As if, Emily.

Diary of a teenage hedonist.

Category: alcoholism

Addiction Psychology?

An answer to an email from a friend of mine that is relevant to my last post…trying to explain addiction management.

Clean, clean…I am cleaner than I have been for a long time, let’s put it like that.  After J— died and I was still at Uni, I spent about four months just sitting in my room taking drugs…of course, I didn’t manage to finish my degree, which is something I regret.  I have managed to stick to about once a week since I came out of rehab in March, partly because I managed to get the job in the pub straight away.  However, I want to stop.  I know the last post on my blog seems to be to the contrary, but the aim of it wasn’t to say “drug taking is safe and the demonisation is completely unjust” but from a mental health point of view to say “I was using every day and I have managed to cut down so I need to stop giving myself a hard time”.

I want to stop because of this recent improvement in my mood.  I am certain that one reason to explain it is being once again employed; why do I keep sabotaging that by taking drugs on my days off?  I know that I need about two days after shooting up to get back to feeling physically and mentally ‘well’ and the reasonable side of my brain tells me that taking heroin isn’t worth the recovery time.  It’s a constant struggle between myself and my inner addict.  
In answer to your question about control, evidence would suggest that it isn’t possible to control addiction and one should strive for abstinence i.e never take the substance/indulge in the activity ever again.  HOWEVER.  My own experience with alcohol goes against this train of thought.  Let me explain: firstly, I think that to suppress anything is basically unhealthy.  Secondly, if something is forbidden, it is more appealing (maybe that’s just my own psycho-brain but it’s true!).  Thirdly, I believe the key to overcoming addiction is a purely personal journey…one needs to have made the decision and be 100% committed, or it won’t work.  And when one has made that decision, I believe it’s possible to have contact with the substance/behavior without it leading to being once again addicted.  I hope that makes sense!
I’ll illustrate with my relationship with alcohol.  I was physically and emotionally addicted to alcohol; I would shake and hallucinate if I didn’t drink and couldn’t cope with living.  Just before J— died, I had started feeling better and had made the decision that I would stop drinking on my Birthday…but I wasn’t 100% sure, I had a ‘safety net’ in my mind that said “oh, it’s not so bad if you can’t do it”.  Hearing that he was dead was the last step in removing the doubt I had and I was sober for over a year.  Then I started to miss the taste of some of my favourite drinks, for example ale with lemonade (which had been the drink I would have on holiday with my parents when I was underage!  Very weak; my parents had tried to encourage a healthy respect of alcohol that worked on my sister but not on me…).  I decided that to deny myself a small pleasure would be worse than to give in.  I often find, however, that I will have one sip and that’ll do – i’ll have satisfied the curiosity and recognise that there’s no point in consuming alcohol further…
Hopefully you can read and make sense of what i’m trying to say!  Let me know your thoughts on addiction management.

Family matters.

This is an email that my father sent to my boyfriend shortly after I had told him about my addiction. My father had only himself known about the drug taking for a few months but had a good idea of the extent of my previous alcohol problem. I think it provides an interesting perspective on addiction. It’s also particularly poignant as it was over a year ago, I haven’t ‘triumphed’ and am still as lost in addiction as ever.

Hi T—

I think the first thing to say is that it is very positive that Emily has told you what’s been going on. I expect that it was a horrible shock. The first step in dealing with addiction is for the addict to accept that there is a problem.

It’s also very good that Emily has told us about this because a lot of addictive behavior causes the person shame so they tend to be secretive about the behavior. This can cause already terrible problems to become worse because the person can’t get help, and because those who are close can be damaged by the things they don’t know about like no money, health problems or violence.

A lot of us are at risk from addiction. It might be alcohol, Nicotine, sex in it’s various forms, exercise, even wealth and power. I have a strong addictive streak like Emily.

