ADDICTION, A CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK

This article was written by a friend of mine and in my opinion, very ably. I’m always looking for good articles to add to this blog and this is one of them! Enjoy. – daniel w. jacobs

ADDICTION, A CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK
by Doug Houseworth
Houseworth@centurylink.net
231-838-5743

Addiction is a process by which the drive to maintain a life-sustaining supply of food, air, and water is switched in the direction of death. The pursuit of pleasure, comfort and avoidance of pain through the use of drugs and alcohol, for the addicted person, becomes equal in force to the drives which promote life. The supply of any substance which promotes life is crucial to our survival. The mind and body of the addict come to regard their drug of choice in the same manner, except the promotion becomes death as the mind and body become confused in their pursuit of pleasure, comfort and relief from pain.

The self-deception required to maintain these behaviors is called psychological denial. We all deny the inevitable event of death. We do not often contemplate our own death as we occupy our days with the busy work of sustaining life. So it is with the addict, the awareness of acceleration toward death is denied as the busy work involved in maintaining supply occupies the mind of the user.

Trying to understand the destructive behavior of an addicted loved one is useless in any other context. All the lying, stealing and disregard for the rights of others come from a primitive instinct to survive. Some chemical switch is turned on in the brain of the substance abuser. They no longer distinguish between the life sustaining necessities of life and their drug of choice; anyone who gets in the way of their supply had better watch out. The addicted person comes to evaluate all their relationships in terms of supply maintenance. Trying to negotiate or reason with such a person is to be caught up in a web of confused and distorted thinking, and often escalates into hostile and violent reactions.

It is reported that those who opened the doors to the gas chambers Hitler employed as part of his “final solution”, were confronted with the grisly sight of the strongest and fittest on top of the heap. In pursuit of that last gasp of air, the unthinkable trampling of friends and family became a reality in an effort to survive. Unsuspecting friends and family of the alcoholic or drug abuser fail to grasp the survivalist instincts that drive the addict’s behaviors. Searching for deeply rooted reasons why such a person becomes so selfish and destructive is useless in any attempt at changing their behavior.

There may well be painful and tragic events in the early life of the substance abuser which propel them into addiction. Understanding these is important in maintaining sobriety. However, once the delicate balance of life-sustaining chemistry has been altered to the pursuit of death, bottom line coercive interventions are required. This usually means the authority of the law, family, friends or employers is required to intervene and interrupt the supply of whatever it is that propels the addict toward death, and professional help is recommended. Occasionally,

Through self-awareness and willpower, such a person will stop using on their own. However, if you are in a relationship with an addict and are waiting for them to change on their own, you will quickly find yourself on the “bottom of the heap”. The resources needed for basic food and shelter and the promotion of life, are often in competition with the resources needed to maintain an adequate supply of alcohol or drugs. The needs of family and friends become secondary and even invisible to the addicted person. Psychological denial becomes necessary to maintain the habit. Irrational blaming of external events to justify the addiction becomes the barrier which starts to separate the addict from life.

A downward spiral which progresses in stages has been well documented (Jellinek 1960),and unless interrupted, ultimately ends in insanity and death. Merely interrupting a person in their pursuit of death is seldom more than temporary without the presence of something that transcends chemistry or biology. The necessity of spiritual awaking and transformation cannot be overlooked in the treatment of the addicted person. Mind, body and spirit are all components of life. The element of spirit must come to the front of any successful change. Conversion from death to life is the result. The twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and other such groups, is a systematic way for a confused and damaged mind to seek the “higher power” which comes to be their life line. Seeking the true source of life and going beyond the deception of chemistry is the only real means of overcoming any addiction.

The phenomenon of being “born again” is often the means which turns the chemical switch back towards life. People who experience it gain a new understanding of the word redemption. However, like AA and any other “spiritual awakenings”, the change can be pretty short-lived if not maintained in communities, or groups of like-minded people who are loving and supporting. The new person must be willing to change old patterns of behavior, thinking and even relationships. The pursuit of life for the addicted person means abstinence from emotional and chemical triggers that promote death. New places and relationships become critical for lasting success.

It is easy to start seeing the substance of choice as the problem rather than the user. In Proverbs 25:27 we are warned: “It is not good to eat too much honey, nor to seek for glory on top of glory.” If honey is what you gorge yourself on, it’s better not to eat it at all. Such is the choice for the substance abuser.

Even water is bad for us if it gets above our nose.

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