Good morning everyone!
While my wife and I were busy working in our yard yesterday (we are lucky to live in a farmhouse build in 1900 with quite a few surrounding acres), Kir came across this flower growing out of our barn’s stone wall and she was utterly charmed. She shared it with me and that gave me the idea for today’s post: what may it feel like to be that flower? How much resilience, strength, and sheer will to survive must that tiny beautiful flower possess? It is nothing short of amazing. Somehow, this plant must manage to find all it needs to grow and thrive in the seemingly unnutritious and unfriendly stone-wall environement. It has risen, majestically, like a phoenix rising from the ashes.
I reckon a lot of us have gone through periods in their lives where they felt like the phoenix IN the ashes – burnt (out), down, sad, desperate, unwilling or unable to make the effort to rise again, to get better, to battle our demons. Today I want to talk about the fact that no matter how down we feel, rising from those ashes is indeed possible. In different posts I would like to concentrate on a few examples, situations that can happen to all of us, that have happened to a lot of us and that still too many of us don’t manage to get out of for a myriad of reasons: addictions, surviving abuse, surviving cancer, becoming unemployed, becoming homeless, suffering from a mental illness.
Today’s topic will be addictions. I want to try and help us all understand that we shouldn’t judge; that we should bear in mind that for most of the people in these situations, it wasn’t a free choice. That instead of turning away we may want to consider lending a helping hand. Maybe if we all just help that one person that we know in our social circles that has been in any such situation, or support that one organization trying to help – each one of us can make the world a little better.
We have all heard the term. We have all used it. The question is, do we understand what an addiction really is? Let’s see:
There is a great many different types of addictions out there. Some are specified as actual diseases in the DSM the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, others are more controversial and not as clear-cut in their specific symptoms, so they never make their way into the official categories – although they are certainly no less serious conditions.
Addicitons associated with drugs are referred to as substance abuse and substance dependency in the DSM. Neither equates to addiction directly but rather, refers to harmful use of substances – which really sucks. Drug addiction of any kind is serious business and should be treated accordingly.
Addictions are both psychological and behavioral, they are characterized by craving, compulsion, and the inability to stop using the drug of choice and they are always paired with a certain lifestyle dysfunction due to the drug use.
Behavioral addictions are those not involving a substance; in the DSM they are referred to as impulse control disorders.
Substance Abuse – What Is Your Drug Of Choice?
- opioids – for example heroin
- prescription drugs ((sedatives, hypnotics, or anxiolytics like sleeping pills and tranquilizers)
- cannabis (marijuana)
- amphetamines (like methamphetamine, known as meth)
- phencyclidine (known as PCP or Angeldust)
- other unspecified substances
Wow. That is quite a list there 🙁 . Now think. Is there anyone you know that is addicted to any of those? I bet that all of you reading this post know at least ONE PERSON addicted to any of the above. See how there is a need to become aware, not judge and rather choose to help????
Impulse Control Disorders
Those are disorders where impulses cannot be resisted, which could be considered a type of addiction.
- intermittent explosive disorder (compulsive aggressive and assaultive acts)
- kleptomania (compulsive stealing)
- pyromania (compulsive setting of fires)
The same holds true here. Do you know anyone suffering from any of these disorders?
- food (eating)
- pornography (attaining, viewing)
- using computers / the Internet
- playing video games
- spiritual obsession (as opposed to religious devotion)
- pain (seeking)
Yeah, pretty damn sure one of those sounds familiar….right?
Addicts And Their Addictions – Definitions
When does normal behaviour turn into addiction? Where is the threshold? What makes an addict an addict? Is someone who likes to party more than others (involving drugs) necessarily to be seen as an addict or just as someone who likes to party?? Is someone who likes to gamble to blow off steam a person who just likes to gamble -or a gambling addict? We tend to bagatalize behaviour we see in people around us, mostly because we don’t really like to acknowledge that a friend or a spouse or a relative or a coworker may have a “problem”, may be an addict. But in actual fact, when scrutinized, these people are really showing signs of addiction. But what are those then?
The first major sign of addiction or abuse is the effect the addiction has on the daily routine of a person. If you are using, if you are addicted, the addiction or behavior is going to be noticeable and it is going to cause problems. Say you like to gamble and you loose some more money than you should have, you may have to cut back on movies, or eating-out or Starbucks for a week to make up for the dent in your wallet. An addict however will max out any credit card they own and rob themselves of any means to balance their financial losses JUST SO THEY CAN GAMBLE. In short, whenever someone chooses an action, behavior or substance to the exclusion of all else, this person is likely an addict.
