When your drug is addiction.

I am an addict. I’m a promiscuous one as well; I don’t have any brand loyalty.

Some people don’t believe in an addictive personality. Since I possess one, I tend to disagree. I have spent my life looking for ways to alter my mood, to make me either not-me or absent in my head and I haven’t been overly picky about what I do to make that happen.

It’s why I held onto my bulimia for so long or at least part of the reason. Bingeing, purging, and excessive restricting are very effective at mood-altering. They numb you right out. Until you come back to yourself and chase the feeling again. But eating disorders are tricky, classification-wise. They straddle the line between mental illness and addiction, containing elements of both.

Although I didn’t associate it with my eating disorder behaviours until later, I recognized my addictive tendencies early on. I denied the reality a bit though; I gave myself too much leeway at times. Unfortunately, the need to fix your head can only be resisted for so long, even if your coping choices are maladaptive. Especially when you know of something that will help. After a while, “bad for you” and “dangerous” become less of a deterrent.

I didn’t drink when I was underage and I didn’t try drugs, not from personal conviction or a belief in the drinking age but because my parents expected me not to. They wouldn’t have been angry, I was regularly told to call if I ended up somewhere not sober, but they’d have been disappointed in me and that was worse.

So, no drinking until nineteen. Then I made up for the lost time. As soon as I realized alcohol could make me someone else, as soon as I realized it could make me less anxious and afraid, as soon as I realized that it could quiet the voices in my head, I was all in.

I avoided being a day-drinker, mostly. But evenings from Wednesday to Sunday from nineteen until about twenty-two, I was hardcore. I drank to excessive excess. I did stupid things to keep drinking, like stealing unattended drinks from the tables of random strangers when the money ran out. I stopped getting regularly drunk because I was hospitalized for my eating disorder and when I realized how much I missed it, I decided alcohol mostly had to go. I’ve been a parsimonious drinker ever since, although I still drink to excess on the four to five times a year I imbibe.

I’ve followed the same pattern time and again. I’ve used and abused opioids. I’ve used and abused benzodiazepines. Ditto marijuana and gambling. Most of these I’ve stepped back from, most I’ve banished into the abyss or subjected to rigid controls. I know how the story ends; I’ve lived it with my eating disorder. Unchecked addiction never goes well. I don’t even take the Ativan pre-procedure at the dentist’s office anymore, not because I don’t need it – I tend to freak out – but because of how much I want it.

It’s why I always stayed away from hard drugs. Not because I thought I’d dislike them. I stayed away because I knew I’d like them too much.

We will do a lot to escape the pain inside our heads.

There are few twelve-step groups for “addicted to addictions” though to be honest, I don’t find the groups all that helpful for me. They work really well for some people. I just had issues.

My problem was people-based. As in, there were a lot of people I don’t know in a place that was unfamiliar. My anxiety really, really didn’t like it. Especially because you’re there to expose vulnerabilities. Because I’m socially anxious in addition to generally anxious, interacting is difficult. The group left me feeling excluded; it made my feelings of isolation and loneliness worse. Alone with what should be your tribe is an awful feeling.

My best experience with a support group of that type was a call-in one. You could speak up or just listen in and no one could see you. I didn’t feel quite so terrifyingly exposed. Luckily, I’ve learned to deal with my addictive tendencies in other ways.

The most important thing about being an addict is remembering you are one. You have to watch carefully for behaviours that are becoming obsessive. You have to be wary of crossing the line.

I’ve been doing a little gambling online. Nothing excessive. The first thing I did was set up a weekly deposit limit. And for a long time, I kept to my self-imposed play schedule: twice a month on payday. It’s no different, I rationalized, than buying a lottery ticket. And for a while, it wasn’t.

But then my depression amped up, and suddenly once a week seemed good. No twice. Maybe I could just spin the slots in the morning. I just needed something to help me feel better. “Need” is one of those words that should have your inside voice screaming, “Danger Will Robinson” when you’re an addict.

I won some games. I lost some too. So far, I’m about even. This is actually a bad thing because it allows me to justify a behaviour that’s becoming problematic.

This is one of the problems with addictive behaviours. They seem so benign, so “what’s the harm” in the beginning. It’s only when you try to get out that you realize you’re stuck. But I’m pretty sure the game I’ve been playing is about to pay off in a big way. The cumulative jackpot is ready to pop, ready to give me a chance to match three to win a big prize. Even the smallest prize is good: fifty dollars. I have a good feeling about it. I just know I’m going to get the four-thousand-dollar pot. I just need to raise the weekly limit so I can play one more time. Get out of my head for a bit. Just another twenty dollars should do it. 

