From yesterday’s poll, it was Eminem who said:
“My brain just doesn’t know when to shut off. When I do something I have to do it all the way — that goes for music … everything. I have to push it to the extreme. That’s how I realized I have an addictive behavior. Somebody told me this once, that the thing that makes me bad is the same thing that makes me good at other things.”
Eminem talking more about his addiction:
It’s comforting to know that there are other people who get the addiction struggle and can relate – this has been one of the most comforting things about talking to others who have prevailed over the grips of addiction. Those who have always been moderate users don’t seem to understand and too often see it as a moral failing or a lack of willpower – you know, something easily remedied. Just pull yourself up by your bootstraps. One of my favourite experiences was when I was released from the hospital for alcohol poisioning a couple of years ago. On my release form it stated the doctor’s recommendation at the bottom of my page for good health. “Quit drinking.”, it said.
As you can imagine, the clouds parted and angels immediately began singing. Gee, why hadn’t I thought of that. Brilliant. Problem solved.
The truth is that addiction is extremely complex and mysterious. I don’t profess to have the answers or the magic key but I do know that addiction is a soul-sucker and something that is put in our path (we all have addictions of some kind) in order to overcome. Great men are not really made by their accomplishments or what they have achieved, but by what they have overcome. Ask any now-liberated addict, ask Elie Wiesel, ask cancer survivors who were told by the doctor they had 6 months to live to which they responded, “F— off.” and are proudly walking down the street 10 years later. I have always known I was a strong person at my core, but the test of addiction is not for pussies. It is human nature to want to take the easy pill or the most comfortable route. When we rely on substances to soften the blow or to escape parts of ourselves that we don’t accept (shyness, insecurities, anger, anxiety) we might be numbing or escaping some kind of momentary pain, but we are disconnecting from ourselves little by little and stunting growth. Addiction is like putting the pause button on life. I like to think of this life as school and a place where we come temporarily to learn lessons. So if we’re just holding court or treading water, running to substances every time we don’t want to walk through something, what’s the point of being here? That line from the Bob Dylan song bears repeating: “He not busy being born is busy dying.” It takes an enormous amount of bravery to be relentless about overcoming addiction – the grasp of which often eludes all rational thought. There are armies of people who have tried intellectualizing their way out of the problem and it doesn’t seem to work. All we know is that in many times it is so powerful that the gravest negative consequences are not remedies. I remember in the early ’90s seeing Robert Downey Jr. on TV standing in the courtroom speaking to the judge about his multiple visits back to the courtroom. I’ll never for get what he said. This poor guy, so bright and sensitive said to the judge:
“Your honor, I feel like I have a loaded gun in my mouth and I know it’s loaded but I can’t take it out.”
My heart went out to him then – I really felt his pain and frustration from a place of non-judgment and that was many years before I even had a thought about or experience with anything addictive. I never could have imagined he might be foreshadowing my struggles to come.
A friend once told me when I was in the throes of the negative consequences and ill health of drinking, “You will always want to drink, but I promise you things will get better.” Difficult to disagree with such logic, but 90% of the time not being able to rely on alcohol for relief has been akin to taking a noonday stroll across hot coals. This constant presence forces me to live in reality rather than to keep running from it; and for extremely sensitive and aware individuals who feel things a little more deeply than they would like, reality isn’t always so bearable or as easy to rite off as just a bad day. I know there are those who can relate. Choosing to walk through the pain of reality is a gift though. It forces you to actually deal with or walk straight through things you are afraid of or don’t want to see or feel, which paradoxically disempowers them.
Band-aids are no longer an effective means of coasting through life. I miss choosing the easy-way-out at times, but it’s too hard not to notice how the universe aligns to support you when you stop abandoning yourself. Eminem and Robert Downey Jr. are both clean now and surely have different demons with which to deal, but the path they have chosen to take (the harder one) is nothing short of heroic. I can say this because I am intimately connected with the struggle, the spirit required and the refusal to give up after repeatedly hitting wall after wall. In fact, I have more respect for someone who has truly plummetd the depths and come out of challenges triumphant through their own mettle and perserverance over someone who has had a relatively easy life, not been forced to grow or transform and just glides along being a ‘good’ person. One of the gifts of addiction, I think, is that the warning to pay attention often becomes so loud that it forces you to take that journey deeper into yourself. Unless there is a huge reason or pressing need to do so, most people won’t take that journey.
So in the words of our dear friend Ali G, Mad Respek to those fighting the hard fight.