Before I say or argue anything, I want to explicitly state that every case and person who is struggling with addiction is different.I know that there are people out there who actively choose to do drugs, such as heroin, knowing full well that they will become addicted. I want you to know, though, that that situation isn't the norm, and it certainly was not what happened to me.
I've struggled with panic disorder from mid-adolescence into my early twenties. I hit my lowest point when I was nineteen, suffering from inconsolable panic attacks multiple times a week. Sometimes they had a trigger; sometimes, they didn't. I had no idea how to prevent them from happening, and I was fully debilitated.
I was nineteen years old, and I couldn't even live my life.
So, I did what almost anybody would do, and I went to a psychiatrist. She gave me a prescription for 30 two-milligram Xanax tablets to take on an as-needed basis.
At first, it really, really helped. Whenever I felt an episode of panic starting to build, I would just pop a pill and the panic would disappear. The first few weeks of taking it, I would even get a small 'high,' too - just a little bit of euphoria. It was nothing crazy, but I just felt nice.
Over time, I started to feel less nice. The pill would still control the panic, but there was no longer any small dose of euphoria.
After that, one pill wouldn't cause the panic to subside. I needed two. Then three. Then four.
Then, I noticed that I was in a constant state of panic whenever I didn't have the medication in my system. If I didn't take any Xanax, even for periods of maybe 6-8 hours, I felt incredibly anxious and unable to function.
I had to take a pill, or two or three or four, just to feel NORMAL.
And I hated it. I didn't want to live like that. I knew what was happening to me, but I had absolutely no control over it. My brain was rewired.
I was sick.
And I mean mentally and physically. I'm talking blackouts, memory loss and lapses, nausea, chills, fever, vomiting. You name it. The dependence was so strong. I couldn't live, I couldn't go to work, I couldn't go to school, I couldn't breathe without Xanax.
And that... that, I did not choose.
All I did was take my prescription, because my doctor told me that they would help me live a normal life again.
And they did. Until they didn't.
The thing about addiction that people fail to realize is that it is, without a doubt, a disease. Yes, taking drugs is a choice - but that does not mean that the addiction itself is not a disease.
Having unprotected sex is a choice, but HIV is STILL A DISEASE.
Eating poorly and not exercising is a choice, but diabetes is STILL A DISEASE.
Smoking cigarettes is a choice, but cancer is STILL A DISEASE.
Taking drugs is a choice, but addiction is STILL. A. DISEASE.
Do you see a theme, here?
I'll be the first one to admit that, yes, taking those Xanax pills was my choice - at first. Nobody forced them down my throat. Nobody held a gun to my head and said, "Take these." I was the one that swallowed them. Nobody made me do that. That was my choice.
But the addiction is what came after; that's the name that we issue to the dependency, the withdrawal symptoms, the insatiable need for more of that drug in our bloodstream. That is a disease, that is an actual altering of the brain's chemistry that leads to impaired ability to function without it. And yes, it was brought on by a choice, but that does not make it any less of a disease.
Here's what addiction is not, though. Addiction is not an excuse, for anything. If you steal from your friends and family, if you treat other people like shit, if you use people, if you neglect or abuse your children or your partner, that is not because you suffer from addiction. That is because you are a piece of shit. If somebody with cancer stole $100 from their mother's purse, it wouldn't be 'because they have cancer,' it would be because they're an asshole.
So let's get this straight one more time.
Addiction is a disease that is typically brought on by the choice to take drugs.
Addiction is not an excuse to be a shitty friend, parent, child, boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse, etc.
You can recover from addiction. But you cannot recover from addiction and say, "My addiction caused me to do those horrible things that I did." You caused you to do those horrible things that you did.
Taking drugs is a choice. Addiction is a disease.
Fortunately, it's a curable one - I'm almost six months clean from Xanax and I'm living proof that life after addiction is possible. I will never not take responsibility for my actions, but I will also never let anybody diminish or dismiss what I went through to get to recovery.
Nationwide, 24/7 Recovery Village Drug Abuse Hotline: 866.948.9865