At this point I had just failed after going to rehab a second time and I had all sorts of excuses as to why I had to keep self medicating.
I was in denial and it was actually worse than ever, but I thought that I had it all figured out.
This is because there are actually several levels of denial. The first level of denial is the obvious one and I had certainly admitted to myself and to others that there was some sort of problem going on. But this admission is not enough to necessarily overcome the denial. Just because you realize there is a big problem in your life does not mean that you have become willing to do something about it. And this is exactly the place that I was stuck at and thus this second level of denial was keeping me trapped.
What is this “second level” of denial? It has to do with our happiness and our contentment. So essentially you have admitted that you have a problem and that you cannot really control your drug or alcohol intake. You have admitted to at least some level of dependence. But you remain stuck in denial because you stubbornly argue that this dependence is the only thing that can possibly make you happy in this world. This is the second level of denial. You remain stuck because you do not believe that it is possible to achieve any sort of happiness without self medicating on drugs and alcohol.
You know that you are trapped, but you are powerless to do anything about it. You know that what you are doing is probably not sustainable, to continue to self medicate in order to chase your happiness, but you do not see an alternative. The idea of facing life without your drug of choice is too unbearable. So you decide that your best option is to continue to self medicate and hold things together as best you can. You do not see returning to a “normal” life as being possible for yourself. This is the second level of denial.
During my first two trips to rehab I had been dealing more with that first level of denial–I was still at the point where I was questioning my disease and wondering if I could really control it if I decided that I wanted too. But things had progressed quite a bit now and I had undergone several more trials and experiments with my own using behavior. At this point I knew much more thoroughly that I was in serious trouble and that I could not overcome my addiction on my own. I had tried and failed to control my using too many times. I had learned that I could not really enjoy my intake when I was controlling it, and I could not really control my intake when I was enjoying it. I was either having fun and completely out of control, or I was completely miserable and wishing that I was drunk or high or both.
My ultimate fantasy at this point was to simply have enough money, resources, or drugs in order to fully and properly self medicate into complete oblivion each and every day. Of course such a fantasy is completely unrealistic, because once you have access to that kind of money and drugs you quickly realize the hard limits that exist with your addiction. You cannot just float away and be blissfully happy all the time if you have an unlimited amount of drugs. Addiction does not work like that. The only way to truly be happy when you are self medicating is to have periods of down time, periods of abstinence, times when you feel bad in order to contrast them with the peak experiences. If you are high or drunk all the time then this becomes the new “normal” for you and is no longer anything blissful or happy. The only way to really have a peak experience is to also mix in plenty of lows and down time. So the typical addict and alcoholic fantasy of being properly self medicated and happy all the time is completely impossible anyway. But the addict mind stubbornly clings to this idea that if the situation would only align correctly for them and if circumstances would just work out for once then they could be happy all the time. So they continue to chase this fantasy, this ideal situation where they believe that they will finally be able to stay happy and self medicated all of the time, and then they will truly be happy. Of course this situation never fully manifests and at best the addict will just continue to experience a series of peak moments followed by more disappointment and fantasy.
The drama that was all in my head
I had to have a way to justify my addiction when I was still self medicating with drugs and alcohol. I did this by creating drama in my own head.
The way that I would do this is to focus on drama in my own life, to amplify it, and to use it as an excuse to drink or to use drugs. It was sort of pathetic but it seemed to work as a way to justify my using to myself.
Any little disturbance in my life was an excuse to use. Any piece of bad news or even something that might possibly turn into bad news at some point was reason enough to use drugs. I did not really realize it but I always had one of these “drama excuses” going in my mind in order to help justify my using.
What happened eventually was that after going through two rehabs and failing to get clean and sober, my using itself became crisis enough for me to fuel my own little mind-drama. Here I was, a hopeless drug addict and alcoholic who could not seem to stop using drugs. Was I just meant to potentially die from drug or alcohol abuse? Was this really my ultimate fate? Poor me. I better have a drink.
