In the chaos of life, many of us can lose our way. The fact of the matter is that many of us lose sight of the path or choose a different route for our life’s journeys.
Some paths are smooth with few hills to climb, and yet others are full of hills and valleys and treacherous footing. What makes one person fall victim to addiction while another seems to persevere with stoic resolve easily getting up those hills?
According to studies, a family history of drug use or abuse is a big predictor of future drug abuse by children raised in that environment. There is also believed to be a “genetic predisposition” to addiction and abuse of alcohol or drugs.
Drugs change the brain and how it responds. They target the reward center in the brain and create feelings of euphoria. Drug addicts are constantly chasing that feeling of euphoria which normally entails increased use of the offender. As the brain and body become accustomed to the drug and tolerance increases, the amount of drug needed to achieve “that high” also increases.
Unfortunately, if an adequate high cannot be achieved, other drugs may be added to the cocktail complicating the addiction.
Mental disorders are another predictor of drug use or abuse. Having access to strong mood enhancers, antidepressants, antipsychotics, and other psychiatric drugs can be dangerous for those who are prone to addiction. Some mental disorders can be as significant as schizophrenia, psychosis, depression, suicidal ideation, PTSD, and self-mutilation and can cause the propensity toward drug abuse. For others, the drugs for these disorders can be abused simply because they are available. These are prescription drugs and are, therefore “finite” in theory. However, the underground drug trade for prescription drugs is alive and well and finds its customers in all walks of life.
Drug and alcohol addiction is treatable. It requires dedication to a program and a commitment to give up that lifestyle. Many times, this may involve a change in your circle of friends or where you spend your time.
Addiction treatment requires medical, social, and spiritual intervention. No one wants to be a drug addict. No one wants to spend their day drug-seeking and trying to find a way to fund their habit.
No one wants to potentially lose their job or family. No one becomes an addict on purpose. Most times, addiction is an insidious process. What starts innocently as something fun or to kill some pain may end in disaster. With addiction, more is never enough.
To understand drug addiction and the treatment options that are involved, I spoke with a friend of mine. Emily A. was kind enough to share her story and her recommendations on the road to recovery. She is currently and will always be on her journey to stay sober. Below are the answers to some of the questions I had for Emily about her life, what led her to addiction, and why and how she sought treatment.
Emily: "So, I guess I HAVE to go way back to when I was younger. I always tried things but I never became addicted, that’s what I used to think anyway. I tried different things with my friends and I could always stop and I never spent too much money on anything. Because we were young and attractive girls, we used to get a lot of things for free. At the age of 19, I met my older children's father. I never knew that he was into drugs as bad as he was until years later. I told myself that I would never use drugs because I saw what they did to him. He would spend his whole paycheck, or pawn things from the house to fund his habit. He was a cocaine/crack addict and an alcoholic.
He always had to ‘out-drink’ everyone anywhere. During one of our break-ups, he was moving in and out of the state at that time, I met someone else. We started to hang out a lot, he even got an apartment closer to me so we could see each other more often. One day I went to his apartment with a friend of mine. This friend was like a sister to me, we grew up together. Unfortunately, she later passed away from a drug overdose. So, we went to this guy's apartment and I asked him if he could get a “perc” (they are perc 30s and they call them the blues). I was so stressed out and I just wanted to “feel nice”. I remember trying them and having the feeling of being nice and cozy. I wanted to feel like that again!
So, this guy got the perc’s that night and that was the beginning of my battle with addiction. It was the first time I did a perc 30 and sniffed it. I felt like I was in heaven. Every night for weeks, I’d go to his house after work to get high, and then go home in the morning to pick up my kids from their father and go to work.
He ended up being the most abusive man to me. He didn’t care about “me”, all he cared about is if I was feeling nice from getting high.
After a series of failed relationships, I met the father of my younger children. I was clean at the time I moved in with him and was pregnant with our daughter. The relationship became more abusive. I began to abuse drugs again. Eventually, I was using heroin. Behind my back, he got a court order to have custody of the children with me only having a couple of hours of visitation with them a week. I have had everything you can imagine thrown at me. I finally decided to get clean. I am now clean and went to school to become a recovery coach and am currently doing that. All of this has been a very difficult lesson."
Emily: "I knew that I had to get better so that I could be a better person for myself and then for my children. I wanted to be better. I didn’t want to live like that anymore. You’re living in hell and that is no way to live at all!"
Emily: "My life is not perfect but I feel so much better and don’t have to wake up sick any longer or worry about how I'm going to get my next fix or about the money I was spending on drugs. I feel so much better about myself and I don’t have to lie to people anymore."
Emily: "Living a sober life is possible! You have to want it for yourself and you should push yourself to do it. It is so worth it! I know that life is hard, but using drugs makes it 20 times harder. Delete phone numbers and people from your life that are not good for you. We all struggle but there are so many people out there that are willing to help and want to be there for the others who are still fighting their demons."
Emily: "Reach out for a sponsor in NA/AA (narcotics anonymous/alcoholics anonymous). There are Facebook groups as well. Get yourself a great counselor who always makes you feel like you are doing your best. I did an IOP treatment. I wanted to be there. I found it so interesting to listen to people going through the same things as I was going through. No one judges you.
I also joined a “relapse prevention group” for women which I liked. My counselor runs art classes, etc. which are a great way to get some needed “me time”.
Just know that we are all fighting our demons and that there are so many good and passionate people out there that want to help. I just did recovery coach classes and I loved it! I am hoping to find a job as a recovery coach in the future because I want to help. I know what it feels like to go through this. It feels like you are outside of your body watching. And then to have your heart ripped out as someone takes your children away. You can do this if you just want it bad enough and you will know when it’s your time.”
I want to thank Emily for sharing her story and for being brave enough to forge forward in her life.
If you or anyone you love is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, seek treatment as soon as possible.
We all wish Emily a peaceful and safe journey on her path to sobriety.
Author Profile: Laura Castricone, Respiratory Therapist
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