Addiction Is Not New

There is a key moment in young life when the path splits and some of our friends go one way and some friends go another. This is when the crowds became the crowds and I became me. This was the age when we became aware of status and we were divided up into different divisions of “Cool,” and the social echelons became what it was
But me, I was the kid sitting on the left side of the school’s cafeteria. Trying to fit in, —I was longhaired, crazy, and wild for sure. I was wild to be someplace else and wild to escape the mundane feelings and fears of feeling mediocre.

I was young and small, frightened, and unsure of myself. I was unsure why I couldn’t grasp the material in school. I was unsure why my life never seemed as easy as somebody else. And I was unsure why I felt like everything was a struggle.
I wanted no part of this place. I wanted no part of the teachers and their classrooms. I wanted no part of the cliques or the social circles, but yet, I desperately depended on them because of anything I could think of, —there is no fate worse to a teenager than a teenage life alone.
This was me. I was alone in a crowd. I was the kid with bloodshot eyes, half-closed, and a smile that showed the high, which I used as a coping skill to cope with the rules and the ways of the classroom. This was how I coped with you and the things you said about me. It was also how I coped to forget the things I did or did not do. This was how I numbed the regrets I had and hushed the ongoing thoughts.
I was the troubled one. I was the misunderstood and weak. I was the one most afraid of everyone but I was the loudest and quickest to create a scene to distract the attention away from my awkwardness.

I wanted to be big and strong. I wanted to be good looking. I wanted to be liked and I wanted to be the one everybody chose to have on their team.
I wanted to be included or involved; however, feeling left out and alone, I saw no other option than to impose. And if I couldn’t be liked or if I wasn’t included, I would have to take the other side of this and return with either bizarre behavior or hatred.

I didn’t fit in with the wealthy crowd or the pretty. I wasn’t an athlete and I was painfully aware that my physical size was smaller than everyone else in my class. I was boyish looking at best and looked significantly younger than the others my age.

Of all things I wanted, all I ever wanted was to feel like I fit in, —but I never did. I never understood why. I never understood why I felt different, —I never knew why I felt as if something was wrong with me.
Maybe this was mental. Maybe it was both mental and physical. Or, maybe this was to be my position in life. Maybe I was meant to ride in the back or feel alone. If what goes around comes around; maybe this was to be my place here, living sadly in the underbelly of the cycle. And in this sense; since this is what I believed;  I decided that I would be this way perfectly. If I could not be the best, out of sheer frustration, I decided that I would be the worst.

Somewhere in my youth, I was given labels by psychiatrists. I was told that I was emotionally or mentally disturbed. And I hated this label. But if I were to wear it than I chose to wear it like a badge, as if I could use my mental disorder as a source of power. But that didn’t work.
At a young age, I was told that I suffered from what doctors called “Violent fantasies.” I am not sure when this began. I am not sure when it started or when the first violent thought struck me. I suppose this happened when I began to transition from one grade to the next. Maybe this happened because I felt weak. Or, maybe this happened because I felt alone. Maybe I suffered from this because I never knew how to properly defend myself or maybe this was because I was too afraid to fight back. And I was afraid. I was afraid to lose. I was afraid of humiliation.
I was afraid of being bullied and I was afraid of being exposed. I was too small and too weak, which, in my mind left me worthless. I was terribly thin and too young looking to be intimidating. All I could do was act. And that’s all it was—an act. Maybe this is why I clenched my teeth. Perhaps this is where the violent fantasies began. And it would come on during times when I felt humiliated or ashamed.
It would happen and I would hear the sound of a glass breaking. It would sound the way a baseball would break through a window. First I heard the crashing sound of broken glass and then I heard the sounds of glass shards trickling through the air. I’d clench every muscle in my body. Then I’d close my eyes and squeeze them as tightly as I could. Next was the fantasy. This is when I would see something flash in my mind. It was murder. It was bloody and I would see this pictured in my mind, flashing quickly, as if I could see it. And I would have to hold myself tightly. I’d have to clench every muscle until the thought went away.

