I am an addict. I am addicted. I have been before puberty. So have many others. I’m not the worst case. I’m not the best case.
None of us are cases. We are all people.
I’m not I’d rather not say to what but I’m in a twelve step program for it. I will say it’s not a drug or alcohol or sex addiction. Mine is nothing that cool. Hemingway would or could or maybe did have all three of those. But they’ve never been my thing.
The thing about addiction is that it’s far beyond physical. Take for instance the alcoholic. When he drinks, the pleasure center of the brain lights up and he’s temporarily sated. Let’s say this alcoholic works hard and gets sober. Sure, he’ll have horrible physical withdrawal symptoms initially but eventually, his body will adjust and he will no longer be physically triggered to drink alcohol. But even though his body doesn’t need it, years can pass and the trigger will come from his brain or his mind or his soul or all three. That same part of his brain will light up, powered from the ghosts of his demons. I’m not here to debate higher powers, spirituality, or yet to be discovered neuroscience. I just am saying that not all addiction is physically based. The most insidious and powerful thing about addiction is that it settles into your mind/soul/brain forever and it rises to the surface of your waters to wreak havoc whenever and however it can. That’s why an alcoholic never stops being an alcoholic. He’s just in recovery. He’s got to keep the beast submerged for his entire life.
I guess I should consider myself lucky. My addiction, while it has cost me friends, family, my living, my social status, my very self-image – at least it didn’t give me cirrhosis. But it is not submerged under my waters. I am not in recovery. I am full out acting out. My beast is flying above my waters, cackling into the nether regions of my soul/mind/brain, fully confident and joyful that he has my complete and total attention.
But I’m fighting. I might fall every day. I do fall every day. But I’m still fighting. I have to. Life’s not just about me anymore. I have serious obligations. I can’t let my personal defects be an excuse for surrender.
That’s what addiction is to me. It’s a defect. Not a defect of character, per se. I mean there is a hole in my soul. I believe it formed when I was about 11 years old. I can remember the moment when I felt the void. I remember the moment when I found out what could fill it if only temporarily. That’s what addiction is to me. It’s the perpetual masochism machine that’s never sated. It’s the very personification of insanity: always promising to cure itself with the same snake oil.
It always wants more.
It always promises that this will be the last time.
For an addict like me, there is no last time. The future is a bet and prognosticating is a waste of your time. You have to focus on the present. The twelve steppers have a lot of jargon and philosophy that I can’t get behind. But they have a lot of wisdom, too. The main thing I try to remember every day is that I will do my best to be sober JUST FOR TODAY.
Like Lao Tsu said: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”
My brothers, sisters, and non-binary siblings in addiction: failure is temporary. hope springs eternal. there is no monster great enough to extinguish your volition.
You can do this. Just for today. I’m with you.
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