The misunderstandings of addiction

by Austin Miller-Anderson

When I look back on my life nine months ago, I sometimes can’t believe what I see. My life was full of chaos and disaster, and I virtually had nothing. I was suffering from one of the most common diseases in the world.

My story begins in the cold, dark winter of 2010. That is the year I first realized I was gay, and also the year I came out to my friends and family.  Most of all, it was the year I fell in love for the first time.  I was 16; it was a time when the relationship I was in had meant the world to me. I had everything that I could ever dream of – or hope for – until one dreary November night when I learned that the boy I was madly in love with was dead.

My life went from being the best it had ever been to the complete opposite in a matter of a split second. It was the most painful and tragic time of my life and I needed to find something that could make it all better again.

I found what I believed to be a miracle: drugs. My use began with marijuana and quickly progressed to prescription pills and Ecstasy. In only a few months, it had reached a full-blown addiction and I was dependant on being high to feel normal. I even chose drugs over my family, friends, school and work because, at that time, it was better than all of those things in my eyes. The turning point from normal life to addiction was when my family didn’t grasp how much the person I lost had meant to me. It seemed to me as if only the drugs understood me.

Today, I have been clean for more than nine months and the unfortunate truth is that recovery is extremely difficult. At this very moment, millions upon millions of addicts struggle with addiction,  and it is among the most misunderstood diseases.

All addicts are not bad people. Many are very good people with an evil weight on their shoulders that has ultimately brainwashed them. Why is it that gay youth are at such a higher risk for abusing drugs compared to those of their heterosexual peers?

The answer is even more misunderstood than addiction. As gay youth grow up in today’s society, we find it hard to access support and have difficulties fitting in at school. It is crucial for a teenager to start dating as well because it helps them discover themselves. However, parents don’t see gay youth relationships as an important aspect in their lives. Gay youth are also the most often bullied group of students and are the third most likely to be targets in hate crimes, according to the FBI. In addition, gay youths are among the most frequently homeless group of teens because they are too often kicked out of their homes. When adolescents are trying to establish their identity, they begin to feel helpless because their parents don’t see eye-to-eye with them and cannot support them as much as needed. When this happens, their first instinct is to turn to something else to find that support and many of them begin to depend on the intense feelings of drugs.

It is hard for someone who has never suffered from addiction to empathize with those who have. It is also difficult for someone who does not identify themselves as a member or ally of the LGBTQ community to do so. If you happen to be reading this, especially if you know someone who has gone, or is going through, addiction, my challenge for you is to think about what that person has gone through and what could have possibly lead them to where they are.

Drugs have ruined lives and devastated too many families. Once my family became more involved in my recovery, it became much easier to change. Anger and resentment does not help with addiction. There is only one possible cure — support.

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