Addiction is a slippery slope that many individuals have suffered from personally, or known someone who has. It comes in many forms, gambling, food, shopping, sex, drugs, or alcohol or something I haven’t even mentioned. No matter what “drug of choice”, it’s an ongoing, daily battle for every person suffering.
In this post I want to bring some light to this very important issue. Open the lines of communication to reduce the stigma around addiction, share some of my own experiences and talk about treatment options.
The statistics are staggering. According to the National Survey on Drug use and health, approximately 14.5 million adults aged 26 or older struggled with a substance use disorder in 2014, and approximately 5 percent of the American adolescent population suffered from a substance use disorder; this equates to 1.3 million teens, or 1 in every 12. Even though I know these numbers, have lived it myself and experience it in my work on a daily basis, these statistics still take my breath away.
There are healthy amounts of the things I mentioned. Of course we can shop for the things we need, eat regularly, have healthy consensual sex and drink socially, but once it becomes obsessive in nature, interfere with daily activities, or creates problems in your life, then it’s a problem.
So, what is addiction? As described by the American Association of Addiction Medicine, addiction is defined as “a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.
Addiction is characterized by inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response. Like other chronic diseases, addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission. Without treatment or engagement in recovery activities, addiction is progressive and can result in disability or premature death.”
To break that down into a more digestible definition, addiction is a disease of the mind, body and spirit that sets off the compulsion to pursue the substance/action that is repeated in hopes to gain an immediate type of “reward” in your brain which feels satisfying. Regardless if that reward has some harmful effects on your personal or professional life.
Addicts are not bad people trying to get good, they are sick people trying to get well. I know first had the difference and I have seen it in so many others.
It’s a disease defined by self-centeredness and irrational perception. Addiction is the only disease that tells the person they don’t have a problem. Very often the suffering addict has been told by those that love them that they have a problem. Sometimes there have been other consequences like loss of marriages, jobs and even legal problems and often despite that, they still don’t take action. People have to get to their own place of desperation, sometimes called “rock bottom” before they look for help.
Growing up I never felt comfortable in my own skin. I never felts I was good enough, smart enough or pretty enough for whatever group I was involved in. And then I found alcohol. Alcohol was my relief, my savior, my friend. I used it do numb the feelings I had inside that I wasn’t able to express to anyone or show on the outside. I felt it was my coping skill for like, glue that was holding me together.
As my disease progressed, I lost the choice in drink and mentally and physically reliant on alcohol to survive. My self-centeredness was dark, as I was a depressive type so I turned everything inward and against myself until the pain was so unbearable I couldn’t take it anymore. When I got sober I learned that self-centered wasn’t what I thought of myself but rather, how often,and I thought about myself all day long!
At the age of 26 I was married, had a job, a home, a master’s degree and a raging addiction. Everyone around me knew I was an alcoholic, they had suggested I get help. My husband and I had been to therapists but I always lied about my drinking and they didn’t pursue it.
In late June 2002 after graduating from the School of Social Work with an MSW, I was given the gift of desperation and my loving family connected me to a treatment center that would be the beginning of a recovery journey I could have never imagined. In that facility I was stripped of the luxuries of adulthood like television, magazines and even diet coke. I was taught about the disease of alcoholism, and how to work a program of recovery.
After 16 years of continuous sobriety and lots of good therapy I have learned the power of one day at a time. Today my life is nothing the way it was back then and I am able to be present for the people I care about, raise kids in a sober home and live life on life’s terms. This life is definitely beyond my wildest dreams.
“I understood myself only after I destroyed myself. And only in the process of fixing myself did I know who I really was.” -Sade Andria Zabala
Warning signs my look very different depending on the type of addiction. For instance, someone with drug use will be experiencing different types of behavior than someone with a shopping addiction. But below are just a few things that they all have in common, this is in no way an all-encompassing list…We’ll use you as an example, but you can interchange that with a loved one if that’s what you’re looking for. Of course if you aren’t sure, reach out, call me, call alcoholics anonymous, just do something.
Hiding: If you’re hiding alcohol bottles around the house, shopping bags under your bed, or your credit card statements from your spouse, this may indicate a problem.
Dishonesty: If you’re lying about where you’re going or who you’re spending time with because your afraid of being judged or know deep down that it’s not the right thing, this would also point to a problem. If you can’t be honest about how much you are drinking or using, you lie about driving while under the influence or about how much money you have spent, you likely have a problem.
Fixation: Feelings of craving or feeling like you’d do anything to have it.
Impulsive: Dropping anything that you were doing to do that “one thing” regardless of how important your current plans are.
Powerless: Knowing how much this “thing” could potentially hurt you or your family, you feel like you HAVE to have it or have to go do it. Makes you feel enslaved, weak, and helpless. You have lost the choice in drink, you are no longer in control.
For those that struggle with addiction, it’s a very dark place to be. Intervention from family or loved ones in some cases have been successful, but not without the want from that individual. They/you have to want to get better and know that there is a better life without having to battle with demons every day.
Twelve step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Celebrate Recovery, etc as well as individual therapy is my recommended go-to for treatment for any type of addiction. They are free to anyone and readily available in most areas around the world. Sometimes it better to be removed from your environment, so an inpatient treatment center would be best.
Inpatient rehab facilities are beneficial because not only are you outside of your normal environment to get sober, you have the medical support while you are there to manage your detoxification in a safe way. They really provide a jump-start in the recovery process as well, the education you receive about addiction is helpful and you are able to focus on yourself without the distractions of everyday life.
In addition the inpatient facilities often offer family programs where your spouse, parents, children, etc can come to do some healing work with you in the presence of trained professionals. Once the body has rid itself of alcohol or drugs, the individual will be started on a therapy program.
Addiction Center has good resources for those looking for alcohol or drug rehab centers. You can visit their website by clicking here.
For any other addiction: shopping, sex, eating, etc. you can ask your physician for a referral to see a counselor or psychologist for talk therapy.
Yesterday is but a dream, tomorrow a vision. But today well-lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness.” -Fr. Joseph C. Martin, S.S., Co-Founder of Ashley
If any of this has struck a nerve with you and you want to learn more, please let me know by commenting below. If you feel more comfortable you can message me in Facebook on Instagram. Trust me when I say, you will never be sorry for pursuing recovery. If you are sick and tired of being sick and tired, sobriety with a recovery program is the easier softer way. I look forward to talking with you all very soon! Take care.
PS If you haven’t already, download my free guide to help reduce anxiety and depression and take one small step in your healing journey!