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The War Within Us

Updated on November 24, 2014

Mankind, the most adaptable creature the earth has ever seen. Finding ways to live in the world's coldest and ice ridden tundra's; surviving in the extreme heat of Earth's most desolate deserts. With an ability like no other animal alive to feel the emotions of not only themselves , but others in their perspective societies, yet many times we have seen throughout the ages since man set foot on this planet, they cannot find the ability to live with themselves.

Whether it be nature or nurture, genetics or society, mankind since its beginning has had individuals turning to external means of improving their internal feelings. Now don't get me wrong here there are many external means an individual can utilize as a way of making themselves feel better emotionally and mentally that are completely safe and have no risk to a person or others around them. This fact goes without question. However, with mankind throughout millennia being proud and strong; with all sorts of documented courageous acts and selfless sacrifices...Great communities and nations which have supported their citizens to their deaths...What power could possibly compromise their bonds with these places and their families? Make a person turn their backs on the ones who have showed them nothing, but love and support? Willingly commit, and at times heinous, acts of immorality in order to gain an "inner-peace?" What force could possibly motivate someone to turn their backs on who they truly are; lying to themselves and everyone around them and at times, not even know they are doing it..? If the answer isn't right there on the tip of your tongue or forefront of your mind, odds are you have never dealt with it or have simply turned a blind-eye to this devastating disease. What is this disease you ask..? We call it, addiction.

Know What Your Up Against

Self-Portrait drawn in Minnesota Correctional Facility - Rush City.
Self-Portrait drawn in Minnesota Correctional Facility - Rush City.

I Have Personally Battled Addiction For Years.

Before continuing on I would like to tell you a bit about myself first. My name is Steve and I am an addict, (if you click the link preceding this it will redirect you to the Narcotics Anonymous Homepage). I am currently 34-years old and have been battling addiction since my early teens. One usually simply needs to name the drug and I can associate a personal testament to it. However, my addictions are not limited to the commonly known world of drugs and alcohol. I have also battled an addiction to money itself and gambling as well. I have been to both jail and prison. Spent many years there as a matter of fact due to my conviction, amongst others, for Manufacturing Methamphetamines. Probation, parole, multiple treatments and 12-Step meetings as well. I was sentenced just recently to 5-more years of probation with 19-more months of prison hanging over my head. In addition to this I also have another pending case coming up that I have to deal with and all of this has stemmed from my own battle with the disease of addiction. I will not claim to be the Governing Authority on the topic, but so as you read on you know I do in fact understand the disease, I wanted to give a brief history of who I am. I understand both living with it and what the consequences can be of it when not properly managed.

What is Addiction?

Addiction: ad·dic·tion [ əˈdikSHən ]

(As defined by the Medial Dictionary)

Addiction is a persistent, compulsive dependence on a behavior or substance. The term has been partially replaced by the word dependence for substance abuse. Addiction has been extended, however, to include mood-altering behaviors or activities. Some researchers speak of two types of addictions: substance addictions (for example, alcoholism, drug abuse, and smoking); and process addictions (for example, gambling, spending, shopping, eating, and sexual activity). There is a growing recognition that many addicts, such as polydrug abusers, are addicted to more than one substance or process.

ad·dic·tion: Habitual psychological or physiological dependence on a substance or practice beyond one's voluntary control.

How Does Addiction Happen?

There are many factors that cause addiction to occur. I will touch on some here, but it is not limited to these, to help explain. First, the drug chemistry of a substance, plays an important role. Some substances have far more addictive properties than others and hence the addiction process for that such substance is rapidly increased. Others produce physically painful withdrawal symptoms and so the user instead of enduring the pain of withdrawal many times will continue to use that substance in order to avoid these symptoms. These users become trapped in their addictions often times leading them to commit crimes and acts of immorality they would normally never perform in order to obtain the substance they are addicted to.

Next, many studies show that genetics can play an important role in the disease of addiction. In this scenario, a persons genetic make-up affects their sensitivity to certain substances much greater than in others resulting in an onset of addiction due to genetic predisposition. Some say environmental factors also can combine in to play here and also have an adverse effect on the individual.

Another factor at hand is from the habitual or continuous use of a substance or act of mood-altering behaviors, (i.e.: over-eating, sexual behavior, working, gambling...). Over time as these substances are used or these acts are performed they actually physically, and in some circumstances permanently, change the chemistry of the brain. There is evidence which suggests that these long-lasting brain changes are responsible for the distortions of cognitive and emotional functioning that define addicts, in particular the compulsion to use addictive substances and/or drugs.

Moving along, Social Learning or "Environmental Factors" play an extremely large role in the disease of addiction. The family unit being very influential. If one is raised in a home where drugs are prevalent it puts an individual in that home at far more risk. Other fators that can be categorized in to this are advertising, media and peer-pressure.

Lastly, I will touch on the factor of availability. Studies have shown that the availability of a substance or process, (i.e.: gambling, eating, working), play a direct role in the rise and fall of certain addictions. Low cost alcohol and cigarettes easily afforded by many are examples of just this. Another example would be living near a casino with easy and readily available access 24-hours a day.

What Do You Think?

What factor plays the biggest role in addiction?

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Can Addiction Be Managed or Controlled?