Everything became an excuse to drink. When my friends or family tried to convince me to take action and get help, this simply became more fuel for my own self pity party. “They don’t understand me” was probably pretty close to my mental reasoning on this. Why could they not just realize that I am different and that I need to self medicate in order to be happy? Or perhaps even more accurate was the thought: “Why does my family want me to miserable by taking away my drugs and alcohol? Don’t they realize that I will get so depressed and miserable without drugs that I will probably just kill myself?” And so on.
The self pity game and how I was such a victim
I was constantly playing the victim role in my head. I was constantly seeking out ways that I could feel pity for myself. This was my favorite excuse to self medicate and the rationalization that felt the best to me.
I felt the most justified in drinking, drugging, or over indulging in chemicals when someone or some situation had just taken advantage of me and got away with it. This was my favorite situation by far because it was the justification that felt the most “fair” to me. If someone had hurt me then I was free and clear to self medicate as much as I wanted. So I looked for situations where this would become more and more common or evident in my life. I hoped for people to screw me over in some way so that I would have the perfect excuse to self medicate.
If you were me, you would use drugs too!
I loved to play the victim role and I loved to imagine that I was seriously in need of self medicating. I liked to imagine that other people would surely self medicate too if they were in my position. I would use whatever internal drama I could muster up in order to justify these thoughts.
But really it was all sort of pathetic, because I was never really a victim of anything other than my own actions and my own disease. I created my addiction from scratch. I was the one who sought out the drugs in the first place. The rest of the world actually tried really hard to shield me from drugs and alcohol, believing that I was too innocent or sickly to partake of drugs. Nobody forced me to try drugs or alcohol and no one encouraged me to keep using them. I was never abused, neglected, or even manipulated in any way that would lead me to want to self medicate. I had absolutely no excuses for drug or alcohol use and yet I still tried to twist myself into a victim somehow. It was a pathetic rationalization. I was an addict of my own making and I believed this to be tragic somehow. Instead it was just pathetic and I should have seen fit to pull myself out of it and ask for help long before I did.
I had no demons to chase and no reason to medicate myself into oblivion like I was doing. I was a pure addict for the sake of addiction itself. No real issues were lying under my need to drink or use drugs other than boredom and general frustration. Many addicts have a troubled past that may be filled with abuse, resentment, torture, rage, and so on. I was covering up absolutely nothing with my drug intake.
And maybe this points to the real power of addiction, that it can exist for its own sake, that it really is a primary disease, that it does not need any excuses in order to manifest itself.
Every addict and alcoholic is medicating their emotions. They are always medicating away their feelings. When they get scared, they use their drug of choice in order to reassure themselves and to medicate their fear away.
When they get sad, they use their drug of choice to medicate their sadness and attempt to become happy or content again.
When they get angry, they use their drug of choice to attempt to restore peace in their life.
When they get frustrated or bored, they use their drug of choice in order to be entertained or bring relief.
All of these emotions are normal events that ebb and flow through our everyday lives. We are constantly experiencing them throughout our lives, over and over again. Emotions are very natural and to cover them up or medicate them with drugs is not natural.
Over time in our addiction, we start to rely on our drug of choice in order to deal with these emotions. We start to believe that it is normal to medicate emotions. So we might exclaim “Oh my gosh, this is terrible, I need a drink.” Or in a social setting that is rather boring we might expect for their to be alcohol. We start to see it as being more and more normal to medicate our emotions.
We take this a step further by assuming that “other people” medicate their emotions too. We assume that the rest of the world indulges a little bit more when they get frustrated, angry, or upset with something. We believe that it is normal to medicate emotions and we believe that normal people will naturally do this too.
Of course the truth is that “normal” people deal with their emotions all the time without resorting to drugs or alcohol. But by the time that we are deep into our addiction this concept seems very foreign to us. Any emotional upheaval seems to demand the need for drugs or alcohol. We naturally self medicate our extreme emotions.
Using our emotions as excuses to use or drink
So during my addiction one of the ways that I justified my use was in medicating my emotions. I assumed that this was a natural thing for people to do and I believed that any time that I had a negative emotion in my life that it only made sense to cover that up with drug or alcohol use.
