Being an Addict is not a Character Flaw
Try as we might, some of us just can’t quit drinking and drugging. In exasperation you may ask yourself, “Why can’t I drink like everyone else?” The answer may be because, genetically speaking, it’s not in your nature. If you’re like me, you’ve got the lineage of addiction passed down from a relative who fought the same affliction. In my case, it’s my paternal grandfather, who would be gone for days on drinking binges.
So, with this, I’ve been an addict my whole life. I was drawn to the adventure and the escape from my earliest days. My single earliest memory is of me holding my father’s hand as we walked down a long set of stone steps next to a gushing waterfall. To my three-year-old self, it all seemed so huge and scary, but totally exhilarating. This pattern of seeking adventure and exhilaration became my modus operandi throughout life, which was only emboldened when drink and drugs were involved. In fact, this adventure blasted into hyperdrive as I got older and my addictions progressed.
To many, their addiction is analogous to a slow-moving coal freighter that, over time, morphs into a speedboat. We addicts get triggered by drink and drugs in a way that’s difficult for normal drinkers to comprehend. Why can’t you just quit, they ask. Just put it down, they insist. Well, there are many reasons, but not because of some character flaw.
This may be of little comfort to the sufferer, but it can help provide a more clearheaded approach to recovery. If we’re aware of this predisposition, we can take steps to avoid the runup to full-on addiction. If others are aware you’re prone to addiction—be it friends or family—it may prompt them to keep a more watchful eye.
WHAT MAKES ALCOHOL ADDICTIVE?
According to Recovery Center of America, both physical and psychological factors make alcohol addictive. Physically, alcohol stimulates the brain to release endorphins and dopamine, chemicals that offer satisfaction and pleasure. Alcohol also acts as a natural painkiller. And as we discussed earlier, genetics can also play a role in alcohol dependency. Those who are genetically predisposed to higher released levels of endorphins and dopamine are more likely to become addicted to alcohol. When the brain’s pleasure center is overstimulated, the drinker wants to repeat those rewarding and satisfying feelings. While people may want to stop drinking, they are easily deterred due to alcohol’s ability to adversely affect impulse control and decision making, therefore, making it easier to abuse and more likely to cause a relapse.
From a psychological standpoint, alcohol addiction is a behavior that is learned over time. Personal belief is a major factor in what determines a drinker’s path to recovery. If someone doesn’t think they have a problem, they will be reluctant to seek treatment. Thus, the addiction continues. Stress is another major role that contributes to alcohol addiction. People drink to lull the feelings of stress, but this practice can turn into a nard-to-break coping mechanism. Of specific importance, studies have shown that people with alcohol dependency also have higher rates of mental health disorders. Actually, accordingly to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 20 percent of Americans who suffer from an anxiety or mood disorder also suffer from an alcohol or substance abuse disorder.
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