Thursday, August 2, 2012
Sometimes in the course of putting yourself in a different situation--being
subjected to a new dynamic--you can come across ideas that until now may
have been only on the periphery.
Last night, I participated in a national interviewing campaign for drug and
alcohol awareness. In the course of answering this litany of very monotonous,
similar questions, we reached a patch where I was asked to delineate the
timeline that drugs were used, alcohol was used, and when emotional and
psychological problems started developing.
Now, I have always known that there is (more often than not) a direct link
between mental and emotional difficulties, childhood traumas, outsider status,
issues with sexual identity, etc., and alcohol/drug use.
But what came next flipped some switches for me in a way that they hadn't
quite connected before.
After determining the existence of 'low periods,' depression, and feelings of
low worth, I was asked point blank to explain to a stranger what that felt
like, from the inside. Incident after incident, I was asked to explain my inner
feelings in living through those difficulties.
I struggled a bit, because even though I have identified a lot of the triggers
and after-effects, it's been a while since I tried to explain to another person
just what depression, hopelessness, frustration, etc. feel like in someone
dealing with mental illness.
So as I sat there and dug deep, I came up with this;
There exists this void--this negated, empty, hollowed out place within me.
Some place that is dark and desperate and angry and alone and shattered.
And the things that used to make sense--the things that do make sense for
most people--no longer matter. Not work, not purpose, not relationships,
not hobbies, not anything.
So, there is a prolific, real, aching hunger going on in the pit of me, and I
am filled with dark, despairing, constant thoughts of how much I hate this
world, my body, my feelings, etc. when depressed.
And then....I discover something that medicates it; makes it all seem less
severe, less real, less potent...even for a little bit. That feeling of distraction,
that respite from the disconnectedness...it feels good...it provides a high.
I want it again. I want to feel good, finally and at last.
I want to be made to feel something again. Something that normal everyday life
tends not to provide.
And that's where the connection between all external factors that trigger
interior sensation comes in; drugging, drinking, random or dangerous or
secret sex, binging or purging or starving, gambling, theft, and all the rest...
they are self-destructive, but the abandonment of concern for repercussions
is secondary. The main push is a desire to feel something 'more than.'
To feel alive, different...pulled away from the abyss even if by artificial means.
Those peptides and chemical releases that engage us so mightily are not
specific to alcohol, even though there may be chemical components of
alcohol and certain drugs that do imprint more heavily on the brain's pleasure
centers. (Hell, findings show that sugar produces the same responses
in the body as cocaine. Some things are relative.)
The majority of people with addiction issues that I have met fall into one
of five major categories;
1. Survivor of childhood abuse, be it sexual, physical, psychological, verbal.)
2. Either undiagnosed or mismanaged/untreated mental/emotional illness.
3. Avoiding dealing with sexual identity; closeted, self-hating, repressed.
4. Come from a broken home where the sense of abandonment of a parental
5. Come from an active-addiction home where identifying factors of addiction
were constant; uncertainty, fear, lies, and intimidation ruled.
(And of course there is an "all-of-the-above" category as well!)
There is our basis for addiction. The emotional, the physical, the mental,
The outsiders who never fit in.
The depressed who don't understand the workings of the world.
The lonely and unsure and hopeless.
This is (generally) our common bond. And the drinking (whether intentionally
or not, whether consciously or not) and other medicating ends up being
used repetitively because it seems to give a lift to our normal circumstances.
What feels good, we do.
We eat because we hunger.
We sleep because we tire.
It stands to reason there is a force that drives us to medicate ourselves.
The first step to addressing that issue and finding healthier substitutions
is connecting to the problems that plague us.