Does the addict him/herself realize they are addicted? In the beginning, actually, most don’t. Or if they do, they go through a period of denying their addiction. Here is where your help may already come in handy because those around an addict usually spot the addiction signs early. If you manage to persuade that person to get help or support you may have cut the vicious circle before it could actually begin. How can you “spot” addictive behavior? Here are some guidelines:
- addicts obsess about their addiction; they talk about it constantly and may try to get others to do it with them
- addicts seek out and engage in their addiction, no matter what the cost, even if that means hurting themselves or others
- addicts aren’t able to exercise any form of control over their addictive behaviors
- addicts often deny their addictive behaviors and that they have a problem
- addicts tend to hide their addictions
- addicts are often prone to failure when they try to stop – that is called a “relapse”
Its not just those signs that “identify” an addict. Other symptoms may only be apparent to the addict him/herself:
- Compulse behavior
- Fixation on the addiction
- Loss of control over the addiction
- Psychological or physiological withdrawal when they can’t engage in their addiction
- Feeling a need to engage in the addiction more and more
- Low self-esteem
- Feeling a loss of control
So, now you are prepared and fit to spot signs of addiction in your peers and help. But in order to not fall into the trap of judging them for their addictions you may want to understand the reasons why!
How An Addict Becomes An Addict
Thats the Million Dollar question. To be honest, there is not one single reason or unified cause, just as much as, even if addictions often run in families, an “addiction gene” has yet to be identified. Since we really don’t know what the reasons are, we come up with many theories. One of those is the idea of an “addictive personality”. Someone with an addictive personality is more likely to become addicted to a substance or behavior. If you wonder whether you have an addictive personality, you should be looking for the following traits in yourself: impulsive behavior, nonconformity, lack of interest in goals and achievement, social alienation and high stress levels.
But do addictions actually have an influence on your brain? Well. The impact of addiction on the brain is better understood for psychoactive substances such as alcohol and cocaine. While each substance impacts the brain differently, the addiction cycle tends to be similar: psychoactive substances initially quickly produce euphoria from the flood of certain chemicals in the brain. After the euphoria, unpleasant withdrawal symptoms occur. The addict, wishing to again experience the euphoria, or to escape unpleasant withdrawal (craving), is highly motivated to use the substance again. This cycle is thought to be, in part, because of the reward circuit in the brain. When the brain finds something rewarding (pleasurable), it creates a pleasurable memory and increases the motivation to experience pleasure again. This can alter the brain’s neurotransmitters (chemicals).
Phoenix Rising – How to Battle Addiction
The good news is that there are many different types of help and/or support available for addictions, since no addiction can be compared to the next. Some addicts might also require more than one course of treatment in order to gain control over their addiction. Addiction treatments include:
- Psychopharmacology (drug therapy)
- Therapy (changing thoughts, beliefs and behaviors around the addiction. Addiction therapy may also focus on the underlying issues behind an individual’s addiction)
- Inpatient rehabilitation
- Outpatient treatment programs
- Support groups
- Self-help programs; lifestyle changes
- Therapeutic community living
Types Of Addiction Therapy
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – focuses on altering the addict’s faulty beliefs which perpetuate the addiction. The goal is to change addiction-related behaviors.
- Multidimensional Family Therapy – an addiction therapy primarily created for adolescent addicts and their families; designed to improve overall family functioning.
- Motivational Interviewing – enhances and capitalizes on an individual’s willingness to treat their addiction.
- Motivational Incentives – primarily used in drug addiction treatment. This addiction therapy uses rewards for positive drug screening tests as a motivational tool to continue staying clean.
- Individual and group counseling – a variety of help for addiction can occur in these formats. Common in individual addiction therapy is psychodynamic therapy, while group addiction therapy is often in the form of a support group.
While addiction is complex, overcoming addiction is possible with proper addiction treatment. Each person’s addiction treatment plan is different and must be adhered to if an addiction is to be overcome. A plan can consists of:
- Taking medication as prescribed
- Attending all medical and therapeutic appointments
- Creating a network of people who can support you while you overcome addiction
- Learning about the addiction and its treatment
- Proper diet and exercise
- Reducing life stressors and learning how to cope with stress to avoid relapse
- Getting additional addiction treatment help when needed
What I am trying to say here, People, is this: addiction is common. Its part of our society, whether we like it or not. An addict isn’t someone who is weak or who chooses to engage in addictive behaviour. We all know someone with some addiction or other. We all can help. And if you read this and think: oh f***, a lot of these things described are true for me then please don’t panic. There is help out there, and there are “cures”. Turn to your spouse, friends, doctor. Turn to support groups, online or in real life. No one has to fight this battle on their own, and no one should. And even if you are really down and broken and you think you may be ready to give up: please don’t. Look at that little flower. If it can grow out of a stone wall, you can rise again, too. Being an addict is not a choice. Staying one however is. Make the right choice!
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below or send me a PM at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks for reading! I appreciate it!