Why is it that an outside observer can see that an addict is in trouble so clearly, yet the sufferer can’t, doesn’t or wont see it? The reason must lie somewhere in the many apparent aspects of the disease of addiction. There are physical aspects to addiction. Things like: Changing your brain chemistry by consistently subjecting it to different chemicals, Withdrawals and PAWS. Post-Acute Withdrawal-Syndrome is especially pleasant. Its symptoms are: mood swings, anxiety, irritability, tiredness, variable energy, low enthusiasm, variable concentration and disturbed sleep. Welcome to recovery! Then there are mental characteristics to the disease. Things like: Obsessing over the mind-altering substances, various rituals (searching, procuring, preparing and finally using) as well as Co-occurring or Sequentially Comorbid conditions. There are plenty of social aspects as well.
Don’t sell the social pressures and fears short. When getting high is the normal thing that happens, it’s difficult to put into words just how uncomfortable being sober feels – in pretty much every situation. Take the simple case of hanging out at a local bar with friends while in early recovery, and drinking a can of pop while they casually have some cocktails. If you’re honest, you’ll admit you can feel the pull of the drink. Drinking may not even be your thing, but the pull may be writhing in your gut just the same. That desire may not be very strong, but it will still be present. Why, when you have made a decision to be clean and sober, would you feel this way? There could be many reasons. One might be, you’re watching friends do something you may have done innumerable times. They don’t seem to be having any problem with it. If you’re a certain kind of addict and you have that drink, it may be ‘off to the races’ or the nearest dope spot. As an aside, I’m not saying that anybody with a substance abuse problem can’t learn to moderate his or her intake. Oftentimes however, its many repeated failures at moderate ones’ intake, which precedes a decision to be drug and alcohol free. That leads right into the next social reason to drink, feeling socially awkward. People generally seem to have a strong desire not to appear any ‘different’ than their friends. In this situation at the bar, you’re going to look and feel more and more different as the hours and drinks tick by.
Wanna go see a movie? Better smoke some weed so you can really enjoy it! Wait, it’s a 3-hour movie; Make sure you have some Norcos (painkillers) to get you through that one. On and on it goes.
After a while, getting high is normal. It’s being sober that feels like the altered mental state. It may sound like it was only a habit, but once you get into the addict territory; it feels as much of a ‘habit’ as breathing does. Think about that for a minute. The alcoholic / addict is giving up their number one coping mechanism / social buffer, suffering from PAWS and walking into social situations feeling incredibly awkward, raw and unprepared to deal with whatever is in front of them.
This is why there seems no ‘one answer’ for addiction. It appears that recovery from addiction is far more likely to happen if the sufferer uses more than a single resource. Here is a list of some well-known recovery resources:
- Inpatient Treatment
- Professional therapy
- Intensive Outpatient
- Sober Living & Halfway Homes
- Support groups
- 12-Step or Evidence based recovery programs
- Increasing your Sober Network of Friends
Addicts and their family members sometimes have a false sense of security due to the belief that simply by going to Treatment or a 12-Step program, the sufferer is ‘better’. Unfortunately, this illusion may be shattered by a relapse or even worse, a funeral. Think of it this way. If you needed quadruple bypass heart surgery would you consider only bypassing one artery? Given the varied aspects of the disease of addiction and all of the treatment modalities available, why wouldn’t you take advantage of as many as possible for as long as possible?
Below is a link to some of these resources that someone wanting to get sober may need: