From the start, human beings have struggled with admitting their faults. Perhaps it’s a form of self-preservation – or maybe it’s a way to avoid having to deal with pain, which often comes with recognizing where we’ve gone wrong. Either way, nobody really likes to acknowledge the pain or agony they’ve caused themselves or others – and that can be one side of the coin of addiction. The other side involves chemicals in the brain that have become altered by addiction. As a person becomes consumed by alcohol or other drugs, those very substances change the chemical makeup of the brain, which physically makes it extremely difficult to veer off that path and towards sobriety.
Addiction’s Effects on the Brain
When substances are first consumed, the brain becomes flooded with dopamine – a “feel-good” chemical that tells the brain that a person is happy, content, and otherwise having fun. As this occurs, the brain’s hypothalamus stores this memory, makes a neurological connection, and the cycle of addiction begins. As this memory is stored, the brain may recall this memory as a good one. The next time a person consumes substances, the mind will yet again save this memory as a positive experience moving forward.
The only problem with this is that the brain can’t distinguish between a “healthy” pleasure versus an “unhealthy” pleasure. If something causes a flood of dopamine – such as sex, food, shopping, gambling, substances, etc., it will become stored in memory. As you can imagine, the more a person abuses substances, the easier it becomes for the brain to recall those feel-good memories of using. Over time, it can actually begin to crave those feelings again.
That is how dependency first develops. It’s what can lead to addiction if a person doesn’t catch onto what’s happening soon enough. Addiction is considered a disease because of the powerful effect that it can have on the brain. A person can’t simply “quit” an addiction because the brain’s chemical changes won’t allow it to. At least, not that easily. It takes sincere effort and lots of time with proper treatment for a person to get away from addiction. That’s one major hurdle that those battling addiction must face on a physical level to get sober
Denial and Addiction: Endless Excuses
In addition to having the physical barrier of pushing through recovery while every ounce of a person’s body is craving substances, there’s also the mental anguish that comes with change. Nobody likes to make significant changes because it’s uncomfortable and frightening. Having an addiction can become comforting, like a routine, just as a person may come to enjoy watching television every night before bed. When loved ones express concern, however, it can feel like an endless stream of excuses:
- “I will get around to it, I just can’t right now.”
- “I don’t have that much of a problem.”
- “I’m working on slowing down, and it’s solving the problem.”
Whatever they may be saying, it can be frustrating to hear these words – because everyone else sees a problem, while that person with an addiction sees a solution. It’s a solution to their problems – to the emptiness they may feel inside, the responsibilities that seem to leave a lot of pressure, and the emotional distress that can come with mental health issues. To that person, addiction isn’t giving them problems because it’s taking them away from and distracting them from the pain that they’re feeling inside.
Pushing Past It All for Sobriety
It’s hard to push past those two things – the mental agony that comes with change and the physical addiction itself. However, it’s possible. In fact, numerous people have gone on to seek out sobriety even when they didn’t understand what they were doing at the time. While it’s terrifying to seek help, it yields much better outcomes over time. Rather than remaining in an endless cycle of unhealthy habits, people can take ownership of their lives and learn to deal with the pain in better ways. Through treatment, those in recovery can learn how to respond to distressing situations, such as through:
- Reaching out to a social support network
- Practicing meditation
- Praying to a Higher Power
- Participating in 12-Step programs
- Reading books that make them feel better about their future
- Getting involved in sports and hobbies that allow them to express themselves
- Therapy, which uses a variety of techniques to help people grow
- And more
Recovery isn’t impossible – it all starts with a desire to try.
Getting help is difficult, accepting that we need help can be even harder. If you’re ready to begin the road to recovery, speak with a professional from Choice House today. It’s never too late to seek the help you need. No one has ever said that addiction recovery is easy. It’s a challenging, often painful, road to traverse, but it’s well worth it in the end. For most of us, the biggest hurdle is getting started at all. We often don’t know where to start, or where to go from there. Often, we try just about everything we can think of on our own, without any success to speak of. Choice house can help you navigate this journey from the start, call us today at (720) 577-4422 to learn more.