I was 6 or 7 years old when my first addiction began, I used to get £1 for dinner money, and everyday my Mum would see me over the main road and wave goodbye; off I would trot to meet the two friends who I walked to school with.
The gap between her wave goodbye, and the knock on my friends front door, was the best part of my day
I remember the feeling of excitement as I rushed to the shop at the bottom of our estate, where I would buy 10 packets of ‘Cheesies’ and 10 packets of ‘Meanies’ (small bags of 5p crisps)
I don’t know how I knew that it needed to be a secret, but I knew it alright; I knew it intrinsically. So; I would eat ALL 20 packets in rapid time, and by the time I reached my friend’s house, I had consumed them all, and my secret was safe
By lunchtime, I was starving, every single day… and I knew that if I could stop buying the crisps, I’d be able to eat lunch with my friends. I regretted it everyday, whilst I watched everyone eating their lunch; but I didn’t stop…because I couldn’t stop, I couldn’t control it or suppress the urge. I would tell my friends that my Mum didn’t have enough money to give me dinner money. Any lie would do to keep the truth under wraps…
How did I know that it was unacceptable? I was a rebel child, so bucking against rules was something I did with open gusto, I see now that spending my money in a ‘naughty way’ was just another act of rebellion, but being open about it was unthinkable… I just knew the eating had to be done alone.
I was displaying behaviours exhibited by most addicts, but not behaviours I had ever been exposed to when my addictions started.
Without an example, or any awareness of addictive traits, I behaved exactly as addicts do anyway.
Secrecy, solitude and cover ups are what ‘grown up’ addicts do, it disturbs me when I try to pin point how I knew this at age 7
Next came mini pots of ‘Nutella, they were 10 pence each, so I had 10 pots in between Mums wave and the 1st door knock.
As I grew up, the behaviours never changed, just the substance
I moved areas in my teens, and there were no shops on route to my new school that I could get to, without my friends seeing me, so my dinner money lasted til 1st break, where I would salivate as I marched as quickly as possible to the school canteen, to get a slice of pizza.
I don’t think I ever had any dinner money left at ‘dinner time’, throughout my entire school life. I hid it from my friends and teachers alike, for all them years
Next came alcohol, then cigarettes, then casinos, then fruit machines, then weed, then ecstasy, then speed, then booze again, then cocaine, then legal highs, then weed again, then booze again. In between all these, food filled the gaps…consumed in a frenzy like manner. Food is and was my fall back, and when that one hits me, I can put on 3 stone in 3 weeks, easy
I was watching a documentary on drugs a few weeks ago, and Russell Brand (an addict himself) made a comment that struck a chord with me, he said –
“Every addict, every single one, when they are straight/not high/sober/abstaining etc, has a feeling of sadness deep in the pits of their psyche, a feeling that never leaves them; a feeling that continually eats into the subconscious and the soul”
It made me think of an Amy Winehouse lyric “That silence sense of content that everyone gets, just disappears, soon as the sun sets” – The name of the song is ‘Wake Up Alone’…That’s what addicts do, whether alone or lying next to someone, they wake up alone, everyday
Every addict on the show confirmed they felt this deep sadness, most confirmed it without pausing to even think about it for a second
Firstly I disagreed with the idea; I decided I wasn’t sad, especially not above and beyond any other emotional state, but, the more I thought about it, the more I realised it might be true. Maybe I am fundamentally sad on a level that I have separated myself from?
Am I sad and just great at self-denial? Lets face it, I’ve been at it since I was 7 years old. My memories of childhood are very hazy, but the morning walks of addiction are crystal clear flashbacks, illustrating the strength and impact of these experiences
From a genetic point of view, on one side of my family tree, my Nan and Granddad were addicts, they had 2 children who are both addicts, between them 2 addicts they had 5 children, 3 of which are addicts…either active/dormant and/or recovering (I am one of them). I don’t know 2 of the 5 very well. But, them aside, the argument that ‘addicts breed addicts’ is strongly supported in our clan
BUT, if it is sadness that causes the problem in the first place, where does it come from? This void of contentment that all addicts seem to share! Is it coincidence? Are we sad because we have tasted the pleasure of certain activities or substances, and we know that at some point we will have to cut those things out of our lives?
Is there such a thing as a sadness gene?
The worst thing about it is, if they found a magic pill to eradicate this tendency, I think I might avoid taking it. Because I think I would feel sad about letting go of my many fixes. I am through the worst times, I have more control now than in the past, but the strength of the urge is the same as it was at 7 years old, it never lets up, it never weakens, it’s never trumped
It feels so hopeless to resist, and I am not a weak person by nature, I am a fighter. So; I guess on some level, I’m actively choosing to not fight the tendencies
The stats vary, but many doctors and scientists argue that 10% of the population seem to have no ability to regulate the use of these activities and substances, without becoming dependant on them. They can’t remain in the ‘recreational bin’…They are consumed with the hit, even when the addiction leads to the total breakdown of their lives, and the loss of everything in them, they carry on regardless
I’ve worked and socialised with many addicts over the years, and most of them were wading through the aftermath of losing everything and everyone. It is supposedly an inbuilt natural reaction to keep yourself alive; but addicts even ignore the possibility of death with great ease
What is it about these pleasures that drive some people to self destruct, until they have just one thing left in their life?…Their fix!
I don’t want to be this person anymore. I go through periods when I abstain for weeks on end, but during these times, I secretly long for a fix of some kind, and it’s only ever a matter of time before I’m back to being hooked on something
Being an addict is a difficult, lonely, misunderstood place to live in. And some like to believe it’s some kind of choice, but I don’t think many people would actively choose to lose everything in their life… just so they could consume some substance or another
It creeps up and swallows you whole, before you’ve had time to take a second glance!
We are all gripped for life, abstinence is not a cure. For most people, the urge never leaves, and it’s a matter of luck and circumstance that separates the recovering addicts from the active one’s
Are we genetically sad or genetically prone to addiction? Or worse, are we fighting both inherited states at once? Is what seems like a desire to feel excitement, actually an action to alleviate a lifetimes worth of sadness?
Until we know more, we have no choice but to ‘Wake Up Alone’