Beating drug and alcohol addiction
by Ned Wicker
“How can I beat drug addiction?” It’s asked of this web site and all the other addiction web sites every day. There are countless answers, but for the sake of this article let us focus on one specific fact—we are all body, mind and spirit. This is an important topic because in order to beat drug addiction one must deal with all three areas.
The “body” area is the most obvious one to begin our discussion, because the physical effects of drug addiction are so clearly evidenced. It may be a slow deterioration of a person’s overall physical state of health, or something striking like the gaunt, zombie-like look of a methamphetamine addict.
It could be the puffy eyes of an alcoholic, or the constant runny nose of a cocaine addict. Over time, the drug of choice for any addict is going to wear away at the body, causing damage to the respiratory system, or the heart, or to other internal organs such as the liver and kidneys.
A disease of the brain
The second area of concern is the mind. Addiction is a brain disease and drugs impact our ability to function and reason. To beat drug addiction you need to fully understand this. Drugs alter brain chemistry, alter neuro pathways and cause dramatic changes to our whole thought process. The brain is tricked into thinking it needs the drug to function.
Even if an addict/alcoholic knows they are doing harm to themselves, they will use their drug of choice, because they are compelled to use it. They can’t reason their way into stopping, they can’t think through the entire issue to make a wise decision. Bad choices are the hallmark of the addict, who will choose the drug rather than treatment.
They will deny any problem, even though everyone else in the room knows they are an addict. They will get angry at the mere mention of treatment, because everyone else has the problem, not them. They have to learn new ways of thinking, without the drug, and be able to make a good choice rather than going to the old default and using.
The spirit MUST be addressed to beat drug addiction!
The third and most overlooked area is the spirit. This is not religion, although religion can be a component of a person’s spirituality. Spirituality is what separates us from the rest of God’s creation, as it is what gives us a connection to the world around us and the universe we live in.
The Bible (Genesis 1:26) states that we were created in the image of God, that is the spiritual image of God. I share this because the three major religions of the world Judaism, Christianity and Islam, all agree on this fact.
Our humanity is based on our spirituality, which is important because drug addiction strips us of that humanity. As they slip further into addiction, people do things they never dreamed of doing, like robbing money from their children to buy drugs, or stealing and hocking their mother’s wedding ring to get the drugs they crave. People with throw away their family relationships, lose custody of their children, and go to jail because they must get high.
Consider what the Alcoholics Anonymous “Big Book” says about addiction. You can substitute your drug of choice for alcohol, as it all applies. It states on Page 44,
“If, when you honestly want to, you find you cannot quit entirely, or when drinking, you have little control over the amount you take, you are probably an alcoholic. If that be the case, you may be suffering from an illness which only a spiritual experience will conquer.”
A spiritual experience; it does not say theological revelation, religious conversion or membership in a church or synagogue.
Some fight the idea of God
I have facilitated group discussions in treatment centers and in so many cases there was always that one person who bristled at the thought of spirituality as a major component in the recovery process.
Sitting with arms folded, he/she dared me to convince them that they were spiritual. I always appreciated their candor in these discussions, but more often than not, once they immersed themselves into the treatment program and allowed a recovery lifestyle to formulate, they embraced their spirituality.
For those who did not, it was most often due to relapse, or an outright refusal to accept that they were spiritual beings. Alcoholics Anonymous discovered very early that the self-discovery of the 12 Step process produced a spiritual awakening, but it makes no mention of denomination or faith group. Spirituality is universal.
A pill won’t work
Consider also that there is no cure for drug addiction or alcoholism. You can’t beat drug addiction by taking a pill. There are medications that will help addicts through the withdrawal process, and there are drugs designs to help cravings, and drugs that help to wean the addict off his/her drug of choice, but none will cure addiction.
Of course, people will claim that you need willpower to quit. The problem is they can’t just quit. “Joe Herzanek’s book, “Why don’t they just quit?” explains why mere will is not enough. Our American culture calls for us to be rugged individualists, who by the power of our will, shall pull ourselves up by our boot straps and overcome any obstacle.
The trouble is, with addiction, it doesn’t work. Addiction is a family disease and requires a family solution. People need help. Because it is a spiritual disease, our spirit needs to be healed.
Spirituality verses Religion
While spirituality and religion are different, there are many faith-based programs that are effective. Teen Challenge comes to mind, as does Celebrate Recovery. Both of these Christian programs are outstanding and have been effective.
All addicts are unique and require personalized care. Because of that one size does not fit all and treatment programs must be designed to meet individual needs. The best way to beat drug addiction is to enter into a treatment program and stick with it.
Relapse is a part of the disease and a part of treatment, but it is necessary to keep trying. You are body, mind and spirit and when all three areas are addressed, people do recover and live healthy, happy lives.