Addiction is an adaptation to survive

This is a touchy subject that creates strong reactions. If you think I’m full of shit that’s okay, your truth is your own, all I can do is share my truth at this particular moment in time.

You are always doing the best you can even if it doesn’t look pretty.

I was recently in a group where someone mentioned an addict with disgust and contempt. This attitude is quite common in my experience. I intellectually know it is about them, whether a mirror for themselves, or having been in relationship with an addict, or just general ignorance. Whatever it is it pisses me off, and yes pissing me off is ‘my’ stuff as I was once an addict for many, many years. That also gives me a unique perspective into addiction. Which is the reason for this blog post and at least one more to come. I don’t talk about my experience with addiction much anymore, as telling the story takes me right back there, rekindling those memory pathways of an old story that does not serve me. However my intuition has nudged me, letting me know it was important to tell it today.

Addiction is a disease …. oh bite me. Even if you believe that, it’s a disease that can be cured. Not everyone succeeds, but that is true of a lot of diseases. You are not fated to carry around the “I am an addict banner”, once successfully sober. More on the “successfully sober” bit in later posts.

So how I define addiction: any behaviour that you do repetitively to deflect your attention from your reality and your pain, that negatively affects you and by extension your life. That creates imbalance even if it is a means to an end. Addiction is not in the substance, addiction is in the behaviour.

We are an addictive culture, it is common for people to use addiction as a way to survive the stress of daily life, past trauma (acknowledged or not), fear of the unknown and many other things that make us uncomfortable. What is uncommon is people realizing and/or admitting it, especially before it is affecting their lives in extreme ways.

We learn to adapt to our environment starting from birth, adapting at all costs to survive. We are at the mercy of our caregivers whether they are nice or not and society at large. So we change who we are to fit in, to be loved, to be taken care of, and once we grow up we’ve often forgotten or indeed have no awareness at all of those bit by bit changes we made in order to make ourselves feel safe.

In order to feel safe, self-soothe or escape the pain of our reality, some of us retreat within ourselves, becoming meek and quiet. Others of us fight for ourselves and our childhood is peppered with discord within our relationships, or become people pleasers always helping everyone. Some of us become over-controlling as a way to feel ok, and others becoming mean or a bully to reduce the feeling of helplessness. Some start with addictive behaviours to self-sooth, often with food as the first addiction. Other’s become pompous asses to hide feelings of inadequacy.  No one is better or worse than another, they are all a way to stop the feelings of pain that comes with betraying ourselves (remembered or not), the anger at unjust treatment, lies, deceptions, not being given unconditional love, and for some not even having their daily basic needs met, and having nowhere to go or no-one that believes you or in you. It is a way for some of us to stop wanting to blow our brains out, escape this reality and not feel or hurt again.

…….. So now you’re an adult.

If you are an addict it is okay,
congratulations you found a way to survive,
not everyone does.

I encourage you, to not to go into judgement, shame and blame, or if you do, forgive yourself as often as is necessary and carry on doing the best you can. This blog and the one(s) to come are meant to give you hope that sobriety is possible. If you’re an addict you are on a journey which is giving you skills and abilities that you can cross-train to attain sobriety. If you are not an addict well, here’s a window into the world of a woman who once was.

Shame, blame and judgement are damaging emotions, and counterproductive to sobriety. In fact they kept me locked into addiction like a vice.

A week in the head of the addict I used to be.
An average addictive week starting on a Monday …

– Off to work feeling depressed, overwhelmed, stressed, exhausted physically, mentally and emotionally
– I got high Friday and Saturday night, not Sunday as I had to work today, so that was something
– I vowed to not use again when I woke up on Sunday morning

Now the weekly game is afoot, because the first thing I want to do to not feel my emotional pain, is to use again.
– My infernal internal dialogue is off and running, all day long as usual…..
Judgement, judgement, judgement “How could you use again, why can’t you be stronger, why can’t you just say no, look at the money you spent, see how bad you feel now, but I want to use, you can’t use, I want to use, you can’t use, I know I vowed I wouldn’t but ……. I want to.” Rinse repeat, rinse repeat, rinse repeat.

– I need to escape from myself and my continuous judgement and internal dialogue. I cannot I am trapped in my own head.
– I need to escape the push and pull of wanting to use and saying no, over and over and over again.
– I can’t make my head shut up, my Itty Bitty Shitty Committee is working overtime
– I feel awful, physically, mentally, emotionally I am a basket case
– My neurochemistry is now so low my ability to even fight my desires are at a really low ebb.
– “It’s only Monday you can hang on until Friday Michele, you cannot work hungover you know that, okay, push through it, perhaps by Friday you’ll feel better and not want to use”

But nothing changes, I fight with my overwhelming desire to use all week long.

