What is an Addiction?
The definition of a disease is progressive, chronic, primary, and fatal. Addiction is a disease, similar to cancer or diabetes. It is progressive. There has not been one person I have ever treated – ever—that woke up and declared they wanted to live dependent on a substance, shopping, gambling, or sex. Initially, it starts out as occasional use—usually with positive outcomes. The use increases and along with it typically deception or dishonesty. Then at some point, the individual crosses a line into dependence. Everyone’s line is different and not everyone can tell you when and where that line happened. However, once the individual crosses over they live in their own daily prison. They must have the substance to feel well or stable. The individual is no longer living they are just trying to make it through the day. At this point, the family of individual typically notices a difference. Some even begin to grieve as the individual living with the addiction often vacates their role in the family. He or she may be there in body, but not in mind. Primary disease, simply put, means there are no other diseases that can explain your symptoms. Similarly to any other chronic disease, if left unmanaged, the disease of addiction will lead to death.
Addiction doesn’t discriminate against race, class, or geographic location
I have worked with individuals from all walks of life. Right now, 21 million individuals in the United States live with a substance use disorder. Its all around us. But only 1 in 10 are getting treatment. The disease looks the same! Addiction surrounds itself with secrecy, shame, and guilt. And in case your wondering, it’s not a spectator sport; the whole family gets to play (that’s another blog post).
The amazing part about this disease is that recovery is possible. I’ve had the opportunity to witness it. Part of moving into recovery is not only stopping the substance use, but also understanding why you began using in the first place. This is critical to assisting with relapse prevention. It is also why I have focused my other specialty on trauma, anxiety, and grief and loss. You are the gatekeeper to your disease. Are you ready to lock your addiction away and live again?