Breaking the Addiction Cycle
Addiction is a complicated and unclear process. Addiction affects individuals in a whole host of different ways, and none of those ways mean that the individual suffering from addiction is a bad person or broken in some way. Many people struggle with addiction without realizing what circumstances put them into that position, and much more commonly the people around them also don’t know the circumstances that they are facing.
Today we are going to look at the phases of addiction, the stages of addiction, and major overarching concepts about addiction. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, this will help you understand what they are going through, and perhaps through knowing you will be able to support them better.
Breaking the cycle of addiction is not as easy as just understanding it, but understanding it could give you the tools you need to begin your journey to sobriety. What’s more, is that people who are going through sobriety can’t do it alone. If you intend on being a friend that can assist someone who is trying to get sober, this also could help you get to the place you need.
The Phases of Addiction
Addiction is a complicated subject, everyone’s journey through addiction is different from someone else’s. That said, there exists an overarching trend for most people, and one can try to understand addiction through this structure.
The main phases of addiction are:
- Starting the Cycle
- Addiction and Substance Abuse
- Building Tolerance
- Budding Dependence
- Beginning Addiction
- Battling Relapse
Of course, not everyone will go through addiction in this manner and many people might spend more time in one phase than another, and some might completely skip specific sections and just jump to another one.
Addiction is a chronic disease that many can struggle with. Casual drinking can turn into alcoholism over a long period of time or rather rapidly. Regardless, it is considered a chronic disease and is treated as such in hospitals and medical centers where people are trying to get help.
The Stages of Addiction
The stages of addiction are what happens to an individual as they are experiencing alcoholism. One can’t identify the early stages until one gets into the later stages. Sometimes, many stages can happen all at once, and other times, one stage may seem to be skipped. Again, everyone’s journey is different and will depend on their relationship with their drug or alcohol of choice.
Some drugs are so addictive that they can cause one to experience these stages all at once, though that is rare. Other times, the drugs or alcohol will slowly break away a person’s ability to say no and be clean.
Below we will take a look at each part of the cycle and what defines each part of it. Early stages are difficult to define without being further down the cycle of addiction, but later stages can be more easily identified. Through identifying these you might be able to understand what’s going on with yourself and get the help that you or your loved one needs.
What Starts the Cycle
Starting the cycle is different for everyone. For some people, it starts with the first drink or first use of the drug. With alcohol and some drugs, this doesn’t mean that they will immediately be addicted after. Most of the time, addiction to alcohol comes after a long period of use.
There are, however, drugs that the user will create a dependence on as soon as they use them. This is common, and depending on the person this could even happen with alcohol or other non-addictive drugs.
Initial use can seem rather benign, but end up ruining someone’s life. This doesn’t mean that one should always live in fear, but that they should know themselves, the risks that they are taking when they partake in certain drugs, and if they have a proclivity to become addicted to certain things.
What starts the cycle and spiral to addiction is not always clear. Sometimes something as simply picking up a prescription to help deal with back pain can start one on a path that they would eventually have a lot of trouble kicking. This seems like a specific situation, but in fact, it is actually more common than one might think.
This is what makes finding the initial start such a difficult task. It’s not as clear as the other stages, but should still be recognized in retrospect to help you avoid something similar in the future after you’ve gotten clean.
There are many other things that can send someone to initial use. Generally, when trying to treat individuals, the underlying cause is what is attempted to be figured out and worked through while also trying to figure out how to deal with the substance abuse and withdrawal symptoms at the same time.
Some things that could put a person on the track to substance abuse include:
- Rough family life
- Tough times at work
- Trouble in marriage
- Financial issues
Among many other issues that, while are totally valid and need to be recognized, are not excuses for substance abuse.
Addiction and Substance Abuse
The second stage is budding addiction and regular abuse. This is past the first point where one uses the substance irregularly and perhaps in situations where it is expected and without building an actual physical tolerance to it. This stage happens when one is starting to become physically dependent on it and are using it as a regular escape regardless of whether it’s appropriate to use or not.
It might be difficult to define abuse of a drug or substance, but there are key things to look out for to tell if one is regularly abusing a substance. As with many other things, there are varying levels of abuse. At the more intense levels of abuse, this is much easier to identify, at the earlier stages it is not as simple.
