Addicted: When the Solution Becomes the Problem
For most people, the idea that something such as becoming addicted could invade their life would be unthinkable. So devastating. All-encompassing. Turning their world totally upside down and inside out. It would seem as unlikely an event, like a trip to the moon.
I believe no one starts out in life with the plan to become a drug addict, well, not many people do. I know I didn’t.
I mostly grew up in South London, England; after emigrating from Ireland with my parents and two younger sisters. I was aged seven.
We lived in an area which was notorious for heroin addiction, the Old Kent Road. There were plenty of the sunken-eyed, hollow-cheeked, walking-corpses hanging around street corners and phone boxes. These were the days before cell phones.
I was always under strict instruction from my mother, when out and about, to avoid these people at all costs. Cross the road if you have to, I was told. Don’t ever stop and talk to them. They were junkies, or druggies, I’d been told.
At aged seven I didn’t really understand what this meant, but I knew it was bad. I did come to more of an understanding as I got older. But I don’t think you *really* understand drug addiction until it becomes part of your world.
Up until that point it was something to be avoided; something that happened to others; something that was seedy, criminal, immoral and just plain wrong.
So What is Addiction Anyway?
“Addiction is a brain disorder, characterised by compulsive engagement in rewarding stimuli despite adverse consequences.”
Addiction is hollow…but promises everything.
Addiction is soul-less, it takes rather than gives.
It turns a person from a promising hopeful, into a hopeless shell of a former self.
Addiction is a soul sickness, a heartfelt longing for something; anything, to fill a desperately lonely, empty void, inside a person.
A void disguised as many things, a chameleon that can change to deceive.
In the eyes of the particular sufferer, the deception can be disguised as alcohol, drugs, money, sex, shopping, gambling, food, computer games, and more. Basically anything used or taken in a compulsive manner as a means to take away pain, to feel good or, to forget, can be classed as be addicted.
Once you start to fill the void however, with any of the above, you find you simply cannot stop because it can never be filled. You are never satisfied. Well not for any noteworthy length of time.
The void is like a black hole; it is a bottomless pit, with an insatiable appetite. A thirst…a hunger
Once activated, this void becomes a vacuum that sucks in all you try to feed it, and more. It doesn’t stop until everything has been emptied, drained and destroyed.
There is Hope
I wrote this part at the end of this article but realised it would need to be placed nearer to the top. If you've arrived at this site feeling low, maybe a bit confused, looking for a way out, then I want you to stay...I want you to know that you can stop what you're doing.
You can stop using...stop drinking...stop, whatever you're doing that's causing you pain.
You might have tried to stop before and failed...I know how that feels. Not many people do stop on their first attempt...
However if this is your first attempt, you don't have to go back out there just to prove a point. Every time you use, you are putting yourself at risk. Please stop.
I care...I really do...I've tried lots of different ways of stopping, treatment centres, rehabilitation, acupuncture, counselling, the list goes on...
12 Step meetings are the thing that have given me freedom from active addiction, Narcotics Anonymous in particular. Are meetings something you would consider?
If you don't feel ready just yet, that's ok...how about joining my facebook group. It's a group of recovering women who will be able to support and identify with you...why not give it a try?
Why did I start using?
My using story is a long, drawn out catalogue of pain and desperation. It didn’t begin like that though. My first drug was valium (diazepam), given to me by a doctor. I was 12, and had been taken there because, basically I was traumatised. I won’t go into the event that led me to being taken there, I’ll leave that for another time. This writing is to do with addiction.
What can be said is, yes I was traumatised, and yes I had no-one to talk about the traumatic event. It does puzzle me still though, why a doctor, a GP I was taken to see by my aunt, did not investigate into my condition and ask Why? The year was the 1981.
I didn’t go from there into a drug-crazed lunatic. In my late teens I experimented with thinners, solvents for a short period, everyone else at school was doing the same. I started smoking cigarettes and having the odd glass of larger. I got drunk a few times at parties but was too scared really to allow this to progress any further.
I started working at 16 in the graphics industry and started smoking cannabis and this became my love. I progressed to cocaine and speed at 18. I entered my first treatment centre for addiction and alcoholism at 20.
I didn’t plan on getting addicted to drugs. To become a ‘junkie’, with no hope of ever stopping, wasn’t in my line of vision. At first I liked the effect ‘soft’ drugs gave me but did progress onto ‘harder’ drugs, I now know , because of the nature of addiction.
It’s fair to say that drugs gave me a feel of power, and a sense of control over my life. I’d felt so powerless as a child growing up in such a violent household. Drugs stopped me thinking, drugs stopped me feeling. Very desirable traits for someone as traumatised as I was…I didn’t know I was traumatised, but I knew I was messed up. I was high functioning and intelligent, hence the good job. Although I was made redundant when I was in the treatment centre.
With no job and a ‘messed up head’, in order for me to use drugs again, I had to find ways and means. The ways and means involved petty crime and the exposure, introduction, and integration, into heavier circles of people, and harder drugs.
