Addiction can hit anyone in any walk of life. One world in which I orbit that is heavily affected by cases of addiction is that of entertainment.
Maybe it’s because of our society’s obsession with fame that we see so many entertainers struck down by addiction. When you live a high-profile life, the bad stuff hits the tabloids fast.
However, you don’t have to be a Hollywood A-lister or a Grammy-winning songwriter to fall victim to the clutches of alcoholism, drug addiction, or any other form of dependence. They just do it in the spotlight.
I’m not a preacher. I live my life the way I live my life, the best way I can for me. What’s right for me is right for me. Everyone has different chemistry.
I was recently asked for advice regarding what I know about addiction by someone who has a loved one battling one right now. They said they helped them understand the disease in a new way and asked that I share that advice so that others might benefit from it. If they are of interest, I hope they help. If it’s not a subject of interest, don’t feel compelled that you have to read on.
I have an addictive personality. When I like something, I can become somewhat obsessed.
Sometimes I realize it and can’t stop it. Sometimes I don’t realize it at all. Those are some of the factors as to why it is classified as an addiction and not just an interest.
Take for instance frozen coffee drinks that you get at Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks. I could easily consume more than eight or ten of those a day. Of course, that much caffeine and sugar would ruin my nervous system, give me diabetes, and add a few hundred pounds to my physique. I wouldn’t have a six-pack anymore. As the old joke goes, my stomach would be more like a keg.
While that is a silly example, it does demonstrate how someone like me can get easily addicted to pretty much anything. From candy to sex, to the time I wake up in the morning – all of these things can be addictive to someone with a brain wired like mine.
Of course, alcohol is one of the most common addictions that people think of. Not surprisingly, I am an alcoholic.
For most of my life, I drank. I drank to celebrate the good times. I drank to wash away my pain and sorrows. I drank for the mere fact that I woke up that morning and needed liquid courage to face the day.
It is an awful addiction. There was no such thing as going to bed sober. Pretty much from the time I was 17 on, I was a drunk. Like any person pursuing their calling, I started off in a part-time capacity and then worked my way up to being full-time – a full-time drunk.
I quit drinking for good in 2014. I had managed spells of a few months or even up to a year of sobriety as accommodations to different girlfriends whose affections were contingent on my non-drinking. However, it wasn’t until 2014 that I really quit.
Now, nine years later I am very confident and happy in my sobriety. Getting there was the hard part.
Prior to 2014, my temporary stoppages in drinking were clearly not quitting, but pausing. My non-drinking was as an accommodation to someone else. However, I never once cheated. If I said I wasn’t drinking, I didn’t.
That is actually rather rare for alcoholics. A lot of alcoholics who aren’t quitting for themselves will fall into sneaking drinks or other forms of falling off the wagon. I never did that. But at the same time, I always knew my pause in drinking was temporary because on some subconscious level I knew the relationship would end at some point. I knew that as soon as we broke up I would be able to start drinking again.
I wasn’t successful in quitting drinking until I wanted to quit for me. If you’re doing it for someone else, you’ll be hard-pressed to stay committed. If you are doing it for yourself, then you have a chance. At least, that’s been the case for me and those others I know through organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) who have achieved a happy and permanent sobriety.
Here’s the difference I found between my half-hearted attempts to quit and my successful decision to quit – it all boils down to being honest. If you want to quit an addiction, you have to stop lying about it. You have to admit both to the world and to yourself that you have a problem and that left unchecked it will probably kill you, or at least ruin your life.
In my case, my dear friend Amanda checked me into the hospital. I will be forever in her debt for that. Upon discharge, I committed myself 100% to using AA to help me stay sober permanently.
But AA isn’t a magic pill that makes it all easy or magical. Nobody makes you do anything. Nobody does it for you.
AA isn’t about meetings or sponsors. Those are tools used towards the real purpose which is being honest.
