. It does all the things loved ones are supposed to until they left you and then bam! You awaken one day and realize it’s just you and it.
Wait. That was an incorrect description; addiction never happens that fast and that clear to your conscience. It actually seeps into your system silently and wraps itself onto your daily life like a weed in a garden. It encompasses your being until you and it are one and the same.
You think you are healed, you think you’re complete again when this is, in fact, when you’re as incomplete as ever. This is when you are an addict.
Days go by and you suffocate yourself more as the urges to feed your thing become stronger. You feel like its appetite is insatiable and this is when you start to give up on hobbies and shirk responsibilities. You’re on a vacation with your addiction and it’s using your life as a credit card to pay for extra nights in paradise.
As you swim through the vast waters of your untreated depression, you stop for air and experience moments of clarity when you realize things aren’t exactly what they appear to be. This is when are at a fork in the road and forced to ask yourself: why should I give up a beautiful, sunny beach front view when all I can see from my home is graffiti? A choice must be made between doing what’s right for yourself and working on coming to place of true peace or to continue feeding a beast you know is eating you alive.
For myself, I eventually chose to live. Sometimes the journey to being in peace and harmony with myself is more painful than staying in self-hate but what I’d like to impart to you if you are dealing with some sort of affliction that your masking with a thing, is to choose life and fight for yourself.
You have to fight the addiction because whatever hope it provides you isn’t real. You’re killing yourself in some form or another to continue living in that mirage. And you know it’s not worth it to continue using your thing to drown your despair.
The only way to be healed from this is to go back to that traumatic event when life robbed you and say I am broken. To say I have a pain I’m not strong enough to handle on my own. To admit to yourself you need help.
Why? Because sometimes wounds heal better when exposed to the air, when they are one with the world, than when they are covered with bandages.
It’s ok to admit flaws. It’s truly the first step to healing yourself to admit that you have a problem. There’s nothing wrong with being weak because we’re supposed to have times of invulnerability as well as times of frailty.
After all, we’re only human.
Image of anonymous person courtesy of Shutterstock