The World of Addiction
For those who don’t have the time to read to the end, take this:
When a person is addicted to painkillers, the body and mind create the sensation of pain just so the person will consume painkillers. The person will be so convinced that they are in pain and the pain won’t go away until they take a pill — but it gets more complicated than that.
For those who have some time on their hands, let’s move forward.
We tend to think that addictions only manifest with heavy and illegal drug use, perhaps also with alcohol. What we do not realize is that many of us are addicted to getting attention, others are addicted to sugar and so so many are addicted to food.
Let’s start with food addiction…
I used to hear a saying growing up that “A hungry man is an angry man”. Do you know why that is? Basically, it’s the body's addiction to sugar. When you are used to stuffing food down your throat; for many from as early as 8am or even earlier, the body becomes addicted to the sugars that your food is broken down into and that becomes your primary energy source. Any time the body’s sugar is running low, it triggers what you feel as anger and that is how you know you are hungry. So how are you different from a heroin junkie?
Also, when you have stayed away from food for a few hours, headaches come and the taste buds become bitter. It’s more difficult to focus and so on — that’s withdrawal. Again; how are you different from the coke junkie? For some people, when they do not eat for only a few hours, their bodies start to shake but I’m sure you get my point by now. For the food addict, it is normal to get angry when hungry but that’s just the thing; it feels normal because they are surrounded by fellow addicts who display the same characteristics. This is not the reality for everyone, however. There are people who can stay away from food and not get cranky. I’ll give you a line on how to beat food addiction — Intermittent fasting. Do our own research while we move on to other things.
The person who is addicted to cigarettes may not know they are addicted. They say that smoking keeps them calm but what they don’t realize is that the nicotine has altered their brain chemistry to believe that they need the cigarette to stay calm. Because of this alteration, their body creates the agitation and anxiety response (which they believe is real) and the only way they know to get those endorphins going is by dragging a cigarette. Heck, someone who is observing cluelessly might even say that the cigarette is a good thing because of its calming effects.
A brief analogy
It is said that if you want to cook a frog, catch one and drop it in a pot with cold water inside. Then put that pot on the fire. The water will start to heat up and at first, it will be comfortable for the frog. The frog however is unable to tell when the water gets too hot because the heat was gradual and the frog was enjoying it as it progressed. But before it knows to jump out, the water is boiling and the frog is dead — that’s how addiction works.
Our bodies are amazing and quite capable of creating whatever we need — well at least the basics and then some. When we are low on energy from food, ketosis kicks in and the body burns fat for energy, when we need it, endorphins are released to help us feel good, when there is a threat, the immune system rises to the challenge. But when we give the body food all the time, it no longer burns fat for energy — it doesn’t need to. And as such, the next time food is late, it gets into panic mode and sends stress signals which you feel as anger and all that other unpleasant things that let you know you need to eat. And an addict is born!
When we turn to alcohol and drugs to feel good, the body reduces (or in some cases even stops) endorphin production and we get the illusion that there is so much stress and boredom in regular life that we have to be on alcohol and drugs to feel good. An addict is born.
How do you know you are addicted?
“I can quit whenever I want” is the first statement that lets a person know that they are heading towards addiction. Why do you need to say that if you truly believe that you are in safe waters?
If you indulge in something that you consider pleasurable daily and you think about that thing when you are not doing it, then yes you are heading to, or may even have arrived at addiction. Food, sex, alcohol, drugs.
Let’s not get it twisted. There may be a place for all these things. Food for energy, sex for procreation, Alcohol for…for… constipation maybe, and cigarettes for lung cancer. The point is that we should not get to the point where our lives become about these things. Sex is great every once in a while but when you are thinking about sex barely three hours after indulging in it and you start taking actions motivated by the next time you will indulge in it, then there is a problem. I’ll make that a quote so you can read it again.
Sex is great every once in a while but when you are thinking about sex barely three hours after indulging in it and you start taking actions motivated by the next time you will indulge in it, then there is a problem.
