A Look Inside the Mind of an Addict

Have you ever just looked at someone, maybe it was because of something they were doing, and thought…

What in the world is going through their head?

I’m sure we have almost all experienced this at some point, and I’m sure there has been more than a few times where someone could have looked at us and thought the same thing.

As someone on the outside of addiction – you might easily find yourself asking this question…

What in the world is going through their head?

When you are on the outside looking in, it is much easier to judge, misunderstand, and even question why and how someone could be doing what they are doing. But, until you have truly been in their position, it is near impossible to actually understand what is going on.

Think of it like this – but on a much more extreme level:

You wake up and you know you will have coffee this morning. It is your morning ritual and you crave it, so, of course, you are going to have some. You get ready and then drive to Starbucks like you always do. You debate if you should actually get some or not because you are already running late and really need to stop spending the extra $5 each day…

But, ultimately, the coffee wins. You love it and you want it. You are already there, so, why not, right?

Now throw in the guilt of not liking who you are when you partake of this substance, but also add in the fact that your brain has literally been rewired to need it. Not just to want it, but to need it.

Okay, so of course, addiction to drugs or alcohol is much more severe than coffee, but you get the point.

Oftentimes, we mistake an addict for just being lazy and not having any willpower. But, once something becomes an addiction, it takes a lot more than willpower to stop it.

Think of how much you crave water once you notice you’re thirsty. It is an unquenchable thirst that only water can cure. Well, the same thing for drugs and alcohol. The addict’s brain has literally developed new pleasure pathways just for this substance, so, they begin to crave it because their body is literally begging for it. Begging.

But, an addict still goes through the phases of “should I actually do this?”, “but, I don’t like who I am when I do this”, “my family will be disappointed”, etc. It is so much more than just them choosing not to get better.

Addiction Recovery: Dealing with Anxiety

When you become dependent – or addicted – to drugs or alcohol, a lot of chemical changes actually take place in your body. Your brain literally rewires itself and creates new pathways to pioneer pleasure trails for the drugs or alcohol.

Of course, this can play a negative part in your addiction because it makes it even easier to get addicted to drugs or alcohol when your brain is literally depending on it and craving it – just like food, porn, caffeine, etc.

However, this also presents a whole set of problems when it comes to addiction recovery too…

Do you remember being little and when your mom or dad would drop you off somewhere where they were not staying you would get upset and anxious? That is a form of anxiety called separation anxiety.

Well, when you decide to come off the drugs and alcohol you might experience something similar to that… It is almost like you are having separation anxiety from the drugs or alcohol.

So, when you decide to go into addiction recovery you might feel stressed, anxious, and even depressed as your body is learning that you are now living without those things. Because the body is still craving them – just like how you were still craving the company of your parents – it freaks out without them.

As a result, this can be addiction recovery extremely difficult for some people as they struggle to deal with their anxiety…

But, there are ways to help relieve this anxiety without drugs or alcohol:

  • Exercise: Especially if you have been an addict for a while and have put your body on the back burner in your life, you could use the exercise to help get yourself back in good health. But, exercise also burns those stress hormones that might be triggering your anxiety. In addition to getting rid of the bad hormones, it causes the release of the good neurotransmitters that promote an uplifted mood.
  • Distract yourself: There is huge value in finding a hobby – something healthy like art, crafting, or sports. When you find something productive to focus on, you will notice that you feel more relaxed – getting rid of some of your anxiety – and productive, therefore putting you in a better mood.
  • Meditate: Meditation is not only great for addiction recovery but just great for life in general. It teaches you to be mindful and become aware of your body. It allows you to quiet down and be still for a moment, just allowing your mind to think and do its thing.

The Danger of Victimhood

Oftentimes, it is easy to feel sorry for ourselves…

It is easy to pity ourselves and feel bad for ourselves, to feel like we are the victim.

Especially when it comes to something negative like addiction, it is much easier to say “it is because of x,y,z,” rather than owning up to our weakness and addiction. We are always quick to blame things on other people or other things.

This is where victimhood comes in:

What is victimhood?

 

Assuming the role of the victim is when you adopt a way of thinking that makes you act and feel helpless. You might find yourself saying things like:

“I’ve lost everything. I have nobody. Life is so awful.”

“I’ve already burned too many bridges.”

“Is there anything even worth pursuing anymore?”

“Will I ever become anything more than an addict?”

Why do people assume this role?

 

Most people, especially addicts, assume the victim role to take the blame off of themselves. They don’t want to feel at fault when it is much easier if it is someone else’s fault. It is also much easier to manipulate someone else when “it isn’t your fault.”

