An Equal Opportunity Disease

If there’s one thing I’ve seen proven true over and over, it’s that addiction doesn’t discriminate. I’ve seen people grow up poor, with hard lives—parents not in the picture, trouble in school, the kids your parents don’t want you hanging around with—become addicts and alcoholics. That’s the stereotype, isn’t it? Their drug addiction can be blamed on their hard lives?

               But then, I’ve seen it happen the other way, too. Kids who grew up with silver spoons in their mouths, with the best of everything, a great education, parents who love them, a bright future with a good career to look forward to… I’ve seen them become addicts too, and it works the same way. I’ve seen people like that hit just as low of a bottom.

               The point is, we’re all human beings, and we’ve all got more or less the same setup: arms, legs, a body, and a head with a brain in it. And any brain can be born as—or grow into—the brain of an addict or alcoholic.

               Of the two examples above, I fell somewhere in the middle. I was probably a bit closer to the silver spoon than to the street, but I went through my share of rough times as a kid. It should have been obvious from the start that I would turn in to addict. Whenever I could find an escape, I would take it—from books and video games, to overeating, I loved anything that would mash that reward button in my brain. When I discovered drugs and alcohol as a teenager, it was a no brainer. I fell in love.

               That led me down a dark path. At first it was fun, but soon the addiction took over and I was in for years of suffering and despair. The fact that it was all my own doing just made it harder to deal with. I’ll spare you the details, but I found myself at rock bottom with only myself and the choices I had made to blame for how I had gotten there.

               I was one of the lucky ones, in that I had access to the resources for inpatient treatment. But that’s not what got me sober. In fact, I had several stints in various rehab facilities, and I didn’t stay sober after any of them. Every time, I would pull myself together for a few weeks or a few months, and then go back out and throw it all away. I would find myself back at square one, a little more broken down than I was before.

               So, what changed? Well, obviously, I did. I remember very clearly the last time I used. It wasn’t fun, it just made me feel full of regret and shame. I had felt that way before, but this time was different. I decided to change. I started taking advantage of the resources around me—free resources, available to anyone. I went to meetings, became part of a recovery community, and built a new social circle. I even got a sponsor, and he took me through the work. The crazy thing is, it worked. Using only free resources available to anyone, I forged a brand-new life for myself. Looking at my life now, things are better than ever, and I wouldn’t change a thing for the world.