I can't truly understand what being homeless is like.
I can only imagine being in a tent with absolutely nowhere else to go. No friends. No family. No money. Nothing. That tent is your last life raft on planet earth. I can only imagine the fear and anger and worry that time in your life must feel like.
But addiction. That's something I totally get. I'm an addict.
Addicts typically have a soul mate. But their soul mate is not some kind, sweat, loving person. No. An addict's soul mate is something like drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex. It something that eats you from the inside out. An addict's soul mate will slowly, but surely rot the person away.
An addict and their soul mate will dance together in an ever increasing spiral of obsession and disease and deterioration. They get each other. They are made for each other. Till death do them part.
You see, addiction isn't a choice in the way people think of "choice."
Addiction is a magnetism. Addiction is a gravitational pull. If falling out of a window and being sucked to earth is a choice then yes the addict made a choice.
An addict fills their need in a trance. They are overcome by a connection that is bigger than them, bigger than their family, bigger than their job. An addiction grows and grows until it is bigger than anything else in their life.
Why does this happen?
But there are certain external factors that definitely play a role. I can tell you this for a fact because I live with these external factors every single day.
I think the easiest way to sum it up into a nice pretty package is: self hatred.
I believe there is a high percentage of addicts that just hate themselves. Plain and simple.
They were never good enough. They don't measure up. They feel like a total piece of shit.
So, they spend their lives trying to cover up this constant, gnawing pain that follows them around constantly.
And trust me, you can feel like a loser, piece of shit anywhere on the class spectrum. People have told you how much you suck and even worse, you tell yourself how much you suck. It's like a mantra. Repeating it over and over again. I served a lot of drinks to depressed doctors and lawyers as a bartender at a country club.
Along my path of addiction I heard a tip that changed my life: An addict must replace less socially acceptable behaviors with more socially acceptable behaviors.
What they mean is: once an addict always an addict.
I believe that.
Even AA will tell people they are "dry drunks" if they don't go to AA. I think what they mean by that is that you have to quit drinking and start consuming AA. Replace booze with AA. It's a legitimate strategy.
But I believe you can replace it with a lot of things.
For example, I have run 3 marathons. I did this during the great recession. I needed an outlet. And running 2-4 hours a day gave me that outlet.
I now take anti-depression medication that has helped a great deal. I've taken it for years.
But while I feel less anxious, I still feel the pull of my addiction. It's just really strong.
I was a binge drinker. I liked drinking at least 24 beers at a time. That was my preference.
But there were times I would drink whiskey and gin and Scotch. I remember times I kept drinking so much to see if I would pass out or die. I loved to drink hard.
So, when I try to replace my drinking it has to be something of similar intensity.
I know full well that my homeless advocacy is filling this hole in me. I need intense experiences and intense feelings. That's when I feel like I'm waking up and becoming me.
This has become an interesting experience for me because the theory has been that you can swap out one addiction for another addiction.
I believe that is true and that's what you must do in order to get your life back.
But there are other truths we have to acknowledge.
Even though those truths exist there is one thing you get in return: You get your life back.
You get to be with your family. You get to focus on your work. You get to enjoy activities that aren't your addiction. Suddenly, your life becomes much more full.
Sometimes your true love isn't the love that is best for you. You will miss it. You will dream about it. You will fantasize about it. But you can't go back. You can't pretend the two of you will have some kind of casual relationship. That's not what you were about. The two of you were a rocket ship burning up on re-entry into the atmosphere.
That's what addiction is.