But, victimhood is dangerous…

 

Especially for an addict, this is a dangerous state to enter into.

The victimhood mindset tells you that it isn’t your fault, that you are already too far in, that you won’t amount to anything.

Suddenly, it goes from simply blaming it on someone else to feeling completely down on yourself and hopeless.

But, this is dangerous because not only does this hinder recovery by taking away any motivation you might have; it also can increase your likelihood to use and abuse drugs or alcohol.

The victim mindset can send you into a downward spiral…

It promotes a low self-esteem and feelings of helplessness.

But, you don’t have to be a victim. Yes, you are a victim of the disease of addiction, but thankfully, it is a disease you can overcome. It starts with some determination and fighting off the feelings of victimhood.

Remember:

You are stronger than the disease.

You can get better.

You are not helpless.

You are not worthless.

Seek counseling if you find yourself feeling like this because it can lead to unhealthy scenarios both mentally and physically.

Let someone remind you of the truth – because victimhood won’t let you remind yourself of it.

You will overcome your addiction and you will no longer be a victim.

Is Rehab Worth the Cost? And, How Do I Pay For It?

While this might seem like a dumb first question:

“Is luxury drug rehab treatment worth the cost?”

Because for most, they think it should have an obvious answer, but for some, it doesn’t.

Of course, they probably don’t want to be an addict forever, but is it worth:

  • Potentially being out of work.
  • Leaving your friends and family.
  • Counseling.
  • Withdraws.
  • The money.

A lot of factors go into a full recovery.

So, many people find themselves wondering if rehab really is worth the cost?

Well, is it?

 

Of course. Money is a just a worldly thing and a material thing – but what about your relationships?

Through the course of addiction, several relationships are often lost and people find themselves without their closest friends and maybe even their family. But, by going to addiction recovery treatment, you are making that first step to show your family that you are really interested in getting better. You are making a move in the right direction.

Through the course of addiction, money, and income are also lost – not only do you spend the money that you have but you might lose your job which is also your source for getting new money. Oftentimes, it is because you don’t show up or cannot function properly while you are on the job.

But, the great thing about rehab is that if you can successfully finish the treatment program and successfully maintain your sobriety, you can potentially gain all of this back. You can renew the relationships with friends and family and get a new job. So, yes, it is worth the possibility of getting your life back to normal.

But, how do I pay for it?

 

Well, the unfortunate part about treatment programs is that they are not free – and typically not even cheap for that matter.

But, remember, it is worth it…

You do have a few different options:

  • Health insurance: In the United States, alcoholism and substance use disorders are classified as a medical disease, meaning that your health insurance should cover some of your treatment expenses. While they won’t cover the full expenses, they might cover things such as assessment and detoxification.
  • Financial aid: Just like scholarships in college, many facilities have assistance programs that you might qualify for that could make treatment more affordable.
  • Payment plans: While it might not save you any money, a payment plan will help spread the cost out, allowing you to pay as you earn it pretty much – it gives you time to make the money a little bit at a time rather than one lump sum.

How to Cope: Grieving the Loss of a Loved One to Addiction

Most all of us can say we have lost a loved one at one point or another…

Rather it was a brother or sister, mom or dad, grandparent, etc. Death is just a part of life and is experienced by everyone, at some phase in life.

While it is sad in nature regardless of the circumstances, the circumstances surrounding the death and the timing of it can only intensify the event…

One contributing factor that often contributes to a death is much harder to deal with is when it is the result of addiction – and typically, this cause of death takes someone in a very untimely scenario.

What is grieving?

Grieving, by definition, is to suffer grief (sadness, upset, distress, pain, or hurt) because of something. So, following the death of a loved one, you will go through a stage of grieving…

But this is intensified when you are struggling with how they died:

You might feel guilty.

It is hard to not feel like there is something you could have done. You might find yourself dwelling on the “what ifs” …  Even if you tried everything in your power, you might still feel as though you didn’t do enough – like there was always another option you should have tried or even discovered.

You might get grief about it.

 

People will be quick to judge someone for their past, and just because someone has passed does not mean people will cease passing judgment – they will still label your loved one as an “addict”, which can be hard to hear while grieving…

The stigma won’t let up – people might forget to acknowledge that your loved one was once your small child who ran around on the playground or your mom who taught you how to tie your shoes…

But, you will get through this.

 

One thing you have to remember is that no one can truly understand what you are going through – just like you could not understand the disease your loved one was suffering from, others cannot understand the grief you are feeling.

And, ultimately, addiction is a disease. It was not necessarily by the fault of your loved one – the disease is what took them from you. Just like cancer or AIDS, just the details of the disease are slightly different.

