I had a few people reach out after sharing All I Ever Wanted, one of which said "...with just a couple small tweaks, that WAS ME!" This came from someone of the opposite gender and a generation ahead of me, speaking to a point I share about often. Most of us who end up falling into the world of addiction experience many of the same thoughts and feelings leading up to, and throughout, active addiction. We feel a lack of belonging, a sense of inadequacy and a desire to prove we are enough. Drugs and alcohol help with all those feelings, and so much more. The world becomes safe, accepting and welcoming with drugs and alcohol. It's no wonder we continue on, despite the consequences. That's all us humans want in life. Seriously.
When I was in the sixth grade, I found out my mom and stepdad were getting a divorce. The house was filled less with chaos and more with sadness. My mom decided she'd buy a house in a town 25 miles away, New Richland. I remember one of our first drives there. There was an overwhelming feeling of depression, almost a feeling of suffocation. A small town with a bunch of farms, that's what I saw. I saw no hope in my surroundings, or in my future. However, it quickly occurred to me that I might have a new start in life. You see, in Owatonna, I was picked on, made fun of, and embarrassed, time and time again. That was difficult for a kid trying so hard to fit in. I remember thinking, "Maybe I can be something at this new school." A fresh start, that's what I needed.
So the next year began. I was the new kid. My idea of a fresh start didn't last long. I wasn't just the new kid. I was the new kid that got picked on, a lot. I did, eventually, find a group of kids that welcomed me. It wasn't the "cool" kids group, but I'd have taken anything at that point. I started hanging out with the kids who smoked cigarettes, drank hard liquor and smoked pot every day. I was in the 8th grade. I remember the first times I joined in and got drunk and high. It didn't end well for me. I had a high sensitivity to, and a very low tolerance for, chemicals. I was sick, miserably so. Yet I continued on. That's how powerful the desire to belong was.
I hear that same story over and over from speakers in recovery. I often read comments on the topic of recovery that fault the person riddled with addiction. "They chose to use for the first time" or variations of that show up everywhere. Maybe that's what you think. I'm here to tell you there is a level of responsibility we who fall into addiction need to take, AND in every story I've ever heard, there was no conscious "choice" behind the first drug or drink. There's inevitably something we're seeking escape from. Something more powerful than the thought of the consequences of drugs and alcohol. So, do the world and those who are suffering a favor and consider that a level of understanding will do far more than any type of blaming ever could in someone's attempt to escape the hellish world of addiction.
I eventually felt some relief from the physical suffering that came with getting drunk and high. I began to feel better about the world. I found what I had been missing, times two. I finally belonged somewhere AND I finally had moments of peace and quiet in the mind that raced so quickly for so many years. I realized then that life was going to be okay after all. And so began the delusion that would shape the next dozen years of my life, and nearly end it. To be continued...
P.S. - Happy Mother's Day to all you moms, and an extra wish to all those that have mothered me in sickness and in health. You know who you are. Thank you all! Moms are the best!