Drug Addiction Cycle
How do I break the drug addiction cycle in my life?
This is a huge question. The most important thing is to understand that you have a problem, which is the first of the AA 12-Step process for breaking the drug addiction cycle. You have come to admit that you are powerless over your addiction and that your life is out of control.
This is important because people want to believe that they can solve their own problems and pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. If you are like most people, this fighting spirit doesn’t work with addiction.
It’s important to know that addiction can not be cured, it can only be controlled. Once the substance is out of your system, and once the medical aspects of your addiction have been addressed, there is still a management issue.
That’s where treatment centers come into play, because treatment is designed to equip addicts how to manage their behavior. Because of this relapse is usually common when you’re trying to break the drug addiction cycle. Expect relapse but don’t give up because of it!
Self awareness is an important component here. People use for a variety of reasons, but mostly to either feel better or to party. Addicts need to feel better. They need the drug just to get by. What is missing, what are the voids in their lives that create the urge to seek the drug as a solution? Even after they have gone through detoxification, there is still that pattern of behavior to deal with.
Addiction doesn’t happen over night.
Addiction doesn’t necessarily happen over a long period of time, it sometimes develops after a brief encounter with a powerful drug. It’s not so much the time table that is the key to understanding the drug addiction cycle, it’s the process that unfolds.
First use starts the alcohol and/or drug addiction cycle
Imagine the face of a clock. At 12:00 a person is introduced to a substance for the first time. They take the drug for a variety of reasons. It could be a prescription opiate to relief pain after an injury, or it could be a cool glass of beer at a summer picnic, or it could be a rock of crack cocaine. With alcohol it begins as something pleasurable.
Alcohol makes us feel good, we mellow out and enjoy the company of others. Crack cocaine produces an intense high that gives us a euphoric rush. The problem is human nature takes over and reason has nothing to do with it. If one beer is good, then two will be better. Crack users are forever chasing the high, trying to get that same feeling they got the first time, only it never happens.
Drug use becomes a regular part of the routine as the drug addiction cycle takes hold.
As the clock begins to tick away and the second hand arrives at 3:00, things are happening to the drinker/drug user. The drug is becoming a regular part of their life, the drug addiction cycle silently begins to get control.
They still may be able to stop using, but they either enjoy the drug or they just want to continue using it because they think it brings benefit to their life. There are no particular signs of trouble going on here and all appears to be fine at home and at work.
The point of no return.
The bottom of the hour brings trouble. Call it a point of no return, or a major departure point. At this stage, people may not use because they want to. They use because they have to. They can no longer say no and not having drug on hand creates stress and panic. By this time you may notice changes in their behavior.
They may lose interest in family and friends, or perhaps their work performance is not what it used to be, or they take a lot of sick days. By now they are using the drug to feel “normal” and they begin to center their activities around the drug. They begin to ONLY care about the drug and the people close to the addict realize there is a problem.
The drug is now FIRMLY in control of the addict’s life.
As the second hand hits 9:00, the disease has taken over their life. Long past having any say in whether or not they use, they may have already experienced serious family troubles, loss of their income, DUI or worse.
While some may still be functioning at this stage in the cycle, it is not likely that the person is function well and may be having health issues. Complications from long-term use of the drug have set in, and as their habit has eaten up all or most of their financial resources, they likely are dealing drugs and running into legal troubles.
Family relationships have been trampled, they have lost their job and the friends they once loved and cared about are no longer in their life. Their associates are fellow users and dope dealers.
Sadly, the end is near.
As the clock heads towards 12:00 again, the disease is in its final phase. Long-term health issues have become apparent and may be irreversible. Even with treatment, there are points in this cycle that cannot be stopped and the person will die.
However, that does not mean that it’s too late to try. Even stage four addicts can turn around and live a healthy lifestyle and regain their humanity. They may suffer the consequences of their long-term abuse to their body, but they can have their life back.
A slow suicide
The drug addiction cycle is the story of how a perfectly happy human being can lose everything, one hit, one drink at a time. Perhaps if people went from a good life to skid row in a flash and the process were more dramatic, they would wake up and see that they need help.
But addiction is like the frog in the pot of water. He swims around, the heat is turned on, and by the time the water is boiling, it’s too late. Addiction happens in stages and sometimes creeps up on a person over a long period of time. They think they can handle it, but they can’t. It’s sometimes hard to notice the symptoms, because the change is gradual.
Treatment is the only viable option. Whether in-patient or out-patient, in whatever form, people need help from other people. Nobody beats addiction alone and breaking the cycle of addiction is almost always the bottom line.
For more information on breaking the drug addiction cycle go to Treatment