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Twenty some years of sobriety… then it comes and takes you out with gruesome ferocity, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, 46 years of age at his time of death. Addiction is the only disease that will make you step over the dying body of your beloved child to get another “fix” before you can even think of looking back to help. It is the only disease that I know of that causes you to pursue something at all costs ~ with insatiable hunger, tirelessly and without end to complete self-destruction and the obliteration of the world around you. Leaving countless shattered lives with broken-hearts reeling in confusion and crushing devastation.

Addiction IS a disease and society is only beginning to understand this. It wasn’t long ago that they used to give us lobotomies, lock us up and throw away the key…our behaviour still continues to baffle.  Unfortunately “Addiction” is still steeped in negative stigma, it is looked down upon as a “fault” rather that what it truly is. There is nothing disgraceful about being diagnosed with this destructive and often fatal illness. We alcoholics and addicts are not “bad people”, but when in active addiction our behaviour can be horrific, even cataclysmic.

For those who cannot understand or who are thinking; “Well, why don’t you just stop?” While in addiction’s clutches, we cannot. We would if we could, but we simply cannot, not until somehow, somewhere inside, we surrender to complete desperation and finally pull up that throttle before a massive crash and burn. The potency of active addiction far surpasses human willpower. Once it has gripped you in it’s clenched fist, it is not dissimilar to the movies we’ve seen on demonic possession. You literally ARE fighting a beast within.

Many times the plot of horror movies have reminded me of what being in the throes of addiction feels like and I’ve often used them as the closest description I could think of to describe the fear, helplessness and madness to those that don’t understand. Many a zombie plot has caused me to exclaim to husband or son; “OMG, THAT is TOTALLY what it’s like!” Watching the bloody and beaten survivors, fighting off the ravenous dead, hoping just to survive without getting “bitten”.

This disease is a killer, still tragically misunderstood and pre-judged. There are tens of MILLIONS of active addicts and each one immediately affects approximately 20 people: children, wives, husbands, partners, parents, siblings, friends and co-workers, extended family… the list goes on. It’s not just alcohol and street/prescription drugs either; Addiction to nicotine/Tobacco use ~ is the cause of death in 1 in 10 deaths world wide.

Over the years I have come to understand this simple fact ~ We drink alcohol and use drugs to CHANGE THE WAY WE FEEL. We just wish to feel “better”, to feel bliss or most often, feel nothing at all. Some people CAN take in a substance, have and even enjoy a minimum to moderate amount and walk away. For some, wine is a “food” <~ Lucky folks I say.  Not with me, the elusive and illusory ideal of a nice romantic dinner, candles, delicious food and two goblets of wine may have briefly started out that way, but quickly became portal to Hell, with a few stops at the police station, jail and local mental ward on the way down.

Looking for the cause, we have looked toward genetic pre-disposition, dysfunctional mental or physical abuse or both, mental illness, abandonment, molestation… but we’ve found that there doesn’t have to be a certain underlying absolute that causes someone to become an addict. Like all disease, addiction is an equal-opportunity afflicter.  Could  you tell a cancer patient to “knock it off” and stop flaring up with cancer?  Would it work?  No, it will not. However, having cancer does not place one behind the wheel of a lethal weapon… inebriated and unknowingly about to destroy your life and possibly  countless lives of the innocent. Cardiovascular disease doesn’t cause you beat your spouse or children either.  Addiction is Confusing Tricky, Mighty and Murderous.

Pure and simple, it is a piteous, insatiable desire to fill the continuously emptying hole in our soul, drowning in drink we are tormented like Tantalus  ~ we can never taste what we truly desire; Spirit, Source, the Absolute or God, whatever name you want to call it, It has been known by many names over the millennia.  The Joy, Love and Light we had wretchedly been searching for has been within us all along.

By removing the substance intake and stepping aside, an entire new existence can be found. Eleven and a half years ago, a twelve step program changed my life. My existence has been restored to one more incredible than before ~ one far, FAR beyond my wildest dreams. For today, I  am free and out from under the relentless lash of alcoholism/addiction. I am not healed, nor am I recovered. I choose to identify myself, to myself and to others, as a lifelong recovering “raging” alcoholic. I believe I need to keep my disease in front of me so I will never forget its monstrous grip and destructive power, I remember……… and I respect it  ~ and prefer to always keep it in sight no matter how many years of sobriety I have. I am and will always be like a vegetarian piraña or  even a “dry” vampire who has stopped drinking blood.

Let the sadness of Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s passing remind us that  no matter WHO you are, or WHAT you’ve achieved, that even with a loving partner, beautiful, healthy children, incredible talent, fame and wealth, if you take your eye off the ball, addiction can return to rear it’s ugly head, destroy your world, rip your life from you and claim you once again as its own.