And lastly, remember, it is not your fault. Ultimately, they either made the choice or lacked the will power to get better. In the end, you could not have stopped them. You cannot make decisions for them. You are not them.

 

 

You Don’t Have to do it Alone

We belong to a variety of communities:  our families; our group of friends; our co-workers and more other communities than need to be mentioned.  Our lives intersect with the lives of others in various ways.  Sometimes, that intersection makes a big difference in our lives, but sometimes our lives intersect with the lives of others only minimally or sporadically.  When the Beatles sang: “I am a rock.  I am an island.” they knew it wasn’t really true.  Even a hermit living in a cave out in the desert impacts the lives of others to some degree, however minimally.

The abuse of addictive substances is never something that happens in complete isolation.  You may be alone when you actually use, but the fact that you are using makes a difference in the lives of your family and friends.  As much as it is true that your using impacted the lives of others, it is also true that your recovery will make a difference in the lives of others.  Recovery is not something that you do alone.  Your recovery will have an effect on your relationship with other people in your life.  Equally, other people will have an effect on your recovery.

There is a story about a monk who was known to be quick to anger.  Year after year, he would reflect and promise the other monks that he was going to change, but he never did, or at least not for long.  One year, God touched his heart and he really did make a change in his behavior.  The other monks, unfortunately, had heard it all before and didn’t believe he was really going to change.  They continued to treat him like a bomb that was ready to blow up.  Finally, he realized that they would never believe he had changed, so he went back to his old behavior.  In effect, the other monks refused to let him change.

There may be people in your life who will never believe you have changed and are in recovery.  That doesn’t mean you can’t change.  Find those people who are willing to give you the chance to prove you are truly in recovery.  They are the ones who will support and encourage you through the long journey towards sobriety.  You can’t do it alone.  You need people who will give you the opportunity to show that you are changing.  As for the ones who don’t believe in your recovery, they’ll come around eventually or they won’t

One Day at a Time

In the 6th chapter of the Gospel according to Matthew, Jesus tells us that the troubles of the day are sufficient for the day and that we shouldn’t worry about tomorrow’s troubles today.  This is true of recovery, as well.  Each day of recovery will bring tests, temptations, challenges and dangers.  It will be hard enough to deal with today’s problems.  If you start to worry about tomorrow and what problems might come in the days ahead, you can begin to feel overwhelmed.  Early in recovery, it’s often all you can do to go from hour to hour or even minute to minute.  This is especially true when you are going through withdrawal.  When your body and your mind are both craving some addictive substance, weeks, months and years of future sobriety may seem completely unbearable.  Again, sometimes it’s all you can do to get through the next minute, never mind the next 30 years.  Instead of worrying about tomorrow and all of your tomorrows, live in the now, in this very moment.

Looked at the other way, it’s equally true that the troubles of today are enough for today.  Obsessing about your failures of the past and brooding about the harm you have done won’t fix anything.  It may even increase your cravings as you seek some way to deal with the guilt and remorse for the pain you have brought to yourself and to others.  You can’t change the past and you can’t control the future.  All you can do is live now in a manner that will lead to a better future for yourself and for those you love.  If, for example, you neglected your children in pursuit of drugs, you can’t undo that.  What you can do is love your children today so that you and they will have a more positive future together.

A person I know who has been in recovery for years still frequently sings the song One Day at a Time.  It reminds him that today is a day of recovery and he asks the Lord to help him through today.  You can make that your daily prayer, as well.  Our Lord will stand by us as we struggle with the problems of today and He will support us with His grace and love.  Turn to Him when you begin to feel overwhelmed by the guilt and shame of the past or the worries of tomorrow.  Don’t live in the past or the future.  Live today, because today is all you really have.

Thinking Leads to Doing

As you continue your recovery, you may want to recall some of the more intense experiences you had while under the influence of mind-altering substances.  There is a temptation to say to yourself something like: “Thinking about it can’t cause any harm.  I’m not going to actually do anything.”  In actuality, this can be very risky and can be destructive of your recovery.  The more you think about using, the more likely it is that you will return to your former using behavior.

Jesus suggests something like this in the Gospels when He says that a person who hates somebody has already committed murder in his heart.  By thinking about using or by remembering times you used, you are already using in your heart.  We often forget how close thinking is to doing, but the two are powerfully connected.  If you think about it, much of what we do or say are things we thought about first.  It works both ways, of course.  If you think about helping somebody else with something or if you think about forgiving somebody for something they did to you, then you are already most of the way to helping them or forgiving them.  Our words and actions generally start in the mind before they are acted on.  Sure, there are occasions when we simply react to something or when we make a ‘spur of the moment’ decision, but most of what we say and do begins in our thoughts.