We build our addictions through the idea of reward. We do something like have a drink or smoke a cigarette and we feel some relief, or we place a bet and win some money. The feeling of relief or the money are the reward. The reward makes us do it again. The more we do it the stronger the link between the behavior and the reward becomes. Unfortunately it’s also the case that the behavior has to become more extreme to get the same reward. A €5 bet becomes a €500 bet; a picture of a naked woman becomes a video of woman being tied up and assaulted; a glass of wine becomes a bottle of Vodka.

For alcohol and narcotics there is also the physical dimension of addiction. Withdrawal brings horrible feelings of anxiety and pain. Only more of the substance brings relief. This is the downward spiral of addiction.

For Emily as an individual there is the obvious complication of her mood disorder.

On the other hand the longer the person resists the temptation to seek the reward then the link between the behavior and the reward weakens. If you have tried giving up smoking you will know that the craving slowly becomes less. But you may also know that one cigarette can put you back to the beginning. And the risk of relapse is also always present and therefore must be guarded against.

What can you do?

It is essential to take it one day at a time. Because the “pull” of addiction is so strong the idea of doing without the “reward” for ever is too much to cope with. Better just to think, “can we get through today?”. One day at a time.

Be as consistent as possible. Take the rough with the smooth because if Emily is serious about facing this massive challenge it’s unlikely to be plain sailing.

Managing access to money is a good idea but in the light of what I’ve written already, addiction encourages secretive and dangerous behaviors. Heroin addiction is very powerful and the loveliest person can be powerless to behave normally. Addicts have been known to steal from their families, to sell anything and everything, to lie and to trick to get what they need if money is short. This is why it’s also so positive that Emily is being open with you; she wants to change and she trusts you.

Make sure that you both stay as well as possible by eating well. See if exercise can become a bit of a substitute.

Most importantly I would discuss with Emily and your Doctor the idea of professional help. I have no idea of the quality of “Specialist Drug and Alcohol” services in Germany but if they exist then you both need to think seriously about accessing any support on offer. Emily has made that essential first step but the journey is long and difficult and will have ups and downs.

In the UK there is AA for drinkers and Narcotics Anonymous for those addicted to drugs. There are similar groups for the families of addicts. Your doctor should have more information.

But Emily is brave and strong as well as beautiful so hope burns brightly!

Emily’s father.

P.S – Emily will need to speak for herself but the original “motivation” to start on such a risky, destructive and ultimately unsustainable path only she knows. We can guess that it may be a way to mask anguish and distress, it may be that she doesn’t value her own life, it may be a way of living that she has come to rely on. The difficulties of a “normal” life are too great to bear without “help”.

It’s important to say that we might feel that it’s because we’ve not provided enough help to Emily; that somehow we should have been able to rescue her and keep her safe. As her father I do feel this; as her partner you needn’t feel this. But you need to be aware that Emily’s addiction has been an ongoing theme all the time you’ve known her. Let’s pray that the “real” (sweet, intelligent, capable, energetic, hard-working and loving) Emily can triumph.

Double measures, double standards.

