The realities of addiction

Drugs addicts can come from all walks of life...

Drugs addicts can come from all walks of life... - Credit: Archant

Wealth, status or profession aren’t barriers against addiction. I’ve known two barristers who went to rehab. Talented media award-winners at the peak of their career, paralysed by anxiety, succumbing to terminal alcoholism.

I knew a journalist who couldn’t get on the train without a whisky miniature in his pocket. During his last and only spell in hospital, he received cards from ‘well wishers’ saying they missed him at the bar and hoped he would return soon so they could buy him a drink.

Many haven’t a clue about addiction. Those with compassionate awareness have usually experienced it first hand or ‘successfully’ stopped after engaging in long-term help themselves.

I recently saw people posting online, tutting at local court stories involving crime connected with addiction. ‘Court stories’ in the journalistic sense. Heartbreaking tales of insight into the plight of ill people, who aren’t able to get well.

Caught stories really though; stories of people caught in cycles of repeatedly breaking the law, denying counselling, medication or inpatient care to detox. Some desperate for support, beg GPs and mental health teams for in-patient programmes but are turned down. Not ‘sick enough’, no places are available or they aren’t blessed with rich parents who can pay privately.

I’ve had beautiful friends become hooked on crack. An old friend I once deeply loved, now stuck in the grim grip of heroin. Associates who have lost multiple friends within one circle.

Celebrity best mates. Rock stars. Supermodel former lovers. Millionaires’ daughters. In the national press for a day and a few weeks later, if the inquest is reported. Teachers. Mothers. Fathers. Dead. Lives shattered forever. Everyone knows someone. Other addictions too - spending, sex, porn and gambling.

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I wish there were more who felt able to change but the tragic nature of addiction is, it takes so many. The grief-stricken speak of terrible waste and loss of great talent. The former feels like referring to cut off carpet – perfect to snazz up a downstairs loo if willing to collect! The loss of talent notion lacks humanity; as if they are mourning superficial worth and not the whole person with much to offer other than skills.

Nobody can say anything comforting. When you lose someone to addiction, many think the same: Why didn’t they stop? Why was continuing preferable? Why are we suffering the loss of our parent/partner/friend/child at the hands of their behaviour?

Stopping isn’t often an option for the addict who works hard to push away the possibility that death will come. With drink/drugs, the mind is altered in the short, medium and long term, so it’s ‘easy’ to stay in almost permanent denial. Addicts can watch several friends die within close time frames, yet still refuse to believe they might meet the same fate.

Nobody sets out to become an addict. It is an illness. Life is too hard. They drink/use to cope and it spirals downwards. What you can do is not judge, shame or make unhelpful comments. St Albans is one of the most privileged areas but statistically full of addicts.

If you have a rosy life and your biggest worry is who can de-clutter your playroom, Shellac your nails or pretty up your pet pug, congratulations. Several people you know of will be suffering. If they feel they will not be met with judgement, they are likelier to reach out for help.