Addiction is a mean disease

Terminal diseases are devastating by definition.  We all have to go, but diseases make us feel cheated – particularly when they arrive before someone has lived a “good, long life”.  My field placement has given me direct exposure to the particularly cruel disease of addiction.

Addiction tears apart your life in pieces.  It decreases your self-esteem.  It damages your relationships.  It ravages your mental and physical faculties.  And it does all of this in a gradual way.  It grinds away at your senses and capacities until you are a barely recognizable version of your former self.

What’s more, it’s one of the only diseases that is actively deceptive.  Addiction tries to convince you that you are fine.  Not only are you in control of the choice to have another drink, but if you have another drink, it won’t hurt you.  Not only will it not hurt you, but it will feel great, and then you can stop and move on with your life.

Even if you do screw up, the damage won’t be permanent – and you can probably hide it from anyone you care about.  Besides, life is hard.  Don’t you deserve this little break?

The thought cycles are cruel and they don’t stop until a person hits bottom.  Bottom is the point where one’s way of life has become intolerable – finally to themselves.  At this point they are ready to attempt treatment.  But addiction is not a disease that is treated quickly.  Most addicts need to attempt treatment many times before it is effective.

Then there are those who don’t hit bottom.  For them the disease is too strong even for the most devastating of consequences.  At that point, if they are still alive, the first step of treatment is to cultivate some reason for hope.  Devastating pain and loss is not enough to move a person to start treatment for this particularly cruel strand of the disease.

I’m not an addiction expert.  But I am speaking from experience I’ve witnessed and that has been shared with my by people in the midst of this disease.  As terrifying as this disease is, watching people overcome it is commensurately beautiful.  The right kinds of treatment can beat this disease.  It’s difficult, and one size does not fit all.  But some treatment components remain consistent regardless of the individual.

The Components:

One must be a willing participant in the treatment.

One must be able to experience a recurrence of the disease and be supported to continue treatment.

It helps a great deal to be supported by others afflicted with the disease, as well as those who are in recovery.

One must be committed to reprioritizing their lives and developing healthy habits to insulate themselves from recurrence.

One must continue to be in environments that are supportive of their recovery over the long term.

If these components are maintained, the individual has a very good chance (~80%) at beating this disease and remaining healthy in perpetuity.

It’s interesting how the components could apply to cancer, AIDS, and heart disease, as well as addiction.  For many reasons we do not perceive these diseases the same way.

Vaya con Dios, Brah,

Matt

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