Autism, addiction, and my need for control

I have learned a great deal about myself through self-reflection over the last 5 years of sobriety, but one lesson was considerably difficult to learn.

I like to think of myself as a friendly and generally happy and fun person to be around, but the truth is that I need control. I need control over everything. When things in my life are out of my control, I experience a deep-rooted anxiety and panic that can push me into a self-destructive spiral if left unchecked.

This is what made substance use so attractive to me. My life was chaotic and terrifying thanks to my worsening mental health. Substance use gave me control over my feelings and reactions. As an addict, I quickly learned that when things got too much to handle, I could essentially switch myself off.

Not only did it give me control over my emotions, it gave me control 9ver my identity. In previous articles I have spoken about how I was unhappy with my identity, and it’s just as relevant here. I wanted to be someone or something else. Drugs and alcohol gave me that. I was “Dave the Rave”.

I was the guy that by all definitions of the word, should have been dead.

Of course what I failed to see was that I was not controlling my identity, the substances were in fact controlling me. I was not choosing to be David the Addict. It was inescapable.

The final point to consider was that as my mental health deteriorated, so did my routine. My life was chaos. This was horrific to me as an autistic person, which subsequently caused me to deteriorate further. It was a vicious circle that span in perpetuity. Drugs and alcohol actually gave me some semblance of routine. Yet another insidious way that I fooled myself into thinking I was doing okay.

Even now at 5 years sober, I still struggle with my need for control. I catch myself trying to engineer every aspect and every moment of my life. Meditation helps me sit with my experiences, but truthfully the only thing that stops me from manipulating everyone is knowing that it’s wrong. If it was a socially acceptable thing to do, I would absolutely engineer and manipulate everything about my life.

That’s how much I need control over my life.

Published by David Gray-Hammond

David Gray-Hammond is an autistic mental health and addiction advocate living in the South East of England. He is in recovery from addiction and psychosis, as well as other complex mental health conditions. He was diagnosed as autistic seven months after achieving sobriety, and is resolved to share his experiences with the world in the hopes of being the person that he needed when he was younger.

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