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Addict’s Journey to Hell and Back: Substance Abuser Discusses Longterm Addiction to Alcohol and Drugs

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Gene E. was 14 when he started raiding his family’s liquor cabinet. Healing for the longterm addiction that followed came years later through a 12-step program.

“Alcohol immediately filled a certain emptiness in me that made me all powerful, all that I could and wanted to be,” says Gene, who lives in the Northeastern United States. All the great writers such as Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and William Faulkner were drunks, he says during a recent phone interview, Recalling how the forbidden liquid would burn his throat as it went down, he explains that back then, he was “devouring” Hemingway, and he loved the association.

The Alcoholic’s Addiction is a Great Escape

“The first addiction was literature coupled with booze, cigars and movies. They were all a great escape.” The whole idea, he says, was to get outside of himself. He felt very uncomfortable in his own skin. Although there were no alcoholics in his family, Gene says if one drinks hard and long enough, he or she can develop an insatiable craving for alcohol.

“I didn’t know I was getting into addiction. I was having a wonderful time and living life to the fullest. I couldn’t understand why everyone wasn’t doing what I was doing because to me, they were living boring, shallow and monotonous lives.”

Gene’s drinking continued as he matured into adulthood and married at age 20. Calling himself a “functional alcoholic,” he was able to work and carry on a seemingly normal life without his addiction being obvious to outsiders. His wife knew about his drinking, he says, but she wouldn’t admit to herself that it was as bad as it was. “I was always drinking at home; I was never not drinking.

“The alcoholic figures nobody really knows. Nobody ever called me an alcoholic. They know something is off, but they can’t figure out what it is.” Still, maybe they did know at his place of employment, he says, admitting that he never advanced in the workplace as he should have had he not been drinking.

The Alcoholic Exhibits Grandiosity Coupled with Low Self-Esteem

Alcohol is an elevator going down, he adds, and you choose where you want to get off. The unacceptable becomes acceptable and you cross many moral boundaries. Gene admits cheating on his first wife and stealing from his company, a major jewelry manufacturer. “The alcoholic has grandiosity coupled with low self-esteem.” It’s a very common thing, he explains.

His addiction to drugs followed. Alcohol and drugs are the same thing, notes Gene. It’s a way of getting out of yourself. “Marijuana, cocaine, Ecstasy, Black Beauties … the only ones I didn’t do were those never offered me.” By now, he was divorced, having left his wife for another woman. (He later married and divorced his second wife soon after.)

It was the 1970s when drugs were plentiful at all the clubs and bars. “Women were very much after cocaine, and I was always very much after women. All the people I knew possessed a certain amount of cocaine.” Still, alcohol was his primary drug. “Everything always started and ended with alcohol,” he says.

In 1985, Gene was living with a woman who was also a good drinking companion. The couple got into an argument one day while indulging in a large bottle of wine. After boozing for a couple of hours, their fight escalated. He suddenly picked up the wine bottle and smashed her on the face, breaking her nose. She called the police. Gene left before they came, checked into a hotel, then visited a bar to soothe his troubles away by means of more alcohol.

After revealing to the bartender what had just occurred, he felt remorseful and returned home. Gene saw his girlfriend carried out on a stretcher, with their neighbors looking on. The police handcuffed and arrested him, and an order of protection was issued against him.

Taken to jail, Gene was put into a cell with about 17 others. “You hear the clang of the heavy door and don’t know when you’re getting out,” he says. He recalls bumming a cigarette from one of his cellmates. Looking around, someone was throwing up in a corner, having swallowed a load of Valium that he had been peddling. A hole in the other corner served as a toilet. He remembers his cellmates passing around a discolored baloney sandwich.

Arrested on a Friday night, he was released in his own recognizance the following Monday morning. The judge sentenced him to 90 days’ attendance at 90 meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous. He complied, going to meetings daily for three months. On the 91st day, Gene celebrated by getting drunk.

That drink, he says, started the worst period of his alcoholism. His girlfriend, who had dropped the charges, became his third wife in 1987. It was also the year his mother died, and he couldn’t get out of bed to attend her funeral. “I called my sister and told her to take care of the whole thing,” he says. “I got a load of cocaine, and I was destroyed.”

He had reached bottom , realizing his only salvation could come from the Alcoholics Anonymous 12-step program. Gene began attending AA meetings in 1987, which he continues to this day. He has not touched a drop of alcohol or any drug since then. Each of the steps, he says, allows the alcoholic to make peace with himself and others whom he has hurt along the way. “The 12 steps are about ego deflation, humility and getting to the right size of who you are. It’s about your place in the world in relation to others.” Addiction is progressive, he notes, but so is recovery.

Substance Abuse Treatments: Recovery From Alcohol and Drugs

Recovery From Alcohol and Drugs

Most abusers are unable to treat themselves to stop abuse. It is important for those with any problem with drugs or alcohol to seek the best treatment.

Illegal drug abuse and alcohol abuse has been a problem for decades and within the past few years, prescription drugs are now the choice for children and adults.

Today, if you find you are taking more and more of your prescription painkillers and the normal doses are no longer working, you should seek treatment.

