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I love cliches, I feel like they’re used so often that they tend to lose meaning when they, in actual fact, carry so much truth if you take a deeper look. They say the first step to recovery is acceptance. As a person who has frequented rehabilitation centres, I really had no idea what acceptance really meant. I was under the impression that all I had to accept was that I was an addict when in actual fact there were a lot of other things to take into consideration. Acceptance is encompassing of all the aspects that make up the person that I am today, and until I began to accept myself for who I was and what I was actually going through, I continued to relapse and then regret it afterwards. It was a vicious cycle.
According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, addiction can be defined as ‘persistent compulsive use of a substance known by the user to be harmful’. ‘Addicts’ know that whatever they’re doing is not good for them and that’s because they get to face the repercussions of their substance abuse but they continue using anyway. It’s so easy for an addict to fall back into the trap of addiction even after suffering severe consequences which almost proved fatal and this is because addiction is also a dependency. We find it hard to cope without a dose of our preferred substance and when we do get a dose, even though sometimes it can be a mild overdose, we start to feel helpless because that’s where we begin to experience uncomfortable sensations in our bodies which are caused by the abuse of a particular substance, these can be a hangover, insomnia, stomach cramps, loss of appetite, etc.
It’s easy for others to point fingers at addicts but one thing we need to understand is that addiction is always accompanied by a mental illness. Addiction can result from depression and the need to not feel whatever it is that gets you down, and it can also result from anxiety and the dire need to remain calm amidst all the chaos. It is our responsibility to take care of ourselves and put our health first but we get so caught up in pleasing others, so much that it becomes a difficult duty to maintain. Our addiction may be a result of peer pressure, but it is not peer pressure that keeps us hooked, it is us chasing the temporal amount of joy that comes with every “session” that does. It’s extremely easy to get lost in chasing the feeling that you forget the repercussions that come with it. When the substance starts to wear off, we find ourselves tapping back into our initial depressive state harder than before. We end up being disinterested in everything. We lose sight of our passions, our responsibilities start to seem pointless, we miss school, we miss work and life just starts to get unnecessarily hectic.
I remember how easy it was for me to keep using even when I knew that I would struggle to sleep at night because I’d be sitting there thinking I’d die in my sleep and that there was a chance that I would get emotional and start crying for or about things that happened way back in my young years. I also remember sitting there watching my friends sleep and wished that I could also sleep as easily as they did, even just for an hour. It is at this point that I realised that as much as substances masked whatever I was feeling, those things became more exposed when the drug had served its purpose and spit me out of my hiding place. You get into a very dark place, a place you thought you had conquered because the drugs had you feeling victorious. Even though I knew I had an issue, I’d still go back and take the very same substance that almost put me in a hospital because I felt like I was strong enough to handle whatever consequences may arise. I guess that was the case until I actually ended up on a hospital bed. That, however, is a story for another post.
We test and break rules and although our bodies are able to handle a lot of stress, we will not always be lucky. At times we can feel our bodies deteriorating but we will still do the same thing that got them there in the first place, which is rather questionable. It made me wonder, “Where exactly am I placing my value?” I clearly wasn’t placing value in myself because if I was, I would have known that it was “time-out” for me and I had to concentrate on bettering myself. I remember, after the ‘ordeal’, I would continue to hate myself for putting my body through the torture that comes with withdrawals and because I kept on wallowing over what I had done, I’d just keep getting worse. All I had to do was forgive myself, repeatedly.
Forgiveness comes after acceptance. Until I accepted who I was at the time, there was no way I could access the person that I wanted to become and in order for me to no longer identify with that person, I had to forgive myself and start again. I had to forgive myself for letting my conditioning take centre stage. I had to forgive myself for not putting my health first. I had to forgive myself for all the friendships and relationships I destroyed because of my addiction. I had to forgive myself for all the jobs I walked out on simply because I had woken up feeling like a failure. I had to learn how to forgive myself for every time that I relapsed even when I had told myself I stopped. I had to forgive my past experiences for having so much control over me. I had lost myself, I didn’t even know whether I was coming or going. One time, I thought I had it all figured out and the next thing I knew, a curveball was thrown my way and I just spiralled downwards. I had to stop feeling sorry for myself and take responsibility for what life had given me. The worst was over, it was time for me to turn my life around.
Getting through it wasn’t easy because I wanted to do everything myself. I’ve always been the kind of person that wanted to be in charge of things but I realised that I needed support and people to understand me. I couldn’t surround myself with people who judged me because that would only take me backwards. I had to teach myself about what I was going through and I’ll tell you this, learning is the easy part, it’s the application of what you learn that requires you to remember why you started. I also had to find a power that was higher than myself, I had to come to terms with and meet the God of my understanding and that brought about a lot of structure in my life. Without that, I could have been worse, or even dead, but I thank God and the knowledge that I sought for the person that I am today. I had to find other avenues to seek joy and that came with reading up on foreign concepts, journaling and lately, writing posts for The Filling Station and serving my purpose. I believe I went through everything that I went through so that I could be well equipped to fulfil my current purpose and that is to educate people about mental health and remind them “In everything you go through, you are never alone. Reach out.” It does get too much at times, but I guess that’s why we need to support each other, however, I will forever depend on my passion to inspire change, because after all, love conquers all.
Throughout the week we’ll be exploring the theme of acceptance and I’ll share my story in detail with regards to addiction.
If you or your loved ones are battling with addiction, help is available for you. SADAG is Africa’s largest mental health support and advocacy group. Contact them on 0800 21 22 23