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While it’s true that addicts do sometimes end up unemployed and homeless, this is far from an all-inclusive lifestyle. In fact, addiction affects men and women from all economic levels, walks of life, and demographics. Just ask Great Britain’s Prince Harry, news anchor Elizabeth Vargas, or talk show hostess Wendy Williams. There are actors such as Russel Brand, Robert Downey Jr. and Drew Barrymore. Famous authors are far from immune; take Earnest Hemingway, Edgar Allen Poe and Stephen King. Many addicts have families, are the primary breadwinners or could even be your bosses. Addiction preys on anyone, no matter their fame, wealth or success.
I’ve heard people say there’s no way they’re an addict because they only drink or use drugs on the weekends. When or how often you use doesn’t define whether or not you’re addicted. Instead, the American Society of Addiction Medicine defines addiction as a situation in which any of the following factors are present:
If an individual absolutely needs drugs or alcohol for any reason, even if it’s not on a frequent scale, it is safe to say that they are victim to an addiction.
The first drug or alcohol experience is a choice, but the ensuing consequences may be beyond their control. Often, the substance or behavior has the power to rewire the brain. The brain rewards us with pleasurable chemicals when we engage in life-sustaining activities such as eating, exercise and sex. Drugs and alcohol manipulate the brain’s pleasure center, tricking it into processing the addiction as a life-sustaining activity. Imagine the difficulty of kicking a “habit” that your brain is convinced you need to live.
Many religions exhort followers to abstain from alcohol and drugs. Addicts often go to extreme, illegal measures to obtain a fix. Does that make addicts morally wrong if they use or drink? This is a tricky topic, but I will say this; addiction is a disease of the brain, and morals are often powerless to that. The addiction is in control.
Up to 50 percent of addicts do experience co-occurring mental health disorders. They are not the sole cause of addiction, though. I certainly encourage addicts to seek the emotional help they need, but they must also take the fight to their addiction. Even if they are deeply entwined, addiction must be treated as a separate entity to be worked through alongside mental issues.
The National Institutes of Health agrees that genes can predispose people to addiction by more than 50 percent, but the addiction gene is a myth. Personal experiences and environments also play a role in addiction. This could have been exposure to substance abuse or addictive behavior in the family while growing up. Perhaps a colossal trauma or loss that rocked the very foundation of the addict’s life. The possibilities are as infinite as there are human emotions. We must focus on healing and recovery rather than pinning blame.
While I’ve witnessed many successful recoveries, it is vital to realize that merely willing the addiction away is impossible. The brain has the addiction confused for a survival mechanism. Addiction holds all of the cards and exerts a dictator’s grip. To break that control, addicts need social and professional support, tools for withdrawal relief, and plenty of encouragement. They need to build a lifestyle that welcomes happiness and health, a clean social network and goals. This takes time, patience and the will to pick yourself up after a fall, no matter how many times it happens!
I know plenty of recovering addicts who bought into this myth and thought, “I’m cured. I can drink one beer and be okay.” We all know how this turns out. Addiction never vanishes and will always lurk within you, even if it no longer has control. That is why it is essential to stay vigilant, healthy and mindful of relationships. Not only will this protect from relapse, it will enhance life in every way.
Addiction can certainly destroy a life. However, recovering addicts are often the strongest, most resilient people I know. They rise from the ashes and discover a quality of life beyond their wildest dreams. Addicts can commit to recovery, learn from their experiences and successfully contribute to society as hard-working, productive individuals with a bright future. Even more inspiring is just how willing and devoted they are to helping others do the same!
I know these nine hurtful and dangerous myths are only a few of many. However, education combats ignorance and allows people to view addicts in a different light. After all, addicts are people, too.
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So after reading a post on Harsh Reality from OM it got me thinking about Alcoholics Anonymous, 12 step programs and people having or not having success in dealing with addiction problems. People in the 12 step programs who have long term sobriety will often state that the success rate in the fellowship is 100% if you do what is suggested , now anyone who has actually attended meetings know that this is not true. I’m not sure what the real numbers are or the stats when talking about 12 step programs and their ability to keep people sober, but I have often asked myself and wondered what other people think about the idea of their being alternative ways to really fight addiction with long term success? Is there another way that really works?
Before I continue this posting, you should know this. If you don’t have an addiction problem or have never been truly addicted to anything , I DON’T CARE about your opinion on this matter. Now that said I have dealt with addiction in many forms and have attended meetings on and off since the age of 18 , and now being 43 y.o I can certainly say that I have personally seen people have great success following this 12 step model of recovery. I have also seen people that have had success and turned their life around not following this model, but the latter are few and far between and doesn’t mean that they don’t exist. I have not had much success when not following the 12 step model of recovery, but there was a time in my life not too long ago when I found a hobby and passion that I truly loved. That passion was motocross and working on motorcycles. Riding with my son and my best friend on a Sunday morning and as many days a week as I could really became a much needed factor in enjoying life and relieving stress.
Many people that I have seen outside 12 step fellowships that try to beat addiction often turn to health and exercise as a means to help with the everyday battle of fighting an addiction problem. Some people turn to church and “GOD” if you will and use religion as a ways and means to battle this problem. More often that not people that subscribe to the whole religion thing and don’t find other things to fill their life with fail miserably. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen that subscription cancelled. The religious method is very often cultural in many ways. African Americans and sometimes people of Latin decent often try it this way,but a lot of people that went to church in their youth tend to try and fall back to this as a means to deal with addiction. I do think that having a support group is really important because when dealing with an issue like this you have to able to talk to people that have been there.I can’t think of another sickness where having someone to talk to that has been there is as imperative as with addiction. Also breaking habits that you have built over the years of using / drinking is mandatory, so what do you now do with the time you have that used to be spent getting your alcohol or drugs? How do you now deal with the everyday stress in your life? When active in addiction all these things are dealt with by picking up. One of the little tricks I used to use when I had really tough cravings to drink is running and getting myself an ice cream sundae or ice cream cone of some kind, and more often than not, making sure it had chocolate in that equation. There all kinds of studies out there where chocolate touches some of the same receptors in the brain as opiates.
The bottom line question here is , Is there another formula for success out there other than 12 step programs and going back to church that have really worked? I think that finding a passion really helps. Exercise and meditation can’t possibly hurt your chances and finding alternative ways to deal with stress are all must have’s as far as I’m concerned. That whole Idea of (I’m sure you’ve seen the commercial) “I was an addict for 10 years, NOW I’M NOT” is such BULLSHIT . I can’t even get started on that brainwashing. I truly believe once you are an addict, if you aren’t careful you can always fall back into active addiction. So what is the formula you have seen work? can the 90 days really break any bad habit by doing something else?
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