Treatment

The best substance abuse treatment is a residential stay in a treatment facility. Many facilities are a month in duration, but a more lengthy stays of 90 days to six months consisting of drug treatments and therapy is more effective. Cognitive therapy is the treatment of choice in many residential treatment facilities in association with relapse therapy. Follow up and after care is important and more effective in preventing relapse, than a detox treatment only. Cognitive therapy, which is a specific type of therapy that works on the idea that our thoughts cause our feelings and behaviors, has a higher success rate in treatment.

Another form of help with continuing sobriety once one is free from alcohol and drugs is sober living homes. These homes require patient to be alcohol and drug free while living at the home and remain under a curfew at night. Most homes generally allow people to attend community programs, outpatient programs, or a 12-step program of choice during the evenings.

Holistic Treatment Centers

If traditional treatment centers are not acceptable, holistic treatment centers may be the answer. Holistic centers will work on detoxifying, drug treatments, and psychological therapy including group therapy and cognitive therapy.

Holistic centers, in addition to traditional drug treatments, offer alternative medicine such as acupuncture, massage, and meditation. They work on the whole person’s needs on a spiritual level. That does not mean holistic centers will try to change beliefs; the purpose of working on spiritual needs is to find a balance in your life to be better prepared to face the daily stresses of life.

Detoxification

The first treatment in any rehab program is detoxification, getting rid of the drugs in the system. A physician may prescribe medication to ease the pain and cravings that detox programs can create.

Although detoxification is the first treatment in treatment centers in conjunction with other treatments, detox by itself is not recommend for drug abusers because it can be dangers. Detoxification is effective in many cases with an acute drug overdose with one particular drug.

Detoxifying methods use medication, including anesthesia to help by-pass withdrawal symptoms such as sweats, tremors, and cravings, not unlike medications used in the cessation of smoking. Twenty-four hour supervision and treatment staff experienced in detox is important when choosing the detoxifying route. Counseling and follow up are necessary to avoid relapse.

Treatment centers are prevalent in every state. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a subsidiary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Web site offer many treatment center programs according to where you live.

Substance Abuse Treatment: What can I expect when I go to Rehab?

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Detox

Short for detoxification, many who enter treatment still have chemicals in their systems and will need medical supervision while their bodies adjust to living without these substances. For some, such as heroin and other opiate users, the “detox” process will primarily help with the patient’s comfort level. For those who have been using drugs such as alcohol or Benzodiazepines (Xanax, Valium, and other common prescription tranquilizers) medical intervention is not a luxury but a necessity, as the physical withdrawal from these and other chemicals is potentially deadly.

Education

Following the initial “drying out” period (another term used for the detoxification phase), most treatment centers offer a strong educational component to their programs. During this time patients learn about the drugs they and others have been using, how they affect their bodies, their families, lives, and society as a whole, and information about the disease of addiction. In addition, various coping skills and relapse prevention methods are taught to prepare patients for leaving treatment.

Group Sessions

Perhaps the most common practice among treatment facilities is to enable the community to gather in groups and discuss their addictions, most often in a structured format. Usually the day will begin with such an assembly, and end in the same manner. These sessions may be facilitated by center staff, by group peer members, or a combination. During this time, those in treatment are given the opportunity to share their common experiences, challenges, and hopes in a structured environment where they can find support.

Family Meetings

Many treatment centers stress the importance of family involvement with the treatment and recovery process, and have one or more opportunities for family members to participate in either educational or therapeutic aspects of treatment, if not both.

Aftercare Planning

Most often developed by the patient with the help of a primary counselor, an Aftercare Plan is a framework for sustained sobriety and recovery to continue beyond treatment – basically the “what next” plan. It may consist of a combination of possibilities depending on individual needs and abilities such as weekly substance abuse counseling, IOP (Intensive Outpatient) treatment, AA or NA meetings, residence at a halfway house, and other personal goals.

The Five Most Common Addictions, From Gambling to Alcoholism

different types of addiction

When addiction is mentioned, many people automatically think of drug or alcohol abuse. But there are numerous forms of addiction, ranging from gambling to overeating. Addiction is defined as a dependency on a certain action or substance. An addiction occurs whenever a person becomes dependent on that specific action or substance to meet his or her emotional needs.

A person may not even be aware they have an addiction until the results of overeating or compulsive gambling begin to take a toll. It is believed that certain personality traits such as low self-esteem and lack of self-confidence may be factors that contribute to an addictive personality.

Help for Compulsive Gambling

Many addictions, such as gambling, start as a small problem that gradually escalates. The gambler enjoys the high of uncertainty and the thrill of winning. The problem gambler may start out making small bets that grow increasingly larger and more risky.

The effects of compulsive gambling can be devastating and may result in the loss of jobs, homes, friends and family. A person who believes that he or she may have a gambling addiction should seek counseling. Help can be found at the National Council on Problem Gambling, which has counselor information as well as a 24-hour confidential hotline.

The Dangers of Food Addiction

Compulsive eating is often a reaction to loneliness or rejection. Overeaters may compensate for an empty feeling inside that has nothing to do with food. The chronic overeater must find other ways to reward themselves besides eating, such as getting involved in various social activities.

