Addiction always starts with a choice.
Take a drag on this cigarette; have a sip of this vodka; take a toke on this spliff; have a snort of this snow; take a huff of this crack pipe… And so it goes, ad infinitum.
Everywhere in life we face crossroads. Some of us make choices that aren’t necessarily the right ones. Our reasons for that vary. We could be suffering due to bereavement – grief is a harsh mistress. We could be feeling crushed under the weight of a situation too stressful or too dreadful to even bear comprehending. We could just want to fit into a world that is too huge to understand… We make them regardless. We should never be judged for these choices, for it is only ourselves who can truly say why we make them. We do these things to ourselves, and though they do affect the people around us, it is only within our own heads and hearts that we understand – and it might even take months, years, decades for us to get there – why we have chosen that particular path. Still, we are human, and we will always pass judgement on that we deem to be stupid, foolish or hurtful.
It is when choice is no longer a choice that a habit becomes an addiction. An addiction cannot be refused, nor can it be controlled. It is consuming; it takes hold of the body and the mind with the force of a freight train and we are fragile. We can be snapped so easily.
It is what makes grown, proud human beings sit in the street, unwashed and suffering from lack of sleep, losing their last shred of dignity to ask perfect strangers for change.
It is what takes over careers and reduces literate, sparkling people into shadows of their former selves. You can see it in their eyes – sunken and bloodshot; it is as if all life has escaped through the gift shop long ago.
It is what tears families apart.
An addiction cannot be pinpointed, nor can anyone be blamed for it. A person never picks up a vodka and coke with the express intention to one day become that person who cannot get up in the morning without it. Nobody takes a drag on a cigarette, dreaming of the day when they get to spend £12 in one go on two packs of twenty. Nobody draws on a spliff whilst bidding hello to schizophrenia. And yet we all start off there, in the same place. We have a part of our brains that allows us to ignore those little warning signs, those little voices that tell us that what we are doing is no good. Because, as we always say, I can look after myself.
Addiction creeps up silently, pouncing on a person when they are at their weakest. Who knows why?
So before you pass judgement on the situation that has arisen this week, I ask you to remember this simple fact: regardless of how far we go, or what we choose to dabble in, some of us are strong enough to hear those voices at a critical point and take heed; some of us are not so strong. Some of us cannot hear. Some of us are unable to. And that is the only difference between you and them.
Addiction takes no prisoners.