Addiction Treatment Services: Is Addiction a Disease?
Many people in drug treatment centers ask "is addiction a disease?" yet have difficulty buying into the idea that it is, but there seem to be few detailed explanations of it for the general public. The following is an attempt to provide just that: certain chemicals in the brain are connected to pleasure. Theoretically, anything that intensifies these “feel-good” juices (alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex, shopping, eating, etc.) is subject to abuse or addiction. Abuse is any use that results in negative consequences, i.e., difficulty with relationships, work, health, etc. Addiction is a progressive illness that inhibits a person's ability to moderate or quit even in the face of these ongoing, harmful consequences.
Think of addiction as a brain disorder: the amygdyla, a pebble-sized structure in the midbrain, has the role of “Emergency Director." In crisis, it nudges logic over and takes the wheel when you must act quickly with little or no thought. After a period of over-indulging in something pleasurable, the amygdyla of someone genetically predisposed for addiction begins to normalize the level and frequency of that pleasure, eventually interpreting the absence of it as an emergency. The intellect knows it's a false alarm but the “survival” response compels the person to do whatever's necessary to use, often at great cost. Abuse can make life pretty ugly but without those nasty genes, an abuser generally has the ability to moderate or quit, as opposed to an addict, who, together with his/her own decision to recover, must have a special program of social support. Seeing addiction for what it is allows people to challenge any “weakness/immorality” concept they may have about it. The behaviors resulting from addiction may be subject to labeling, but the addiction itself is a disease. Of course, anyone with any illness ultimately has the responsibility to get the proper treatment.
Struggling with the emotional chaos of drug addiction.
For every person struggling with addiction, there are several struggling with the emotional chaos rippling from it. The latter's core dilemma in coping with the addict's behavior is whether to try to ignore and/or tolerate it or to try changing it. Most go through cycles of both: when sweeping it under the rug doesn't work, they try pleading, fighting, manipulating, etc. Mmmm, gotta be a better way…
People grow and learn by facing the pain of their own unhealthy choices.
It's tough to watch them face this pain and likely accuse us of betrayal, but there is a limit to healthy tolerance and loyalty. Tolerating and/or rescuing robs them of any motivation to choose growth and recovery and causes you, meantime, to abandon your own needs.
Trying to control what's beyond your control, generally leads to greater chaos.
Let go! Instead of focusing on someone else's behavior, focus on your response to it. It's a move toward sanity that can work as a gift to each of you. When a loved one's behavior creates a need for distance, then we must learn to love them from a distance. This doesn't betray them, it betrays their behavior. Express your concerns clearly, then put the ball in their court; either they get help, or they deal with a drastically redefined relationship with you.
If you or a loved one is seeking addiction treatment services, Pine Grove's alcohol and drug treatment center can help.