Addicts are not a lost cause. While it’s true this disease will need to be managed for life, we can certainly overcome our chemical dependency.
This myth gives the impression that addicts don’t matter and sets the stage for discrimination by family members, friends, employers, health care providers and the legal system. With the right tools and support, we can go on to do great things in life.
Thanks, in large part, to the rise of televised addiction and emergency interventions, the term “rock bottom” has become ingrained in the DNA of society. The viewing audience sees staged interventions where a “rock bottom” is created for each intended addict; they see most episodes coming to a happy and sober conclusion. Magically, TV addicts are “saved” by these manufactured rock bottoms that come neatly wrapped in a 60-minute package.
In real life, however, the “rock bottom” moment is different for each and every one of us. For some, rock bottom is getting arrested or becoming homeless. For others, rock bottom is losing the love and trust of family or getting fired from a great job.
It’s important to understand that the level of consequences we face before seeking help have little to do with our chances of succeeding in recovery. Rather than waiting for the “proper” moment of desperation, try talking openly and honestly with us.
This one’s a doozy. Some people can have a drink and walk away; some can take a pain pill here and there with no problem. That makes it easy to assume that we all have the same experience and, instead of walking away, we choose to spend our days in a state of intoxication.
In reality, we are addicted. That means we have to supply our bodies with a steady stream of drugs or alcohol just to feel “normal” or avoid withdrawal symptoms.
No one in their right mind would choose to live the life of an addict. It’s a lonely and depressing existence.
Many people don’t know that addiction physically changes the brain. These neurological alterations prompt compulsive actions that can easily be misinterpreted. We aren’t stupid or lazy; far from it. What we are is wrongly and wholeheartedly convinced that we need drugs or alcohol to survive.
Our brains have developed a tolerance to drugs that worsens over time. Eventually, there’s a certain level of intoxication needed to keep withdrawal at bay. In an effort to “stay well,” we do some crazy things to feed our habits. Our drive is limited to satisfying the addiction. What we do is always in service of a disease that we can’t control. Quite frankly, it’s exhausting.
If willpower or the love of family could cure addiction, most of us would be healthy and happy. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. While it’s true that most of us lack the ability to overcome this disease on our own, the “lack of willpower” is a symptom caused by the neurological imbalances of addiction – not the cause.
There’s a huge misconception that punishment can “scare” addicts into sobriety. However, there’s a big difference between sending someone to prison where the access to drugs is virtually cut off and finding lasting sobriety through recovery. Look, it’s easy to get clean in prison. But, without the tools of recovery, relapse is virtually guaranteed once returned to society.
When threatened with punishments like arrest or incarceration, rational people modify their behaviors. Addicts, however, are living with a disease where the emotional and motivational need for drugs completely and totally outweighs the threat of negative consequences.
Again, it’s all related to the neurological changes brought on by drugs or alcohol.