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Understanding The Pain Of Addiction
One of the most misunderstood disorders known to mankind, is the disease called addiction. How to understand addiction can best be described through the experience of an addict himself or herself who has once suffered from the seemingly hopeless state of mind and body of addiction and has recovered from the fatal malady of this insidious disease.
One of the reasons addiction is misunderstood is that it manifests in a way that is paradoxically opposed to human logic.
Although it is apparent that the addict is hopelessly dependent on the chemicals he is consuming, this is merely a symptom of an extremely complex dynamic occurring in the mind and body of an addict. The fundamental problem of the addict centers in his mind and not in his addiction to drugs or alcohol. Addiction comes in people, and not in drugs or bottles
The Solution to Addiction Is Useless Without a Problem
If the addict has any chance of recovery, he first has to understand his problem before he can accept and engage a solution…obviously.
To help the addict who still suffers I describe below what it means to be an addict. I write about the problem of addiction in the singular. Here I describe my addiction to alcohol. Yes I am an addict with 20 years of sobriety under my belt. The problem of addiction manifests in exactly the same way whether it is the use of alcohol or drugs.
The Internal Malady of The Addict
I have this internal condition that condemns me to seek approval from others every day of my life. It is a never-ending internal dialogue of desperate need to be accepted, liked and loved just to make me feel ok! Yet I have no idea who I am.
My addiction to others approval of me is blatant and yet my thoughts deny this fact. Despite this I am terrified the world will find out who I really am and if the world knew the truth about me, I would be rejected and cast out by the very ones I seek approval from. This is my big secret to keep from the world. I come to realize that my thoughts and actions towards others are bizarre.
Although I desperately seek to be accepted for who I am, I keep the truth of who I am hidden from the world. I want you to love me for the person I am, but I will make sure you never know the real me. You must accept me as the lovable and likeable person that I think I am without discovering the truth about me!
This internal condition I suffer from is strangely insane and yet my confused state of mind assures me that my behaviour is perfectly valid. This alcoholic way of thinking becomes the only normal way of life for me as after a while of living in this frightened state of existence, I cannot see the truth from the false.
As long as I can remember I have always felt that I am not enough and therefore not liked and loved. A feeling of incompleteness and separation from other people dominate my thoughts and behaviour. This is my approach towards anyone who enters the arena of my life. Although I always feel less than others, I will mentally dissect those around me through my judgement and opinion of them just to feel like I am on the same playing field.
Yet when I am alone, I retreat back into my state of desolation and separation from world. As a result of this I always feel awful about myself.
The Obsession of The Mind
“The alcoholic suffers from an obsession of the mind that condemns him to drink against his will” – Dr William Silkworth MD
The truth of my reality is that I have an obsession of the mind that I have no control over. This obsession demands of me that I seek refuge from the mental onslaught of never feeling enough. It condemns me to seek ease and comfort from my feelings of incompleteness and creates in me an awareness that I am less than everyone. It is like an internal itch that always needs to be scratched, and the more I scratch the quicker it spreads.
My very first alcoholic beverage instantly converted my feelings of incompleteness into a euphoric sense of ease and comfort. After consuming a few beers nothing mattered, I did not care anymore about my perceived own inadequacies or what people thought of me. The alcohol quietened down the constant self-loathing chatter in my mind. It granted me freedom from my feelings of separation and isolation from others. It silenced the fear that had owned me all my life.
The Effect Produced By Alcohol
The effect produced by alcohol was like divine intervention of blissful calm over the troubled waters of my ever-busy mind. It made me feel like I was finally enough. Good enough for anyone or any situation I would have to face in life. The effect was magical. Who in their right mind would not want to feel like this? It was a feeling of ultimate power within me and control of all of those around me. This was my kingdom now where I could rule my universe and nothing else mattered.
This is the exact point where the alcoholic or addict falls prey to the tragedy of his/her own obsession of the mind. The obsession has finally been silenced with the effect of ease and Comfort delivered by alcohol, and for a while it appears to vanish under the temporary shadow of mild or severe intoxication.
This is usually the point of no return for the alcoholic. This was my point of no return 38 years ago and I had no idea of what was happening to me let alone the darkness of addiction that was yet to come.
After my first encounter with alcohol, I found myself thinking extremely fond thoughts of getting drunk again soon, of consuming that powerful effect so potent, nothing can harm me when I am full of this magical power delivered by alcohol. I felt a sense of profound excitement every time I thought of drinking again. It was like my whole existence had taken on a new meaning, it felt like I had finally arrived at a place within myself I could call completeness and peace, a place that I could call my home. I finally felt like I belonged (although I had no idea what I belonged to), and the only fear I had was that my next drunk may take a bit too long to arrive.