This is something I started writing a few days ago but hadn’t got round to finishing.  I read this from Junk Philosophy and was inspired to air my own views and weigh in on the madness that is the legal classification system…
I’ll tell you, if you ever need any reminder of the negative aspects of alcohol being part of the social norm, work in a bar.  Two of my colleagues have been taking liberties with the relaxed nature of my bosses, which is making me fairly uncomfortable.  Perhaps it’s an unpleasant reminder of my past, perhaps I am just sick of breathing in rancid beer breath, but over the last few days my attitude to alcohol has undergone a change…i’m not sure yet if it’s further resolve or a terrible – although evidence would suggest unfounded – fear of once again getting myself into the same situation.  
I question the logic of the legal classification of alcohol when one takes into consideration the difference in behaviors between a drunk and a junky.  It seems to me that the detrimental effects of heroin on society as a whole (theft, prostitution, eyesore areas of cities) are a direct result of the illegal status of the drug.  Yes, the negative effects of heroin on the individual – risk of sudden death, physical problems – are present and of course contributed historically to the classification but I would argue that the excessive consumption of alcohol has exactly the same personal risks along with the added bonus of turning one into a blithering, slobbering idiot.  And that’s just the short term picture.
I remember when M-Cat first hit the scene in my hometown about five years ago.  Word on the street was, there was a brilliant new drug that you could buy legally online (under the moniker ‘plant fertilizer’) and have delivered to your house!  Always open to new experiences, I bought fifteen quids’ worth.  It was a great experience, like a really intense version of MDMA.  And FYI, that paltry fifteen quid was enough to carry my best friend and I through a wild weekender.  And then some poor kid ended up taking too much and dying, horror stories started appearing in the newspapers (talking about ‘miaow-miaow’, which by the way no one called it; it was hard enough to get one syllable out when high on that stuff, let alone two!) and then M-Cat was finally illegalised.  The result of that was that purity plummeted and nice, middle class kids like me were forced out to all sorts of dark corners to get their weekend high.
I firmly believe that the detrimental effects of illegalising substances outweigh the positives.  If your looking for rising crime rates, make something illegal – common sense, or so I thought?  Making something a class A doesn’t mean that people will stop doing it, just that they will start taking higher risks when doing so.  I believe information is key.  I remember learning about Leah Betts when I was in secondary school.  Far from putting me off taking ecstasy, it taught me the valuable lesson that one should be mindful of water intake when high and I was able to prepare for my first ecstasy experience accordingly.  So, this is a call to all the people responsible for legislation of this kind: preparation is the best form of defense.  Stop mindlessly slapping restrictions on substances.  You’re responsible for the criminal activity of your people.

Dear alcohol,

You still manage to catch my eye, even though our relationship has long since run its course, whether you’re in a bar with a bunch of giggling girls or in a posh restaurant on yet another date.  I know you’re trying to reel me back in, trying to land me – gasping – back on board.  But I still remember how you drowned me.

I know you inside out and up and down.  You were my saviour: you made every grey day into a bright caricature of itself; every night was a deeper shade of velvety-black, seductive.  And we danced.  You whirled me across the mosh-pit in front of sweating musicians, twirled me into back alleys with questionable companions and waltzed with me straight into bed.  Where you took my virginity.  You encouraged my promiscuity and then you pimped me out.  And still I danced with you.

I hated you.  You held me in suspended animation, saturated and stuck in your jar like the grotesque result of a mad experiment.  You made every bright day spin out of my control and the velvet night suffocated me.  Years passed.  Did they?  All I know is that my feet slowly began to tire of the dance.  Blood followed blisters, until they were a pulpy, red mess; were they even my feet?  I couldn’t tell anymore.  I began to make plans – if I couldn’t walk away from you I would crawl on my hands and knees.

You had one last trick, with which you hoped to ensnare me, and it was a dirty one.  You took my love from me.  It was the first love I had ever known and he was my everything.  If anyone could have saved me, I thought it would be him.  I hadn’t yet realised that all I needed to do was stand still for a minute and rest.  He left me.  All I had was you.

Another few months passed in which I was completely yours, so deeply involved with you that even now I can’t remember, don’t want to remember, what we did together.  I think it’s better that way.  Our world was a small, dark room that I couldn’t leave.  Until one day, shortly before I was to turn twenty two, a sound broke through – the ringing of a telephone.  “He’s dead.  Heroin.  I’m so sorry.”  My love.

With my heart irreparably broken, it was so easy to walk away from you.  I was finally free.  I no longer have a heart, just a hollow space where it used to be.  But  I still have my feet.  I walked away from you with my head held as high as grief allowed.  It’s been over a year since I was in your grasp and I know that I can never, ever go back to that dark space that we shared.  So go ahead, dance all night with whoever you want.  I’m not jealous anymore.  I’m free.