No matter what people say, no one starts out wanting to be an addict. The first use may be because of peer pressure or curiosity. It may be to celebrate a special moment or get over anxiety. But if drug use continues and turns from use to abuse to dependence, the experience of using changes.
For causal drug users, drugs are recreational. There’s a time and a place for them, and that’s where they stay. But for the addict, it doesn’t quite work that way. Drug use moves from the once-in-awhile recreational use, to the I-can’t-get-enough-no-matter-how-much-I-have mentality of addiction.
A Disease of Fear
One thing many people who have never been addicted don’t understand is the fear associated with being an addict. Once a person realizes he’s addicted, which is often much later than those around him, a paralyzing fear takes root. What he once just wanted has now become a need, something he must have to feel normal and function.
There’s the fear of detox, of being so sick and knowing that just one thing would make it all go away. That with just one pill, one line, one needle, all the sickness is gone and you suddenly feel okay.
There’s the psychological fear. When you’re addicted to drugs or alcohol, it consumes you. And when your life is built around such a thing, what happens when you take it away? What’s left? This is the identity crisis of an addict facing sobriety. Who is she without drugs and alcohol? What will she be like? Who will she be?
When a Want Becomes a Need
The casual drug user or drinker wants the high. The addicted person needs it. It’s necessary to function. Without it, she feels like crap. Her head pounds. Her hands shake. Her legs won’t stop moving and she’s covered in a cold sweat. She can’t focus. Can’t think. Then she starts to get sick. Vomiting and diarrhea become so frequent, she can’t leave the house, even if she’d want to.
When we talk about the addict’s experience while using, it’s necessary to understand that the experience is so much different than the recreational user’s, right down to the motivation behind the drug use.
For the addicted, the high becomes an escape, a time to not worry and not think. Perhaps more than anything, it’s a time to not feel. The pain, whatever it is and wherever it stems from, is gone. For a brief moment. When the addict or alcoholic uses, he’s no longer feels like an addict, a screw-up, a failure, a junkie, simply because he doesn’t feel.
When the high wears off, it all kicks in again. The feelings of despair. The low self-esteem. The self-hatred. It returns, and he’s again become the junkie. And if he doesn’t figure out how he’s getting his next fix, he’ll start to get sick. And he’s afraid of getting sick.
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