The same goes for alcohol. If you consume alcohol at a party, then you wake up and go to work the next day we are good. But if during work you find it difficult to focus on the task at hand because you are reminiscing about the party — then you send your guys a text “we should do that again sometime”, then you start thinking of how to close early on Friday so you can get to the ‘hangout’ with the guys, then check it.
An altered reality
People can be annoying but your tolerance is what makes life move forward peacefully. When you need a ‘substance’ to keep you calm then the tolerance will no longer be forthcoming. The need for alcohol or drugs will make a person angsty and they will blame that feeling on external conditions — that’s an altered reality.
A man who drinks and gets home to find his dinner cold may shout and beat his wife not necessarily because the food is cold, but because he lacks the tolerance to see the situation wholly. His reality becomes altered and all he can focus on is his dissatisfaction with the current situation.
Addiction removes options from the path of their victims and there is only one way to get what they want — most times it is the less civil, more gruesome way. The sad thing is that they are too self-absorbed to see that they are what is wrong with the situation and not the cold dinner, or the traffic.
What about withdrawal?
Withdrawal basically is your body trying to convince you that getting off your addiction is a bad idea. The intensity of withdrawal depends on how dependent on the substance your body (and mind) have become. It can show up in many ways. For food withdrawal, it comes as a coated tongue, angry feelings, headaches, and more. For pain meds withdrawal, we have more pain. For alcohol and porn, we have anxiety, depression, and more. For harder drugs such as cocaine and heroin, we have fevers, hallucinations and could even have died as part of withdrawal.
I lost a friend
I have lost one person to alcohol abuse. Even on his last days, he would sneak and consume at least three cans of his favorite beer before he will feel like himself. He was always drunk but I knew this because I knew what to look for but he had become so good at hiding it that people just knew him to be someone who ‘talks anyhow’. They didn’t see it was drunkenness because he didn’t stagger or smell or alcohol. As I said, he was good at it. For a little while many years ago, I was his drinking partner but for some reason, I didn't stick it out for as long as he did. My point here is that until he passed, he never admitted addiction. He would even profess that alcohol was a cure for many illnesses.
I know other people who are hooked on some minor pain meds and even fizzy drinks. I know a young lady who actually told me that a particular Fizzy drink made her happy. Wow!! And anytime she started to feel ‘down’, she would remember that she hasn’t had that drink for some hours. That’s how subtle and scary these addictions can be. However because she still has a job and isn’t living on the street, she doesn’t see how it’s an addiction.
Getting out for good
The only way out is through. Like Matthew Perry (Chandler from F.R.I.E.N.D.S) said, you only get out when you decide to get out; not by how much others want you to get out. That’s very true. You have to leave addictions when you have the sanity of mind to see how much it is ruining your life. Brad Pitt decided to get out of alcoholism when he had a physical altercation with his 15-year-old son. Imagine that! There are lots of stories but that’s one.
When I had a shot or two of alcohol, I would become more social and relaxed. It helped me handle anxiety but then I started to get very anxious when I didn’t drink — ‘what the f***’ is that about I asked myself? And then it felt like life was caving in on me and I had too many responsibilities. I had to come to a realization that my seeming inability to cope with the pressures of life was my body’s decreased endorphin production because it was now depending on external help — of course, we had to make a change.
I do admit we need help sometimes to cope with pain and stress but we should turn to those things that help our bodies work better and not those substances that make the body dependent on them. There are tea brews that help the body produce more endorphins naturally so that calming effect you feel from smoking will be replicated without the nicotine that causes addiction. Exercising and meditation are also wonderful for producing calming effects — once you get through withdrawal at least.
Addiction is like that comfortable warm water that is still heating up. We tend to think we are in control and it takes a special kind of self-awareness to recognize that the water is getting too hot. The best thing is to come to that realization while the water is warming up but at that point, we are still enjoying the warmth. If you are on this table, please get help — or not! It’s totally up to you.
Just know that the reason why a person feels like they need that substance is a LIE! It’s only the body’s dependence speaking. Know this and know peace.
P.S I’m not a fan of long articles and I think this is the longest one I’ve ever published as a single article. I guess it’s that kinda topic. Stay well out there.