Trepidation in Addiction Recovery

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I must say that when I was invited to submit a blog addressing specific drug rehabilitation/drug addiction topics, my initial enthusiastic reaction was all to soon replaced with hesitation and apprehension as I contemplated the scope and breath of the assignment at hand. Now don’t get me wrong, although I have been immersed in the field as a staff member in an inpatient substance abuse treatment facility for over 14 years, and as an addict with a clean date of January 3, 1998, several factors immediately arose which caused said trepidation.

First, I had no idea what a “Blog” actually was let alone how to write one, and given the life and death subject matter with serious life and death consequences for ones actions, (or lack of actions), my initial reaction of pompous bravado when offered this opportunity was all to soon replaced with a meek cowardly fear and a “where do I start?” procrastination. My supervisor at my place of employment, 10 Acre Ranch, somehow  sensing this hesitation, gently reminded me that I was the one who had enthusiastically volunteered for this opportunity to put thoughts in writing, and, when  her empathetic but pure logical style of “well than what is the holdup” questioning was rebutted with my, “I’m nervous about it like I’m taking a college mid-term examination” response, that pure logic of, “You’re not being graded on it” counter response was all she needed to say.

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Okay, I can do this thing I thought to myself after researching the definition of a “blog” and what it entailed. It’s like a “conversation on a subject matter you are familiar with” I read, and Lord knows I am all too familiar with “addiction,” not only from a front line in the trenches day in and day out employee but from personal experience as well. What could go wrong I thought to myself, after all, you are only writing on the unbelievingly complex subject matter of addiction and drug treatment with its myriad of subgroups and etiologies, and equally unbelievingly complex life and death repercussions for the choices made.

Some Thoughts on Addiction Recovery & Treatment From My Life Experiences

That being said, I do have some thoughts on the matter of addiction and treatment gleaned from life experience and observation but would like to focus in this article on a single word, addiction, the dark underbelly of human nature…..Or is it?

Definition of addiction:

According to Merian-Webster, addiction is:

1a compulsive, chronic, physiological or psychological need for a habit-forming substance, behavior, or activity having harmful physical, psychological, or social effects and typically causing well-defined symptoms (such as anxiety, irritability, tremors, or nausea) upon withdrawal or abstinence.

Basically, what this definition tells me in its most basic sense is that any “behavior” or “activity” one does on a daily basis is bad, but what if it is done every other day, or once a week, is it still considered addictive? And what if this behavior or activity is considered socially acceptable, is it still addiction, or just a habit.

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The individual who goes jogging every day, feels like shit if they miss a day, and is “anxious” and “irritable” upon withdrawal or abstinence. Or, I have granddaughters who are absolulty glued to their cell phones everyday doing the whole social media thing, it appears they are addicted to their cell phones, are they included in this melting pot of addictive behavior and have the same “disease of addiction” which is now days the accepted explanation (nature vs nurture) for “why” someone does what they do. Oh, it’s not really his fault they might say, he has the “disease of addiction,” and therefore cannot be directly blamed for his actions, just like someone who say has the disease of diabetes. But the key difference here is that while the diabetic might have to take insulin every day for the rest of his life, the drug addict has no such benefit of a daily pill or injection to treat his disease of addiction.

This is where treatment comes in, possibly in the 12-step approach, which will be covered in next week’s blog. Suffice it to say that the drug addict if often left with no other alternative than to “white knuckle it” so to speak and suffer from the often dangerous, always painful withdrawal symptoms of their addictive disease. Just try and tell the heroin addict or alcoholic that everything will be okay and that they have nothing to worry about. Their best-case scenario would be to get knocked the f… out or sleep for five to six days then wake-up and feel, from a physical point of view, better. The mental struggle then begins, and there is no timeline on this beast. It can very well last for years, or even a lifetime, and has taken out more good people than I care to remember.

What is this beast called addiction?

I have seen firsthand over the years at least a dozen good, hardworking dedicated addicts in recovery do so well for over a year in treatment only to relapse within days of leaving the program. Given the progressive nature of the disease of addiction, coupled with an overriding sense of shame and guilt for relapsing again, they take their own lives. However, a close examination of the precipitating factors leading to relapse often follow a pattern, especially if the client has a dual-diagnosis. They go off their medications, stop going to meetings and/or calling their sponsor, and set aside adherence to any twelve step principles. However, although they might slacken with respect to doing the things which helped them obtain and maintain sobriety, the disease of addiction never rests. The beast is like a thief in the night just waiting for a crack in commitment to pounce on its unsuspecting prey. It could be something as benign as a fleeting thought, (a cold beer sure sounds good after working in the sun all day), and justification often overrides honest reflection or rationalization.

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In conclusion, the last thing I want to do is paint a picture of doom, failure, and hopelessness. Countless individuals have maintained sobriety in the face of overwhelming obstacles, and a great place to hear hope, pride and resolution is any 12-step meeting. But at the same time never underestimate the cunning and determination of our foe. Continual fortification of the disease with knowledge and education to combat it is the drug addict’s chemotherapy.

 

Thank you for allowing me to share

-Sarah Dowling MSW, CADC-III, CATC IV

 

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