In my life I have struggled with addiction to two substances, cigarettes and marijuana. These addictions have been destructive on my body and mind and have caused some of the worst times in my life. At the same time learning to understand, battle and eventually overcome these addictions has pushed me to grow as a person in ways that I may never have grown otherwise. I do wish that I had never become addicted to these two substances but there has been silver linings that have come from these experiences without which I wouldn’t be the person I am today. This blog post is an attempt to share what I have learned about addiction and myself in the process of overcoming addiction.
I have found addiction to be incredibly insidious in its origins. For me, what started out as a cigarette here and there, all too quickly morphed into a cigarette a day, then a couple of day before suddenly I had a full blown addiction. Nobody intends to become an addict, however as use of a substance slowly increases an addiction can all too rapidly form, catching people largely unawares. At no point during the development of either of my addictions did I realise what was happening. It was only once both addictions were well established did I realise what had happened. Because of how addiction gradually develops it is incredibly hard in the moment to see that an addiction is forming. Nobody feels addicted until they are an addict.
Once an addiction has been established it’s incredibly hard to leave it behind as it starts to become integrated into your life. This can happen in a multitude of different ways. For me while I was addicted to marijuana I developed an emotional dependance on it. I needed it to feel normal, I also didn’t believe I could cope with life if I wasn’t smoking. At my worst I found it impossible to imagine a future where I did not smoke marijuana all of the time. When I realised I was addicted and started to confront my addiction I realised that I was using it as a way of coping with some very strong negative feelings. In order to face my addiction I had to face and overcome those feelings. This can be one of the reasons why overcoming addiction can be so hard. When an addiction is being used to hide from something else there are two things someone has to overcome in order to heal themselves properly. It very much feels like getting kicked while you’re down, as when you’re already at one of your lowest points you suddenly have another issue to confront.
Similarly I have found quitting smoking to be incredibly hard. For me the hardest part about quitting smoking is the social nature of smoking. Many of my close friends smoke, and as such when I hang out with them I am forced into an environment where I have to confront my addiction. This is really hard to face and I all too often crumble and end up smoking around my friends. I know that this is a failure on my part, I lack the will power to not smoke with my friends (especially if we are drinking). However I also know that if I was not friends with smokers I would have found it much easier to completely walk away from smoking. This is type of social trap that occurs when someone is friends with people who use the substance they are trying to quit. Seeing your friends means facing your addiction head on in a situation that encourages you to cave in to your desires. It is very hard to make it through these situations. Because of this it can be necessary to leave friendship behind in order to get over an addiction. As an addiction grows it become more and more integrated into your life. For me at my lowest point I structured my days and activities around my addiction. It literally became a large of who I was and how I lived my life. As such getting over my addiction involved restructuring large parts of my life, changing the activities I did, what I did with my time and how I thought about myself.
Admitting that I was addicted to marijuana and cigarettes was a difficult first step to healing myself. When you’re in a destructive dance with something like that you don’t want to admit it. For me this was because on a certain deep level I knew that if I admitted to being addicted I was admitting I had a problem I had to face. By pretending to not be addicted I could pretend to not have a problem and keep on smoking which was both the lazy way out, and exactly what my addiction wanted me to do. For these reasons admitting an addiction to oneself is the first step in recovering. Until an addiction is seen and recognised it cannot be combatted or beaten.
I will end this blog post with the most important lesson I learned about beating an addiction. Celebrate your achievements and persevere. Beating an addiction takes time, and every time you don’t cave in to your addiction is a victory to be celebrated. Set backs are normal and what’s important is to realise that this is part of the journey. So long as you keep your destination in mind and keep trying to get there you will succeed one day. It can be hard and might take a lot of time and struggle, but by applying yourself you can beat your addiction. We all are in control ourselves and can achieve what we set our minds to.
The names have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.
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