Written By: Fiona Stockard
Firsthand Addiction: What Addiction is Really Like
The term addiction is tossed around loosely and frequently now-a-days. “I’m addicted to buying shoes,” or “I’m addicted to diet soda,” or “I’m, like, so addicted to being in the club right now!” We hear this stuff everyday. Have we forgotten what addiction really is?
Let’s find out what addiction looks like as we explore it from one addict’s perspective.
What is Addiction, Anyway?
Addiction is when someone has a physical allergy to substances, mixed with a mental obsession about those substances, both of which are driven by a spiritual malady. That’s a very twelve-step way of looking at it, but it’s also the only way that’s ever made sense to me.
So, what’s this physical allergy all about? I think of it like having any other allergy. If a bee stings me, the area around the sting gets all puffy and gross. If I use drugs, my body processes them differently, and demands more. My body gets all puffy and gross, metaphorically and literally!
In active addiction, the only way I could stop this physical allergy was to be removed from the drugs. I had to be arrested, or in rehab, or locked in a room without a key. Otherwise, I was going to find a way to use. In sobriety, stopping the allergy is as simple as not picking up a drink or drug.
The mental obsession is exactly what it sounds like. When the thought of using pops into my head, it won’t leave until I use. If you’re not an addict, this is probably the hardest part to understand. Why not just think about something else? Why not see a shrink? It doesn’t work like that for addicts. I don’t know why, it just doesn’t.
Stopping the mental obsession is simple, but not easy! Basically, addicts need to experience an “emotional rearrangement” if they want to get better. Our core values and guiding principals need to be swapped out for new ones. The only way I know to accomplish this is through building a relationship with God. Remember, simple but not easy!
The spiritual malady sounds much harder to understand than it is. Really, it means all the crap that made me use in the first place. Things like low self-esteem, insecurity, anger, resentment, and self-pity. Once these are dealt with, the spiritual malady goes away.
The best way to remove these things is through God. While therapy helps tremendously, it isn’t a replacement for getting in touch with a higher power. Again, I don’t know why this is, it just is.
How Can I Tell if I’m an Addict?
Addiction boils down to two things, control and choice. Sounds too simple, right? Diagnosing addiction based on just two criteria? There are doctors who charge thousands of dollars to determine if you’re “really” an addict. Just ask yourself the following two questions:
• When I use drugs, can I choose when to stop?
• For that matter, can I choose when to start using, or does it just sort of happen?
If you answered no to one question, you may have a problem. If you answered no to both, you’re probably an addict.
It’s important for me to make clear – I’m not a doctor! All my advice is based on my own experience with addiction and recovery. Everything I know, I learned through treatment and twelve-step fellowships.
What I’m trying to say is – don’t be an idiot. Get a second opinion. If you’re dealing with cancer, you’d get a second opinion. Treat addiction just as seriously as cancer. Trust me, it is.
I’m an Addict…What Can I Do?
There are a ton of options available for treating addiction. We’re lucky ‘cause this wasn’t always the case. Treatment options include:
• One-on-One Addiction Therapy
• Intensive Outpatient Treatment
• Outpatient Treatment
• Inpatient Treatment
• Twelve-Step Fellowships (AA, NA, CA, etc.)
• Self-Help Groups (SMART Recovery, Rational Recovery, etc.)
What do these treatment options mean for the still sick and suffering addict? Simply put, they mean get off your ass and start getting better! A ton of options are available, don’t be lazy. There’s no better day than today to change your life!