What makes someone an addict? For me, it was childhood trauma. I was separated from my mum at ten years of age, left with an emotionally distant father and anxious step-mother. There had been acrimony and violence in my parents’ relationship. My mum went onto become a heroin addict and I would spend weekends with her and her boyfriend (and company) when she was selling heroin to keep her own habit going.
I saw all the accoutrements of this lifestyle, the spoons and tourniquets, people with needles hanging out of their arms. My elder sister also joined in with my mum. It was a frightening experience for a youngster. I became depressed and suffered abuse at the hand of some of the people who hung out with my mum. I was a lonely and desperate adolescent and, lacking the love and support of a mum and dad, I found comfort in being the object of older men’s attention.
These kinds of experiences change a person, their perception of the world, sense of safety and ability to trust. By the time I was 14, I was regularly drinking enough booze to blot out the pain and trauma of what I was living through.
For me, alcohol became a reliable and consistent attachment. It may have been self-destructive, but at least it was always there, and it helped me manage the pain, loss and depression. From my own experience, I can see that the pain I had in my earlier life led me to shutting off emotionally from others. I had people around me, but I felt detached and cut off from them. I was so ashamed of my past and living in a state of numbness brought on by trauma.
I found it difficult to trust people and so felt I had to bear everything alone. I felt like I was living in a bubble, and it was only by facing the pain through therapy that I was able to see just how cut off from others I really was. Now, I know that I am not alone in this. At the root of most addiction, mental health problems, and almost any dysfunctional behaviour is pain and disconnection. Addicts are not understood, and this lack of understanding leads to further traumatisation, and in many cases, blame and discrimination.
No one sets out to be dependent on any drug. When I look back over my life, I can see the pain and fear I was trying to blot out for all those years. I have been dealing with it and trying to process it ever since I stopped drinking. It has not been easy and at times I have found the task almost unbearable. Yet, society as a whole continues to treat addiction as a failure on the part of the individual rather than seeing it for what it is, a way of coping with immense pain.
I have been re-evaluating my life recently, and I have begun to reframe my experience. Yes, I did suffer in the past, and it did cause a lot of pain, which I managed with substances for many years. But at the same time, I have a career, family, house and friends. I have blamed myself for so long for the traumas I suffered at the hands of others. All of these experiences I have written down in an eBook titled Sitting on a Park Bench: My Recovery from Alcohol Addiction.
In it, you can read about my experience of abuse and trauma, and how that led to addiction. You can also read about how I reached my rock bottom, then the work I put in to overcome that trauma and addiction and went onto lead a fulfilling life helping others who have experienced trauma. If my experiences make a difference to even one person, all of the pain and triumphs of my recovery journey will be rewarding for me. Thank you for reading along.