Never Feeling Enough: The Different Facets Of Living With Addiction

By Chantal Maru

No one intends to become an addict.

You don’t wake up one morning and decide, “Hey, today seems like a perfect day to neglect my internal needs and crank up the dial on impulsivity”.

No, it doesn’t work like that.

Addiction is far more insidious than that.

You find yourself coasting through life, unable to manage the difficulties of interpersonal relationships, leading to reliance on (pick your poison) to take the edge off.

Maybe it’s not a substance. Maybe it’s a reliance on someone else’s love, attention, or security.

The need to be needed.

It becomes a pattern, a dependency, that goes far deeper than we’d like to imagine.

Perhaps to buffer the feelings of loneliness or mask the fear of rejection. It is far from being one dimensional.

No one ever told me that throughout this process, you lose your sense of control.

Attachment theory holds the position that it’s impossible for individuals to completely regulate their affective states alone.

Rather, until someone is able to relinquish their dysfunctional state of attachment, be it — anxious, avoidant, ambivalent, or disorganized, the individual will only substitute one addiction with another.

According to Flores (2004), individuals who have difficulty establishing emotionally secure attachments are far more inclined to substitute an addictive behaviour to make up for their lack of intimacy.

No one ever told me there was a symbiotic relationship between interpersonal attachment and addiction.

All Poorly Drawn Illustrations by Author: An Act of Resisting Perfectionism

Setting the stage

I grew up in a household with one alcoholic parent and one codependent. Both extremely loving individuals, but not without their faults. It made for quite a cocktail — pardon the pun.

As a kid, you are not emotionally equipped to process the chaos that ensues when one parent spends the majority of their time escaping reality, while the other is actively resenting them for it.

Rather, security stems from your reliance on stability and consistency. Your only way of making sense of chaos is to turn inwardly, to fixate on the things you can control. It becomes a coping mechanism.

No one ever told me that I would become a perfectionist (no, not the kind in interviews).

When I was 7 years old, I would rewrite my notes repeatedly at the dinner table.

My mom thought I was a control freak.

She’s admitted that it was both comical and endearing. But that behaviour only worsened as I got older. I began imposing these rigid standards just to prove that I was enough.

I became fixated on becoming perfect: the perfect student, the perfect worker, the perfect daughter, the perfect sister, the perfect partner all in an effort to prove I was worthy of the attention I received.

I was trying to show up perfectly, but as a result, it was self-denial that created shame and robbed me of the present moment.

I am here to remind you — you are enough.

No one ever told me I would become a compulsive worker to combat the chronic anxiety and depression that constantly threatens me to feel overwhelmed.

When I was in elementary school, I remember receiving an award for “Most Conscientiousness Student” at a school assembly.

I know that sounds like a humble brag — because it is.

I mean, what kind of employer doesn’t want you digging back into the archives for those old gems?

The irony, despite this accomplishment, was that I was embarrassed over the most trivial things, like not properly cutting my nails that day.

In retrospect, it was entirely exaggerated but, again, I had these rigid ideals.

There it was again — shame, robbing me of the present moment.

I bring this up because throughout most of my adult life, after learning about the Big 5 Personality Model, I always wondered whether my conscientious nature was attributed to the validation I received throughout my formative years.

I was essentially rewarded by engaging in maladaptive behaviours, even if no one else knew the true extent of what it did to me.

Despite eroding my confidence, it enhanced my capabilities.

Nevertheless, both the behaviour itself and coping mechanism were insidious.

No one ever told me that my sibling would face a far different trajectory

Keeping with the theme of my delusions and wanting to be a perfect sister, I took on a lot of vicarious trauma over the years just by virtue of not knowing how to regulate my own neuroticism.

Being the eldest, I felt compelled to take care of my brother, as if he was my kid, and not my sibling. I felt a sense of responsibility over this little human’s emotional state from a young age — a process that I am still reconciling today.

I am not here to tell his story, but I will share what he has given me permission to.

He was targeted at a young age for being a ‘problem child’ as this hyperactive kid in the classroom, unable to regulate his needs early on.

His way of coping was not by rewriting his notes. His coping mechanism was by giving into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The way he was treated by everyone around him, not only eroded his confidence but also undermined his capabilities.

Instead of proving them wrong, he looked them in the eye and said, “You’re right, this is who I am”.

He was punished for engaging in maladaptive behaviours.

I could not fathom how someone as intelligent as him was made out to be this ‘challenged’ kid. Despite our birth order, he has always been far smarter than I would like to admit.

This self-fulfilling prophecy then became a living and breathing constitution between himself and society, that would render him to powerlessly escape whenever he didn’t feel good enough. Whenever he didn’t feel secure enough.

I try to remind him — you are enough.

So what happens if that same child is unable to regulate their affective state alone?

What happens when that same child loses 3 of his best friends to chronic illness and a drunk driving accident within the same year?

What happens when that same child undergoes multiple brain injuries over the span of his adolescence when his brain is not yet fully developed?

When left unchecked, it leaves room for heavy turbulence.

When left unchecked, it leaves room for cognitive dissonance.

When left unchecked, it creates shame and robs them of the present.

When left unchecked, it becomes a breeding ground for denying any chance of intimacy that once existed in their mind.

When left unchecked, it leaves room for wounded healers to project their own anxieties and insecurities onto them.

When left unchecked, it drives them into chronic debt.

When left unchecked, it provides a fertile ground for increased impulsivity, thereby leading to multiple relapses.

When left unchecked, it becomes increasingly more insidious, as they continue to turn inwardly and suffer in silence.

But what if we were proactive about this? What if we did manage to check?

But what if the reality is — they don’t want to face the raw and intolerable anxieties that drove them to this behaviour in the first place?

Is it our place to decide that for them?


But the least we can do is lift them up and remind them that they are enough.

“Today seems like a perfect day to neglect my internal needs and crank up the dial on impulsivity”

— No one ever

No one intends to become an addict. It is as much of a cognitive process as it is a physiological one.

It is far from being one-dimensional — it is insidious.

You always need the bigger picture.

With or without — you are enough.

Chantal Maru

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