The four words every addict needs to hear: “It’s not your fault”

As I write this, it is almost 2 am. As is common with me at this time of the morning, I find myself thinking about all the things that may have caused my life to play out differently. Today, it occurred to me that there is one phrase that could have made all the difference in my journey through active addiction, and that phrase is: “It’s not your fault.”

There is a culture of blame in society as a whole. Whether it be the judging stares of other parents as your autistic toddler melts down in the supermarket, or the grumbled whispers of “dirty junkie” from the people walking past the unconscious homeless man, society seeks to blame those who are struggling for what they are experiencing.

I was very lucky to have friends and family that stood by me throughout my active addiction, but I still couldn’t shake the feeling that my inability to stop using and drinking was somehow a moral failing on my part. On the darkest of nights, I would sit alone, out of my mind on whatever substance I had been partaking in, cursing myself for my inability to stop.

Of course, looking back I could see that addiction was almost an inevitability for a person with my experiences. I, like so many addicts before me, was traumatised as a child. Like other traumatised children, I was a victim of the war on drugs. The war on drugs did nothing to curb my use and everything to drive me deeper into the arms of my demons.

Society was taught that i was a drain on resources; that by my own choices, i had brought this destruction upon myself. unfortunately for my wellbeing, I listened when I heard these things.

The concept that my addiction was not my fault would have been mind-blowing, an absolute game changer. Of course as an addict i caused a lot of harm, that would be something I had to take responsibility for in recovery, i paid my penance. Despite this, I have no memory of ever once being told that my addiction was not my fault.

That is why I write this now. If you, like I was, are sitting alone, hating yourself for not being able to stop your addiction, I want you to know that this isn’t your fault. Addiction is a complex condition, facilitated by unmet support needs and perpetuated by the myth that we somehow deserve the suffering we experience.

You do not deserve this suffering. You did not bring this beast upon yourself. Despite the things you may or may not have done as a function of your addiction, you are not that person. There exists a world where you are free of your demons, where you are happy and have reconciled your past actions, and have hope for the future.

As an autistic person, I was already shunned for not meeting the neurotypical standard set by the majority, and I refuse to allow my suffering to be used against me in the same way.

The world is better with you in it.

It’s not your fault.

David Gray-Hammond
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