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My Struggle with Addiction (Go Sober.)

Addiction is something I’ve wrestled with from as far back as I can remember. There’s been periods where I’ve felt as though I would never recover. Times that I was completely and utterly at the mercy of someone, or something, else. Throughout my life I’ve felt powerless to a situation, I’ve felt powerless to a person, I’ve felt powerless to a substance.

Whilst growing up addiction was something that was very present in my life, although at the time juvenile ignorance spared me from such a hard truth. My uncle had a massive drinking problem, but at young age I wasn’t aware what this was. I was very close to my uncle. He’d always spoil me, dote on me, buy me things. Always made time for me. I developed a fondness for anything that reminded me of him, which now as an adult I know is cigarette smoke and stale whiskey. They say addictions are genetic, because they are an illness, and I’d have to say that from personal experience I believe this to be true.

The first time I ever formed an ‘addiction’ it wasn’t over a substance, but rather a person. I was eight years old and it was my first childhood crush. He quickly became an obsession of sorts; I remember needing to spend time with him constantly, as though my entire kid-world would crumble into oblivion if I didn’t. You could argue that this wasn’t addiction, but more infatuation, however I believe the two go hand-in-hand.

The forming of infatuation over certain people has been something that has continued to plague me my whole life. It stems from my own insecurities and self-loathing. I always felt that, when I was ‘addicted’ to a person, if they loved me, if they were in my life, then my life would both be and feel infinitely better. Whenever I was with them I’d love to show them off the world, because I held them in such high regard that they, in my mind anyway, were essentially walking Deities. They made me feel like a better person. They attached a sense of worth to my existence.

The hardest hurdle I’ve ever had to clamber over was undoubtedly the first boy I ever fell in love with. It took six years of intermittently falling in and out of love with him before eventually I managed to kick the habit. Only when things went south in terms of romance between us, I quickly replaced one addiction for another. Only this time it wasn’t person, it was illicit substances.  For the purpose of this entry I will rename him ‘Jack.’

Jack was probably the hardest addiction I’ve ever had to overcome. He was both parts the pain and the medicine. And every time I thought I’d gotten past it, though that I’d managed to finally rid myself of all that pesky heartache and infatuation, I’d have one taste and I’d be numb again. So when I was forced to go cold turkey after he decided to cut contact with me, alcohol and drugs quickly filled up that ever expanding void that loomed over my life. I drank around six times a week for nearly a year. I’m not meaning casual drinks, it was heavy binges. Even though I never woke up craving alcohol or felt as though I couldn’t face the world without it, once I started drinking then I wouldn’t stop until I was passed out. I staggered through a year of constant spells of obliterating drunkenness; trying desperately to find that illusive happiness that lurks at the bottom of a bottle.

Just as there’s a link between mental illness and being creative, there’s also a direct correlation mental illness and addiction (okay, I don’t have any scientific proof of this, but I’m fairly certain it’s an accurate conclusion to reach.) Alcohol and drugs amplified my depression and anxiety, to the point that I could barely go a day without being stalked by crippling paranoia. Everything, everyone, was out to get me. I felt as though that if I glared at something, or someone, long enough I would see malevolence inside it. I was in a state of constant panic every waking hour,  because how could I live my life without Jack? I used alcohol as a crutch – little did I know that booze was actually causing this limp, rather than help mend it.

I got over Jack and I got through that dark period of my life. I’m fortunate enough that I can still drink and enjoy nights out/in, but even now there’s still a warning sign that flashes inside my head every time I drink. I am constantly having to keep myself in check. Not because I think I could easily slip and go off the rails, but rather because I’m not willing to take the risk. So I have to parent myself with vigorous scrutiny. I am terrified of losing control and going back to that place because it was such a struggle to claw my way out of that chasm.

In terms of being ‘addicted’ to a person, the infatuation has, this year anyway, started happening again but with a lot less severity than before. I attributed the rebirth of this trait to being on new medication. For years the anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication I was on dulled down every sensation and feeling I had. I experienced emotions through a pane of glass. Now, since switching medication, I feel things a lot more intensely than I did before – at times its often reminiscent of those ‘pesky feels’ I had as teenager. Fortunately now the addiction to a person fades after a couple of weeks. It never lingers longer than that because I know now, as an adult, what causes it and how to ‘cure’ it. But I still notice a link between being hurt by a person and the amount of drinking I will do after it. It’s hard not give into depression impulses. Although I am grateful I can once again feel things; it’s nice to be human.

I guess we are all addicted to something though. I find myself craving sugar on a daily basis if I have a few cans of fizzy juice the week before. I occasionally suffer from notification insomnia, which when you feel the need to check your phone each and every time it goes off even if it’s during the middle of the night. People have it with coffee, it’s part of their daily routine. I know people that genuinely cannot function without it in the morning. I suffer from mild OCD so I have a lot of quirks I need to carry out before I can do certain things or get on with my day. How many of us scroll out lives away because sitting on your phone or laptop is just ‘the norm’ to us?

Addiction is intertwined with habit and routine, we just don’t know where the line is because it’s so easy to blur the three together. We don’t feel the need to address these smaller addictions because they don’t directly impact our lives, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t there. Challenge yourself to not check your phone when it goes off, especially if it’s right in front of you.

This month I am doing Go Sober, not only to raise money for charity, but to prove to myself that I can go a month without partying. It’s hard to be in a social situation when everyone is drinking and you’re staying sober – well, it is hard for me – and I feel that we, as a culture, rely heavily on alcohol to chaperone us to social events. So I’m fully ready to accept the role of ‘party mom’ for this month. I’m also doing it because I want finish my book and if I’m not dusting off the cobwebs from last night’s bender then my mind will be a lot less foggy and thus focused. I’ll also have a chance to get back into shape as well. Who knows, I’ll probably start acting like a ‘real’ adult too. Which terrifies me more than any addiction I’ve ever had to overcome.

Here’s the link to my Go Sober page, so please sponsor me, because if you don’t I’m fairly certain I have to front the bill myself and I really can’t afford that . As if I do have to pay it myself, then you’ll see be sober during October and partake in Malnourished November as I won’t be able to afford food. Thanks in advance.

http://www.gosober.org.uk/users/topher-gen

 

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