You just can’t understand addiction unless you’ve lived through it.
Yet another famous person has died of a drug overdose. It was an illegal drug but plenty have died of drug overdoses of legal drugs. This just highlights the tragedy that is drug abuse and addiction. Hundreds of people die all the time from drug addiction, legal and otherwise. They aren’t famous, but their deaths are just as tragic.
Even if you don’t die, addictions steal your life. You aren’t quite fully human when you are in the pit of addiction.
Just before you start in with the “But for the grace of God, there go I” line, think about it. Many people have addictions. They are just socially acceptable ones. You probably have an addiction and don’t even realize it. The best addictions just masquerade as habits. It is just something you do. You don’t know why you do it, you just do.
Gambling. drinking. Smoking cigarettes. Eating too much. Eating unhealthy food. Even being angry all the time can be an addiction.
Anything you do unthinkingly that is harmful to you is an addiction. It doesn’t matter if you think it is a problem yet or not. If you let an addiction have its way, it will slowly take over until the addiction is driving you. It will take over and use you like a puppet.
I remember what it was like to smoke pot. I smoked for ten years. When I started it was once a month. Then over time it was once a week. At the worst it was all day long.
I’d wake up and get stoned. When the buzz would wear off I’d smoke some more.
Meanwhile I was in college. I had a job. I was fully functional as an adult. All my bills got paid.
Nobody knew I was a pothead unless I let them know. The only people I let know were other people who smoked. We had a code between us. We kind of felt each other out, like Masons. There wasn’t a secret handshake, but there were still tells.
I remember one time I wanted to quit but I just wasn’t ready to go cold turkey. I told myself I could slow down. I didn’t want to smoke every day. I took my supply of pot and my pipe and I wrapped them up in plastic and sealed it with rubber bands. I then put it up on a shelf in my closet so I’d have to get a chair to get it. I figured this would make me think several times, way more than twice, about what I was about to do. I figured it would slow me down.
I remember time and time again going for that bundle, opening it up, and smoking, and the whole time wondering why I was doing it. It was as if I was possessed. I didn’t want to smoke, and here I was smoking. It was insane. Nobody was forcing me to do it, but I couldn’t stop.
I felt helpless.
And this is just pot. It wasn’t heroin, or oxycontin.
People say pot isn’t addictive. They say it is a gateway drug, that it leads you to other, harder drugs. I say otherwise. I know. There’s about ten years of my life that pot has, that I missed. This is why I’m opposed to the legalization of pot. Look how well we are doing (not) with alcohol. Look how many people’s lives are ruined by it.
A lot of people think they can’t become addicts. They can drink or smoke or snort or swallow whatever they want. They think “That can’t happen to me.” I say, why not? What makes you so special?
The only way to be special is to not do it at all. You can’t tame an addiction. You can’t do it half way. You can, at the beginning. Then it gets bigger and bigger and it will win, every time. There’s a honeymoon period at the beginning. It is all sweet and wonderful. It is your best friend, your lover. It fills in all the gaps. It makes the bumps in your life not so bumpy. It makes things warm and mellow. It makes life not hurt so much.
Then it gets harder, and it wants more. It takes more to make the warm feeling come. Then it costs more, and that has you bothered, so you do more to not worry about it. It spirals. It is a snake eating its own tail, but you are the one being eaten.
Every time you get near the edge of the abyss and you survive, you think you’re lucky, and you can do it again. There is always another sign telling you that you’ve gone too far, you should turn back. That car crash. The arrest. Your spouse left you. You got fired. There’s always something after the last road sign on the way to your demise. You think you can stop before you get to the end of the road. You’re enjoying the ride, you think. You can stop any time. But you don’t. You want to see how hard and how fast you can drive this thing. You don’t realize that the whole time you are the one who is being driven, and you’re being driven to the very edge of madness – and sometimes beyond.
Sometimes you stop. Sometimes you get off. But then there is still danger. The lure is always there.
The bad part is that even when you get clean and sober, the addiction is still there. You’re two years sober and the moment you forget how hard it was to get clean, you’ll try it again, and fall for it again even harder. There won’t be that honeymoon time like at the beginning, where you’ve got it under control. It remembers, and you’ll reset to how things were at the worst.
You can’t control it.
You aren’t special.
I could say “Just say no” but that’s naïve. The moment you tell some people to not do something, they are going to do it.
There is no simple answer to addiction. And there is no way of understanding it unless you’ve been there. If it was as simple as just quitting, nobody would be an addict. And there wouldn’t be any more overdoses.
Pray for peace for the addicts. Pray for strength to resist the pull. Pray for all those who haven’t heard that siren call to turn away from it when they do.