“Most of us do not have to think twice about this question. WE KNOW! Our whole life and thinking was centered in drugs in one form or another, the getting and using and finding ways and means to get more. We lived to use and used to live. Very simply, an addict is a man or woman whose life is controlled by drugs. We are people in the grip of a continuing and progressive illness whose ends are always the same: jails, institutions and death.
Those of us who have found the program of Narcotics Anonymous do not have to think twice about the question: Who is an addict? We know! The following is our experience.
As addicts, we are people whose use of any mind-altering, mood-changing substance causes a problem in any area of life. Addiction is a disease which involves more than simple drug use. Some of us believe that our disease was present long before the first time we used.
Most of us did not consider ourselves addicted before coming to the Narcotics Anonymous program. The information available to us came from misinformed people. As long as we could stop using for a while, we thought we were all right. We looked at the stopping, not the using. As our addiction progressed, we thought of stopping less and less. Only in desperation did we ask ourselves, “Could it be the drugs”?
We did not choose to become addicts. We suffer from a disease which expresses itself in ways that are anti-social and make detection, diagnosis and treatment difficult.
Our disease isolated us from people except for the getting, using and finding ways and means to get more. Hostile, resentful, self-centered and self-seeking, we cut ourselves off from the outside world. Anything not completely familiar became alien and dangerous. Our world shrank and isolation became our life. We used in order to survive. It was the only way of life we knew.
Some of us used, misused and abused drugs and still never considered ourselves addicts. Through all of this, we kept telling ourselves, “I can handle it”. Our misconceptions about the nature of addiction conjured up visions of violence, street crime, dirty needles and jail.
When our addiction was treated as a crime or moral deficiency, we became rebellious and were driven deeper into isolation. Some of the highs felt great, but eventually the things we had to do in order to support our using reflected desperation. We were caught in the grip of our disease. We were forced to survive any way we could. We manipulated people and tried to control everything around us. We lied, stole, cheated and sold ourselves. We had to have drugs, regardless of the cost. Failure and fear began to invade our lives.
One aspect of our addiction was our inability to deal with life on its terms. We tried drugs and combinations of drugs in an effort to cope with a seemingly hostile world. We dreamed of finding a magic formula that would solve our ultimate problem – ourselves. The fact was that we could not successfully use any mind-altering or mood-changing substance, including marijuana and alcohol. Drugs ceased to make us feel good.
At times, we were defensive about our addiction and justified our right to use, especially when we had “legal prescriptions”. We were proud of the sometimes illegal and often bizarre behavior that typified our using. We “forgot” the times we sat alone consumed by fear and self-pity. We fell into a pattern of selective thinking. We only remembered the “good” drug experiences. We justified and rationalized the things we had to do to keep from being sick or going crazy. We ignored the times when life seemed to be a nightmare. We avoided the reality of our addiction.
Higher mental and emotional functions, such as conscience and the ability to love, were sharply affected by our use of drugs. Living skills were reduced to the animal level. Our spirit was broken. The capacity to feel human was lost. This seems extreme, but many of us have been in this state.
We were constantly searching for “the answer” -that person, place or thing that would make everything all right. We lacked the ability to cope with daily living. As our addiction caught up with us, many of us found ourselves in and out of institutions.
These experiences indicated there was something wrong with our lives. We wanted an easy way out and some of us thought of suicide. Our attempts were usually feeble, and only helped to contribute to our feelings of worthlessness. We were trapped in the illusion of “what if”, “if only” and “just one more time”. When we did seek help, we were really only looking for the absence of pain.
We have regained good physical health many times, only to lose it by using again. Our track record shows that it is impossible for us to use successfully. No matter how well we may appear to be in control, using drugs always brings us to our knees.
Like other incurable diseases, addiction can be arrested. We agree that there is nothing shameful about being an addict, provided we accept our dilemma honestly and take positive action. We are willing to admit without reservation that we are allergic to drugs. Common sense tells us that it would be insane to go back to the source of our allergy. Our experience indicates that medicine cannot “cure” our illness.
Although physical and mental tolerance play a role, many drugs require no extended period of use to trigger allergic reactions. Our reaction is what makes us addicts, not how much we use.
