*Trigger warning: This article addresses topics related to various forms of addictions, including alcohol, over exercising and eating disorders. It also touches on the topic of depression and suicide.
BY: ALVA POLETTI
For the purpose of this article, I find it necessary to firstly define the term "Addiction". According to the NHS, Addiction is defined as "not having control over doing, taking or using something to the point where it could be harmful to you."
That being said, I've got what's commonly referred to as an addictive personality – easily getting hooked on, well, just about anything, from TV-shows (a very mild form of addiction) to over exercising, alcohol, starvation and binging. It has taken me many years to figure it out and plenty more therapy sessions to accept it, but I've come to the conclusion that I'm in a way allergic to the idea of going "all in", no matter what it is.
I'm also the spitting image of the stereotypical psychology student, who's primarily studying to become a psychologist as a means to figure her own shit out and battle her own demons. Saying so, it's should come as no surprise to anyone that I chose the research question for my latest exam to be about the psychological, social, and neurological factors at play in - you guessed it - addiction.
As I delved into my research, I stumbled upon a new term - "The Small, Hidden Benefit," and in a sea of fancy, academic terminology, its simple wording caught my interest. Unlike other clinical studies and scholarly articles that delve into the neurological aspects of addiction, this one felt like common sense, easy to understand.
"The Small, Hidden Benefit" suggests that addiction, no matter how harmful, always serves a purpose for our mental health. Anorexia, for instance, gave me a sense of control during a tumultuous time, same with over exercising. Alcohol allowed my mind to quiet depressive thoughts and Bulimia made me tired which forced me to rest.
The thing is though, that during these seasons of my life I am pretty sure I wouldn't have made it without these small hidden benefits even though they came with horrific drawbacks as well. When the world is pitch black (I mean really, really, really dark) and the only alternative to ending your life is numbing your mind through addiction, addiction is the only valid option. Because in true 'Camus' belief - suicide is the only way to fail at life. One of my fave sayings is "Do whatever keeps your boat afloat", and when the boat's about to sink, addiction might act as a temporary plug. It won't last and the boat will eventually sink if you don't deal with the underlaying cause, but it gets the job done until you realize you need a better, more sustainable solution.
This way of thinking has also helped me forgive myself for past actions driven by addiction. I did what I had to do to survive, and in a way, jumping between various forms of addiction, though only serving as temporal aid, has kept me alive - not thriving and not forever but for a short while, kept me alive.
Now, I solemnly hope you're not misinterpreting the message I am trying to convey in this article. I am by NO MEANS advocating for or excusing addiction. Burying yourself under layers of harmful behaviours and numbing substances will eventually drain you of life the way a dementor sucks the soul out of you. Addiction will keep your boat at the surface but it will convince you to throw everyone and everything else overboard to minimize the weight. Put simply, it will ruin your relationships, kill your career and diminish your dreams. The message of this article is rather to emphasize the importance of being more forgiving and less judging of yourself and instead focus on which or what need the addiction is helping you to meet. Finding the "Small Hidden Benefit" and acknowledging the negative consequences of your addiction is half the journey to sobriety. Once you've found it, the work begins to discover a healthier way to meet that same need or achieve that same high. But that's an article for another day. Over n' out, Peeps!