Addict vs. Dependent

I am not an addict. I do not have an addiction. I have a chemical dependence on a substance in which I am working on correcting.

This is what I tell myself. This is what professionals tell me. This is what many cling to as stigma is such a fucking bitch.

In my case, I think I’m both. Not an addict of the drug, but dependent resulting from my true addiction.

There is a difference between being an addict, and being dependent.

Trying to get people to see the difference between these two is sometimes quite difficult. There’s different schools of believe on the subject, but I’m a firm believer that it boils down to the reason you are taking the substance in question.

Addiction is a brain disorder characterized by compulsive engagement in rewarding stimuli despite adverse consequences.

At first, I was given benzodiazepine as a part of my chemotherapy regime without choice. Nausea, pain, and anxiety treated simultaneously with one drug. I’m not sure if this is the same protocol at the children’s hospital, but it is with adults. It was monitored, and given at low doses. I can remember being in my hospital room, fidgeting my legs with no conscious awareness.

Did you get all your medications? I’ll go check, I don’t think you did.

Had I known then what I knew now: some of my symptoms were withdrawal. You wouldn’t think to say to me then I was an addict, yet I was becoming dependent at 15 years old.

Later in life, I took them as a part of figuring out what mental illnesses I faced. I was put on a new pill every two weeks.

Does this doctor know what he’s doing?
Oh yes, I’d trust him with the lives of my children!

I didn’t know what part of me was drug, and what part of me was me. After an incident and transfer of my care, and due to family history, I wanted off all pharma. I came off quickly. Rapid decline in dosage by week (0.25mg drop at a time) with what seemed no problems what so ever. Model patient at addictions. Opening up to my psychologist. I’d attend every open group meeting. Listen to these stories, you’re not one of these people. Yet, was I truly free from my addiction? I buried myself in jobs, school, recovery and volunteering. I did everything I could to not be alone with myself in the present.

Funny thing with these benzos: there’s a delay in response when coming off. If you come off too fast, you don’t give your brain time to adjust. They call it PAWS (post acute withdrawal syndrome). It’s as if every symptom I had before came back at me three fold. I ended up having one of the worst mental breaks I could remember, I had to quit everything, and was put right back on those pills. I needed a higher dose for them to work. Even with assistance from psychotherapy, not only was I given benzos, but other tranquilizers to take at my discretion. I started to coast through life, no direction. It’s a few years after that, and I still feel this way.

It felt like at that point it was subconsciously being hoped by those taking care of me medically I’d take too many. I know now this was one of the many lies my sick brain would tell me, but the way these pills are dished out… Cut a cake with a saw is definitely NSHA‘s motto. Doctors are so willing to write you up an Rx to get you out of their hair, and get their kickbacks. No one monitors these pills, they’re not in the pink pad.

At my worst point, I took mixtures at levels that were just at the line of safe, but that line kept being pushed. I wanted to escape, and it was such an easy escape. Escape the pain I couldn’t describe, escape the abuse I couldn’t leave, escape the life I never had, escape the reality I couldn’t face. The many overdoses I had in plain sight of others, both strangers and those who I thought cared for me, reaffirmed that I should have died during the cancer days. I don’t know how I didn’t accidentally die. No, these weren’t in back alleys or junkie apartments. Try university classrooms and lecture halls, board rooms and places of business, and right in front of my own family during holiday celebrations.

This was the same drug prescribed to me, and left as my responsibility, after I had used them for an intentional suicide overdose.

I’m both: an addict, and I’m dependent. I no longer am taking the drug to escape: I’m taking it because suddenly stopping could kill me, and deep down, no, I don’t think I want to die. My brain became so used to this drug that it doesn’t know how to respond without it, and I want to figure out how to live a life that doesn’t make me yearn for escape.

An addict of escapism and dependent on benzodiazepine.

One thought on “Addict vs. Dependent

  1. I think you are wise to think of it this way. The whole culture of drug addiction and treatment needs to change to think more as you have stated here. Often when an addict takes methadone, for instance, to manage his cravings so he can stay off heroin, the recovery community thinks he’s still an addict, having just switched from one addictive substance to another. But that isn’t true. He’s using methadone not to get high, not to escape, but to heal. I hope our society comes to see that more clearly, and stop stigmatizing people who are trying to get whole the only way they know how.

    Liked by 1 person

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