“There are some words in the English language that are harder to say than others. That’s because they strike a very emotional chord with some people. These words hit us where it hurts.

For many people, it’s the C word (cancer). It’s as if stringing those syllables together will make the disease real. But unfortunately, cancer grows whether you speak its name or not. I’ve learned that the same is true for addiction.

My battle with addiction

In college, I was the one who would close out the bars. At last call, it was about 12 guys and me rushing to get our last drink of the night.

I wasn’t an alcoholic.

That’s what I told myself, and you know what? It was true.

I wasn’t an alcoholic… yet. But I was definitely a problem drinker. The late-night partying and binge-drinking college days gave way to stress drinking every evening after work.

When alcohol didn’t dull my senses like it used to, I added a Xanax or two to the equation.

Truthfully, I didn’t know exactly when my problem turned into an addiction. I knew things were getting serious when liquid lunches started to become a daily thing, but I still couldn’t say the word.

Why addiction was a trigger word for me

My father was an alcoholic, but I never really knew him. I was spared the disappointment and dysfunction that often comes with having an alcoholic parent. But I grew up knowing that addiction was an evil, life-ruining kind of thing.

It was a word that described the derelicts of the world, not me.

But when things got bad, I knew it. Deep down, I knew I was addicted. And I thought if I didn’t string those syllables together, I could avoid it.

I hid my addiction rather well. So, whenever I heard the word, it was usually about someone else. Still, I ducked out of the conversation pretty quickly.

I thought if someone could spot addiction in another person, it was only a matter of time before they found me out.

So, when they talked about my uncle’s neighbor’s heroin addiction, it was time for me to go water my plants (and have a cocktail).

How saying the word addiction changed my life

But it soon got to the point where I could no longer hide. It wasn’t long after my commitment to liquid lunches that I started skipping out on work. My boss point-blank asked me if I had a drinking problem.

Can you guess what I said?

Naturally, I said he was wrong. But he saw the signs and smelled the vodka breath. He gave me a warning and sent me on my way.

That was a shameful moment. It was the first time someone called me on my alcoholism. Although I did deny it to him, I couldn’t deny it myself anymore. I was an addict.

I was also at a crossroads. I could keep doing what I was doing and lose my job, apartment and car, or I could get help and get my life back. Thankfully, I chose the latter.

The phone call that changed my life

The very next day was a Saturday, and with dread in my heart, I picked up the phone and dialed my mom’s number. She was so happy to hear from me and went into an instant brain dump of all the things she wanted to tell me about her week. I had to stop her.

“Mom, I have a problem. It’s addiction, and it’s ruining my life. I need help.”

I could have called rehab centers myself and checked in without telling anyone, but I knew that wasn’t the right thing to do, not for me. I needed someone to hold me accountable, and my mom was just the person for the job.

Renewed hope for the future

Once I treated my addiction, my life had a new purpose. I know, that sounds cliché, but it’s true. I found healthier coping mechanisms, like exercise and meditation, and I started enjoying my life more.

My relationships are deeper and more meaningful, and I don’t fear the A word anymore.

I guess the takeaway from my story is about avoidance. You can’t will something away by avoiding it. I learned that the hard way, for sure. But whether you’re dealing with addiction or any other word that hits you where it hurts, it’s best to face it head-on.

For me, addiction was like having a mold problem. If you just don’t look at it or talk about it, you can hope it’ll go away. But the truth is that it’ll keep growing until it gets so big that you can’t ignore it.

If you’re struggling with addiction, say the word out loud right now. Take its power away. And then call someone who can help you through the next steps. You’re worth it!”

  • – A Brave Man’s Tale