What is addiction really?

Old 10-06-2011, 07:37 AM
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What is addiction really?

Like many here, I live with an alcoholic spouse. She is in VERY early recovery, and I am very new to al-anon. They say to learn as much as you can about addiction. My problem is that there seems to be different info out there. What is right? I read a book that claims there is ALWAYS an underlying cause, pysical or emotional, somewhere. I read other books that say it is hereditary, but no real definitive answer if it is learned behavior or genetic. Al-anon teaches it is no ones fault, but that seems to me to be a way to alleviate guilt. If you are an active alcoholic in front of your kids, and they become alcoholics...some say that addiction is the introduction to a substance for a period of time that leads to addiction. How long and how much is different in every instance. This seems to indicate this is more learned than genetic. Some say it IS a disease. Some say we call it a disease because it follows a disease cycle. It is progressive, gets worse, will be fatal, and is treatable. Some say it is still a choice. Once they get sober, get treatment, that if they continue to drink it is a choice. So much info, not enough brain power to sort it all! Thanks!
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Old 10-06-2011, 07:53 AM
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I don't know if the words matter as much as the behavior. My life is simply much better now that I don't drink. To me it doesn't matter what my behavior was called, alcoholism, alcohol abuse, alcohol addiction, perhaps immaturity. I do know that alcohol was making my life suck. Now it sucks less. And is sucks less for the people that have to share space with me.
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Old 10-06-2011, 08:17 AM
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Bryank, you are outlining an ongoing argument that probably won't have a resolution anytime soon. I've read a lot lately about the new scientific evidence of the effects of addiction on the brain, and it is quite fascinating. But as ru12 says above, it boils down to simply semantics for those of us dealing with it (whether directly or ancillary).

I spent a lot of time educating myself to substance abuse - and in the end it didn't matter what I knew about addiction itself, but what I learned about managing my life in the face of addiction. What I learned about my husband's "disease". What I learned about myself. I hope you find the same amazing experiences in Al-Anon - keep going back!

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Old 10-06-2011, 08:29 AM
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Addiction, by my definition, is the removal of choice. Choice may have been involved at some point but when the power of choice is removed you are left with an addict.

The number one question from anyone affected by an addict is, "Why won't he/she just stop". They see the consequences piling up and cannot comprehend how the addict can continue on their path.

The fact is, all of us are subject to our brain chemistry. If the brain demands it we will do it. Epileptics do not choose to have seizures, for example. As far as chemical dependency goes, I believe that different people have different thresholds prior to the onset of addiction. Some people are literally addicted from first use and others can go for years while still others never cross the line.

Once the line is crossed the brain is in demand mode. The fix will be had regardless of consequences. This is addiction and it is a physical manifestation of affliction that may be on many levels. With today's science addiction cannot be cured, only arrested.
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Old 10-06-2011, 10:41 AM
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Addiction may be, as Programmatic said, the removal of choice . . . I guess . . . I don't know really. A removal of choice to what extent exactly? I can agree that an addict can't help how he/she feels towards the use of their substance. But, I happen to think that addictive behavior IS a choice. It is my choice to pick up or not. That choice isn't governed by my genetics, my circumstances, my mood, my brain chemistry, my wife, my whatever. I control what I put in my mouth.

And it took a long time for me to accept that.
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Old 10-06-2011, 04:01 PM
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I found that reading about addiction helped me, but your right there are a lot of theories out there.

For me though what helped was not the theories but the description of what addiction looks like, and more importantly what reactions to addiction can look like (there were a lot of those I related to). For me it helped me to seperate out the person I loved as an individual from their addiction. Once I knew what kind of behaviors I was dealing with (on both sides) I felt like I was armed, but more importantly shielded from my loved ones addiction and my own crazy making behavior.

For me too once I started looking into addiction I realize my family was strewn with exH got me into looking at addiction, but the work and learning has extended far beyond that relationship into a lot of relationships in my life.
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Old 10-07-2011, 04:43 PM
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One of the best ways I have heard addiction described is that it is a physical addiction paired with a mental compulsion. Both of them have to be addressed. If you just go dry, the complusion is still there. If you go to AA or counseling but still continue to use/drink, you're no better off. I do think there is a genetic component to it, but that is an explaination, not an excuse.

But in the end, the reasons don't matter. As my old Al-Anon sponsor used to say, "PurpleSquirrel, you would try to think your way out of a burning building. Who cares WHY its burning -- just get the hell out!!"

I don't need to know why my XAH is an alcoholic. I don't need to hear about his pain, his issues, his problems. I've got enough of my own to deal with.
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