Dictionary reference .com defines addiction as “the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.”
Online medical dictionary
Addiction is a persistent, compulsive dependence on a behavior or substance. The term has been partially replaced by the word dependence for substance abuse. Addiction has been extended, however, to include mood-altering behaviors or activities. Some researchers speak of two types of addictions: substance addictions (for example, alcoholism, drug abuse, and smoking); and process addictions (for example, gambling, spending, shopping, eating, and sexual activity). There is a growing recognition that many addicts, such as polydrug abusers, are addicted to more than one substance or process.
I was exposed to addiction at a very young age. I did not know it at the time, in fact it took many years before I realized that my parents were both alcoholics. They were what I now know to be “high functioning addicts”. As a child I did not know what it was I was witnessing, I only knew how I was affected. I was neglected. My mother and father were not the doting parental types. I can’t remember either one of them coming to school to meet my teachers. They never attended open houses either. I remember coming home from school while in the 1st grade and finding an empty home. You might say I was one of the founding members of the latchkey kids clubs.
My parents were also addicted to each other. I am not sure if that was unhealthy, but I do know it was detrimental to the emotional well being of us (their children). How many families do you know where 5 out of 5 children managed to find a way to leave home at the age of 17 or younger? My oldest brother went to live with his grandparents when he was 16, two of my sisters left at the age of 17 to get married and my favorite older brother joined the Air Force at 17. Me, well I started to stray from home before I hit puberty, but actually left home for good at the tender age of 15. You might say our family was a poster child for family dysfunction.
Now.. back to addictions. To fill the void left by the lack of love and nurturing by my parents I turned to unhealthy means. I was rebelling against my environment at a very young age. My parents reported that I would escape my crib before I was fully walking. I am sure that it was due to the extended periods of time that I was left alone. I cannot imagine what my diapers were like and I am sure that I was hungry for more than just food. I sought out attention by any means at my disposal. Whether it was acting cute or acting out by destruction of property. I was bound and determined to get what I needed so desperately. I needed to feel loved.
That led me into situations which were less than desirable. Molestation and multiple rapes to name a few. Those of course, only made matters worse and I found myself turning to food for comfort. I became a pudgy child and a fat teen. This made matters worse, because no one likes the fat girl. In my middle school years I discovered if I allowed boys to have their way with me, that they would overlook my fat. I found comfort in the touching and embracing. I never liked the sex part of it, but was willing to put up with it for the companionship and the physical intimacy, even if it was short lived. I became addicted to the sex, but not for the sex. I hope this is making sense to you, the reader. I am certain that not many will understand, unless they, too have walked this path.
When food and sex were not enough, I began to experiment with drugs. My drugs of choice were alcohol, marijuana, opium, diet pills (prescribed to take care of the previously discussed fat girl syndrome), speed, LSD and other street amphetamines. This was all happening before I was even 14 years old. At 13 I consumed an entire bottle of Crème de Menthe and walked 2 miles to the house of a boy I had a crush on. I wanted his attention so badly. He was one of the few that treated me nice. He was the one that gave me my first real kiss. But it seemed that my obsessive behavior just scared him off. I had passed out on his neighbor’s lawn, the police were called and I never did get to explore that relationship any further.
A year later, at 14, I remember hiding under the table at my sister’s wedding and taking all the left over glasses from on top of the table and drinking them dry. I did not care what was in them, all I wanted to achieve the numbness that came with the intoxication. With drugs it was more a part of fitting in with the crowd. They call that “peer pressure”. But to me it was more than that. It was a path to acceptance that I had not ever even been close to experiencing before. So at an age where others were learning high school cheers or learning to kiss, I was learning how to hold my liquor and how to get high without getting caught.
Unfortunately, the only way I ever learned to communicate or relate with the opposite sex was through sex. So I became promiscuous. I did not like sex, as I mentioned previously, but thought it was the only way to be accepted. To say I had low self esteem was a gross understatement. My physical body was alive, which was only true because my heart was pumping blood and my lungs filled with air for each breath. If those functions could be willed to cease, I would have come to an end a long, long time ago. By the time I left home at 15 I had had more sex partners than most women have in their lifetime. As I write this I find myself cringing with shame. I look back and am astonished that I survived without contracting some horrible incurable disease or worse. I am ashamed to say that I did have to face the fact that having multiple sex partners is going to guarantee one form of sexually transmitted disease or another. My scars ran deep and could not be seen by the naked eye, but many years later they created a barrier to having children. Modern medicine was able to undo the tremendous damage that was caused to my reproductive organs which was caused by one of the most common diseases on the streets.
Leaving home at 15, was not at all easy, not even for a cute girl who lost her baby fat. Not only did I need to find a way to survive, I needed to find ways to feed my addictions. Not the best scenario. I do not believe in God, at least not in the traditional sense. But I must confess, there were some guardian angels watching over me for those next 4 years. I survived the horror of the streets by self-medicating. I took any (and all) drugs that came my way, regardless of what I had to do to get them. Ironically, my drug of choice during that phase of my life was LSD. I do not know why I am not psychotic. In the short course of my street life I know I had ingested over 400 hits (doses). At one point I had taken over 50 hits which resulted in me falling into a coma-like state for three days. Drugs were my escape. I did not have a physical addition to the LSD, but I can guarantee that I was totally addicted to the sensation of losing of myself that I achieved while tripping. It was a method of disassociation that was readily available to me.
For a brief period of time I found escape in the form of opium. I was “shacking up” with a drug dealer in the Boston area. The drugs he sold were opium and hashish. There was something magical about the way the opium made me feel. It was like curling up in the arms of a lover and drifting off to sleep. I was safe in the warm embrace of the opium. All pain left my body and mind and I never felt lonely. I did not have to think or feel while under the influence. I had heard about “pipe dreams” which were associated with opium use, but never experienced them. I had no motivation to dream. In fact, I had no motivation to do anything. I stopped eating, Stopped going out of the apartment and eventually stopped thinking. My entire existence focused on getting the next pipe.
I am not sure what it was that woke me up. But I distinctly remember that feeling of waking up, as if from a dream. I looked around and saw that I was only existing. I was in a world filled with fog. Something inside told me that I had to get out, before it was too late. It must have been one of those guardian angels I have heard so much about. They must have been screaming inside of my head “Get out while you still can!”. I remember stumbling down a flight of stairs, into the streets of Boston, and never looking back. I am not sure how long it took for me to fully recover from the time I spent in that opium dream. I could not tell you what year that occurred, or who I was with. Such is the life of an addict.
Unfortunately, that was not my last dance with addition.