One of the core personality traits that many addicts, including myself, eventually identify in themselves in a strong streak of selfishness. The question is: What do I do with this insight once I’ve gained it?
I’m starting to come up with my own answer and hopefully my solution will help others find their own.
The beginning of my efforts
Since my arrest, incarceration, and rehabilitation for my own problems with drugs, I’ve dedicated my life to the study of addiction. My hope was that through my knowledge, I’d be able to finally figure out what happened to me. As I continued learning, I began seeing that I could offer some real help to others who are still suffering, stuck in their own, or another’s addiction.
That was how All About Addiction, and its parent company, California Treatment Services, came to be. I wanted to share the knowledge I was gaining with others, hoping that like me, they would find relief in understanding the disorder that has so profoundly messed-up their life.
The All About Addiction experiment
When I started out, I knew nothing about the craft of writing an online blog. I called every post a blog, I wrote like I was trying to get another academic paper published, and no one came to read my boring, overreaching, dense stuff.
My first month I barely broke the 5 reader mark – I was discouraged, but soldiered on. Month after month, post after post, I kept writing, editing, rewriting, learning more, and gaining readers. Since that humble beginning, with the help of some great mentors, help from other bloggers, and good old experience, I improved. As of right now, All About Addiction, is read by about 13,000 people monthly and we’re trying to expand our efforts to give actual real-world help to readers with our recent Free Treatment Contest.
Nowadays, I get dozens of emails asking for specific help, letting me know how much people appreciate what I write, and yes, even the occasional online fight with a reader who disagrees with me. I finally feel that what I’m doing is making a real difference in the world. But that’s where I’ve run into a little unexpected snag.
My fight with altruism
One of the greatest gifts I received when I first cleaned up my act was some relief from the constant noise in my head about my relationship with everyone around me. All the people that owed me money, all the people I owed; the fights with my “employees” and the constant struggle to rationalize my life; the girls, the sex, and the constant mistrust, stealing, and betrayal. It was exhausting, and even though I’d found myself broke for the first time in 5 years, I was more relaxed than ever. There’s no doubt that the people I associated with when I was using were, for the most part, not good for me. Being a student allowed me to take a place back in society and be invisible for a little while. But not for long.
It all started up again when I excelled in my Masters program at Cal State Long Beach. All the accolades and praise made me feel like I was somehow special and better than others. Getting into UCLA’s doctoral program despite the incredible odds (thank god they don’t ask about a conviction record) only made things worse. Now, with thousands of people listening to me on a monthly basis and a consistently growing body of work, my big head and ego are back full force.
I wake up in the morning and rush to my laptop to check on my visitor counts and the most recent comments. I do this at least 100 times a day. I’m obsessed. When people fail to flock to a recent post, I feel down and when they come en mass, I am joyous and feel redeemed. I’m no longer relying on drug deals and money to keep me feeling worthy, but the reader count is my new drug. I have a problem.
Once again, my self-worth is tied up in others, and that’s not a safe place for me to be. If I’m relying on you to make me feel worthy, I’m setting myself up for failure. This is especially true because of my perfectionist, obsessive, personality. Nothing is ever good enough and I won’t stop until everything is perfect. Seems like a trap, doesn’t it?
My solution, for now
My solution isn’t going to involve my not writing anymore. I think it’s helping people and I want to help – I just want to remove my own self-perception from the equation. I’m also beginning to realize that my obsessive nature is never going to go away. It, along with my inattention, is going to remain a lifelong challenge that I will have to learn to live with.
This is tied very closely to my struggles with addiction. Every time I think I have it beat, the same tendencies pop-up somewhere else, reminding me that this fight isn’t going to be won easily. I haven’t used meth in over 8 years now and hopefully I never will. Still, the same obsessions, discomforts, and personality traits that kept me using for so long are here, and they’re not going anywhere. And that’s without even mentioning that randomly inserted cravings that can take over my mind at any minute.
So for now, I vow to do my best to write without concern for what others think. I will write, as best I can, to help others through encouragement, tips, and education. The results, any prestige or acknowledgement I may get? Those are out of my hands and none of my concern.