Having been through rehab twice now for addiction to cocaine, I have learnt that as an addict you need to change the way we think.
But how can the addict be expected to change the way they think when society won’t change the way they think about addicts?
Albert Einstein knew a thing or two about stuff, and it was him that said “The definition of Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”
When I think about how society still perceives and treats addiction of any sort its still massively taboo, extremely judgmental and almost prehistoric. Over the past 100 years nothing has changed and the results haven’t improved.
The number of users are increasing, the types of drugs and stimulants are becoming more readily available and cheaper so we cant expect things to change from a sociological standpoint so surely the way to improve things is how and what approach we take to the addicts themselves and the service and treatments available.
Being an addict in recovery myself, i’m well placed to comment on how I have been treated and what is expected from me to ‘change’ my ways.
I want to for a minute assume that you, the reader are reading this and know nothing about drugs or addiction.
Drugs do something to you that eats away at your soul, your core, literally rotting from the inside. Something that starts out as episodes of Euphoria, excitement, highs and ‘the buzz’ eventually takes you to a dark dark place. This is the difference between ‘recreational users’ or ‘functional users’ to full blown dependencies, or as we are often labelled junkies or crackheads. I include alcohol in this as well as it is also a drug
It all starts out very innocent, none of us ever go out with the intention of getting to that place where suicide quite often seems the best answer, no its a few beers down the pub, a couple of cheeky liveners at the football with the boys, or a couple of pills in Ibiza. What then happens in our lives then dictates what road we take. Not everyone hits the drink or drugs hard when a major trauma occurs in there life but for me its what I did. I knew that the feeling of using cocaine would dampen down my sadness when I lost my Mother so I continued you dampen it down, and down and down until it was buried so deep that I couldn’t change it. I literally felt like I was dead inside.
Drugs has gone from being something I looked forward to doing to something I had to do and hated myself when I did. The next phase is the completely inability to be able to stop and the only (what seems) like rational solution is to take your own life.
I made 4 attempts on my life because I felt so powerless, dead, emotionless and I had just had enough.
The first time I got admitted to a psychiatric unit where they kept me there for a week, dosed me up and then asked me a bunch of questions “did you plan your suicide” “are you disappointed to be alive now” blah blah blah. I said openly look I’m an addict and I cant stop, help me I don’t know what to do?
I’ve hit a spiral of depression and I cant stop using, I am crying out for your help, keep me off the streets away from drugs, just please give me some help. Later that day they released me as they had told me that they couldn’t hold a bed for addiction patients. I explained that my depression is fueling my addiction, they said you are depressed because you are using.
I continued to stay in this cycle for 3 more overdoses and 2 more admissions, each one I was discharged after 36 hours then 18 hours because it was ‘addiction’ and nothing else.
At no point did anyone within the medical system say, somethings not right here, we have a young (ish) lad, who has been a successful businessman, no real criminal history or any mental illness yet all of a sudden is having a complete breakdown, something needs to be done. I know lets investigate!
It was like a human game of ping pong, I was beginning to feel more and more worthless and just kept myself in the cycle. Now don’t get me wrong I take 100% responsibility for my addiction just like my recovery, its all down to me and my ability to reach out for help, but I am just one of many addicts whether its drink, drugs or any other vice that are screaming out for help, and it just isn’t there.
When I went to rehab, the philosophy from the medical team was the polar opposite, they believed that the ‘trauma’ and the mental health side of it is what causes you to use because you know that you can detach yourself from your emotions. that’s why hours of one to one therapy were so beneficial because I looked deep, deep within my soul for the answers, and hopefully I’ve found them.
I learnt to change the way I think, when Im in tough situations, when a major trauma occurs, when the anger and rage burns inside, to change how I think, instead of reaching for my drug of choice to think about things and work it out. Change my behaviors.
This is definitely the solution, but how can the individual addict be expected to change they way they think when everyone in society even hospitals and doctors still treat you like the scum of the earth.
Newspapers, social media, future employers they all condemn addicts, writing them off basically saying once an addict always an addict, the amount of times I’ve heard that phrase is laughable. I’ve met some of the smartest most talented people who have been tangled up in addiction because it doesn’t care whether you are rich or poor, intelligent or challenged, famous or just your regular Joe, no one is immune from addiction.
In 2001 in Portugal, the Government decided to decriminalize drugs, it became a medical issue and not a criminal one for possession and use of class A drugs, this has seen a drop to virtually no drug related overdoses in the Country and has reduced AIDS, Hepatitis B and heroin overdoes down by 50-75% in some cases. In addition to this, the government work with local businesses to get ex addicts back into the work place but subsidizing roughly half their salaries and guaranteeing them employment. What an unbelievable attitude and initiative to have.
Your typical addict is no longer just the guy with a needle hanging out of his or her arm lying in a gutter, its your local Doctor, Lawyer, politician, footballer or celebrity. Addiction comes in so many forms and so many guises and its become more of a hidden issue because of the stigma around it meaning we cant reach out for help in fact a group of us from a local meeting have collaborated and put a recovery magazine together called Pipe Down magazine, again with the sole purpose of trying to #BreakTheStigma consisting of an editor, business development manager, web genius and graphic designer …. who would have thought it – Talented Junkies!!!
If you come out the other side of addiction then it still effects your chances of employment, future relationships, contact with your family or children and quite frankly just the way people look at you. Instead of it being something to be proud of its something that most people hide, they have to hide, I did exactly the same thing the first time out of rehab.
The point of all this (as i’m aware my passion is diverting me away) is that we expect the individual addict to change. Change their lives, their lifestyle, their attitudes, their behaviors and the way they think, but what incentive is there when they are still treated the same by society, by the Doctors, by employers by well…. generally everyone, and that sucks, its a massive contradiction, If you want addicts you get better then start treating them better when they battle through and come out the other side.
Give us a chance, stop treating us like scum.
Maybe if we all change our attitude towards addiction then addiction will change in turn.
We are in an epidemic of invisible addiction, things like social media, Facebook, money, power, fame, Instagram likes, video games, food, all things that give us a quick fix from our emotions. Its logical that the natural progression for youngsters from things like the above will be to drink or drugs, as soon as they know it will temporarily help the situation they will move on to something else. Something seriously destructive.
We need to remember that underneath the addict is a human being.
Underneath that human being is a son, daughter, sister, brother, father, mother and who knows what else. We should be trying to bring that human back out of the addicts body not hammering it further down.
Addicts have a lot to offer, so its about time society stops condemning us and them, gives them the support to develop and enable them to have a life after addiction otherwise whats the point if there is simply no incentive.
Its the biggest fight you can ever be involved in, a monumental battle. Other than ‘getting clean’ there has to be some reward at the end, and ill take for now just being treated like a normal human being.