Alcohol gave me wings but then it took away the sky.
Nobody begins using alcohol or drugs with the intention of becoming addicted. It just sort of creeps up on them, and by the time they realize what is going on they are already in well over their head. The individual can then be locked into a downward spiral that will kill them unless they develop the willingness to escape. Unfortunately denial can mean that these people fail to see the danger they are in until it is too late.
If substance abuse didn’t provide any pleasure there would not be many addicts. Using alcohol and drugs can be a great deal of fun in the beginning. The problem is that within a relatively short time the problems associated with using these substances begin to far outweigh the benefits. If the person falls into addiction then they will reach a stage where there is no fun left just increasing suffering.
The reasons for why substance abuse is fun in the beginning include:
* Drugs such as alcohol work as a social lubricant. They can help people feel more comfortable in social situations and turn even the shy individual into an extrovert.
* Drugs can have a dramatic impact on mood and emotion. People describe feelings of bliss and ecstasy when using these substances.
* When people are intoxicated they forget about their normal worries and concerns. It gives them a reprieve from their daily troubles.
* A common reason for why people use these substances is that it allows them to relax after a busy or stressful day.
* These substances put people in the mood to party.
* Drug abuse can feel like a type of rebellion. The individual may like the idea that they are expressing their individuality and independence.
* Those individuals who are dealing with symptoms of a mental health problem may find that substance abuse appears to make them feel better. This is known as self medication.
* Substance abuse can give meaning and purpose to a person’s life. This can be particularly enticing for those who struggle to find meaning in their day to day experiences.
* There can be a great deal of peer pressure to try alcohol or drugs. By using these substances the individual feels like they have joined a community of exciting people who are not afraid to break the rules.
The singer/songwriter James Taylor once described the life of the addict with the following words:
> If you’re an addict, it controls your life and your life becomes uncontrollable. It’s boring and painful, filling your system with something that makes you stare at your shoes for six hours.
If substance abuse stayed fun there would be no reason for anyone to ever quit. It just wouldn’t make sense to give up something that was so beneficial. Alcohol and drug abuse stops being fun because:
* People develop a tolerance for these substances and this means that they have to keep on using more and more in order to get the same effect. The more that people use alcohol and drugs the greater the damage caused.
* These chemicals are toxins in the body, and this means that they can cause damage to almost every organ in the body – including the brain. The individual does not have to be using these substances for a long time before they begin to suffer health consequences.
* When people are inebriated they will tend to make poor choices and act impulsively. This means that over time the person will have an increasing number of things to regret and feel guilty about.
* The dangers of substance abuse are well reported and so the individual needs to enter denial in order to protect their ego. Living in such a delusional state means that people are likely to experienced increasing suffering as they keep on clashing with reality.
* The regular incidences of inebriation mean that the individual is incapable of fulfilling their work, family, and social obligations. This leads to increasing conflict in their life.
* The individual gets caught up in a vicious cycle. They use alcohol and drugs to help them deal with their problems which in turn lead to further problems that they have to self medicate.
* Friends and family of the substance abuser become concerned and begin to ask questions. The person reacts to this by hiding the extent of their drug abuse – they are forced into a life of dishonesty.
* Eventually the individual is likely to develop a physical and psychological dependence on these substances. Addiction is a destructive force that takes away everything of value from a person’s life.
* Regular inebriation can interfere with the individual’s ability to fulfill their work commitments. They may become unemployed or unemployable.
* As the addiction takes hold the individual may need to turn to crime in order to feed their habit.
Even when it is obvious that all the fun has gone from addiction the individual will continue with the behavior. The reasons for this continued use of these chemicals despite the increasingly negative consequences include:
* The individual holds onto the conviction that they good times will one day return. Some people hold onto this idea right up until the day that their behavior kills them.
* In order to maintain an addiction the individual develops cognitive dissonance. In order to justify their continued substance abuse they become convinced that sober life is boring and pointless.
* The individual uses their fear of withdrawal symptoms as justification for continued abuse. They ignore the reality that addiction involves far more suffering and that withdrawal symptoms only last a few days and are rarely worse than the common cold.
* Addicts tend to surround themselves with other people who also engage in similar behavior. Membership of such a group encourages further substance abuse.
* Many addicts suffer from low self esteem. This means that they do not value themselves very highly and they can have the idea that the life of an addict is all they deserve.
* There is ample media attention given to the dangers of substance abuse but people are able to ignore such warnings. This is due to the mistaken and dangerous belief that they are a special case who will escape the consequences that other people are forced to face – this is called terminal uniqueness.
Substance abuse usually involves a slow decline over time. The downward progression will usually go unnoticed by the individual until they are already well into physical and psychological dependency. The stages of substance abuse include:
* The first stage of substance abuse is experimentation. This may occur because of peer pressure or just plain curiosity.
* If the individual enjoys the effects of these substances they will become a regular user.
* As the individual uses these substances more they begin to experience negative consequences. If they persist with the behavior they will have entered the substance abuse stage.
* The person moves from taking the drug for fun to taking it because they need to. This is because they have now developed a dependence.
* The individual eventually end up with an addiction. They now risk losing everything unless they can somehow escape from the downward spiral.
Addiction is no fun. It means that the individual has become a slave to their cravings. They will have started off using alcohol and drugs but now these substances are using them. The person will spend almost all their time focused on these chemicals. When they are not using they will be getting over the effects of them. It is a horrible life that only gets worse over time, but there is hope. As Daniel Baldwin once observed:
> There’s the person that’s the addict, and then there’s the person that’s who you are.
If people can get back in touch with who they really are it can allow them to escape the hell of addiction. In order to escape this life they can also:
* An addiction therapist will be able to guide the individual to properly understand their situation. They can then offer suggestions and guidance for building a new life away from substance abuse.
* If people are serious about quitting their addiction then they might be best advised to enter rehab. This treatment facility will help them develop the tools they need to make a success of their recovery.
* There are different fellowships that can support the individual in their decision to quit an addiction. These groups will also usually have a program for living that will make it easier for the individual to cope with life.
* It is vital that the individual eliminates any ambivalence they have towards recovery. If they are not fully committed to this new life they will be less likely to succeed.