Understanding Alcohol and Drug Addiction

Alcohol and drug addiction are issues that have actually been around for thousands of years. Addressing addiction is a complicated matter because it has physical, psychological and emotional elements that all have to be addressed simultaneously. At its root, all addiction starts as a form of pain management, but over time, it also becomes a habit, which makes it even more difficult to break free from. 

How Addiction Starts 

It is not a coincidence that medications prescribed to alleviate pain are at the heart of a current drug epidemic. In truth, science is showing us that pain is pain and the pain of a broken heart is biologically identical to the pain of a broken arm or leg. Generally, when you address the underlying cause of physical pain, it tends to go away in a few days and sometimes even within a few hours. While the same may be true of psychological and emotional pain, the difference is, you can’t see the causes of psychological or emotional pain, which can make them much harder to address. 

Imagine that you were shot with a bullet as a child, but no one knew – all anyone saw was a bleeding wound. Well-meaning family and friends may have stuck a band aid on it or tended to you until the bleeding stopped, but they didn’t remove the bullet. The likelihood is the wound would become infected and over time, would cause chronic, ongoing and severe pain. If the wound is not treated properly, the only answer becomes to manage the pain. You may try and stop taking pain medications or whatever you use to manage the pain, but until the initial wound is dealt with, the pain will always be too great and you will always go back to trying to manage it in some way. That is how addiction generally starts. Over time, however, it can become as much a habit as anything and the longer something is a habit, the harder it can be to break free. 

Over Time Addiction Becomes A Habit 

Over time, you may simply get used to being in pain. In some cases, the wound may even heal enough on its own to stop causing pain. By that time, however, an individual may be so used to managing pain, that they just keep right on doing so. If you tried to stop taking whatever you are using to manage your pain, but every time just ended up in more pain, eventually you will stop trying to stop. Eventually you will most likely accept the belief that your only two options are to live in pain or use something to manage the pain. In most cases, pain management seems the most preferable to living in chronic pain. 

Ultimately, however, the need to manage pain will take precedence over everything else. It will destroy relationships, wipe out livelihoods and even interfere with an individual’s ability to engage in any kind of self-care. All that matters are diminishing the pain. That is addiction and it doesn’t just happen with drugs and alcohol. It can happen with any action, habit, substance or behavior that people discover helps them manage pain. 

To Overcome the Addiction, You Have to Heal the Wound 

Imagine a doctor finding an old bullet wound 20 years later. By that time, tissue would have completely formed around the wound and would most likely require extensive surgery to remove. Now imagine, that in order to have the bullet removed, you couldn’t use any pain medication. In many cases, the solution can cause just as much, if not more pain than the initial wound, but you can’t even use anything to manage the pain. This is why it is sometimes difficult for addicts to get the help they need. As with any type of recovery, things often get worse – or more painful – before they get better. 

The difference between psychological/ emotional and physical wounds, of course, is that you can actually see what is causing physical pain. It generally has a cause you can scan for, test for or see in some way. Also, when you get shot, you generally know you’ve been shot. Certain incidents in our lives can be the psychological or emotional equivalent of getting shot. They can cause the same damage to the psyche that a bullet causes to the body. Unlike a bullet, however, you can’t see the wound and may not even have any idea you were shot. This is why professional help is often necessary for addiction recovery. The same way it’s inadvisable to try and remove a bullet yourself, it is also inadvisable to try and heal from deep psychological and emotional wounding by yourself as well. This is where treatment can help.

For more information, have a look at The Recovery Village.