I’m thoroughly convinced that every single person on this planet is capable of falling into some sort of addiction in their lifetime. Now hear me out before you say that’s totally preposterous.
Several times a semester I meet with a set of nursing students from the University of Toledo to provide them some alcohol and drug education by sharing my story of how I became both an alcoholic and addict and how I eventually found recovery. For every one of the classes I meet with, I always begin by asking each of them to introduce themselves, to tell me where they’re from, what they want to do with their nursing degree, and whether they’ve dealt with addiction with themselves or someone close to them. In most cases, every one of them has consistently known someone that has dealt with addiction issues, usually to alcohol or drugs, and sometimes to a few of the other big addictions out there like gambling. But no one has ever outright come out and said they themselves have engaged in any type of addiction. Yet, when I’ve asked if any woman in the room has ever gone out multiple times and bought a ton of clothes or shoes, got excited over it, and then regretted it later, almost every hand shot up. For the guys in the room, the same principle has constantly held true with playing video games for hours and hours and hours on end, just to achieve the passing of some level or completing a game entirely. The same has also proven true with students eating whole bags of chips, large boxes of chocolates, cartons of ice cream, numbers of energy drinks, and more, where each felt great while doing it, and then crappy afterward. What most of them didn’t realize is that addiction begins by relying upon things like that to feel better. Going shopping and buying a bunch of clothes is a great therapeutic tool to feel good about oneself for a moment in time. But does it truly make a person feel better from within in the long run. Not at all. The same holds true for solving that video game or overeating anything. In the moment, it might feel great when doing it, but then afterward, there’s always the crash, a letdown, and a new craving in the mind to find something else as a pick-me-upper.
My addiction life started on these very paths, buying things to make myself feel better, spending countless hours playing video games on my old Super Nintendo, shooting hoops for hours and hours until I felt sick to my stomach, etc., all of which were avoidance techniques to dealing with the reality that I wasn’t very happy inside with my life. Each were initially things I engaged in to numb myself from the madness I had going on around me like my alcoholic parents or being attracted to men or being molested, and so on. For the most part, they were harmless at first, until they weren’t enough to numb me from my reality of life anymore, and that’s the very moment I discovered my love of alcohol, and then drugs, and then sex, and then relationships, and then gambling, and well you get the point.
What’s funny about the point I’m trying to prove here is that 90% of the population in our country is already addicted to one specific thing and many don’t even realize it. What’s it to? Caffeine. True statistic, look it up if you don’t believe me!
But, while over-caffeinating or over-shopping or overeating or over playing video games here and there is most likely not going to destroy one’s life or become a severe addiction, the point I’m making is that each are precursors that can turn into bigger addictions. All it takes is for everything to turn upside down in one’s life, like getting fired from a job, losing a loving long-term relationship, developing a chronic health issue that’s painful, getting abused, or experiencing a major financial crisis, to name a few. It’s when those types of things happen where relying upon something to feel better such as over-shopping for dresses and shoes, can start turning into something far worse. It’s precisely when addiction often finds an icy grip in the mind and body of the now suffering human being and starts planting a seed by saying, “If you do this right now, you’ll feel a whole lot better, and won’t have to feel this pain anymore.” And you know what? Every single human being has the capability of listening to that voice and believing its lie and when they do, it’s exactly when a person who says they’ve never dealt with addiction suddenly becomes someone who is.
Never tell yourself that you aren’t and won’t ever become an addict, because deep down in all of us is the capability to become an addict of some sort. I’m just thankful I see that so clearly now, so that another addiction doesn’t get the chance to take hold of my life again like it used to…
Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson