The recent rise in addiction and overdose rates has gotten a lot of people talking about whether addiction is truly a disease. The struggle for addicts comes mainly in the fact that users cannot stop using, despite negative consequences, mental illness, incarceration, and health issues. Addiction is in fact, a disease that manifests both physically and mentally. Similar to the survival instincts of all living creatures on the earth to mate and find resources for life, addiction becomes a need for the afflicted, one that must be satisfied at all times. As a person who suffers from alcoholism and addiction, it is clear as day to me that addiction is in fact, a disease, and is not just a “cop-out.”
I think it is understandable for people who have never dealt with addiction first-hand to have a largely skewed misconception of it. For example, parents are baffled when their once loving and compassionate child turns to thievery or prostitution in order to get high or drunk. It seems insane, and in truth, it IS insane! The disease of addiction can manifest itself in ways that turn a once loving friend, child, or family member, into a complete stranger who seems hell-bent on destroying everything they come into contact with. The problem is that people are mostly uninformed on the “How’s and Why’s” people in addiction do what they do, and since people are uninformed, they experience fear, doubt, anger, and intolerance on the subject, thus calling it a cop-out.
If you are reading this as a concerned parent of an addict or alcoholic, let me start by saying that you are not alone. Depending on the type of parent you are, I’m pretty sure that by this point you either want to drop kick your child or squeeze them so tight you never want to let them go, but here’s the deal – the monster your child has turned into was not on purpose. On the other hand, it obviously didn’t happen overnight. So, with that being said, the process of recovery can sometimes be a slow moving one as well. If you have a child that has been in and out of detox and treatment centers, you’re not alone. Every time your child relapses, it is not necessarily because they are failing at recovery, but because our disease convinces us that we are not actually sick, that we can drink and get high normally (even though that is an oxymoron), and that we don’t actually need to be in treatment. Our disease is one of the mind; the same way that depression and anxiety can completely debilitate a person, now imagine adding drugs and alcohol into the mix.
Addiction is defined as a chronic relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences. It is considered a brain disease because drugs change the brain – they change its structure and how it works. The definition of disease is a disorder of structure or function in a human, animal, or plant, especially one that produces specific signs or symptoms, or that affects a specific location and is not simply a direct result of physical injury. Besides all of that mumbo jumbo, our disease wants us dead. It can almost be thought of as parasite, forever taking and taking from the host, until eventually, the host dies. However there is another option, there has only been one proven remedy for sufferers of addiction, and strange as it may be to outsiders and newcomers, it requires a complete emotional and psychic change in order to take effect. Twelve-step programs have so far been the only long-term solution to the disease of addiction. Dr. Silkworth was the first medical practitioner to outright proclaim addiction to be, in fact, a disease and stated that the spiritual foundation of the 12 steps has been the only thing he had seen that worked.
Overall, it can be difficult to look at addiction from the outside and to not understand how it can be anything but selfish insanity, and in truth, underneath it all, that is a huge factor of what addiction is described as in 12-step programs. We have a hundred different forms of self-centeredness and fear, that we use drugs and alcohol to mask, until we eventually become so reliant on these chemicals, that we no longer have an option. The disease aspect of addiction centers on the fact that we have an obsession that, if not combated, will kill us.
Getting Help At Wayside House
If you are a woman struggling with addiction, Wayside House can help. We offer a women-only program and provide a safe, supportive environment to recover in. We have outstanding treatments and therapies that are often only found in more expensive programs. We offer inpatient rehab with various therapies, relapse prevention education, outpatient, and aftercare. Contact Wayside House at 800-655-0817 to learn more.