The line usually shifts when one has taken to self-medication at any level. When someone is using their drug of choice to help quell their current bad circumstances, it is drug abuse. This might mean one is drinking after work to forget a bad day, this could mean one is taking a few extra painkillers over the doctor’s recommended dosage to really cut the pain.
Tolerance is the following stage after abuse. It happens generally as the first is happening, and just like the first two stages, it comes in levels. Tolerance begins as soon as a substance is used, as the body will immediately adapt to it.
This also depends on the substance, as some substances will immediately create a rather severe dependence within the first few uses, while others will take time to build a true tolerance.
Tolerances are dangerous because while it will take more and more of the substance to feel anything, your body will still have to process the same amount and the larger amounts of the substance will inevitably seriously harm your body.
Building tolerances feels natural. One will initially begin to use a substance until they are appeased, then, over time, if they are regular users, they will up the dosage. They will use this new dosage until they aren’t satisfied anymore, increase the dosage again and the cycle will continue indefinitely for some drugs.
Other drugs cause an immediate response and one will immediately need more than they have ever had before to achieve a similar high. These dangerous drugs such as methamphetamines and heroine fit into this category.
Over time, a dependence will form. This dependence won’t rear its ugly head right away, but it will come in rather subtle ways very slowly. Over time, a dependence will come in small ways, such as persistent headaches when not high or drunk, feeling “not normal” without the prospect of your next hit on the horizon, etc.
The human brain is a very complicated thing and will respond in kind to what you feed it. Certain stimulants will cause people to not be able to feel most emotions regularly without the drug, a scary prospect that one could take years to recover from.
Dependences can come in different forms as well, as some drugs that people get addicted to rely on the pleasure that one gets from being away from pain. A sad condition, but still just as real of a problem as any of the other dependencies.
Some dependencies are not directly harmful, as the body can sometimes not operate correctly without certain drugs. For example, people who are diabetic are dependent on insulin, but they do not suffer the negative effects of addiction if they are using their life-saving drug to, well, save their lives.
Addiction is when dependence becomes impossible to break without serious determination or outside help. Addiction is a cycle that needs to be broken with a strong will and help from those that are close to the one that is addicted. Just like all the other stages before this, there are levels of addiction.
Addiction is a long and hard process. One who is addicted to any substance can find themselves without much recourse and can feel helpless. There is help, thankfully, and there are ways to get sober through the challenge that might seem harder than one is willing to face at the moment.
Addiction will hopefully be the shortest chapter in one’s journey through all of this, but it will likely be the longest. Unfortunately, many who don’t try to get out of their addicted lifestyles will not, and will eventually live out the rest of their lives shackled to the drug that they innocently began using years prior.
Addiction is a clinical disease that is defined in medical journals and handbooks. It is not a metaphorical concept and can be treated with the right tools. Different drugs will illicit different types of addiction. Most addiction falls under the basic “substance use disorder” (SUD) but there are specific ones such as “alcohol use disorder” (AUD).
After a time, one will want to try to get clean. Being addicted is hard on one’s life. It can be hard on one’s soul, emotions, life, every aspect of their life. Getting clean is no simple task, as if you are already addicted then you will likely experience very severe physical symptoms that will really make you reconsider getting clean.
Experiencing these symptoms can be dangerous if not in the right environment. There are places (like detox centers) where one can go to safely withdraw from their substance, and then go about trying to stay clean through a whole host of different methods.
Relapse happens when one has already gone through their withdrawal and is trying to stay clean. Relapse can happen months after first getting clean or it can happen years after. Either way, it is a hard reality that many will relapse when going on their journey through sobriety.
What’s worse, is when one relapses and does not try to get clean again. Just because you relapsed doesn’t mean all hope is lost. All hope is only lost once you have officially given up. Get back up, try again, and do what you can to stay sober.
Hindering the Cycle
This cycle will happen for most adults in some regard throughout their life. If they personally don’t go through it, they will likely know a close friend or relative that is going through this. The best way to stop the cycle is to go to a specific place that is permitted to try and get people healthy through different methods.
These places can include rehab facilities, sober houses, or detox centers. These places don’t only give you the tools you need to get clean but will give you the community and purpose that is almost always necessary for staying sober.
If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, reach out to us at ecosoberhouse.com. Your sobriety is important, begin your journey today.