Once one endeavors in to the world of addiction they can find themselves swirling in a sea of hopelessness that feels like there is no end to. Many times by the time they are able to admit that they have a problem that they cannot manage on their own they find themselves lonely, abandoned, forgotten or avoided. To pair with this already devastating factor, many times an individual seeking help faces either resistance or reluctance to help from friends, family or other people they find themselves interacting with due to their past actions while in the grasps of the very disease they want to overcome. Legal issues may also be at the forefront of their personal battles making the challenge ahead seem like one that they would rather avoid altogether. Thus making them slip back in to the dark, cold and lonely corners of society in which they have spent days, weeks, months and even years struggling with their addictions before they found the strength to even admit they needed help. So begins the cycle again that they so desperately tried to escape. Hold on here though... Don't give up or up on someone just yet..!

Addiction, as powerful and destructive as it can be in many cases, can be managed and/or controlled with a little help from others and a strong effort by the afflicted individual. With many different addictions circling around and new ones forming each and everyday, one would be hard-fetched to propose a single solution that they could propose to cure this disease as a whole. Yet, like many other diseases in this word, there are multiple therapies and treatments to help people who suffer. One of the biggest hindrances to this available help though is that people far too often than they should be resist it. Remember, if people are there to help you, whom mind you don't need to be most often, open a bit and begin to allow them to assist you in your battle. There is power in numbers and many times the people who are there to help you are ones who have been through something similar, if not exactly the same, as to what you are struggling with. And get this... Whether you believe it or not, it is fact, that many times by allowing them help you, you are in turn being a strong part of that person's very own therapeutic needs! It's a win-win!

I want to elaborate a bit on what I meant in that last sentence of the previous paragraph. You may find yourself wondering exactly what I mean by "allowing someone to help you is beneficial to that person's therapeutic needs." To be honest, I hope you are because it brings us right in to this next topic. Many, many people find managing recovery possible from addiction based support groups. Alcoholics Anonymous-AA, Narcotics Anonymous-NA, Gamblers Anonymous, and many more. Finding the courage to visit one of the various meetings of one of these groups has been the very thing that has changed the lives of many addicts across the globe. They are by no means simply classes or meetings you need to attend because a probation officer or judge told you that you needed to go because they don't like you or want to punish you. They should be viewed as an oasis in the desolate desert of help you find yourself searching for an answer in. Within the closed doors of these meetings, like clinical doctors the stories shared and experiences covered seem to magically penetrate your walls, diagnose you, and the cure to your ailments can be unclosed right before your very eyes. Support offered all throughout their services. Remember the people there are not ordered to be there many times. They are there because they and countless others seem to continuously discover hope, therapy, coping methods and remedies, advice and much more for the very disease that ravages your own mind and life that without help from an external source will more than likely be the death of you. By no means am I saying it is the "Save-All," but it can be one heck of a starting point if you can find the courage to try it at least once.

So we covered support groups. Obviously, these are not the only way to manage addiction. Some addictions come with a 100% guarantee that you will need to use prescribed medications in order to release yourself from its hold. It is important that when you deal with these situations that you follow the doctor's orders and prescriptions as prescribed. If one doesn't, they will find themselves many times only hurting themselves worse than they already have and often in the grasp of yet another addiction. It is essential to be honest with your doctor so they can best diagnose the problem and procure the best plan of attack to overcome it. If one finds themselves in this type of dilemma I would beg of you not to limit yourself to simply following the doctors orders. Pair this with some of the previously mentioned support based groups and you may find healing a much more desirable process and perhaps some great friends to go with it.

Other measures that are very common are treatment. Both out-patient and in-patient treatment can provide many people with the tools they need to manage the disease of addiction. Often times viewed by an addict as a punishment, it is quite certainly the opposite. I would encourage any addict going in to treatment to allow the body to rid itself of the drug or to allow the addictive compulsion to die down a bit before judging the program they find themselves in. Many times our own addictions themselves lie to us in the early stages of recovery allowing us to believe that where we are or what we are doing are by no means helping us, but actually hurting us. THAT IS NOT THE CASE EVER! If you are in an accredited program your recovery is their responsibility as well as it is yours at that time. Your efforts are necessary and the program will not work if you show none, but with all the laws and regulations placed upon these places you would be hard to convince me or anybody else that they were not trying to help. The means of help they are using may seem boring or redundant, but one will find if they simply open their own mind up to what they have in front of them, which is an OPPORTUNITY to get better, things will not seem so bad and actually will help them change their lives. Addiction has been around for millennia. Countless dollars and research have gone in to it and there are models for successfully managing these ailments developed everywhere. These models are utilized by such treatment facilities and the people there I would say typically are there because they truly want to help people.

In The End...

In the end, it all boils down to an individual. The individual who is struggling with the disease of addiction must first recognize that they need help. Remember just because a person goes to jail or prison or court ordered meetings or treatment, it does not mean that they recognize and accept that they have a problem. They may simply feel like they are being picked on. Just because a person has a life that is in turmoil does not mean they feel as if it is a result of their own doing. They could once again simply feel as if society itself needs fixing and not them. I could go on and on here, but the point is that it starts within the addict himself/herself. Once this process begins though and the addict begins to accept this they will find themselves instantly with many more options than they had only moments before. Options to finally escape the perpetual nightmare they found themselves in for however long it was for their personal battle. Addiction is a scary place to find yourself. More often than not, people don't want to admit they are there...However, if a person can muster the strength and courage to admit and accept it...If they can find the power within to live in the now and not in their pasts... A person can begin their road to recovery and begin to enjoy the promises of life that we have all heard since we were very young. Even though at times due to our lives and environments they simply seemed as if they were fantasies that happened only in fairy tales. Be strong, be courageous and best of luck to all of you who suffer from or are seeking help for a friend or loved one afflicted by the disease of addiction.

© 2014 Steve Bibro


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