Addiction, Addition and Subtraction
Am I an Addict?
Do I indulge in an activity that is bad for me?
I am in love with Robert Downey Jr. Yes in love and have been since the release of one of my all-time favorites, the 1987 Drama, “Less Than Zero”. The trailer summarizes the movie in this way.
A college freshman returns to L.A. for the holidays at his ex-girlfriend's request, but discovers that his former best friend has an out-of-control drug habit.
Being greatly familiar with the movie, I see it this way.
A young man living in Los Angeles has hopes of the societal access and success living in L.A. can provide. He engages with the wrong people, and loses his pride, his promise and possibilities to addiction.
Downey plays Julian; a crack addict who can’t get past the hold the drug has on him. Old high school friends attempt to intervene for the sake of the friendship and times gone by, but are unsuccessful. Julian lies, steals, and allows himself to be prostituted to pay his debts. He has a heart though because when given the opportunity, Julian relents, ultimately turning over jewels he’d stolen from her parents to Blair before dying. He sought a familiar albeit de-humanizing answer to solving his problem. He chose to return to his old ways rather than betray his friends love and trust. What a man…right?
Addiction is a strange thing. Strange to the person held close in its grasp and even more peculiar to the person on the outside looking in. It is a dance of seduction and self-abuse that occurs without warning. It is a love-hate relationship the addict has with himself and the world. Ever hear anyone say they want to become an addict when they grow up. I’m fairly certain your response to that question is no, although there’s always a possibility. However I’m more certain you’ve heard expectations…the hope people have for their lives, the desires to land their dream jobs, to use their creative skills to earn an exceptional living, to make a lot of money…travel, to find a partner and mate for life, to have children, to make a home, to serve mankind and the list continues. Addiction is the manifestation of awareness that some or none of those desires have been realized. It is knowing that life has gone awry, but choosing not to accept reality’s mandate. It is the acknowledgement of defeat, the result of acquiescing to defeat, and choosing the wrong coping mechanism by which to acquiesce. Addiction is the act of helping oneself to feel better, over and over, every once and a while until every once and a while becomes every while and a once. It is the creation of a false sense of tranquility.
How Addiction Works, an article by Josh Clark states:
Stories about how addiction has ruined lives are common in our society today. Reports of the lengths addicts will go to and the dark acts they will commit to get drugs, like crack cocaine, heroin and even alcohol, abound -- serving as cautionary tales to keep others from following the same path. Though we've come far in the study of addiction, it's still a relatively new concept. Just a few hundred years ago, and for centuries before that, the general attitude toward alcohol was that it was consumed because people wanted to consume it, not because of any internal or external necessity [source: Levine]. But as Denial reports and confessions came in from people who felt an irresistible urge to consume alcohol and drugs (once they became more accessible), our idea about some substances changed, and we developed the concept of addiction.
Being a means to the end of satisfaction, of coping…of just wanting to ease the pain for a moment, addiction isn’t merely drug related. Addiction can be attributable to shopping, eating, sex, chocolate, lying, stealing…anything the addict can use to escape their current reality. The “thing” becomes the drug. And like addiction to a drug, often over indulgence has a lasting negative affect. Addiction may sometimes begin innocently…one drink, one smoke a one-time event that morphs into habit and ultimately enslavement (dependency).
“Denial it’s, not just a river in Egypt”
“I can quit anytime I want to”, is the constant refrain of an addict when confronted with the truth of his addiction and the price of that truth. What do you say about an alcoholic who continues to drink, knowing the damage being done to the liver and physical toll being taken on his or her body. Some call it weakness, others disease. An article entitled Addiction Denial and Cognitive Dysfunction: A Preliminary Investigation, William Rinn, Ph.D.; Nitigna Desai, M.D.; Harold Rosenblatt, M.D.; David R. Gastfriend, M.D. says this...
