Walk The Talk Recovery December 5
I was talking to a young man the other day about alcoholism and he said, “Why don’t they just quit drinking?” It reminded me that this is how many people who do not have the disease think.
But in working with people who are addicted to substances, alcohol or drugs, we realize that there are two very distinct aspects to the disease. The physical allergy, where the person becomes “hooked” on the substance and cannot manage any aspect of it. Instead it manages them and completely controls them. Once a person is so dependent on a substance, they cannot just give it up and walk away. Almost everything they think and do revolves around getting more and making sure that they don’t find themselves without what they need.
My experience says that if a person really has a substance use disorder, they cannot give it up without help. After all, the disease has a demon living inside of them that spends every minute convincing them to use more. Depending on the intensity, the help needed ranges from regular meetings to live-in Rehabilitation.
The help really comes into play once the person is trying to live without the substance, facing the other aspect of the disease. Most will acknowledge that the actual substance was but a symptom. Healthy, happy people do not follow substances to the ends of the earth. They do not need to numb their feelings and search for “fun” and highs with substances. So once people who have the disease are without their substance they need help with managing the thoughts and feelings that began the process. It almost always has its roots in lack of self-esteem, or as I like to say, lack of Okayness. Substances gave them the courage to pursue things that make them feel a bit more Okay or the substance numbs the feelings that come up that they cannot handle because they don’t believe they are Okay. Either way, the Not Okay feelings are dulled.
And when a person has a combination of not feeling Okay and a demon that is telling them to take more of a numbing agent, they need to go outside of themselves for help. There are two expressions common in Alcoholics Anonymous that support this belief about help. One is “You can’t fix a sick mind with a sick mind, ” making it clear that you cannot fix a problem with the system that created it. The other is “Think of your mind like a bad neighborhood and don’t go there alone.”
While we all want everyone in our life to be free of any substances, continue to help wherever you can, but do it with empathy and understanding. This person is giving up a substance that they are probably dependent on in every sense of the word and they are being stripped of the one thing that stands between them and feeling any temporary little bit of Okayness they get.