These are my personal thoughts, not the words of a doctor or professional. I am a person, like most of you that has had addiction personally touch their life. I have had addiction touch my life from three generations of my family. I have seen drug and alcohol addiction first hand and have dealt with it myself. Addiction by definition is the fact or condition of being addicted to a particular substance, thing, or activity. It is not only defined by drugs, anything can be an addiction. At one point in my life I was addicted to working out. I have known others to be addicted to water, or addicted to sugar, or addicted to gum. Anything that a person can form an attachment to can be addictive.
If you have seen or been affected by addiction, then you know that it isn’t a particular “substance” that a person gets addicted to. Like the commercials and literature say, “Weed is a gateway drug.” It isn’t a gateway drug in the sense that it opens up the user to addiction, what it does is makes the person that is vulnerable to addiction aware that altering their mind helps in making them feel more whole as a person and less unhappy or unfulfilled. Once that drug has lost its affect, the user will then search out a new drug to replicate the feeling of wholeness that the old drug provided. The search will continue until they find the right drug that makes them feel whole and then they will stick with that drug as long as possible.
I do believe that addiction is a disease. I do not believe that it is a disease that just gets turned on for no reason. I believe that an addiction is a lack of certain brain chemicals that the brain/body needs. There are some people that were abused in one form or another as children, or lacked certain emotional necessities for the brain to develop in all the ways that are needed to maintain a healthy mind and body connection. (Again, I am not an expert so please understand that I am speaking from my personal experience.) If a person is in an abusive home as a child, their brain is not going to develop a healthy emotional state as an adult which could open the door to becoming an addictive adult. Notice I said could. Many are able to come away from that and be fine, and many are not able to do that. Each person’s experience has a different outcome on their adult life.
The absolute worst thing that you can do to a person that has dealt with this is to tell them to simply get over it. It isn’t that simple. It’s a nice thought, and one that many who seek help think they have a handle on, until they realize that the levels of abuse (if there was abuse in their life as a child) have affected them in ways they simply never thought possible. The person has to be willing to continue to shed those layers.
As a person that deals with that, it is daunting. There are times I wish I was not so introspective because then I could simply carry on with life without being stuck in my mind all the time, questioning everything I think and do. There are times when something so small will hit me and open up a vein that I cannot close with a band aide. There are days when I wake up ready to conquer the world and then there are days where I simply want to go back to bed. I know that everyone feels this way at times so I do not feel that I am different from anyone else. The difference that I do recognize is that my level of resilience and self-confidence are lower than others. There isn’t a dollar amount that I wouldn’t pay to feel normal. And there is my point. That drive to feel “normal” is what pushes me to do things that are not the best for me, even though I know that “normal” is a very relative word. There is no level of normal to judge from, so why is it that I feel so abnormal? This is where I wish I could just get over it and not feel this way but what am I needing to get over? It is this constant questioning of myself and of life that makes me seek out some type of break, so I do not have to think about it anymore. This break could be anything that alters my mind. It doesn’t really matter what it is as long as it stops the questions. Ultimately, I know that I am creating this cycle of answer seeking and self judgement, yet, in any cycle, it is hard to not let it control you.
The way that I feel about myself is that I have come through many struggles and I am still sort of standing. I think that rocks. However, when I begin to break myself down into parts, I will fixate on one negative trait and just pick at myself about it until I begin to really dislike myself. I forget all the good things and just embrace the bad because that’s how I grew up thinking about myself. This old programing will rear its ugly head when I am not expecting it. I grew up thinking that I was not a whole person, I was pieces of a person and sometimes they were good and sometimes they were bad, and I never knew which one was the right one to think. I will always think the way I think about myself until I can put all the pieces together and appreciate the picture for what it is.
If you take any one thing away from this blog, I hope that it is a deeper understanding of how an addict might feel and think. I hope that you are less judgmental towards the addicts that may be in your life. Realize that the battle they face is difficult for them, and provide them with empathy, yet give them the space to take responsibility for it. If they truly are trying to change they will appreciate the space to do it in. If they have been trying to change for a while and you feel exhausted, realize that they do too. They are tired of digging through those layers and uncovering more hurt. They want to give up too. Some do, and some keep fighting. If they are still fighting, then consider yourself lucky because it means that they still want to stay in the fight.