Monkey on the back

'have a monkey on your back'; it means that you are carrying a burden or a problem that you find difficult to get rid of.

Monkey arrives secretly when you first start taking drugs, he is just a baby and so small you don't even know that he's there feeding silently off your buzz.

The more he feeds the more he grows bigger and heavier, the older he gets the smarter he becomes, the more he learns about you, the more he can manipulate and control you.

Then one day he starts whispering in your ear, non stop party animal, life and soul of the party, this is what life is all about, everybody loves you, always encouraging you to take more and more drugs, feed me!

Monkey seems like a great friend and companion, but really he is selfish, try saying NO to him, watch him sulk, throw a tantrum and make you feel physically bad for it.

Eventually you will feel guilty about poor monkey, look how sad he looks, then you will go out of your way to make it up to him, he deserves it, he needs spoiling and made to feel special, he needs a treat! only 1 thing can cheer him up his favorite food.....DRUGS!

Soon Monkey starts playing you for the fool you are and things start getting out of hand, you thought you were in control but now you're not so sure, monkey feels your doubts and re doubles his efforts, he becomes sly and devious, getting you wasted and then leaving you to deal with the cold turkey by yourself for days on end.

Just when you think he has gone for good you feel his full weight come crashing down on you as he lands on your shoulders, screaming and shouting at you, demanding your attention until he is the only thing you can hear. Taunting you, teasing you, goading you, replaying all your life's failings until he weakens you, running you down and you finally give in to him.

Now its no longer fun, you've developed a tolerance, doing drugs only to feed monkey and keep him quite, he's got so big and heavy he can't go away anymore he's a permanent fixture, no time for friends, family, relationships, work or parties, feeding monkey is now a full time job, just the two of you reminiscing on the good old times. You get to know each other really well and become the best of friends forever.

Then one day you look in the mirror at a face you don't recognise as your own anymore and you realise you need Monkey more than ever now because there is no one else left, you have pushed them all away. Monkey needs to loose some weight and you need to put some on.

It's difficult to stand, you look like a corpse, you shit the bed, piss your pants, and vomit all over yourself, you don't care anymore because Monkey's there for you and he don't mind.

Monkey will always goes on, but how long will you?

Longman October 2004]

Maximum Security prison

Prison is flooded with junkies and addicts of every sort you can imagine as well as quite a few addictions you couldn't imagine in your darkest nightmares.

In prison we were able to watch all the different addicts and observe and record all the different types and stages of Monkey on the back, how nearly all of them got worse after the first few weeks, not better, most took home bigger monkeys than when they came in.

We were able to take what we were seeing in the prisoners around us and began to see it in ourselves. Once we could see it in ourselves we could begin to put stops and brakes on our actions that were causing this behavior.

"With practice, trial and error, failures and eventually successes, we taught ourselves to quit drugs, deal with our addictions and get rid of our monkeys once and for all."

It appears to be an old label that evolved to label substance addiction

How did the phrase "monkey on my back" originate?

This idiom first appeared in the texts of Ancient Sumeria where substance abusers and others social outcasts were marked with a large scarlet monkey.

Monkey on my back: This term emerged in the late 1800's to describe someone who was bothered and in a bad mood by something that wouldn't go away.

By the late 1940's, it had become a reference to having an addiction, particularly to heroin, or to having a home mortgage.

"You do anything long enough to escape the habit of living until the escape becomes the habit. "  

[David Ryan]

 According to the Urban dictionary

To have an addiction, especially a drug addiction.

" Man, he's got a monkey on his back! He's so wasted!"

To have a deep, uncontrollable desire to something such as Gamble, Smoke, or Drink.

" Man he has that Drinking monkey on his  back, it is 9:30 in the morning and he's already drunk."

To have some very burdensome nuisance you have to put up with--in a sense wider than just a drug or other addiction.

"That huge credit card payment is a real monkey on his back."

"Trying to sell that white elephant must be a monkey on your back."

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