The Role of Addiction in Disease

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By Toshia Humphries, M.Ed., M.A

Through scientific methods, we as a society have proven addiction is a disease. Though specific political, religious or otherwise conservative groups and individuals may continue to utilize the moral model to explain, address or attempt to remedy it, the general population has seemingly come to at least accept the terminology of addiction as a disease. The latter may be simply due to the growing and insurmountable number of people struggling with or negatively affected by it and therefore seeking to recover and understand. Regardless of the reasoning, the majority of individuals who have experienced or been directly exposed to addiction recognize the progressive, chronic and potentially fatal nature of it.

Helping professionals often look to diabetes, cancer or other diseases to explain the advancing stages of addiction, potential for relapse and the need for life changes as well as multi-option or integrative care to treat it. However, rarely do medical experts look to addiction to explain other diseases. Addiction specialists typically view addiction as an acute physical symptom of a much deeper emotional/spiritual issue. Yet, only a small portion of the population sees cancer, diabetes or any other disease as a physical manifestation of an unresolved emotional or spiritual struggle.

Unlike other diseases, once a professional or self-diagnosis of addiction is received, and treatment is sought, a holistic approach is usually taken. Initially, physical detoxification—ideally medically supervised—begins the process of recovery from the disease. It is the first of many vital steps. And, generally speaking, addiction professionals are aware that relapse is imminent if detox is the only step taken to address addiction.

Moreover, detox alone often proves fatal due to the fact that the body drops its tolerance to the substance and therefore cannot handle the amount once used by the addicted individual. As such, when and if relapse occurs, the amount of substance used which was easily tolerated by the addict’s body prior to detox is now a fatal dose. For this reason and the fact that science has proven addiction to be more than a simple choice, successful recovery typically requires a month of residential treatment during which the diagnosed individual works with a team of addiction treatment specialists to address the holistic nature of the disease.

Regardless of the process, whether a 12-Step program is preferred or not, the addicted individual is encouraged and directed to address emotional or psychological and spiritual aspects of the self while medical professionals, nutrition specialists, etc., tend to the physiological components. Often, life or recovery coaches, social workers, counselors, psychiatrists and other necessary members of the holistic recovery team are brought on board to assist in the individual’s complete and continued recovery from addiction.

And, also generally unlike other diseases, the diagnosed individual is instructed to continue the spiritual and psychological growth process along with maintaining their physiological health via attending support groups, connection to sponsors, counselors, life coaches and/or social workers who hold them accountable for their own recovery process. These individuals are ideally supported through a continuum of care which follows the lifespan of their recovery. This typically presents by way of sober housing, collegiate recovery and other sober communities and programs designed to prevent relapse.

Additionally, numerous outpatient treatment options are offered in case of relapse to help restore physiological, psychological and spiritual balance and steer the individual away from self-destruction and back onto a path of personal growth and empowerment. The latter is typically considered key to successful recovery due to the fact that much of the healing required to completely abstain from substances or maintain moderation or balance within behavioral processes lies not solely within the chemical dependency or biological changes which developed throughout various degrees of substance abuse or behavioral compulsions. Conversely, successful recovery from the disease of addiction requires a holistic healing of the body, mind and soul.

Could it be that the same can be said for cancer? Diabetes? Or any other disease? Is it possible addiction research and specialists have worked so hard to successfully prove addiction as a disease and inadvertently discovered the answer to healing and recovery from all disease? If nothing else, it’s food for thought.

Distortion, Denial and the Truth About Active Addiction’s Most Powerful Body Guards

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By Toshia Humphries, M.Ed., M.A.

Individuals with active addiction often become very defensive when confronted—even carefully—about their drinking or drug problem. In fact, many react with extreme emotional outbursts, as though someone has threatened their best friend or a beloved family member. The truth is, to an active addict, anyone attempting to confront the reality of their addiction is in fact bullying their closest friend.

