Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Addiction: Ripping Out The Roots

When you are diagnosed as an addict it is a serious illness but if you take out the problem at the root you stand a greater chance of surviving it. This is my story...

"Just say no" how simple it must seem to someone who doesn't understand. How utterly stupid must we look to those of you who can choose whether or not to have a glass of wine. "If you know it's killing you why don't you just stop?" why indeed! But then if it was just a case of "just saying no" or "just stopping" we wouldn't be addicts would we? When people say these sort of well meaning yet patronising statements they betray a terrible lack of understanding for addiction and the nightmarish half life that is endured by those who suffer. Whatever your substance or addictive pattern is the cycle is the same. Resistance- Failure- Excess- Guilt - Renewed Resolve and so on and so on. Are we doomed to repeat this endless cycle until death takes us? Certainly there is no cure for addiction and every failure is akin to another round of Russian Roulette- will this be the moment when we discover that the chamber isn't empty? I want to share with you my struggles, my failures and the moment I realised that I had an illness that had its roots in my mind and not at the bottom of a glass. "Hi, I'm Daniel and I am an addict"

I stumbled into my first A.A Meeting a volcanic, molten explosion of hate. Fuelled by an insane amount of Bacardi and driven by an inhuman desire to block out the pain that filled my mind. Addiction, I later discovered, is a mental illness and any attempts to prevent me from drinking were not going to work, ever. For me and for most addicts, the substance of choice is just the bit of the weed that you can see. The real problem is with the roots and just taking out the tops means the weeds grow back faster and much stronger. To be an addict is to do daily battle with the most dangerous of all mental illnesses, this black dog has teeth and it loves to use them. Addiction, if unchecked, is a death sentence and it has claimed the lives of many of my friends. So back then, before I'd admitted that I had a problem (even though everyone else knew for sure I did) I sat in that room with the saddos who didn't know how to drink properly and hated, so much hate! It was fine though because I never fitted in, I was never accepted and that was OK with me. However, in that room, something happened for the first time to me and it changed everything. I interrupted the guy speaking and he turned round and told me to "keep coming back" Something in that room made me return the next week and slowly I came to understand my abusive relationship with alcohol. Why I drank as I did and why I had to stop, more importantly how I could start attacking the roots of the weeds that were throttling the life out of me.

You see, I discovered that the reason I drank, to excess, the reason I couldn't ever "just have one" is because every time I felt my life was too much I needed to block out the gnawing pain. It didn't matter how well or how badly things were going there was always this voice at the back of my head that told me I wasn't good enough. Every success I enjoyed, even the birth of my lovely children was marred with the voice that told me to give up "why bother you are a screw up and you will always be one" That sort of repetition harms you, it changes you and over time I came to believe what the voices told me. There are many people in our world who have to live their lives in constant agonising pain, the sort of physical pain that no amount of drugs can remove. They accept this pain as part of their lives and they slowly get to a stage where they can no longer remember a time when they didn't feel the stabs of agony. My son had reoccurring water infections and we think that he was in pain from birth but had no way of knowing that it shouldn't be that way. When he underwent an operation (aged 5 to remove the kidney stones that were killing him) I can only imagine the feeling that the absence of pain triggered. Addiction causes that level of pain but mentally and alcohol was my way of numbing myself from its influence, even if only for a short while. I also quickly discovered that it worked on all sorts of pain and soon my default factory setting was to reach for the bottle.

A few weeks ago I wrote about finding my creative spark and why moving to Bournemouth was essential if I was to find a way to prevent another alcohol fuelled slip. I don't so much as fall off the wagon as throw myself over the side at considerable speeds. I made a seriously dangerous mistake and it very nearly cost me my life, I thought I had won. I became too casual about alcohol and my relationship with it and I allowed myself to think that I could drink as if I were a non addict. I cant! because over time "just the one" becomes two and my inevitable plummet to insanity begins. My default factory setting needs to be changed because if it remains as it is I will fall again and fall hard. Any of you who have been around AA Rooms will recognise this sort of talk and potentially label it is "preparing to drink" Whilst phrases such as "If you aren't working on recovery you are working towards your next drink" may be helpful to some they don't do much to loosen the chains that threaten to bind me. I also would suggest that the focus on your poison of choice does little to attack the root of the issue. I'll say it again, addiction is a mental illness and not a physical one. I have to come to terms with my own personal mental challenges and by doing so, seek to remove the need to drink.

The other challenge we face as addicts is a sociological one and I don't just mean the stigma that is attached to anyone who labels themselves as alcoholic. We live in a culture that finds it perfectly acceptable to enjoy a drink whilst out and yet we have one of the most unhealthy relationships to alcohol that can be experienced in the world. Binge drinking is an every weekend experience for many and yet when someone attempts to cease the personal abuse they can feel shunned by the very society that nurtered their habit. "Smoking Kills" we see emblazoned on the side of every cigarette packet and yet the government is making a fortune from over taxing tobacco with the lie that doing so prevents people from smoking. No one with an ounce of understanding for addiction believes that is true but it is this level of hypocrisy coupled with ignorance that means addicts suffer in shame and silence isolation. Isolation and shame for an addict hasten death as surely as the death of liver or internal organs. The word, addiction, is not only misunderstood it is used too often in the same way that depression is. Addiction wraps its chains around its victims and slowly constricts the life, a slow death that is anything but painless. Robert Palmer sang of being "Addicted to love" and yet sex addictions are nothing to sing about. Addiction to shopping and chocolate can be serious issues but who knows whether labelling them as such is just a way to shirk responsibility. Don't get me wrong, anyone who is truly addicted to anything needs help, support and intervention but we must truly understand the nature of addiction. In the end, the only person who is qualified to make the right diagnosis is you, but you must know your own mind.

The next time someone says to you "just say no" ask them to stop breathing! When they look at you as if you are insane they will have understood what it is like to be an addict. For me, my addiction to alcohol has meant that I have conditioned my body into believing that without it, it will die. Every moment my default factory setting's light flickers, my body screams for alcohol to save it. My nerve endings receive impulses from my brain and I am overwhelmed with the need to drink. There isn't enough "no" in the world to overcome that desire when it takes hold. For me, the answer is creativity and to call on the strength of my higher power. For me, that is my faith and relationship in Jesus Christ. But it also means a requirement to be totally honest, with myself and others, I will fight the battle with an addiction to alcohol for the rest of my life. I fear that I will not always win and every time I lose I risk discovering that, this time, there is a bullet in the chamber. In times of deep depression and mental unwellness the black dog's shadow eclipses everything else and my faith seems like an empty vessel. Yet, in those dark times I am held by the love of my family and friends and a God who hasn't ever let me go and isn't about to fail me. I write this so that I can be honest with you all and more importantly myself. My name is Daniel and I am an addict but I choose freedom and I choose to fight with every ounce of my strength!

A word from my Sponsor 

No comments:

Post a comment