You don’t know how much of an asshole you’ve been as an addict until after you’re well into recovery. It’s one of the more crushing revelations you have to deal with when the scales finally drop from your eyes and you see just what a self-centred, whining, little git you’ve been. If it wasn’t about you, it hadn’t mattered – and didn’t everyone know the world revolved around you anyway?
There are all sorts of excuses for becoming an addict. I should know, having used most of them with varying degrees of justification over the years, but there aren’t any excuses for the behaviour and other shit you did while addicted to whatever it was you needed to make your existence seem meaningful. It’s amazing the rationale you can come up with for stealing anything you need to feed your habit, and the lies you tell yourself to pretend it’s not stealing.
“I really will replace this money as soon as I’m able”. “I’m owed this money so it’s not really stealing.” “Look at all I do; if there were any justice in the world this would be my money, anyway”.
There’s nothing like the self-righteous resentment of an addict. It allows you to justify anything.
Then, of course, there is the unpredictable behaviour of addicts. Talk to anybody who grew up as the child of a drunk and they’ll say one of the most vivid memories they have of childhood is being told to be quiet and not do anything that might upset the drunk. There’s always the potential for violence when you’re dealing with some drunks, and the not knowing, walking around on tender hooks when you’re around them is almost worse than any violence they might perpetrate.
I don’t normally wallow in the parts of my life I’m not proud of; it doesn’t serve any purpose that I can see. I’ve always thought people who spend their time talking about what drunks and drug addicts they were still haven’t recovered because they still want the world to revolve around them. Oh, poor them; they were drunks and we should all feel sorry for them.
As far as I’m concerned, the only people anyone should feel sorry for are the people who suffered because of their actions as a drunk or a drug addict. Nobody can say they didn’t know what they were doing when they took their first drink, stuck that first needle in their arm, or whatever. It was their choice to live like that. If they had wanted to stop, they would have.
What – you think they had no control, that they couldn’t stop? Anybody who tells you that is a liar. How do you think they stopped when they finally did? They did so because they were able to and chose to, not because anybody forced them to. Unfortunately, the truth of the matter is that usually the only way an addict stops is because of the most selfish act of all – self-preservation.
If they had cared about the effects of their actions on the people they supposedly loved, they would never have started in the first place, or at least stopped when they first realized the pain they were causing. There is nothing saintly about anybody making the choice to go clean, and if anybody even implies otherwise they’re lying. As it’s the only way most of us have of getting clean, though, I guess we should be grateful that at one of our negative characteristics is responsible for helping us to at least start to heal.
Making the decision to go clean is, of course, only the first step. You still have to do it, after all, and that’s where things get difficult. Not just because of your own desires, cravings, wants, or whatever you want to call them, but because we have to live in one of the most addicted societies in the world. Most of our economy is built upon the premise that we are addicted to the products produced by our manufacturing sector.
Every media outlet we watch, read, or, listen to is filled with advertisements trying to convince us why we should spend money on their product instead of somebody else’s. All the commercials we hear act as though it’s not a question of whether you are going to spend money or if you have it or not, but to convince you to spend it on their version.
Then there’s the way we treat the rest of the world: as if we are the be all and end all and everything revolves around us. Between Canada and the United States, we account for the most fossil fuels and other non-renewable resources used per capita annually, and we produce the most non-biodegradable waste per person. Most of us don’t even have the decency to be embarrassed by these facts. We prefer to point out how environmentally conscious we are because we participate in our community recycling programs, and on Earth Day we pick up garbage in our neighbourhoods.
The rest of the world also has to give us everything we need to ensure that we can continue to live like we do. If they don’t, we’ll just take it. Remember what I said about not wanting to piss off the drunken family member because of the potential for violence? The majority of the world treats us like we’re that belligerent bully, trying to keep us appeased so we don’t get mad at them and get violent. All they have to do is look at what we’ve done to Afghanistan and Iraq recently, and other places around the world prior to that, to have a fair idea of what happens to anyone who defies us.
One of the things they tell you when you stop drinking and doing drugs is you’re going to have to change the people you hang out with. You’re going to discover you don’t have very much in common with them anyway. What’s even harder than that to cope with, though, is how much you have to change the way you live in order to rid yourself of addictive behaviour.
There are no half measures. You can’t just stop drinking or doing drugs and not deal with the behaviours that are characteristic of the addict. It means changing yourself significantly at a personal level in terms of the way you treat people and the world in general. You can no longer assume the position of being the centre of the universe, or act without thinking about the consequences of your actions.
Simply going from one day to the next without having a drink or doing drugs does not mean you stopped being an addict. It’s stopping drinking and doing drugs, which, although admirable, hasn’t done anything to cure you of the problems that started you doing them in the first place. It will only be by figuring out the root causes of your addiction that you’ll be able to start dealing with the behaviour that is the result of being an addict.
There’s never an excuse for being an addict, but there’s always an explanation.