The many faces of addiction

Addiction is ugly, and you never know who might be struggling with it

Melissa Bergen

Generally, when the word addiction comes up, it is used in reference to someone else.

However, the only person who can honestly and effectively diagnosis addiction is the person him- or herself.

More often than not, when someone says addict or alcoholic, they think of drunken old men drinking under a bridge, down-and-out drug users, immoral or ignorant people, and undisciplined criminals.

I thought that.

However, the person dealing with addiction may be the student beside you studying ethics, or the professor with three degrees.

I knew a successful professional who shot cocaine up his arms 40 or 50 times a day; a thriving engineer with an MBA and multi-million dollar contracts who drank a mickey on the way to his office - 10 minutes up the road from his house - every day; and a dedicated mother of three with a well-maintained home - and a bottle of vodka before bed.

Addicts are not one certain type of person. They come in all shapes and sizes, and from all walks of life.

They may be the happy-go-lucky friend who needs to celebrate every little thing about the day; that tech girl who works quietly in the lab; or the annoying person who has their fingers in everybody’s business.

Drunks, cokeheads, pill-poppers - they all go home to their distressed lives, filling some unspeakable pain or longing, swearing it will never happen again… but it always does.

When I was using, I always thought I could somehow manage my addiction and I never wanted to admit that I was an addict or an alcoholic - words that are interchangeable, by the way.

I always thought, “Next time it will be different,” or “I can manage just fine after this line and a couple of beers.”

I would often say to myself, “I’ll manage through the day, just need to blast through this, and I will be fine.”

I had to hide the insanity that was racing through my brain. When the work day was finished, I would be right back drinking and abusing drugs.

There were times during the day when I would have to have a “pick me up” just to get through it. Alcohol became my power - it was everything.

When I was using, I always thought I could somehow manage my addiction and I never wanted to admit that I was an addict. I always thought, ‘Next time it will be different.’

The one thing I never could understand was when would it get better.

I drank and drank – I would go on benders, forever trying to maintain a feeling of a chemically induced bliss. I hoped that one day the excessive drinking would eventually peter out and I could relax and enjoy a glass of wine on a patio, finishing off the day.

It never entered my brain that I had a problem with alcohol, that I was an addict or an alcoholic; I was, however, that person.

Before you assume that addiction is somehow a rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, remember that when you are doing something all the time you are also doing it when you do not want to do it.

With addiction, when your brain screams, “Stop!” your body says, “Go!”

The next day, your body says, “Stop!” because your heart will quit, but your brain says, “I need it!”

Never should this type of existence be glorified, emulated or aspired to.

There are many ways of treatment and there are different avenues that a person can take to seek out help. I am so grateful I did.

Alcoholics Anonymous is a 12-step program of abstinence that has helped millions of people live full and happy lives. Psychoanalysis is another other form of treatment. There are programs available through the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba here in Winnipeg (close to the University of Winnipeg campus).

These programs have guided people like me through the disease of alcoholism and other forms of addiction that plague society today.

No matter which avenue you choose, asking for help is the very first step.

This article was written by a Uniter contributor who is a recovering alcoholic. The writer asked to remain anonymous in keeping with Alcoholic Anonymous’ traditions. To learn about AA in Manitoba, visit

Published in Volume 66, Number 18 of The Uniter (February 1, 2012)

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