Through engagement with patients and witnessing their personal growth and development, I have been fortunate to gain insight regarding the progression of addiction and what seems to motivate patients toward recovery. Part of my role as a Clinical Psychologist in the field of Substance and Alcohol Use Disorder treatment is to provide information about this disease and how addictive behaviors take an individual away from their life values and principles. Based on these experiences, I have been inspired to write this blog as an attempt to appeal to those who have been impacted by addiction to consider the possibility of recovery, healing, and creating a life of deep meaning and purpose. The first step is to find the willingness to seek help before the disease of addiction runs its full course.
The costs of active addiction are immense and have great consequences for both the individual using, as well as their loved ones. My intention is not to shame, blame, or fault any; rather, I would like to pass on some of the wisdom I have gained while working with my patients and seeing their journey through recovery. The first part of this blog is to provide essential information to help increase awareness and understanding about addiction and addictive behaviors.
Addiction can be viewed from several different perspectives. I have found that a holistic perspective is able to encompass the multifaceted nature of addiction and its impact on a person’s life. It is useful to consider the biological, psychological, social, and spiritual aspects of addiction.
The biology of addiction can be glimpsed by looking at the disease model of addiction in which active use affects the brain leading to a biological dependency on a substance of abuse. From this perspective, the drug becomes something the body craves because the reward center of the brain has identified the chemical as a necessity, like air or water. Psychologically, the mind begins to use thoughts and emotions as tools to motivate the individual to attain the substance. Behaviorally, this preoccupation can be seen through actions which contrast an individual’s values and principles. The individual may use manipulation, lying, stealing, rationalization, avoidance, and anger as vehicles to attain the substance. These behavioral patterns can be viewed as character defects which pull the individual further and further away from healthy rewards such as feelings of connection with loved ones and satisfaction in an important accomplishment. These patterns progress turning the individual further and further away from a life of meaning and purpose to a life of pleasure seeking through substance and alcohol use.
To others the individual’s actions may seem destructive and unmanageable, while to the individual caught in the web of addiction, their behaviors seem justified and even necessary. I am aware this portrait seems bleak, yet there is hope which is found in acceptance and willingness.
ARE YOU STRUGGLING?
To the those struggling with the disease of addiction, I encourage you to take an honest look at your life, and if it seems that your addiction and actions have isolated you from important relationships, your career, and personal principles; please find the courage and willingness to ask for help. You are in an unfair fight in which the power of addiction has used your own body and mind to sabotage all that you care about. One moment of awareness may be what it takes to access help and my wish in writing this is to invite you to begin the journey toward recovery; toward rediscovering a life full of meaning and purpose; toward gratitude and genuine satisfaction with life. The first step is to find the willingness to seek help before the addiction runs its full course ending in death or incarceration.