When I had brief periods of sobriety I felt like a fish out of water because I had no way to medicate my emotions, and I felt completely defenseless. It almost felt like I was a weak person for feeling these emotions rather than to cover them up with drug or alcohol use. My thought was sort of along the lines of “everyone surely uses a little something when they have intense feelings like this, so it is normal for me to do so.” Any emotions that I felt were an excuse to use more drugs.
Giving up and accepting a life of addiction
Another way that I justified my addiction to myself was to simply give up hope at times and accept that I was a drug addict. This was a lot easier than believing that I could possibly get clean and sober if I were to take the proper steps and follow through with the right actions.
It was so much easier to just believe that I was not cut out for sobriety. I held fast to the idea that I was truly different from other addicts in that I was the only person on the planet who loved drugs as much as I did.
The turning point of pain and misery
At some point the pain and the misery of my addiction overtook my fear of change. Normally I was terrified of sobriety and I was terrified of facing my emotions without having a way to self medicate them away. But the misery of my addiction had finally pushed me to a point where I was in complete despair.
There was a certain kind of hope that I had always maintained, and that hope was the fantasy of the perfect drug or alcohol experience. It was the fantasy that some day I would have unlimited money and drugs, and that a situation would occur where I was able to self medicate totally and completely, to just float along on a wave of permanent happiness and everything would be right in my world. I would achieve the perfect buzz and I would have figured out how to achieve that perfect buzz all the time, every time. There would be no more lows, no more pain and misery, but only fun times. This was the fantasy and that was my hope.
And then one day it just died, because I finally could see that it was never going to happen, not in any sort of permanent way. I had been been chasing this perfect buzz for a while and I realized that I was not even going to achieve this blissful state today, much less on a permanent or semi-permanent basis. For once I had realized fully that this was nothing more than a fantasy, and that my hope for the perfect drug experience was never going to come true. At best, I might go through a period of abstinence only to have a very short-lived burst of fun, followed by yet more misery and pain.
I suddenly saw my addiction for what it really was: Not as a fantasy or as any sort of permanent high, but as a struggle. I saw my addiction as a struggle. I could see that in the future it would always be a battle and a struggle just to get these brief periods of happiness, and that it would always be fleeting. I would always be “chasing.” I could never fully catch the perfect buzz, because it would always be just out of reach. All I would ever have is the memory of the perfect high, when it was–at one time–a lot more fun, the perfect buzz, the perfect circumstances where everything fell into place and went right, and why could every day with drugs not be just like that one?
The reason that I finally surrendered to my disease is because I finally saw the truth, and I got a clear glimpse of the future. It was never going to get much better, I realized.
This is it. This is pretty much as good as it gets, with addiction. That was what I had fully realized, and I saw that struggling for this perfect fantasy, this perfect life in addiction was a fruitless struggle. I would never really be happy. All I had with this struggle was the illusion of happiness. All I had with the cycle of addiction was the memory of a perfect buzz, but I was never achieving that perfect buzz. It was always fleeting, never permanent.
I realized that I actually COULD recreate the perfect buzz, and here is what it required:
I had to detox fully, get off of all the drugs and the booze, go for at least a few agonizing days of sobriety with nothing at all. Then I had to gather up my drugs of choice and find a way to completely isolate myself so that I could fully indulge in them. This would produce a very intense high because I was suddenly no longer used to the buzz as I had cleaned up for several days prior. Then I would be struck with awe at the depth of my high, and be amazed and in wonder again at the glory of drugs.
And this would last for maybe an hour, tops. Then it was back to misery and chasing the perfect buzz again. If I wanted to recreate the perfect high then I had to go through several days of detox first.
And thus the cost of the perfect high is just too great. If you are high all the time then you’re not really high, are you? Or you can vacillate between misery and pleasure, over and over again, simply chasing perfection.
At some point the addict will see that this merry-go-round is a losing battle, and promptly step off of it….even though it is scary to do so.