By Nick Adams
Haliburton Kawartha Lakes Northumberland Drug Strategy
It is actually good for me to say that in case I have forgotten all that I have been through and how far I have come. I have spent four out of my last 19 months of continuous sobriety in medical and rehabilitation facilities to treat the disease of addiction that I suffer from. The farther I am from that last drink and drug the farther I am from the insanity that marked my life in full blown addiction. My daily stability depends on a maintenance program that addresses my physical mental and spiritual health. I live my life one day at a time and just for today I choose not to take that first drink or drug. For me one is too many and a thousand is never enough. I am practising abstinence.
Just because I identify myself as an addict and alcoholic doesn’t give anyone else the right to impose that term on others. When used to identify others based on their behaviour it can be construed as being judgmental. Part of identifying as an addict is the realization that I am not able to use substances the way that others do. Some may be able to use substances daily without having it affect any other part of their life and so it is unfair to think that a person’s decision to use alone makes them an alcoholic or addict.
For many years I didn’t see my alcohol and substance use as a problem. I suppose it was because I looked around in high school and it seemed like everyone else was doing it. And I looked around in university and it seemed like everyone was doing it. And I looked around in my working life and recreation and it seemed to me that everyone was doing it. And the world went on the sun rose and it set. As the years went by my unmanageability got worse. Looking back I can see that there had been problems from the start. I had always looked forward to using substances. There was this anticipation that was almost as intoxicating as the act of getting drunk or high itself.
I didn’t realize that I had also developed a physical dependence to alcohol during this prolonged period of excessive drinking and stopping abruptly threw my body into a state of withdrawal that was quite unpleasant. This wasn’t explained to me during those first 10 or so years of my alcohol and then drug infused life. Those things that I loved so much that I so clearly declared allegiance to were robbing me of my senses and robbing me of a chance at a future. I didn’t see that the mental obsession and the physical dependence for drugs and alcohol were ruling everything that I was doing. The need to embrace that which was destroying me was also causing me to do all kinds of things that were terribly wrong – driving drunk lying and stealing being among the worst and most frequent. I didn’t like the person I had become.
It is said that addiction is the only disease that requires self-diagnosis before treatment can begin. I first identified my drinking as being a problem in 2002. After going to a few counselling appointments I declared myself well enough to not need any more. I was able to abstain from drinking for just over a year and then the first drink led me down a road of five more years of problematic substance abuse. I went back to counselling in 2008 and entered in to my first inpatient rehabilitation facility in 2009.
I never quite bought in to the idea that I wouldn’t be able to use drugs or drink “normally” again. And so the first drink happened again in 2011. By 2016 I found myself in a full-blown relapse using substances daily to cope with everyday stresses. I made things worse by hiding my problem from all the people who were closest to me. The guilt and shame of living a double life became too much for me to bear and I thought about ending my life. This terrible disease wreaks havoc on a person’s mental health especially those like me who suffer from depression and anxiety already. I am one of the lucky ones. I reached out for help and I am getting better.
In the weeks ahead look for my column featuring the work of FourCAST and the treatment options that are available in our community. If you or a family member think that your substance use is becoming a problem take advantage of the help available 24 hours a day online at www.connexontario.ca or call 1-866-531-2600.
Reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow us on Twitter @HKLNDrugStrat and Facebook @HKLNDrugStrategy.
Nick Adams is the Media and Communications Worker for the Haliburton Kawartha Lakes Northumberland Drug Strategy. Through a series of weekly columns Nick will discuss how the Drug Strategy is reducing the harms and stigma around substance use in our communities and will offer a unique perspective to the various weekly topics by sharing his own personal experience.