I’m an addict. I’m not proud of that, but it is what it is.
These days I look at my addiction as a disease, not as a moral failing.
I’m getting ongoing treatment from a 12 Steps fellowship. It’s one of the best things to ever happen to me.
But what actually is addiction?
I think many people misunderstand the true nature of addiction. Here’s a non-exhaustive list:
- Frequent impulsivity;
- A strong, urgent desire to improve the way we feel;
- A habit of prioritising short-term pleasure over long-term self-interest (can also be thought of as an inability to defer gratification);
- A desire to escape reality.
- Extreme difficulty controlling the addictive behaviour. Inability to moderate behaviour sensibly.
When you look at addiction that way, it actually seems more like a cluster of (unhelpful) personality traits, rather than a gross moral deficiency.
Here are some some non-obvious facts about addiction:
- You don’t have to use drugs every day to be an addict. In fact in the last few years, I’ve only used my drug of choice a handful of times per year.
- Not every drug user is an addict. But if you struggle to control your use of drugs and it’s causing significant problems in other areas of your life, you may well be an addict.
- You don’t have to be doing anything illegal. Many addictions are perfectly legal, but that doesn’t mean they’re any less dangerous or harmful.
- Many addictions don’t have any obvious external physical signs or withdrawal symptoms. How would you spot someone with a secret sugar addiction?
- To me, all addictions seem to be very similar at their core, even if they look very different on the surface.
- You can be addicted to all sorts of substances, activities and even people.
- Addictions can morph and change. Addicts will often cure themselves of one addiction, only for the disease to re-emerge in a different way.
- I’m doubtful that it’s possible to permanently cure oneself of addiction. The progression of the disease can be arrested, but it requires active daily effort to maintain sobriety. I’m incredibly grateful to 12 Steps for the support they are giving me.
What am I addicted to?
My biggest issue is with a substance called Dextromethorphan (DXM). It’s quite unusual because it has stimulant, sedative and dissociative effects. At high doses, it’s quite like the party drug Ketamine.
My aim is to be completely abstinent from DXM for the rest of my life. This will take daily work.
As a secondary issue, I have quite a powerful sugar addiction. I sometimes binge on sugar in order to keep me away from DXM. Until recently, it was quite a regular habit of mine to drive to Tesco after 11pm to buy cookies and large quantities of ice cream, which I’d eat until I felt sick.
It’s almost impossible to remove all sugar from my diet, but I can at least aim to consume it moderately and sensibly, with no binges.
In the past, I had addictions to several social media platforms including Facebook and YouTube. I wasted multiple hours per day on those platforms – and it made me miserable.
I have been addicted to certain people at various stages of my life. It’s an all-consuming, toxic form of love. I think I now understand this phenomena pretty well in my life and I have to watch myself for warning signs.
Got any questions about addiction generally, or my individual experience of it?
Please ask in the comments section below.
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