Consequences, Cravings and Contradictions:

Consequences: The onset of positive, meaningful, personal and permanent change begins with significant pain.  There are two basic reasons people change; they are either running away from pain or towards pleasure…  This is what we call the Pain Pleasure Principle… Addiction recovery starts with pain, however sustainable permanent recovery is a life that focuses on pleasure.  That is why “The Promises” are included in the Big Book.  In fact, the promises are so important that they are read in nearly every AA meeting at the close of the meeting.  My mentor Jack Jackson’s mantra was “Life is meant to be enjoyed and not to be endured.”  People tend to not stay sober if their life does not improve.

The consequences of addiction, dependence or abuse affect all areas of our lives including but not limited to; physical, mental, legal, educational, vocational, and financial.  The consequences of our actions during our active addiction must be addressed in order to recover fully.  Steps 4 & 5 and steps 8 & 9 are the steps we take to address the consequences of our addiction.

Cravings: The phenomenon of craving is the difference between the addict and the non-addict.  When craving moves to the stage of obsession the addict loses all semblance of choice.  The desire and compulsion to use takes over completely.  Here are three stages of craving:  1) During active use, 2) during the Contemplative through Action phases of change and finally 3) in the Maintenance stage of change.

*          During active use cravings are overbearing.  Similar to the feeling a parent has when their toddler is missing in the park.  The parent panics and is focused on one and only one thing, “locating their child”.

*          During the “contemplative through Action phases” after detox, this includes “Post Withdrawal Syndrome” and during early abstinence.  Often, the brain has not re-regulated itself or they have not committed to a full recovery and the cravings persist.  This is where most people relapse, the compulsion or the obsession to drink or drug overwhelms the individual.  Unfortunately, when an addict has not fully committed to abstinence their brain is fighting the addiction contradictions and the differences they see often they succumb to the temptation and use or drink again.

*          During the maintenance stage of recovery.  Usually reflected in drunk or drug dreams this is normal for the alcoholic or addict.  It becomes an issue to address when an addict begins to romanticize alcohol, drugs or begins to minimize the severity of their use.  Over the years I have noticed people relapsing around the seven-year mark due to two issues one; they have begun to settle and half measures begin to infiltrate their lives and secondly; the belief that the pleasure of drinking or drugging begins to bypass the pain experienced prior to recovering.  The “forgetter” rears its ugly head.

Contradictions:  The dilemma of contradictions is the aspect of addiction that leads more people to their death than any other aspect of addiction.  The medical term is often identified as “Denial”.  The belief or lack of belief that one is afflicted with the condition of addiction.  Even when it is clear to everyone around the addict or alcoholic, the individual looks for the contradictions and utilizes those contradictory beliefs to “prove” they are not an addict or alcoholic.  This is not a conscious decision to fight the idea of addiction rather it is a normal aspect of alcoholism or addiction.  In fact, Cognitive Dissonance is when we hold a belief so strongly that even when presented with evidence that is contrary to the belief we cannot accept the new information as valid data.  Our brains are presented with new information and then it will seek to make sense of the information.  The brain immediately begins to look to protect itself from harm and sees the change as harmful and rejects the possibility it is addicted.  The core belief wins and the addict suffers longer.

There are many contradictions to addiction and alcoholism.  Often when it comes to defining addiction we utilize four components in the process: Progressive, Chronic, Primary and Fatal.  An example of a contradiction would be when discussing the component “Progressive” often the facilitator will use the example that addiction continues to get worse and worse in other words it progresses in severity.  The individual will then search their history in their brain and locate examples where the severity actually decreased thus “proving” the facilitator wrong.  An example would be an alcoholic that began snorting cocaine for a period of time possibly in college.  They use cocaine for months until one night they get charged with a DUI.  They lose their privilege to drive, attorney’s fees slam them for $10,000 and they are fined and placed on probation for a year.   A few years go by, they have refrained from driving intoxicated and no longer use cocaine.   They then begin to have marital issues or employment problems.  The boss or their spouse tells them they need help. Yet their brain says, “CONTRADICTION, they are only attempting to take the only pleasure you have away!”  They cannot contemplate the concept that they are alcoholic!  They use the perceived contradiction as proof they do not need help.

Addiction and alcoholism are perplexing, why does one in ten individual’s in the same set of circumstances turn to alcohol or drugs in excess?  The perceived benefit of being “high” is tough to separate from.  Having the ability to stop for periods of time in the case of the periodic abuser often holds people back from surrendering to abstinence.  Thus the concept or belief that one must hit rock bottom to recover!

 

 

 

 

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