I think this is quite the loaded questions, am I an addict? I want to say if you must ask, you know the answer, but I also recall asking the same question when I was still in denial about my addiction. The truth is I think there are so many things that go into making someone an “addict” its not just about the drugs or the alcohol, it has to do with the behaviors you were using well before you found that drink or drug.
I believe that there are some indicators in life that may point to you being an “addict” even before the drugs enter your body. Some of these might be trauma, low self-esteem, anxiety, other people in your family suffer from addiction, your friends use drugs or drink excessively, selfish, you lie to make yourself look better, you care more about what others say about you then the truth, always looking for a quick solution, the list could go on and on.
Does it mean you are an addict if you have one or more of these qualifying traits? Not 100%.
But hind sight is also twenty-twenty so if you have all these attributes and ten years from now are like “oh wow I totally was always an addict,” don’t say I didn’t warn you.
The truth is we never know until we know and once you know you will never not know. Once you realize you are an addict and surrender life gets easier, because you literally have a guide of instructions explaining how to live your life to be a better person. But, if you grapple with the question to long and think am I or am I not, you could end up part of the 70,000 people who are overdosing each year.
Before I was Using Drugs
Before I did drugs, I was an addict. When I look back at the behaviors I displayed as a child I wonder why my parents didn’t throw me into rehab when I was like 13. My thinking has always been black and white, I am either great or awful, and that has played into my addictive personality, whether it was school, exercise/sports, friendships, I was all in or no in. I remember on MTV binge watching shows throughout the night because I became obsessed with it and needed to watch it all.
Even some of my impulsive and dangerous behaviors, it was like once I did something once, I wanted to do it again and again, until I couldn’t get away with it again. Then I would get in trouble, and attempt to manipulate my family or friends, because I believed that now they hated me. It wasn’t like they were mad, or upset, I knew they hated me, and I would say anything to not be hated, even lie, or throw someone else under the bus. I don’t know how many times I ruined a friendship with one person to keep a friendship with someone else or told my parents something bad about a friend or sibling, so they would not be as upset with me.
Right before I did drugs, I had never done hard drugs, besides the anti-anxiety medication I was prescribed, because I feared them. I knew I shouldn’t do them, I knew I had a problem with “over-doing things.” Over doing diets, over doing shopping, over doing anything that made me feel okay. I knew in the back of my head that I would get addicted to drugs if I did them and I told all the people I was hanging out with in college that I really shouldn’t do drugs. I gave them all the reasons doing drugs are bad, I told them had heart problems and might die if I did drugs. I knew that all my friends were addicted to these drugs and it ruined parts of their lives, I knew that if my parents ever found out I would lose the amazing life I had, and I knew I wanted to graduate college and become a writer for the New York Times and they probably drug tested.
I said this all out loud. I said, “If I do this coke its over.” Everyone laughed. I laughed. I did the coke.
Who does that?! Who in their right mind makes that decision when they know all this information. An addict. I was an addict before I did that coke.
I was an addict. But I didn’t see it, I joked about it, but I didn’t believe it.
When I was Doing Drugs
It was not that bad at first, and I am sure everyone says that, but it wasn’t. I was a junior in college. I was doing okay, yeah, my grades slipped a little, but it wasn’t that serious because I was still doing fine. I even went to Italy and studied abroad when I was first getting high. I got high in Italy too. Literally everything seemed super fun and I thought my life was cool, and if you said otherwise I’d cut you off and say “I don’t need fake friends. So toxic.”
I was doing a lot of cocaine, it seemed normal, my friends were all doing it, and I am sure a lot of people say “everyone’s doing it” when its really just them alone in there bedroom peaking out the blinds every five minutes, but really all my friends were doing it. We’d get high and just talk about the most random things, from politics to conspiracy theories to childhood trauma, nothing was off the table. Plus, I wasn’t selling any of my stuff (yet) and I wasn’t doing any crazy hustle for cash for my drugs (yet!!!), so I truly felt like life was fine.