You might think of it this way.  There have probably been moments in your life when you simply blurt something out.  Afterwards, you look back and realize that you should have thought about what you were going to say first.  Those moments stand out in your memory because you didn’t think first, like you usually do.

Recovery isn’t easy in the best of times.  There’s no need to make things even harder for yourself by filling your mind with thoughts or imaginations of substance abuse.  On some level, you enjoyed your abuse of addictive substances.  There are probably many pleasant memories there.  To fill your mind or your imagination with the way things were or with the way they might be is to sabotage your own recovery.  Keep your mind and heart focused on recovery and sobriety.  Dredging up the past will only make your continued recovery more difficult.

Think about the good things you want to achieve.  That is the way forward.

Dealing With Emotions

Emotions can be a powerful motivation in our lives, for good or for bad.  Emotions such as joy, peace and love can motivate us to do good for others and for ourselves.  Painful emotions such as sadness, guilt and envy can motivate us to find some way to escape the pain we are feeling.  Too often, people turn to drugs in order to escape these painful emotions.  Pleasant emotions can lure us to use drugs in order to intensify those pleasing feelings.

Whether they are pleasant or unpleasant, emotions can be very powerful motivations in our lives.  It is important, therefore, that we evaluate how we respond to and manage our emotions.  Do we simply seek to escape unpleasant emotions and seek out pleasant emotions and try to intensify them?  We may be dominated by our emotions or seek to control them.  Trying to control our emotions is hopeless.  You can’t make yourself feel or not feel an emotion.  Can you tell yourself to be happy and succeed in doing so?  Of course not.  Emotions are simply there.  Allowing your emotions to control you is to abandon your ability to reason.  The other option is that we learn how to handle or manage our emotions.

Learning to manage our emotions can be difficult.  Managing emotions means learning how to respond rationally and humanly to what we feel.  Sadness can be a good example.  It is an emotion, but the question is what you do with it.  You cannot simply refuse to feel sad.  Nor can you allow your sadness to incapacitate you.  What must happen is that you acknowledge your sadness and continue with your day in spite of it.  Somewhere in the middle between denying your feelings and being dominated by your feelings is the middle ground where you acknowledge your feelings and are able to function effectively in spite of those feelings.

Emotions serve an important role in our lives, helping us to respond to the events of our lives.  When something bad occurs in our lives, we may feel sadness about it.  When something good happens in our lives, we may feel joyful about it.  To some degree, emotions mediate between the circumstances we find ourselves in and our rational minds.  A great deal of our lives is outside our ability to understand or control.  Our emotions enable us to respond humanly, not as computers, to what is going on in our lives.  You must allow yourself to feel what you feel, but also be able to function despite what you may feel.

Sin No More

When confronted with a woman who had been brought to Him as a sinner, Jesus told her that He would not condemn her, but He also told her that she should change her life or, as He put it, ‘Sin no more.’  I suspect that the family and friends of a recovering addict would more or less feel the same.  They do not, hopefully, condemn the person in recovery for the failures of the past, but they fully expect that they will not return to their former drug use.  It is not uncommon for people who are recovering from addiction to alcohol or other drugs to have a slip or two.  It’s part of the process of learning how to live a sober life.  A return to the previous behavior is something different.

For a person recovering from addiction to return to their former degree of drug use is often seen as abandoning their recovery.  This does not mean that all hope is lost and there is no longer any chance at recovery, but it does mean that the person must start over in recovery to some degree.  Even in the case of a return to previous drug use, it can still be an opportunity to learn.  By evaluating the circumstances of your return to previous drug use, you can come to a fuller appreciation of what motivates your drug use.

What really matters is how you respond to your slips or to your return to previous drug use.  If you see it as a failure, a loss, then that is what you’ll have.  If you instead recommit yourself to recovery, then you will have a learning opportunity.  Addiction is complicated, being a part of the way that you manage your life.  There are both mental and physical aspects to addiction and it can be a coping tool to aid you in dealing with various issues in your life.  All of this and more comes into play when we talk about addiction.  It is mental, physical and emotional in its origins and motivations.  The more you gain experience in recovery and the more you are able to learn from your mistakes, the more you will be able to live your life without reliance on mind-altering substances.

Addiction is not something you can simply turn off or turn on in your life, even though people may have said to you something like: “I don’t understand why you don’t just quit.”  It impacts, usually negatively, many aspects of your personality.  Despite this, the challenge remains:  sin no more!