The disease of addiction¹ has many faces and names. There is only one definition I have found that the medical and psychological community and the rooms of recovery all agree on, with few variations, to addiction.
Addiction is a chronic, often relapsing brain disease that causes compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences to the addicted individual and to those around him or her. Although the initial decision to take drugs in voluntary for most people, the brain changes that occur over time challenge an addicted person’s self-control and hamper his or her ability to resist intense impulses to take drugs.
I have read many articles on what addiction is and what it is not. It just boggles my mind the theories many have come up with. They have the best of intentions, who know addicts and want to help them (or cope with their family member’s disease?). They do their own research, coming up with their own conclusions about a disease that they cannot possibly understand. How can you until you live it? Until you have bought, and ingested, drugs instead of paid the rent? Done drugs instead of care for your family? Went to the store for milk and came back two months later, crawling on your knees in agony, because you were coming down from that high you had just been on?
I might be biased because I live with it, watch my friends struggle, lost my partner to it, and have watched some die from it. What I see published, some of it is misleading and can be damaging to families struggling with this disease; both for the addict and the family members that love the addict and want their loved one back. This is my “what-for” take on this. I am very passionate about this topic. For those who have never chose alcohol or drugs over your children, spouse, rent, or food; Kudos to You! Not too sound harsh but you really do not know what you are talking about. When it comes to the disease of addiction grasping ahold of you and nothing else matters but getting that next hit? How can you? It is eviler than anyone can ever imagine.
When drugs enter our system, it hits what are called neurotransmitters and receptors in our brains. These are normal brain functions that help regulate excitement, sleep, alertness, and feeling of pleasure, motivation, arousal, pain relief, and reward/punishment. Drugs enhance these effects, or in some cases has the opposite effect. After a time, the use of them wears off and “more” drugs is required to get the same effect. It is a quick way to get that feeling, where in life, it might take a lot longer to get that feeling. If a person is living in a negative situation, and cannot find any happiness, drugs might be a quick way to get pleasure. It is also a quick way to forget the negative, whatever it is. This is just one example.
Most drugs have terrible withdrawal symptoms, and that causes most addicts to try other drugs to ease the symptoms, or to use again. It is a vicious cycle that is hard to break. Once the drugs enter a person’s system it starts to warp the mind; prolonged use can have long-term damage. Changing the mindset is the hardest processes to accomplish, even once the drugs are removed from the system. Especially after years of drug use. Sometimes there is jail time during drug use. That is fact of life for some addict’s addiction. Drugs warp the mind and thinking, and addicts do things, they are high, that they normally would not do.
The misconception of what drug use is and being told “why can’t you just stop?,” “you are a horrible person for choosing drugs over your kids, you deserve what you get,” the list goes on…does not help the mind-set change to a positive for a drug addict wanting to get off drugs and live a life that is free of drugs.
The best thing family and friends can do? Go to Al-Anon and Nar-Anon: leave the addict’s recovery process up to the addict. Recovery can happen from addiction and addicts can put their disease in remission. I have seen it happen and I am living it myself. There is a process; each addict must find their own path to getting off drugs and turning their life around. What does not help an addict getting clean is enabling and/or co-dependency behaviour, negativity, condescending attitudes, and judgements; understanding helps-even if a person truly does not.
I am no guru on this topic and am not going to say the way I did this is the only way. I did this with the help of a sponsor, the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions, women in recovery, helping others, and a wonderful support system. This way is not the only way, there are many other ways to choose to get off drugs; each to their own I say. The disease of addiction is like cancer-it is never cured, and it can be put into remission when the addict gets help. However, those that do not get help die from it, die horrible deaths.
This disease is contingent on the daily maintenance on the addict’s spiritual condition. That does not mean they must believe in God, just something Greater Than Themselves; a rock or a door will do. For addicts it is like convicts on death row. They are taken to the electric chair and strapped in by the Prison Guards. The executioner heads to the switch to flip it; the convict waits in anticipation for the Governor’s call to say they have a stay of execution. The Governor calls with a stay and the convict is lead back to the cell-or the addict goes to sleep that night clean-only to start the entire process over the next morning… THIS is the life of an addict-our disease is always right there; waiting to kill us, no matter how good life is, how at peace we are, and how well we are doing. We must be vigilant to keep it in remission.
¹ When I refer to addicts, addiction, and drugs I am also including alcoholics, alcoholism, and alcohol.
Image credits: Featured image, by Denton County Texas
All material ©Lori Younglove 9/27/2015 unless stated otherwise. Do not reprint without my permission.