Lorelie Rozzano is a guest blogger for Vertava Health.
Addiction Isn’t Black Or White- It’s This
— Recovering from addiction is highly rewarding, yet challenging at the same time. There is nothing quick or easy about it. To change one’s life, one must first acknowledge that there is a problem. Denial plays a key role in this disease. Substance users minimise the severity of their illness. To move beyond the damage, action is required. This means more than just remaining abstinent. Abusing drugs and alcohol is only 15 percent of the problem. What lies beneath the surface must be seen, treated and healed for real change to occur. Recovering from addiction takes time, patience and a lot of hard work. Substance users are used to the quick fix. They want to be well. They want to be clean. They want their life back. They want all the things the rest of us have, but addiction has corrupted their reasoning and impulse control. Patience is not something an active user has much of. [lorelie-callout] When my parents first confronted me about my addiction, they offered to send me to treatment. Of course, I denied having a problem. In my mind, I didn’t need treatment. After finding out I’d be in treatment for six weeks and then expected to attend aftercare groups for one year afterward, I turned their offer down flat. Sadly, I continued using for another three years. I lost my kids, home, job and spouse in the process. When I finally entered treatment I was a walking skeleton with hollowed out eyes and an empty soul. All I could think about was leaving. I counted down the days and focused on little else. I wanted to get well, but it wasn’t happening fast enough for me. My addiction had blinded me to my obsessive need for control, my rigid defense mechanisms, my lies, my dishonest thinking, my low self-esteem and my dysfunctional relationships with everyone in my life. 42 days seemed like an eternity. I didn’t know I was sick. I didn’t believe I was addicted. Delusion told me I was just having fun, relieving stress and drugs gave me the energy I needed to get through my day. I was in the late stage of my addiction and didn’t even know it.
Addiction isn’t black or white, there are varying stages of progression.
- Early Stage – In the early stage of addiction, using substances was fun. There were no real consequences other than the odd hangover or feelings of embarrassment for acting in ways I ordinarily wouldn’t when I was sober. My using was mostly social or designated to weekends and special occasions.
- Middle Stage – I moved into the middle stage of addiction without even knowing it. I became a midweek user. My mind became obsessed with taking that next drink, hit, toke or snort. I couldn’t hang on until the weekend. Addiction lied to me in my own voice. I told myself just one. Now the consequences were starting to add up. I was lying more and more. I was hiding my usage. I minimized how much I spent and how much I used. I started missing days at work. There were mornings I couldn’t get up and feed my children breakfast. Checks bounced. I kissed a man who wasn’t my husband. I felt guilt, shame and remorse after every binge.
- Late Stage – By the late stage of addiction, my life was a chaotic mess. I moved beyond using midweek and into using most days. The days I didn’t use, I spent in bed. Without drugs, I was sick. I couldn’t hold a job. My relationships were in ruins. I was spending money meant for housing, food and utilities on drugs or alcohol. My needs came before the needs of my family. I was lying all the time. My thinking had changed. My behavior had changed. I was not the same person I was before. I told myself I won’t do something, then I would do it anyway. My family tried to help. They pleaded with me to stop. I agreed (many times) and here’s the scariest thing… every time I promised to stop, I meant it. I hated hurting my family, but neither my family nor I knew that I had passed the point where I was able to stop. Maybe I never could? You can only break hearts for so long before you become hopeless.
- Terminal Stage – When the need to use becomes greater than everything else, you are less human and more addiction. Eventually, my addiction was calling all the shots. It told me when to get up, when to eat, when to sleep and when to get high. It controlled every thought and move I made. I lost everything and I still couldn’t stop. You may have heard of rock bottom or that those struggling with addiction have to want to get help for treatment to work- don’t believe it. Those are outdated and deadly myths. Fentanyl has changed the game. I had lost the ability to reason. I was apathetic and I just didn’t care. I was consumed with one thought – how to get more. When going without dope becomes greater than the fear of dying, the terminal stage of addiction has been reached.
I was lucky. In spite of not wanting to go to treatment, I got the support I so desperately needed- away from the drug dealers and my using friends. With the right help, I came to my senses. It is terrifying to look back on. I’d lost my mind and the will to live. Recovery is possible. However, like all other diseases, addiction is most successfully treated when caught in the early stage. If you love someone who is in the late or the terminal stage of addiction and they refuse to seek help, call the number below. Intervention or mandated treatment is their only hope of surviving. If you or someone you know needs help, please call this confidential support line for assistance. 844-451-0263.