To say that people abuse drugs/alcohol is absurd. Drugs/alcohol are inanimate objects. People and animals get abused, not objects. Addicts and alcoholics are most often those of us who found a place to hide that felt safe and liberating. Staying in that place leads to our inevitable bondage and destruction.

Addiction is the polar opposite of freedom. The seduction of Addiction operates in much the same way that abusive perpetrators seek to systematically break down and control their partners. It engages us with its charm. It promises us that we’ll never be alone again, never hurt again. It’s a whirlwind of fun and excitement in the early stages of the relationship.

Slowly, subtly, things change. What used to always feel good starts making us feel ill at ease. We notice one day that we don’t see old friends anymore and the only people we hang out with now are people who are doing what we do. We start to feel trapped. We reason that we just need to change things up a bit. We tell ourselves that it’s not a problem. We dig deeper and deeper into denial because it used to be so good and want that feeling back. In addiction terms this is “chasing the dragon.”

The white lies we tell ourselves become darker. We rationalize and justify until all the lies feel like truth. The voice of addiction feeds these lies. It tells us that nothing really bad will ever happen. It reminds us that it has done a lot for us and we’d be lost without it. It reminds us of how bad we felt before we met. It preys on our insecurities and every once in a while it gives us a painful reminder of how dependent we’ve become.

By this point we’re hiding everything from the people who love us. We can maintain that for a while. The truth is a funny thing – it generally gets harder and harder to hide.

If you were a person known or suspected of living in an abusive situation, uninformed people would ask you stupid questions like, “Why don’t you just leave?” If you’re an addict they ask, “Why don’t you just quit?” By the time a person is hearing these questions they’ve generally asked themselves what it would take to leave (much better question) a hundred times. It takes too much and it hurts too bad and it’s always going to be easier in the short term to stay where we are.

Without enormous support, without incredible resilience and resources, people tend to stay where they are and do what they do. I’m not saying that domestic violence and addiction are the same thing – I’m saying they have a lot in common.

“Face down in the dirt she said this doesn’t hurt. She said “I’ve finally had enough.”

– Red Jumpsuit Apparatus “Face Down”

The Voice of addiction becomes increasingly tyrannical. It demands more and more. Like an abusive partner it is never satisfied, nothing is ever good enough, and we never truly relax. The abuse our bodies, minds, and souls endure becomes increasingly damaging. The cost increases regularly. Many of us paid the ultimate price. Others of us found ourselves broken, defeated, and unable to continue living the lies.

So, we make a plan to stop the insanity. We white knuckle our way through the fears and the shame and the pain. Most of us tried to make it out alone. Nearly all of us failed. We fight with ourselves and we feel like we’re crazy and even if we’ve left the oppressor (abuser or addiction) we still feel that we have to hide who we are and how we think and feel from others.

Most of us go back. We tell ourselves it’s only for a little while. We try to control what controlled us. We fall back into old patterns. We enjoy a brief honeymoon – then it’s back with a vengeance. It gets worse and worse. Some of us find it easier to leave again because we left before. Many of us find it harder as we feel defeated and ashamed. We label our past attempts failures. This is not the case. Every attempt matters and each effort is a step closer to freedom.

If you are seeking freedom from an abuser, an addiction, or both, please know that you are NOT a burden, imposition, or inconvenience to those you reach out to. Please seek support in every manner possible.