It’s your choice to take the drug. It’s not your choice as to how your body reacts to it.”
WHAT IS ADDICTION?
Many Americans have a confused idea about addiction. This is generally a result of a lack of education, misunderstanding, or denial. Even within the medical and scientific communities, there is a great deal of controversy over the various definitions of addiction, and how to draw distinctions between overuse and abuse of substances, vs chemical dependencies. Some people, it seems, overuse alcohol and chemical substances without becoming dependent on them. Others become dependent very rapidly, likely due to genetics, and other yet unknown factors. Science is still trying to sort all of this out.
Clinically, addiction is defined as “a continued repetition of behavior despite adverse consequences.” Physical dependency occurs when the body has to adjust to the substance and incorporates it into its normal functioning.” When someone becomes physically dependent on alcohol or chemical substances, certain changes occur within their brains and their bodies.
WHY DON’T THEY JUST QUIT?
The idea that drug abuse is simply an issue of moral weakness or will power is outdated. What science is revealing is that chemical dependence is a chronic, brain based disease. While someone may have had the choice early on whether or not to use alcohol or chemical substances (drugs), once their brain has made certain changes, using no longer becomes something they choose to do.
AREN’T THEY RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR ACTIONS?
Some people think that by calling alcoholism or drug abuse a “disease”, it means we are letting addicts get away with their bad behavior or allowing them to not take responsibility for their actions. That’s not true. Overusers are still responsible for getting into treatment and staying there. But, the point is, once they are clinically dependent on alcohol or chemical substances, they will need help to change their drug overuse behavior. This means they need to have access to treatment.
WHAT KIND OF HELP DO THEY NEED?
While this depends on the individual involved, and the nature of their dependency, people who are addicted to chemical substances generally need to undergo:
- Medical Detoxification
- Clinical Rehabilitation
This gives their brains and bodies time to be cleared of toxic substances, so they can begin thinking more clearly and practicing new ways of thinking during recovery.
Next, they can begin with ongoing support options to help maintain their sobriety. Research shows an array of services is most helpful, and social supports are likely to improve the outcomes. These options might include:
- 12 step programs/ support groups
- Spiritual based programs
- Sponsor / Mentor / Coaching programs
The thing to remember is this: Recovery is a reality for millions of Americans who are living it every day. Addiction does not have to be a lifetime “sentence”. The longer you abstain from substance use, the greater your chances for recovery. After achieving abstinence for 4-5 years, the relapse rate drops to 15%.
CAN’T I “FIX” MY LOVED ONE?
This is a common question often asked by family and friends of people struggling with addiction. The truth is, if the love and goodwill of family members was enough to “fix” chemical dependency and addiction, then there would be very few people still struggling with it.
Chemical dependency is a physical issue that is improved with medical treatment and counseling. Family members are generally not able to provide this.
The Al-Anon support group has three tenets that are particularly helpful to family members who so want to alleviate the suffering that happens on all fronts when addiction hits really close to home. Here they are:
- “I didn’t cause it.”
- “I can’t control it.”
- “I can’t cure it.”
Many addicted individuals become quite adept at pushing off responsibility for their choices onto those around them. In spite of this, each of us has to own up to our own choices, and choose to make our way forward in a healthy manner that supports our own recovery. That includes those with an unintentional front row seat to the meltdown.
Watching someone you love struggle with addiction can be like watching a train wreck. That’s why another core principle of Al-anon is “detaching with love”.
Detachment with love means you intentionally decide to:
- Allow others to be themselves without letting them destroy you
- Realize that you can’t fix or control them
- Realize that you can’t save them
- Realize they have the right and responsibility to live their own lives
- Realize you have the right and responsibility to live your life
If your friend or loved one is ready to get help, then call us. We can help guide them with next steps toward their recovery and help you get into a support group where others understand your pain.
For more information on First Contact Ministries, and how we can help, please contact:
Click to email
To gain more information on the science of addiction, please visit the helpful links below.