“Once an addict always an addict“
Patently False. Any behavior you have practiced for a long time is committed to memory and can become an automatic response to internal or external cues; a feeling, emotion, the response to a visual or auditory cue, a bottle, a smell, syringe, liquor store, the car like the one your pusher drove, etc. It’s called learning from either classical operant conditioning. Survival requires that we learn what supports or threatens our survival. We can learn from the outcome of our actions or observing the outcome of behavioral actions of those around us, modeling. If the behavior is accompanied by an emotionally charged situation it will be learned more quickly and retained longer, i.e., what is called deep learning; a topic we will cover in another blog. This is simply how the mind and brain work together to insure our survival.
FACT: Addiction occurs when pleasure/relief stops and avoidance of withdrawal becomes the driver of the behavior.
The consumption of all mood altering drugs is by definition done to alter your how you feel, your mood. Consuming a drug to make you anxious, depressed, angry, frightened etc., is nonsensical. We are not creatures of misery by choice. We consume mind altering substances to remove stress not to increase it. The biological part of our nervous system responds to the introduction of external neurotransmitters (NTS) by enhancing or disrupting the naturally occurring (NTS). Withdrawal is the physiological and psychological aspects of withdrawal and they are very discomforting and once experienced are to be avoided. Remember, any event accompanied by extreme emotion are deeply imbedded in memory. The production of naturally occurring NTS decreases during addiction. The period after the completion of withdrawal is uncomfortable on two fronts. First the elevated mood is gone and the production of the naturally occurring NTS have not returned to normal. The fight, flight, freeze system is again unchecked and distress is re-experienced. This is a time when “One day at a time” is actually a productive strategy; but not forever.
FACT: Drugs improve the way we feel, increase our self esteem, provide a group to belong to, enhance our performance or we wouldn’t do them because they aren’t cheap in the long run. The relief from long held discomfort (TOXIC STRESS) or an incident of sufficiently unpleasant magnitude (PTSD) is memorable and will always be available because it has survival implications. When we cover neuroscience we will deal with the neural implications of stress and trauma. For now, any behavior that produces pleasure will always be stored for future reference as it has survival value and will always be available for recall. That is why reverting to previously pleasurable behavior is always an option. An option is not a demand, it’s not a MUST DO /”have to” it is instead, an option it’s an “I can if I want to” consider at any time in the future we are confronted with events that elicit those awful feelings or unresolved issues that were stressful or traumatic. it is part of our stored behavioral repertoire and always will be. I/we used it to reduce anxiety, depression, loss, rejection, low self esteem etc.. “It’s the cage, not the drug”. Dr. Bruce Alexander et.al. Rat Park Experiment.
FACT: A radical change in behavior is not easy. We spent all our early developmental time figuring out what survival behavioral strategies to keep and which ones wouldn’t work. Then, just in the nick of time we learn there is relief available without changing our survival strategies we worked so hard for years to develop, And, this comfort is derived with minimal effort. The effort was minimal in the beginning, consume the NTS and the issues were suppressed. Then the dark side of addiction rears it’s ugly head. The amount we needed to feel good is no longer sufficient or doesn’t last long enough and withdrawal is very unpleasant and something to be avoided at all costs. Now, we may have to engage in behaviors that were previously unthinkable, violations of our moral code all in service of avoiding withdrawal, creating new depression, anxiety, guilt, shame etc.
FACT: Recovery is not the goal of treatment! The person who found relief in NTS is not the person you want to recover to. Real change requires eliminating the causes that made NTS consumption leading to addiction a viable option, and replacing them with behaviors and attachments that affirm you.
FACT: That’s the Readers Digest or Cliff Notes version of the first step of the JOURNEY