An active addict’s drug of choice is not simply a substance. From their perspective, it is their security. The relationship they develop with drugs or alcohol becomes their most intimate and valued one. Therefore, people in their lives who were once cherished begin to feel abandoned and betrayed, as if they have been replaced by drugs or alcohol. Indeed, they have.

Unfortunately, if friends, family members or significant others voice these feelings, thoughts or experiences regarding this reality or attempt to rescue the individual from the throes of active addiction, they are typically met with varying degrees of denial and distortion. These defense mechanisms usually present with the active addict’s efforts to;

  • deny a problem with drugs or alcohol,
  • dismiss any expressed pain or suffering caused by the abuse of these substances,
  • accuse those confronting the addiction of wrongful behavior,
  • shift blame and accountability to the intervening individuals,
  • manipulate said individuals with victimization, excuses and verbal expressions of martyrdom and self-pity.

These behaviors work to defend active addiction by denying its existence and distorting the reality of its destructive nature. Ultimately, the combined forces of denial and distortion—as presented in the bulletin points—create a chaotic maze of the active addict’s circular logic and the loved one’s dizzying cycles of repeated attempts to communicate concern. The latter continually gets stonewalled and eventually shut down. The well-orchestrated topsy-turvy outcome serves to distract and dissuade everyone from their attempts to confront the active addiction in the first place.

In short, the process of confronting active addiction can be crazy-making. Moreover, to attempt to address it repeatedly is the definition of insanity—doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. It is both a setup for and a characteristic of codependency.

That is the very reason denial and distortion are indeed addiction’s most powerful body guards. They not only work to protect the addictive substances and addiction itself. They also formulate such an insane, dysfunctional experience that those who become concerned and wish to interfere or intervene are forced to either maladapt and become increasingly codependent—a condition which requires recovery as well—or back off and simply let go.

Though the latter is always easier said than done, it is the necessary step each concerned individual must take in an effort to protect their own sanity and overall wellness. Aside from an organized intervention in which at least one helping professional is present to facilitate and mediate, there is nothing more that can be done to save an active addict from themselves. To prevent becoming an enabling part of the problem or an enmeshed piece of the dysfunction, loved ones must quickly employ their own empowering entourage; detachment and disengagement.

 

The Perversion of Parenting and Its Role in Addiction & Recovery

By | Addiction and Recovery, Life in Recovery, Parenting | No Comments

By Toshia C. Humphries, M.Ed., M.A.

When parents have children, they want nothing more than to see those children happy. They want to give them everything—all the things they never had. Somehow, they come to believe a happy child is a healthy child. But they’re wrong.

Dr. Carl Andersen, founder of the Center for the Study of Addiction & Recovery at Texas Tech University, once stated, “The perversion of parenting is to believe it is your job to raise a happy child. No. That is not your job. Your job as a parent is to launch a healthy adult.”

Though he was speaking to a classroom filled with college students in recovery—myself included—most of whom did not have children, his point was not lost on us. We all knew that somewhere in our past, someone—one or both of our parents—had worked very hard to keep us happy and therefore unwittingly denied us the consequences that might have kept us healthy. In essence, they nearly literally loved us to death.

It’s the most common form of enabling—parents doing everything in their power to keep their children from hurting and being a best friend, rather than a parent. In the moment, it looks and feels like love. But enabling—as Dr. Andersen also says—is not love. In fact, it’s anti-love. With regard to addiction, enabling keeps us sick by preventing us from hitting rock bottom—the low place we need to be in order to realize we need help.

Keeping us from facing consequences and financially funding our every want and need keeps us happy, indeed. But it also keeps us children, permanently. We never grow up. This perversion of parenting is the failure of parenting, and it’s a breeding ground for dysfunction.

Though it may not be completely to blame for addiction, the perversion of parenting is suspect in relapse and an accessory to the disease. It keeps us from developing accountability, breeds a sense of entitlement and a lack of humility—the cornerstone of successful recovery.

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