Addiction is a horrible beast to wrestle. When you struggle with addiction, people see you as weak, broken, incapable of normal human function. The truth, however, couldn’t be more different. Addicts come in numerous configurations with bountiful vices to choose, but one thing remains constant: the world has become too much to handle without a coping mechanism, which for addicts means their addiction of choice.
If you’ve never had the misfortune of battling an addiction, then you may have trouble trying to picture how one becomes so entangled in something seemingly unhealthy. Let me try to paint a picture for you of how the mind of an addict thinks regarding the addiction:
“You’re like a drug pouring through my veins. You make me high; you make me low. You’re so delightfully addictive. My body bleeds for you.
I crave the way you caress my skin, the way you make me scream. I love it when we meet in secret, when we break the rules. I know all of the forms you take, your normal haunts, your hiding places, too. Sometimes you are nice and jagged. Other times, so smooth. We can always connect and make lines together: horizontal, vertical, diagonal…in the end the result is always the same.
When we are apart or take a break, it’s easy to forget you. Days, weeks, months can pass without the slightest desire for you on my skin. I could pass by your image thousands of times without the slightest notice that you’re there. But it just takes a single moment of weakness for me to remember, just one tiny triggering event.
They say I’m supposed to use my skills to avoid your tempting calls. I’ve learned so many ways to cope, ways to fight my craving for your cold, electrifying touch. Yet there are times I still find myself frantic, running, searching for you, willing to pay any price. Being with you makes me criminal, though, but sometimes that makes it like a game.
After we engage, I’m always overcome with guilt, swallowed with this sense of shame that I can’t wash away. I try to hide our indiscretion; I work tirelessly to cover our tracks. Sometimes my efforts are successful. Other times I forget one tiny detail of your encounter that gets discovered like a bit of packaging, a receipt from a purchase, or the aftermath of our sinful time together. Either way, the end result is this immense feeling of emptiness reminding me that I’m alone.
I often wonder when the madness will end, when I’ll find a way to climb out from under your intense appeal and my extreme desire. Although I crave you like a drug, there’s no rehab to detox from you, no pill to make me forget. You think after all these years I’d suddenly smell the roses and realize how unhealthy my dependency on you truly is. Yet I continue to succumb to the desires of my flesh, ignoring my head and my heart for that temporary high you give, the escape from reality, if even just for a moment. Every single milestone I make with abstaining, something always brings me down, begging for you back.
The truth is this, and it’s really quite simple: I loathe my addiction to you. I despise who I am because of my weakness; I am disgusted by who I have become. I want to be happy, I want to be free, but your hold is intensely powerful on me. Someone recently told me that I will fight this battle in my body for my entire life. The thought of doing this for so long honestly makes me want to just give in now and let you win the game. In my heart, I know there are only two outcomes of this that I can see: Either I break free eventually or someday the price to play becomes too high, and I die with you in my hand. That harsh reality not only makes me loathe you, but it makes me despite myself.”
My personal skirmish with addiction has involved self-harm, along with flirtations with food and alcohol. The most devastating aspect of addiction is that, no matter how you recover or how long you abstain, the desire and propensity to relapse are constant. My most recent remission from self-harm lasted nearly 150 days, but was ruined by a five-minute interaction just over a week ago that should have been harmless.
The phrase I have come to live by is, “Recovery isn’t a straight line.” Human life is full of highs and lows, sunshine and storms, so why should anyone expect addiction and the recovery process to be any different?
In the moments when I am at my lowest, when I have a temporary lapse, the one thing that has made the largest positive impact has been reminders from those in my life that the line to recovery isn’t straight, that we all have “bad days,” and that it is actually okay to not be okay sometimes. Your strength comes in what you chose to do in those moments, in how you return to the path when you stray. If you are battling addiction, be kind to yourself, take it one day at a time, and don’t ever give up. We are strong, we can do it.