Recovery Matters

What Is An Addict?

 What is an addict?

An addict is a man or woman whose life is controlled by drugs.

1. Signs that something is wrong

2. Definition of an addict and how to deal with it

3. Rock bottom and hopeless

4. Seeking help from friends, family or professionals

5. Interventions and treatment options

6. Recovery and beyond

1. Signs that something is wrong
Financial affairs and other obligations are becoming chaotic. Increasing debt is often a sure sign that something is awry, commitments are not being kept to, relationships are suffering and on a downward spiral, physical injuries begin to increase and often car accidents begin to occur. Flights, holidays or family events and work deadlines are missed and in constant flux.
Theft and items disappearing or ‘lost’ is often a sign that something is not right. The addict’s home is not as tidy as it once was, their personal hygiene takes a dive. The addict begin to look unkempt. They are constantly losing or claiming to have lost precious items, even family heirlooms. They begin to casually borrow cash, and then become more demanding as pressure mounts on them. They become anxious and irritable when they can’t have their own way and replenish their supply. Visits to the doctor or pharmacy increase by the addict, as do sudden disappearances at important moments or events. There are secretive phone calls and excuses for needing to urgently go to the shops or visit an unnamed or unknown friend, colleague or acquaintance. Alternatively, there are many reasons not to leave home or even to agree to go on holiday, as this may mean being at a distance from their supplier or a doctor who is overgenerous with prescriptions.
People around the addict are becoming angry and disappointed, phone calls from creditors begin to mount. Confrontations with co-workers and the boss becomes the order of the day. Physical and mental health suffers and physical and mental abuse of loved ones escalates.
The list is endless. But one thing remains constant – the addict’s life is increasingly becoming unmanageable, including their reliance on their substance of choice, whether it be alcohol or drugs – including prescription drugs and gambling. Many are secret sex addicts and spend late nights on their computers or visit prostitutes. And their loved ones are being neglected and are unhappy and beginning to wonder if the relationship is worth the drama and disappointment. Children suffer too and can show signs of deep unhappiness or anger.

2. Definition of an addict and how to deal with it
This question has vexed many addicts and their families. But one thing remains constant. An addict is someone whose behavior changes either when they do not have their substance of choice as well as when they do take or consume it.
Many alcoholics and drug addicts are not vagrants living in squalor. Most lead what appears to be normal lives, superficially viewed anyway.  Casual acquaintance with an addict or alcoholic will not reveal anything different from anyone else, perhaps they just have one drink too many, or get aggressive, depressed or anxious for little or no reason.. Addiction is a disease that can and does strike anyone without apparent cause or reason.  It is often said that addiction runs in families, that addicts are born with a propensity towards alcohol particularly. However, increasingly addiction is treated as a mental disease and should carry no shame if it is treated and managed, often with professional help. Yet we know when something is going wrong and we are losing control of our lives.

Addiction covers a wide spectrum of behaviours as well as the obvious ones, from gambling to sex, overeating or excessive dieting and cutting. Some may need immediate intervention to halt the addict’s excessive disorder. Often going to a rehabilitation treatment centre such as Houghton House or hospital is immediately required. If it is a pressing or urgent medical issue, don’t hesitate to seek immediate hospitilisation. Go directly to the emergency room at a hospital or clinic,  or call an ambulance if that is required. Stabalising someone in need of urgent medical attention should always be the top priority.
In the long term, the only way out of the addiction hole is to be truthful to oneself and others. To admit to the scale of the problem and ask for or seek help. If the addict is still in denial, then family, friends, wives and husbands need to discuss the problem, and share with one another the truth of the situation. Discussing the issue and attempting to find a solution is the first step to recovery. It is hard to hide the problem if the truth is in the open.
A common point made by addicts in recovery is that they had lost any spiritual connections they had, and that addiction is a spiritual malaise. Many recovering addicts speak of finding a spiritual solution to their problems, and of the ‘gifts of recovery’. Fellowships or church can often be the only solution and many rehabs introduce clients to the Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous 12-step programme.

