Addiction On The Spectrum – Continued
Hello and welcome to ‘addiction on the spectrum – continued’. My last blog about addiction on the spectrum was focused mainly on my preteen years when my tendency toward addictive patterns and behavior was blooming. Today’s blog will be focused mainly on my progression into alcohol and drugs as a means of comfort, escape and fitting in.
I’ll never forget the warm comforting feeling I got when I first tasted alcohol. The actual taste wasn’t great, but it was the feeling it gave me that I was focused on. This was before my teens and was only a mouthful or two on three separate occasions. The warm feeling these mouthfuls gave me planted the seed in my young impressionable mind that this was somehow the answer, the answer to being able to cope with life and fit in with my peers and I couldn’t wait until I was old enough to drink. Little did I know the hardship that was ahead of me. Although drugs came for me at a later date, alcohol almost immediately became a problem, though I didn’t realize this at the time.
The Donkey After The Carrot
A weird comparison I know but, at age 13 I had my first drunken experience, I even blacked out for many hours, which would be scary for most people, but for me it was like taking a much-needed break, a break from life and all the challenges it brought. For those hours I didn’t feel anything, and from then on I was like the donkey after the carrot, only my reward was escape. Finally, I thought I had found an answer to all my problems and I couldn’t wait for the next chance to escape in the bottle.
In my opinion, being on the spectrum makes us more prone to addiction, mainly because we just want to feel ‘normal’, to fit in. Throughout my time in school I was picked on and bullied by a select few and the negative impact this had on me was profound. It compounded my feelings of separateness from those around me and that the rejection I felt was somehow my fault. Daily I wondered what was wrong with me, why was I not like others, why am I different?
Incline Toward Decline
Moving on to secondary school was one of the scariest times in my life. Up to that point we had one teacher and one classroom per year, which was steady and predictable. In secondary school we were going to have to change class and teacher every 40 minutes each day, not to mention all the extra sensory processing thrown into the mix; not knowing what was coming next brought overwhelming feelings of anxiety and stress. My mental health and grades in school slowly went downhill. My incline toward decline had begun.
For the same reason many of us on the spectrum take more risks than our peers, we often do things others naturally have the common sense not to do. In striving to be noticed, the confusion of trying to find my identity, a place where I could ‘fit in’, my capacity for alcohol quickly grew and, so did my risk taking. I was prepared to do anything to impress, no matter the consequences or how scared I felt.
Once, I jumped from an old railway bridge onto a bush 20 feet below because another said he had done it. Everything in me said “don’t do it” but, I did, and miraculously came out without even a scratch. Immediately after, I realized that none of the other four lads that were with me had done it, they were laughing, and once again I felt humiliated, stupid and betrayed. These feelings were predominant and overwhelming, so much so I needed relief from them, and this relief was found in alcohol.
At the age of 14, I landed a job in a garden center 4 evenings per week and every Saturday. I loved the job and worked hard but, all the money I earned went towards alcohol. Already my addiction had taken over, I was obsessed with alcohol, if I wasn’t drinking I was talking about it, and if I couldn’t talk about it I thought about it. My whole life revolved around the ‘next drink’ and I could drink more than most adults well before I even became an adult.
Though I didn’t see it that way at the time, drinking lowered my inhibition and expectations, gave me false courage and allowed me to form relationships, which were mostly unhealthy due to my low self-esteem. Instead of facing my feelings and emotions of separateness and lack, I was running from them. I didn’t have the sense to see that alcohol was making everything worse, and despite concern from those around me my drinking continued to progress.
Today’s Conclusion & Things That Can Help
Teenage years can be especially difficult for those of us on the spectrum, not only are we navigating changes in our school environment but also the physical changes that are taking place in our bodies. Finding our place in the world and someone we can trust and confide in can be even harder, especially when we feel we’re always doing or saying the ‘wrong’ things. We may have felt betrayed when a friend disclosed some secrets to others in the past or, found little understanding when we spoke to our parents and teachers about what we thought or how we felt.
No matter the road we have traveled, alcohol and drugs are not the solution. The outcome of our lives are greatly determined by the habits we form and the thoughts we think. If we are to become happy, contented and free from addiction we must form healthy habits. We all know what we don’t want yet, when asked, most of us have no clue what we do want. Make a list, do it now, write down what you want to achieve and focus on that.
Also, hydrate and eat healthy meals at regular times and exercise daily, a healthy body lays the foundation for a healthy mind. Stop comparing yourself to others, these comparisons are never fair because you are comparing their outsides with your insides. Just like everyone else, we are unique and have our own talents and strengths to share.
If you have any thoughts or experiences relating to this post ‘addiction on the spectrum – continued’ we would love to hear them. Sometimes we may need a nudge in the right direction, like maybe a 12 step program or the guidance of a professional who specializes in addiction. Whatever the case we will be happy to help however we can, just leave a comment in the box below and we will get back to you asap.
Remember, you are not alone and, there is always a way forward. My next blog will focus on substance abuse and the effects it has on family and those around us. Have a class day 🙂