“It’s okay to be scared. Being scared means you’re about to do something really, really brave.” -Mandy Hale
Change is scary. It scares each and every one of us. Sometimes we have to ask ourselves if a change is worth it. However, to the one stuck in active addiction, the addiction itself cheers him on from somewhere inside, as it roots for only itself. Addiction can be compared to a living force that wants to keep you chained up and bound. It resists and rejects change. It refuses to let you choose recovery. It wants to keep you where you are, at its mercy and enslaved to heroin, or whatever object you’ve become addicted to. To the addict, the decision to change is anything but easy. However, addicts do have the ability to break the chains of addiction and transform fear into freedom.
Psychology tells us that addiction keeps the addict from believing that things are as bad as they actually are. In other words, ‘feeding the need’ is necessary regardless of any bad outcomes. For instance, we may convince ourselves that we can quit at any time or that we have things under control. The prescription painkiller addict will convince themselves that Percocet and Oxycodone (for example) isn’t that bad since it’s prescribed by a doctor. The heroin addict may justify heroin as “the same thing as oxycodone”.
Addiction is singular disease but the “object of addiction” varies. Once the onset of addiction occurs, it possesses a stronghold over its victim. Addiction causes chemical and structural changes to the brain and as a result, an addict’s way of thinking changes. The addict may feel that others are unfairly judging him/her. An addict also blames others and often avoids responsibility and accountability. The addict will try to spin what he does wrong into something that’s not that big of a deal. He/she will minimize his or her faults.
Addiction is A Lot Like a New Wild Love Affair
We all know that when an intimate relationship begins, it is happy and exciting. The new love felt is often times blinded to any bad, and a person, the lover, only sees the good. An addict faces the same feelings towards his drug of choice in his or her addiction. The object of addiction becomes his new love. It feels the same as any other relationship; it’s happy. If the relationship turns sour, it becomes obvious to those watching it that there are problems. Though the addict if often aware of these problems, lying becomes a common behavior to show that the addict is still in control. Using the object of addiction regularly will cause addiction to grow and become more in control. Thus, a heroin user for example, will become more connected, more attached and be more compelled to indulge in drug use.
Attempting to go cold turkey or even delaying the inevitable heroin or drug use that an addict deeply craves will result in an inevitable pain called withdrawal. Fear of drug or heroin withdrawal or actually experiencing it will likely cause addiction seeking behaviors including lying, stealing and cheating all to obtain what their mind and body is craving from addiction and dependence. See “Addiction Vs. Dependence: What is the Difference?”
The drug relationship won’t end until the addict makes a decision to get help and addiction treatment. Yet, by the time this happens (if it does at all), everything has been lost and the only thing that remains is the disease and the drug. Failing to seek help and treatment will inevitably lead to incarceration or death.
Trapped by the Chains of Addiction – Defensiveness and Denial
The longer an addiction survives, the harder it is to hide it. The longer it exists, the more it changes the addict’s thoughts and behaviors. One’s thinking is bound to their drug of choice, much like a slave to its master. An addict lives for their drug of choice and is enslaved by their disease. He/she is no longer the person they were before. What started out as an escape from reality and getting “high” transformed into a continuous quest to avoid getting physically sick. This is because the addict has also become dependent on their drug.
An addict is often defensive and experiences what’s called “paranoid projection”. In other words, an addict’s perception of reality completely changes. Additionally, this altered perception creates the need to say and do anything to avoid accountability. An addict will blame everyone else and refuse to accept responsibility.
Denial is another factor. This is also a defense mechanism that the addict uses. Denial has two meanings. One is defined by lying to one’s self or another, such as in a way a child that breaks a porcelain vase denies having done so when asked. The other definition is wishful thinking. This is a refusal to face underlying issues. Denial, by either or both definitions, is the reason that addicts have a hard time moving from active addiction into the recovery process. The addict is unable to learn from the past and bad experiences. The addict is convinced that what has happened in the past will not happen again. Whether their drug of choice is alcohol or an opiate, denial tells the addict that “the next time it’ll be different,” or “next time, that won’t happen.”
An addict believes that because of his addiction his life will never get better. Sobriety becomes a pipe dream and a senseless quest. An addict’s thought process about sobriety is much like a drowning victim pushing aside a lifeline. An addict will frantically try to avoid drowning while denying and rejecting the very device that will deliver safety.
How Society Views Addiction
Regrettably, society stigmatizes addiction and those who suffer from it. There are those that believe addiction a personal choice for an individual. These people believe that an addict should be able to stop at anytime. They don’t understand the cognitive connection and compulsion the disease creates, making an addict feel like resisting drugs or alcohol is practically impossible. An addict can choose to stop using drugs in the same way a man or woman can choose to end a toxic love affair. It can be done but the degree of difficulty is a 10 out of 10. Making the choice to end the relationship with heroin (or whatever drug they’ve chosen) is accompanied by similar obsessive, compulsive feelings to return to using as a man or woman feels to return to their toxic lover.
