You may be wondering why I am writing again about addiction. It’s my hope that when I write about addiction I can bring a little more awareness to this disease. There is a lot of stigma attached to it. Maybe what I share will give the addict reading this that hope shot they need to get help.
I’ll start with my disclaimer that I am by no means an expert in this field. I am a recovering addict who has contemplated and read a lot about the disease that wreaked havoc in my life. I have also put myself in my loved ones shoes and felt what they felt as they watched me descend into my self imposed hell.
A brief yet widely used definition of addiction is “The obsessive and compulsive use of a substance despite ongoing negative consequences, which may lead to tolerance or withdrawal symptoms when the substance is stopped.” This is the paraphrased definition from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV TR). This book is like the encyclopedia of mental disorders. Despite what many people say or believe, addiction is a disease. The drugs are just a symptom of this disease, it’s our thinking and feeling that is at the core of our disease.
The easiest way I can explain it, without all the medical jargon, is that it’s a disease that affects the mind in that a little voice inside us says, “Hey, This makes me feel good! I want to drink/swallow/smoke/shoot up/do whatever more! I want to feel like this again!!” This feeling can happen with anything; drugs, alcohol, food, sex, shopping, gambling, smoking, chocolate, coffee, social media( 😉 )… just to name a few. It’s a disease of excess – using excessive amounts of “X” to achieve the feeling of “Y”. Many of us have an addiction to something, the difference is that drugs and alcohol lead to one of three ends – jails, institutions and death. Addiction is chronic, progressive, and often fatal.
Addiction can affect anyone, anywhere, anytime. Many people think a drug addict is some dirty homeless person living under a bridge with a needle in their arm or some gang banging thug on a street corner. No, a drug addict can be anyone we know and love. We are the person who is injured or had surgery, the teenager “just messing around”, the elderly person with arthritis. We are your favorite athlete, actor, musician, or other artist. We are the CEO of any business, or the cashier that cashes you out. We are the person of any age, suffering from any other painful, progressive, and incurable disease. We are that person silently screaming for help yet we refuse to get the help we need because of the stigma attached to it. Am I getting thru yet? Addiction also knows no bounds which means that it cares not about a person’s race, creed, religion, economic or social status.
I should know this. No one would’ve thought an old schoolmate or I would become addicts. It’s not like there was a representative from Addiction University at our college fair. Even at the job fair I don’t recall seeing anyone from Druggie Incorporated. No, we did not say we wanted to be addicts when we grow up.
It is not curable but it can be halted, or put in a remission of sorts. Some people can find the help they need with medicine, religion and/or psychology. Others find help thru self help groups like Gamblers, Alcoholics, Overeaters and Narcotics Anonymous. There addicts understand and can identify with each other. There is medicine to help with the cravings that we have. Many people view this as substituting one drug for another, but for many who are plagued with addiction it has been their lifesaver – literally.
A quote from the Dalai Lama that is very fitting. “Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them at least don’t hurt them.” Whether we want to admit it or not, addicts need help. We are people who need, rather deserve, loving, supportive help if we are to get the help we so desperately need.
I’ve learned from my own encounters of helping addicts that candy coated bull doesn’t help. Tough love does, but harsh words do nothing but hurt us and drive us further into the pits of our hell until our light is eventually and inevitably extinguished. Candy coating the truth keeps us stuck in our hell. A pat on the back while saying, “It’s ok” gives us the licence to use again. Asking why we did it and what we will do the next time helps us to confront our disease. I find that this opens the door for further discussion and tips to prevent another relapse, perhaps even another death. If anyone were to yell, scream and tell me that I’m stupid, it would only solidifies their justification to use. Think about it. How do you feel when somebody yells, screams and tell you you’re stupid?
Thought for the day: Mitakuye O’yasin(We Are All Related). This is more than just a Native American phrase. It is what humans truly are, all of us are made by our Higher Power and we are all related in one way or another.
***Please be sure to read more of my posts