I used to wish, very hard, that I wasn’t an alcoholic. I wished it when I drank, and I wished it after I got sober. If a genius would appear and give me three wishes, after wishing for world peace and an end to climate change, I would absolutely use my third wish not to get hooked.
With that disclaimer in place, however: there are some good things about being an addict.
On the one hand, being a recovering alcoholic means you have a permanent excuse to get out of unwanted social situations. “Do you want to come to this party full of people you don’t want to date?” No, sorry – I’m a recovering alcoholic, that’s too triggering. “Do you want to go out for a drink someday?” No thanks – I’m a recovering alcoholic, you see. “But there will be no drink service at this party.” Um… even being surrounded by large groups of people partying is a flashback situation, oooooooooooooooogues!
Being a sober drug addict means that you are accomplishing something every day. Even if I just lay in my pajamas (which I try to do as often as possible), if I don’t drink, I can go to bed having accomplished something that I’m proud of. It’s good for self-esteem.
People with addictive personalities have a very easy time forming habits. In my experience, an addict’s brain is prepared for routine and constantly seeks a calming repetition. The trick is to give him good habits to take. If I want to put more vegetables in my diet or exercise more, I just have to do it a few times on a regular basis – then boom, the dopamine and my dopamine craving kicks in.
Drug addicts can be intensely loyal and dedicated. I’ve heard that addiction is a relationship – in many ways a substitute for a human relationship, but a relationship nonetheless. (This is one of the reasons that addictions can tear relationships apart: it’s hard to be associated with two things at the same time with the same devotion.) A therapist once told me that the opposite of addiction was not sobriety; it was the connection. When an addict forms that connection with a human, instead of wine, it’s intense. All or nothing. When I love someone, boom, that’s all, I’ll do anything for them.
The things that make me an alcoholic also make me stubborn and stubborn. When I want something, I get it. When I decide I want to achieve a goal, I pursue it with the determination of a sniffing sleuth. I do not give up. I don’t let things get in my way. I used to put a ton of mental energy into figuring out where my next drink would come from, making sure I had a constant supply of booze, and hiding all of the above from my family.
Now that energy is focused on other things. Reading. Writing. Be good at my job. I’m not a particularly ambitious person, but recently got pre-approved for a small mortgage. Why? Because I want it, and when I want something, I want it, and when I want something, I can move mountains.
Being an addict gives you instant connection with other addicts. A complete stranger can tell me, “I am an alcoholic too,” and I immediately know their deepest and most personal struggles and triumphs, for they are mine. I mean, if I walk into a room with glamorous movie star Jamie Lee Curtis, we’ll instantly have something in common. It’s like a secret society, although I don’t know all the jargon yet. I met a couple not long ago who were reading my columns; while we were chatting they said, “We are friends of bill, too much.”
They meant “Bill W.», Co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. I thought they were talking about Portland Press Herald columnist Bill Nemitz. We continued to chat for several minutes under this misunderstanding.
But the greatest gift is empathy. No sympathy – anyone can – but real empathy: the ability to know how someone is feeling because you’ve been there yourself. It’s hard to understand addiction if you’ve never experienced the chemical catastrophe of an actively dependent brain; from the outside it may just look like a series of bad choices, rather than the complex and misunderstood mental illness that it is.
I hope I will continue to find more benefit from living with an addiction as the disease is quite incurable.
Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a millennial from Maine. She can be contacted at:
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