Addiction is one of the most entrenched and difficult phenomenons in society today. It is so complex, so far reaching that I hardly know where to begin. I will start by saying that according to conventional wisdom, it takes twenty-one days to acquire a habit. This would be the repetition of a behavior for a consecutive three week period. Habits are not addictions, but they are the forerunners of all behavior that leads to any type of addiction. Addictions are many and varied. It is easy enough to identify when you see the wasted bodies and lives of those who indulge in “killer-drugs.” These would be opiates, methamphetamines, and cocaine. Those who have acquired these habits are reminiscent of “zombies.” They develop the look of ‘wasting-away.” The appearance of their skin is unhealthy. Considering the fact that the skin is the largest organ in the body, it is quite revealing. The eyes will look dead; as if there is nobody at home. Inside, their organs are being consumed. There will be a manifestation of personality changes. The addict’s entire life will revolve around obtaining their drug of choice. If the addict has money, vast amounts of it will be spent without the generation of additional funds, because a true addict will not have the time or ability to engage in consistent work. If there is little money, the addict will engage in illegal activities to aquire the money to obtain their “fix.” Behind every addict, is the person who first turned them “on” to the drug. It could be the physician who is trying to treat intractable pain in a patient, it could be the “friend” who themselves is also addicted, it could be a callous drug dealer who hands out the drug for free until the habit is formed and the habit demands the “fix” in order to make the person feel “normal again” There is a genetic predisposition in the pathophysiology of addiction causation; it is about the neurotransmitter called dopamine. Dopamine will be low in those who become addicted. The addicted seeks out the drug which will boost the levels of dopamine in the brain which will cause them to feel “normal” for awhile. This genetic predisposition is the reason that the relapse rate of addicts is so high in those who have been to rehab, had the twelve steps, are on a buddy-system, etc. I, in no wise, want to indicate that there are no success stories. There are. They are inspiring when they occur and are long-lived.
Those who love the addict live with a type of misery which is unspeakable. They wait for the other shoe to drop, always. They wait for a phone call in the middle of the night. They watch for missing items in their houses, they wait for the unannounced visit in which the addict will lie and ask for money for things which are basic to existence (making it difficult for the compassionate mother, lover or friend to refuse the request.) Those who love the addict have to live with the fact that the one that they love is not only “flawed”, but that they are not even the same person. A stranger has taken over their bodies. Those who love the addict wait for the call from the police. They live with the fear that the one that they love will wind up incarcerated or dead.
Alcoholism deserves adequate attention. How many people living today are the adult children of the alcoholic? How many have horror stories from their childhoods having lived with the alcoholic? The prognosis is not good for those who refuse to try and save themselves. There are the everyday drinkers, and those who binge. Binging is extremly hard on the body, because within days and weeks, the binger has a “bottomless-pit.” It appears as if no amount of alcohol can satisfy. The binger will usually stop for awhile when they become “sick.” This would be nausea, itching or any of the symptoms that could be associated with early liver damage. The everyday drinkers, who eat and hydrate themselves adequately, can live a long time. My father, an alcoholic physician used to inject himself with vitamin B-12, to stave off liver damage from his alcoholism. He lived to be almost ninety. Once, while on a fishing trip in Canada, he aquired a cigarette burn upon his abdomen which reached the viscera before he knew that he was burning. It is hard to imagine being so drunk that you do not realize that a part of your anatomy is on fire. There were the “secret stashes” of liquor all around the house. An alcoholic will do this if their behavior is unacceptable to the people that they live with. They will create ingenious ways to disguise their drinking. I cannot tell you how many sports cars were crashed, how much whoremongering occurred, and how much indiscriminate activity occured. I only know that my mother suffered deeply and that my father kept a medicine cabinet full of sleeping pills and benzodiazapines to which my brother and I would help ourselves when bored. My mother slept alot. Spouses of alcoholics might seek sleep to escape the anxiety of living with alcoholic behavior. The alcoholic who is “drying-out,” is meaner than snake-spit. They can be so nasty that those who experience their “dry-drunks” want to go out and get them something to drink, just to assauge their ‘free-floating” wrath. I have seen my father in the lobby of a beautiful hotel in Freeport, Bahamas (where he owned two condos) relieve himself as if he were in the men’s room. Now, I cannot tolerate the smell of alcohol on the breath. I actually caught a case of PTSD from living with an unrepentant alcoholic.
