Last week my coworker said she believes addiction is a choice. Her exact words were, "At the end of the day, each person always has the choice to pick up or put down drugs." In response to her comment, I had a full-body, physical reaction. My armpits got sweaty, my heart rate skyrocketed, my shoulders tensed, my jaw tightened, and my neck broke out in red blotchy hives.
Stigma - Debunking Addiction
Writing has always been a healthy outlet for me to process and express my feelings. I have been writing since I was a young girl, and it has helped me through some of the darkest periods in my life. Throughout my time writing for HealthyPlace, I have had some incredible personal breakthroughs and have been able to connect with many others who battle similar demons. However, my path has taken me in a different direction, and I am saying a final goodbye to my readers within the "Debunking Addiction" blog.
Addiction is lonely, even when it is convincing you otherwise. In all honesty, I have not been feeling inspired to write lately. I have had a lot of self-doubt in my work and have been dealing with a lot of emotional baggage in my mind. I have lost touch with my true purpose, and what have I done to cope? I've self-medicated with drugs and alcohol in an attempt to ease my mind from the millions of thoughts anxiety naturally gives me.
I wish more of my friends knew how to support me in sobriety in the early days. One of the most challenging parts of sobriety for me is having to explain myself to others who do not quite understand the seriousness of addiction or substance abuse. I have grown more comfortable with this throughout my time with sobriety, but I know the difficulties of turning down an invitation to the bar because you do not want to feel triggered. Or the internal shame and anger that comes after hearing someone say, "Just one drink won't hurt."
The number of times I have woken up after a binge-drinking episode and said to myself, "I am not drinking this weekend," or even bolder, "I am never drinking again," just to find myself back at the liquor store a few days later could be considered humorous. I have experienced feelings of shame and embarrassment many times after breaking that promise to myself and having a binge-drinking relapse. It has taken a lot of self-work to reach this point, and not all days feel this way, but I now hold self-compassion close to my heart, even during a binge-drinking relapse, and I encourage you to too.
Full disclosure, I was very nervous to begin writing on alcohol abuse and addiction. I have many friends who only know me as a heavy drinker and others who may be unaware of just how much I struggle with this drug. I have felt nervous because I am writing on alcohol abuse and mental illness, yet I would not consider myself an alcoholic, nor would I ever use this term lightly.
Lately, I have experienced a few uncomfortable conversations with some of my nonaddicted friends questioning the strength and tenacity of recovering addicts. I imagine the concepts and struggles of behavioral and substance addictions seem quite confusing to those who have never fought these horrific demons firsthand. I grew up in a home with addiction, so prior to experiencing this for myself, I also had a lot of questions and confusion around the topic of addiction. However, now I can truthfully say with confidence that recovering addicts are likely some of the strongest and most capable people you will ever meet in your life.
In my experience, there is a monumental difference between healthy, relational sex and addictive, compulsive sexual behavior. As a recovering sex addict, I have witnessed firsthand the detrimental impacts of using sex as a means to cope with or numb your emotions. Some might believe that habits such as this are harmless and merely a rite-of-passage for most young adults, but I am here to tell you that unhealthy sexual behaviors do not have to be your normal way of life. You can willfully choose a different path and intentionally decide to utilize sex in a healthy way.
As someone who has not only personally experienced addiction recovery but has also worked as an addiction professional, I know all about the idolization of the sacred sobriety date. However, if you've followed this blog for long, you've probably noticed that I've never given my exact sobriety date or the precise weeks, months, or days I've been free from my addiction. This is because I really don't honor the sacred sobriety date like so many others do in addiction recovery. I have no ill will towards those who do participate in this ritual, but I've learned over time that it just isn't my thing.
In addition to eventually developing my own addictions, I also grew up in a home with an addicted parent. I rarely spoke about my mom's addiction history when I was young because of the shame that frequently followed those conversations. As I grew older and developed a few less than desirable habits of my own, I thankfully found some compassion for my mom and the struggles that surrounded her.