I had done Oxy pills here and there. But it was not something I did a lot at first because it was not as social as doing coke on the weekends (or everyday) with your friends. I remember hating my friend that did Oxy all the time and arguing about it. I didn’t understand why you’d want to do a drug that just made you go to sleep. When I first started doing the oxy pills more, it was weird, just me and my two friends just smoking pills off tin foil, laughing about how bad it was for you and sitting on a couch watching Drugs Inc. I don’t know why I went from uppers to downers, probably just because I wanted to be like all of my friends.
When junior year of college ended, I was somehow addicted to oxy, and I didn’t have somewhere to get them from back home, so every two days I had to go up to northern New Jersey with a friend and get them, until suddenly there was no oxy.
I didn’t even think twice, I just did heroin.
And that is when everything began to collapse. That is when every other drug offered to me seemed like “yeah whatever I’ll try anything.”
I told crazy lies to my parents like, my boyfriend was in this IOP rehab, so they wouldn’t question if he was doing drugs or not and they would not ask so many questions about why he didn’t come to our house.
I lied to my boyfriend’s mom when she was crying after finding needles in his room. I was like “oh no I thought he was clean,” I even let her cry on my shoulder.
I even convinced her to get him on suboxone and gave her all this research on harm reduction, how it was safer than cold turkey, but I wasn’t concerned about him or her, I was only concerned with myself and knew if he had suboxone I wouldn’t ever have to worry about going through withdrawal. I didn’t care if he was sober or not, it was all about me.
When I Knew
School started back up and something about being in Long Island made my addiction louder. Maybe it was because I had easier access to drugs.
My grades were in the trash, I barely went to class, I was only spending time with people that were also getting high.
I opened credit cards and overdrew my accounts, I would find and lose jobs within a month or two, I’d call my parents every week asking for extra money, I even sold people pills for double what they cost on the street, so I’d have enough money to get high. I was an addict. There was no more questioning it.
But I continued living this life and using people and drugs from fall to spring semester.
Two weeks before graduation. I remember like it was yesterday. I was driving a friend to the hospital, and I kept calling the credit card company to see if I could get more cash back, since I had hit my limit. They said no, and I was panicking. My friend started arguing with me about how I needed to figure out money. And something hit me. I was like “Oh my god, I need help.”
I needed to call my parents and get help. I thought for maybe a split second “I can’t do this” but for some reason I was already punching my moms’ number into my phone. I don’t think I was on the phone for more than five minutes, I just told her “I’m addicted to heroin I need help I’m coming home.”
If you have ever driven from Long Island to New Jersey, you know how bad traffic can be. Well it was rush hour and I was just sitting in my car thinking about what a mess I made. I thought about turning around and going back to school at least 100 times. I started googling addiction treatment center, and calling these random numbers asking them about insurance and programming. I had no idea what I was doing.
When I got home, my mom looked devastated. This is the tape I played back over and over whenever I thought about giving up.
When I Knew I was in the Right Place
When I began my recovery journey, I knew I was an addict, but I wasn’t sure if recovery was for me.
When I met other people in recovery, who were just like me, is when I knew I was in the right place. Suddenly I felt like others understood me, I didn’t feel judged or weird, and people were nice and wanted to help me even thought I had nothing to offer them.
I made a lot of mistakes, and these people still wanted to be around me, they didn’t just leave me. I was confused, but I was happy.
They taught me about helping people and being honest and using my voice. I knew now that I was an addict, and that it didn’t make me a bad person. I was okay with being an addict in recovery, it was the best choice I had ever made.
Making the choice to get help seems really scary to a lot of people, but it is the most important step you take in recovery. It could very well be the step that saves your life.
Waiting and thinking you will suddenly not be an addict doesn’t work. Get help for you or a loved one now, stop waiting, stop questioning “Am I an Addict?” Let go, and lets chat now.