This is the first post I’ve made here in a while, but that doesn’t mean nothing has been happening with this effort. I have re-structured the contents of Powerless No Longer to reflect a more accurate model of how we actually recover, and the new Table of Contents can be found on the tab above. I’ve written a lot of new material, and edited much of the older stuff. I will be introducing the new material slowly, and replacing some of the older stuff with the current versions. Please check-out the new contents, and let me know what you think. The excerpt below is from the revised Chapter One.
Why we deny
We addicts are no different from anyone else; we’ve just learned to see the world from a distorted perspective. In a very real sense, we have learned to be addicts. Although genetics do play a role, we weren’t born with our addictions, nor did we acquire them due to some moral flaw or shortcoming. Addiction is a complex bio/psycho/social disorder with many different causes. There are degrees of addiction; it’s not an on-or-off condition. Many of the chemical changes the process of addiction makes to the brain are irreversible, and it can become so severe that the only help available to the addict are programs that feature harm reduction, such as methadone or needle exchange.
The good news is that the overwhelming majority of us overcome our addictions on our own without treatment centers, formal programs, pills, or patches. Most of us are capable of learning new skills to cope with the stresses in life that helped drive many of us to dependency in the first place.
We became addicts by using certain substances in sufficient quantities, for long-enough periods of time to bring about changes in our brains, affecting both our physiology and our perceptions of reality. At first we use because we receive positive feedback — it makes us feel good — like one of the gang. We use it to feel better about ourselves, and make that not quite good enough feeling disappear — at least for a while. As social drug users, we feel as though we finally have a handle on life. Using helps us deal with the stresses we face, especially when interacting with others. For some of us, it makes us feel we could walk through walls; for others, it seems to add that layer of insulation that was somehow omitted when we passed through the assembly line.
We hardly notice that after a while it takes more and more of the substance to reach the level where we’re comfortable with the world around us. We may be using more, but we are still able to choose whether to have a glass of wine or help a child with their homework; we are able to stop after the proverbial “one or two,” if we have an important meeting at work the next day, or have to drive our family somewhere for an outing. We may occasionally binge, as our drug-seeking habits become more ingrained, but we are still making socially-appropriate, conscious choices.
If we continue on this path long enough, we ultimately lose the ability to make conscious choices about the amounts we use. Even after a period of abstinence, various environmental cues or stressors trigger drug use almost automatically, hijacking our basic survival instincts, and triggering responses we seem to have little control over. Social concerns have little meaning, no matter how pressing they may seem. We have learned that we must have the drug, no matter what the cost, even to those we hold dear, because we believe that our basic survival is at stake. Family, job, possessions, and even personal safety are unimportant now. The drug is all that matters.
Sounds pretty hopeless, doesn’t it? If it were truly hopeless, then the addicts we will learn about later wouldn’t have been able to overcome their problem on their own, and believe me, I wouldn’t have survived long enough to write this. Fortunately, not all of us experience all of the horrors in the paragraph above before something, some set of circumstances, causes us to focus on and question our drug use. I never made it to the street, and you don’t have to either.
Pete is an author, blogger, and podcaster who makes his home in Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico. His primary interest is in helping others recover from self-defeating behaviors.