Today I’m here with Cassidy Webb, who approached me to share her personal story of addiction and recovery in light of a few commonly held misconceptions.
Natalie: Hi Cassidy, first of all, thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking the time to share your experience of addiction. It takes a lot of courage to open up about something that is unfortunately so stigmatised and no doubt, a very painful experience for you. I am hoping through this interview, we may be able to use your shared experience of addiction to debunk some of the many misconceptions out there surrounding addiction.
I’m sure you’re well versed with the feeling of being misunderstood?
Cassidy: Oh, yes… when you suffer from an addiction, you not only deal with the addiction itself, but you also deal with judgement from others… and the loneliness that comes from family and friends not understanding addiction.
Natalie: One of the many misconceptions I’ve observed is that addiction is a choice or a type of lifestyle someone picks for themselves. I was wondering if we could perhaps start with you sharing a little about your experience of how your addiction started, and do you see addiction as a choice?
Cassidy: Well, it’s an interesting question, as it’s hard to pinpoint how it all started. But to paint a picture, I suppose many of us try things recreationally, such as marijuana and alcohol, and at the time it feels harmless and fun – especially if you’re with friends. For me, I did not realise that just drinking with my friends or smoking marijuana would lead to an addiction. But after trying, I found myself craving more, and finding excuses to use marijuana again.
In hindsight, I realise my genetics made me vulnerable to being addicted. I guess when you go to join in on something social like, drinking alcohol at a party, you don’t necessarily sit there with your family tree to check out whether you may be susceptible to addiction!
As well, when I look back, I was fairly vulnerable in my mental health – my self-esteem at the time was poor and I experienced a lot of anxiety. I also had a childhood that did not equip me with the toolbox of coping skills that I needed. So, when I tried marijuana for the first time, I guess I was really vulnerable to using drugs and alcohol as a way of coping with my low self-esteem and painful emotions.
Natalie: So, you’re saying, genetics and your mental health made you vulnerable to addiction, and more or less, addiction found you, rather than you choosing to use?
Cassidy: Yes, that’s right, my addiction was definitely not a choice – I never stood there and assessed the situation and decided “yes, this is the road I want to go down”. In fact, I more or less just found myself down a road I did not know how to get back from!
Natalie: I know also people often believe that stopping an addiction is all about willpower and control, could you please share your experience of recovery, and does it involve willpower?
Cassidy: For me, I don’t think willpower had anything to do with it. I wanted to stop, desperately, for several years. I remember waking up each day promising myself that I wouldn’t use that day, and I was fully committed to that promise. Then, only a few hours would pass and I would find myself using again. It’s like, there wasn’t even a second thought in my mind… it just happened, as if I had absolutely no control over what I was doing. It’s a hopeless and scary feeling, really. Basically, willpower alone wasn’t enough to stop me from using, and it really wasn’t enough to keep me sober either.
I think that recovery is more about staying vulnerable with others, honest with myself, and being able to admit that I can’t stay sober on my own. Through my experience, I have learned that my so-called “will power” will fail me time and time again. Instead, I have to rely on my support group and take advice from others. If somebody tells me that something is a bad idea, I must listen to them and change my behaviours. Honestly, I am so blessed to have such amazing women who have been there for me, and have guided me in my sobriety.
Natalie: And finally, if there was one thing you would like the world to know, what would it be?
Cassidy: I think one thing I would want others to know is that people who experience addiction are more than their addiction. We are children to parents who desperately want us to get well, we are brothers and sisters to siblings who suffer from sleepless nights worrying about us.
Addiction is so powerful and widespread that anybody can experience it, regardless of their background or economic status. Actually, a lot of us are intelligent, talented people who just got a little lost.
You know… now that I am sober, I am an aunt to two beautiful nieces who actually look forward to seeing me. I’m a daughter who put my mum through a lot of pain during my addiction, but today we have such a loving relationship. I’m a sister, who is now welcomed home with loving arms, by a sister who once wouldn’t allow me into her home. I’m a hard worker and a valued employee at my job.
I guess what I want others to remember is that just because a person has an addiction, it doesn’t mean that addiction is all that they are. Everyone who is suffering from addiction is human, and they are loved, and they are much more than their addiction.
Cassidy Webb is an avid writer who works with JourneyPure to help spread awareness on the disease of addiction. Her passion in life is to help others by sharing her experience, strength, and hope.