I am an addict.
There are many things you may think of when you hear that word.
The old man on an old stool, bent over the pint of money his family will never see. The housewife, who knows it’s only an issue if you drink before the children are asleep.
The gambler. The old woman at the corner shop counter, discarding scratch card after scratch card. The young man in a tailored suit, well-earned, affording him the appearance of wealth necessary to secure his place at the felt table, with the big boys and their Rolexes.
The woman who loves her husband, but, every week while she is away for work, her bed is warmed by a different man every night. The teenage boy that is so desensitised to pornography from hours of nightly viewing, he can’t get it up when his first teenage love is right in front of him.
The congregation of an entire generation that bow only to the altar of technology. Likes are sustenance; validation of your place in this world of Botox and Photoshop. The ones who’s phones are an extension of their hand and the ones who sit behind their PlayStations; their only friends those they have met online.
The smoker; 50 a day and always, always, a spare pack in the pocket- just in case.
Victims in the wake of some, many, all, or, maybe, just one drug. That beautiful high behind their dead eyes, filthy sleeping bags draped around their shoulders., waiting for their next fix and their next descent into mindless bliss.
Compulsive liars, compulsive cleaners, compulsive consumers, compulsively Keeping Up With the Kardashians, compulsively exercising, compulsively hand-washing.
Compulsive eating. Compulsive exercising. Compulsive under-eating. Impulsive eating. Compulsive purging. Restrict- feel the high! Binge or break your diet- feel the shame.
For an addict, there is no in-between. An alcoholic cannot have an occasional drink, just as someone with an eating disorder cannot choose to hold on to some of their eating disordered behaviours. An addict only has one choice, and if they aren’t choosing recovery then they are choosing their disease.
For alcoholics, there is alcoholics anonymous, or, AA.
For drug addicts, there is narcotics anonymous, or, NA.
Gambling addicts in Ireland have a 24 hour online support service and a confidential phone counselling support service.
Sex Addicts anonymous has an expansive American-based website, open for people all around the world to join. The UK also has a massive website, complete with phone, online and face-to-face support, with meeting taking place all around the United Kingdom, including Belfast.
The efficacy, or, how effective peer support groups are as a form of support and treatment, is undisputed. There are countless studies published in medical journals throughout the world on the benefits of peer support and peer advocacy in the process of recovery from addiction, and there are a further number talking specifically about attending a peer support group while in recovery from an eating disorder. Some of the main points in favour of peer support include;
· be perceived as a credible source of help;
· empower participants to help themselves;
· provide a means of transferring knowledge;
· be a decreased level of threat since they are strengths-based, non-judgemental and anonymous
· reframe negative perceptions;
· be cost-effective.
I’ve been promising myself, my doctor and support team and the family dog that I’m going to attend a peer support group since I was discharged from in-patient treatment in January (9 months ago – FYI). Well, I finally made the jump. In the interest of maintaining total anonymity for the other attendees, I’m not even going to name the group or tell you where it meets. All I would advise you to do is to search for what is available in your area- help is out there.
There are lots of small reasons as to why it took me so long to walk through that door. I was afraid of who I would see- I don’t mean real people, with personalities and lives, I mean bodies; would everyone be very skinny? Would the room be full of pouting, starving, match-stick models? Would I look huge? Am I huge? Would people think I was overweight? Was I going to be triggered rather than helped to progress? Will there be, like, homework and stuff? Would someone recognise me? How anonymous is anonymous? (This is Ireland, in fairness.) Does the time suit me? I’m too busy. I don’t need peer support. I’m doing fine on my own. I don’t want to be told what to do.
The one, over-arching, actual, real, non-bullshit reason?
I had enough of being judged. Not only had I had enough of it, I felt that I couldn’t possibly take it from even one more source. I felt certain that I would be entering an arena in which, I would be judged. That if I didn’t look like I needed to be there (whatever that means), I would be asked to leave.