This is a typed up, (slightly altered now though for personal reasons), copy of a letter I wrote to a friend after having been in a treatment centre for 3 weeks. For the first time in my life I was addressing my problems properly and now was able to share about it with those close to me. It was all unplanned and raw, from my mind straight onto paper.
“Thank you for being supportive and understanding so far, even though I have not explained a lot.
Well the simple way to put things is that I am an addict. Since coming here I have learnt a LOT about myself. Ever since a young age I have always had an addictive personality, forming habits/behaviours etc. that provide an escape from reality and that I find harder to stop than most people would. Early examples are sucking my thumb until early childhood, reading obsessively as soon as I was able to (would read while walking to school lol) and playing video games growing up with every spare moment I had.
When I was 14 a discovered a different high on my own. It gave me a numbing effect. When I started using it, I knew my use was unusual but I never knew WHY it felt so calming/gave me a nice sensation.
The therapists here have helped me come to understand that I suffered emotional trauma during my childhood and early teens, and as an addict I found ways of coping with this/avoiding my feelings altogether.
My use did not start so heavily, but certainly gradually increased over the years. I kept it to myself as like I said, I knew it wasn’t normal and I was deeply embarrassed. I became very good at hiding and acting like everything was normal.
And everything was normal for the most part. I will skip the boring bits in between, and the good phases followed by the bad phases. But slowly and surely, the state of my life has been declining.
More recently it got back to the state where the perfect day for me was getting my private buzz during the day from my substance abusing, then getting completely fucked with you guys on weekends whenever I could.
Keep in mind that this ‘private’ addiction was something I carried for 7 years since I was 14, and felt too ashamed to let anyone know. For the longest time I told myself that it was not a problem I could stop on my own, and no one would ever need to know. I became VERY good at hiding it.
Time and time again I proved these statements wrong. I knew the health risks each time I used; asphyxiation, damage to the lungs, eventual death etc. I still used anyway.
With regards to using drugs socially, I could sense this was becoming a problem also. The amount of times I would promise Eli* that I wouldn’t take any drugs and end up fiending for them after 1 or 2 drinks…I remember ending up at an afters and mixing GHB with alcohol, which is lethal. I knew this but also did it anyway.
By the way the reason I abstained from snorting drugs for a while was because I damaged my nose from my early substance abuse when I was a lot younger on my own and was weary of this. But after a while even this worry dropped.
My life became completely grey and any substance that could get me out of my head felt like the only thing that could give it colour.
I slowly accepted that it was a problem. One of the scariest things was letting Eli know and explain to her. The first person. In Feb 2018. Normally if I was using I could easily get away with it by pretending to be asleep if that makes sense.
Telling her was so scary, but so relieving. She really wanted me to tell my family, and became worried for my life. I really tried to stop in the month that followed, but even with a friend supporting me it felt impossible.
Long story short, I became a state having increasingly more panic attacks. I told my dad about what was going on. He told the rest of my immediate family straight away. They were all shocked and confused. But said it made sense, looking back at my behaviour throughout the years.
I have feared being asked all of the “Why can’t you just stop?” questions. Thankfully, my family so far have been so understanding. Addiction is an awful chronic disease. It’s something to do with a malfunction in the brain related to cravings and always wanting more.
Many people become ‘addicted’ to harmless things, but its when the addiction crosses harmful behaviours and an unmanageable life that it becomes a real life or death issue.
The therapists here reminded me that if I didn’t stop soon I wouldn’t (statistically) make it past the age of 30. At first, this didn’t really scare me as I did not truly care for my life, but coming into treatment I have started to love myself a little more each day. I think I deserve to give myself the best life I can and it is possible, although each day will be a challenge. This disease is incurable and I may always be craving a dangerous way to escape reality or change my feelings. So a (hopefully) long life of recovery is ahead of me
For the moment, it is advised I avoid all mind altering substances (alcohol, drugs) until I am stable in myself. The alcohol could be reintroduced when I am sure I am at a stage where I won’t be drinking on feelings, although this was never a major problem for me so hopefully soon enough. But in early recovery I will be vulnerable emotionally.
One interesting thing I learnt here is that I may not be clinically depressed and was misdiagnosed. Clinical depression includes the absence of emotions, feeling numb. However I was numbing myself. Therefore I may not be clinically depressed, but simply exhibiting depressive symptoms (isolating, fatigue, lack of motivation) due to my addiction. This makes so much sense to me, and I certainly find it easier getting out of bed in the mornings now.
Another thing that makes sense now is my smiley persona. This sounds deep but the people here have made me realise that it’s very much a mask. Even when I said I was angry in therapy sessions, I would do so with a massive smile on my face. My first week in rehab I was grinning all day lol. Apparently it’s that deeply ingrained in me, because no one is exactly happy about going into rehab. But after working through my issues, this need to put on a front is slowly fading. One housemate here said to me “It’s better now that I know your smile means you’re happy, not hiding”.
I feel like I’m emotionally maturing now and less like a non independent little kid. Time to start acting 21.
I know it’s only the start but I already feel a massive weight off my shoulders lifted. My mind feels clearer than it has been for years. Now I actually have hope for a future that I could have NEVER imagined with the life I was living previously.
Thank you for reading my lovely, and hopefully understanding.
Lots and lots and lots of love,
- Eli was my flatmate while I was living in London during my university studies