By Cheryl Steinberg
I think this article will hit home for anyone out there stuck in active addiction as well as for those who are recovering from addiction. For readers who are loved ones of addicts or who are fortunate enough to not have their lives touched by addiction in some way, this article should be an eye-opener. Despite popular belief, drug addiction is a way more complicated disorder than just someone wanting to get high.
Here is some insight inside the mind of an addict: what goes through the mind of someone in active addiction.
#1. We could stop
First and foremost, people who struggle with substance abuse and addiction want more than anything to be able to stop. People who have not experienced addiction first-hand might find this surprising. There’s a common misperception that addicts choose to do drugs, even when their lives are crumbling down around them. The reality of it all is that, once addiction takes hold, the person no longer has the ability to choose whether to drink or do drugs; they basically have to. This isn’t to say that the addict doesn’t have the choice to get better, though. More on that later…
#2. Get sober without having to go through painful withdrawals
The most common fear among people in active addiction is that of the painful – physical and mental – of the withdrawal symptoms that they will inevitably experience if/when they decide to get clean and sober. In fact, this is what keeps many addicts from getting help at all or causes them to prolong getting help.
#3. Turn off the obsessive thoughts
The addict mind is bombarded by obsessive thoughts to use a substance or substances. Again, the person most likely wants to stop but, how can they when their own mind relentlessly tells them to score another…and another…and another? It’s next to impossible to ignore these thoughts for long.
#4. Didn’t have to lead a double life
It’s said that being an addict is a full time job. There’s a lot of energy, time, and effort that goes into supporting a drug habit. And, there’s a lot of lying, sneaking around, and stealing that goes along with the addict lifestyle. These behaviors don’t match what’s actually going on with the person who struggles; addicts experience a lot of guilt and shame about having to lead a double life.
#5. We weren’t an embarrassment and disappointment
People in active addiction may seem remorseless but this couldn’t be further from the truth. We are well aware that we are disappointing our loved ones – and ourselves. Again, we feel crushing guilt and shame about our drug abuse but are helpless to do anything about it when we are in the thick of it.
#6. We were brave enough to ask for help
It’s a frightening and ego-smashing thing to ask for help. And it means having to come to terms with the fact that we do, indeed, have a real problem. No one wants to admit that they’ve lost control of a situation (or of themselves).
#7. We weren’t on this emotional rollercoaster
Being in active addiction is like being a hormonal teenager all over again. But worse. We experience mood swings and seem to be hyper-sensitive to anything others say and do. We’re also irritable and depressed. This is not a fun place to be. And we notice how our loved ones seem to have to walk on eggshells around us. We don’t want that.
#8. We didn’t continually hurt our loved ones
Again, we’re aware of the disappointment we cause our loved ones to feel. We also carry all that weight of guilt and shame of constantly hurting them. We don’t want the only consistent thing about us is that you know you will be hurt, lied to, manipulated, and let down…once again.
#9. We could feel happiness again
Feeling content and happy is a distant memory to the addict who struggles. Even when we’re high (and theoretically feeling good), we still hate ourselves. In my active addiction, I had forgotten what it was like to experience genuinely hearty belly laughter.
#10. We could crawl out of our dark hole and live again
If it isn’t clear by now, let me sum it up. Being caught up in the vicious cycle of addiction is a happiness- and soul-crushing experience. It seems as though there is no light at the end of the tunnel and that we are fated to live out our days in this dark and lonely place. As you can imagine, we want more than anything to find a way out and enjoy life again (or for the first time!).
Substance abuse disorder and drug addiction are devastating diseases that ruin lives and tear families apart. No one wakes up one day and decides that they want to embark on a journey that will destroy themselves and others. It is human nature to want to preserve life. That’s why addiction can be so baffling, especially to those who witness it second-hand. If you are struggling or know someone who is, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135 to speak with an Addiction Specialist today. We are here, day and night. Addiction doesn’t rest; neither do we.