Addiction Vs. Recovery
It is often said that no one sets out to become an addict. Most addictions begin innocently enough as a person tries something, enjoys the effects, and continues to use for recreational purpose. Or else a person is prescribed sleep or pain medication as a primary means for dealing with insomnia or chronic pain and then there is little oversight or additional therapies provided to manage the original underlying issue. The challenge with addiction is that it’s not obvious who will become an addict and who will not. It is a very real example of playing Russian Roulette with one’s life.
Another challenge of addiction is the often subtle and gradual development of the disease. It often takes years for the changes in the brain and the subsequent changes in behavior and physiology to occur, and at that point that the person becomes aware they have the addiction, they are already so entrenched in their disease it can seem impossible to stop. By the time most people or their loved ones realize there is a problem a person’s situation looks futile. As addiction sets in, people start isolating from loved ones, finding no pleasure or motivation in activities they once enjoyed. An addicted person finds it increasingly difficult to manage their day to day responsibilities, often not showing up when they’re supposed to for work, school, family and community. Shame and guilt become a daily reality, relieved only by more substance use. A person cannot experience pleasure, ease, or comfort without the substance. What once worked to relax, sleep, or have fun no longer works, or requires more and more to achieve the same effect, and a person often finds themselves doing things they would never imagine doing in order to maintain their drug or alcohol habit. Dignity and self-respect erodes. Physical health issues start to occur as the body is so inundated with the drug that it can no longer self regulate; withdrawals and DTs occur more frequently, sleep is severely disrupted, and a person is often physically sick, shaking, vomiting, irritable and emotionally explosive or depressed. Addiction crowds out the realization that there is any other way to live life, cope with responsibilities, stress, or problems, or even enjoy oneself naturally. Substance use becomes the only way to deal with anything, even and especially when that person wants to stop.
A common refrain of people in recovery is that they never could have imagined the life they are now living free from addiction. Substance addiction kills the imagination and a person is incapable of imagining what life could be like without drugs or alcohol. And if they do imagine a vision of themselves clean and sober, it’s often a such a small vision that the prospect of a sober life seems dull and dreary. There is typically an inherent ambivalence to making the decision to seek treatment and recovery. A person may realize they can’t keep living the life they’re living, but aren’t entirely certain they want to get clean and sober. That’s okay; that is the addicted brain, devoid of imagination, trying to maintain what’s familiar in how it’s learned to cope with life. Our mind and body are always trying to maintain homeostasis and therefore struggle against change. Because of this any major life change is always difficult. That’s why we have to take it one step at a time, one day at a time.
A life of recovery can be rich beyond the imagination. Learning to feel again, to take pleasure in simple activities, to wake up and feel healthy and rested in the morning. To be free of that constant, relentless mental obsession, allows the the mind and heart to relax and open up to the world around you. Human connections and relationships become important again, and a profound shift occurs in the person when the people around them start to trust them again. A person can take action and participate in activities that build a sense of dignity and self-respect rather than shame and self-hatred. The mind and body can heal, and the once-addicted person is capable of change.
With commitment to recovery, a person is finally able to live a life full of all the potential they are capable of, all the potential they could never imagine before. And don’t worry, you don’t have to enter treatment with this commitment already in place. As addiction is a gradual process, so is recovery. With time and persistence, and the recognition that you are human and will make mistakes and that’s okay, that’s how a person learns what works and what doesn’t work, the promises and the rewards of recovery will grow and deepen, and you will pursue it as passionately as you once pursued drugs and alcohol. Today, you can do something different.
The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) defines addiction as “a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry… [that] leads to biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. … inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, craving, diminished recognition of problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and dysfunctional emotional response. Like other chronic diseases, addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission.” Simply put, addiction is deadly, complicated, and heartbreaking. Like many other diseases, addiction results from a combination of behavioral, environmental, and biological factors. It is a progressive disease of the brain and body that involves the compulsive use of one or more substances despite negative consequences.
The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) defines addiction as “a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry… [that] leads to biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. … inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, craving, diminished recognition of problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and dysfunctional emotional response. Like other chronic diseases, addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission.”
Simply put, addiction is deadly, complicated, and heartbreaking.
Like many other diseases, addiction results from a combination of behavioral, environmental, and biological factors. It is a progressive disease of the brain and body that involves the compulsive use of one or more substances despite negative consequences.
Addiction does not stem from moral failing or lack of willpower. It is a physical and mental disorder that can be managed and treated. Addiction has physical, emotional, behavioral and spiritual consequences, and to be effective, treatment must address all of these components.
Addiction distorts the personality of its sufferers. It cuts the person off from their community, their loved ones and from themselves. It is a lonely and isolating disease. Physical symptoms may be painful but the emotional and spiritual sense of isolation and loss may be intolerable.
Addiction is an unusual disease in its devastating effects on those around the person directly suffering from it. Friendships, marriages and other relationships are destroyed. Families and loved ones may be exhausted, and often become ill themselves. The financial burdens both as a direct consequence of the disease and of trying to help can be devastating, as well.
Addiction kills, but that is only part of the story. According to the National Institutes of Health, children who have a parent with alcoholism or drug addiction are eight times more likely to experience a substance use disorder themselves (7).
[expand] The community costs of addiction are enormous. People struggling with addiction often lose employment, and are no longer positive contributors to society. Direct costs include DUI/DWI, crime, and inability to care for themselves or their children. Homelessness, illness, overdose and other crises require intervention from emergency services. Various studies demonstrate that alcohol and/or drugs often play a part in domestic violence (8). The burden of addiction on the judicial, corrections, health care and school systems is almost incalculable.
