My name is Kevin and I am an addict. There! It’s said.
Alright, it’s not the most up to date photo. But it is me. The interesting question is, was I an addict even then, before I had even heard of alcohol and drugs, never mind tried them? And am I an addict now, even though it is over 30 years since I had a drink of alcohol or chewed up a few valium (I used to chew them because I thought they might work faster)?
Are addicts born? Or made? Once an addict always an addict? Does addiction even exist, or is it just the excuse people make when they continue to take too much?
For the last 15 or so years (I’m retired now) I was a drug and alcohol trainer with the NHS, training nurses, doctors, teachers and others about drugs and alcohol – what they are, what they do, their relative harmfulness, how to tell if someone is using drugs, how to assess drug and alcohol use and what to do with people who have problems with them. I still do some work in this area but, as I am now in my late sixties, this has reduced over the last couple of years. But I still don’t have definitive answers to those questions. Does anybody?
I have strong suspicions. When I look back on my early life I can see that I had certain personality traits which pointed towards problems somewhere down the line. I’ll go through some of these and see how they fit:
- Greediness – I was never any good with moderation – in fact I’m still not. I always wanted more – more chocolate, more records, more books. And it was the same with drugs; if one makes you feel good, then surely ten will make you feel ten times as good.
- Avoidance of problems – I always tried to avoid difficulties. When anything came along that I didn’t want to deal with I would try to find some way round it, ignore it and hope it would go away or, hopefully, get someone else to deal with it. I think this came partly from my innate nature and partly from the fact that, growing up, my mum tried to protect me from all the world’s problems. I was the only boy in a family of girls and, to my mum, I think I was the ‘golden child’, the one who could do no wrong and who had to be protected and pampered at all costs – in a word I was ‘spoilt’. A good word really with its connotations of damaged goods. I still struggle with responsibility and dealing with problems but all I can say in my defence is that I’m a lot better than I was.
- Instant gratification – in the immortal words of Sir Henry at Rawlinson End, “I don’t know what I want but I want it NOW!” You know when people say things like, “You’ll regret it in the morning”. Who cares how I’ll feel in the morning, I want to feel good NOW. As a child I was never any good at waiting for something good. I’ve never saved up for anything in my life. If there was a record I wanted, I wanted it immediately. The same with books or anything else I was into at a particular time. This has changed since I came into recovery. Now I often put other people’s wants and needs before my own. But, as with everything else about me, there is still room for improvement.
- Laziness – I’m not sure if laziness is the right description. It’s more a case of “that will do” or “that’s good enough”. I suppose it’s the opposite of perfectionism, not being willing to put in that extra effort to make whatever it is really good. As it often said on my school reports, “Kevin has the ability but he could try harder” or words to that effect. But, thinking about it, there is laziness as well, what they call looking for the easier, softer way. And, in the short term, drugs and alcohol are the easier, softer way. If you’re anxious or shy, as I was to a pathological extent, then a few drinks will drown the anxiety and shyness. It’s much easier than going for some sort of therapy which might be painful and will probably take quite a long time to work. It’s also instant, or at least works within minutes (see above). I’m a lot better in this area now. I’ve had to be, there isn’t an easier, softer way to recover from addiction. Or at least that’s how I see it.
Anyway, I’m going to finish this post now. I realise now I’ve started that I have a lot to say on this topic, so I’ll be coming back to it over the next days and weeks. If you have any comments to make, or anything you particularly agree or disagree with, I’d be very happy to read them