Addiction: No One Chooses This Life
As I awoke to yet another strenuous day, I noticed the bitter chill in the air. I stretched attempting to relieve my malnourished, dehydrated muscles and pulled the covers over me as I curled up in a ball on my frameless bed with no sheets. I thought to myself that it would be much easier, and even preferable if I hadn’t have greeted another miserable day. The house, derelict and empty, was without electric, water, or heat. It was not yet Spring, and the bitter cold would cut directly through, chilling the bone. I can remember thinking of the unfavorable reality I found myself in with no money to purchase the only thing that would alleviate my pained existence. My body was bellowing for an opiate. The lining of my stomach was doing summersaults, twisting, and writhing in discomfort and nausea. The only thing that my body could purge was a vile, yellow, acidic, bile, further dehydrating my system. Comfort could not be found. My legs ached as if they were in a press that was tightened to the point of pain and held endlessly, never loosening its grip. The cold would only be broken briefly by a hot-flash but would return with a vengeance and was aided by sweat moistening every inch of my clammy body.
Depression is a bit of an understatement at this point. Not only did I not want to live but I felt that I didn’t deserve the relief of death. At the end of the day, I had placed myself in this position, no one else had forced me down this path. In fact, many people sought with every ounce of their being to prevent this darkness. I was hopeless. In my mind, I would never amount to anything else, this was my destiny. How could I? Look at me. Pathetic. No one could help me. The same thought would come to the front of my mind increasingly often, “I have to get out of this bed and find a way to get some dope. If I don’t, I’m going to die. I can’t handle this.” The hot flashes were coming just as often as those thoughts, and the “clamps” on my legs tightened relentlessly. Inevitably I would find a way to use. Whether I committed a crime or manipulated someone into giving me money, I always seemed to find a way. I had to. It was as essential, in my mind, as the air in my lungs. After I found relief, I could go to bed. Then I would wake up, and the story repeats. Every single unfortunate day.
It’s a bit like a toxic romance. The interaction between the person suffering and the drug is very much a love/hate relationship. The addicted know they should leave but also can’t imagine omitting the one they’ve learned to love so profoundly, yet sickeningly. The positives are far outweighed by the negatives but somehow “another way” is unfathomable. It seems to be so much fun in the beginning and makes the person feel incredible, unlike anything they’ve experienced before. Whether it is alleviating an undiagnosed mental health diagnosis, aiding in social interactions, or offering an escape from reality, it does something for the person that they have not yet been able to do on their own. The longer the use continues, the more dependent the person becomes, and the more the mind is affected. It’s a sick version of “Groundhogs Day.” A requiem stuck on repeat. Ultimately rendering the addicted powerless.
Addiction is a tragic, sorrowful existence. After experiencing this type of self-induced torture, day in and day out towards the end of my active addiction, one would think that the choice to quit using would be easy. It’s not. The only thing that would satisfy me and relieve the pain, mentally and physically, was an opiate. I wouldn’t stop until I got something, anything. No person that suffers from an addiction chooses to become that way. It often starts innocently enough, a party in high school or surgery, and ends with a debilitating disorder.
Then something happened. People started reaching out to me and offering me help. They weren’t going to enable me with money, but they would listen and not judge. They offered a way out of the destructive cycle. Family and friends were united with the same plan. They would love me, not enable me, and offer me treatment. I can not overstate how crucial it was that they were all “on the same page.” I couldn’t manipulate them any longer, and I was out of ways to finance my habit. Their love, empathy, and persistence prevailed. At the very beginning of their united front, I was fairly vicious towards them. My anger towards them was merely manipulation. I was playing on their emotions to attempt to extort “help” (money). Once I realized that wasn’t going to happen any longer, I was forced to consider other options. I could either commit crimes and risk ending up in jail, detoxing on concrete and angle iron, or accept their offer and go to treatment. After a week or two of fighting it, I reluctantly decided to enter into treatment.
I wrote this article like this to call attention to a few facts. Firstly, a person that is addicted isn’t enjoying life and is likely miserable. Secondly, while it might have started as a recreational choice, it doesn’t end that way; they feel as if it is vital to their survival. Thirdly, it took my family and friends uniting and resolving not to enable me any longer for me to choose to take another route. Fourthly, It’s because of their decision to do so that I am sober today. Just because my family and friends stopped enabling me didn’t mean they stopped loving me and encouraging me. It was actually the best way to show that they cared, even though I tried to convince them otherwise. Fifthly, that homeless person, addicted, broken, depressed, and miserable can change. As long as they have breath in their lungs, no one is too far gone.
So, I encourage you today. Whether you are reading this and are in the throes of addiction like I once was, or if you’re the family or friend to someone that is. Change is possible. If you’re the family or friend, no matter what their addiction is leading them to say, they love you, and they aren’t ok with where they are currently. They simply don’t see a way out, and their rational thought is clouded by addiction. If you are struggling with an addiction, there is help available. You are worth it and you’re not defined by the addiction. Today can be a new beginning.
I leave you with this: If you or a loved one may be suffering from a dual diagnosis disorder or addiction, I encourage you to seek treatment today. Please contact an addiction specialist at 606.638.0938 or use our confidential chat function at www.arccenters.com. We are available 24 hours per day, seven days per week.
Jonathan Hughes, MA, CNP
Kentucky Peer Support Specialist
Addiction Recovery Care