DONT BE ALONE ANY LONGER REACH OUT FOR HELP WE ARE IN THIS TOGETHER. WE DO RECOVER !!!!
Addiction As Lack of Willpower
Drug or alcohol addiction is a primary, chronic disease that is defined as the repeated use of substances that alters brain reward, motivation, memory and related functions. Significant biological, psychological, social and spiritual changes occur through substance addiction which can make a person pursue reward in substances rather than other behaviors, activities or relationships. An addiction is characterized by an impairment in behavioral control, craving, inability to abstain and diminished recognition of problems associated with their addiction. Like other diseases, addictions are characterized by cycles of relapse and remission. Without treatment, an addiction will progress and can result in disability, secondary diseases or premature death.
Willpower is defined as the self discipline or self control of an individual. It is the ability to resist temptation, not be influenced by other people. Willpower is the inner strength and resolve that a person has. Willpower is often defined as the strength of character which may be related to an individuals ability to commit to certain causes or lifestyle choices and their resolve to resist harmful or lazy things. It can be strengthened through personal development, skill training and testing. Through this strengthening, individuals can gain the ability to overcome adversities, resist drugs, alcohol and even have a better lifestyle.
Substance Abuse and Addiction
An addiction is the result of repeated and intentional use of a substance. Substance abusers use drugs or alcohol for any number of reasons including from wanting a new experience, peer pressure, for fun or for more serious reasons such as way to overcome significant personal issues. In some cases a person may not be aware that they are addicted to a substance until it is too late, such as in the case of using a prescription medicine or over the counter drug.
When using a drug or drinking alcohol for the first time, an individual does not seek out the opportunity to become an addict. They take the drug to feel different, to relax or to become energised. But as a person uses the drug more frequently and in higher doses, the tolerance to the effects of the drug increases and a dependence establishes in the body. Dependence on a drug is known to change how brain processing occurs. Psychoactive substances alter the chemical connections in the body and change behavior and emotional responses. A person finds themselves thinking, feeling and behaving differently as they use the substance more often and in higher doses. As an addiction develops, the drug takes over their body and they desire, crave and need the substance to exist.
Addiction as a Choice
Addiction as a disease of the brain and body is a long and established position in the medical field. However there are an increasing number of researchers and critics, including author’s Jeffrey Schaler and Gene Heyman who have an opposing view. Studies and research performed by these authors and others, has highlighted the idea of choice in relation to taking a drug and making the decision to stop using a drug. Environment, willpower and genetics are considered factors that support a persons choice to use or not use, but they reject the theory of addiction as a disease and suggest that addiction is the voluntary choice of the individual.
Researchers who support the addiction-is-a-choice model place full responsibility for an addiction in the hands of the addict. By using the model of disease to explain addiction, they insist that a substance abuser is given the opportunity to blame others for their addiction. Addicts are allowed to continue to use drugs and alcohol, fail to meet obligations and have their behavior excused. Organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous come under fire for allowing addicts to excuse what they do and not face up to their personal failings and weaknesses.
Willpower to Overcome an Addiction
Critics aside, it is a recognized medical position that a lack of willpower is not the cause of an addiction. Years of studies by government organizations like the NIAAA, private researchers and medical doctors have shown that a problem with drugs and alcohol can occur in response to a traumatic experience, genetic predisposition, mental illness or environmental or social factors. A person may have poor levels of self esteem, self worth and lack the ability to resist, but this is not the only reason for an addiction developing.
Willpower alone will not drive a person to overcome an addiction. Interventions, cognitive behavioral therapy , medical treatment, motivational enhancement therapy and family support are some of the known treatments for addiction. Resolve and commitment to give up a lifestyle of drugs and alcohol is required but it will not alone help a chronically addicted individual. An addict needs support from family, friends, employers, skill development to help them to be able to know how to deal with triggers, education and also in some cases medical treatment. They need to deal with the major emotional or traumatic events that may have contributed to their addictive lifestyle in healthier ways. It is not simply a matter of giving up when they want to or snapping out of the addiction.
