Addiction, Part 1

This is the first of a four-part series on drug and alcohol addiction. In this part, the signs and symptoms of alcohol are explored.

Experiences with drug plants have puzzled and fascinated our species for millennia. They have revealed substances powerful enough to heal or to kill. Yet, whether they help or hurt, these plants are also pursued for their power to intoxicate with stimulating, inebriating, tranquilizing or hallucinogenic properties. We search out planetary gardens for these mind-altering substances with a passion so blinding that the garden becomes a labyrinth, the search becomes the goal, and our passion becomes addiction. The common definition of an addiction is the continued use of a mind-altering or mood-altering substance, despite the harmful consequences.

It is not surprising that food is also considered a potential addiction as well, since it has properties stemming from plants, which either calm or stimulate our system. In part four of this series on addiction, I will discuss variances on addictions and non-substance abuse. As an alcohol and drug counselor, my experience working with drinkers, druggies and sex addicts has been that if they want to heal, they must first recognize the problem, get honest and then find a solution.

The first step in the healing process is awareness, then acceptance, and then and only then will the healing begin. Nobody else can heal an addict in denial. There are not enough games available for the addict who wants to continue using, because he/she will play them all and then some. If they want to continue to use their drug of choice, they will. Denial will continue instead of facing the dragon and the issue of recovery. Healing is an “inside job.” How does a person know if there is dependency on their drug of choice? One aspect of a physical dependency is that a “tolerance” develops. Over the long haul, increasing amounts of the drug for which tolerance has been established are necessary to achieve the same effects and to continue to ward off withdrawal symptoms. The withdrawal symptoms for any drug/alcohol/food (sugar) are generally the reverse of the effects induced by the drug itself. Alcohol is a depressant. Therefore the alcohol abstinence syndrome is characterized by symptoms that are indicative of an activated state. A hangover, a kind of mini-withdrawal, testifies to this. The jumpiness, edginess, irritability, and hyperactivity are the exact opposite of alcohol’s depressant qualities. A depressed person should not use alcohol.

Alcohol is the “drug” I now speak about, but any other mood-altering or mind-altering chemical is potentially addictive, and for the most part, the abuse and addictive behaviors would be quite similar if I was talking about heroin or valium, cocaine, speed, sugar, etc. Those who are alcohol dependent create confusion for those around them by constantly sending out mixed messages. The moods and behavior of alcoholics can be very volatile: jubilant and expansive, then secretive, angry, suspicious, laughing or crying, tense, worried, confused, he quickly changes to a relaxed, everything’s fine type mood.

Telling unnecessary lies and having them come to light is not uncommon. A considerable amount of time is spent justifying and explaining why she does things.

He is constantly minimizing any unpleasant consequences of drinking. Much thinking about any number of people, places and things.

As if he were the victim of fate and that people are out to get him. He has thousands of reasons why he really needs and deserves a drink.

He will be exuberant over a minor success only to decline rapidly to an, “I’m a failure because of….” routine. He is absolutely rigid about his schedule, especially about his drinking times. The mood swings are phenomenal! The arguments never quite make sense to a sober person.

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