Addiction On The Spectrum
Hello and welcome. Today’s blog is about my own experience with addiction on the spectrum. Escaping reality due to our inability to cope with the world around us is very common among people with autism spectrum disorder. Whether you are ‘high functioning’ or not, it can be hard work pretending to be normal in order to fit in.
As a child growing up I always felt different from those around me. I felt like a square plug in a round hole, yet I did my very best to mask my internal world. Letting people know how I really felt or what I really thought was out of the question. Terrified of judgment, terrified of not ‘fitting in’ made me do the craziest of things, especially in my teen years. But, looking back, I can see how addictive patterns and behaviors were already established long before my teens.
The first signs of addictive behaviour I displayed was many years ago when my parents owned a fast food outlet in a town nearby, and in the shop were a few video games, which was rare back then in Ireland. This was around 1980 when Space Invaders and Scramble were all the rage. As soon as the shop was opened there would be a queue for these games. Of course at the time I didn’t know why but, now I do. In 2020 alone the worldwide gaming industry has generated a whopping $160 billion. This is not surprising given that most of these games are highly addictive.
Anyway, I recall those days at the age of 9 or 10 when I’d have done almost anything for 10p (Irish money), the cost of one game. Whenever I was in the shop, which was mostly weekends, I made sure to sweep the floors, partly to help out but mainly because I’d often find the price of a game under shelves that had fallen and couldn’t be reached. I’d offer to help with any chore once I got paid. If I wasn’t playing a game I was thinking about playing, I even dreamed of playing them.
While my focus was on a game the world around me didn’t matter. I didn’t have to be a certain way, and I didn’t have to mask. Unlike engaging with my peers, playing a video game felt as though I had control over what was happening and all my fears simply vanished because, after all, games are somewhat predictable. I could be myself and didn’t have to pretend. That said, it wasn’t uncommon for me to lose my temper if the game got the upper hand and I needed to earn another 10p.
With so little awareness about ASD and addiction back then others just thought I was nuts taking my temper out on a silly game. They had no clue what was really going on; Neither did I.
Almost 40 years later
None of what was happening back then made any sense to me either, but now, almost 40 years and an ASD diagnosis later, it has all become crystal clear. I craved love, attention and understanding like all children but, because of my challenges socially, relating that to the world felt impossible. Looking back, the fear I felt on a daily basis was so intense I needed a means of escaping to protect my fragile state of mind.
Unfortunately, back then, I found my solace through video games and sugar, bad habits which set me up for alcohol and drug addiction throughout my teens and twenties. (More on that in my next blog.)
The truth is relationships of any kind are still difficult for me but, at least now I know why. All anyone wants is to be understood, loved and accepted, it’s just harder (not impossible) for those of us on the spectrum.
Breaking The Cycle Of Addiction
Just because we view and respond to the world differently doesn’t mean we can’t be a part of it. Finding healthy ways to cope and making them a habit is a must if we are to succeed in life. It is estimated that 95% of what we do on a daily basis is habitual. Wishing things were different doesn’t make it so. In order to break the cycle of addiction we must form healthy habits, habits that support a feeling of well-being and connectedness, not separateness, to people and the world around us. Things like video games and sugar will only bring temporary reprieve and are not good for us in the long run.
Forming Healthy Habits
It is of paramount importance we form healthy habits so we can become happy in our own skin. Stop trying to be someone you are not, embrace yourself, you have lots to give. We ALL have strengths and talents to share with the world. If you don’t accept you exactly as you are no-one else will. In becoming happy with yourself no longer will you need other peoples approval. No longer will you’re self-worth depend on other peoples opinion.
Remember: Other peoples opinions are based on how they are feeling themselves at that moment. What do I mean? Well, when we are happy our opinions tend to be more understanding and compassionate towards others. The opposite is also true, when we’re having a bad day we tend to be more negative and judgmental.
A Few Healthy Habits To Consider
The following are a list of healthy habits to consider that helped me on my journey out of addiction. My hope is you find some of these suggestions of benefit. So, in no particular order:
1. Playing Music – playing any instrument you like the sound of can be a great way to alleviate stress, express emotion safely or simply to enjoy.
2. Martial Arts – because it requires discipline and focus. It strengthens our mind and body, leaving us better able to cope with life. Motion changes emotion.
3. Meditation with solfeggio frequencies – Meditation and solfeggio frequencies have amazing benefits for both mind and body, that are scientifically proven.
4. Spending time in nature – because it grounds us, and brings a feeling of calm.
5. Eat healthy – which I have more information on in this blog.
A final Note Today
Addictive patterns can be difficult, but not impossible, to break. Few people like change, especially those of us on the spectrum. But, change is inevitable, nothing ever stays the same. We need to find new and healthy ways of coping when change arises causing us to become stressed or overwhelmed. Ways that don’t negatively impact our lives and the lives of those around us.
Thank you for reading ‘addiction on the spectrum’, I appreciate it. If you have any thoughts on the subject, or need any help, please leave a comment in the box below and we will be happy to respond.
Wishing you every success on your journey.