Every time I thought of my next drunk, a sense of ease and comfort overcame me, and for a short period of time I felt at peace with the world and others around me. I had never felt like this before. I was the guy who always felt like the fly in the ointment or the disharmony in the choir. I preferred to lurk in the shadows of life where others seemed to love their exposure to their groups. I always felt like the outcast of my tribe, and yet when I drank, I felt like their king. For many years in the exile of my drinking did I consider this way of thinking and behaving abnormal in any kind of way.
By default, this behaviour became the only ordinary way of life for me, a life of self-torment commuting from the dark shadows of self-loathing to the bright lights of my egocentric alcoholic Disney World. Fantasy and lies ruled my mind for many years.
At this point it is not hard to see that I was in fact suffering from a delusion so insipid, it could make a Hyena blush and cower from its kill. This delusion convinced me every day of my life for 21 years that I had full control over my drinking, and that drinking was indeed very good for me despite the overwhelming evidence that drinking was really a very bad idea.
The delusion that I suffered from was so powerful, had it not been for the intervention done on me and my drinking, I would have faithfully followed my delusion to the alcoholic graveyard.
The Alcoholic Drinks Alcohol for the Effect, The Addict Uses Drugs for the Effect
To sum it up in simple terms, an alcoholic will drink essentially for the effect delivered by alcohol. This effect is a euphoric sense of ease and comfort, a deep feeling that all is good. Therefore, alcohol was just a symptom and the effect of ease and comfort becomes the alcoholic’s solution to life, a life he has never felt comfortable in. Alcohol is the alcoholic’s medication that treats his internal problem of incompleteness and separation from others.
Alcohol appears to put a broken and shattered life back together again. This is the great betrayal that alcohol sells the alcoholic. Unfortunately for every alcoholic or addict the fact is that one day without warning the effect of ease and comfort disappears and the more chemical that is consumed, the more loneliness and fear becomes the effect that is delivered.
Slowly but surely the addict endures this loneliness to a point where he starts to wish for the end. Long gone are the glory days of infectious and exciting intoxication, only to be replaced with the black abyss of terror and bewilderment. A constant feeling of impending doom is the awakening thought and all hopes and dreams of a peaceful and productive life are shattered by the agony of knowing there is something dreadfully wrong. It is like an unnamed emotion that feels like death itself.
The real terror is born out of the hideous realization that there is no way out of the dark deep hole of incomprehensible despair. This is a place of ultimate suffering and humiliation that only an addict can know – the place of “No way out”.
It is the day that arrives for every addict where he realizes that drinking or drugging is no longer working for him and not drinking or drugging is not working for him, and there is absolutely no friendly direction at hand. All he can think of doing is checking out of his misery.
The Alcoholics Physical Reaction to Alcohol
Ever wondered why once you have one drink, ten or twenty are not enough? Why is it that normal drinkers can have one or two drinks, walk away satisfied and yet the alcoholic is just getting warmed up after a few beverages and cannot stop once he starts?
Let me describe what would happen to me, the alcoholic, once I took a drink;
I have already described the reason why I was so desperately attracted to alcohol in the first place, I became obsessed with the effect of ease and comfort alcohol gave me. After all who in their right mind would not want such a powerful force inside of them, a force that could take on anything that life had to throw your way?
This is the mental short circuit that takes place in the mind of an alcoholic. On top of this mental condition, there is also a physical reaction that takes place.
When I take a drink, I break out in an irresistible yearning for another drink. The only thing that will satisfy this yearning is another drink. This physical reaction occurs with every drink I take and can only be satisfied with another. When I drink the drink takes me. This is where I lose the power of choice and control over alcohol and I could never accurately predict how many drinks I would have in one sitting. This physical action of alcohol on the alcoholic was described by Dr Silkworth as a phenomenon of craving. It is a physical allergy in the alcoholic, which means an abnormal reaction. This allergic reaction to alcohol only occurs in the alcoholic and never in the average temperate drinker. It has been proved beyond doubt that these allergic types of drinkers can NEVER use alcohol safely.
The insanity of it all is that the alcoholic has no idea that this abnormal reaction is happening to him every time he drinks. No idea what so ever.
Now you know why once you start you cannot stop! Surely then all you have to do is stay away from the first drink? But you can’t stay away, can you? Like me you have gone through dry periods where you have promised yourself and maybe others that you are done! Cutting down! But you can never stay stopped!
As an alcoholic I could never achieve permanent abstinence from alcohol. I would at some stage find myself picking up the first drink, the one and only drink I should never take! Once this happened the rest was history. I would emerge remorseful, full of promises of “never again!” and yet at some stage after the next spree would occur and the hideous cycle would happen again and again. Why? Why can I never put it down and leave it down? Well, remember alcoholics have this mental obsession for the effect. An obsession so powerful that even wild horses cannot keep him from drinking. Driven by the overwhelming desire for the effect produced by alcohol, the alcoholic takes his first drink, the physical allergy kicks in and all bets are off!
