Brain Pain: What Addiction Is and What It Isn’t

We are NEVER ever going to win the war on addiction if we keep TRYING TO FIGHT THE ADDICT.   We will not win the war on drugs, if we don’t first become messengers of peace and understanding for the people in pain so driven to use them.

Cocaine old picture

    Addiction is about a brain disease It is NOT about bad people!  OK, I admit, their choices become increasingly worse over time when left untreated.  Worse still, when coupled with mental illness, memories of a traumatic childhood (which is often), poverty, and above all neglect, condemnation, and a whole world which seems to be telling them at every juncture:

YOU ARE UNLOVEABLE!!  YOU ARE NOT WORTHY!

       You are not worthy of success.  You are not worthy of being loved.  You are not even worthy of me paying attention to you.   You know you’re never gonna beat this.   These are the unwanted demons that try and take up permanent residency in the addict’s mind

        This IS addiction:  A brain disease resulting from a brain in the pain.  It  is a brain that runs low on an essential neurotransmitter chemical called dopamine manufactured in the nucleus acummbens of the prefrontal cortex of your brain.  Without manufacturing of or release of it, you CAN NOT experience pleasure, or relief from pain or stress.  This brain pain may be physical; often it’s mental.  It’s almost always both.   With addiction comes memory problems and learning difficulties, not to mention a disruption of stability in every life area: work, family, financial, personal, and spiritual.   Often an addict will be adamant that without their substance of choice, they don’t feel “normal”.

     This IS NOT addiction:  A “bad” person.   An addict it not someone who “is determined” to just keep screwing up or make the wrong choice.  It is NOT something you can control in or for someone else simply because you have more willpower than they do.  Addicts learn to be crafty because the disease drives them; if they were in the driver’s seat, they wouldn’t CHOOSE to be an addict.   If you are an addict, chances are pretty high, you can’t even control it yourself.  Help is available; by all means seek it.

The addiction is the diseased brain.  This part the addict can not control!  The habit is the CHOICE that feeds it.  This part CAN be changed!

     When we tell an addict to just stop without understanding the severity of their illness (the longer the addiction, the sicker the brain) or the depth of their pain, we may as well be telling them to go part the ocean.  It’s not possible because they can’t do this alone.  

    All is not lost.  This does not mean an addict is condemned to stay that way.  There is a better way.  The brain has neuroplasticity!  It can be “re-wired.”  Oh what great hope awaits!

      But it takes this:

  • Time (The reinforced circuits of your habit take time to heal and be rewired)
  • Consistent, willing participation in the healing process (Usually a combination of medical care, rehab, recovery groups, therapy)
  • Love, Compassion, &  Acceptance from family and friends (This is NOT the same as enabling of habit or acceptance of bad behavior.  SEPARATE your love for the addict from the bad behavior.  This is hard!)
  • Praise & Encouragement NOT judgment and condemnation.
  • Prayers and Positive thoughts

If you or someone you love struggles with addiction, I implore you to read what a dear friend of mine has written about addiction below.  Learn all you can about the disease!  Because knowledge is power.  When we understand the science of addiction, we can stop fighting with the addict.  Instead, we can be a PARTNER IN LOVE AND ENCOURAGEMENT to the addict willing to seek help. It’s only then that we can start tearing down the walls that hold the addict’s mind hostage–a mind that is currently forbidden experiencing the joy that comes when we learn we can endure and triumph over our suffering. 

If you’re an addict or love someone who is, tell someone.  Get help.  Find an AA or Celebrate Recovery (if you’re the addict) or an Alanon or Nar-Anon group if you love an addict.  There is hope.  One step at a time.  Day by day.

May you live with the hope that comes from healing.  And God bless you!

Please read what my dear friend, writer, and recovering addict of 14 years has to say about addiction here.  Addicts are not junk.  They are NOT a hopeless case.   Above all, don’t give up on them or yourself!!!

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