Addictive gambling is pervasive in this country, especially with all of the Native American casinos springing up. Many times, obsessive-compulsive behavior will also be associated with the “nocturnal creatures” who haunt casinos. I have been such a specter. I spent four days and nights in a casino engaging in the repetitive behavior involved in the playing of slot machines. For me, it was never about the money. I would win and play until it was all gone. For me, it became a way to release anxiety and to engage in obsessive-compulsive behavior. I was never the kind of gambler who just knew they were going to win despite every evidence to the contrary. My first husband was such a gambler. When I was just married at ninteen, my new husband and I made a stop to Las Vegas on our way to sunny California. I stayed in the hotel. In the morning my new husband explained to me how he had lost all of our money and that he had to get it back. He, then, began pawning our wedding gifts. He came and told me that he had to “recover’ what he had lost and he needed a “stake.” He asked me for the title to my sky-blue, convertible 1970 Alpin GT ( my father had given me his car as a wedding gift.) I did not understand the value of money, then. I was so naive that I thought there was no point in owning a car when we could not afford gas for it, so I signed over the title. He lost the money for that and I ended up losing my wedding ring as well as his own. I lied and told my father that we were totaled in a car accident at Boulder Dam and that we needed bus money to go to California. He wired one hundred dollars and we went to live with my husband’s hippie friends. We ended up staying with the bass player(and his family) of the Neil Young back-up band, Crazy Horse. Those were the days! It was 1971 and I was in California. Need I say more? We, then, stayed in an apartment building that my father’s sister (another physican) owned, until she realized that neither one of us was going to work. After that, we stayed at my mother’s cousin’s house-a family of musicians. We stayed with the sister of famed arranger Ernie Freeman who received a grammy for Frank Sinatra’s, “Stranger’s In The Night” We performed in their gospel group called, “The Young Saints.” We performed at Century Plaza. The girls in the group wore red blouses and short white skirts with shoulder straps. We marched upon the stage and sang, “Didn’t It Rain, Children.” Then, we moved into an apartment complex owned by a wealthy hippie. It was free, but we had to sing in the park at his whim. We also had to all do community clean up and various chores related to the upkeep of the apartment complex. My husband finally got a job ( I had never had a job outside of working in my father’s medical office) and we got our own apartment. I loved our little place in Echo Park. One day, he announced to me that he had to go back to Las Vegas and retrieve our wedding rings. He got on a bus for Las Vegas. When he returned, he had literally lost the coat off of his back. I thought, “what a loser!” I got the invitation to be the bride’s maid at my sister’s wedding. She was marrying a dentist. I went back to Shaker Heights, Ohio (where I grew up) During my six-month marriage, we had discovered that my husband was not really my husband, afterall. He was a bigamist! It seems as if his wife had called my father out of surgery to inform him that his daughter had married her husband. My father had a friend who was a judge and in the blink of an eye, I had an annulment and was on my way back to Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee( still not knowing what I wanted to do with my aimless life.)
Sex addiction is all about engaging in obsessive-compulsive behavior. A thought pops into someone’s head, they entertain the thought, the thought drives them, then they act it out. If there is poor impulse control(as well as a sociopathic personality) you are looking at a very real potential for serious criminal behavior. There is no accounting for personal taste when it comes to sex. It really has everything to do with early childhood eroticism. What was the thing which made a child first “tingle” in unidentified parts? Many of these images or scenarios have everything to do with what will turn the adult on. I am no expert in this area. I can only say that I remained anorgasmic for fifty years of my life. I had an inability to let go. Then, when I truly wanted to let go, I did not know how to let go. A rape at seventeen and a multiple-rape at twenty-one rendered me incapable of surrender, which is required to achieve the “orgasmic state.” I would have an “out-of-body experience” everytime I engaged in sexual activity. It was if someone else was having sex. This was disassociative behavior. I wanted to be healed from it. I read alot and discovered my own anatomy. The only problem that I had was the ability to share this intimacy with another. Trust is a big issue for many women regarding sex. Just because I could not achieve orgasm during an intimate encounter, it did not stop me from trying, and often. After I had analyzed the psychological problem, and checked my plumbing, at fifty, I finally hit the jackpot. I was like a sealed-up dam that burst. It was extreme. I, then, thought that having multiple orgasms might kill me. I understood why the French call it, “les petites mortes” translated means “the little deaths.” I will leave you with a poem from which the title of this piece is taken; “The Addict In The Attic.”
THE ADDICT IN THE ATTIC
He finds his home in gray matter-
on a sunny day; below my sunhat,
which boasts of its fine Madagascar fibers.
He called at first. These promptings
ignored, he began to yell.
The addict takes his green-scaly
hands and uses his nails to penetrate
my area of weakness: the darknessess
of my mind. To the alcoholic,
“you want a drink, don’t you?”
He mimics the ring of bells that
sound, to the compulsive gambler,
like triple Double Diamond dollars. He
will demand another pill five minutes after
the last pills were shoveled down.
He stretches himself out on a full moon,
then plots and leaves his attic;
takes the bodies of his victims. A
chameleon doing dastardly deeds,
he cruises bars, slings dollars into
G-strings, copulates in anyway he can.
in ecstatic escape. Then, quietly, he
returns to the attic, I am not alone.
I live with a madman. I don’t know
when he dug his way in,
his long fingernails, piercing & probing.