~ Life As An Addict
The most powerful tool in my arsenal -easily -is my ability to see things from an addict’s point of view, and to work from that.
Had I not experienced the mental, emotional and physical effects of drug and alcohol addiction I could not accomplish what I do now. My experiences are what enable me to succeed.
It is something I wish every family could be. The only way to acquire that particular ability however is to experience addiction firsthand so ironically, it is those same experiences I would never wish on anyone. But I want to try and give my readers a real sense of what its like to be an addict. It might be the most important tool in my own arsenal and the fundamental reason for my success in the field.
Addicts are not happy people, although they may tell you otherwise. When I used drugs and drank I remember having “happy times,” but in truth, the more I used the emptier I felt and the more depressed I became.
No matter what the drug, when I take it, buy it, prepare it or use it, I know that what I am doing is inherently wrong. This is true with excessive drinking as well.
I know that it is damaging me even though I keep doing it.
I don’t try and scare addicts out of using or drinking with statistics about how life-threatening it is or how he or she might end up in jail. If you’ve tried this approach then you know what I’m talking about. These kinds of warnings fall on deaf ears.
I preferred to believe that it isn’t as bad as my family made it out to be, that I can control it, and that the obstacles I faced were the result of problematic circumstances.
If I got my car fixed for example, I could get a job. The job would lead to money for clothes and then my own apartment. This would lead to the girlfriend, which would lead to sex, children, marriage and a “real” life…
If I could just get my car fixed.
That was my loop for twenty-five years. I had no idea what was wrong with me but I often believed I was simply a victim of unfavorable circumstances. If I only had a different job or my rent paid I could regain my footing and live the way I knew I could and should. If people would just believe in me, then I could be something. I would think – right after this bag of meth, bottle of vodka, bag of pot, that’s when I’m going to get my life together-.”
This cycle of self delusion is what is behind every addict who insists he can “do it on his own.” He believes this because he has been planning to “do it on his own” and change for the better.
An addict will express a desire to change, to do better, to use or drink less, to stop allowing his drinking or drug use to ruin his life. Eventually though, addiction turns these promises into lies, hopes into regret. This in turn increases the desire to self medicate as a way of relieving the pain. This vicious cycle is what makes addiction a prison, a carousel one cannot get off of easily.
The addict goes back on his word, lies, and manipulates those around him to serve his own needs and wants, but in his mind he is simply trying to survive. Ironically, the self-serving addict ends up with less and less until he has nothing at all. This is yet another example of why addiction can be a never ending and unforgiving prison.
The addict continually seeks comfort in drugs and alcohol, and in so doing has become something he hates. This causes him to want to use even more. Addiction becomes a black hole which may have been a choice at one point, but it evolves into something beyond his control, a rip-tide, drowning him.
Addiction defies reason. It leaves a wake of moral wreckage; families in ruins, finances sucked dry with nothing to show. In the mind of the addict however, what he is doing boils down to survival.
Like an opponent in a game, the addict will hold his position as long as he can. He will do his best to survive. For him, survival means continuing doing what he knows, what makes him feel better, and avoiding what he fears.
When I’m hired to do an intervention, I look at it as though my client is inviting me into a game. It’s a real-life game but he game nonetheless. I don’t look at my opponent as the addict himself. When I see the addict I see someone in a prison, and it is that prison which becomes the thing I’m playing to win against. The fact that his life is in my hands motivates me to outmaneuver the mechanisms that are shackling him and to win.
How does one win a game of Texas Hold’em? By knowing when to bluff, fold or play. How does one win at Chess? – by anticipating what your opponent will do and thinking ahead several moves at a time. Why does one person at get a lower price on a car than another person? It all boils down to tactics. It’s anticipating what your opponent will do and then outmaneuvering him.
I didn’t learn this by becoming a good interventionist. I became a good interventionist by having lived as an addict. When I was trying to get away with using drug and acquire the money to buy them, tactics for me meant survival. Now, I am able help families because I’ve been down that road. I know the way an addict thinks and operates. I’ve helped literally hundreds of families overcome the challenges of helping someone who doesn’t want help, which is my silver lining from having gone to treatment.
Do what you need to do to help the person you love because you never know what his silver lining may turn out to be.