The challenge of a clean and sober life is a difficult one for all addicts. Taking steps to initially change their life from one that included drugs or alcohol is just one aspect of a life in recovery. Long term sobriety requires a person to be committed, recognize triggers and seek help when temptation is around. They need to use newly developed skills to avoid high risk situations, engage with people who are not substance abusers, deal with boredom and overcome emotional or traumatic experiences. An addict must also recognize that relapse is part of the road to recovery and to take steps to prevent it if possible.
Up to 60 percent of drug addicts will experience at least one relapse during their road to recovery. Because drugs and alcohol alter the body chemistry and pleasure reward pathways in the brain, unlearning these behaviors can be a long process. In some cases, such as with cocaine, the substance can remain in the body for a long time causing people to have cravings for the drug for many years. Addiction is not just the physical dependence on a substance but the psychological dependence also and both need to be treated.
The last time I thought about taking heroin was yesterday. I had received ‘an inconvenient truth’ from a beautiful woman. It wasn’t about climate change (I’m not that ecologically switched on). She told me she was pregnant and it wasn’t mine.
I had to take immediate action. I put Morrissey on in my car and as I wound my way through the neurotic Hollywood hills my misery burgeoned. Soon I could no longer see where I ended and the pain began. So now I had a choice.
I cannot accurately convey to you the efficiency of heroin in neutralising pain. It transforms a tight white fist into a gentle brown wave, and from my first inhalation 15 years ago it fumigated my private hell. A bathroom floor in Hackney embraced me like a womb, and now whenever I am dislodged from comfort my focus falls there.
It is ten years since I used drugs or drank alcohol and my life has immeasurably improved. I have a job, a house, a cat, good friendships and generally a bright outlook.
But the price of this is constant vigilance, because the disease of addiction is not rational. Recently, for the purposes of a documentary on this subject, I reviewed some footage of myself smoking heroin. I sit wasted and slumped with an unacceptable haircut against a wall in another Hackney flat (Hackney is starting to seem like part of the problem), inhaling fizzy black snakes of smack off a scrap of crumpled foil. When I saw the tape a month or so ago, what was surprising was that my reaction was not one of gratitude for the positive changes I’ve experienced. Instead I felt envious of this earlier version of myself, unencumbered by the burden of abstinence. I sat in a suite at the Savoy hotel, in privilege, resenting the woeful ratbag I once was who, for all his problems, had drugs.
That is obviously irrational, but the mentality and behaviour of drug addicts and alcoholics is wholly irrational until you understand that they are completely powerless over their addiction and, unless they have structured help, they have no hope.
This is the reason I have started a fund within Comic Relief, ‘Give It Up’. I want to raise awareness of, and money for, abstinence-based recovery. It was Kevin Cahill’s idea — he is the bloke who runs Comic Relief. He called me after reading an article I wrote after Amy Winehouse died. Her death had a powerful impact on me, I suppose because it was such an obvious shock, like watching someone for hours through a telescope advance towards you, fist extended with the intention of punching you in the face. Even though I saw it coming, it still hurt when it eventually hit me.
What was so painful about Amy’s death is that I know that there is something I could have done. I could have passed on to her the solution that was freely given to me. Don’t pick up a drink or drug, one day at a time. It sounds so simple, it actually is simple, but it isn’t easy — it requires incredible support and fastidious structuring. Not to mention that the whole infrastructure of abstinence-based recovery is shrouded in necessary secrecy. There are support fellowships that are easy to find and open to anyone who needs them, but they eschew promotion of any kind in order to preserve the purity of their purpose, which is for people with alcoholism and addiction to help one another stay clean and sober.
Without these fellowships I would take drugs. Because even now the condition persists. Drugs and alcohol are not my problem — reality is my problem. Drugs and alcohol are my solution.
If this seems odd to you, it is because you are not an alcoholic or a drug addict. You are likely one of the 90 per cent of people who can drink and use drugs safely. I have friends who can smoke weed, swill gin, even do crack, and then merrily get on with their lives. For me this is not an option. I will relinquish all else to ride that buzz to oblivion. Even if it began as a timid glass of chardonnay on a ponce’s yacht, it would end with me necking the bottle, swimming to shore and sprinting to Bethnal Green in search of a crack house.