Breaking the compulsive eating habit can be difficult because food is so easy to obtain. The effects of overeating can lead to dire consequences such as obesity and health concerns. There are many weight loss programs which can provide help and support. One of these is Food Addicts Anonymous.

Overcoming Sex Addiction

Just as overeating is not always about food, sex addiction is often more about unfulfilled emotional needs than a desire for unlimited sex. Sex addiction is often linked to low self-esteem. People with sex addictions may feel unloved and crave affection and attention, and may find sex a way of temporarily boosting their self-esteem by feeling wanted and needed.

Sex addiction can lead to loss of relationships as well as a high risk for sexually transmitted diseases. Individual or marriage counseling by a licensed expert is often the best route to overcoming this type of addiction.

Battling Alcoholism

Alcohol is widely abused. It causes the illusion of a high but it is really a depressant. Alcohol is also very addictive. It is known that some people are more prone to alcoholism than others. Cravings for alcohol may have a genetic link and other psychological factors may also play a part.

Alcoholism causes many health risks such as liver and kidney damage. It also causes marital problems, job loss, and driving while intoxicated is the cause of many accidents. Support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous are invaluable to keep the problem drinker on the road to recovery.

Beating Drug Addiction

Addictive drugs include heroin, cocaine and marijuana. Usually people begin by experimenting with drugs. The need for them escalates until they become dependent upon them. Like alcoholism, drug dependency is both physical and psychological, which makes it very hard to break the habit without counseling and outside intervention.

Many times, people with serious addictions must be checked into a rehabilitation center for a period of time in order to deal with the symptoms of withdrawal and to keep them from giving in to the temptation to go back on drugs while they are in recovery.

With any addiction, the first step is admitting the need for help. Support groups or counseling can be of invaluable assistance to beating any kind of addiction from compulsive gambling to drug or alcohol abuse.

Family Interventions Break Cycle of Addiction: A Confrontation of Love Can Help Those Who Do Not Seem to Want Help

family intervention

It has been said that no alcoholic has ever quit drinking because he or she wanted to. They quit because they finally reach bottom, a time of pain and a Moment of Truth.

Alcoholism and drug dependency is an insidious disease. In 2016, an estimated 22.3 million persons aged 12 or older were classified with substance dependence (“Results from the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: National Findings”, Department of Health and Human Services, SAMHSA.)

There is a major obstacle in addressing this disease, however. Alcoholics and drug dependent people often refuse to accept help, and if left untreated the disease continues and progresses often until death. Sometimes, people need to help alcoholics face their “Moment of Truth.”

Denial

Chemical dependency is a disease of denial. According to the book “I’ll Quit Tomorrow, A Practical Guide to Alcoholism Treatment”, Dr. Vernon Johnson, Harper Publishers, 1980, there are some 50 types of defense mechanisms which may be at work to protect the disease (anger, projection, rationalization, etc.) Too often the chemically dependent person is unaware that he or she may have the disease of dependency. They cannot see reality as others see it, nor do they realize that it is the substance use itself which is making them ill or destroying their families. When told of behaviors or actions committed while under the influence, they think the family member is “crazy” or “against him or her.”

A Family Intervention or Crisis Intervention

There may be a time when family and friends feel they need to take action on behalf of a drinker or other drug user, perhaps even to save their life. One effective method of helping the chemically dependent person is through what is known as an Intervention. An intervention is a type of family confrontation. It is not designed to get someone to stop drinking or using drugs, it is a process of bringing a person to a point of agreeing to enter into a program for an evaluation and treatment. This is important – most alcoholics or addicts cannot stop drinking or drugging without structured help. The goal of an Intervention is to penetrate that defense system to the point of allowing them to recognize the problem and thereby agree to seek help.

Two Levels of Intervention

First, try a “casual”, informal intervention by speaking to the chemically dependent person about your feelings and concerns. Share your concerns in a caring and compassionate manner, without judgment or criticism. Try to get the person to see the reality of the situation. Leave brochures or pamphlets about alcoholism or drug dependency, and provide names and numbers of local referral resources.

Second, if this does not work, try a “structured” family intervention, a process through which the family and friends come together and lovingly, but firmly, review the alcoholic’s drinking. Describing in detail the situations and behaviors, and how the drinking has affected them.

A structured Intervention seizes the seriousness of the situation and utilizes this as a turning point. By melting down the defenses through love instead of battering it down with anger, often the denial system does dissolve.

Goal of Alcohol Intervention or Drug Intervention

The goal of the Intervention is not to get a person to stop drinking or using drugs. It is to help the person agree to a referral to a treatment program for help. The intervention attempts to present reality in a loving, caring and nonjudgmental fashion; to communicate the seriousness of the situation; and to motivate the person to accept help.

In a family intervention, the family needs assistance to structure it for success. Many treatment agencies have an experienced Intervention Specialist who is willing to work with the family or employer to help arrange the Intervention. The place to start is by contacting a local Treatment Agency or your Employee Assistance Program for more information.

Finally, families should get help for themselves. Dependency is a family disease and families suffer sometimes more than the alcoholic himself or herself.