Lorelie Rozzano is a guest blogger for Vertava Health.
Independence Day – Is it a pipe dream for those struggling with addiction?
July 4th is fast approaching and soon, people all across America will be celebrating Independence Day. Flags will fly, barbecues will smoke and fireworks will light up the night. Freedom in America is a constitutional right. But for the many, freedom and independence are only a pipe dream. For people struggling with addiction independence from their drug of choice without medical detox, will cause painful withdrawal. Addiction creates physical and emotional symptoms which change your brain chemistry. Many who first started using to feel better discover the relief they sought comes with a shackle, ball and chain. Fractured families, divorce papers, neglected children, loss of employment, bankruptcy, jail cells, institutions and/or death are just a few ways this disease plays out. There are very few people today, whose lives haven’t been affected by addiction. Far too many of us know the heartache and devastation of loving an addicted person or, being one. Independence is defined as ‘the state or quality of being independent’ – Dictionary.com Perhaps we could define addiction as ‘the state or quality of being dependent on a mood altering substance, with life-damaging consequences, culminating in a terminal outcome, aided by family.’ It’s a mouthful, but it works. To put it simply, addiction is a family disease. Everyone is affected. Whether you’re the addicted person, their spouse, parent or sibling, no one comes through this, unscathed. Loving an addicted person is like riding a roller coaster: The emotional ups and downs, and twists and turns will leave you breathless and sick to your stomach. The addict is the pilot; you, on the other hand, are just along for the ride. Your emotions and well-being are completely dependent on the addicted person. While they head face first for another crash, you, crash with them. You wear their scars. Yet they refuse to stop the roller coaster. They will not get off the ride. As you ride next to them, you grow progressively sicker. The rest of your family stands below. They beg you to get off. They can see the horrible effects riding in circles is having on you. Beside you is your addicted loved one who seems to thrive in all the chaos. To him or her, the roller coaster is normal. You, on the other hand, will need to readjust your normal to theirs if you hope to continue riding beside them. The roller coaster lurches beneath you. If you’re not careful, you’ll be thrown from your seat. Death surely lies, below. Your family yells from the sidelines, ‘get off!’ It seems you have a choice to make. You can remain stuck to your seat, or you can get off the ride. What you can’t do, at least alone, is stop the roller coaster or make the addict get off. Keep in mind losing one family member to addiction is sad, losing two… is tragic. Thankfully, with help, there is a way to stop this crazy ride. Addiction doesn’t have to end tragically. There is another option: Recovery. Recovery is defined as, ‘The regaining of or possibility of regaining something lost or taken away. Restoration or return to health from sickness.’ – Dictionary.com Recovering from addiction is a little like waking up from a coma. Everything is brand new and shiny again. I was a slave to my addiction for years and I can tell you from personal experience, there is no freedom as great or as profound as waking up each morning happy, healthy and clean. Addiction is a treatable disease, not a moral failure. Although you can’t cure it, you can put it into remission and live a very happy and successful life with it. If you had to have a disease I’d choose this one, hands down! Because addiction – and the family’s response to it – is predictable, it carries a high success rate of cure and like anything else, the success rate is greatest if caught in the early stages, The Declaration of Independence states – All men are created equal and have certain rights, like life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It doesn’t say we were brought here to be enslaved by addiction, or to live out the rest of our days in a hazy, numbed out, hell-like existence. Since I sobered up in 97 I’ve met thousands of others who have sobered up, too. Don’t believe the lies. We do recover! There’s more help available now than there ever was before. The good news? If you’re addicted you have a highly treatable illness. The bad news? Your illness gets worse, not better, over time. Just like cancer, the longer you wait to seek treatment, the less favorable the outcome will be. The good news? All you have to do is pick up the phone, to start your new life. I made the call. Will you? If you or someone you know needs help, please call this confidential support line for assistance. 844-451-0263.