Do we really understand addiction? Do we know exactly what it is and why it’s a problem… or should I say epidemic… in our nation right now?
We define addiction, and we understand it in clinical terms and base our knowledge and understanding on what we see, read, or hear in the media.
Perhaps we have an addict in our life and if so we most assuredly understand addiction in a different way… a more personal way.
However, how many of us truly understand addiction the way an addict understands it? Have we ever really understood what it’s like to be an addict, how it is to live a life as an addict, and what daily challenges we face?
We see addicts every day. They are sleeping or passed out in doorways or cardboard shelters on the street. They are standing in front of the convenience store asking for spare change as we pass by.
This is a life of desperation that few of us will ever experience or understand. This is the life of an addict.
A Compelling Video
This video may be hard to watch but it will give you an idea of what it is to be a hardcore addict. You can hear the desperation in the voice, see it in the eyes, and get a feeling for addiction and all it holds in store for anyone who ventures into the life.
A day in the life of an addict
Over the past year, I had the opportunity to talk to quite a few serious addicts and alcoholics.
I interviewed some amazing people that came from all walks of life. They all had stories to tell and came from all kinds of situations and circumstances, but there was a common thread. They were all addicted… drugs, alcohol, no matter what… they were seriously addicted and they all knew it.
I took a lot of notes and also I was given a journal written by an addict that had passed on or disappeared and left their belongings behind. I’ll include some excerpts from those notes and the journal as I write this article.
An addiction is anything that interferes in one’s life, leading to negative consequences, as well as negatively affecting the things that are prized to an individual, such as their family members, their spouse, their children, their job, their home, their well-being, etc.
Addiction breaks up families, it ruins people’s lives and often the lives of their families. It destroys their self-worth and self-esteem, and it creates a downward spiral that is very hard to break.
Almost everyone has the perception that addicts are from the streets or inner city. We think of them as people who have led a difficult life of poverty, have relationship issues with either spouse or parents, have been victims of domestic or sexual violence, or are homeless and in need of basic life necessities.
“The stigma attached to addiction is mostly wrong. I thought that addiction only infected “bad” people.”
“I was a good kid! I wasn’t abused or abandoned by my parents. I was an exceptional student and got good grades in school. I was popular and had a lot of good friends. I didn’t think I had any kind of danger of getting hooked on drugs…that’s what I thought.”
What you may not know is that there are many people who have led completely sheltered and well-provided lives, with loving families along with all of the comforts and luxuries, and have still become extreme drug addicts.
These people become drug addicts for many reasons. They might have been influenced by a friend, become depressed and try to escape the realities of life, or perhaps due to peer pressure or anger, frustration, and anxiety. Below is a basic outline of a daily life of a drug addict.
The life of an addict is pure Hell! Every day is loaded with emotional stress and pain. You feel confused. You feel stuck in a rut of complete slavery to your addiction and you experience infinite panic in trying to maintain your balance and avoid the pain of withdrawal.
This is something that you really can’t completely understand unless you’ve been there.
Addiction is progressive. The degree of an addiction may begin with a lighthearted attempt at having fun, then turn into a serious desire and eventually a habit that will get progressively worse as the addiction proceeds.
You can’t imagine the chaos in the daily life of an addict. Feeding the habit is a full-time job filled with fear and desperation that never stops.
If someone in your life is struggling with addiction, you need a basic understanding of the disease and the life they experience. Usually, that information is carefully hidden from view.
A typical day of a drug addict starts with the extreme need for his drug early in the morning. Drugs are acquired through street dealers and, because they are illegal, they are very expensive. A drug addict will need lots of money.
If he has the specific amount needed to purchase drugs daily, then it will be no problem for him, but if he is short of money, he might steal from someone…. usually his parents or siblings … or from other sources at work or on the street.
Panhandling is popular and petty theft is not uncommon. An addict will steal anything from anyone to sell the goods quickly and gain money to buy his drugs.
“Shortly after I began taking pain pills for an injury, I noticed that regardless of the clear instructions to take one pill every six hours, I was increasing my dosage because taking more made me feel so good.”
“I increased my dosage and began the struggle to find and maintain a steady supply. It was easy at first but got harder and harder as my usage increased. I didn’t realize I was sinking deeper and becoming more dependent.”
