It’s no secret that addiction is a problem in the world. No one is arguing that, but the thing is, society has an image of what an addict is, and the sad truth is that the image that society has is 100% incorrect. The fact is that today, an addict of any kind is automatically treated as a criminal and hauled off to jail. Yes, doing drugs is against the law, and for very good reason I might add, but is imprisonment really the right answer? I guess that depends on your experience with addiction as well as the people that suffer from it, so in this article, I am going to try to show you why there are better alternatives than prison for people that suffer from addiction as well as what some of those alternatives are, but in order for you to really understand WHY people that suffer from addiction need help that prison doesn’t offer, you must first understand what addiction really is, and what some of the reasons behind it are, as well was what society can do to actually help the problem.
Addiction is far more than a dependency on drugs, alcohol, or other substances. Yes, by definition, addiction is a dependency on a substance, but how does a person become dependent on a substance?
Believe it or not, there is a lot more to addiction than just choosing to use a substance. While yes, trying a substance is a choice, even trying it more than once is a choice, but once you become addicted to a substance, you begin to lose your ability to make the choice, and then before you know it, the addiction has full control over your mind.
People think that when someone says that addiction is a disease, they are just trying to make excuses, but the truth is, addiction is powerful. Experimenting with drugs is a choice, addiction on the other hand is not.
The Addict Part One: What is an addict?
First and foremost, an addict is a human being. They are people with feelings and everyday problems just like anyone else. Honestly, most, if not all the people that suffer from addiction have had some sort of serious trauma in their lives, and they have unknowingly begun using substances as an escape from the effects of the trauma that they have experienced.
A lot of people that are addicts, have been through more trauma than that average person, experiencing things like domestic abuse, childhood trauma, etc. What the addict does, is they use a substance as not only away to temporarily escape from their reality, but also to numb out the pain that often comes with trauma. Because they have been living with the effects of the trauma for so long that they have become accustom to it, so even though it is taking a toll on them emotionally and maybe even physically, they have tried suppressing whatever it is that initially caused the trauma to the point where they do not necessarily realize what it is costing them. This often means that they will partake in risky behaviors such as substance abuse.
Note: While yes, trauma can have lifelong effects on a person, these effects can often go without notice because the person that has experienced the trauma has blocked it out. A lot of times when someone blocks out a traumatic event, it can be years before they are able to acknowledge the trauma itself.
The Addict Part Two: Becoming an Addict:
Any time that one participates in the use of a substance, they are putting themselves at a risk of becoming addicted to whatever substance it is that they are trying, but there is a lot more to being an addict than just simply trying a substance. I am sure that by now you have heard the phrase “Mind over Matter”. Well, believe it or not, when it comes to addiction, that phrase makes a lot of sense. See, what happens is, when you are high, your mind and body enjoy the feeling of peace, or the rush, and especially the blocking out of whatever it is that you are trying to escape from. That is how it starts.
As time goes on, and you have continued to use the substance or substances, depending on which substances you are using, there are a couple of different things that can or will happen. Firstly, if you attempt to stop the use of a substance, you may find that you go through a physical detox. (Note: While yes, you can detox yourself at home, if withdrawals are serious enough, you may be wise to seek medical assistance in detoxing.) Secondly, you will more than likely have what I like to refer to as “Mind withdrawals.” This occurs your mind is craving the effects of the substance. Of course, physically detoxing from a substance is highly unpleasant, fighting with your mind to stay sober is extremely difficult. If a person has reached this point in their use of substances, then they would now be considered an addict.
What does addiction take away from a person?
First, addiction affects not only the person who is addicted, but also the people that love them. Their family, their friends, their significant other, etc. As an addict, you will put your addiction before anyone and anything, not because you don’t love them or care about them, but because your addiction has completely taken over your life.
When a person suffers from addiction, it takes all the beauty out of life. They lose their families, their children, their friends, they can’t keep relationships, their jobs, and ultimately, they get to a point where they need to make a choice to either get sober and begin recovering from the addiction that has such a hold on them, or to let the addiction win and continue losing everyone and everything that is near to them.
It might seem like harmless fun at first, but when you become an addict, you no longer can make the right choices, even when you know you are choosing the wrong path, the addiction is more powerful than your ability to do the right thing. Addiction can turn your entire life upside down, as well as the lives of everyone that loves you, and if you let it, that is exactly what it will do.
How can you help an addict?
The most important thing that you can do for an addict is to show them support. Let them know that you love them and try to help them get onto the path of recovery. You also must keep in mind that while yes, recovery is important, it will only work if the person that is addicted truly wants to recover. If they are not ready to do so, then they won’t. That doesn’t mean that you have to give up on a person for being an addict, but that they are not ready to begin recovering. It will be scary to watch someone that you love suffer from addiction, but the worst thing that you can do for them is leave them to face it by themselves. You must let them know that you love them, support them, and want what is best for them.
Society has been known to treat addicts as though they are criminals, and even though this is starting to change in some places, there are still a lot of addicts that are being thrown in jail when they really need is to be put into some sort of recovery program. There are a lot of different recovery programs out there these days that are designed to try and help “rewire” the mind of an addict, as they can be successful as long as the addict is willing to try. There will be struggles, there will be relapses, that is all part of recovering. That is why it is called a battle, but as long as you get back up, and keep trying, it can be won.
For example, Drug Court is an amazing recovery program. It is often used as an alternative to hard prison time, but when done properly it can very positively change the life of an addict. This program is designed to help instill structure into the life of an addict, as well as prevent them from using. Not only that, but this program teaches an addict how to handle cravings for substances, helps identify the deeper reasons behind the addicts use of substances, and helps the addict cope with their addiction while on the path to recovery.
It’s no secret that addiction is a problem. It is killing more and more people every single day. So isn’t it time that we stand up and say enough? There are so many programs like Drug Court that are out there ready and willing to help addicts.
We need to stop treating addicts like criminals, and start offering them the help that they so desperately need. Think of how many lives could be saved if instead of treating addicts as though they are the scum of the Earth, we treated them like what they are, broken people that need to be loved, people that just need to be shown that there is more to live for than being high or drunk every day of their lives. Let’s stand up and show these people that someone, somewhere cares. Let’s start saving lives today.
Thank you for reading this article, and I hope that after doing so that you might have a better understanding of addiction and what needs to be done so that maybe someday addiction will not haunt the world the way it does now.