It’s taken me a lifetime to get a handle on addiction and even begin to fully understand it. I have made my understanding of it personal, after much experience of it in my life and long hours of study and research. My concept of addiction is my own, some may agree and I already know some will strongly disagree. The problems didn’t start with me.
Like the vast majority of people in the world, addiction has been present in my life since I was born. As a small child, I didn’t understand that the chaos I experienced from all sides, was anything to do with substances or misappropriated behavior. I just felt the trauma in the house and I knew I was deeply upset most of the time. I felt outside of myself and didn’t really have any idea of how to be in the world. Loneliness set in for me at a very young age. Everyone in my family seemed sad so I became sad and that sadness has never really left me.
As I grew up I learned to self-soothe and cope with how it had been modeled to me. Seeking oblivion. Drinking and smoking became normal for me from a very young age which led to being sexually active far too young. I began to seek validation, comfort and self-esteem from sexual encounters. I craved love and care because emotional neglect was all I had experienced. Safe care and love wasn’t something I had any idea about but I knew I craved it. This gaping hole inside me drove me to seek safety everywhere and of course, none of those places were safe at all. Instead of having natural teenage experiences like a first kiss or first date, I experienced sexual abuse and manipulation from much older guys.
Beginning to understand
I was about twelve when the word alcoholic started to pierce my conscious mind. I’d hear the adults in my family talk about my Dad being one, his whole family in fact. Then I’d hear about members of my mother’s family being alcoholics and lots of blame was placed on certain people for the state of the entire family. My head would spin with confusion and upset and it continued that way until I became a complete mess myself.
Eventually, I became the “family problem”. I lived a chaotic life running and searching for peace and as with all the other people in my family doing the same, I was shamed, blamed and disowned. Even the other troubled people came down hard on me. I guess I took the focus off them. I now know I was the classic scapegoat in the family. At the age of nineteen, I sought help for myself for the first time. I didn’t believe that my problems were about a substance. This same sadness was felt since I was a small innocent child when I showed nothing but love to everyone. The problems didn’t start with me.
Thirty years later
Here I am, still alive. I didn’t think I would be to be still swimming upstream with determination but I am. It’s been a lonely arduous battle against ignorance and willful victimisation from those who were supposed to love me. Even though my body has been ravaged by the battle, I’m out the other side with deep wisdom and understanding. The win for me is, that despite the horrendous treatment from others, I don’t blame them like they did me.
I understand that addiction comes from a need to soothe ourselves from trauma. It’s an attempt to fill a gaping hole inside us from living a dysregulated life. As a result, our nervous systems are on high alert all the time trying to save us from harm. Therefore we cannot behave from a place of safety, only from a place of fear. Our brain is flooded with hormones we don’t need as is our entire body. We become stuck in a parallel universe, kicking and screaming to return home. However, if we have never known a feeling of safety at all, how can we know where to return to? This is what generational trauma is and this way of being is passed down for years, decades, and even centuries.
The battle can end
Eventually, someone comes along that breaks the cycle. That was my job. Breaking cycles is a messy and complicated process. It usually starts with your own chaos but an unwillingness to accept it. The cycle breaker has a thirst for knowledge and inbuilt wisdom that there has to be more to the chaos than what we can physically see. And boy is there. A cycle breaker dedicates their life to doing better with compassion. It will be frowned upon because family secrets will be uncovered, challenges to the status quo will be made and more chaos will prevail until the cleansing is complete.
Addiction is a symptom of trauma. The trauma may be seen or unseen, but always, always felt. I see it less as a disease of the body, but more of a society where the most unnatural ways of being are forced upon us until we self-destruct. It’s taken some time, but I am done living unnaturally and self-destructing.