Drug Addiction Recovery
Drug Addiction Recovery
What is the Cycle of Addiction?
Understanding drug addiction recovery often starts with understanding the cycle of addiction.
Everyone wants to feel good. Everyone wants to be free from physical or emotional pain. Everyone wants to enjoy life. Our “pursuit of happiness” is what starts the Cycle of Addiction.
It begins with an event, our introduction to drugs and alcohol for a variety of reasons. We want to have a good time, we want to fit in with our friends, or we want to numb the pain. It starts as an experiment, to see what the drug will do. It starts as a medically prescribed treatment for an injury. It starts innocently enough. No thoughts of drug addiction recovery.
Let’s use a clock as an example. At 12:00 we begin with an event. “Joe” uses prescription medication to get relief from the pain of his knee injury. The doctor prescribes the drug, the amount to be taken and the frequency of use. But as time goes on, Joe’s pain level is not under control, so he takes a couple more pills. That doesn’t work for him, so he takes his medication more often. He may receive pain relief, but as time goes on, he needs more and more drug just to feel normal.
From the 12:00 event, through 1:00 and 2:00, his use of the drug increases to the point where he is beginning to think more and more about getting his prescription filled sooner than the recommended time. The drugs have appeared to be the answer to his pain. They help him get through the day, but more and more is needed just to get by. The drug is necessary, vital to his feeling good or normal. His knee injury is now secondary, as the use of the drug is necessary with or without the injury pain.
When Joe goes beyond the limits of the prescribed amount of drug and the frequency of use, and this pattern of behavior is left unchecked, it results in addiction, because the drug seems to help him not only with pain, but help him get through life. He feels better. The problem is Joe has lost his ability to control the drug. It now controls him.
Let’s take a moment to share an analogy. There is nothing inherently wrong with enjoying a piece of chocolate. If that enjoyment results in weight gain, diabetes or any number of other medical calamities, then chocolate is not a good idea. There’s nothing wrong with taking a drink either, only for some of us it results in two, three, four drinks and more. When we no longer control the substance, but the substance controls us, it means trouble. We are looking for the effect the substance gives us. Without it, we are left craving.
Let’s continue with our cycle of addiction and understanding drug addiction recovery. The addiction has set in because of prolonged use of the drug, as more drugs more often is necessary for Joe to achieve the result the addict is looking for. The drug is psychologically habit forming, as we are led to believe that the drug is necessary for our happiness, or we will be in pain without it.
Let’s say we have arrived at 3:00. The person is in the throws of addiction, or close to it. There is an obvious problem. Perhaps family members and friends have tried to encourage Joe to get help. Joe may or may not realize that the drug has caused problems; he isn’t thinking about drug addiction recovery.
He has turned his life over to the drug. He makes sure he has enough. He thinks about getting enough. He craves using the drugs to relieve the pain. When he doesn’t have the drug, Joe may experience terrible withdrawal symptoms, live sweats, the shakes, hallucinations or a variety of physical ailments. He may not sleep, or may have digestive problems, he may not eat, or he may not have any interest in anything other than the drug.
Joe’s level of addiction at this point just means that he is on a downward spiral. He is descending into addiction.
Let’s say that Joe’s friends are now actively encouraging him to get help. Let’s say that Joe agrees that he’ll try. The process of addiction taking hold, the friends trying to help and Joe agreeing to get help takes us to the 6:00 position. Joe has admitted that the drugs are getting in the way. He says he’ll try harder to not use the drug. He may say he’ll “cut back” or he may say he’ll accept some outpatient treatment. People have strong spirits. It’s the American way to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps. “I did it my way,” was a popular Frank Sinatra song years ago, and we still hear it today because it embodies the free spirited, rugged individual personality. Don’t tell me what to do or how to do it. Joe is going to try, but it has to be his way or the highway.
Let’s pause for a moment. I respect effort. Do not misunderstand this important point. Joe says he’ll try and for a time he succeeds. I respect the effort. There was a lovely woman in one of my spirituality group sessions who shared that she had been clean for seven years. It was very difficult for her, but by sheer determination and personal strength, and with a little help and encouragement from friends, she did it for seven years. God bless her.
But something happened in her life. There was an event, and as she described it, she just used again for no particular reason. She did not necessarily understand her own decision to use, but the cycle started all over again for her; she had to start drug addiction recovery all over again.
You hear alcoholics tell people that they cannot have as little as one drink. No matter how long they have been sober, they can’t have one little drink. It’s too much. They will also tell you that once they start, no amount is enough. The alcoholic understands the cycle of addiction.
Joe tries to stay clean, but as the time on the clock approaches 9:00, for some reason, Joe uses. Why? We’re human. I am not offering our being human as an excuse for bad decision making, but I am suggesting that human nature leans toward rebellion and disobedience. The addiction might have been managed for a season, but it was not defeated, nor will it ever be defeated. Give Joe credit for trying, but the cycle of addiction was not broken. Joe found himself back at “high noon” and began using again, which started the cycle all over again.
The cycle has to be broken, and I firmly believe that people will not break that cycle by their own effort.
We are made for relationship and made to receive help. A person can succeed by trying and ALLOWING outside help. When it comes to managing addiction or overcoming major events, the “I did it my way” mentality is nothing more than arrogance. Alcoholics Anonymous says in its second step that “we came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” The wisdom in that confession is the acknowledgment that our “trying harder” isn’t going to cut it.
If you or someone you love or someone you know is experiencing what Joe has experienced, you need help to break the cycle. Seek professional help.
Descending into ADDICTION as a Spiritual Disease
Below is a description of how a person descends into drug addiction.
1. Drug/Alcohol sedates value system, which gets indifferent, confused
2. Grandiosity, perfectionism, pride
3. Intolerance of others, suspicion, disgust, argues
4. Religion getting sick, rigid, arrogant, unrealistic, disenchantment with childish idea of God
5. Loses interest in life, “Blues”
6. Guilt feelings, not “at ease” with God
7. Stops daily prayer, attends church out of habit or pretense
8. “Nobodiness” -- feels estranged, alienated, lonely
9. Immaturity, some irresponsibility
10. Life has no meaning
11. Anxiety, indefinable fears
12. Resentments: Angry with God, hostile to mention of religion, projects fear into concept of God as a tyrant
13. Moral deterioration: Dishonest, selfish
14. Loss of faith: Consciously rejects God, unconsciously longs for Him, a “sick love” relation
15. Remorse: Depression, suicidal thoughts, impaired thinking
16. Vague spiritual desires
17. Gropes for spiritual meaning