Many of us did not think we had a problem until the drugs ran out. Even when others told us we had a problem, we were convinced that we were right and the world was wrong. We used this belief to justify our self-destructive behavior. We developed a point of view that enabled us to pursue our addiction without concern for our own well-being or that of others. We began to feel the drugs were killing us long before we could ever admit it to anyone else. We noticed that if we tried to stop using, we couldn’t. We suspected we had lost control over the drugs and had no power to stop.
Certain things followed as we continued to use. We became accustomed to a state of mind common to addicts. We forgot what it was like before we started using; we forgot the social graces. We acquired strange habits and mannerisms. We forgot how to work; we forgot how to play; we forgot how to express ourselves and show concern for others. We forgot how to feel.
While using, we lived in another world. We experienced only periodic jolts of reality or self-awareness. It seemed we were at last two people instead of one, like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. We ran around trying to get our lives together before our next run. Sometimes we could do this very well, but later, it was less important and more impossible. In the end, Dr. Jekyll died and Mr. Hyde took over.
Each of us has a few things we can say we never did. We cannot let these things become excuses to use again. Some of us feel lonely because of differences between us and other members, and this makes it difficult to give up old connections and old habits.
We all have different tolerances for pain. Some addicts needed to go to greater extremes than others. Some of us found we had had enough when we realized that we were getting high too often and it was affecting our daily lives.
At first, we were using in a manner which seemed to be social or at least controllable with little indication of the disaster which the future held for us. At some point, our using became uncontrollable and antisocial. This began when things were going well and we were in situations that allowed us to use frequently. This was usually the end of the good times. We may have tried to moderate, substitute, or even stop using, but we went from a state of drugged success and well-being to complete spiritual, mental and emotional bankruptcy. This rate of decline varies from addict to addict. Whether it is years or days, it is all downhill. Those of us who don’t die from the disease will go on to prison, mental institutions or complete demoralization as the disease progresses.
Drugs had given us the feeling that we could handle whatever situation might develop. We became aware, however, that drugs were largely responsible for having gotten us into our very worst predicaments. Some of us may spend the rest of our lives in jail for a drug-related crime or a crime committed while using.
We had to reach our bottom before we became willing to stop. We were much more motivated to seek help in the latter stage of our addiction. It was easier for us to see the destruction, disaster and delusion of our using. It was harder to deny our addiction when problems were staring us in the face.
Some of us first saw the effects of addiction on the people with whom we were close. We were very dependent on them to carry us emotionally through life. We felt angry, disappointed and hurt when they had other interests, friends and loved ones. We regretted the past, dreaded the future, and we weren’t too thrilled about the present. After years of searching, we were more unhappy and less satisfied than when it all began.
Our addiction had enslaved us. We were prisoners of our own mind, condemned by our own guilt. We had given up ever stopping. Our attempts to stay clean had always failed, causing us pain and misery.
As addicts, we have an incurable disease called addiction which is chronic, progressive and fatal. However, it is a treatable disease. We feel that each individual alone has to answer the question, “Am I an addict?” How we got the disease is of no immediate importance to us. We are concerned with recovery.
We begin to treat our addiction by not using. Many of us sought answers but failed to find any workable solution until we found each other. Once we identify ourselves as addicts, help becomes possible. We can see a little of ourselves in every addict and a little bit of them in us. This insight lets us help one another. Our futures seemed hopeless until we found clean addicts who were willing to share with us. Denial of our addiction was what had kept us sick, and our honest admission enabled us to stop using. The people of Narcotics Anonymous told us that they were recovering addicts who had learned to live without drugs. If they could do it, so could we.
The only alternatives to recovery are jails, institutions, dereliction and death. Unfortunately, our disease makes us deny our addiction. If you are an addict, you too can find a new way of life through the N.A. program that would not otherwise be possible. We have become very grateful in the course of our recovery. Our lives have become useful, through abstinence and by working the Twelve Steps of Narcotics Anonymous.
We realize that we are never cured and carry the disease within us all our lives. We have a disease from which we do recover. Each day we are given another chance. We are convinced that there is only one way for us to live, and that is the N.A. way”