How wordy people get trying to describe addiction, and yet, how damn simple it is when you are actually doing it.
I used to do a lot of drugs.. but the one that got me was heroin.
Rather than go on and on about psychobabble and trying to scientifically break it down.. let me just give a few examples from my past.
A friend posed the question to me once.. his girl had asked him, after I'd left their place, how I could possibly permit my life to be the way it was.. how could I not notice how terrible it was. (barely eating, really skinny, apartment a literal disaster, the cat that hadn't eaten in weeks, litterbox overflowing. How could I not notice what shit life had become? How could I deal with the misery?
Trainspotting got it bang on folks. The life of a junkie is SIMPLE.
My biggest worry in life was running out of heroin. Sometimes it was a minor worry, like something you really don't want to forget to do because your wife might yell at you. (You have the cash, you just have to find time to sneak away from work and meet your dealer before you start withdrawl cause you ran out at the wrong time of day) and sometimes it was a big worry, like if I don't find some cash and get some heroin, I'm gonna suffer and be unable to work until payday.
"Nothing else mattered." Now. Don't get it in your head that a junkie has no morals, or a junkie is nuts and will kill people, or that a junkie doesn't care. I still cared, I still had morals... but beyond all that, there is the overwhelming fact: You need to have heroin, period. If my best friend came over, or I missed dinner at his place, I felt really really bad.. realized how fucked up my life was. But.. if the choice was between going into withdrawl or going out with a buddy... believe me, you would take sitting at home fixing up.
You KNOW you are hooked. And you do NOT like that fact.. but you have no idea what to do. The longer you are hooked, the longer your habit takes over your life, the more stupid shit you will do, the less anything else matters. This is just a fact of life, like anything else. Say you were in a jungle with no food or water. Finding food and water would be your primary goal, no matter what other things you had. The longer you had to struggle to get food and water, the less and less you would care about anything else. Heroin is the same thing.
Now.. I quit. Cold-turkey. Why? I ran out of cash way before payday.. I couldn't borrow anymore, my life was in shambles. And I knew in the back of my head all along that this couldn't last, that I had to stop. I left town, quit my job, stayed with my family, got better. (Side note: The change of location and environment had a HUGE effect on my physical withdrawl symptoms.. it was amazing)
You know. Heroin is God. It's the best. You hear that.. yet when you do it, it's not really that spectacular. (A good joint is often far more euphoric and interesting than just going on the nod on some smack). But... when you are hooked, it's the BEST THING ON EARTH. Why? Simply because it makes your pain go away. No more cramps, headache, disorientation, panic, restlessness, racing thoughs, etc. At my peak, I would do enough heroin to put a non-user out of commission until the day after tomorrow just to stay normal for the next hour or two. Literally... loading up on smack only made me feel 'normal'so I could go shopping, or to work (programming). And in my life, from my point of view, that was the BEST I could feel. Normal.
I remember sitting on the bus seeing some lady upset because she had an argument with her husband, another guy upset cause his boss was a dork, another guy upset about his stocks. I would have GLADLY traded any one of those peoples problems for my own. Their problems were petty.
Now.. Now I'm 28 years old, doing fine. Quit smoking a couple years ago. I still drink occasionally, I still like a good joint now and then. Neither of those things ever caused a problem for me.
And I've passed on the opportunity to do coke/heroin several times since I quit. I know where that road leads. I don't want to go there again, ever.
People ask me "You are a smart guy! How could you get into shit like that?"
Folks, don't ever kid yourself, and don't think you are 'smarter' than me. You aren't.
A moment of temptation is all it takes. You know why? because.. the first time you do some Heroin.. it's not bad. You don't wake up with cravings. You don't go bonkers for more. You just liked it. It was no big deal.
And by the time you realize it IS a big deal, it's too late.
The "just say no" campaigns and their like.. they demonize drugs. But that's not enough. They psyche you up to thinking drugs are so big and evil and horrible. But if you DO them, you'll find they aren't. They're nice, easy to do, friendly even. You'll quickly decide all that stuff you heard was bullshit.
We don't have a huge drug abuse problem because drugs are big and scary, you know. We have it because they are so damn GOOD.
So.. on to the details Signal 11 asked for..
though I don't think this really helps understand them (to understand them you have to do them, but please don't).
What is addiction like:
Cigarettes: You just like to have a smoke, especially after eating, after sex, and for some people, after waking up in the morning (not me though). If you get stressed out, you want a smoke. If you feel happy, you want a smoke. It's just something you do.. as much habit as addiction.
Withdrawl: Widely varies... from none to severe physical symptoms.
Cocaine/Crack: Never been that addicted, wasn't my drug of choice, but done it enough. Cocaine, and to a much larger degree, Crack, makes you feel just plain 'good' instantly. In large doses, there are other psychological effects, euphoria, the 'Ringer', etc, but the main thing is it just makes you feel GOOD. Clean and good. (plus stimulant effects, of course)
followed quickly by feeling about as equally BAD, which is why coke users binge. Unless you have tons of it, you don't usually see people proportioning out their coke. They do it until it's gone, compulsively.
Craving: Makes you feel good, instantly. Who doesn't want that? The reason people feel good about snorting corrosive powder up their nose (not comfortable) is because it makes them feel good.
Withdrwawl: depression, mostly just huge cravings to do more coke. Even though I never had a real coke problem, I *still* get intense cravings for cocaine if I smell cracksmoke, or something similar while walking down the street. I recognize it for what it is.. but it's amazing how powerful a mental association it is. I've heard other addicts talk of physical pains.
Heroin: Sedative effects.. drowsiness, sleeping, calm, warm feeling of contentment. Quiets the gut, painkiller, withdrawl symptoms go away very quickly.
Addiction: You want more, at first, just because'you like it. Later, because it makes the sickness go away, calms you down.
Withdrawl: Sucks. Often considered very physical and dangerous; can be. I think it's mostly mental (only due to my own experiences in trying to quit); the physical symptoms are mainly a side effect of the screwed up mental stuff... but I'm sure there are physicians who would disagree.
Caffeine: OUCH! All I have to say is, I've seen a few people who say they are 'quitting coffee'and they get irritable.
I beleive I've been through acute caffeine withdrawl.. all I have to say is it's the second worse headache I've ever had in my life.
Come to think of it, the first worse, which I initially thought was from coming of a pretty bad Tylenol-3 abuse binge may have actually been due to the caffeine in those little buggers anyway.
Sorry.. I know it's rambling. I should probably write A book.. I think I will some day.
I have to say, though, I feel a bit uneasy now. Thinking about all this, remembering... it's difficult. I feel twinges of cravings I haven't felt in a long, long time, just from thinking about it. That's good, I suppose, to remind me.
Just say no is still damn good advice.