Written May 30, 2017
As an addict who was early in recovery, I wanted to learn all that I could about addiction. I talked to other addicts, scoured the internet, read literature and watched tv programs. I found that talking with other addicts in depth about how their disease affected them taught me the most. I’ve come to learn many things about this affliction.
The first thing I learned is that addiction is a disease of the brain, just as the ASAM definition says. It’s also a feelings disease. In layman’s terms, this is a thinking and feeling disease. It affects our rational thought processes and controls our feelings. We become self centered, self seeking, selfish, manipulating, angry, blubbering people who rationalize and justify some outrageous “stuff”.
Another thing I’ve learned about addiction is that it is hereditary. Many addicts can identify at least one family member who is or was addicted to drugs and/or alcohol. “But why is my sibling an addict and not me?” The answer is relatively simple. Addiction is a disease similar to other chronic, fatal diseases such as cancer. Looking at familial genetics, different genes are passed down from one generation to the next, just like the color of one’s eyes or their personality traits. Sometimes certain traits skip generations and even people.
However, it’s been my experience that just because one sibling is addicted to drugs and/or alcohol and one isn’t doesn’t mean addiction completely skipped that person. Remember the ASAM definition says it’s a disease of the brain that causes “pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors”. The substance can be food, coffee, soda, cigarettes, etc. The behaviors can be excessive cleaning, sexual prowess, gambling, shopping, etc. We use or act to feel a certain way. This is my personal theory. For myself, since I don’t want to use but I don’t want to feel my feelings, I’ll clean like a mad woman or play out in the garden for hours. Addiction to drugs and/or alcohol, however, will kill us eventually.
So what is it that we do to maintain our addiction? Those of us who were raised in good loving homes end up doing things that go against all of the morals, principles and values we learned in childhood. We steal from stores or our loved ones, we sell our bodies and our souls to the dope man. When we’re caught, we lie about what we did, blame others, manipulate our loved ones to continue our habit plus we rationalize and justify our behaviors.
Eventually, at some point, we end up in jail, rehabilitation centers, or mental institutions numerous times or just once in the morgue. Those of us who are “fortunate” to live thru all that end up living like animals. We forget our manners and give up on hygiene. Even if we have access to supplies and facilities to shower or to brush our teeth we choose to not use them. Then again, maybe we forgot how to do these things. We eat out of garbage cans because the money that we panhandled or got some other way went to the dope man.
We sleep on piles of garbage in an alley or a condemned abandoned house. Sometimes we are curled up in a ball because we’re to high or in withdrawal and don’t make it to a toilet to either vomit, urinate or defecate – maybe all if the above. We just do that stuff right where we lie. Many of us lose our children to the system or other family members because we’re to high to care for our children properly. No, not every addict ends up like this but many do – to many do.
By now I’m sure you’re feeling hopeless and worried whether you’re an addict or one of our loved ones. In a word, good. I’m glad. I know that sounds pretty harsh but it’s the reality of this disease. The reality of what lies at the end of the road. From there we have 2 choices. We can either 1) get help, any help, to stop using or 2) we die looking and feeling like the pile of garbage we’re sleeping on. The choice is simple and best stated in a question. Do you want to live or do you want to die?
I have seen more obituaries of addicts and talked to more concerned or devastated loved ones than I can count. One thing our loved ones can do is to quit burying your heads in the sand when it comes to addiction. This keeps us in the problem and not the solution. If you’re an addict and you think to yourself, “That won’t be me. I know what I’m doing. I can control it or stop anytime” or “I only use an “X” amount of “X” drug on “X” days”. Or maybe you tell yourself and others what I said, “It’s a legal prescription from my doctor. He knows what he’s doing. I’m not that bad yet” One word, YET (You’re Eligible Too). This means that even tho you haven’t gotten “that bad”, you will. It’s only a matter of time. I can guar-an-damn-tee to you, if you don’t stop you will. I’ve heard the stories from other addicts themselves.
So what is the solution to cure addiction? First thing is that addicts need to accept they are addicts. It’s helpful, but not necessary, for our loved ones also accept that we’re addicts. They should also get educated about addiction and what we go thru in our addiction. Next, addicts need the desire to stop using. We can be analyzed, counseled, reasoned with, prayed over, beaten or locked up but we won’t stop until we’re ready and willing to stop. Finally, addicts and our loved ones need to understand that there is no “cure” but it can be put in a “remission” of sorts with ongoing therapy. Professional counseling, self help groups and rehab facilities are excellent places to start.
What doesn’t help and actually kills us was best summed up a social media post I recently found, “Negative and indifferent sentiments do nothing to help the addict who suffers, rather it kills them. Yea, we all have problems, yea some of us need to toughen up and work thru them. Basically telling the addict to “get over it ” does nothing but kill them. Tough love is only one thing that helps. Law enforcement can lock up all the people[aka the supply] they want but more will always fill the void[the demand]. To stop this epidemic work on helping the addict and the demand will decrease.”
I won’t lie, it’s going to be hard at times and you’ll want to give up. But I can assure you of this, your best day using will be better than your worst day clean
My story is pretty much the sames as most addicts but it varies in details. I had the same tendencies as another family member who’s passed on. That person basically felt they could drink their problems away. I know because I asked. Before my accident at work, I was just leaving the bar scene because I realized that my thoughts were the same as this family member. But the pull of of the painkillers were to strong. Yes, I chose to take the first pills because I had legitimate pain but when my injury was nearly healed, the pills took away the painful feelings I had at that time.
Despite being in jail for most of one night and a 2 trips to rehab, it wasn’t until my 2nd, yes 2nd near death experience that I decided to stop. Fortunately, I began to seek recovery before the laws in my state got so strict and my using caused permanent death. Fortunately I lived thru 3 relapses and fortunately I was getting help from a few places so I knew where to turn for help. I only needed to swallow my pride and go get the help I needed.
That was a few 24 hours ago, but I’m still in recovery. Why? Because even tho I stopped using, I still have those feelings that creep up from time to time. Usually those feelings are related to finances, romance, the death of another person or my personal health issues that I’m just now finding out. These are the same feelings that every human feels but for me(and other addicts like me), I don’t want to feel the pain that comes from those feelings.
Today, as I come up on 6yrs clean, I’ve lost the desire and I have no good excuse to use. Today I choose to live life – no matter how good, bad or ugly – no matter how much time I have left.
From a social media post, A powerful poem/lyric
By Jeff Lane
About his battle with Substance Use Disorder.
…How long can I carry this burden?
Life’s full of triggers, relapse is certain.
The music, the T.V., the friends & the town,
The guilt & depression start bringing me down.
Each time I slip, the less you pity,
I find my answers downtown in the city.
I need your love now, much more than you know
But I have no strength, to tell you ALL so.
All it will take, to end this long war,
Is one lost fight, & you’ll see me no more.
I wish this pain, would go away
I hope that things, will end ok….
***Please be sure to read more of my posts