The world of addiction advocacy can be incredibly bleak at times, but even more so in the autistic community. So few people are talking about autistic addicts; sometimes it feels like screaming into the void.
Being an addict is an incredibly lonely life. In or out of recovery, we are fighting a battle with a mind that constantly seeks to harm us. I never imagined that I would face a similar loneliness as an addiction advocate.
Addiction advocacy is such an important topic for the autistic community. We are a group that has been consistently alienated by society, with many autistics that I have met talking about using drinking and drugs as a coping mechanism. This has ranged from casual drinking and self-medication with cannabis through to more concerning discussions of addiction to substances that are known to cause a great deal of harm.
Despite the prevalence of drug and alcohol use in the autistic community, many remain silent on the topic of addiction. This silence breeds an environment where the insidious disease of addiction can kill our friends and loved ones.
It might seem like I am being hyperbolic in my speech, but addiction is literally killing people the world over, every single day.
The silence becomes most obvious when you look into the world of substance misuse treatment. This is a world that has never even considered the existence of (or differences of) neurodivergent addicts, let alone conducted research on it.
Honestly, this doesn’t surprise me; in order for treatment policy to notice us, we would first have to break the silence. How can we expect to be heard on this topic if we never talk about it?
Of course there are many legitimate reasons why people may struggle to talk about addiction. I have covered some of these reasons in my article Issues with addiction advocacy in the autistic community; despite those issues, we must get this conversation going; the lives of so many autistics depend on it.
People’s lack of interest in this topic leads me to believe that perhaps they think they are immune to addiction, but the truth is that addiction can come for anyone. Addiction knows no boundaries. For this reason, I will always stand and be heard as an autistic addict, even if I am the only person doing it.
I have a personal mantra for topics of mental health and addiction: “Open communication is key to recovery.” Talking is healing, and we must keep talking until others are listening. I promise every autistic addict reading this, I will not be silent, I will keep talking until the world recognises that you are here, and then I will talk some more.