I went to www.Dictionary.com and looked up Addict:
- noun: a person who is addicted to an activity, habit, or substance: a drug addict.
- Verb: (used with object): to cause to become physiologically or psychologically dependent on an addictive substance, as alcohol or a narcotic.
- To habituate or abandon (oneself) to something compulsively or obsessively: a writer addicted to the use of high-flownlanguage; children addicted to video games.
So does this answer the question? I don’t think so. I remember what my image of an addict was for a long time. The guy (or girl) curled up in the corner of a room in an abandoned building with track marks on their arms or burns all over their finger from the crack pipe.
Long after I started referring to myself as an addict and sharing in meetings I still did not really understand how to articulate what it really meant to be an addict. Now putting this into context as an addict in recovery one of my jobs in life it to help other addicts and alcoholics get and hopefully stay clean. In fact that is the one thing above all other things that I must do in order to stay clean and sober myself. As a matter of fact our “book” called “Alcoholics Anonymous” commonly referred to as “The Big Book” points out that working with other alcoholics will keep me clean and sober, but not necessarily them. The only way they can be assured that they will stay clean and sober is if they get through the entire process with someone like me so that they can start taking other newcomers through the work. That is how it works. So in order to do an effective job when I am taking others through the work I need to be able to explain to them what it really means to be an addict or an alcoholic. Most importantly I need to help them to be able to arrive at the answer to the most important question that every single newcomer must be able to answer before they can move on in the process of recovery.
Am I an addict/alcoholic?
This of course begs the question.
How do I know?
There is of course an answer. The definition of an alcoholic as I have come to define it and teach it to others in AA & CA (Cocaine Anonymous) is that an addict has a physical craving that is very different from a “normal” person. A normal person can stop, even if with some difficulty, given sufficient reason they can stop and say “you know what, I have to work tomorrow I’m good.” A real addict cannot do that. A real addict may say the very same thing, but in time the craving to have another drink or another hit will completely over power the person’s logical knowledge – that they should stop because they have to get up and go to work the next day.
An obsession is a thought that crowds out all other thoughts. When a normal person drinks or uses so much drugs they will generally say that they shouldn’t do that again and when the next opportunity arises they won’t. An addict might also say that they shouldn’t do that again and when the next opportunity arises they might even start off remembering that last time and saying, “oh no I can’t.” Then the obsession kicks in. You start thinking about how much fun it will be. Before long you have yourself convinced that this time it will be different. This is when stone cold sober the obsession of the mind will bring an addict to take the first one. Then the physical craving kicks in. This is the real definition of insanity. It’s not doing the same thing and expecting different results. It’s doing the same thing knowing full well what is going to happen and doing it anyway! That’s the difference between and addict and someone who is not.
Where does it start?
When you look at it this way it is clear that the problem starts.. that is to say it is ROOTED in our minds.
When I was with the intake nurse at my first rehab, the intake nurse asked me if I thought that addiction was a disease. May answer:
No how could it be when I made the choice to put the stuff in my system?
Then she asked me to consider something that made me re-think my answer. How many of my peers did I know that did the same things that I did, but when the time came they were able to just stop. They may have even had a hard time coming off the physical craving, especially with a drug like cocaine. But once they were off of it and past the physical craving they had no mental obsession that brought them to the next one. They simply recognized that it was a bad idea and moved on with their lives, happy and content as any normal person is in this life. This is not how it works with an addict. I could be weeks off of the drugs and out of nowhere the thought would pop into my head that it would be fun to get high while doing ____. Or I would be walking somewhere and swear I smelled cocaine. If you have ever had really good quality cocaine (whatever that’s worth) then you know the smell I am talking about. It’s almost like horse radish and when you have that association in your mind and you’re an addict just thinking you smell it is enough to kick off an obsession.
Here is an example of what this actually looks like in the life of a real addict. You think it’s will power? Think again. Will power is what keeps us out there using over and over again without getting caught and even though we have no money.
I will never forget this as long as I live and I am glad for that. It is a good reminder of why today I do not want to even think about taking a single drink, because I know it would lead me right back to this and much much worse. I was driving in my car on my way to the dealer. At first the thought was in my head and then I started saying it out loud in my car (I was alone)
Seth you don’t have to do this! Just turn the car around and go home. You’ll be ok!
Still I was powerless to bring myself to do it. I couldn’t turn the car around no matter how badly I really wanted to. Only another addict will ever understand this. Everyone else will just say “If you really wanted to turn the car around badly enough you would have done just that.” The non-addict or “normy” or as I liked to call them “earthlings” doesn’t understand that the power of choice is completely gone in the real addict and alcoholic.
Does this excuse the things we do?
Absolutely not. We have to be 100% accountable for everything we do both on and off drugs. The powerlessness is not an excuse to do bad things. It is important for the real addict to understand so that they don’t spend their entire lives beating themselves up and they begin to recognize that a powerful solution will be required to affect the change necessary for an addict to live a normal life. I am living proof of the truth of all of this. Once an addict makes the diagnosis of his or herself because they understand what it really means to be an addict then they have place themselves in a position to be helped. They understand how truly hopeless the situation is which is right where we need to be so that we understand how important it is to be willing to go to any lengths to stay clean and sober.