I’ve been coming to the realisation, over the past several years, that I am an addict. I’m probably what one might call a ‘functioning addict,’ in that my addictions do not destroy my entire life and everyone in it, at least not in such a direct way. However, today is day 14 without cigarettes or weed (marijuana) and day 2 without alcohol. I’m also avoiding relationships and sex for the next while, because I have a tendency to use anything that works to distract myself, and before drugs, it was sex.
I made the decision to quit after a friend, who also quit smoking, gave me the self-belief and courage to do it myself. I quit ‘cold turkey,’ and the withdrawal from weed was particularly horrendous. At the start of week 3, I’m experiencing full blown insomnia and anxiety, and without drugs to distract me, I’m feeling it all and I hate it. Each day is a struggle, but I do feel better without, so I carry on. It helps to have a friend in the same boat, too.
I’m talking about this because it’s taken me SO long to admit to myself that my behaviour is harming me and those around me, perhaps not in such a direct way that is visible to outsiders, but in a more subtle manner that slowly erodes everything that I’m working so hard for. Acceptance is a really slow process. The main thing that forced me to admit this to myself is my new job. I LOVE my job, but I could see myself slowly sinking into an addiction spiral that was getting worse and worse every single day, and which ultimately would have affected my ability to do my job well.
I use drugs, alcohol and sex to distract me from pretty much everything. It allows me to completely disengage from life, including from the people around me, but it has finally got to the point that even my addictions weren’t helping me to feel better, or to escape from life. Literally nothing was working anymore, so, of course, I doubled and tripled my intake until I was more or less constantly in avoidance mode. I was running so far and so fast, but no matter how hard I ran, life kept catching up with me. I had a choice: turn and face my problems, or run so far that there would be no turning back.
With my addiction, I hide it so well (or I think I have) that the only people who know the full extent of my problems are my three best friends. I can’t really explain how it got this bad, but I suppose, with all things related to mental health, it just finally got to a point where I could no long pretend that my behaviour was functional.
I got Russell Brand’s book ‘Recovery’ because I find most self-help books to be quite preachy, I HATE being told what to do, and I despise it when people write from a morally superior standpoint. Whatever Russell Brand’s other faults, you can’t say that he wasn’t a total fuck-up at one point, and that allowed me to read his words without tearing the book in half. Although I may, perhaps, have to do some form of addiction recovery ‘path,’ I really dislike following rules, so I’m not intending to follow the 12 step programme. What I did get from his book (I stopped at Chapter 4 because it was too hard for me to read further) was one line that he suggests repeating to yourself: “is this going to make me feel better?” He suggests asking ourselves this when we feel the need to do something impulsive, or addictive. So far, it has (mostly, minus an alcohol incident last weekend) helped.
It’s really hard for me to follow this advice, because I really LOVE the feeling of being out of control. I love literally throwing myself off a bridge into the blissful abyss of not-caring. It’s a comforting, meaningless emptiness that allows me to do whatever I want without any thought for the consequences. Of course, the more often you do this, the more of a mess you leave behind you. As someone who has moved about a lot, I’ve always just run away from my problems, but somehow they manage to find me again.
Today, I’m also meeting a potential therapist who, if we get on well and decide that we can work together for my benefit, will hopefully begin to help me to sort out the myriad of issues that I’ve spent the last 17 years running from. I’m finally able to get this help because, with my job, I can now afford to pay privately for counselling. The NHS waiting list here is too long for me to wait, although I am going to get onto it just in case.
So there you have it. I’m an addict. I decided to write about this because I have avoided talking openly about it before, as to do so always felt like a social death sentence. I was afraid that I would forever be watched and monitored whenever I had a drink or took a drag of someone’s cigarette or joint. However, I’m finally ready to live with that because I don’t want to go back to my old habits unless I know for certain that I can control my intake. Past experiences tell me that this is false hope… but keep your fingers crossed for me, eh? I certainly don’t intend on giving up sex and relationships forever, but for the time being, I’ll be sticking to just me and my vibrator.