A Condition of the Mind
It can be controversial in some circles to state that addiction is an illness but an illness is exactly what it is. I think it’s dangerous to mess with this statement because addiction can and does kill, if left untreated. Addiction is a condition of the mind. The symptoms are obsession and compulsion.
Obsession, as it relates to addiction, is a craving. It’s the process by which you cannot stop thinking about your drug; how your going to get your next one; when you’re going to get it; by what means your going to get it; what if this happens; or that happens…and so on…
Obsession is like a thought-worm that you simply cannot get out of your mind. It yells at you to be satisfied. A thirst, relentless in the pursuit to be quenched.
It does not stop…
Thing is, once you give in to the obsession and attempt to satisfy the gnawing need by using your drug… in the hope that the obsession will subside… the complete opposite happens.
Trying to stop the obsession, to act out on, an addiction, by succumbing, triggers an allergic reaction. A physical compulsion, to continue using your drug begins, forcing you to use over and over again.
It’s a vicious cycle of mental obsession, physical compulsion, that just keeps repeating itself over and over. Some people just seem to have an abnormal reaction to drugs.
An attempt to solve a life problem
Gabor Mate MD, an amazing author and renowned speaker; explained addiction in a way that really made sense and resonated with me.
He said, that addiction is an attempt to solve a problem. Addiction is complex, and it can manifest in ~*any behaviour*~ that a person finds temporary relief, or pleasure from, and so craves for, but suffers negative consequences from.
Gabor stressed, that behaviours', and not just substances or alcohol can be put into the addiction category.
A person may be looking for; 'a relief from pain’, ‘to escape’, ’ relief from anxiety’…’loneliness’, or ‘to gain sense of control’, or, due to feeling a ‘lack of authority’, amongst others . The problem is emotional pain.
Addiction is a person's unhealthy way of attempting to deal with their emotional pain by using certain behaviours or by taking drugs or drinking alcohol.
The addictive behaviour provides inner peace - a sense of well-being.
The questions we need to be asking is, “Why the pain?’’…”where did it come from?”
The legal systems say it’s a choice, when it’s not. It’s an unconscious attempt to ease pain. You cannot punish addiction out of people or by making addicts criminals.
The medical model says it’s an inherited brain disease, and that it’s genetic.
…It’s an attempt to solve a human life problem.
Again you have to ask why? Why the pain
Also those who deem themselves as having ‘respectable addictions’ project their stuff onto junkies; “well I’m not as bad as that!”
Addiction begins in pain and ends in pain
Addiction originates in trauma. Trauma is suffered not because of what happened; the traumatic event … but as a result of not being able to talk about the traumatic event. Which remains unprocessed in the body and the mind.
You could say, that addiction is the result of unprocessed trauma.
I say, addiction it's probably a result of lots of things but most importantly; the thing to focus on;
is not where addiction comes from,
or why you’re addicted;
but what can be done about solving your problem, in a healthier way,
and how to effectively deal with your addiction.
Science and the Brain ...
natural chemicals we produce ourselves
I’m not going to get too technical here, I’ll leave that for another article. It is relevant to consider the brain when discussing addiction, alcoholism, obsession and compulsion, or just plain, simply, why, one person becomes addicted and can’t stop once they’ve started, and why another can take it or leave it.
With the progression of the sciences it’s been possible to scan the brain and test brain functioning. While there is no specific addiction centre in the brain, the systems that are central to human emotions; the key organisers and motivators, are the same systems connected with addiction. This connection would explain some of the reason for the incredibly powerful grip addiction has on a person.
Dopamine is the brain's natural 'feel-good’ chemical. Cocaine and other stimulants greatly increase the effects of dopamine to euphoric levels (at the very start of a persons using life). It’s been proven the users have a much lower the normal number of dopamine receptors in their brains to begin with those. This is due to stress early on in life, when the brain would have been developing most.
The vicious cycle goes as so...stress as a young child, resulting in a dopamine receptor deficiency…cocaine or other stimulant use, rush of dopamine, the ‘come-down’, depression due to lack of dopamine (plus the use of the stimulants has left the brain producing even lower levels of dopamine), craving for more drug use (brain needs dopamine) and so it goes on…
Then there's the brain's natural pain killers called the endorphins. The brain has an opioid system, this system is a set of powerful soothers of both emotional and physical pain. The endorphins are also regulators of the autonomic nervous system. This affects organs in the body, including the brain, the heart, and the intestines. They affect mood, sleep, blood pressure, and heart rate.
Endorphins also enable mother and infant bonding and could be called the love chemical. I’m really condensing this information right down here but if the mother/infant bonding is interrupted in any way and a secure connection isn’t made, then there is a deficiency of endorphins. A lack of the bodies natural opioid painkillers. This translates as a yearning, a longing, a soul sickness…ripe ground for plant based opioids, and heroin addiction
I know, it's a big leap to heroin addiction, but it’s not that big a leap when you consider that American is in the grip of the worst opioid crisis ever known.
Well, that's about it from me for now. I would love your views and thoughts about addiction and it would be great if you wanted to share some of your own experiences.
Why not leave a comment below...or connect with me over on Facebook.