The terms addict, and alcoholic are thrown around a lot in the community of Alcoholics Anonymous, and even by people who aren’t in the program. When I first decided to get sober, I was pretty positive that I was an alcoholic/addict, because of the amount of substances I abused, and how dependent I was on them. What I eventually started to understand is that addiction and alcoholism are words that could be applied to the way I lived my life before I ever decided to pick up a substance.
A lot of people have a huge defense up against saying that they are an addict towards anything. It’s a strong word, I must admit. When someone mentions the word addiction it immediately creates an image of a person who has no sense of self discipline or mental fortitude. The first thing that I imagine when someone says “I’m a chocolate addict” is a person in front of a TV with chocolate bar wrappings in crumpled balls littered all over there bed with chocolate smeared on their face. Not a pretty picture… But then imagine a person addicted to a mind numbing substance like heroin, or even alcohol, and then try to conjure up a picture in your head. It’s definitely a sad thing to witness if you have seen it, and it’s even worse to be in that position yourself. That is why one of the hardest steps to take in the programs of AA and NA is to admit that you have a true problem. For me it was simple to see that I was completely dependent on alcohol and drugs, but it took a long time to see where the problem evolved from. I had no idea when it started, and why I even dealt with the problem in the first place.
When I was a little kid I always found something to focus my attention on. I would draw constantly, and do things that were actually wholesome. But, even those creative things were always done in excess. I would put aside things I knew that needed to be done to do things I enjoyed. Later on I started to become interested in card games and things like that. When I look back I can actually remember some pretty obvious signs of addiction from an early age. There was a trading card game called “Yu-gi-oh” where you collect cards and build decks of cards in hopes of beating the other player. They were very expensive, and consumed a lot of my time. I absolutely HAD to have the next one that would make me a better player…Eventually in school I would meet up with other kids that played and I would create shady ways to acquire the cards the other kids had. I would devise game strategies to help me pocket cards, or give them unfair trades, or even just outright steal the cards. It came to a point where I would actually go to sleep thinking about the game and wake up to immediately pull out my cards and mess around with them. This kind of behavior kept evolving as I got older and I directed my addictive behavior towards different toys, games, behaviors, and interests. Later on in my life I became addicted to video games. I would play them so often, and in such long increments that I would actually refuse to go make myself food. I would sleep for about 4 hours a night and I would also “decide” to not take showers so I could keep playing. It truly was sickening. Those are points in my life where I can seriously see how easily I could let outside sources of happiness run my life.
Addiction wasn’t just towards objects and material items for me. They actually wound up playing out in many different ways in my life. Ever since I was young I always had a body image problem. I was the skinny, short kid, and I had absolutely no confidence. So, I would always find different cliques of people and to try to look and act like. When I decided to try a different phase I would go all out. I would research for days and find every single song of every single artist. In my punk rock phase I had a red Mohawk, patches, and studs all over my clothing. I switched between the hippy, punk, emo, metal-head, rapper, and gangster phases all within about 4 years. I loved the feeling of being liked by different people, and I always wanted to be more accepted. It was an addiction to being wanted. I had no idea how to actually build my self-esteem, so I focused all of my energy on trying to look different. This same sort of defect played out in all of my relationships. I would start dating a girl, and immediately I would become codependent. I spent absolutely no time thinking about whether I even liked her, or if we were compatible. It all goes right back to just being accepted and wanting to fit in.
The biggest realization I have come to see is that I have always had an addictive personality. I started to focus my energy on outside sources of happiness at a young age and it eventually led me to drinking out of the liquor cabinet at the age of 12. As a member of AA I have to constantly put work in on myself to build awareness to my addiction, and the character defects involved. When I forget just how easy it is for me to become attached to a person, place, or thing, I can become spiritually sick quickly and make a lot of huge mistakes. Thankfully, I have learned self-restraint. I know what a drink or a drug will do to me. And I have people around me who can help point out when I am heading down that path.