Despite Fear of Change, There is Hope in Addiction Treatment and Recovery
Nobody likes change, and it’s even harder for an addict. Thus, going from addiction into treatment often initiates an emotion of fear. An addict may be consumed by an overwhelming sense of failure. Feeling of failure keeps may keep an addict trapped and enslaved by their disease. An addict may also believe that sobriety will be dull and boring and that living without drugs or alcohol isn’t worthwhile. The thought of eliminating that instant gratification that drugs or alcohol produces can be intimidating.
Men and women suffering from addiction are often unsure of themselves, who they are and of their purpose. However, choosing treatment and recovery, no matter how scary and how difficult it can be will typically result in self discovery and revelation. An addict is given a chance to reinvent themselves and become the man or woman that they were meant to be. Because addiction won’t go gentle into that good night, it may cause additional stress that prevents an addict form thinking clearly. Those who don’t suffer from addiction may see this fear as ludicrous. However, it brings real impending pain and irrational thinking to the addict. This fear will likely block an ability to heal emotionally. Thus, addiction treatment must help a soon to be recovering addict how to overcome the emotion of fear and irrational thinking.
Sobriety (the absence of drug use) helps to heal the mind and irrational thinking in itself. However, addiction treatment is often necessary to help an addict overcome their fears and understand their value and how to behave and act in a world without drugs and alcohol. Treatment makes an addict face and accept things they’ve done because of addiction. At first, this may create feelings of shame and regret. However, recovery brings a message of hope and helps addicts accept and forgive themselves. In treatment, addicts are taught to separate themselves from their disease and let go of any embarrassment or destructive feelings they may be feeling.
Recovery is a life-long process of self-realization and reinvention. It takes addicts away from beliefs that life will never get better and helps them to see their purpose and reason for living. Learning to embrace reasons to live, helps addicts conquer self-inflicted fears. Choosing sobriety is also about facing all of the emotions that an addict has worked so hard on burying. Instead of being stuck in the familiarity of addiction, an addict moves in to uncertainty. See “Taking the Unknown Road to Recovery – Freedom from Addiction“.
There is no cure for addiction, but addicts can and do recover. During the process of self-acceptance and becoming, addicts can overcome addiction. It is possible to overcome fear and learn how to control ourselves in unpredictable outcomes.
Various Methods of Addiction Treatment
When a decision is made to choose recovery, an addict will need to consider including many different treatment options and ways to facilitate treatment and recovery.
Journal writing can help addicts understand themselves during the recovery process. Addicts will have to work at finding the emotions they’ve avoided. Joining recovery groups, in person and online (such as our heroin addiction and recovery discussion forum) can provide support and show addicts they’re not alone. Sharing and listening to others that have been through similar circumstances and have overcome similar obstacles can help alleviate loneliness.
Learning the 12 Steps models found in NA (Narcotics Anonymous) and AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) can help addict change their thought processes to work for instead of against them. Finding a sponsor is also extremely beneficial as it can give new recovering addicts someone to talk to on a personal level. Sponsors are recovering addicts that have maintained years of sobriety and can be mentors to 12 step members just beginning recovery.
Seeking out a mental health professional can help addicts understand themselves on a level they likely cannot do on their own. A therapist can assist addicts in sorting out their feelings, underlying longings and false beliefs that will help to create new, constructive and healthy behaviors.
Relaxation techniques can also help to reduce the feeling of fear. Mindfulness and meditation can assist an addict in retraining the mind to look at positive aspects in life, leaving negative ones behind.
Residential addiction treatment centers and drug rehab facilities can be valuable commodities to help any addict serious about treatment jump start their recovery. See our list of recommended addiction treatment centers. To view our high standards for recommending drug rehab facilities, click here.
Addicts possess the strength to move into active recovery and many often do daily. Sobriety takes work. The work put into recovery allows addicts to learn to let fear be a motivation. Instead of fear working against them, it can be used to work for them. Recovering addicts learn how to choose and control their thoughts. They find strengths they didn’t know they had. The world becomes a place of opportunity. Fear is recognized and coping mechanisms are learned to face it. Everyday recovering addicts learn to say yes to experiences, to opportunities, to friends, and to life.
“To escape fear, you have to go through it, not around it.” – Richie Norton
Written by, Kristi Tullis – Writer/Blogger and Forum Co-Moderator for Kill the Heroin Epidemic Nationwide™
Edited and Published by William – Publisher and Founder
We are a community for recovering heroin addicts providing support and recommending the best treatments and clinics to people interested in conquering their addiction.