Recently, while opening up to a loved one about my past and inner truths, I was met with the statement, “But you’re not really an addict.”
As strange as it may sound, these words triggered disbelief and anger.
I couldn’t understand, at the time, how they could come to such a conclusion after all I had admitted to them. Had they even been listening? Did they not realize that belittling and disregarding my truths would undoubtedly trigger a distance between us? Did they even care?!
Then it hit me, the world has built an image of what an addict looks like. As if they can be sniffed out no different than the drugs themselves. This is so very false, and quite frankly it’s a dangerous notion to lean on.
Addicts are everywhere. They can be the soccer mom, once prescribed opioids and now addicted to the cheaper alternative, heroine. They can be the guy next to you at the gym, who struggles with steroid addiction. Hell, consider the millions of people addicted to alcohol. You may not know it Monday through Friday as you burry your head in the daily routine of an office worker, but yes, even dear old Chad from management can easily hide his thriving, alcoholic tendencies if he’s careful enough to wear a mask when the time calls.
So, in retrospect, it’s not all that surprising that someone who held me to high standards and saw me as an upstanding citizen, would struggle to believe I could fit into such a category.
Now, I face the challenge of admitting that while my past may have brought me to where I am, I must remind myself that it is not who I am, not anymore.
I catch myself reminiscing, but not enjoying the person I see, the girl that sought out relief in all the wrong outlets. Desperate to escape dreams of demons, tormented by memories of being alone with people who betrayed my trust, mixing self loathing with guilt like a mad scientist eager to bring alive distractions and destruction. Eager to breath life into their monster.
What a strange thing. The same person that let all that pain drive my addictions, now uses it to encourage others away from the mistakes I had once made.
It’s all about personal choice. Inside and outside influence. Tolerance. Where you want to see yourself versus where you refuse to see yourself.
An addict doesn’t wake up joyously dependent on their addictions. They hate it. They hate needing a hit, a fix, even just another smoke break to take the edge off until they can fulfill the call of their vice.
So why do they do it?
When you find yourself face to face with addiction you have to consider the entire story, each one is personal and as individual as the user themselves. Without taking this into account, you leave people with more questions than answers.
- Where did it all start?
- What were the triggers?
- How long was it going on?
- How did they get through it?
You have to look at the people who have overcome these lifestyles.
Those same people understand the harshness and hardships that only the victims and abusers who struggle with such vileness can.
They can tell you how an addict thinks, how they map their thoughts all out in their heads, connecting lies to truth and covering tracks.
I call it the bubble graph because when I was using, this was exactly what I saw in my head. I had to think of scenarios that had not yet occured, because I had to be ready for them. What was I going to say if they found this? How was I going to create an alibi for that?
Sometimes, often, this graph becomes too cluttered and the lies become truth, leaving the person with stories in their mind that repeat themselves over and over, causing what seem like irrational reactions or emotions to the outside world.
It is exhausting.
But then again so is everything else about addiction.
Depending on the drug of choice, the reason an addict repeats this cycle is typically caused by a chemical imbalance. Similar to a nagging, damaging effect were the brain convinces itself that without said drug they won’t function, they can’t function, if they even try to go without they’ll not only fail but they’ll feel an excruciating pain the entire time.
Take a moment.
Imagine yourself face to face with your biggest fear, no really, your biggest fear. Now imagine it’s larger than you, staring down at you, dripping its filth, ugly inside and out. Your nostrils full of its stench and yet you can’t stop taking it in. That’s just the calling.
Now imagine that fear is the driving force for your deepest desire, the one thing that would make you give your own life. Literally.
Those are the repeating thoughts of an addict. In retrospect it’s insanity unleashed.
The payoff being the high, but more accurately the payoff isn’t anything more or less than the silence of the beckoning.
Your only goal is silence. Lifted, unforgettable silence.
A fleeting moment where no one can touch you, nothing can stop you, all you know is this silence and it surrounds you.
But it’s not a payoff in the way that a true, positive, lasting payoff is. It burns through it’s matches faster than you can find another fix. This silence, again fleeting and ever intangible. Without the vice your brain convinces you this false peace is untouchable.
That’s when you find yourself reaching down to the lowest of lows, if only to feel the silence once more.
Stealing, fighting, lying, hurting, breaking trusts the way those before you have done, knowing all the while you hate yourself for it. Loathing each and every second.
Creating your graph, again connecting lies to truth, from bubble to bubble with little room in between for remorse or conscious, thoughtful relation to those who will undoubtably be burned by your choices.
Just as a bully is convinced their actions are warranted, an addict will tell themselves anything to make sense of the whats and whys as they spread destruction, releasing the monster.
Truth is, you can never understand addiction, not the way an addict does.
If you’ve never felt the beckoning, count yourself one of the lucky ones.
There is nothing positive about addiction, nor the life an addict leads while using, but we can push ourselves to take what we learn from this mixed bag of chaos, using that knowledge to drive our intentions towards a positive alternative. If only so that our children don’t have to learn first hand what we, the addicts, know all too well.
It’s okay to admit you’ve had an ugly past. It’s not okay to use that past as a crutch for future setbacks, withdrawals and self inflicted disasters.
This is what I tell myself anytime I think back to that girl who ran towards the addictions, feeding the insecurities, instead of building myself to be stronger because of them.
Just as this is my responsibility as a recovery addict, I would urge you, the fortunate ones, to try not to belittle or downgrade the power of a user’s past experience. We come in many forms, but we all share something even you can relate to… we all strive to be stronger, better versions of ourselves, to never let our weaknesses hold us back.