While growing up I could associate every homeless person on the streets, all dreadlocked men or any skinny woman with some of her teeth missing, to drug addiction. I am sure I am not the only one who could associate drug addiction with some physical characteristics. Many people still have preconceived ideas of what an addict should look like. But the truth is until the addiction is in the later stages, it is hard to recognize by physical appearances.
What most of us tend to ignore is the fact that all addicted persons started, like the rest of us. They were once lovey babies learning how to crawl, stand, and walk. They were precocious toddlers testing their boundaries. They were curious children in school learning how to read and write. Addicted individuals were once inquisitive, adorable, little people who had not tried drugs yet. They were innocent and had their whole life ahead of them. They had big dreams. Some wanted to be teachers, engineers, or doctors. But not one wished to be a drug addict.
However, substance abuse is not a choice. You don’t get to pick. If you’re predisposed (meaning you have it in your family) even using once, can create an irreversible chemical change in your brain. When that happens, dreams fly out the window to be replaced by something far more insidious. Addiction.
Addiction is an illogical brain disease that is progressive. It seldom thrives alone and requires help to reach the terminal stage. This help most often comes from family, who don’t see their loved one as an addict, but still see them as they used to be. When I was using drugs I had many ‘helpers.’ Enablers although I’d never heard the term enabler until I got into recovery. Enablers come in all sizes, shapes, ages, and colors.
My boss, my friends, my spouse, (not my parents because my Dad had gotten sober and I couldn’t manipulate him). These folks weren’t consciously trying to enable me. They were trying to help me. But in the chaotic whirlwind of my addiction, my needs were greater than they could bear. Just as bedsheets wear thin after time, so did my pleas for help. I mean seriously. How many times can one person’s purse be stolen? My enablers grew weary of my stories –lies actually – and the consequences of my actions were adding up. My friends dropped off one by one, as I lost job after job.
I told so many ‘white’ lies, I couldn’t keep track of them all. (At least that’s what I told myself they were). I never thought about it as lying. My need for drugs overrode everything else. It seemed okay – at least to me – that I stretched the truth. So I always had a good story prepared when I called asking for money. Maybe you’ve heard some of these stories too.
They went something like this;
I needed gas money, to get to work. My car broke down, and I needed money to pay the mechanic. I needed rent-money because my purse had been stolen. I needed to borrow money (I always said borrow, but I never paid it back) because my boss hadn’t paid me yet.
As my addiction progressed, so did my stories. They went from losing my purse to getting mugged. By now my life resembled a poorly written reality show. Someone had broken into my house. They stole all my stuff and took my rent money (again). I was jumped on the bus. I lent money to my friends to help them out of a tight spot and they never paid me back… (Lies, all lies)
By now the gig was up. My drug problem was known. This changed the game somewhat. My stories became even more brazen as I desperately tried to convince people to help me out. Now they went something like this; the drug dealers were after me. My life was in danger (maybe your life too if you didn’t give me the money). If I didn’t pay them they were going to break my bones or maybe even kill me. Motorcycles gangs were watching me. They might even pimp me out.
If that didn’t work, I’d up the game again. I’d bully you and get really ugly. I tried threats, tears, and avoidance. But worst of all… I used my kids. I’d say they were hungry or needed clothes. Or they were sick and needed medicine. Then if I got money, I seldom spent it on them. Then, I’d need more money…
In rehab, I learned I was an emotional terrorist. I was an extortionist of the worst kind. I used my friends' and family's love for me – against them. I counted on that love and manipulated it to feed my addiction. It wasn’t anything personal. The physiological need to get high was stronger than my morals or conscience. That’s how addiction plays out. It takes everything pure and poisons it. I had no idea then, how sick I’d become. Using drugs was just a small part of it.
I was lucky. I got help. You can too. Stop suffering. It’s not too late to start over. You can still be that fireman.
If you love someone struggling with addiction and can relate to the lies I told when seeking drugs, you’re not alone. There are millions of families, who are going through the same thing. If you’re looking for help, or just need to talk, YADA is here for you.