Living and Loving a Sober Life (and Why That Might Be Hard)
In the throes of addiction, many times, those struggling with substance use disorders do things that could have terrible consequences, often without even batting an eye at how bad things could turn out for them. It would be simple to say they behave this way because they are not in their right mind due to drug use. However, there is more at play here than simple intoxication.
I struggled with addiction to heroin for several years and used many other drugs as well. So, I have made those same poor choices. I was stealing from those around me, putting myself in situations where I could have been arrested. Several times, I even put myself in situations where I could have been shot or assaulted.
This is part of the reason this topic needs further analysis. Saying I was out of it or intoxicated is inaccurate. Every time I was in a dangerous situation, I was aware of the danger. I knew I had a chance I could go to jail or be shot. Being in a haze of drug use did help to abate the fear; however, I was still fully aware of the danger.
The next thing you might say is I was craving drugs. This also has some truth to it but was not the whole story. There were times where I went into bad situations to get drugs because it was the only option. But I also put myself in bad situations several times when I already had drugs or even when I didn't need to.
I began liking the danger, the risk, the gamble of going into bad situations. It is not just the drugs but the excitement of living life on the edge. Enjoying the ups and downs despite being disastrous for your life becomes addicting. You get excited when something ridiculous or dangerous happens.
One of the hardest parts of recovering is going back to normal life. While this may not be a wholly accurate comparison, it has always seemed similar in my mind to what many veterans experience when returning from being deployed overseas (if only to a much more minor level). Life is so simple and somewhat mundane once you quit using. The world seems to move slower; people get upset about things that don't really compute for you. The people around you get rattled or flabbergasted by things that don't even faze you because you have been in real life-and-death situations.
After watching another overdose or getting beaten with a gun, someone whining about how mean a store clerk was being or how a store was out of something seems so trivial. Even though this is not crippling, it is part of recovery. It can be hard to relate with those around you sometimes, which makes moving forward in your recovery more difficult.
Underlying issues usually fuel the initial choice of starting to live a life-or-death lifestyle. For every addict, this is different, whether it be low self-esteem, physical, mental, or sexual abuse, an accident or injury with long-term consequences, or failing to reach and giving up on a long-term goal. The list goes on.
For me, I had no real ambitions and no real goals. This stemmed from believing I would never succeed in the goals I set. With nothing to live for or work towards, I stopped caring. If I couldn't achieve the things I wanted, why did it matter if my life went off the rails?
When you talk to your loved one about their addiction, keep this in mind. It is not as simple as just being an addict or not wanting to get clean. There are multiple reasons why your loved one has continued down this path for the length of time they have. They likely knew the consequences of what they were doing.
When you talk about them getting sober, it is not just them simply giving up drugs. It is an entire lifestyle change. Stopping the drug use AND walking away from the lifestyle takes strength and support. There are relationships and connections they will have to give up to really change. To do this, they are going to need your love and support.