Addiction is defined as the fact or condition of being addicted to a particular substance, thing, or activity. Addiction is characterized by compulsive engagement in rewarding stimuli, despite adverse consequences. It can be thought of as a disease or biological process leading to such behaviors. Note that the word “condition” is used, and not the word “choice”. Because guess what? Being addicted to something IS NOT A CHOICE.
Many of you have only seen one side of addiction, and much of the time, it’s been on the surface, you only see the face of the addict. What you don’t see is the first time they light up, shoot up, or pour that drink that sends them over the edge. The person has no idea that they could be headed down a bad road. I’ve seen both sides of addiction. I’m a recovering alcoholic.
Here’s what being an addict was like from my point of view:
I was a functioning addict.
I started drinking to replace the pain that came from my relationship with an abusive man at the time. Alcohol was my best friend and an escape. What was me having the occasional glass of wine became me drinking the entire bottle. Hard liquor became a soft place to lay my head. ‘I buy the bottle, not the glass’ became my entire life. The alcohol lessened the blows of the emotional and mental abuse. I drank the heaviest when the abuse was at its worst.
I was a shrouded and distorted version of myself. I learned how to convincingly act like I was sober and learned to cover the smell of alcohol. I figured that nobody knew anything. I was wrong.I began not socializing with anyone and was alone all the time, declining invitations to hang out. Some friends suspected what was going on and referred me to the counseling center at NDC, where I was already going to therapy. With the help of my counselor (a wonderful man who has had my back for several years) and his therapy doggo, I began to formulate a plan for escaping the abuse that didn’t involve alcohol. And began to taper off. Slowly but surely.
May 3, 2018 was the day I had enough of the bottle. 2 days later I graduated from college.
I didn’t completely quit drinking heavily, having relapsed a bit, until about the June after I graduated. Having just broken up with someone I thought had loved me before I saw the abuse, I was depressed and didn’t really have much motivation to get out of bed, but a friend of mine became the reason I got out of bed week after week. I chose to stop drinking heavily so he could get to know the real me…and a friendship grew from there. By July, I was beginning to pursue my career in the field of Theology. With the help of my spiritual director, my psychiatrist, and a few others, I started to get out of the dark place I was in. By September, I had a part-time position in parish ministry.
IT HASN’T BEEN EASY. When I stopped drinking I felt awful. Sick, honestly. But it was desire to be well that kept me going.
I am no longer a shrouded version of myself. I’m with someone who accepts for who I am: flaws, mental illness, broken family, and all. I’m working in parish ministry and I love my job. The people who caught the situation when they did saved me.
I made the choice to pour the drink that put me over the edge and made me feel all warm and good. But I did not make the choice to have more and more of a tolerance to alcohol and have to drink more to feel less. I also made the choice to become sober. Everything DOES start with a choice….and continuing to do something is a choice.
But becoming addicted wasn’t something I chose to do.
If you see that something you do ‘occasionally’ starts becoming a recurring thing and that it’s a problem (like, it’s stopping you from being a functioning human) address it and stop doing that thing before it becomes a full blown addiction. If you’re an addict who wants to become sober, then you’ve already taken the first step: admitting there is a problem. Recovery won’t be easy. It never is, but it’s far easier to get your strength from something that is positive, like the support of positive friends, music, or art, than to gain your strength from something that may hurt you in the end.
My aesthetic has changed from party dresses and barhopping to leggings, reading, and cardigans, and I've have it no other way, honestly. It feels amazing to be free of what once burdened me.
Here I am, having reached 2 years sober a little over 2 weeks ago. I've been through a lot since then, and honestly, I am proud of all I have accomplished.