3. Rock bottom and hopelessness
Many addicts know when they have hit rock bottom. Everything they thought would never happen, has now happened. They feel they can go no further, and finally accept or seek help. They feel they can go no further down the road of addiction. It could be the loss of their family, their job, their home, car, friends, children or even a major health scare or accident. It matters not what triggers it, but they say this and no more. ‘I just can’t continue living like this, or continuing this behavior’. Thoughts of suicide or self-harm often creep in, but there is another hopeful approach that accepts the situation as it is and surrenders their desire to control their lives and being free of addiction. They agree to seek help, to begin a new way of living. Most addicts in recovery can recount different experiences of things that went wrong when they were in active addiction, but most  can define that exact and often similar moment that they hit rock bottom and were filled with hopelessness and despair.
For many, it is being involved in a serious car crash, or waking up in hospital having no idea how they got there or even where they are. They look at themselves in horror, and try to remember what happened. Others are arrested and find themselves in a holding cell, or being removed from the courts in handcuffs and transported to prison. Many addicts and their families try in vain to bribe their loved one out of the criminal justice system, and find that they must do it again and again until finally that defining moment of rock bottom is reached by the addict themselves and they surrender to the help of others. Many recovering addicts speak of being homeless and living on the streets, resorting to prostitution or criminal behavior to survive and afford their drug of choice. Sadly, it could be a long jail term and barren cell when they reach that moment. But recovery is even then still possible.
It is said that prolonging someone’s journey to rock bottom by constantly helping them is just prolonging the inevitable – and paying a huge price, whether emotionally, mentally, financially or physically.  But the sad truth is that rock bottom is part of many people’s journey and can have life-long consequences. Some are irreversible while others can be rectified over time and through following a life-long path of recovery. One never stops being an addict, but one can live a useful, productive and loving life. Going to AA or NA meetings is proof that recovery does happen, ‘sometimes quickly and sometimes slowly’.

4. Seeking help from friends, family or professionals
If it is a medical emergency then seek medical assistance immediately. An overdose may look manageable but can become life-threatening with little warning. If you need immediate advice, don’t wait until it is too late. Phone Houghton House and trained counsellors will advise you of the next step. If the situation is not immediately urgent, start researching the problem. Searching online will reveal much information and many plans of action and useful advice that will suit each situation or addiction.
There is an enormous amount of information available, by the medical fraternity, specialists in addiction and fellowships but it can become overwhelming. Addiction clinics and rehabs often have their own websites as does Houghton House (www.houghtonhouse.co.za),  which offer useful advice and suggestions. Addiction is a global problem and the solution is the same everywhere so read widely and thoroughly. Don’t hesitate to phone us (011 787 9142 (Office)/079 770 7532 (Emergency).  We offer specific and relevant solutions that have helped similar people with similar problems.  There is no shame in going to a rehab, it is the first step to being a recovering addict. Here, you will meet other people with the same or similar addictions
Many turn to doctors, psychologists or psychiatrists or their religious leaders. People in recovery recount how many times they tried this approach. Some succeed but many fail. However, it is necessary to inform your doctor of your addiction so that they are aware of it and can treat the addict with the correct information. Rehabs are a direct intervention and the first stop for many. Fellowships such as AA or NA of like-minded addicts meet regularly throughout all major cities. They also run hotlines so phone them and ask for help.

5. Interventions and treatment options
Sometimes there is no other option but to intervene to help someone or to seek direct treatment from professionals practicing in the addiction field.  It may even be necessary to approach the courts and have someone ‘sectioned’ and forced into treatment. It is best to seek professional advice from professionals such as doctors and counsellors working at rehabs before taking this path. The solution may not be as difficult as it appears. Particular care should be taken with children even if they are addicted to so-called ‘soft drugs’ such as marijuana. Some clinics have special wards and staff dedicated to the under 18s. Your online research will reveal those or contact us for specific advice.
Doing an intervention can be tough on all concerned. But it can and does save lives. When doing an intervention, it is often best to have already done the relevant research or spoken to a specialist or professional before confronting the addict. It is also a good idea to have a plan of action ready before the intervention so that a solution can also be offered such as coming to Houghton House. Another truth is that it is best to take immediate action if the addict asks for or is ready to submit to treatment and not delay by even a day, if possible.
Medical aids are required to cover both mental and addiction rehabilitation and the full stay is often covered in full. Houghton House will assess the client and offer the right solution for each person. Fellowships are a free option and all that is required is to attend meetings and talk to fellow suffers.

6. Recovery and beyond
Recovery is possible and many addicts go on to live full and normal lives. Those working the 12-step programme often start while in rehab and recount how their lives have changed for the better. They happily discuss the “gifts or recovery” which can be unexpected windfalls, such as reconciliation with family and children, or a new job or relationship.
Relationships can be healed with hard work and humility. Gratitude is another ‘gift of recovery’ that can do much to correct many harms of the past. Recovering addicts do become pillars of society and do live meaningful lives – with a little help from their fellows they have met on their journey to health and wellness. The first step to recovery is just that, a step or phone call away.

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