Addiction, the only illness known to man that people fight to keep!
Addiction, whether in the form of drugs or alcohol abuse damages careers, relationships, lives and just about everything else that is of value. It is an overwhelming disease that takes control of lives and leads to devastation. It can take a highflying career away and leave the addict in a gutter, or under a bridge. It destroys health, self-esteem, and confidence. It can make people do the unthinkable, from stealing to selling their bodies and hurting loved ones deeply. Addicts, lost in the control of a substance will place their addiction first and above all, over children, spouses, reliable employment, road safety and their own lives.
Addiction obliterates. So why is addiction the only illness known to man that people fight to keep?
The new normal
Understanding addiction is an important step in understanding why you’ve never struggled with addiction you will never truly know the horror of being addicted. And the difficulty, once trapped in the grip of addiction, to set yourself free. Many addicts have found themselves in a place where they have desperately wanted to stop, but found that they simply could not. Because the truth is that in the beginning you may find yourself in control of the substance, but soon that substance becomes so powerful that it takes control over you.
An addict will take their first drug voluntarily, but the brain, over time, develops a psychological dependency – a mental, physical and emotional process that goes hand-in-hand with addiction. For an addict the inebriated state becomes their new normal.
Get high or die
As the addict becomes addicted and “used to” the drug the body begins to crave higher and higher doses in order to create the same euphoric effect. As tolerance builds signals are being sent to the mid brain, over-riding the frontal lobe – the area of the brain responsible for functions such as impulse control, judgement, decision-making, attention span and inhibition. The mid brain is also responsible for survival; it is responsible for our fight or flight responses. Simply put, the message that the addict’s brain receives is, “get high, or die”.
Not all people respond this way, which is why is it is so important to understand that the addict’s brain responds differently to chemical stimulation than those who are not susceptible to addiction.
The use of a substance may often make a person, who feels lonely, hurt or different, feel normal. A person may become addicted because abusing drugs fills a void, distracts them from pain or trauma, or give them self-confidence. However, the problem remains, that sooner or later the addicts begins to lose control as the substance begins to take control.
Often an addict realises that they have become addicted, and want to get out, by the time that the willpower to do so has dissipated. Along with that physical, mental and emotional addiction worsens the possibilities of doing so on their own. Often time addicts simply tell themselves they are having fun, or merely needing to relax. They may fool themselves by minimizing the problem, focusing on what they have, not on what they have lost. Sometimes thinking about loss becomes too devastating to think about and using substances makes it easier to deal with those losses, however, this in turn only leads to more loss.
The alcoholic may say they only drink beer. The cocaine user may say at least they don’t use meth. The meth addict may say at least they don’t inject heroin. Excuses are countless and many. The scariest voice of all denying addiction is the one of the addict.
It is important to understand that an addict is not a bad person, but more importantly to be aware that an addict will do anything to maintain their habit. Addiction is a disease, one that rewires the brain, resulting in lack of impulse control and an inability to think things through, resulting in bad judgement and harmful actions. Despite detrimental consequences it manifests in compulsive substance abuse. Ultimately it is progressive in its nature, resulting in job losses, breaking up of families, jail sentences, institutionalization and death.
Shame and guilt
Addicts often experience high levels of shame and guilt. Just because they are in a state of addiction does not mean they have lost all sense of reality. However, being unable to break out of the bonds of addiction, their behaviour seldom changes. They hate the things they do to achieve the high that has become the love they put first. They judge themselves harshly, and often believe they are too weak to quit, too ashamed to ask for help, and due to these feelings may often feel suicidal.
Shame and guilt leads the addict to use more in order to get rid of these uncomfortable feelings. This in turn becomes a cycle, using leads to feelings of shame and guilt and shame and guilt leads to using more.
The meaning of addiction is that a person no longer has control over their use of drugs. They no longer believe there is a choice.
There is however a choice, a difficult one, but the best one an addict will make in their lives; one that will lead to freedom from the bonds of addiction, life and recovery. And that is the decision to reach out and ask for help.
Overcoming addiction without the help of professionals in the field rarely works. Seeking help to overcome addiction is not a sign of weakness; it is a sign of deep courage and remarkable strength.
David Briskam, a recovering addict with over 20 years of on-going recovery, runs Twin Rivers Rehabilitation Centre, based in the beautiful town of Plettenberg Bay. Alongside his expertise he employs the help of professionals in the field who are equipped with the right tools and experience to assist the addict in breaking the bonds of addiction. If you or a loved one is in trouble, do not hesitate, as addiction is a chronic disease that can be fatal. Twin Rivers has proven to many an addict that there is life after addiction and that it is possible to break free and no longer fight to hold onto a disease that cause such severe devastation.
David is the Clinical and Development Director of Twin Rivers Rehab in South Africa and a UK Accredited Addictions Therapist with the Federation of Drug and Alcohol Professionals UK. Articles/Blogs are written with the assistance of researchers and other specialists in the field of addiction and the recovery process