Arriving home from the National Conference on Addiction Disorders, I have been made clear on one issue. Treating addiction with drugs is not accepted by all but in fact do work when combined with intensive outpatient therapy and a finite goal of completion. Most believe that abstinence works best and sober houses are the answer to help those struggling. Even physicians prescribing the medications wonder whether the drugs they prescribe are working to remedy those who struggle with the many faces of drug and alcohol addiction.
Addiction has become a specialty in the medical field for the first time this year. Now one can become an “Addictionologist”. The connection is clear, money is being made because drugs are now being sold. Wealth over health is again winning in our society.
Addiction is baffling, cunning and often subliminal and insidious and will get you if you have an addictive personality and especially if you have suffered in childhood with trauma. Alcohol can take years to cause health problems but the facts show it causes cancer, liver disease, pancreatitis, diabetes and a myriad of other health problems including to the extreme Korsakoff’s Syndrome. Worse it can take just moments for an alcoholic in a fit of rage to cause mental trauma that can take a lifetime to overcome and process for the one who endured the abuse. Drunk drivers are driving as we speak and could possibly kill someone by the time you have completed this essay. It is time to stop the cycle of abuse that tortured our great grand-parents, our parents and continues to wound and persecute many in homes today.
My youngest memories are of drinking wine, “the Blood of Christ”. I loved it, cherished and immortalized it. That quickly progressed to the vast assortment of colored liquids available in the liquor cabinet, which I replaced with water to assure it would not be missed. As the years progressed my addiction to alcohol increased but it felt more innately empowering than debilitating as I used it to get me what I needed to survive. Socially acceptable, I prowled happy hours for food and drinks from whomever was buying. The years rolled on and the street drugs rolled in. I would have bad nights on both and would identify one or the other as the culprit and quit, the drug or the type of alcohol I had ingested and blamed the dirtiness on it. Wake up, move on, sunset, sunrise, rebuild and repair. This was my normal. I was young, beautiful on the outside, empty on the inside but young and free, so I felt, and knew only positives. Drugs were plentiful: Crystal meth, cocaine, heroin, crack and speed. The common denominator was my beloved socially accepted alcohol, always plentiful. Something had to go after a “jackpot” and alcohol was slowly becoming the Chosen One, and drugs were becoming less appetizing. One by one, the array of drugs and some alcohol concoctions were being eliminated from my addiction repertoire. In my 20’s, I “lived” in Los Angeles, in my car, couch to couch, bed to bed, and arms to arms. Finally, I migrated back home to family who accepted me lovingly, into their lives no questions asked. And straight into business I went full steam ahead. I regrouped and focused on my sales career and into a motivating positive profession, working hard and excessively, addictively. I continued on my recovery journey quitting every type of alcohol because I knew that some were no longer working to my benefit. After a rough night or perhaps a not so kind argument with my husband or a particularly harsh hangover, I would quit Tom Collins, beer, White Russians, Black Russians, Amaretto, Kahlua, Margaritas, etc. Each went separately while I thought the type of alcohol was the problem. My journey to quit alcohol took much longer than quitting drugs, simply because of the assortment of alcohol available compared to drugs. The large selection of alcoholic beverages kept me unaware of the identity of my co-conspirator.
In the end, I clung to my wine, and that is all I drank for years and it was my Savior, the Blood of Christ. Wine, I thought, kept me from going insane, kept me strong, and helped me handle the stress from the multitude of traumas and my reoccurring nightmare that kept me from sleeping. But in fact, wine was doing the opposite inside my body, it is the wolf in sheep’s clothing. I was falling apart and addicted to a liquid. It was not helping keep me together but in fact tearing me apart. I was living to drink, and drinking to live. Then my therapist, 26 years ago, recommended that “I drink in moderation”, a couple of glasses a night, which I easily did by purchasing the largest set of goblets possible. Each glass held ¼ to ½ bottle of wine and I relied on those to enable me until the stars finally aligned. The humongous goblets lasted on key breaking one by one until they were all gone and I didn’t feel the need to replace them. By then, the gig was up and I knew that I had run the gamut of alcohol colors and would never be able to join the elusive club of those who could drink in moderation. I had run my race and knew that no matter what liquid or drug entered my body it was going to rule me and not solve my problems nor help me rein in my emotions nor heal the wounds of my past.
Now, the new race began with a myriad of positive addictions; my sales career, eBay (buying and selling), sex, eating (over-eating and under-eating) and exercise to name a few. All perhaps better addictions, but in the extreme, can be unhealthy. Addiction is real and lives within, in both positive and negative forms. Addiction overtakes the psyche and continues thriving in any way we allow, smoking, drinking sugar or gardening. We will continue to create chaos or happiness blindly because it is our “normal”. As time goes on, the light of our new “normal” begins to shine upon us and we see a brighter, gentler way to live and we follow it and feel its warmth. Then life truly begins without extremes, less obsessiveness, less judgement of ourselves, self-care and finally mindfulness, which I have just begun to understand. The work of recovery in its’ true sense dawns with our effort put forth. We get rewarded in plenty, and most will progress light speeds faster than me in recovery since I “did it my way”, as Frankie taught me, but still the miracles happen. One moment a time, day after day, week after week, and year after year. One step in front of the other and all our wildest dreams come true, plus a few extra special ones too.
Addiction is extremely difficult to overcome and combined with trauma is a double-edged sword. Together, with the guidance of professionals, family, friends, and love from perfect strangers we can achieve recovery, One Second at a Time. I believe in you just as you have believed in me. Thanks perfect stranger, I adore you!
The AEINSTEIN UNIVERSE is committed to teaching humanity to recognize the contrast between positive and negative inherent, as well as inherited, Addicted Behaviors through Arts and Education. Our Mission is to preserve our past one ripple at a time and create waves for future generations to ride.