Recovery from addiction doesn’t only help the person directly suffering from the disease. Family and friends, local communities and our society as a whole experiences big, measurable benefits every time someone suffering from addiction finds recovery.[/expand][/dropshadowbox]
Recovery is not just abstinence from substance use. Recovery means reconnecting to community through work, school and other activities; improved interpersonal relationships; and addressing other physical and mental health issues. Recent studies have shown an 85% treatment success rate when multiple factors of an individual’s life and health are treated. This includes utilizing long-term, systems-based care such as counseling and education, individual and family therapy, screening and monitoring, peer support, and access to recovery communities (10).
At Turning Point, we help build the foundation you need to achieve successful recovery. We provide a variety of treatment services, specifically tailored to each individual and their needs and obstacles in seeking recovery.
From the beginning, we work with clients to connect them with the resources they may need during and after initial treatment. We offer inpatient and outpatient detox services, and rehabilitation tools including an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP); relapse prevention counseling, EMDR, individual and family/relationship counseling.
Addiction is a whole-person disease, and we include whole-person tools as part of our system of care. We offer progressive relaxation, meditation and other tools for increasing mindfulness and addressing stress. Wellness programs meet you where you’re at. Nutrition counseling, sober living, alumni groups, yoga, and other activities help build the tools and create the connections that support clients in early recovery and throughout their lives. We have medical staff to assist with mental health and chronic pain issues. Peer support staff walk through the process with each client, from your first phone call to regular check-ins after graduation.
If you think you or a loved one has a substance use issue, please call us. Addiction is a serious disease. Recovery is possible.
Following is a list of potential symptoms of substance use disorder or alcoholism. Checking yes to at least two of these indicates that a person may have a substance use disorder.
But it also indicates that you are not alone. Knowing the signs and symptoms gives you the information you need to seek recovery from a disease that millions also suffer from.
*A problematic pattern of substance use leading to significant impairment or distress within a 12-month period as manifested by at least two of the symptom list:
- Taking the substance in larger amounts or over a longer period than intended.
- A persistent desire for or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control.
- A great amount of time spent in obtaining, using or recovering from substance use.
- Craving for the substance.
- Recurrent use resulting in failure to meet major responsibilities – work, school, home.
- Continued use despite persistent/recurrent social and interpersonal problems caused by or exacerbated by use.
- Important social, occupational, recreational activities given up or reduced because of use.
- Recurrent use in situations where it’s physically hazardous.
- Continued use despite knowledge of having persistent and recurrent physical or psychological problems likely caused by use.
- A developed tolerance for the substance – a need for larger amounts to achieve desired effect or markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount.
- Experience of withdrawal – characterized by sweating or night sweats, increased heart rate, hand tremors, insomnia, nausea or vomiting, visual/tactile/or auditory hallucinations, psychomotor agitation, anxiety, or seizure.
A substance use disorder (SUD) is when continued use of the drug causes issues, such as health problems and failure to meet responsibilities at work, school, or home. An SUD can range from mild to severe, the most severe form being addiction.
References? See more [expand](0) American Society of Addiction Medicine. (2011) Definition of Addiction. Resources. Retrieved 11-1-18 from https://www.asam.org/quality-care/definition-of-addiction
(1) Center on Addiction (2017) Addiction as a Disease. Resources. Retrieved 12.7.18 from https://www.centeronaddiction.org/what-addiction/addiction-disease
(2) American Psychiatric Association (2013) Desk Reference To The Diagnostic Criteria from DSM-5. Pp 227-283.
(3) United States National Institute of Health. (2018) Drug Overdose Death Rates. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Retrieved on 11-1-18 from https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates
(4) United States National Institute of Health. (2018) Alcohol Facts and Statistics National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Retrieved on 11-1-18 from https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-facts-and-statistics
(5) New Mexico Department of Health, (2018) Complete Health Indicator Report of Drug Overdose Deaths. New Mexico’s Indicator Based Information System (NM-IBIS). Retrieved on 11-1-18 from https://ibis.health.state.nm.us/indicator/complete_profile/DrugOverdoseDth.html
(6) New Mexico Department of Health, (2018) Complete Health Indicator of Alcohol – Alcohol-Related Death. New Mexico’s Indicator Based Information System (NM-IBIS). Retrieved on 11-1-18 from https://ibis.health.state.nm.us/indicator/complete_profile/AlcoholRelatedDth.html
(7) Merikangas KR, Stolar M, Stevens DE, et al. (1998) Familial Transmission of Substance Use Disorders. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 55(11):973–979. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.55.11.973 Retrieved 11-1-18 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9819065
(8) Soper, R. G. (2014) Intimate Partner Violence and Co-Occurring Substance Abuse/Addiction. American Society of Addiction Medicine, Resources. Retrieved 11-2-18 from: https://www.asam.org/resources/publications/magazine/read/article/2014/10/06/intimate-partner-violence-and-co-occurring-substance-abuse-addiction
(9) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (n.d.) Impaired Driving: Get the Facts. Motor Vehicle Safety. Retrieved 11-1-18 from: https://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/impaired_driving/impaired-drv_factsheet.html
(10) Austin M Brown & Robert Bohler (2018): Achieving a 15% Relapse Rate: A Review of Collegiate Recovery and Physician Health Programs, Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly, DOI: 10.1080/07347324.2018.1424595