Borderline Personality Disorder and The Nuance of Addiction
A lot of times I talk to friends or people in support group who are markedly not professionals about issues with binging and addiction. It never ends well.
Generally, they suggest 12-step programs to me, I usually shrug it off. However, I’ve been to approximately one AA meeting and it was the worst day of my life. The first thing they said in the class the requirements for attendance was to want to quit. I didn’t want to quit.
A little backstory, before I get too much further: I was staying at a transitional housing complex that was run by a company called Catholic Community Services. During my interview, they asked me about my current alcohol use and my past criminal record. I had a misdemeanor in 2011 for reckless driving, a plea down from DUI, nearly 7 years ago at that point. So, because I had some alcohol abuse and poor behaviour over half a decade ago I was required to go to AA three times a week. Yes, you read that right. Three times a week. I honestly don’t know if that’s a lot, but it feels disproportional considering I am no longer in college, binge drinking making too many mistakes as I was prone to do.
So I went to one AA meeting, and it was terrible. I didn’t understand what the point was. I didn’t think I had a problem. I believed in harm reduction. I’d prefer to be in control of my life and be able to make my own choices. I didn’t believe in a higher power, either. No matter how much they try to tell you “yeah well, they say a higher power but it doesn’t have to be an Abrahamic God.” Actually, you’re going to have a hell of a time making friends and getting the support you need if you don’t believe in an Abrahamic deity of some sort; moreover, you need to believe in the Christian God or you’ll have a bad time.
I can only speak for myself, but I don’t feel like I’m addicted. Not technically. Well, technically I’d be addicted to everything. One of my issues having borderline personality disorder is that I feel impulsive. You put a gallon of soda in front of me, I’ll drink it. You put cigarettes in front of me, I’ll smoke them. I haven’t had an inkling to even buy alcohol or cigarettes unless I’m actually out and about. If I’m not around it, I forget it exists.
I’ve come to terms with that fact that I can change elements of my life to potentially reduce harm. I can put myself in less dangerous situations. It doesn’t always work, but I do my best. I still want to socialize, hang out with my friends, and network but I don’t have to have alcohol to have fun. I never really did, I just was in a lot of pain and was trying desperately to make it go away. Now I’ve realized that it doesn’t solve anything, but if used properly can be kind of like an emotional tylenol. It ultimately makes it worse when not taken, but lightens the load for a little while.
I think the point I’m wanting to drive home is that for people with borderline personality disorder, we might not necessarily be addictive, but are impulsive. I can speak for myself, and I will say that I am definitely impulsive. So much, so I’m not sure what’s real or not sometimes. It doesn’t matter what you put in front of me, I’m so afraid of not having the thing or bad stuff happening I impulsively use whatever I get. Being in AA makes me want to drink more than if I had just stayed home because it reminds me that alcohol exists.
A lot of online support groups like to chant the praise of AA. Please remember that it isn’t a good idea for some people to go to AA. There are therapies for people who have borderline personality disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder. While, I’m no professional, I would say it’s worth asking your healthcare team about your options. You always have a choice.
Well, unless they’re making you attend AA three times a week in order to stay housed and off the streets. That’s not much of a choice, really.