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Addiction is an Ugly Thing


Mom and I were on one of our morning walks. I'd been having a rough morning, which meant instead of talking non-stop, I pretty much just walked and let Mom do most of the talking.

At one point, she asked if I were going back, back to where I had finally broken free from. I'm ready to heal, I'm ready to move forward, I'm ready to move on. I said no, I wasn't going back.

We talked a bit about what was going on, before she asked why I had made the choices I had made that led me to be incredibly happy and stunningly miserable for over a year and a half, as well as lost in a PTSD loop that has resulted in memory loss so severe I can't recall most of 2018. People bring up conversations that I have no memory, not even the faintest hint of a whisper of a thought of the conversation, and I have to go on faith that I had the conversation, wondering if my mental picture of myself is warped, that I actually said such things. A couple times I said no, I did not say what I was told I had said, the listener missed the sarcasm or took my words so far out of context that bad was good, no.

Eventually, I told Mom to stop pushing on the current topic, I didn't want to discuss my pain any further. She agreed, and commented, "Well, we all make the best choices we can at the time."

And I came alive.

In a full-on shuttle disaster moment, I turned to Mom. "No, no we do not always make the best choices we can. When you are stuck in a cycle of addiction, you cannot make the right choice, YOU CANNOT."

Addiction is an ugly thing. It takes away your sovereignty. It takes away your choices. It takes away your will. It destroys who you are. It destroys your life. Your addiction becomes all encompassing and all you want is to push that f-ing dopamine-delivering button, get rid of the pain, stop the craving, give yourself some relief. In that moment of addiction, there's a voice inside crying, "WHY AM I DOING THIS? STOP!" and you don't listen. Shush, quiet, it's fine, just this one more time and I'll stop. And you don't. You don't. You keep doing it and you don't know why but you keep doing it.

Your friends stand on the outside and ask why, why do you do this? You can't answer. You say, no, no, I'm fine, it'll be better tomorrow. You convince yourself that it'll be better soon.

But soon doesn't come, and it's still bad. Tomorrow doesn't arrive, and at some point, the fifth time, the seventh time, the thirteenth time you realize that your choices are give up and die, or live.

And you choose to live.

And THEN, we start to make the best choices we can.

From a scientific and biological point of view, we have some understanding of addiction. The dopamine hits need to be irregular, so that you can't anticipate them. The high (or relief from pain) from the dopamine hit becomes less intense over time, so increased doses are needed. Much of society believes that addiction is a moral failing, not a chemical reaction, making punishment and will-power the "solutions" instead of understanding, empathy, and support as path to recovery.

Sometimes what you need most of all is to be in a safe place, away from the addiction-triggering environment. Routines, healthy opportunities, and a chance to heal help.

After the addiction is tempered (it is never broken, addictions are for life, always beneath the surface, always whispering), you can start to build your life again. Yes, there will be gaps. Yes, there are often many, many, many regrets, there has to be, addiction is an ugly thing, but if you make it through alive, there's a chance to rebuild and have a new life.

Memory gaps and all.

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