Quality of Life and Addiction


If you have an addiction to some intoxicant, your quality of life is diminished. There are many statements bandied about regarding controlled substances, but I don’t think many would argue that point.

Personally, I’ve never known a recreational user. This term gets bandied about by those who want to legalize some drugs. They talk about the particular faction of our society that can control themselves when it comes to usage, and they say that the user—like beer drinkers—should be afforded the opportunity to indulge in their substance of choice. I’ve never met this person. I’ve met plenty of drug users, and I’ve heard my share of testimonies regarding the moment when it got out of their control. I’ve also had them tell me that their quality of life was diminished in various ways by the substance of their choosing. The legalization crowd never talks about the little ways in which your life is diminished by continued usage of a substance, and the resultant forms of addiction.

Those who argue about the evil a drug has on a person often use the large arguments to pursue their point. They speak about the anecdotal evidence regarding the individual who ends up robbing a Kwik Shop or shooting a pedestrian, and they even speak about the man who ends up ruining his family.

I have young nephews, and I’ve often wondered how I’m going to address the questions they will have about these substances and addiction. As the fun Uncle that I am, I don’t want to approach their questions from a professorial position. I don’t want my answers to be of the text book variety or something I learned from an anti-drug campaign. I want to tell them something that is personal and different from the answers they receive from anyone else.

Funny thing about these substances, I will tell them, they become mood regulators. When you’re a little too happy or energetic, you can mistake this as a desire to have a cigarette. When you’re a little down, tired, or in some way feeling below life’s bottom line you mistake this as a need for a caffeinated beverage of some sort. It doesn’t happen in one day, and it doesn’t usually happen in a cognitive manner, but there will come a day when you cede control of your mood over to the substance that you’re just trying out. I don’t know anyone who sits down and says: “You know what? I’m a little too happy today. I need a hit.” It happens to the best of us though, and we never saw the escalation.

As you can see here, I’m not talking about the big guys. I have little to no personal experience with controlled substances, other than through friends, and I wouldn’t begin my discussion with alcohol. Alcohol would be a discussion I had down the line. The nature of addiction is where I would start, and I would begin my answer with the fact that the nature of addiction begins with relatively harmless substances such as cigarettes and soda pop.

“Do you love doing what you do?” I will ask them filling in the blank with whatever they love at that time. “After gaining an addiction (be it drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, soda pop etc.) your enjoyment of the particular activity will be diminished. Your focus will be on that addiction. Doing (whatever it is they do) will become secondary to your next hit. Not only that, your mind may become diminished. Your physical capacity may become lessened by increased hits, until you are less concerned about your ability to run, play, laugh and love.

At some point, you become concerned only about that next hit. At some point, you’re no longer listening to the loved ones around you, because you’re wondering where your next hit is going to come from. You’re obsessed with it, until you leave that table get a hit/get regulated, and you’re fine. At that point, you are able to listen to their mindless minutiae without hatred.

We can talk about all the big things if you want. If you want me to, I could recite for you the facts and figures on the evils of addiction, and I could turn professorial and provide you with all sorts of literature on addiction, but life is really about the little things. Life is about smelling a flower and tasting an incredible burger that you’ve worked to pay for, but cigarettes cut down on your sense of smell and your sense of taste. Life is about having fun, being who you are, and doing what you do. Life is about playing baseball and basketball, and talking to beautiful women, and going on vacations, and wanting to spend time with your grandpa talking about stupid stuff that only he can make entertaining. Life is about highs and lows and dealing with them on a case by case basis.

There are huge addictions, like those associated with heroin, meth, cocaine, and alcohol, but there is also cigarettes and soda pop. Soda pop and sugar can bring you temporary highs, but it can also bring you low. I wish I could tell you that there are no temporary highs with alcohol and drugs, but there are. You can experience a great deal of mixed emotions in the throes of these substances, but they are temporary, and you can spend the rest of your life trying to recapture those temporary highs, until you become something less than what you were when you started, and you don’t even see this happening.

There was a time in my life when I couldn’t picture a night out without some form of intoxicant. Can you imagine that? Can you imagine considering a night out with friends pointless if there wasn’t anything to stimulate you? I remember wondering what we would talk about if there wasn’t something to bridge the gap…if there wasn’t something to bring out that crazy side of my personality that I wanted to show. You could say that I was an insecure individual who didn’t believe he was capable of entertaining people without alcohol, and you would be right. I fell into that trap somehow. I hated most polite conversation. I still do, but I let it go now. I used to have this desire to shake up boring conversations by saying something controversial, and I didn’t believe I would be capable of doing so without some intoxicant. I didn’t want to go out and talk about knitting and crochet. I wanted a night out, I wanted to create memories, and I couldn’t see anyone accomplishing that on soup and jello. I worked hard, was my rationale, and I wasn’t about to let a weekend go without something to take the edge off.

I went to a lot of parties to take the edge off, and I got drunk a lot. There were some occasions when I did take the edge off. There were some nutty nights, but for those good nights there were just as many nights when I sat in a proverbial corner by myself while the fun happened around me. I was all right though. I never got down in the dumps as long as I had a full pack of smokes and a bunch of beer.

As long as I had a full pack of smokes and a bottle of beer in my hand, I didn’t have to deal with the fact that I had trouble talking to women, that I didn’t do well in school, that I hadn’t done much to further a career, that I didn’t get along with my Dad on many levels, that I didn’t really care about seeing my family, that I had little to no idea who I was, and that I was pretty much a slob. I could put those discussions off for one more night, as long as I had a beer and a full pack of smokes.

I look back on my life now, and I think about all the time I missed. I’m left to wonder what I was doing. What did I do with all that time that others spent talking to girls, refining their personalities, owning a home, learning the ins and outs of the tax code, learning about bank loans, and striving to achieve in the workplace? I was rarely a blackout drunk. I remember about 98% of it all, but I missed out on something in life. I put it off in order to have more fun than one guy can achieve in one life. Did I have fun, of course I did, but I think my quality of life was diminished a little. I think I put a lot off in pursuit of a good time. I think the pursuit of my addictions was, more often than not, my goal in too many situations.

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