I first remember meeting The Addict when I was around 8 years old. My family was hosting a regular Friday night barbecue and, as usual, alcohol was involved. There weren’t many times when my dad chose to NOT drink copious amounts of beer; basically, Fridays during Lent were really the only time he abstained. But a summer barbecue always meant that he would drink. Early on, I had gotten into the habit of asking my dad, “How many beers have you had?” I had associated bad nights with the amount of beers he drank and I began asking him as a way to comfort myself that it was Ok to be happy.
The night I met The Addict, I had a hunch that perhaps he didn’t exactly tell me the truth. I experienced a few bad nights when he told me that he only drank 3 or 4 beers. My experience told me that 3 or 4 beers really shouldn’t have been enough for bad nights, so, I decided to linger and actually count every time he popped open a beer. By the time I approached him with my customary question, I had counted 9 beers. Still, I wanted to know if he would tell me the truth and I asked my usual question.
Also as usual, he said, “I’ve had 3 beers.” The rush of anger overwhelmed me. He was lying, right to me. I suspected as much, but learning that he probably was always lying pissed me off.
“You’re a liar,” I screamed. “You’ve had 9 beers! I counted them!”
He stood up and said, “I don’t answer to you! Don’t you ever question me or call me a liar again, godammit! It’s not of your damn business how many beers I drink!”
When my dad was sober, he hardly even raised his voice to me. But on that night, he almost backhanded me, which was as foreign to me as eating escargot. Though I was a child, I sensed that there was something quite different about my dad when he drank too many beers and I really didn’t like that version of him very much.
Since that night, however, I am sad to say that I have encountered The Addict hundreds and hundreds of times. Every person that I first meet who has no interest in recovery treats me exactly as my dad did that night. They lie, they get defensive, they do all they can to protect The Addict’s behavior. To me, it’s my mission to teach people are addicted to expel The Addict from their hearts and minds such that The Addict doesn’t drive them towards behavior that isn’t normal.
Addiction is a layered disease, but The Addict is a force of personality that overtakes a person, much in the same way as a demon. The addicted person must choose and act to remove The Addict personality; otherwise, The Addict will drive the addicted person towards a solitary and often painful death. While no one can act on someone else’s behalf, as a treatment provider, I can guide an addicted person away from the abyss from which The Addict derives and towards real and connected humanity. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it can and does happen.
If you deal with an addicted person, try to remember that you’re often talking with The Addict and not the person underneath The Addict. The Addict feeds off of fear and shame and hate; if there’s deception included with those negative emotions, then The Addict is speaking. Try to reach the person through love and acceptance and real emotion – do not EVER engage The Addict, because The Addict will win through driving you into anger and fear.
I am glad I learned of The Addict at such a young age; I just wish I could beat it once and for all…..