I was tired of feeling bullied. I was tired of feeling stupid or worthless, meaningless, and unnoticed. This is when I decided to hide behind the masks I chose. This is when I found different ways to numb the thoughts in my mind. And certainly IO could not make them stop but I could at least placate them for a while. At least this way, i could feel some relief.
I used to take long trips in school. And these weren’t the kind trips that teachers hand out permission slips for. No, these trips were different approved by the board of education by any means. This is when I learned the power of hallucinogens. This is when I learned the power of mental vacations. I was young too. I was lost and looking for something to help me make sense of all that I never understood. I was looking to feel better. Or if I couldn’t feel better, then I was looking for something to help me not feel anything at all.

I have always found it amusing when parents talk about their children and explain, “The drug problem was never like this when I was your age!”
I always laugh when people say “Addiction isn’t a disease.”

I laugh when they say, “Calling it a disease is a cop out,” and they blame the junkie, as if at some point in their life, they chose “Junkie” as a career back when we had career days as kids in school.

Same as I never asked to be too thin or feel too small; and same as I never asked to feel athletically deficient; same as I never asked to feel weak, same as I never asked to feel awkward, I never asked to feel stupid or “Less than,” and same as I never wanted to feel like there was no place for me in this world—like it would all be fine if I were to somehow slip away, I never wanted to find myself nodding out beneath a bridge, alone. I never wanted to feel sick. I never wanted be “Addicted” to anything. I only wanted to feel better.

And they say addiction isn’t real. They say it’s something the medical world calls a disease, but really, it’s a choice. But I say that’s wrong. I say it is a disease. In fact, I know it is. I learned about this disease. I learned that I need help, and with help, I’ve learned how to overcome the whispers and the demons I have in my head.

I cannot say I’ve perfected my trick but I can say that I’ve come to a part in my life when I enjoy the process of perfecting my craft, which is to better myself and live a good life..
The truth is drug addiction is not a new thing. It’s been around for centuries. The unfortunate truth about this there are either one or two things that happen with addiction. Either we find our way into recovery or we suffer the symptoms.

There are key moments in life that cause energy. And energy is what creates a change. Circumstance, emotions, and outcomes; these things cause energy. In my case or as this relates to me, at a key moment in my life when change shifted my circumstance, the energy shifted from one way to another and I swore that this was it. I swore that I would quit. I was tired and done. I was tired of the trouble and tired of the constant hustle it took for me to keep my life going as it was. I was tired of everyone stealing from me and I was tired of the fact that I had to steal from everyone I knew to find some kind of revenge.

I used to suffer from a psychosis. I would see people in my head after they would say something. And it would repeat over and over again. I could hear it and I could see their expression on their face.
I cannot explain it in any other way than this: I would see someone and I would hear what they said—and it would repeat, which meant they made a move on me. It was like a paranoid chess board and to survive, I would have to do something to counteract the move they made against me. And I know it’s crazy. I knew it was crazy then. I couldn’t quite describe this to anyone else at the time. I had no idea this was paranoia. And furthermore, I had no idea this was part of addiction.

Hell, I just thought I was a crazy kid . . .

I thought I was mentally ill.

I thought I was mentally disturbed, emotionally disturbed, or whatever the doctors called me. I thought I was whatever my teachers in class told me—a bum, a loser, a waste of life. I thought I was all these things.

Turns out, I have this thing called a disease. It’s called addiction. Call it alcoholism. Call it obsessive compulsive disorder. Call it a product of my depression. Say it’s behavioral or call it whatever you will, but you can’t call this a choice. You can’t say I asked for this because I didn’t. No one does.

Fortunately, a key moment in my life came along and created the energy that caused a change. This is what happens. Some call it “Hitting bottom.”
By the way, this is not a new theory. It’s an old one and it worked for me. But maybe we need to explore new angles to make it work for others who suffer from this same thing.

You think?




One thought on “Addiction Is Not New

  1. Hey Ben….as an educator, thank you. And, as a mom of an recovering addict, and a recovering enabler, myself…thanks even more. Love this post.

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