Autism & Addiction: My Story
Dec 04, 2020
CW: Suicidal feelings, addiction.
When you think of a person who is drug and/or alcohol addicted, know that if those layers were peeled away, you might very well discover an autistic person.
Drugs and alcohol were everything to me.
They were a balm for my lost, hopeless soul.
When I started drinking, my social inadequacies melted away and I came to life.
I was 14.
Addiction saw me through all my firsts.
Parties, relationships, pain and trauma.
I was euphoric under the influence. I couldn’t believe I could feel so free.
The first time I became intoxicated, I ran around shouting “I’m free! I’m fucking free!” in a state of disbelief.
Just to have a break from the constant stream of thinking and feeling.
It didn’t take me anywhere good.
A psych ward with drug induced psychosis, in and out of juvenile court, locked in cells and suicidal.
In my 20s I stepped into recovery because as the saying goes, addiction gave me the wings to fly and then took away my sky.
In my 30s I experienced the loss of someone I loved deeply but from a distance because their need to be detached from the reality of a world we feel we don't belong in also removed them from who they truly were. They were a family member I knew to be kind, full of love and true wisdom. That person sat with me during one of my many suicide attempts and was the first person in my family (the only person in my family to this day) to say "I love you" while he held my hand as I cried.
He drank himself through the door that transitions us from this life and into the next.
I've sat in many, many 12 step groups and meetings and bonded with, listened to the stories of and witnessed the recovery of what I now understand as neurodivergent people.
Becoming abstinent from drugs and alcohol doesn't remove the deep discomfort. There is so much inner work to be done underneath it all.
Growing up in a world that feels like a planet you’re not built for as a young person is so incredibly challenging.
In adulthood, it takes an ongoing conscious effort to not be overcome with many of the same thoughts and feelings that have forever been present, always looming.
The too much, too sensitive, too loud, too over the top, too honest.
The difference is that today, I fight hard to be who I am, rather than working hard to be who I’m not.
On a clinical research level, we know addiction overlies co occurring conditions such as depression and anxiety.
And yet we so often continue to miss neurodivergence as a strong possibility at the root of it all for so many people.
You won’t find all of us, autistic people in plain sight.
We are often hidden underneath addiction, hoarding, eating disorders, trauma, inside of helping professions and even experiencing homelessness.
We are everywhere, sometimes thriving, sometimes barely surviving.
(Image description: a black and white photo of the ocean. The sky is heavy with clouds)