Many of us have wondered “how the hell did this happen?” when it comes to our own addiction or alcoholism. How did we become an alcoholic or a drug addict? We’re left scratching our heads and searching our souls trying to figure out how it happened and what went wrong. We can even remember thinking how we felt that it was something that could never happen to us.
Addiction and alcoholism starts out with the choice to take the risk of drinking that first beer or having that first shot of whiskey in high school or college, smoking that first joint, swallowing that first oxy, or any other drug tried for the first time when we’re young. It’s usually with friends doing the same thing. The drugs provide a feeling of escape from any emotional pain, escape from anxiety, and a feeling of euphoria about the present. So a pathway in our minds gets established right away and stays with us forever. Combined with the feeling of fun and community of doing it with other people and it becomes like magic, that we keep wanting to go back to. When that first risk is taken, that most people take at some point as young people, by someone who suffered and is still suffering from childhood or other trauma, the attraction to return to it is almost irresistible. It becomes extremely difficult for someone to resist the alcohol/drug numbing of the deep intense hurt, caused by things like childhood abuse or some other intense trauma.
It starts out early on as just partying, but increases in frequency and becomes habitual. Eventually the shame, guilt and self-dislike we feel, because of the addiction or alcoholism, gets added to feelings of hurt that were there before the addiction. So then even more alcohol/drugs are needed to drown that all out as well. More than that, our minds and bodies recognize that discontinuation of using the drug means physical and mental misery or even death, so we are drawn back to it to prevent this from happening. So when faced with sudden sobriety, our minds go into “fight or flight” mode and tell us we absolutely must get some into our system to avoid this danger. Of course, everything disappears and gets replaced by an instant feeling of euphoria and escape with just some more drugs or alcohol. The point of no return was when it became a need more than a want.
I take full ownership of my bad decisions that led to my alcoholism and drug addiction and all the consequences of it. I’m not casting blame anywhere else or on anyone else. But it was necessary for me to recognize that the trauma from my past childhood abuse was a catalyst that led to the alcoholism and drug addiction. The drugs and alcohol allowed me to escape that pain and stop the anxiety, shame/guilt and escape reality in general. All my mind could think of was the magic of making it all go away and feeling better. All my mind could think of was avoiding the physical and mental hell that would come with stopping. Once I was in up to my neck in full blown active addition, the bad decisions I made to avoid the misery (or possible death) of withdrawal were, to a certain degree, not even a choice. But it was crucial for me to separate out the events from my life into two categories – a) the events from my life that I had no control over where I was a victim b) the events I could have had control over and the bad choices I did make and the part I played in the alcoholism and drug addiction, even if those events may have been tethered to trauma I suffered.
Risk taking, trauma and bad decision can lead to addiction which can lead to death. Once someone is in active addiction, it is no longer a matter of a simple choice, where someone can just simply choose to stop on their own. The bottom line is that alcoholics and addicts need help, first to stop drinking, then help to fix and heal any trauma that may have been behind the alcoholism and addiction. But we need to be willing to ask for and accept the help that’s offered, and not just on our terms and in our way. That was the hurdle I finally crossed that led to my successful recovery – the mantra of three words – “please help me” and then accepting that help and listening to the direction and advice of the people who were trying to help me.