Addiction! Is it the Result of Low Self-esteem?
Addiction is somewhat of a controversial subject. I will only touch on it in this website, but will include resources for further help in understanding it.
I put low self-esteem at the source of much addictive behavior. Addictions come in all disguises from alcohol and drugs to eating disorders and obsessive behavior.
It is said that a habit only becomes an addiction when it seriously and negatively affects the daily life of the individual and the people around him or her. Since, as human beings, we have a tendency to deny what we don't like, it can take some time for a person to admit to a problem and often, the people closest to the individual are the first to notice. That's when an intervention is used as an option.
Many of our young people are effected by drugs and alcohol. It was considered normal and fun at one time. Now it is a problem that is widespread and effects almost everyone in today's society directly or indirectly. An entire culture is built around it.
DRUG ADDICTION IS A BRAIN DISEASE THAT CAN BE TREATED
How Science Has Revolutionized the Understanding of Drug Addiction
Throughout much of the last century, scientists studying drug abuse labored in the shadows of powerful myths and misconceptions about the nature of addiction. When science began to study addictive behavior in the 1930s, people addicted to drugs were thought to be morally flawed and lacking in willpower. Those views shaped society’s responses to drug abuse, treating it as a moral failing rather than a health problem, which led to an emphasis on punitive rather than preventative and therapeutic actions. Today, thanks to science, our views and our responses to drug abuse have changed dramatically. Groundbreaking discoveries about the brain have revolutionized our understanding of drug addiction, enabling us to respond effectively to the problem.
As a result of scientific research, we know that addiction is a disease that affects both brain and behavior. We have identified many of the biological and environmental factors and are beginning to search for the genetic variations that contribute to the development and progression of the disease. Scientists use this knowledge to develop effective prevention and treatment approaches that reduce the toll drug abuse takes on individuals, families, and communities.
Despite these advances, many people today do not understand why individuals become addicted to drugs or how drugs change the brain to foster compulsive drug abuse. This booklet aims to fill that knowledge gap by providing scientific information about the disease of drug addiction, including the many harmful consequences of drug abuse and the basic approaches that have been developed to prevent and treat the disease. At the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), we believe that increased understanding of the basics of addiction will empower people to make informed choices in their own lives, adopt science-based policies and programs that reduce drug abuse and addiction in their communities, and support scientific research that improves the Nation’s well-being.
Nora D. Volkow, M.D. Director National Institute on Drug Abuse
More than meets the eye. And do we close them?
As I read and study more about addictions, I realize that there is more than one variable in the formula that creates addictions. Yes, self-esteem is a big one, but I am now familiar with many people who have been born with mental disabilities who have not been diagnosed.
The ones who have been aware of mental limitations have not received the help and understanding that was needed in their early life. They have not learned skills to deal with their conditions.
They have eventually resorted to behaviors that were intended to make them feel better but have only worked temporarily. So they have been used continuously and have become a major problem. The original problem still exists and addiction is added to the challenge.
I believe that we, as a human race, with all of our civilized programs of health care, schooling, and infra structures do not put mental illness as a priority for our people. Let's face it, addictions of any kind are another name for mental illness. And when I use the phrase "mental illness" I am aware that there is a stigma attached to it. We are so afraid of mental illness that we choose to ignore it.
It is a difficult thing to understand because our mind is the last great frontier that we have to understand. Are we leaving the best for last?
I would like to include here an article written by a loving mother who has been dealing with this for several years.
Michael is magnificent!
He was born one month early at 4 lbs. 13 oz. He went through an aborted blood transfusion and spent the next month in an incubator working to finish the job that I wasn't able to do. He came home ready to face the world.
I was a young mother of 21 years and had no idea what being a mother was all about. My life would never be the same. I was not a single mother, but this story may sound like it. My husband John was a sensitive man but a wounded bird who required as much help as a child.
Michael showed symptoms of hyperactivity almost immediately. He was a beautiful baby and his intelligence level was a joy, as all parents can relate to. But the everyday tasks of eating, sleeping and basically getting on with life were difficult. He was never still and everything became an issue. I must say that all of this was taken as normal behavior of a normal active child. My mother used to suggest that I have him examined for hyperactive disorder and that there is drugs out there that could deal with that. I just chalked it up to the fact that Mom had done her job and was now a grandmother who couldn't deal with grand kids for long.
We gave him a brother 4 years later who despite being born early, was strong and healthy. Michael's brother David has dealt with growing up with him and will be the subject of another story some day. He is a son to be proud of also.
