Friday, February 20, 2009

Addiction and The True Calling

When I was in drug rehabilitation, the given definition of addiction was, "a relationship with a mood altering experience that has life damaging consequences." Note that this definition makes no mention of the actual thing to which the person is addicted. Be it alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex, work, or stamp collecting, it’s the consequence of the individual’s relationship with it that transforms that relationship into an addiction.

In short, an addict is a person who allows his pursuit of a thing to ruin the very life he seeks to enhance by pursuing it in the first place. Which brings me to point of this post: the addictive personality. This, I believe, is the true ’disease’ behind the symptom of addiction. You see, I have an addictive personality. When I find something that turns me on, whether it’s drugs, sex, work, computer programming, reading, listening to music, or writing, I fall head over heels into it at the cost of everything else.

It’s like The Neverending Story, where the kid falls into the book whenever he opens it. In fact, that’s the precise image I invoked to describe my addiction to reading. I would literally become so involved in whatever I was reading that I didn’t sleep, I didn’t eat, I didn’t even go to work. I remember once, when I had finally got my hands on the last book in The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant, I used speed to allow me to stay awake while I read all six books in four days. Fortunately, if I can even use that word, I did this during an extended work break. But you can bet that my wife wasn’t too pleased.

Using another analogy, I refer you to the episode of The Twilight Zone where Burgess Meredith played a guy who wished for nothing more than the unfettered freedom to pursue his love of reading. He was so happy when a great holocaust left him all alone to do just that - until he broke his glasses! As crazy as it sounds, that was both my dream and my nightmare during those times. I still get chills of anxiety when I think of it.

This particular addiction got so bad that my emotions began to run wild, eventually leading to the choked-down rage and impossible-to-hide crying episodes that have plagued me ever since. To this day, I get so emotional when I read a good book or listen to my favorite songs that it completely ruins the experience. If it weren’t for the anti-depressants I take, I couldn’t even muster the courage to try.

And it’s the same for all the other things that trigger my ’disease.’ In addition to space travel and super-heroes, I was absolutely obsessed with sex as a kid. On the job, I worked more overtime than anyone. When I learned to program, I thought of nothing else. When I could no longer work, I stayed home to binge on marijuana, programming, reading, music, pornography, writing (mostly porn), and all the crack cocaine I could get my hands on to ’help’ me do all those things non-stop. I can’t say why it’s important to me to point this out, but I simply wanted speed during this period and crack was what I was able to find.

Ironically, I was actually looking for a way to kill myself when I stumbled upon crack. And as sick as it might sound, it actually gave me something to live for, at least for a while, since it had a kind of Popeye’s Spinach effect on me. When I finally lost my family and my friends, I lapsed into a hermit-like state that I’m just now beginning to come out of. My misery was so complete at one point that I even tried drinking to numb my pain and shut down my head, and when that didn’t work I turned back to suicide. Fortunately both alcohol and ’downers’ make me puke, so I didn’t succeed at either. Trust me, I haven’t always thought that was such a fortunate thing.

Now as I’ve said before, in addition to being a source of pleasure for me, writing serves as a kind of therapy. But the pen, or rather the keyboard, can be a double-edged sword for me. If you’ve followed this blog at all, you’ll have noticed that I have written quite a lot. In fact, I’ve done little else since I started this blog in the middle of November ’08. Such is the dilemma that I now face. I love what I’m doing so much, and finally feel that I’m really serving a worthwhile cause, that I’m beginning to wonder if I’ve found my ’true calling.’ But my experience forces me to wonder if this is just another symptom of my ’disease.’

You know how it’s said that you can’t see the forest for the trees? It’s like that when I try to weigh the consequences of this continuous writing. I don’t work, other than my writing, and I have no particular place to be. When I do have an appointment, I keep it. I take my med’s and prepare all my own meals. And the lack of a social life is ’normal’ for me. So aside from missing a lot of sleep, drinking too much coffee, and smoking too many cigarettes, it’s hard to find a truly negative consequence. But if I were a ’normal’ person with a job and family to tend to, this behavior would be excessive to say the least.

So for once I am truly at a loss. It’s not like there’s anyone I trust to advise me in this area. The psychiatrists and psychologists can’t seem to see past my drug abuse, ignoring the fact that my ’disease’ predates my drug abuse by many years. And the rehab community can only suggest that I turn my will over to ’a higher power’ or to ’the group’ - neither of which are acceptable to me. So I guess that I’ll just have to keep on doing what feels right. And that is to "Keep On Truckin’."

I welcome your comments. But still, as always,

I want ice water.


  1. mak, i can really relate to what you are saying. i wrote a post a few months ago about addiction, and the conclusions i had come to about it. i think that addiction is the process of escaping from pain. unfortunately the pain doesnt go away until we deal with it.

    but writing is fantastic, cos it does allow us to face and deal with our pain. the more honest you are, the more it brings about healing.

    in your case, you have an exceptional writing style, and i think you could make a career out of it. i'd keep going with the blogging, (and journalling if you feel like trying that too. total anonymity allows us to be even more honest) until you start to feel clearer, lighter, less torn. it may take a while. when that happens, keep doing it for yourself, but start trying to do some writing for newspapers or magazines.

    i watched "adaptation" last night - have you seen it? it's a wonderful insight into the mind of a writing genius.

    hope this helps :)

    heres the post i wrote, if you'd like to read it:

  2. Thanks again for your encouraging comments. It's hard to admit just how much they mean. I have become so isolated that I literally don't know how to pursue a career in writing. I simply don't have the resources to go down the paths I have thought of. I'd love to hear your suggestions.

    I don't even know the difference between blogging and journaling, and I thought that this was being anonymous. Other than avoiding identifications, I am being absolutely honest.

    I read your post and loved every word! I hope you get the joke reference in my comment :)

    I missed the show you mentioned. Any ideas on how I can find a re-run?

    Thanks again.


  3. maK,

    you're welcome :)

    firstly, i would suggest you try to get some more followers for your blog. nothing motivates like encouragement! advertise your blog here: surfing around other people's blogs and leaving comments is also a good way to get traffic.

    in terms of writing professionally, your approach will depend on what area of writing you'd like to explore. you may not be sure about this just yet, and that's fine - take your time exploring. on the basis of your blog, im guessing that journalism would be a good starting point for you. political rants etc. you could look for an online publication and start submitting articles. im not really familiar with this area so you'd need to do some research yourself. see if there is a blogger group that offers info to aspiring writers.

    journalling is the term that i give writing my thoughts on paper. i probably hold back in my blogs a little more than i do when i write privately, but that's just me.

    "adaptation" is a film - it's amazing! here's a great review of it:

    let me know how you get on!

    keep the faith.


  4. Yolanda,

    Thanks again. I'll try the things you suggested. There are things I don't feel comfortable posting on my blog, so those are kept separately.

    I'm not sure how to update you on my progress, other than by posting more comments. I'm not comfortable with giving my email address here. Perhaps Blogger should add some way for bloggers to communicate using them as an intermediary?

    Thanks again,


  5. :D

    well, i'll keep reading your blog so

    1) i'll see if youre gathering followers (i'm sure you won't have a problem there).

    2) i'll get up-to-date reports of how you progress ;)

    plus there are lots more posts of yours that i'd like to comment on. so the lines of communication are open!

    that's a good idea re. blogger - you could suggest it to them! facebook, myspace etc. already do it.

    tlk soon,