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The Sobering Truth About Addiction

Addiction is killing 350 of our beloveds every day in the U.S. 

It is a pressing social and mental health issue that affects everyone, whether we want to see it or not. 

It does not care about gender, age, race, or religion. It’s killing our grandmas and grandpas; our moms and dads. Our sisters, our brothers, our sons and our daughters. It’s our children, our spouses, our significant others, our friends, and our neighbors. 

Maybe it’s you.

There’s many who walk among us. I am one.

The first time I ever drank at 14, I blacked out. When I got introduced to cocaine at 19, it was instant love. One sip, snort, or pill activated the insatiable beast inside me that would stop at nothing to get more, urgently. 

It was a mental obsession, a physical compulsion, and a death to my spirit.

It gave me the illusion of safety & security and was a way to procrastinate my pain.

My cycle was to binge and then abstain completely–a few days on, a few days off. When I didn’t use alcohol or drugs, I used food, exercise, people-pleasing and love relationships like a drug.

Gimme something, anything, everything. Too much was never enough. I chased any high I could and simply couldn’t bare to face my life.

I did not discriminate against what would fill the space, drown out the noise, turn down the self-loathing.

I was an equal opportunity addicted person.

And once we become physically or behaviorally addicted to something, it’s like a lock-and-key effect. Not to mention the way addiction alters our brain chemicals, therefore distorting our perceptions & judgments.

I’ve been sober and in recovery for almost 5 years now.

To not face this growing crisis which is BEGGING for our attention is perpetuating the dis-ease around us.

There is no individual healing without collective healing. If one suffers, we all do. We need to do better as a society. WE CAN do better.

It’s an inconvenient and uncomfortable truth, yes. But to talk openly about it is essential for the healing process of everyone affected directly or indirectly, which includes every person ON EARTH.

Let us normalize rather than stigmatize.

Shame thrives in the dark and simply ceases to exist when you tell your story, maybe only to yourself first. We heal by coming out of the dark to tell the truth, whatever it is.

Our stories are vitally important. Stories connect us and melt away the shame, fear, and denial—all of which feed the addicted brain.

The shame that we let it happen,

the guilt that we couldn’t stop with willpower,

the fear that we’re alone in our struggle,

and that we’re defective and broken,

the fear that we’ll be casted out if we admit the problem because of stigma,

and the denial that it’s not that bad or that we can control it if we try a little bit harder.

It may seem counterintuitive to have compassion for the addicted person–someone who probably inflicts immense pain on their loved ones, someone who lies, hides, and steals.

But in the words of recovering addict & celebrity activist Russell Brand, “the only way to help addicts is to treat them not as bad people but as sick people.”

Some people think it’s a matter of willpower. They’d stop if they wanted to, if they loved me, if they cared.

Not exactly. This creates even more shame for the addicted person who gets tricked into thinking they somehow have full control over their affliction.

Addicted people (recovering or not) are some of the most interesting, layered, and caring people I know. They just need help. And COMPASSION. Mostly from themselves.

Actually being an addicted person might be the least interesting thing about them. Often they are smart, funny, creative, sensitive, determined, passionate, and kind.

Maybe they felt like they were too much so they used substances to dumb down and dim down. Or maybe they felt like they weren’t enough so they used substances to maintain some semblance of confidence and control. I think I did both.

If addiction is disconnection, shame, disgrace, dis-ease, self-loathing, lies, hiding, denial, avoidance, and darkness then recovery from addiction is the opposite of these.

Recovery from addiction is connection, reconnection, acceptance, remembering, healing, telling the truth, self-love, honesty, love for others, creating joy, lightness, letting go, and staying humble.

What’s more important than what we are addicted to is THAT we are addicted. My maladaptive way of relating to life had me using whatever I could to escape the pain of being myself. Nobody wants to feel pain, but I think the difference between addicted people and everyone else is that we, as addicted people, don’t believe we can handle pain or manage a tough situation. We don’t believe in Our Selves. All humans prefer to avoid pain and pursue pleasure, addicted people are just extreme with it.

“Every addiction arises from an unconscious refusal to face and move through your own pain. Whatever the substance you are addicted to – alcohol, food, legal or illegal drugs, or a person – you are using something or somebody to cover up your pain.” –ECKHART TOLLE

And addiction is self-abandonment at it’s very core. I deserted myself in favor of a big charade. To become unaddicted is like meeting myself for the very first time.

It’s a coming home, a returning to love for both my dark and my light. It’s UNlearning all the destructive ways of living and replacing them with ones that do the least amount of harm & damage.

By being in recovery, I’ve inadvertently become a lifelong student in Authenticity, Courage, and Empowerment.

I have no choice but to face my own stuff on a daily basis, if I want to remain free. It’s looking in the mirror with kind eyes, sitting still with myself, resisting urges to fix and distract, forgiving myself when I fix and distract anyway, and letting other people see the real me. It’s being vulnerable as shit when I don’t want to be.

The social & mental health issue of addiction is sweeping our nation, and it’s high time we stop sweeping it under the rug. Some of us only feel free to talk in shrinks offices or church basements–that’s if we’re lucky. By the way, I do love church basements.

BUT I will not be silent. And I am not anonymous.

We don’t necessarily choose to be addicted. But we DO choose to recover.