I have made it to Friday. I have accomplished sobriety for 5 days in a row. Hooray for me. Unfortunately I still want to use, and now I have been doing battle with myself for approx. 130 hrs straight I am exhausted. I don’t have to work tomorrow, I’m sooo tired of the battle, I hate myself, I am disgusted by my inability to not want to use, disgusted by my previous behaviour, what is wrong with me, why can’t I just say no.
I cannot hold the pain and stay present anymore.

– It’s Friday, I’ll just get high tonight, no work tomorrow
– F..k it I’m going to score
– Then I have to go about acquiring it, and seeing as booze isn’t my thing, I can’t just go to the store, so…. (Just imagine the stress of acquiring an illegal substance, that you may or may not even be able to get and now that you’ve said yes to yourself, you are let’s say … very determined. Anxious to be able to get or not get, anxious to not get busted. I was lucky I never got busted, and if you think getting busted would have stopped me from using as soon as I got out back then, you are wrong.)

And so I score and I use again,
– Oh sweet holy h_ll, I feel good and I feel happy for the first time all week.
– No more pain, emotional, physical or mental.
– Zippidy do da zippidy day, my oh my what a wonderful day!
– I am out of my body, out of my head, my internal dialogue is gone. I get to focus on anything other than wanting to use.
– But of course once it’s gone, then begins the slow slide back to the hell of the reality I have created
– I wake up sober in absolute horror over having used yet again and what I did when I used. When we mind alter with anything, it changes how we act and behave.
– My constant companions judgement, shame and blame show up as usual, creating a new layer of emotional pain. Addicts are really really good at beating themselves up, we don’t need any help really, we got this!
– Hungover and now feeling so bad about my behaviours on top of depressed, overwhelmed and stressed …….

– It’s Saturday – using last night has tipped the scales on my ability to fight. I don’t have to work tomorrow.
– I’m going to use ….. I’m done!
– I’ll stop tomorrow, I’ve got work on Monday …….

“Just Say NO!”  ………   What a load of crap!
Now there was a campaign that wiggled its way into the hearts and minds of many.

What a lovely thought ‘Just say No”. Why didn’t I think of that……

All be it perhaps well intentioned, that campaign has done soooo much harm to addicts I can’t even tell you. That ridiculous campaign,  became embedded in the beliefs of  western culture.

Addicts say ‘No’ to themselves all day long, constantly fighting to not cave to their addiction, fighting their overwhelming sense of disgust with themselves, fighting the pain, fighting the judgement, shame and blame they heap on themselves.

I no longer dance with addiction, but admittedly I still on occasion eat too much sugar and indulge in zoning out with movies and tv. The difference is now I have so many years of sobriety and a mountain of healing work behind me. I have the advantage of neurochemistry that is not in the toilet, and the wisdom to know myself well and what strategies I need to implement, so that I do not allow those those behaviours to go unchecked for very long.

I now consider myself healed from addiction, with a predisposition for addictive tendencies. I do not fear falling back into the need to mind alter to get away from the life I have and am creating. I also now know that where my neurochemistry is at, which dramatically changes how I am feeling, and by default how ‘at risk’ I might be to depression. Depression for me was what was underlying my addiction in the past, and is probably underlying almost everybody’s addictive behaviours.

My next post will deal with how I got sober and some sciency stuff, to help explain our neurochemistry a bit more.

Q & A with a hand full of bullshit thrown in for good measure
We only react to things that we have ‘stuff’ with.
So why do you need that glass of wine/joint/codeine/etc. every day?
Imagine that you will never be able to get alcohol/joint/codeine/etc. of any sort again?
How do you feel now?
Is there a wee bit of panic rising, discomfort?

What is that glass of wine/joint/codeine/etc. doing for you? What’s the gain, there’s always a gain?

“Well I only have one glass of wine everyday, I’m not an addict”
“I only drink/toke socially”
“I toke, but doesn’t everyone and it’s legal now, doesn’t make me an addict”
“Exercising 3 hrs every day is good for me, not addiction”
“My doctor prescribed these”
“I only shop all the time to get the deals, and the shipping is free! I’ve got Amazon Prime”
“I’m just having a challenging time right now”
“I’m not an addict, I can stop whenever I want” (This is my favourite piece of bullshit)
“I only get high on the weekends” – This was my bullshit and my control mechanism, most of the time

Blah blah blah …… At a certain point we own our truth and things get better from there

I look forward to hearing from you.....

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