You’re Hurting Us All!
At their core, right down deep inside, addicts and alcoholics are self-harmers. They may not know it, but by the time their addiction has taken hold they’re firmly on a pathway to self-destruction. With every use, they’re in the midst of causing themselves terrible emotional pain, physical harm, psychological damage and even death.
And as you, the reader of this blog can probably attest, it’s not just themselves they’re hurting by constantly using substances. Their parents and loved ones also suffer greatly through their loved one’s ongoing use of alcohol and drugs.
It’s more than just the substance though, it’s all of the behaviours that go along with the use of substances. We’re referring to the dishonesty, the theft, the unexpected fits of anger and of course the absence. Because more than anything else, drugs take people away from their families.
The absence is both confusing and crazymaking as the family instinctively know that something is wrong, they just don’t know what to do about it. With all of their pleas and punishments, the addict is still unable to stop or stay stopped for an extended period of time. It gets to the point when the hurt starts to manifest as anger, and families find themselves challenging the addict with this simple yet somehow unanswerable question…
Why Cant You Just Stop?
It’s a question we often hear from the parents of addicts and alcoholics and it’s usually a desperate one – “Why can’t they just stop?!” The desperation behind it comes from built up frustration, pain and misunderstanding. People find it hard to bear seeing the one they love continue to hurt themselves and they can’t understand why, no matter what they do, it seems impossible to make them stop.
The truth is, and brace yourselves here because it’s a shocker: Nobody can make an addict or alcoholic stop and stay stopped. With help, there are tools they can employ themselves. But the addict has to be willing and ready. In many cases, the addicts who arrive at Seasons Rehabilitation Centres are willing. This is usually because their lives have become progressively worse in the last year and they are more aware than ever of the pain and sorrow they are causing.
They may have already tried and failed to stop using, and if that’s the case, then they’re likely to be trapped in the pain and suffering caused by the realisation that they simply can’t do it alone. It’s an overwhelming awakening that we refer to as an admission of powerlessness. This state is brought about when the addict realises that he or she doesn’t want to drink or drug but then finds themselves doing it anyway. Day, after day, after day.
The Disease Concept
Addiction can be described in many ways. It was once seen by society and the medical profession as a moral weakness, a character flaw that was irreversible. Then, there were many years where it was defined as psychological in nature, a ‘madness’ of sorts where Doctors recommended that addicts be locked away in asylums. These days it’s seen as an illness. The drug rehabilitation and mental health communities have a term they use to explain this illness to parents and families who are stuck in the old way of thinking.The term is The Disease Concept. If you’re looking for a detailed definition, try this one from the American Society of Addiction Medicine:
Addiction is 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 behaviours.
Addiction is characterised by an inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioural control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviours 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.
And to put it more simply…
Addiction to drugs and alcohol is a chronic, relapsing brain disease that presents as an obsession and compulsion to use drugs or alcohol despite the consequences. Doctors call it a brain disease because drugs and alcohol change the brain’s structure which affects the person’s decision-making abilities.
Obsession, Craving, and Compulsion
The disease concept explains the phenomenon of obsession, craving and compulsion that addicts feel for drugs. It’s like a three step journey happens inside of them. The obsession starts when they are triggered by memories or feelings of the pleasure that using drugs or alcohol brings them. The craving is fed by physical withdrawal and thoughts like “It wasn’t that bad” or “Just one more wouldn’t hurt.” And finally, the compulsion manifests as a willingness to do anything that’s required to meet the desire their brain has stoked up inside of them.
And when we say anything, we mean it. Some call it jonesing for a fix or hanging out because an addict’s desire to use is a powerful physical and psychological need that must be met. The barriers to completion are usually money and ease of supply, but these can be overcome through crime, degradation or self-harm of some sort. All of which lead to more feelings of shame and once the drug has worn off, they land the addict straight back at the start of a vicious cycle which is bound to repeat itself.
THERE IS A SOLUTION
The disease concept is one of the first things we teach addicts and their families. It helps them to identify the phenomenon of obsession, craving and compulsion that they are suffering through. It also helps everyone to understand that the addict is sick, rather than bad.
While there’s no forever cure for the disease of addiction and alcoholism. There is a way to arrest the disease. It requires a holistic approach, where the addict addresses the physical, psychological and spiritual aspects of themselves. It takes work, but it’s possible and there are millions of recovering alcoholics and addicts across the globe to prove it. So if you’re in a bad spot, or someone you know needs help, call our Client Liaison Team today and speak to somebody who understands.