I eventually did become a single mom. I separated from my husband, as his drinking became a problem. A few years later, he died from cancer. Michael was devastated. Life became more of a challenge. Michael was hard to handle and David was quiet and introspective. I worked two jobs and life went on.
I remember Michael's 14th birthday. His friend called me at work to say that Michael was violently ill and what should he do. I asked if they had been drinking and he reluctantly said yes. I rushed home to see Michael lying flat out on the concrete patio, vomit oozing out of his mouth and nose. That was the beginning of his relationship with addiction.
I believe that the relationship I had with Michael was close and accepting. You would think that I would have known that he was heading for disaster with his alcohol consumption. Funnily enough, it was considered normal back then for kids to experiment with alcohol. I believe that it still is, unfortunately.
There was an incident before his sixteenth birthday when I picked him up off the street corner after he had taken LSD. I was scared, he was scared and after we got through it, I thought that he would not be tempted to try anything again. How wonderful that would have been.
By 19 years old he was a guitar player in a rock band and was heading for the big time. I saw very little of him for quite a period of time and was glad that his life was taking a direction that allowed his passion to bloom.
He came back to me a few years later and said that he had been using heroin and didn't think he could stop. We talked about his options. Then he was gone again, touring with his band. I guess he decided that it wasn't such a problem after all.
The entire band was on alcohol and drugs. It was a crazy time for them. They were kicked out of hotels for bad behavior. They were treated like royalty by fans, roadies and club managers. They were supplied with everything they needed and they kept the houses packed.
Michael handled it badly. He was kicked out of the band as the major problem. He was devastated. They were his family. The band was his life. Shortly after, they all disbanded. They could not put the pieces back together again.
The addiction continued and he came back a broken and sick man. I met a police officer shortly after Michael returned who wanted to help. He made his home available for a weekend of withdrawal. Terry had no idea that his gesture would turn out to be more than a weekend. We are married now and it has been a roller coaster ride for both of us. On one occasion, we dropped Michael off in a park with nothing but a sleeping bag. That was the worse day of my life. At the end of the day, I had to go and find him and bring him home.
Michael has visited every detox center for miles. He has been in recovery houses and halfway houses. He has helped start and run a successful rehab house. He still struggles with his addictions. A pre-existing condition (ADHD), which has now been diagnosed, comes back to haunt him. It is a life long challenge.
One lonely night after Michael had gone away to yet another treatment centre, I curled up in my blanket and cried silently. My first-born son, my beautiful baby now a grown man and drug addict. For ten long years, now, I have helped and hoped and prayed that he would get well. We have been through periods together where we were close. He healed and became the boy that I remembered. We communicated and confided. We became spiritually profound and enjoyed the learning. Then, without notice, it was back; the insidious invader. It had no sense of propriety. It had no conscience. It crept back like a malignant tumor. And then it all started again. The stealing and the lying, the acting and pretending and the mood swings. Communication was gone. The cycle had begun.
How does a parent detach from this? How do they learn to accept the idea that at any moment they may get a call from the emergency ward, or worse yet, the morgue? How do they release their child? How do they stop providing their offspring with food and shelter when the demon returns? Michael is so courageous. We are so proud of him.
Addiction is a complicated subject. Most addictions start out because of unresolved issues of health or dysfunction. Addiction affects the lives of almost everyone: not just everyone who knows an addict, but everyone who lives. It boggles my mind when I see how our society treats it like a crime and ignores the sickness of it. Our legal system, in its attempt to show that it is dealing with it, doesn't even come close to solving it.
Here are the lessons I've learned that have changed my life:
1. Please don't treat your loved one like a criminal. He/she has an illness. Would you walk away from a child with a learning disability or diabetes? Don't. You will not forgive yourself.
2. Let him know that you love him unconditionally but you do not like his illness.
3. Don't berate yourself for not knowing the right thing to do. Sometimes tough love works, most times it doesn't.
4. Help your loved one to stop feeling the shame by stopping being ashamed of him. That was a hard lesson for me to learn. I didn't know how ashamed I was. It was his shame, it was mine.
5. Accept what is. Don't fight against it. All that we fight against becomes bigger.
6. Read as many books and articles on the subject as you can. Things will change. Our society will eventually realize that this too is an epidemic and we need to change the way we deal with this illness.
Most of all I realized that there is no one answer that solves it. Eventually we all become part of the solution and we all evolve at our own pace. Love is always the answer, anywhere, anytime and always.
Here is an addiction website that I found to be of great help with Addiction and Teens. (Opens in new window)