I looked to drugs and booze to fill up a hole in me. Unchecked, the call of the wild is too strong. I still survey streets for signs of the subterranean escapes that used to provide my sanctuary. I still eye the shuffling subclass of junkies and dealers, invisibly gliding between doorways through the gutters. I see the abundantly wealthy with destitution in their stare. I have a friend so beautiful, so haunted by talent that you can barely look away from her, whose smile is such a treasure that I have often squandered my sanity for a moment in its glow. Her story is so galling that no one would condemn her for her dependency on illegal anaesthesia, but now, even though her life is trying to turn around despite her, even though she has genuine opportunities for a new start, the gutter will not release its prey. The gutter is within.
It is frustrating to love someone with this disease. A friend of mine’s brother cannot stop drinking. He gets a few months of sobriety and his family bask, relieved, in the joy of their returned loved one. His life gathers momentum, but then he somehow forgets the price of this freedom, returns to his old way of thinking, picks up a drink and Mr Hyde is back in the saddle. Once more his face is gaunt and hopeless. His family blame themselves and wonder what they could have done differently, racking their minds for a perfect sentiment wrapped up in the perfect sentence, a magic bullet. The fact is, though, that the sufferer must be a willing participant in their own recovery. They must not pick up a drink or drug. Just don’t pick it up — that’s all.
It is difficult to feel sympathy for these people. Can there be any other disease that renders its victims so unappealing? Would Great Ormond Street be so attractive a cause if its beds were riddled with obnoxious little criminals who had ‘brought it on themselves’?
Peter Hitchens is a vocal adversary of mine on this matter. He sees this condition as a matter of choice and the culprits as criminals who should go to prison. I know how he feels. I bet I have to deal with a lot more drug addicts than he does, let’s face it, I share my brain with one, and I can tell you first-hand they are total nightmares. Where I differ from Peter is in my belief that if we regard alcoholics and drug addicts not as bad people but as sick people, then we can help them to get better. By we, I mean other people who have the same problem but have found a way to live drug- and alcohol-free lives. Guided by principles and traditions, a programme has been founded that has worked miracles in millions of lives. Not just the alcoholics and addicts themselves, but their families, their friends and of course society as a whole.
What we want to do with Give It Up is popularise a compassionate perception of drunks and addicts and provide funding for places at treatment centres where they can get clean using these principles. Then, once they are free of drugs and alcohol, to make sure they retain contact with the support that is available to keep them clean.
I wound down the hill in an alien land; Morrissey chanted lonely mantras. The pain accumulated and I began to tell myself the old, old story. I thought of places I could score. Off Santa Monica, there’s a homeless man who I know uses gear. I could find him, buy him a bag if he takes me to score.
In my mind, I leave him on the corner, a couple of rocks, a couple of $20 bags pressed into my sweaty palm. I get home, pull out the foil, neatly torn. I break the bottom off a Martell miniature. I make a pipe for the rocks with the bottle, lay a strip of foil on the counter to chase the brown, pause to reflect and regret that I don’t know how to fix, only smoke, feeling inferior even in the manner of my using. I see the foil scorch. I hear the crackle from which crack gets its name. I feel the plastic fog hit the back of my yawning throat. Eyes up. Back relaxes. The bottle drops and the greedy bliss eats my pain. There is no girl, there is no tomorrow.
Even as I spin this web I am reaching for my phone. I call someone, not a doctor or a sage, not a mystic or a physician, just a bloke like me — another alcoholic, who I know knows how I feel. The phone rings and I half hope he’ll just let it ring out. It’s 4a.m. in London. He’s asleep, he can’t hear the phone, he won’t pick up. I indicate left, heading to Santa Monica. The ringing stops, then the dry-mouthed nocturnal mumble:
‘Hello. You alright, mate?’
He picked up. And for another day, thank God, I don’t have to.
By Russell Brand