Your views on drugs and alcohol.
If ever there was a subject I wish I could talk over with my younger self it is this one. I suspect however that my younger self would be almost as hard headed when it comes to listening to advice as my older self appears to be!
Bizarrely perhaps considering my life experience I still have a somewhat liberal view on the use of drugs and alcohol. Some people enjoy using mind altering substances as a form of recreation. I don't see anything morally or ethically wrong in that as long as no-one is being harmed.
There are health risks ... both to physical and mental health. In much the same way as people need to be aware of the risks associated with any activity, so they need to be aware of those associated with the use of mind altering substances. Informed choices can then be made from the outset.
Which is all very well in principle.
A lot of people "dabble" in drugs and/or have a drink socially from time to time. It is part of their lifestyles and they give it only passing thought. It neither dominates them nor causes them any real problem. Some see a vast difference between alcohol and drugs ... as if alcohol were harmless in comparison to other substances. The media portrays them in such different lights, but alcohol is a drug.
Drug. Addict. They're just words. Huh.
The problem arises with an escalation from what starts off as occasional casual recreational use to what over time spirals until the person concerned finds themselves caught up in the trap of full scale addiction.
Addiction is a scary word. It conjures up images of down-and-outs ... rake thin junkies or winos sitting on park benches talking into space and drinking their days away. There are some poor souls who end up in this state. I have a lot in common with these men and women.
How do people with lots to live for allow themselves to be sucked in to this ... what increasingly becomes an almost double life ... the addict ... and the outwardly "normal" person. And once trapped why don't we wake up to our situation ... why don't we struggle harder to escape it? Are we as weak and pathetic as it sometimes appears? Perhaps.
I wish I knew the answer but addiction crept up on me and I hardly even noticed it happening ... at least on one level. Denial becomes a way of life ... we are so adept at turning a blind eye when it suits us. A drink in the evening became every evening which became a bottle and then more ... and all the while there was this disquiet going on at the back of my mind and the only way to stop it was to drown it out. I lost most of my friends, my work suffered, my remaining friendships suffered, my marriage increasingly became an unhealthily co-dependant relationship with addiction at it's center.
And still I carried on. Why? Partly because I denied that I was addicted at all. How could I be? I didn't fit the image I had created in my own mind of what an addict looked like. Paradoxically the reason I carried on was because I had in fact become addicted. Funny that.
I fully accept that this was a trap of my own making. There is little comfort in knowing that I fell into it because of my own folly. Even so that's the truth of it. I didn't exercise control because I wasn't drinking for the taste, or to be sociable. I didn't take drugs for the buzz either. What I wanted ... what I craved was oblivion. I wanted escape from my own head and all the thoughts and memories it contains.
Addiction is a form of madness that feeds upon the madness already within us.
Because it is progressive in nature I became ever more deeply entrenched in behaviours that facilitated my addiction. I increasingly detached from the reality and consequences of my own actions. My natural resilience, character and personality were being gradually stripped away to almost nothing, leaving only this never ending need to escape from life.
The thing that I could never have guessed at the outset is how you end up doing unimaginable things in order to feed your addiction ... things that leave you burdened in the longer term with feelings of deep shame and guilt.
Plenty of people enjoy using drugs and alcohol recreationally and will never develop the kinds of problems I have described or experienced. Plenty do though and only some of these are lucky enough to stumble upon the road to recovery. I know how lucky I am to be here.
I talk about all this as if it were in the distant past. That is not true. The reality is that although my road to recovery started some years ago these last few years in particular have been ones where I have taken one step forward only to take them back ... and then some. I am changing that now. One day at a time.
The principle of freedom of choice is generally one I agree with. There is a price to freedom. People are free to make poor decisions ... ones that can result in them leading impoverished lives ... and not just them, but those that depend on them as well. Such a lot of senseless misery hidden beneath this banner of freedom.
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