Addiction is a relevant topic for me considering I am a recovering addict. The first time I used was a choice. Every time after that first high was a compulsion driven by the obsession of the addicted mind. Sobriety is something that the addicted person needs but not necessarily wants. It is for people who desire it. It has to be continuously worked on. My opinions are strong but at times, I can be open-minded and see other sides of certain situations. One thing I feel very strongly about and my opinion can’t be changed: once an addict, always an addict. You need continuous treatment.
We as a society need to stop thinking about addiction treatment as temporary and start committing ourselves to long-term support through various services. Therefore, I think, as a solution, we need long-term support and aftercare after initial treatment. Twelve-step programs, smart recovery, therapy, partial programs, IOP programs, and peer-support networks. This disease cannot be handled alone and never goes away. You can be an active addict or an addict in recovery, but the disease is always a part of you. You can feed the disease or you can feed the reclaiming of your life.
Addiction shows up in all forms of my life and I have to be vigilant. From shopping to sex, to spending money, to eating or not eating, to anything that makes me feel good. Anything that takes me out of me for a moment. Even writing this essay, it has to be done “right,” and it has to be “good.” I will write and rewrite over and over until I get the praise that makes me feel useful, talented, and efficient and then I can stop. Addiction is a disease of self. Selfishness, self-centeredness, and self-gratification. It’s all about me and what makes me feel good at that moment.
More is never enough despite the consequences. I have had utilities shut off, cars impounded, loss of license, almost been evicted for nonpayment of rent, have put myself and my children in unsafe situations, have overdosed, been in countless programs and detoxes and my youngest daughter lost her father as a direct result of the disease of addiction. I lived with the mindset that it wasn’t going to happen to me. Until it did.
I have finally come to accept that I am an addict and will always be an addict. Coming to terms with that was not easy. When I first came into recovery, I thought I would still be able to drink alcohol. My problems were with drugs. The longer I stayed sober, the more clear-minded I became, and I realized that anything that numbed me or made me feel differently than what I was originally feeling was a problem for me. One is too many and one thousand is never enough.
To curb the insatiable urges in all aspects of my life, I have to seek recovery daily, whether it be in the form of a twelve-step program, or just connecting with another addict. I also have to seek treatment for my mental health because for me it goes hand and hand. If I’m not treating both, it can lead to disastrous situations for me and my loved ones. Addiction never goes away. Since I got sober almost four years ago, I have gone to therapy weekly, seen my psychiatrist monthly, done two partial programs, and gone to meetings as often as I could. Every day since I started on July 30, 2016, I have had contact with another addict in recovery. Knowing I’m not alone in this disease is a tremendous help. We as a society need to end the stigma of the disease of addiction. We need to work together on a continual basis to show, as addicts, that we are not alone and sobriety is possible.
We, Too, Are America is made possible through “Democracy and the Informed Citizen,” an initiative administered by the Federation of State Humanities Council through a grant from the Mellon Foundation.