I don’t smoke or do drugs. I don’t drink coffee or tea. I drink so little alcohol that my New Year’s resolution for the past two years has been to drink more. I’m doing a much better job of it this year!
I drink Diet Coke (I know it is bad for me) and I get a little cranky if I haven’t had a can by mid-afternoon. Does this make me an addict?
The Oxford English Dictionary defines “addict” as a person who is addicted to a particular substance, typically an illegal drug. It can also be used informally to mean an enthusiastic devotee of a specified thing or activity, such as a chocolate addict.
I think I am probably an addict of Diet Coke in this informal sense. I am able to give it up, and did for the years that I was either pregnant or breastfeeding. I don’t go into withdrawal or become physically sick when deprived, I’m just a little bit happier with it. Probably like your morning cup of coffee.
When talking about the use of illegal drugs, such as heroin or methamphetamines, we are easily able to understand the use of the term addiction. We recognize the grip that these drugs can have on a person and understand the intensity of the struggle that is required to quit.
Immediately after the birth of my first son, I was in extreme pain and was quickly given both an oral and IV dose of Demerol. It took effect instantly. The crazy thing was that my pain was just as intense but, all of a sudden, I couldn’t care less. It was as if my mind had separated from my body.
Medically, I only needed that one dose but, while I was on it, I was obsessed with my next fix. As they rolled my bed upstairs to my room I remember repeatedly asking my floor nurse if she had the order for the next dose that was still six hours away. She assured me that she did, but that I wouldn’t need it. I assured her that I would and that she should go ahead and get it ready.
It turned out she was right. After I came down from my high, the pain was gone and I was no longer jonesing for more. I completely understand how people can quickly become addicted. If you were going through a rough period in your life, this would be a welcome escape.
As a society, we have trouble acknowledging other forms of addiction. Smoking is a bad habit. A paycheck spent on shoes and purses is irresponsible. $20 a day on scratch tickets is a relaxing way to spend a break. A few drinks every day after work is a nice way to wind down.
These vices can be as much of an addiction as crack or speed but they are more socially acceptable. They can also be as equally harmful to the user and their loved ones.
If these abuses are hard for outsiders to spot, imagine how hard it is for the addict. This is what makes these forms of addiction so hard to treat. If someone doesn’t see, or won’t acknowledge their problem, how can you possibly help them?
Recognition and understanding are only the first steps in a long process of recovery… but you’ve gotta start somewhere.