In a sense, addiction can be considered a disease, and according to some experts, it’s best described as a chronic brain disease. What most people might consider a character flaw, or something fixed through simple willpower is more aptly characterized as a mental disorder requiring specialized treatment.
This is important because it gets to the heart of why every addiction ends in tragedy. Addiction isn’t a choice, and it’s not something you can control. It always only goes in one direction, like any disease does, and to stop it, you need help.
The first mistake people make when they begin to realize that their drug use is getting out of hand is that they think they may be able to turn things back around. They make excuses for themselves, perhaps without even meaning to, thinking ahead to an opportune time to make a change while not realizing how far they’ve already fallen. Step by step, addiction takes control of your life. To be more accurate, it changes the way you make choices, robbing you of the ability to think critically about them. Your capacity to think becomes diminished, and your choices follow the same path. And then, it spreads and affects those around you.
Some make another mistake, of assuming that their choices are ultimately only their responsibility. Part of it is cultural – here in the United States, we’re often taught that personal responsibility is the ultimate virtue, and if you don’t look after yourself, then everything that happens can ultimately be traced back to you and your actions. In summary, what happens to you, happens because of you.
More often than not, life is at least partially determined by factors we can’t control. More often than not, we make mistakes at crucial times, because of the pressure of the moment. More often than not, a human being lives a life filled with a few moments of regret, and mistakes we struggle with forever.
That’s where it’s important to strike a balance between personal and social responsibility. It’s what community is for. That’s what friends are for. That’s what family is for. The biggest mistake many make when they first struggle with addiction is not getting help from others or seeking out treatment. We need to rely on each other to live better lives, and it’s only through trust and compassion that we can solve some of the bigger issues in the lives of our families. Otherwise, addiction can consume not only an individual, but an entire household.
Losing Their Trust
It happens slowly, at first. Yet over time, addiction begins to erode your personality, your reputation, and your reliability. We are ultimately only as good as our word, and if what we say cannot be trusted, people lose all faith in us. It might start as a way to let loose or blow off some steam, but over time, drug use can become compulsive, taking over everything else and putting it in its shadow.
That’s when people begin to stop trusting you. And that’s how it begins. Once the trust is gone, the relationships start to falter.
Did you know that rejection is one of the few forms of emotional pain that are treated by the brain in the same way as physical pain? We fear rejection on such a primal level that our bodies react to it as though it was physical – it actually hurts, like a real gut punch. But it doesn’t just apply to being rejected emotionally. It applies to all forms of social rejection, especially those on a romantic or familial level. The more important the bond, the more it hurts.
It makes sense, then, that addiction immediately leads someone down a spiraling path of mental anguish and depression. While it starts with your friends and family losing faith in you, that feeling can quickly become overwhelmingly painful. And it’s at that most vulnerable time that drugs become the most attractive. When it all just hurts too much, that’s when you need it the most.
Negativity and Stress
This spiral affects your thinking, your behavior, your actions, your words. And that, in turn, affects those around you, taking away their happiness at times and leaving them fearful, or angry. A household mired in addiction becomes tense and aggressive, and dangerous. Conversations devolve into fights, and your pain needs to be shared. It is spread around, eroding relationships even further, and destroying your family.
In a way, it isn’t your fault – but while addiction is not something anyone chooses, you do need to choose to get better. You do need to choose to accept the disease and accept the treatment. You do need to choose the hard path of getting sober again.
Isolation and Loneliness
The final and most dangerous effect of addiction is that it ultimately robs you of everything and everyone that you love. If you’re lucky, some might stay with you – but if you don’t accept their help or make an effort to change, or if they decide they can’t stand by you, then lastly, addiction leaves you alone.
Loneliness is a very dangerous thing, and it’s much more insidious than we might think at first. No one truly wants to be lonely. Even the shyest person seeks human contact, either through a select few friends, or a loved one. We need to be able to talk, touch, and be with others in order to thrive emotionally and mentally. Left alone, we wither quickly. The effects of loneliness are emotionally devastating and leave many in a deep depression, anxious of ever returning into a sober life, scared that they would simply repeat the cycle, hurt their friends, and go through the same pain all over again.
The deeper an addiction goes, the harder it is to cure, because the stress compounds and creates deep wounds that take years to fully heal. Depressive thoughts and irrational anxieties overwhelm every sensical thought, and the only impulse is to seek out a quick pleasure to drown out the overwhelming pain. It paints a vivid picture to imagine someone in a cold and empty room, all human contact lacking any form of sincerity, or that level of love and comfort that every person needs to survive.
But no matter how bad things get, they never have to stay that way. There is always a way towards something better, a healthier life, a happier future, a time when you can heal and be with the ones you love, mend broken bonds, and forge completely new ones. All you have to do is start the healing process, and never give up.