“The drugs never loved you.” My relationship with addiction as an autistic

Being autistic is an intense experience. Being an addict is an intense experience. Being an autistic addict is a level of intensity most won’t ever experience.

For me, my entire world became about getting high and exploring how drugs and alcohol affected me in varying quantities and combinations.

I used to keep journals detailing what I had taken, when I had taken it, how much I had taken, and what impact it had in the hours following. At points, the writing was completely illegible because I was so wasted.

I had one primary goal: stop feeling.

The reason drugs and alcohol appealed to me so much was because I needed to silence my mind. The world and my thoughts were overwhelming. Between my deepening psychosis and the sensory nightmare of the real world, I felt it was impossible to find peace without something to help. This is why I fell in love with drugs.

Drugs brought me instant relief. I could swallow a pill, or snort a line, and within minutes, I would feel relief. This perhaps is why opioids and benzodiazepines appealed to me so much. It was like being wrapped in a warm blanket with rose coloured glasses, and I could simply watch the pain of existence wash away.

This was perhaps the hardest part of achieving sobriety. My security blanket was gone, and I was alone in a dark and terrifying world. I felt grief for the substances that were no longer a part of my life.

It was at this point that my key worker from the substance misuse treatment centre said something that woke me up to the reality of what had been happening.

She said that I had been in a toxic and abusive relationship with the drugs, that I had fallen in love with them, but now had to realise that they didn’t love me back and had in fact controlled and coerced me into a lifestyle that would ultimately kill me.

I had to go through the grief of that “break up” and process the trauma of what my addiction had put me through. This perhaps was one of the hardest lessons I have ever learned.

“The drugs never loved you.”

For years I had seen drugs as my saviour, the only way I could survive. I did not believe that I could live without them. The truth is that had I not severed that relationship, I would have paid with my life.

Even now, at over 4 years of sobriety, I feel the fallout of that twisted love affair. The things I did, and the things I saw, all for my addiction, are memories that I will take with me to my grave. At times of stress, I still sometimes feel the call to run back into the arms of my abuser.

I know better now. The last four years have taught me that I don’t need drugs or alcohol. I have learned, and am learning more everyday, how to sit with the discomfort that the world causes me, to quote a song (“Last Hope” by Paramore) that has saved my life on several occasions:

It’s not that I don’t feel the pain,
It’s just I’m not afraid of hurting anymore

I have learnt to embrace that with which I struggle, to let it into my life without judgement, and to let it pass over me. And when I can not do that, I have learned to reach out.

Sobriety is not easy. Stopping our active addictions is the first step. Once you have done that, you have to take steps to create a life where it’s easier not to use.

It takes time, and a lot of effort, but it is so worth it. The world may not be an easy place to be, but it is better with you in it.

David Gray-Hammond
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