Addiction is now being seen as an illness. In a way, this is a large step forward in the mental health community. What it does is turn the addiction on its head and communicate that it is something that anyone can acquire — like cancer, diabetes, or depression. Up until this change, addiction was seen as the fault of the addict, as though they brought it on or asked for it. It’s the addict who is at fault because they continuously chose to use and abuse drugs and/or alcohol.
However, what most people don’t understand about addiction is that there is always an experience of powerlessness. Sure, someone might have started to drink occasionally, but for whatever reason, the occasional drink turned into an experience of having no control over the amount of drinking that takes place.
Nonetheless, whether you see the addiction as an illness or purely the result of an individual’s choices, perhaps there is some middle ground – because in a way both are true. To tell the truth, if we make addiction an entirely blameless disease then an addict may take any responsibility. He or she may not do the work to change who they are. They may not do the work to investigate their inner patterns and make the necessary inner changes. They may never register themselves at a halfway house despite the hell they’re living.
It is, in fact, a hellish experience to be in addiction. There’s likely not only an addiction, but perhaps depression, anxiety, and anger stirring inside. The pot of emotions that are brewing and festering can make life incredibly difficult. When you finally make it to a halfway house or other treatment facility, you’ll likely have the opportunity to look within. You’ll likely have the opportunity to explore what’s happening on the inside.
You might have heard the saying that depression is anger turned inward. If you have any association with the mental health field, you’ve likely not only heard this expression, you’ve probably noticed this pattern in others. However, if you’re a recovering addict, knowing this could be quite useful. If you’re living at a halfway house now, as you’re reading this, recognizing the relationship between anger and addiction might facilitate recovery.
In fact, there’s more than just a relationship between addiction and anger; there’s often depression in this equation too. You see, an individual who is depressed is likely carrying large amounts of anger.
Research indicates that about 30% of those with addictions also suffer from depression. Depending on a the circumstances, such as the trauma endured, the family dynamics, and the way emotional and psychological stress was handled in the family, anger has been turned off and unexpressed to some degree.
The anger or any other intense emotions that are not experienced and held within can turn into anxiety. It can escalate and brew within, turning into panic attacks or other mental illnesses, such as Attention Deficit Disorder or heightened paranoia. In this way, anger, anxiety, depression, and other forms of mental illness are all related.
Drinking numbs people from feelings, but sadly, it only keeps them in a dysfunctional cycle. There’s a strong, often unconscious need to be free of those feelings, but drinking only pushes them away and adds to their power. In fact, addiction is a cycle of self-harm, where those feelings are kept at bay, and doing so perpetuates the festering of those feelings, which in turn strengthens the need for drinking.
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