The Insanity of Addiction and Why It’s So Hard to Stop
When I look back on my life during active addiction, I often cringe at what I used to say and do. There were times in that part of my life that I do not remember very well due to my overindulgence with drinking, and there are other times I wish I could forget. I try not to dwell on the past too often. I have moved on from this part of my life. Despite this, sometimes I find myself remembering things about my life as an alcoholic that make me wonder what the heck I was thinking.
I think that it is all too easy for someone who has never dealt with an addiction to look at an addict and say, “You are ruining your life; why don’t you just stop?!” While this may seem like a very legitimate question, it is one that many addicts may not be able to answer even to themselves. The truth of the matter is once an addiction has gotten a hold of you, it is tough to get away without any professional help. Even though alcohol was destroying my life, there was a part of me that still loved getting drunk which was one of the primary reasons I kept drinking for as long as I did.
Alcohol made me do some pretty crazy things. I would often drink to the point of blacking out, waking up the following day trying to piece together something from the night before. Blackouts caused pretty awful feelings, and I do not miss those mornings full of shame and regret. There is a deep sense of dread that comes with not remembering what you did the night before. I would often promise myself that I wasn’t going to allow this to happen again, that this was the last time and that I wasn’t going to drink for a while. While the rational part of my brain knew I was drinking too much, the side of my mind consumed by my addiction only wanted more.
A life consumed by alcoholism is a pretty brutal way to live. I would often cry to myself and wonder how I had allowed things to get so out of control. I would tell myself I wasn’t going to drink that day and then find myself in the drive-through liquor store line on my way home from work. When you pull up, and they already have your regular order ready, you know you have a problem. To say I was a regular there would be pretty obvious. I would often find myself on autopilot on the way home from work, drive up, get my order, drive home. I would then drink, pass out, go to work, repeat. This depressing cycle was my life.
Alcohol caused me to give up on my dreams. It caused me to burn bridges, get into legal trouble, waste money and break the trust of the people who loved me the most. Alcohol took and took and took from me, and yet I continued to give it my all. I gave drinking my time, my thoughts, my memories and, my self-respect. Alcohol made me selfish, yet it also made me give away all of myself until I had nothing left to give.
When I was younger, I made the mistake of driving under the influence. The rational part of my brain knew that I shouldn’t be in the drive’s seat, yet I wanted to get home. I ended up getting arrested and taken to detox that night. Thankfully nobody was hurt, but I ended up losing my license and having to pay thousands of dollars in court fines. For most people, this would have been a wake-up call; for me, it was just another reason to keep drinking. I figured as long as I didn’t drink and drive, I would be ok. Boy, was I wrong.
A few years later, I found myself back in legal trouble after drinking way too much alcohol in a short amount of time. I blacked out and made some pretty dumb choices that landed me in jail. I woke up the following day with bruises all over my body, a knot on my head, and felony charges hanging over me like a rain cloud. For most people, this would have been the wake-up call; for me, it sent me further into the pits of despair and addiction. I kept drinking and told myself, as long as I don’t drink and drive or get into legal trouble, I would be ok, and I could keep drinking. Boy, was I wrong.
I ended up moving back in with my parents because of the legal problems I was facing from the night I went to jail. I got a dead-end job at a local sandwich shop and sank further and further into my addiction. Despite being told that I needed to stay sober, I kept drinking. The thought of sobriety terrified me in a way not even jail could. This life would seem utterly insane to most people; to a person struggling with addiction, it’s just another day.
I went on like this for a few years. I got off somewhat easy for my previous offense, and although I ended having to pay $12,000 in restitution, I received a misdemeanor and unsupervised probation. Because of this, I kept on drinking.
On my final night out drinking, I ended up getting into a fight with some girl I didn’t even know. I was pretty drunk, and I only remember bits and pieces of that night, but I still remember being held to the ground and getting punched in the face repeatedly. Part of me wishes I could forget it all, and part of me knows that I need to remember. I need to remember how bad things got so that I never go back to that place again. After a long night of drinking and a bar fight, I called my family and asked for a ride home. I couldn’t figure out where I was, and so they couldn’t help me. I just freaked them out pretty bad. Luckily, I found my way back to work, and I ended up sleeping on the couch in the restaurant instead of out on the street.
The following day my parents asked me to come home, and when I pulled up to their house with a pounding headache, half-smoked cigarette, and a black eye, I saw my brother’s car there and knew I was in for an uncomfortable conversation. I walked into an intervention that day. At the time, I felt defensive and terrified. I couldn’t imagine living a life without alcohol, but more than that, I felt relieved because I couldn’t imagine continuing to live the life of an alcoholic.
I went to treatment two days later. I sobered up, rebuilt my life, and put in the hard work that it takes to overcome an addiction. It wasn’t easy. There were times that I wanted to give up, but something inside of me kept pushing forward. The life of active addiction is insanity, and unless you have lived it first hand, I don’t think you can truly understand how it feels. Nine years later, I am still sober and so grateful that I could find my way out of the prison that is addiction.