This insidious cycle of self-destruction becomes the only normal way of life for the alcoholic and although he tries desperately to control and overcome his drinking under his own power, the fact is he lacks power over alcohol and does not even know it.
It is not hard to observe by now that the alcoholics dilemma is pretty hopeless. Alcoholism is in actual fact a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body. It is a level of insanity that is beyond human understanding and yet as real as night and day.
The Fatal Malady of Addiction
Not only does the alcoholic have an abnormal reaction to alcohol, but he also has an abnormal reaction to abstinence from alcohol. An abnormal reaction to life itself.
If this seemingly hopeless state of mind and body weren’t enough to destroy a human, there is a third component to this condition. It is called the fatal malady of the alcoholic and it is a sickness of the human spirit buried in the soul of the one who suffers.
No medicine or clinical solution can treat or cure this. This is fact. I am an alcoholic and addict who like millions of others has tried virtually every possible human solution for my problem including, medication, therapy (I loved therapy because I got tons of sympathy and loads of pills to get high on), and any kind of alternate human aid that I could lay my hands on. None of these worked! In fact, most of these methods fuelled the fire raging inside me.
The great fact for any human suffering from an internal problem that is grounded in the tenors of spiritual illness is, this cannot be cured with an outside solution. It is as simple as that. The solution to an internal problem such as this has to be an inside job.
When does an alcoholic start to get sick from his disorder? When he stops drinking is the simple answer. Why does he get sick once he stops? Because alcohol had become his medication that would deliver the solution of ease and comfort he so desperately yearned for.
In fact, once the alcoholic abstains from booze for any given period of time, he becomes restless, irritable and discontent. This condition can only be treated with the ease and comfort that he at once experiences from taking the first few drinks.
Without his medication called alcohol or drugs inside him, the alcoholic is not only restless irritable and discontent, he falls prey to misery and depression. He is always in conflict or collision with something or someone; he has problems making a living and appears to be desperately seeking approval and acceptance from others on an ongoing basis. This is called the spiritual malady of the alcoholic.
The alcoholic will eventually withdraw so deep within himself that the symptoms of his internal withdrawal appear to be conditions such as clinical depression or bipolar disorder. The alcoholic begins to live in a hopeless state of separation from the world and others around him. This becomes the spiritual chronic disorder of the alcoholic and therefore anti-depressants and other mind- and mood-altering medication will not treat the depression of the man who is now the lost one.
The pain of living in the spiritual malady becomes so unbearable for the alcoholic that he has no option but to pick up the one and only thing that will effectively treat his restless, irritable and discontent state of mind and spirit, and that thing is king alcohol! The dreadful cycle begins once again and the alcoholic remains lost in his state of desolation and despair.
Once again, the familiar dreaded horsemen of terror and bewilderment come to visit and the alcoholic progresses ever further along the hallway of insanity with death looming in the close distance.
It is no wonder the alcoholic becomes a very sick man indeed once he stops drinking. The fatal malady is unforgiving and takes no prisoners. Unless the alcoholic gets the right kind of treatment, the type of treatment that will remove the fatal malady that dominates his soul he is doomed to face the imminent fate of jails, institutions or death.
Conclusion to the problem of addiction:
Part One – The alcoholic suffers from an obsession of the mind that condemns him to drink against his will. This obsession is born out of the powerful yearning the alcoholic develops from the effect of ease and comfort delivered by alcohol.
Part Two – The alcoholic has a physical allergy, an abnormal reaction to alcohol once he drinks. This allergy breaks out in the phenomena of craving which can only be satisfied by another drink. The alcoholic has lost all power of choice and control over alcohol and will never be able to control his drinking.
Part Three – For whatever reason once the alcoholic stops drinking for a sustained period of time, he becomes restless irritable and discontent until he can once again experience the ease and comfort that he gets as soon as he takes a few drinks.
It is not hard to see that something extraordinary is needed to overcome this complicated and strangely insane primary disorder called alcoholism.
Only a very decisive and powerful solution can tackle a disease as insidious as this. Any kind of middle of the road solution is a complete waste of time.
There is a solution, a powerful solution that deals with the fatal malady of the alcoholic ruthlessly and yet as ruthless as it is on the disease, it is deployed on a roomy and broad highway of healing which is simple to travel and provides a journey of peace and ultimate freedom.
This solution delivers the effect of ease and comfort the alcoholic so desperately yearns for whilst remaining sober. The alcoholic will have no need for alcohol once he engages and works this solution.
I will describe, at length the solution to addiction in my next blog post soon to be published.