To those of you that have already found a way to quit drinking or using, I have just one thing to say – congratulations! I’ll spend more time writing about you on another day. But today’s blog post is only for people currently struggling alone, quietly, in need of help. So move along, already recovering addicts, there’s nothing to see here.
There, I said it. Now that we have that settled, let’s talk about you, my actively drinking and/or using friend. Before we begin, it’s important to know that you are not alone. Although two decades have passed, I still remember how it felt to live in the grip of addiction like it was yesterday. Addicts and alcoholics exist in a strange kind of Netherworld – it’s like living in a bubble of loneliness you can’t punch your way through, no matter how hard you try. Even worse, no one around you understands what life inside the bubble feels like, or that the bubble even exists, unless they have a substance abuse problem of their own. Even addicts that know the bubble well don’t dare to talk about it with one another. The whole point of drinking or getting high is to escape unpleasant thoughts, after all. If you want to find yourself sitting alone at the bar, turn to your best drinking buddies sitting on either side of you and tell them you think you might have a problem. In about two seconds, they’ll suddenly spot a friend across the bar they’ve been meaning to catch up with, grab their drink and run for their lives. That’s just how drunks and druggies roll.
Every addict knows about the bubble. It's a great place to hide out from the rest of the world. Well, until you're tired of living in one and try to find a way out of it, at least.
If you want to know whether or not you might have an addiction problem, you’ve come to the right place. I was quite the accomplished addict in my day and got my masters degree in hitting bottom the old-fashioned way – I earned it. But, before I share my prestigious credentials with you, here’s a little hint – if you think you might have a problem, you probably do. Admitting it to ourselves is the first step, but we’ll get to that on another day. You have to be aware there’s a problem before you can fix one.
So, what are some signs we might be addicted to booze or drugs?
· Family’s a good place to start – while most friends will tell you anything you want to hear in order to avoid hurting your feelings, most family members are more than happy to tell you the truth, even when it hurts. Some family members even take pleasure from it. Do those closest to you tell you that you’ve changed and ask what’s wrong with you? Do you resent them for it and start avoiding family gatherings because you think it’s them that has the problem, not you? Or do you find that the only time you feel comfortable even being around them is when you’re drunk or high?
· Ever run into an old, non-partying friend on the street that you hung out with when you were younger? Have any of them ever stared at you oddly, as if they don’t really recognize the former friend they used to know? Did you gradually lose touch with them over time because they stopped getting high and you didn’t?
· Does a silent alarm clock ring in your head around the same time every day, alerting you that it’s beer o’clock? Do you spend most of your day at work or school thinking about getting wasted later?
· And how about that bubble I mentioned earlier? Do you feel like a stranger living in your own skin? Is there a silent scream whispering in your ear telling you that you’re trapped in a bubble and you need to find a way out? I spent many years trying to drown that voice with another drink or joint, but never could shut it up for long. The voice has an annoying habit of screaming at the worst of times. Mine used to jerk me out of a sound sleep and scream in my ear at around 3 or 4 a.m. The message was always the same – you better change your life, unless you want to die!
· Have you tried following the voice’s advice and decided to quit drinking or using on your own, but fallen back into the same old routine time after time, no matter how hard you try?
· When was the last time you felt truly happy and content? When was the last time you felt anything at all, apart from silent desperation and an empty, hollow numbness?
If these symptoms sound familiar, you might just have an addiction problem. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb here and guarantee you that you are, indeed, an addict or alcoholic.
That’s the bad news. The good news is there’s a way out of the bubble and you’ve come to the right place to find it. Take a little time to review the signs of addiction, mull them over, and ask if they apply to you. If the answer is yes, come on back tomorrow and we’ll talk some more.