You probably have an image in your head, right now. It’s likely to be something a long the lines of smelly, badly dressed person with missing teeth, twitching hands and bloodshot eyes. Unemployed. Homeless? Definitely unable to maintain any sort of relationship.
You know the things you can get addicted to, don’t you? Alcohol, heroin, cannabis, ecstasy, cigarettes. Maybe gambling. Possibly prescription drugs. Mostly chemical things you put into your body to help you feel a ‘buzz’ that you need more and more of over time.
What if I told you that for the past ten years, I have been an addict, and that during this time I have graduated from high school, begun uni, held down a part time job and even romantic relationships. I have all my teeth, steady hands and I live comfortably.
I bet you didn’t see that coming. And neither did I.
Let me back up a bit.
In early 2011, I was voluntarily admitted to a private rehabilitation centre in Sydney. I told the intake team that I was there because I was ‘a little bit depressed’ and just needed ‘a kick start’. I was terrified to go to rehab where I knew there would be drug addicts and alcoholics, because I had all these preconceived notions about how they would act. I hadn’t even factored in sex addicts, food addicts, control addicts, love addicts, video game addicts and porn addicts, mainly because I didn’t know they even existed.
The month I was in hospital, I learnt that an addiction is anything that you do to avoid an emotion (or emotions all together). Some people drink to excess, some people take drugs and others binge on food and then purge it back out. Others control every little thing that goes into their mouths, to the single calorie. Still others sit in front of screens and play games and create other lives for 10 hours at a time, and others look to sex and porn as a way to both fill the emotional void and black it out. Addiction comes in many, varied shapes and sizes.
Addicts do too. Most of the people I met in rehab were in their 40’s, married with kids and working full time. There were some of us in our 20’s and a few retirees who had spent a lifetime trying to escape their demons. There were men and women who were addicted to anything and everything – male eating disorders patients, female sex addicts – and all my preconceived ideas were blown out of the water. The thing that really blew my mind is that everyone I met really, really, REALLY wanted to get better.
And so, I came to terms with who I am – a twenty-something woman, who is in recovery from addictions to a binge/restriction eating cycle, love and relationships, and pornography. I want to get better.
One day I will.