Lorelie Rozzano is a guest blogger for Vertava Health.
Addiction Stole My Mind, But I Got It Back.
As a child I was an analyzer. It kept me from feeling the hurt of growing up in my alcoholic home. Unlike my emotions, I had control over my thoughts. If they were too scary or painful, I could change them. I didn’t know I was practicing magical thinking. I just knew when I changed my thoughts to more comforting ones, I felt better. I would distract myself by people watching. I inherently disliked smiling, shiny people. Even before I used drugs or drank alcohol, I was attracted to people who lived on the edge. I liked folks who didn’t play nice with society. At the time I didn’t realize the hurt and anger I was feeling, flavored my views of the world around me. I didn’t understand human psychology or substance use disorder, for that matter.
I started using drugs to be cool. I wanted my peers to know I wasn’t afraid to try new things.
I never admitted it but the first time I smoked pot, I hated it. It felt as if my brain was anesthetized as my muscles, eyelids and tongue, turned to rubber. If this dopey, lethargic state of being was cool, then I missed the boat. My friends marvelled over pot. So I tried it again and again and again. I was a loyal friend. I would power through for their sake. I went from bud to oil to editable. But no matter how much I consumed, or in what variety, it always had the same effect… red, swollen eyes, munchies and the lights turned dim. I could veg on the couch for hours watching TV. Maybe that’s the whole point of pot. When your brain doesn’t function, you don’t have to think. Let’s face it, thinking invites reality and no addicted person ever wants that. So, I was on to bigger and better things. Alcohol usage was consistent throughout most of my addiction. If I didn’t have my drug of choice, (DOC) I could always turn to alcohol to take the edge off. If someone offered me a pill, I’d take it. A line? Okay. Crack? Sure. Why not? I didn’t ask questions. I trusted my peers. Especially the really messed up ones. Of course back then I didn’t view them as messed up, I viewed them as cool. My peer group was cynical, verbally abusive and old before their time. We didn’t want to fit in. We wanted to stand out. And stand out, we did. While other kids were in class studying, we were out back on the football field smoking weed and making fun of the ‘dummies’ in class. Two guys in our group never made it to graduation. They were too cool for school and dropped out. Oh how I envied them their new found ‘freedom.’ It was at our ten year grad reunion that I got my first wake up call. I drove into the parking lot of the community hall and existed my rust bucket. I looked around at all the shiny cars parked there and wondered if my grad class were driving their parent’s cars. They weren’t. The ‘dummies’ I’d ridiculed for staying in class, had moved on in life. They were the ones organizing this event. They were nurses, lawyers, accountants, business owners and one dentist. They looked happy and healthy. As I moved past them, I joined the loudest (and most drunk) table in the community hall. I glanced at my old friends sprawled there. Time hadn’t been so kind to them. In high school it’s funny seeing your best buddy blitzed. Ten years later, some of the humor wears off. I wish I could tell you that was the wakeup call I needed. But it wasn’t. I continued drugging and drinking for another ten years. What started out as fun, quickly became a living hell. Every time I made the decision to stop, my brain tricked me. It came up with all sort of alibis to keep me high. Just one more, no one will know. You’ve worked hard, you deserve it. And finally, I can’t get out of bed, without it.
In the end addiction didn’t just take my family, my looks, my money and home, it also stole my mind.
Addiction had taken everything I loved. It changed my brain by corrupting normal drives such as learning, motivation and impulse control. I was no longer in charge of my thoughts. Addiction had wormed its way deep into my cerebral cortex and hijacked my amygdala and reward circuit.
I was a puppet on a string. Addiction was calling the shots.
My best thinking was killing me. My days were numbered. I had to surrender. Yet still, I couldn’t let go. Luckily, I have family who gave me an ultimatum. They knew I’d lost the ability to fight for my life. The day I entered rehab, I didn’t want to go. I was only there because I’d exhausted all other options. I wasn’t an easy patient. But I got the help I so badly needed and completed treatment.
Today addiction doesn’t call the shots, I do.
Recovery has given me back everything I lost and so much more. Best of all, I can trust my thinking. My mind is no longer a landscape of bleak, dark spaces, tempting me to get high. Going to treatment gave me the tools I desperately needed to be happy and successful. If you struggle with addiction or love someone who does, don’t wait. Reach out. Help is closer than you think. If you or someone you know needs help, please call this confidential support line for assistance. 844-451-0263.