Which means, I won’t be playing anymore.

When you are an addict, when you have a tendency toward addictive behaviours, an escalation is never benign. You forget that at your peril.

Do you get addicted?

15 thoughts on “When your drug is addiction.

  1. I’ve finally lived long enough and experienced enough that I’m able to see what may end up as an addiction, before it even starts. However, as a result, I now struggle with trying something new and interesting for fear that what may simply be a new passion will turn into something worse. Or, because I’m bipolar, I continually question my interests in anything as being a ‘real interest’ or just a manic ‘jump all in’ tendency.

    I got into drugs to have a break from the eating disorder, quit drugs, was anorexic again. I became a heavy drinker and smoker to live with someone. I quit her and the booze but it took me a couple years to quit cutting (20 years ago) and a couple years after that to quit smoking. But I did. I recognized compulsive over exercising as an addiction. When I paired it with the eating disorder, I couldn’t stop. Separating it made all the difference because it was an addition whereas an eating disorder is a mental illness. I stopped exercising for 2 years but had to start to support my health. Even if I wanted to over do it now, my body wouldn’t allow it, so that box is ticked off. I guess, despite having an addictive personality, I’m good at quitting them too.

    Gambling… that’s one I managed to avoid thank goodness. A former friend’s life was devastated by it so I never started. I have friends who gamble for fun, not addictively. I continually remind myself that not everyone is an addict. I’ve found that looking through addiction-prone eyes, its hard to recognize a world that isn’t.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I totally relate to that fear, that obsessional connection with things. It is a bit problematic. As I said to someone once, with things I’m not a fan, I’m a FAN. I go all in. So, like you, I’m careful about what I adopt.

      It’s an important point, that not everyone is an addict. After my last treatment, I came back to the world and it seemed to me that everyone had an eating disorder. I saw it in everyone. I had to remind myself over and over that it wasn’t the case. That mostly hoof beats are horses, not zebras.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, that’s so hard. I had to retrain my brain to understand that when someone looks emaciated, they could have cancer, or a hormonal disorder, or it could be genetics…. so many things that aren’t EDs. Or when people dash off to the bathroom after eating, well, it’s 98% chance it’s a bladder issue.
        One thing I really struggle with still is when people use fitness as the path for recovery. I did that, not realizing I was trading one obsession for another and ended up with chronic physical conditions as a direct result AND was right back at square one since I never actually got better. However, many people do find recovery by way of fitness and don’t have an exercise addiction, so…. argh.
        After all these years, I still have to remind myself that we are all different. 😏

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’m sorry about the chronic pain. Yes, fitness is hard; I get frustrated too. Some people in recovery seem to have no issues; for me, it is still tricky – all roads want to lead to thin.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I grew up in a restrictive household. I often held it against my parents. Surprisingly enough, aside from a short while during my uni years, I did not “make up for the lost time.” With time, I realized that my parents might have saved me with the way they brought me up. Because of their restrictions, I am able to put restrictions on myself. It’s not as terrible as it sounds. It’s just that I know I could overdo many different things. I have seen the addiction possibilities. But I have this strong voice in my head telling me: “moderation.”

    I think it’s great you’re realizing when you start to spiral. Stay strong.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I can totally relate. I only drank and did drugs on weekends and during the week. We know very well its a vicious circle but it seems to work temporarily so we cling to it. The only reason I quit both was because I started to have seizures which is very inconvenient because they put you in intensive care for three full days.

    I’m not sure about moderation but remembering how the cycle ends can help not starting it all over again. And again, and again.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. kickingdrugs

    Hey 🙂 I totally get where you’re coming from. I’m an addict (although I’m clean now) I seriously have to check myself with food and other behaviours. That sense of control is too seductive!
    I also relate to finding AA and NA tough. If I hadn’t been forced to take part in support groups at rehab there is no way I would have the confidence to go now – that first kick up the arse is so important.
    It’s also why I set up my blog! I can get support from the comfort of my bed on days when my anxiety flares up.
    Good luck on your journey. Xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. It’s always nice when someone “gets it”. Congratulations on being clean. Hard journey 🙂 Thank you for commenting and good luck to you too.

      Like

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