Don’t use the disease as an excuse. Find Balance

Posted: September 10, 2013 in Addiction/Recovery, Psychology
Tags: , , , , , , ,

I am a firm believer that addiction is a disease, scientific, and medical evidence shows this to be true, and a lot of people gives this as an excuse to start using again.  We all heard this before, “I am powerless over my addiction” “I have to give my sobriety over to a higher power” etc.

Doesn’t this set you up for failure from the beginning? Hey I am powerless over my addiction, so therefore if I use it isn’t so bad, because my addiction controls me. What about trusting in a higher power to guide you through the craving, and the craving doesn’t go away? What now? I for one will get angry, and emotional therefore setting me up for a relapse, because I won’t be thinking rationally anymore, I will be acting on impulse.

While we are addicted to substance, our ability to choose is compromised. We are incapable to make the right choices, the level of thought processing in our brains doesn’t function correctly, and as I explained before the drug becomes the most important thing in our lives. It becomes all what we live for, all that we think about.

As my journey in recovery continues, I have come to realization that addiction isn’t a terminal lifelong disease. It is curable. It transcends from a disease of the mind, born out of choice, back to choice.  Why should I tell myself that I am addict, if I am clean, and not addicted anymore?  I am back in control of my thought processes, and I can make the right choices, knowing the implications, and consequences that would follow if I decide to use again. How can that be attributed to a disease? That sounds to me like a behavioural decision, does it not?

If craving is a symptom of the disease, and I choose not to act on the craving, doesn’t the craving go away? Yes it does? I made a choice right? No the diabetic can’t make a choice for their symptoms to go away, they have to be medicated to relieve the symptoms.  If the addict medicates himself because of a craving, that is called relapse, is it not?  There are medications that reduce cravings, and should be taken, but they aren’t available for all types of substances, and what about gambling, sex, and other behavioural addictions? They crave as much as substance dependent addicts. The need to make a choice to change, to overcome, and resist a craving.

Recovery for me so far has been a sequence of trial, and error. I know that I haven’t got all the answers. I know that recovery is different from one person to the next. The one thing I know is this: I am in control of my own actions, and choices.  Me, and only me can choose whether I want to act on an impulse, or a craving.

I have the freedom to choose. I am not powerless over the substance anymore, and I don’t have to relinquish my control over to a higher power. I will not brand myself as an addict anymore, someone with an incurable disease. Remember you are what think you are. If you think of yourself as an addict for the rest of your life, that’s exactly what you will be. If you believe that you aren’t in control of your own life, then you will never be.

Addiction changes the way we think, it creates neuro pathways, reinforced by repetition. Humans are creatures of habit. If we find that something works, or we enjoy it, we do it again, and again. Change for us is difficult, because by nature we are scared of the unknown. It’s a normal human reaction, which forms an integral part of us, which has insured our species survival.

The difference between normal habits, and addiction is that, addiction creates a much stronger, and much deeper neuro pathway, which in turn is very difficult to undo. The biggest step is the will to change.  Then you have to teach your mind, by repetition other ways to cope with stress, emotions etc. When you can control your thought processes, and think rationally, and logically, then you won’t relapse, will you? Does this mean you can have one drink? No. Does this mean you can still go out with your old friends that used with you? No.  Any mind altering substance, it doesn’t matter if it’s not your drug of choice, will interrupt your thought process, and will cause you to lose control.

The same with old friends. What was your connection in the past? The substance. Will that change. No. Your mind will associate them with the substance for the rest of your life. Do you really want to place yourself in a situation where your mind, starts to think about the substance (this can happen sub-consciously), only by association, and then its thoughts are being reinforced by suggestions, and repetition?  You will relapse. It doesn’t matter who you are. 

Doesn’t this proof then that addiction is a terminal disease then? Doesn’t this show that you are powerless over addiction?  No. When you end up in a situation like that, it’s your own fault. You knew that by going back to old friends, and places will reinforce your old habits again. Whose fault is it then that you used? The disease? God? No. Want to take a guess? YOU! Your choice.

So my point is this. Most of us chose to use drugs, we didn’t choose to become addicted, we chose to get stop using, and/or get help.  When we relapse, we choose to use again.  Cravings can be intense yes, but the choice will always be ours to act out on them. While were addicted, we have a disease. After that we have choice.

To argue that addiction is a lifelong disease, is like telling someone that they don’t have free will, and by taking away free will, we take away one of the main things that make us human. What is the main argument in addiction? It’s the choice vs. disease argument. Both sides have strong valid arguments. How I see addiction is that’s it’s a mixture of choice, and disease. The addict must be treated like any other patient. Like I said before, he may have chosen to use drugs, but he didn’t chose to get addicted.

Denying an addict professional medical treatment is inhumane. He made a wrong choice. Show me anyone that hasn’t. When someone gets injured while doing mountain biking, or snowboarding, they get treatment. When others sleep around, and get an STD they get treatment. Why not addicts? The choice argument has caused countless addicts trying to get help great suffering, because addiction was seen only as a behaviour disorder.

The disease argument in turn, while giving us the benefits of medical care, has made addicts believe that their disease is permanent. That in turn degrades us, and give us something else to blame when we relapse.

There has to be a balance. We need to take responsibility for our own lives, our choices, our minds.

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