Phenomenology: What Does Addiction Feel Like?

I am a CRNA and had a problem early in life with alcohol. Never thought I would get into a position where I would use anesthetics or see my disease progress to the point it did. I thought I had my using under control (didn’t drink for over 8 years), but life happened and became too overwhelming for me to deal with. I turned to my old ways of dealing by numbing with alcohol and ended up thinking I could handle my life only if ….. then it became ok to pick up anesthetics since it was so familiar to me and I thought I knew so much about the drugs, having given them everyday for the last 15 years. I was very wrong. I now know about the disease of addiction and the only way I have found to stop my obsessive and compulsive thinking is through the spiritual means of working a 12 step program. It has truly changed my life and in the process has saved my life as well. I am truly grateful.

 

-Paula, 45, 5.5 yearsin recovery

“Sick and tired of being sick and tired” was a buzz phrase in the early 80’s and I remember hearing it when I was drinking alone at night. I was actually becoming severely depressed for a multitude of reasons, one I later realized was post partum depression. I also came from a violent alcoholic family and had major resentments against my father who was a raging alcoholic/substance misuse. I sought counseling on my own and drove myself to treatment but entered as a co-dependent. That’s just because I never mentioned my own drinking. But when it did come out, that’s when and where I first got help.”

-Teresa, 57, 31 years in recovery

I was tired of being alive but feeling dead inside. My life revolved around getting, using, and painfully detoxing from painkillers and cocaine. I had dropped out of school during the worst of my addiction. My GPA was so low that I had been on academic probation prior to dropping out. I scheduled an evaluation with a therapist and within five minutes of being in her office she sent me to the emergency room. It was the first time throughout my addiction that I did what someone else thought was best for me. I was admitted to the hospital for a week and sent directly to long term day treatment from there. I didn’t think any of it was necessary at the time, but today I know I could not have been more wrong. I wouldn’t be alive if I hadn’t finally decided to let someone else (who truly knew what they were talking about) tell me what I needed. Once I had a year clean, I returned to school and graduated two years later magna cum laude, with a 3.89 GPA. Immediately after graduating I was employed in my chosen field. Today, I have a career more fulfilling and enjoyable than I could have ever imagined.”

-Katherine, 27, 5 years in recovery

“I often wonder how I became an addict at a late age and with no prior drug use. There is no addiction in my family and I never enjoyed “recreational” drugs in the past. I have no doubt that I am an addict. I lost everything at one point and was even incarcerated and homeless. Opiates took so much from me.”

-Elizabeth, 38, 6 years in recovery

“I started using at 13. It started with drinking on the weekends with friends in my neighborhood. Soon marijuana entered the picture. That was where I found my first love of drugs. I started doing it every day but eventually it wasn’t enough of a high and I tried stealing pills from my family members. Even after they started numbering the caps of the bottles I ignored it thinking they would assume it was someone else. I never once got questioned and managed to get away with taking anything I wanted and convincing others that everything was okay. I played a game with everyone, the more I could get over on someone, the more that I could lie, cheat, and steal from them without them questioning me the more I enjoyed the high. Looking back I have to figure that everyone knew. I looked unhealthy and felt like crap. I needed to get high to get more than 20 minutes of continuous sleep. When I wasn’t high the only thing that mattered was getting high and when I was high I would just worry about where I was going to get more when the money ran out.

I was being removed from my university. I had just gotten out of an abusive relationship but what I think was the biggest reason that I stopped using was that I couldn’t go a single day without using. I believed that I was invincible, but when real life consequences began to come into play, I could no longer ignore what I was doing to myself. I had burned bridges with friends and family and was facing a huge issue with school. I was totally broken mentally and spiritually, I had no will to do anything anymore. So I figured, why not give recovery a shot.

I have been able to return to college full time. I have 2 jobs while going to school. I have become captain of a sports club at my university. I got a job at one of the fastest growing internet companies in America and on Deloitte’s list of fastest growing companies.”

-David, 20 years old, 2 years 3 weeks 1 day in recovery

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