Denial is a common feature of addictive disease. Patients with alcohol dependence often underestimate the amount of alcohol they consume, the duration of their drinking problem, or the impact alcohol has had on their personal life or health. They are likely to overestimate their ability to control their drinking or to quit without assistance. In some cases, their perceptions go against compelling evidence of the severity of their problem. For some, the denial is fragile and is easily penetrated when they are supportively confronted with the facts. (e.g., liver disease, drunk driving arrests, repeated detoxifications). For others, the denial is fixed and is unaffected by confrontation with the evidence. Undoubtedly, the denial displayed by individuals with alcohol and other drug dependencies sometimes has a defensive component. However, a pattern of severe denial in the face of overwhelming evidence of addiction and addiction-related problems is also consistent with a cognitive defect. Cognitive Defect…is that the same as crazy? Or is cognitive defect mean clinically depressed?
Addiction and Depression
In the Discovery Health article, Are depressed people more prone to addiction -- and why? By Molly Edmonds, The author states:
There's no doubt that there's great comorbidity, or simultaneous occurrence, of addiction and depression. Male addicts have a rate of depression three times higher than the general public, while female addicts have a rate that's four times higher [source: Albrecht, Herrick]. The link between depression and addiction holds true for more traditional substance addictions like nicotine and alcohol as well as more recently recognized impulse-control addictions, such compulsive gambling. Is it any wonder then that Nevada, with the smoky, cocktail-fueled casinos of Las Vegas, ranked as one of the 10 most depressed states in 2007 [source: MHA]?
But which came first -- the addiction or the depression? In one study, about half of patients admitted to a drug treatment program for cocaine claimed pre-existing depression, indicating that rather than seeking out therapists, these people sought out drug dealers [source: Goleman]. In another study, doctors estimated that 10 to 20 percent of alcoholics begin drinking to feel better because of depression [source: Schmeck].
Doesn't really matter what comes first in my opinion. Any activity that robs you of the potential joys of having a life well lived is a barrier to be addressed and overcome. Only overcoming in this case ain't easy. When and how does it get better? I knew a lady once who talked with me about her addiction to alcohol. She'd come from an abusive family and as an adult used alcohol to forget...to compensate...to erase bad memories. Only it didn't work. She continued to drink, lost friends, employment and income before finally seeking therapy. Therapy worked for her because she was able to take the negative activity of drinking and channel it into exercise. She developed a new addiction, a healthy one. It's been a long while since I met and talked with the woman. I hope she still has her exercise addiction and that she's controlling the addictive behavior of exercise and it's not controlling her.
I remember the "Crack" cocaine epidemic of the 80's and watching various people succumb to its allure. They were lawyers, doctors, teachers and just everyday people who couldn't cope or were just having a good time when all of a sudden the good time turned bad. It was hard to witness, especially when the everyday person is someone you love. Yes, loved ones hit rock bottom, some were blessed enough to look up a, then get up...others not so.
How do you overcome addiction? Well first you've got to want it...I mean really, really want it. So much so, you're willing to do whatever it takes to be free. And freedom is what it's all about. Anything that controls you, inhibits your abilities and desires...dictates your coming and going, your living and knowing you deserve to live life to its fullest is your master. Here are some ideas to help you win.
1) Admit to you that your problem is more than you can handle.( No more denial)
2) Talk to your friends and family. (Let the people who love you help you)
3) Talk to a professional. (There are people trained to help, find the right one to help you)
4) Make life worth living.(If your life is not what you want, change it. Only you can)
5) Believe you deserve to be free.(You're worth it, even if sometimes you don't think so)
6) Lean on your faith.(Life happens to us all, you need something or someone bigger than you)
7) If at first you don't succeed..(Don't give up, becoming addicted doesn't happen overnight, neither will recovery)
8) If 1 - 7 don't work, find what does and do that. (Whatever is legal, doesn't hurt anyone else and helps you to get and remain free is the right thing to do)
Get well and Get your Life!
- HBO: Addiction
HBO.com's Addiction website brings together many of America's top addiction experts to explain that addiction is a medical condition with real medical solutions. The website offers comprehensive information and resources about the latest breakthrough