By Dawn Obrecht, M.D.
Author: Vicki L.
"Hi, I'm Vicki. I'm an addict. I'm in recovery now. I don't use drugs, even alcohol, any more. I never thought I could stop; sh--, I never WANTED to stop. Why would I? I wasn't hurting anyone."
Addicts don't realize they DO hurt other people, those who love them, by not being emotionally present, and with the poor judgment and risky behavior they often participate in.
"Getting loaded was fun! Everyone did it. Besides, it helped me forget my problems. My friends and I used to talk about stopping some day, sometimes promise ourselves to stop after just a six pack or so, but then we'd break out the bong, the baggies, the pills and the white powder. My life sucked and this made me forget it for a while!"
Unsolved problems just get bigger; they don't go away until we get honest with ourselves and face life, good and bad, dealing with issues responsibly. Getting clean and sober requires changing "playmates and playpens."
It all started when I began to drink when I was fourteen. Nobody in my family gave a sh--. My parents were always drunk anyhow and my little brother was clueless. I could get all the booze I wanted from the bathroom cabinet where my father hid his bottles. My mother hid hers, too, in her closet. A funny game they played, each pretending to not drink, and then accusing each other of being drunks.
Drug addicts often have alcoholic parents, or grow up with some other dysfunction, including raging, unprocessed divorce and abuse.
"So, I come by my disease of addiction honestly. My brother was not far behind me, but I hit bottom faster and harder, eating, drinking, or smoking any drug I could get, and doing the 'Alice in Wonderland' bit with pills for every occasion. I had to use something every day just to deal with life and it wasn't fun anymore. I heard another addict talking once, and he hadn't used in five years! I started to wonder if the drugs were a problem ... I had always thought they were the SOLUTION to my crappy life."
"Still drugged-over from recent use, I landed in 12-step meetings. There are more AA meetings than NA, and I needed both. I started wanting to hang out with other druggies in Narcotics Anonymous, go to their campouts and parties (drug -free and MORE fun than anything I ever did loaded. And I could remember what I did!) The alcoholics were just too old and way too serious for me at the time. I now thank all of them, alchies and druggies, for all the help they have given me over the years."
"I had to get it that I was no longer in charge of my drugging or drinking. I had lost control. I could not live with the drugs or without them. My life was not what I wanted; my relationships with my husband and family were based on getting high together. My kids rarely saw me when I was not using something. I could not be emotionally present for anyone, including myself. I was powerless. My life was unfu-----manageable."
Addicts and alcoholics who go to 12 step programs and do what other recovering people tell them to do can get well. They may want or need some additional help from a therapist, but the foundation of recovery is in AA and NA. The steps work. People DO recover. Normal people do not have to control their drug use...they can take it or leave it.
Addicts often THINK they are being good parents and are "there for their children", but they cannot be emotionally present when they are either hung over, high, or obsessing about when they are going to get high.
"In my first NA meeting, I met other drug addicts, those who no longer used drugs, even alcohol. They were happy!"
"They helped me believe I could do it to. They asked me to come back, to not use between meetings. They helped me, over many meetings in many months, to get the first step: I am powerless over my addiction and my life had become unmanageable. The answer to that? Go to a lot of meetings, at least one or two a DAY, and don't use drugs between meetings. Find out how other addicts are able to get and stay clean. Get a sponsor from one of the meetings. Ask your sponsor to help you get this first step. Most of all: Don't use drugs."
Vicki is typical of drug addicts who get well. She has been clean, sober, present for her children, husband, and friends, and happy for years. She still goes to 12 step meetings so she can keep growing emotionally and spiritually. She would love to help anyone interested in beginning a new way of life, one without drugs. Contact Dr. Dawn, or go to a 12 step meeting, to reach Vicki.
In a future article we will talk about the "disease concept" of addiction.
Dr. Dawn Obrecht is the only MD addiction medicine specialist on the western slope of Colorado. She is a Fellow of the American Society of Addiction Medicine and her office is in Steamboat Springs. or firstname.lastname@example.org