As I began to respond to a post earlier this morning from a heartbroken, distraught wife of an active addict, I thought maybe it's best I just begin a new thread on this. It's information that I often refer to when talking to addicts and their families, so rather than typing and retyping when I see the need, I figured I'd just post it in one place for anyone who is interested. For some, it's a bit of an explanation of the insanity of this disease, and for others, it's a bit of a comfort.

I'm a drug addict - thankfully, in recovery for many years now. I've continued on with my education to work in the field, so I'm painfully familiar with this disease - personally and professionally. I work with addicts, as well as their families. I recall when I first learned this information, I cried - I was so profoundly relieved to learn that there was something legitimately 'different' about me, that had led me into the nightmare of addiction. Until then, I'd only blamed myself - and was finding little forgiveness, until I understood the facts. This helped me, as I was getting clean, to forgive myself and move forward.

Drug addicts have a DISEASE - just as real and legitimate as diabetes or cancer. It's all too easy for those folks who only see it from the outside to consider it a sign of weakness or lack of willpower - but that really is inaccurate. No one would judge a diabetic for creating their own disease, yet drug addicts are instantly labelled as narcissistic or weak. There is an undeniable genetic component to this disease; we are born with an inate predisposition to become addicted. What comes together is a "perfect storm" - of genetic markers, likely a disfunctional early family (also genetically predisposed toward addiction), as well as opportunity for substances (drugs or alcohol) at a vulnerable point in our lives. It may come at a time of physical pain - or a time of emotional instability (like the teen years) - but once that substance enters our bodies, something changes within us and we're on that track, never suspecting a thing. It often starts out completely innocuous.

So - given our vulnerabilities - we take that pill or drink, and we find instant relief - from physical and emotional pain.

Then, given our genetic predisposition, our bodies do NOT process drugs and alcohol the same way as non-addicts. Honestly. For non-addicts, the entire drug is eliminated from the system completely within a matter of days. For addicts, research has shown us, a small part of that bodily detoxification process builds up a chemical in the brain called "THIQ" (short for tetrahydroisoquinolone). This THIQ has only been found in the brains of drug addicts and alcoholics at autopsy. Researchers believe that the genetic marker for this disease directs the body's production of THIQ.

THIQ is a highly, highly addictive substance that stays in the brain of the addict; it never goes away. It is considered much more powerful than >>>>>> or morphine. It feeds on itself. This is the basis behind the unimaginable cravings. It is not simply a matter of being "weak" or "lacking good moral fiber" - THIQ is a powerful chemical that is fueling our veracious need for more of itself.

In time, as the THIQ accumulates, our disease of addiction progresses. The more we use drugs, the more THIQ we develop - and the more we need. This is behind the progression of this disease. Early on, we may be able to stop after a pill or two - or at least control our use. Later, we can control if we start using - but can't control how much we use once we get started. Then, in time, control is gone - lost to us forever. THIQ will be triggered and completely take charge of us any time we ingest a pill or a drink.

Thus is the very real - tangible - basis of our insanity. Why do people keep using drugs, even when they have destroyed every aspect of their lives by their drug use? Why do they put drugs ahead of their loved ones? Why do they lie and cheat and steal to have more drugs? Why aren't the threats of more harm enough to make them stop? THIQ. Once it takes control, we aren't in control.

THIQ can not be removed. It will not go away. BUT - it can be made dormant. And the only way to make it dormant is to completely stop fueling it. Total abstinance from any and all addictive, mood-altering substances. As soon as we injest a pill or a drink, THIQ is again triggered, even if it's decades down the road from our days of addiction. We may struggle to control it for a short while, but it can't last. The THIQ is far more powerful than we, alone, are.

That's the scientific explanation for one big piece of this puzzle called addiction. There's ongoing research on addiction that explains it even further. I share this information NOT to give anyone an excuse to use drugs - hardly! I also don't share this information to try to get the loved ones around the addict to be more compassionate or forgiving. No. I simply share it so others can see the true essence of this DISEASE, and not keep looking at addiction as some kind of character flaw or personality disorder. It's much more than narcissism or immaturity. The AMA (American Medical Association) has labelled it a disease for decades. "Disease" is not just a word the AMA banters about to justify bad behavior. It meets their criteria for classification as a disease.

So - we aren't at fault for having the gene - we were born that way. Our responsibility comes into it when we recognize that we have this disease, and are offered the tools we need to overcome it. In other words, I may not be responsible for having my disease, but I am responsible for my recovery from it.

Recovery takes WORK. It is far more complex than just stopping the drugs. After we've been abusing drugs for any length of time, we have basically hijacked any coping tools we ever had. We have also hijacked our natural ability for personal motivation or emotional growth. If we are to stay away from the drugs, we need to relearn the skills we lost - or learn them for the first time, if we never had the chance before. In essence, we have to become MORE stable emotionally than the average person, if we're going to learn to manage life without turning to the crutch of a drink or a drug. Fortunately, we can learn those skills - and the best source for that help has proven to me to be AA or NA. It's far beyond mere meetings of a support group. It's a 12-step program of reassessment and recovery. It gives us the 'recipe' for relearning how to deal with life, without a drug. That's where we learn how to cope. That's where we learn how to accept and forgive ourselves, despite the insanity of what we've done when we were active users. That's where we develop self-esteem and self-respect.

The disease is with us for life - but, given daily effort, it need not control us ever again. Fortunately, just as addiction is progressive - recovery is also progressive. Our skills improve, our circumstances improve, and we are able to find joy and peace that eluded us while we were active.

God bless,