“It happened gradually… over time… and by the time I realized I was in trouble, it was too late”
Whatever the drug he needs, he will inject, inhale, eat or drink it. There is a lot of mixing of drugs and substances to get the best result or ‘high’. Addicts get information from dealers and other addicts about popular techniques, trends, and new methods or substances.
If he does not get his drugs when needed he will face withdrawal symptoms, such as anger, sweating, shivering, nausea, frustration and anxiety and he can go to any lengths to get a dose of his drug.
Once he has taken the drug, he will need to sleep or relax for a while. As stated by many addicts, they go into a state of nirvana or bliss after talking the drug and they usually need to sleep or to relax.
“I wake up and my body is going crazy. I’m shaking and dizzy, my body hurts all over, I’m freezing cold but the sweat is pouring down my face. My guts are twisted and cramping”
“That’s how I wake up in the morning.”
“I luckily saved a little piece of something I bought last night. It’ll have to do.”
“I crawl out of bed, grind the pill up and snort that. It’s like a breath of fresh air… I can feel the life trickling back into my body.”
“I got my day started… ate a little… drank some coffee”
“My buzz is wearing off. I begin to feel that familiar panic. I know what I have to do now…I’ve got to find some pills.”
“I start calling around. Contact after contact. Nobody answers… maybe it’s too early. It’s not too early for me… I am hurting already.”
“I call my worst contact, I’m really afraid of this guy… he’s dangerous as hell. No answer. I call again and again.” “I’m in a panic now… What am I going to do if I can’t find him?”
“He finally answers. I set up a meet and jump in my car. I drive like a fool. My withdrawal pounds on me during the car ride… I’m shaking and sweating again. .”
“I take the abuse… cursing and threatening… I called too early and pissed him off again. He grabs my last $50 dollars and I walk away with one lousy pill.”
Once the drug goes into their system, they began to feel sober and relaxed and can go about their daily routines as long as the effect of the drug lasts.
Some drug addicts confess that taking drugs makes them more confident and bold, while some confess that it makes them forget their problems and help them cope with the loneliness and depression and hunger.
Some say that it makes them feel happy and interact with others easily, while some say that it reduces their pain or severe illness, while for some it increases their sexual powers and satisfaction.
The day starts with the same patterns all over again and again. The only change is that the addiction levels increase with time and as the addiction increases, the withdrawal symptoms also increase, which will increase the dose of the drugs required for the addicts to get the same feeling of happiness.
All this will lead to spending more money to purchase the drugs and then lead to the abandonment of life, work, family, and friends.
“My sister calls to see how I’m doing. I lie and say I’m great. She asks if I need anything. I automatically answer Yes! Can I borrow some money, I need to make my rent payment.”
“On my way out the door, my Mom comes by and gives me some money. She thinks something’s wrong but we don’t discuss it.”
“I’ve become a thief and a liar. I hurt the people I love the most and try to scam the rest. I live for my addiction…it’s all I care about anymore”
“ I really hate myself and what I’ve become. I hate my life. I hate what I’ve done to my family and friends. Nobody loves me anymore. I’m not worthy of being loved.”
“Despite my loathing and self-hatred, I take every penny they lovingly gave me this morning and turn it into a few pills. I am now totally anxious to get home.”
“I walk in the door and glance in the entry mirror. I’m shocked at how I look. I begin to cry. What am I going to do.?”
Drug addicts need the love and support of their friends and family to cope with their addiction. But offering love and support doesn’t mean financing a deeper addiction with loans and gifts of money.
“I’ve made a real mess of my life. I don’t see a clear way out. It keeps getting worse instead of better. I’ve lost my job, am rapidly losing all of my friends, my family doesn’t trust me anymore.”
“I sometimes reflect on what happened… where did I go wrong? How did I get to this point? Why do I settle for this life? I had dreams and plans and lots of things I wanted to achieve but it’s all been lost or destroyed by this addiction.”
“I think maybe it’s time to make some changes. But not right now… maybe tomorrow.”
This is a CBS video showing the life of a former addict. The short answer is, Yes! There is hope for the Future.
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