One of my blogger buddies and her family are suffering. Cokewidow recently posted Expectations, where she describes what it’s like living with an addict teetering on the brink of a dope binge. What her family is going through is heartbreaking. They are all caught up in the vicious cycle of addiction. Until the cycle is broken things will get worse over time. They’re plenty bad enough right now.
Cokewidow’s husband, though he’d been clean for a few days, recently told her he wished he was off getting high. He has a mental obsession that leads him back to drugs even when his system is drug free. It is this mental obsession that makes it all but impossible for him to remain clean.
The Doctor’s Opinion from the book Alcoholics Anonymous offers the best description of the nature of addiction – the mental obsession and physical cravings, that I’ve ever found. Here, in a nutshell, is the crux of the dilemma the alcoholic/addict faces, and the only viable solution I’ve ever heard of. (Just substitute your or your addict’s drug of choice for alcohol.)
Men and women drink essentially because they like the effect produced by alcohol. The sensation is so elusive that, while they admit it is injurious, they cannot after a time differentiate the true from the false. To them, their alcoholic life seems the only normal one. They are restless, irritable and discontented, unless they can again experience the sense of ease and comfort which comes at once by taking a few drinks—drinks which they see others taking with impunity. After they have succumbed to the desire again, as so many do, and the phenomenon of craving develops, they pass through the well-known stages of a spree, emerging remorseful, with a firm resolution not to drink again. This is repeated over and over, and unless this person can experience an entire psychic change there is very little hope of his recovery.
On the other hand—and strange as this may seem to those who do not understand—once a psychic change has occurred, the very same person who seemed doomed, who had so many problems he despaired of ever solving them, suddenly finds himself easily able to control his desire for alcohol, the only effort necessary being that required to follow a few simple rules.
I think it’s important to differentiate the physical craving from the mental obsession. The mental obsession is what goes on when the addict isn’t using, but that leads them back to the drug. The craving is what happens once they ingest any amount of the drug. When the craving starts, so does the trouble. If you’ll read the comments at cokewidow’s Expectations post, you’ll see that her husband hasn’t been home in days. He’s using, and craving, and that takes precedence over everything else.
If he can find a bottom that doesn’t kill him, he will be able to be helped. I have very little tolerance for pain, at least for an hardcore addict. As a result, I’ve been able, at times, to stay sober for lengthy periods. Two of my three best friends pursued their obsession with drugs to the grave late last year. The third is almost certainly on borrowed time. If I don’t follow the “few simple rules” of the program, I’ll be dead, or worse, soon myself. There’s nothing nice about addiction.
UPDATE: It should be noted that it’s doubtful I’d be able to stay sober if I was facing what cokewidow’s husband is. That said, I’ve known a lot people who have faced similar crisises without returning to active addiction. The program does work if you work it , one day at a time.