Is there a cure for addiction?
Many of us who struggle with addiction have asked ourselves this question. It seems like every few months there is news of a miracle pill that will stop us from craving alcohol, drugs, food, love, or any other addiction we may have. While each miracle cure may sound like a dream come true, they really don’t work. The fact remains that science cannot find a cure for drug and alcohol addiction because it is a chronic disease brought on by many varying factors.
“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
Having diabetes, arthritis or heart disease is not a choice. Addiction to drugs is not a choice. They are all determined by genetics.
What is a chronic disease?
A chronic disease is a health malady that lasts for a long period of time. Some examples of chronic diseases are arthritis, diabetes, and heart disease. Each of these diseases can not be cured by medication or vaccines. However, chronic diseases can be managed to a point that symptoms are lessened or even unnoticeable.
This sounds pretty scary if you are struggling with addiction. You may be asking yourself, “Why me?” Why do some people develop addiction, heart disease or any chronic disease? Certainly environmental factors play a role. Lifestyle choices directly affect health. But unhealthy choices are not the only reason someone develops a chronic disease. Clinical trials prove that genetic factors play a huge role. Addiction is seen as hereditary. It is coded in our DNA when we are born.
Do I have to fight the craving for drugs and alcohol for the rest of my life?
What many people don’t know is that with proper treatment, the craving for drugs and alcohol can be completely removed. This takes a lot of personal work, especially at first. Detoxification and changes in behavior can be difficult in the initial days. That is why experts suggest that anyone trying to quit drugs or alcohol find help. This help can be inpatient drug and alcohol rehab, therapy, and/or twelve step meetings. Connecting with others who have the same experience and have lost the obsession to use drugs and drink can make a huge difference.
After those first stages of sobriety many people report that they have completely lost any urges to drink or use drugs. This is because their lives have become so much richer. They are healthy. They have new friends who understand them. Their families are rebuilt. They have learned to cope with the stresses and triggers that used to make them want to get drunk or high.
I can have a bad day while sober that is far better than my best day when I was high. It’s unbelievable how free I feel now.
This feeling of freedom is absolutely wonderful. With proper management, cravings and obsessions to drink and take drugs are no longer a part of life.
How Do I Manage Addiction?
Managing a chronic disease takes some effort. It requires periodic medical attention, medication (in some cases) and lifestyle changes. With drug and alcohol addiction there are proven methods of treatment. These include detoxification, intensive therapy and periodic maintenance.
Drug and Alcohol Detox
This phase is absolutely necessary. The body must be free of drugs and alcohol to truly heal. This period of abstinence and medical supervision can last 3-14 days depending on substance and length of use. Medication can be used at this phase to ease any discomfort while detoxing.
Once the body is free of drugs and alcohol, the mind can begin to heal. Addiction involves environmental triggers, pathways in the brain and patterns of behavior. All of these need to be reworked and relearned so that we can make positive choices and live happily while sober. Therapy helps us face people places and things that are “triggers” without habitually reaching for drugs and alcohol. Cognitive behavior therapy helps us become aware of our thoughts and learn to replace them with new, positive thoughts. Finally, many of us become addicted because of trauma. Therapy techniques like EMDR help us let go of the pains of the past and move forward. If we are no longer reliving the traumatic events in our lives, the need to obliterate those memories with drugs and alcohol is gone.
While going to rehab is immensely helpful, it is only the first step in progressing from active addiction to meaningful long-term sobriety. Addicts and alcoholics need to stay vigilant against the disease of addiction. For many, this means going to twelve step meetings weekly and immersing themselves in an AA program or NA program. These programs help us relate to others who know the depths of addiction. We make friends and connections in twelve step meetings that enrich our lives. We travel the road of sobriety together and help each other along the way. Alumni programs as many drug rehabs keep clients in touch with the solution. Most people who have tasted the freedom from addiction welcome this part of life. It does not feel like a chore.
My life is so different now. I feel like a new person. I have friends. I have my health. I have my family. If I had known sobriety was going to be this great, I would have gotten sober a long time ago.
Drug and Alcohol Addiction: There is No Cure, But There is a Solution
Many might find that addiction has no cure and lose hope. But there is hope! Addiction is absolutely treatable and manageable. Many people who are sober today feel like their addiction was the biggest gift of their lives. It forced them to get help and change the way they think and interact with life. The freedom, joy and sense of belonging they have today far surpass any happiness they felt when they were high. If you or someone you love is addicted to drugs or alcohol, now is not the time to lose hope. It is the time to reach out for help.
The best view comes after the hardest climb.
What is Drug Addiction?
Drug addiction is more than just taking lots of drugs. When alcohol or drug use has reached the point that a person is impaired, this is called “Substance Use Disorder.” When we say “impaired”, it means health problems, inability to perform necessary functions at school, a job, or at home. Someone’s substance use disorder can be mild, moderate or severe.
“Addiction” is the most severe stage of substance use disorder. Someone who is addicted has lost self-control. They will drink or do drugs even when they don’t want to. Any addict or alcoholic will tell you that in the last phase of their drinking or using there is a nightmarish cycle of using or drinking too much, facing terrible consequences, swearing it off, then starting the pattern over by drinking or using again.
“It was like I was stuck in the movie “Groundhog Day.” Every day was the same. I woke up sick, trembling, swearing I would not drink again that day. Then by about 2 o’clock I would think about having a drink again. I would totally forget how terrible I felt that morning. I thought I could have just one drink, although I had proven that theory wrong time and time again. It was a terrible way to live.”
Symptoms of Alcoholism and Drug Addiction
Someone who has craving has a strong need to drink or do drugs. This can be physiological, triggered by putting the alcohol or drugs into the body. This can be a mental obsession as well. Someone would constantly think about using over and over until they finally succumb to the desire.
Loss of self-control
Once someone who is addicted has that first drink or takes that first drug, they lose control of how much they consume. One drink becomes two, then three, then more and more.
Someone who takes drugs or alcohol needs more and more of the substance over time to achieve the same “high.”
Addicts rely on their drugs and alcohol to get through the day, both emotionally and physically. Drugs and alcohol actually change the way the brain works. With excessive alcohol and drug abuse, the brain switches into constant “fight or flight” mode. This persistent anxiety forces someone to regularly drink or use drugs to calm their nerves. This is often referred to as “self-medicating.” Physical dependence comes with tolerance. If a body that is accustomed to having drugs and alcohol in the system, it will go into withdrawal when it is without those substances. Withdrawal symptoms can be as simple as headaches and irritability, tiredness or night-sweats. Withdrawal symptoms can progress to very severe and even life threatening as well. That is why it is important to enter medically assisted detox. With medical supervision, symptoms can be managed safely.