What Addiction Brings With It

Addict brings tons of life changes, all of them lousy. We’re talking about health collapsing, relationships going into the toilet, stability spinning off into chaos…and the list goes on and on. If you’re reading this, you’re probably pretty familiar with some of those, but if not, read on. Addiction is a life-subtraction. It removes things from life. It removes the possibility of the positive. However, like all behaviors, it can be changed. It can be modified and extinguished. Recovery is nothing more than the ongoing process by which addiction and its accompanying behaviors and thoughts are perpetually rejected.

Sometimes, and I expect to be pilloried for writing this, addiction does have a semi-adaptive purpose. Addiction can be a buffer for people who face intolerable circumstances. Perhaps, it’s better to say, addictive behaviors can help people pull through hard times. Most people don’t become addicts for the sheer thrill of waking up behind a bar covered in vomit, or looking great on the outside but missing most of one’s personal life due to being intoxicated. Drinking and drugging starts from deeper reasons. Sometimes they’re what we call approach behaviors–cocaine makes us energized, so we work into the night, party into the early morning hours, and so forth. Others are avoidance behaviors, like opioid helps remove pain from many very severe body ailments. Whether you want it to or not, cocaine brings a high with it, an artificial elevation of mood. So do opioids. I’m using these two because one’s an “upper,” the other, a “downer,” even though those terms are pretty general and not that much in use any more.

People come to rely on drugs not just to achieve the main goal, which is not in and of itself bad—get more work done, get rid of horrible pain. No, the reliance, then habituation, then dependence comes from the alterations the drugs make to mood. What if your mood’s already “good and normal”?  Drugs alter your brain’s intricate biochemistry so that you cannot feel good without continuing to dose yourself! Addiction brings utter dependence on the very poison that’s killing you. It brings misery, and it brings confusion.

There’s a way out, of course.  When one gets into recovery, the brain returns to a more normal state. It takes a bit, but that neurological change does happen. As you recover, confusion gets replaced by clarity, dependence no longer rules your life. Note now that the results we see that endure are based on total abstinence from addictive substances. For those with chronic pain, that means getting a doctor trained in treating chronic pain issues with people in recovery.