What To Say When People Accuse You of “Choosing” Addiction
No one chooses this life for themselves
I didn’t choose to be an addict.
It’s not like when the teacher was asking in class what everyone wanted to do when they were older, I stood up and yelled proudly, “An addict! Yay!”
No-one chooses addiction.
I think if we had a firm control over our lives, we would all be super rich bankers working a week out of the year and holidaying the rest. It makes sense doesn’t it? I doubt anyone wishes for themselves to have a drug monopolise their every move. And that’s what it’s like.
In the height of my addiction; when I was drinking, gambling and taking drugs, I can definitely say that I had no control over my life. My addictions would play me as if I were a puppet on strings, cackling evilly as I made choices I normally wouldn’t; what I would be doing at night, who I would be hanging with and what I would be saying to people. I know that I’ve been self-talked into stealing many times in the past because of the resources I didn’t have at the time. I needed them as a sweat drenched Sahara dweller needs water.
You don’t understand.
I NEEDED them.
For me, I now understand that my addictive behaviour is part of my autism. I have stronger tendencies than most to get addicted to fun things. I’ve learned that lesson from my son, because he’s also prone to addictions. If he stumbles across something he enjoys, he’ll do it over and over again until he’s blue in the face. He’s autistic, too. It was my wife that first had me noticing that the strong compulsion to do something isn’t natural. I went through life thinking the strong need to do certain things was a trait shared by most people, but apparently it’s just me.
So for me, I’ve learned to swap the bad habits with far more productivity. Instead of chugging down the alcohol, I’ve found a space to write. We never really shed our addictions. For those that have an addictive personality, never think that you’ll just stop. We swap it for new addictions, and I’ve learned to try and make those super-productive areas. Many people will say that I’m super focused, and learn very fast, but that’s only because I’ve swapped my love for alcohol and narcotics for writing. It keeps me sane.
But A LOT of people aren’t as lucky as me. Although the doctors had pegged me as a no-hoper – that I was marked to die in a ditch somewhere, and that coming through what I did (having two alcoholic parents and some really bad friends) – I still had a LOT of help. I met the right people, at the right time in my life when I was ready to change. If I hadn’t met these people then the doctors were right, I probably would have been found in a ditch.
Addictions are such a complex thing. You can’t make sweeping statements.
I know through self discovery that having Aspergers, being very prone to addictions, having a dad that died of alcoholism and a mum that’s fast-tracking herself that way as we speak set me up for a life of hardship. But can you blame me for choosing drugs over life as a child?
Can you really?
Can you blame me?
Let’s analyse my family life. My dad, the man I was going to mimic when I was older whether my mum liked it or not, was a raving alcoholic. He died with a glass of Lambrini in his hand. All through my younger years I can remember him being drunk and stinking of a vinegary substance that I later understood as alcohol. In my teens, my dad would put such an emphasis on going to the pub; he was friends with almost all of the local bar owners – it allowed me access into an otherwise restricted area. It’s safe to say I was drinking well before my time. The pub/bar was this great awesome place to be; it’s only safe to say I’d grow up thinking the same.
And my mum. My mum was such a nervy and uncomfortable-with-herself woman. She’s healing nicely now, though. But when I was younger, sometimes she would make the most horrendous life choices when she was single; some that led to her being a hermit for 6 months apart from travelling to work. During her periods of shame (when she wasn’t dating anyone) she was lonely. And because I was her son, she wanted me to keep her company. It led to a lot of arguments. I wanted to hang with my friends, but she just wanted me to be there and spend time with her.
The only way she could keep me home was to allow me alcohol, and, of course I’m going to bloody stay home for that! Hah. My friends thought it was weird, and looking back I do too, but you know, people cope with loneliness in different ways. My mum? Well, she looked to me for comfort. Mostly our nights were filled with drinking cider and watching actions films. Nothing weird. Never anything weird. Even though my friends thought otherwise. They described my mum as a “MILF”, meaning my young, hormonal friends found her attractive and wanted more.
And, honestly, they were just as bad an influence as my parents. I had a few friends through high school. One was partial to his drugs and his drink, and when I was in need of a lifestyle more “hardcore,” I swapped his friendship for a local street gang. A bad choice, but nevertheless a normal step up in risk taking for a youngster.
A regular pattern emerging
So you can see a pattern here, from an early age it was ingrained to me that alcohol solves ALL problems. If you’re happy then you go to the pub/bar and drink with your friends, and if you’re sad then you stay at home and drink. My dad was more or less absent all but a week or two each year, and my Mum struggled to cope on her own. So I grew up with barely any coping strategies, only that when you’re struggling, alcohol helps you cope.
I was pretty much FUCKED.
Try telling me that alcohol isn’t good for you after an upbringing like that? It’s pretty fantastic that I came out of the other end. First in three generations that I know of. I was also lucky in the sense that I had a gran and grandad and aunties and uncles that did well for themselves and led fairly happy lives. Uncle Rab worked with Steel in Balfours, Uncle Raymond was a barrister, and Auntie Catherine was a teacher. Auntie Marilyn didn’t work but she was super intelligent and worked with a lot of charities in her area.
So I always knew in the back of my head that there was more to life than what I already had. They had showed me that path, and they were in my life lots. It destroyed them to watch me go downhill in the way that I did.
Despite it all, I don’t blame my parents. Their lives were just as bad, they weren’t shown the empathy and kindness by people when they most needed it, whereas I was. I was lucky. I managed to scrabble out of the darkness.
Some people really aren’t as lucky
And as I said before, most aren’t as lucky as me. Even with the kindness an empathy that people give to them, their barriers are too great, their addictions too deeply woven into the fabric of their very essence; their willingness to change a mere point of going through the motions to appease an enthusiastic young mental health worker hoping to help. Sometimes people DO have no hope — because they don’t want to change. They don’t want to be different. They’ve never been shown a different life. Addiction is all they know.
So when you tell me that I chose to be an addict, I will absolutely refute that statement. I will try and educate you to the best of my ability. I will forgive your rudeness and let it slide that you are telling me this through your own blatant ignorance. No one wants to be an addict when they are younger. In fact, I expect if we addicts met younger versions of ourselves, they’d kick our asses.