Some people become infuriated when I try to explain alcoholism/addiction as a disease, because how could I even consider equating their “choice” to cancer. Early brain development plays a large roll in our functions as adults, and it helps me to see myself or other addicts having a disease of the mind due to maladjustment as a child. Parents frequently ask me “Whats wrong with this kid? They have everything. Why won’t they get it together?” I am clearly under qualified to go into the nature vs. nurture debate on this subject, but I can explain the thought process of an active user from my own personal experience. There is no way to fully understand the malfunction of the addicts brain without crossing that invisible line yourself, and even after an addict obtains sobriety it can still pose a challenge to fully grasp the concept that he or she will never drink or use like a normal person.
The brain of a sick alcoholic/addict is not operating on the same wave-length as the rest of society. It is literally like they are in an alternate universe where things function differently. They could walk into their beautiful home and family and all that is on their mind is a drink or drug, because their life isn’t worth living without it. While on the outside, everyone can see something completely different. Chaos to a normal person is uncomfortable, but an addict seeks it, because that is where their brain feels most comfortable. Also, chaos is another reason to justify their habit. It is much easier to find reason in a bad habit if everything around you is in turmoil. Chaos becomes their serenity.
The obsession that something other than “the now” will bring happiness drives their addiction- until they get to the point that nothing matters. Addicts/alcoholics will usually pursue relationships, sometimes be successful in their careers, or maybe they just become master thieves to fund their addiction. They witness death, greed, and live in constant anxiety, because nothing fills that obsession “ that obtaining that next thing or fix will make them happy”…… a drug or drink numbs that anxiety, that fear, and depression, but it only lasts momentarily. Life becomes a routine cycle of obtaining artificial happiness.
An addict’s brain believes their problems belong to everyone else, and they feel victimized, so they develop resentments. Resentment is their only way of connecting with people. Anyone who comes between them and their artificial happiness is trying to ruin their life. Addiction can say some pretty awful things. Relationships become resentments. When everyone else realizes its time to stop the addict believes its time to push harder. They isolate themselves, and believe things were taken from them, but others can see they were thrown away or given. Feelings are designed to help the body heal, but addicts see it as poison. Feelings get pushed down until numbness is all they know. Feelings get masked. The black hole the addict is constantly trying to fill will continue to grow and need more to fill it, and hopefully, just in time, they give up and seek help.
The next big question is “how do I help this addict I care about?” the truth is you cannot make them better. The only way an addict will heal their brain is if they want too. Helping an addict usually means enabling, and the more comfortable you make an addicts life the less likely they will ever get sober. Detach with love, set boundaries, and whatever you do: don’t give them money. The best approach is to wait for them to ask for help to get sober. You should already have a plan, and therapist to help manage the situation, and get them into treatment. Waiting till the addict calls asking for help to verify insurance benefits and find a quality treatment center can result in even more chaos. Wherehab will help anyone get quality treatment, and all of our help is not for profit. We also have a variety of therapists we work with to help you concur enabling and develop understanding. Addiction is a family disease everyone the addict loves it affected by the pain it brings, and you should never go through it alone. If you are feeling angry at a loved one just remember they are hurting.