I am a Registered Clinical Counsellor in Vancouver, BC and I have been working in the field of addictions for more than a decade. My first job in my field of counselling in 2002 was at a methadone clinic in Vancouver’s lower east side which has a world-wide reputation for being particularly entrenched with poverty and drugs. From that point forward I have continued to learn about addiction and what it means for someone who has the disease. If you or someone you know is struggling with alcoholism or addiction, I hope this information and these attached articles will help you better understand it. I am not going to make this long but I am going to make a few key points that you may want to read over a few times and try to really wrap you head around.
Addiction is a disease where the person’s brain chemistry changes so much that they come to believe they need the drug of choice as much as they need food, air or water.
Therefore, the main problem, as I see it, is the delusional thinking that tricks the addict into believing that their behaviour and lifestyle are okay.
Even when they get a glimpse of how bad things have become, their brain will again trick them into picking up and continuing on because, for an addict, it is like trying to live without air. Their brain and body believe they need it to survive.
Addicts lose the ability to choose not to use. If the illness has progressed past a certain point, and until they are working a program of recovery in some manner, they will always eventually pick up again. They cannot say no. It has nothing to do with will power.
They will truly believe they are not sick and that they can continue to do what they have been doing even though it is killing them. It may seem like they are lying to you when they say they are not sick – until an addict or alcoholic truly understands they are sick, they don’t know they are sick. Hard to believe, I know.
Like cancer, it is a progressive illness that gets worse over time and it is trying to get the person to die. Cancer kills a person from the inside where addiction gets the person to do things to themselves that will destroy their lives and eventually they will die. It is a lethal disease which gets progressively worse over time. These are science based facts that I have learned from some of the top treatment center experts in Canada.
Alcoholism and addiction are characterized by 2 things:
1. Once an addictive substance goes into their body, a craving starts that non-addicts do not get.
2. Even when an addict has some understanding of this, their mind and body will always be trying to trick them into using again – they forget they are sick and their brain tells them, “It’s ok to have just one this time. This time I can control it.”
It is very difficult for an addict, who has gone so far down the rabbit hole, to actually get clean/sober. Being addicted is different than being a “problem drinker” or “binger”.
What To Do About It
Most people struggling with addiction require going to a treatment center and many need to go to detox as a first step. Medical supervision is best for an alcoholic coming off alcohol as it is the one chemical that a person can die from while withdrawing. A 60 day program is generally considered to be the minimum requirement. Even then, it can often take 5-6 years before an addict/alcoholic really turns their entire life around. There are 12 Step programs and non-12 Step programs but in either case, a recovering addict/alcoholic should be part of an on-going support group of some kind. This helps them remember they have the disease because, as I stated earlier, their head will be trying to find sneaky ways into tricking them to pick-up again.
Most areas should have an addictions hotline of some sort to point someone in the right direction for help. In Vancouver: Access Central should have all the information for addictions treatment in the lower mainland: 1 (866) 658-1221
Here are a couple of articles I’ve read recently to help with more information.
Phillip Seymour Hoffman.
We don’t start with a needle in our arm.
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