Addiction: Underlying Causes and Conditions
While addiction may be biological or genetic in nature there is no doubt those that suffer from the horrific grip of substance use disorder also suffer from numerous underlying causes and conditions of addiction that either create, advance or exacerbate the addiction. Here are some of the chief causes and conditions of addiction.
Family history: Those born into families with a history of addiction are at greater risk for substance abuse disorders. This is generally dues to two factors: environment and genetics.
The chaotic environment of an addictive family challenges the sobriety of some children to live a life free of addiction. Research shows that half of the children who is witness to family members abusing drugs are likely to mimic their alcoholism and/or drug addiction. (source).
Poor coping skills: Some may see substance use as temporary relief from the stress or pain of their reality. However drugs are not the only way to achieve a sense of relief. Creating coping skills or healthy habits can serve to manage them as well. If exposed to substance use without having developed appropriate coping skills, there’s a 50% chance that you may choose to try to manage stress, difficult emotions, physical ailments and other issues with addictive substances (source).
Mental health: Up to half of those subject to addiction are also living with mental health disorders according to the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) (source). It is often discovered that substance abuse started as an attempt to manage undiagnosed mental health conditions. This type of self-medication can prove very difficult as substance use can lead to addiction and complicate dual diagnosis treatment. Drugs can exacerbate depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders.
Trauma: The exposure to fanatic events is closely linked to addiction. With increased stress, a person can feel need to abuse substances to cope. With a repeated attempt to satiate stressful feelings, addiction can become the unhealthy coping mechanism of choice. Cravings continue a repeated behavior and the rewiring of the brain will further continue use.
Ultimately the root of all addiction is pain. Whether any of the aforementioned factors are part of your story or other aspects of your life have contributed, the common that use of substances to deal with what you’ve known and been exposed to. There are all kinds of stressor that we find painful and don’t know how to deal with. Instead we drink, use and abuse substance we hope will give us some relief. Know that there are many other ways to deal with issues as they arise.
Addiction and Compulsion
Looking back Daniel can see where his addiction first started and it isn’t where someone would suspect. He grew up in the 50s and his parents would have parties every Saturday night, he can remember bowls of candy that his parents would set out for the guests. The rule they had for him was he could say hello to the guests, take a piece of candy and go to his room.
“I used to lay up on Monday night planning ow I’m going to get that candy – planning like I’m going to rob a bank or something. The obsession, which is the disease … was so intense all I could think about is how I was going to get that candy,” Daniel said.
When Saturday rolled around that was exactly what he would do. Great the guests, take the candy, get sick from eating the candy, and repeat.
“What I realized as I’m writing all of this out and remembering that … That’s addiction.”
While there were no drugs in his body the obsession and compulsion were there. As is the case for most people who are addicted, that compulsion started at a young age.
Prison or Enlist
By the time Daniel was 12 his obsession moved passed stealing candy and on to alcohol that escalated into Heroin.
When he was 18 he was arrested for a robbery and the judge gave him two options: Enlist in the military or go to prison for 10 years.
“I joined the Marine Core. I joined the Marine Core because it was a 2-year enlistment instead of a 4-year enlistment.”
Daniel’s addiction only got worse from there. At that time most of the men he was enlisted with were on something, whether it was Alcohol, Heroin or Speed. He says that it was the way they coped with being in such a horrible place.
When he got out he had PTSD, and then the drugs became a way to ease the pain.
After Daniel got married, he and his new wife moved to Phoenix because that’s where his dad was. Once they got there he decided to go into detox so he could start his life there drug-free.
This became a pattern for him, he would go into detox, get clean, come out and start using again. Over and Over, different cities with the same result.
He wasn’t focused on recovery, he never thought being clean long term was possible. He was at a meeting when he heard someone say they had been clean for 90 days.
“I kept thinking ‘wow nobody can stay clean for 90 days. If you used drugs like me … there was no way, it’s not humanly possible.’ I really believe that the seed of recovery was planted in my that day.”
Daniel wasn’t even in that meeting to get clean, a friend of his was picking up across the street, but it stuck with him.
The Beginning of the End
Daniel was in Phoenix, it was 115 degrees outside and he was Dope Sick. He decided to go into a shooting range to use. At this point his life was unmanageable; He had lost his wife, his kids, everything he had.
As he was leaving, the cops were going in to raid the building. They arrested him anyway, saying that even though he didn’t have anything on him they were going to fix him.
They dragged Daniel back into the house where everyone was handcuffed and told them that he was the one who snitched.
“I said ‘You know you just signed my death warrant’ and what he said to me was ‘Good cause that’s where all you stinking junkies belong is dead.’ I changed, I knew if I didn’t stop I was going to die, but I was pushed into it.”
Daniel said that he probably would have stopped somewhere in that time frame, but this time all he kept remembering was that 90 days.
After that, he lived in a half-way house for 6 months and continued to go to meetings. There is where met someone who was 5 years clean.
“Back in the 80s if someone had 5 years clean it was a lot man. It was a big time.”
He reminded Danial so much of himself that he followed him around, even to the bathroom, because it was so hard for him to believe that he was really 5 years clean.
After realizing that this guy was telling the truth, long-term recovery started to seem like a real possibility to Daniel.
“The real gift that I’ve gotten from recovery is I’m okay with me. I started to learn how to love myself and now I’m okay in my own skin.”