I had to learn to be honest. I had to learn to be honest with myself because every single addict lies to themselves. And I had to learn to be honest with other people – again because an addict doesn’t know how to be honest. We’re too focused on hiding our addiction and hiding the fact that our life has become unmanageable to ever be honest.
I went to 30 meetings in 30 days. Every day I was at a meeting. No matter the day, you can usually find an AA meeting to go to somewhere in your area. The AA website even has a convenient feature that allows you to search for meetings no matter where you are. You can find that search function at: https://alcoholicsanonymous.com/find-a-meeting/
But just going to meetings isn’t going to prepare you for sobriety any more than standing in the kiddie pool is going to prepare you to swim the English Channel.
I assure you that to succeed in sobriety you can’t just do what you want and what is comfortable. The whole point is to do what isn’t comfortable – face the fact that you are a liar and a drunk and have no control over your life.
Those aren’t easy things to face. Facing addiction and quitting a vice that your very soul craves with insatiable thirst is not going to be fun or comfortable or anything close. It is going to be awful to go through. But if you don’t, then things won’t even stay like they are – which is probably already a terrible way to live. Things will get worse. Far worse.
While quitting an addiction has to be done for one’s own purposes and not for anyone else, the loved ones of an addict can help them get help. And while you want to be gentle if your husband, wife, son, daughter, or best friend is battling addiction, sometimes to be of any help you have to use tough love. Sometimes you have to be downright hard. Hard to the point it breaks your heart to do it.
It’s the addict’s choice if they are going to get help and chase sobriety, but as a loved one you can help them by defining what that choice is.
If you want them to choose rehab or AA or any other means of quitting, you have to make sure the alternative is motivation to choose sobriety. For instance, if the choice you give your wife or boyfriend is to either go to rehab or sleep at home and keep their normal schedule, the easy choice is staying home where they can sneak drinks and hide from their problems. And, most people take the easy choice. But when it comes to conquering an addiction, the easy choice isn’t going to work most of the time.
If you have a loved one who you want to get into treatment, my suggestion is to give them two choices. One choice is rehab and AA. The other choice should be far less appealing – and I don’t mean just a night on the couch.
To put it in flowery visuals: if you want someone to pick the sandwich, don’t make the alternative a steak. Instead, make their alternative eating a can of dog food in a dark alley in the pouring rain. That’s the kind of choice that gets results.
Tough love isn’t easy. You do it knowing that the person you are trying to help is not going to like the choices you give them. But if you want to help, you have to stay strong. You aren’t helping yourself or them by being an enabler.
And remember at the end of the day, it’s their choice to get sober. But it’s your choice what to tolerate. If a loved one’s addiction is hurtful to you, you have the choice of leaving or otherwise cutting ties.
But as you consider those options, also remember why they are considered a loved one in the first place. At one point you found that person worthy of your love. Sometimes that person you fell in love with is still within reach. Sometimes not.
Al-Anon is an organization for people who are worried about someone who has a drinking problem that I some find very useful. Information on Al-Anon is available at https://al-anon.org/
If you are struggling with addiction, know that you aren’t alone. Also, know that sobriety and happiness are truly within reach. Yes, it’s a yucky battle to get there, but there is nothing like waking up in the morning and not having to feed an addiction. For information on Alcoholics Anonymous visit https://www.aa.org/
Let me be quick to point out that not every drinker is an alcoholic. I have no issues with people who can drink responsibly. What’s right for me, doesn’t have to be right for you. Just because I am an alcoholic and can’t drink doesn’t mean other people shouldn’t be allowed. That would be as ridiculous as telling someone they had to live by your religious views instead of their own.
As I said at the get-go, you hear about addiction a lot in the entertainment industry. But it affects people from all walks of life.
If you feel like you have a problem or if a loved one with an addiction is infringing on your ability to live a happy and healthy life, then maybe it’s time to look at making a change. There are many resources available to help, but the first thing is admitting there is a problem.
We’re all just wounded soldiers in a battle to find our best selves and live our best lives. I hope my words help.
Peace. Love. Trust.
Rikki Lee Travolta
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