Day 20 : Your views on drugs and alcohol.
“Drugs are bad, m’kay?”
Or are they?
There is this long, Nancy Reagan-induced diatribe about the dangers and evil of illegal drugs. Say no to drugs. This is your brain on drugs. The war on drugs. Above the influence. Don’t drink and drive. Prom promise. Those of us that are Reagan babies and older, through the boomers, are well aware of the presence and negative consequences of drugs and alcohol. And despite the heavy dialogue, many people have personally experienced their own battle with substance abuse and dependence.
Alcohol had torn my life apart at the seams. As with any addiction, it starts off as a recreational activity. It’s a part of popular culture, especially in the younger age groups. In my youth, drinking was cool. Truthfully, it was a fun escape from the drudgery of daily life. That was at seventeen. Within a year, I started to find solace at the bottom of a bottle. Coincidentally, that was the same year Smile Empty Soul sang:
I do it for the drugs.
I do it just to feel alive.
I do it for the love that I get from the bottom of a bottle.
Bottom of a Bottle – Smile Empty Soul
By the time I was in college, I was seeking out opportunities and excuses to drink. A set of rules existed which meant to separate alcoholics, the loathsome bunch that we perceived people like our own parents to be, and recreational drinkers.
- Never drink before 5PM.
- Never drink alone.
- Never drink without occasion.
- Don’t drink before or during work or school.
As I gained my own freedom with my own apartment, the rules started to change. In private, I could do what I liked. I could deny everything and anything when I failed to be under the limelight of public scrutiny. I began to use alcohol as more than a crutch; I started to abuse it completely as a coping mechanism. That’s when alcohol and I started our sordid love affair.
The environment in my private life began to change. I have spoken about it many times in various posts like Decent into Hell where I described my addiction as:
The last days of that relationship are blurry; my memories are obscured by the drugs and alcohol intoxicating my mind. The days blended together in a ritualistic, self-medicated loop, work.drink.sleep.work.drink.sleep.sleep.drink.sleep… suspended in agonizing slow motion. The silence was deafening in the deep, dark hours of night, still, cold, indifferent.
I had become a functional alcoholic. I never drank before 5PM. There was always an occasion, even if it was a day ending in “Y”. And I certainly was not without company to share in my intoxicated merriment. But there is a solid difference. Every waking moment I did not spend at work was with a glass or a bottle in my fist. I had gone far beyond the point of mixers, and mostly beyond the need for glasses. It was me, a bottle of Bacardi 151 sans the filter, and a bottle of Gatorade to chase.
I wrote in Love the Way You Lie:
At that point, the seeds of alcoholism were taking root. I violated my own rules of drinking. It’s 5 o’clock somewhere! I’m not drinking alone if I’m drinking with my boyfriend. Hair of the dog, best way to cure a hangover. If I’m still managing to get to school and hold an honor’s average, I’m not drinking too much.
Liquid courage and comfortingly numb.
It has always been my vice, and holds the looming, unending threat to assume control and ruin my life. In another 30 Days of Truth piece entitled, Control, or Lack Thereof, I went into a full exploration of recent recreational alcohol use and the negative impact it created in my life.
Flip that coin.
Drugs have revolutionized my life.
People neglect to realize that they are consuming legal drugs daily. It becomes painfully obvious when you sigh over exorbitant copays at the pharmacy counter, like many people with mental health disorders often do. But, instead of calling them “drugs”, we call them “medications”. Did you know that Wellbutrin technically has the same chemical composition of a methamphetamine? And that benzodiazepines work on the same receptors in the brain as alcohol?
So here I am, with my uppers to wake me in the morning, and my downers to put me to bed at night. It would be illegal and detestable if I were using meth and boozing away. Instead, it’s under the supervision of a doctor, as a controlled substance, in a convenient little pill. Don’t get the wrong idea. I am only likening the effects. The supervision of the doctor is safer, and the medications are regulated by the FDA. And as a result, I have most of my functioning back.
And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I so love everything that will successfully fuck me up. The legitimate, prescribed meds don’t hit me as fast as a shot of Jack, or make me feel as at home. Learning to get along without instant gratification or immediate mind alteration has been one of the most profound changes in sobriety. And I’m still working on it, one day at a time. Luckily, booze has shown me numerous times that it does not return my love or my fidelity: it has failed to work at the worst of times. So, no going back.
For me, alcohol was a self-medication tool. I can’t say that I am completely free of a substance abuse issue, because I will not hesitate to turn to the xanax when I’m on the verge of a panic attack. But, I mostly ride it out, because I think it’s healthier that way.
The difference between then and now is astounding. I don’t (often) seek to get messed up from medication. Sometimes, I do try to tweak for desired effect, but I think we’re all guilty of that from time to time. The difference lies in the attitudes toward the substances. Instead of seeking a refuge from reality, I seek to change the state of my reality by changing myself. No amount of substance is going to fix me or my situations. I am going to have to be strong enough to do it.
And I think that’s the difference between treatment with medications (still drugs) and self-medication (also drugs). The attitude is the difference.