I think I was born an alcoholic/addict. Everyone seems to have a different point of view on the subject. Some believe they were afflicted from the womb and others believe that it didn’t happen until their nightly glass of wine suddenly – with no apparent warning – turned into three bottles.
I am of the first camp. Yanked forcibly into the world by a pair of forceps, I viewed reality with pronounced distaste from the moment I drew my first breath. At first my escapism was fairly benign. Like the summer in my elementary years when I read close to a hundred Nancy Drew books. So…what? I was an avid reader. Well, you can bet your behind I would have cursed the very existence of anyone who tried to take my books. Literally. A band of neighborhood kids and I believed we had magical powers. We left “witch food” for the poor postmistress taking her evening walk around the block. The swings were a portal to an alternate universe. I hid my wand in a drawer in my bedroom. If the innocent postmistress could elicit a vile witch concoction, what kind of resentment would one invite should he or she dare cut off my supply of Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, or Boxcar Children?
As a child, I secretly wondered if there had been some kind of mistake. I didn’t believe I was meant for the world. I never felt like I quite fit. Or that I even deserved to fit. I couldn’t put a finger on it but I knew that losing myself in outside things provided relief and salved my pain. As I entered adolescence, my voracious reading habit quickly escalated into compulsive behavior. I spent hours and hours and hours on the internet obsessing over the lives of my favorite celebrities or fictional characters. I fell into a deep depression if I was cut off from my technological fix. By my mid teens, I had entered my second toxic and abusive online relationship with a significantly older individual.
This was the turning point for me. Because when I didn’t get what I wanted from my relentless pursuit of toxic and unavailable people, I turned to substances. I never wanted to party because partying was “fun”. I wanted to be numb. Unconscious even.
There was a void inside me that I simply tried to fill with “more”.
Perhaps some of you reading this may – not unlike myself at one point in time – want a neat label for what I “am”. The clinical term would be behavioral or “process” addict with secondary alcohol and drug issues.
I prefer the all encompassing term addict.
Someone very wise told me: “You can change seats on the Titanic but you’re still going down with the ship”. I spent a lot of time bouncing around on the Titanic…until one miraculous day it suddenly occurred to me that there was a lifeboat. But saving myself was a counterintuitive process. It meant I had to let go (of toxic relationships, credit cards, alcohol, drugs, and my illusion of control) rather than hang on.
The underbelly of addiction doesn’t match the societal perception of bums drinking out of paper bags or junkies with needles in filthy motels. The truth is that people are killing themselves with a multiplicity of things, including but not limited to alcohol, drugs, gambling, food, shopping, sex, toxic relationships, and/or a combination of all of the above.
My intention in sharing my story isn’t to end social stigma. It’s to reach someone out there who may be looking for answers or who – having had a common experience – is feeling alone.
There are answers and you are not alone.