By Valerie Rice | October 11,2020
When you think of substance abuse or addiction, what comes to mind? Is it a heavy drinker who can’t keep a job? Maybe it’s a junkie passed out in an alley. Perhaps you think of a shady character trying to sell your precious children unknown substances on their way home from school. Bad dudes doing bad things for sure. Well,congratulations, you have bought into the scare tactics of government propaganda! Now, all these people certainly exist in some form,but they don’t make up the majority of substance users. Please, allow me to blow your mind.
ADDICTION IS NOT A CHOICE
Did I stutter? The majority of addiction treatments have been based on the idea that addiction is a moral failing. Now, throw in the ridiculous government interventions like prohibition and the war on drugs, and you have a recipe for disaster. Follow me here. Have you ever had a drink of alcohol? If you answered yes and are not an alcoholic, you just proved my point. Alcoholism does not develop over time. Most people drink routinely over years and are just fine. Same thing goes for pain medications, those evil narcotics we hear about, and so on. But, hard drugs are different, right?
Nope. In fact, most of them are not even considered biologically addictive, as in our bodies become dependent on them. And yet, the compulsion develops for some. So WTF? People who end up becoming addicted have an underlying issue, often a combination of mental illness, trauma, and brain wiring that make them the way they are. And last time I checked, nobody has perfect hindsight.
IT AIN’T JUST THE HARD STUFF
You drink coffee, right? Well, 64% of Americans do. Did you know that the act of drinking coffee, ANY coffee, is considered substance use. I bet you love being lumped in with other drug users, right? You are probably feeling my last paragraph a bit more like a gut punch right now. Excellent. Most of us wake up, pee, and head to the coffee pot. We don’t mind abusing coffee because it is socially acceptable. Same with alcohol. “But nobody goes to rehab over coffee!” Oh, my dear innocent one, they really do! Same for smoking, technology, sex, and so much more! All the little, innocuous things you may not think of that a human can become addicted to.
JUST STOP IT
There’s the rub, an addict can’t. Look, a human has the annoying ability to become addicted to almost anything. I mean, if it activates the pleasure response and interferes with your life, and if you have to do it compulsively, you may be addicted. Seriously, talk to someone. Especially if you can’t stop no matter what. Well, lemme tell you what. When you do things, your brain forms neural pathways. The more you do a thing, the more your brain likes doing that thing and the stronger the pathway.
This is called a habit. And addiction actually causes chemical changes in your brain making it virtually impossible for an addict to just stop it. Okay, that was incredibly simplified, but I didn’t think you wanted the scientific review, no matter how tempting it is for me to psycho-vomit the information at you. Here. Read these other cool myths about addiction.
IT IS NOT HOPELESS
But it sure isn’t going to be easy. You can’t just treat addiction. Remember how I said that there was an underlying issue? Well, that has to be identified and treated at the same time. And guess what? There are going to be setbacks. And punishing the addict makes it worse. You heard me. Jail is not the answer. IDGAF what the law says, it is not treatment; just punishment. Besides, I think history has taught us that the law is nothing more than popular opinion, especially where substance use is concerned. THAT is a discussion or another time.
WHAT CAN I DO?
I’m so glad you asked! There are a few things,actually. Numero uno: Don’t judge, especially if you are human. Odds are you engage in behaviors someone, somewhere, is addicted to. Number two (sorry, don’t actually speak Spanish): Forget “tough love.” Look bro, I know lots of people love to use this for things. But this is punishment. So drop it. You are in or you are out. People with addictions need SUPPORT from loved ones. It is a long and grueling road. If you don’t think you can walk that road, be up front, but don’t go there and dip, that’s a dick move.
Number 3: Show real love. I have known many addicts in my day, and I love them unconditionally. I have been a bit screwed over, but that is just a sign that my boundaries needed to be redefined. Know what you are dealing with, it is hard, but open your heart if you can, we are all humans in need of empathy and compassion.
Alrighty folks, Imma shut up for now. I think that’s enough for you to absorb today. Never fear, pretty soon I will be diving deeper into heavy topics like this, and the link to those writings will be pasted on my little bits here. SO, remember, I love you all! Don’t think at me in that tone of voice, I don’t NEED to know you to love you! You are precious, you are worthy, and nothing can change that.