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After attending numerous educational sessions at various rehab facilities in my PoA role, and now attending training for Substance Abuse Specialist certification, I’m convinced we need to get more information out to the average Joe about the difference between “use,” “abuse,” and “addiction.”
No, they are not the same thing. While it is true that one can lead to another (of course you have to use a drug to abuse a drug or to become chemically dependent), each term has a succinct meaning and the difference does matter when it comes to defining and addressing “recovery” needs.
No point in being too creative about this; here are some straightforward definitions of these words as they relate to substance/drug activities. (These are my words, but you can find more information at www.drugfree.org or in the American Psychiatric Assoc.’s DSM V or other similar sites):
- Drug/Alcohol Use: Simply using a drug (or alcohol). Some people do this for medical reasons, some for entertainment. They can take it or leave it. Their bodies don’t require it and they are able to deal with their emotions and relationships with or without it, and using drugs is not a regular part of their lifestyle over long periods of time. Medically, they stop when they are better or have healed. As far as entertainment goes, I’m not saying that drug use for entertainment is right (I personally am against this) – I’m just saying that some people use drugs sometimes and that’s the definition for this word in our context. (Then again, once in awhile I have drink of some type of alcohol – wine or beer or Pina Colada – at end of my day or at a celebration with friends. This would be a type of use that is commonly accepted in our society – and not considered abuse or addiction.)
- Drug Abuse: The abuser uses drugs as a crutch but is not physiologically/chemically dependent. They might abuse it by using the drug (or alcohol) any time they feel sad or angry or hurt in some way. They might use it out of loneliness or to self-medicate due to undiagnosed depression or anxiety. The danger is that they do not learn how to deal with their emotions or their conditions in a healthy way. Therefore, their psychological/emotional growth can become stunted and their relationships will likely be unhealthy – lives unfulfilled (and they could end up in jail as well). Abuse differs from use because of this aspect of avoidance or substitution for healthy coping mechanisms.
- Drug Addiction (aka “Chemical Dependence”): Addiction or dependence indicates that there has been an altering of the brain chemistry in the user which creates not only an emotional desire for the drug but a physiological need. Very simply put (I’m not a clinician or doctor), when a drug floods the brain with “feel good” chemicals, the brain responds by shutting off its natural release of these chemicals and, in fact, releases some other chemical to shut down the flood and even things out. This process produces the feeling of extreme high followed by an extreme low and then a craving because now the brain is not naturally switching back to normal – so more drugs are used and the actual dependence grows. This alteration in brain chemistry differentiates addiction from abuse or basic use. Addiction fits the definition of a disease – a dynamic which deserves its own separate post. Follow this link for a straightforward, readable discussion on the disease model of addiction.
Just to be clear, again, these definitions are in my own words. My attempt is to differentiate these concepts in a way that everyone can understand. If I have anything incorrect, please do send me a comment or private note so that I can edit or do further research into this.
Thanks and God bless!
Hindsight is always 20/20 – or so they say. But whoever made up that quip … I don’t think they had an addict in the house. Looking back doesn’t really make it any clearer.
Recently, a friend told me that she read this whole blog; so I decided to come back here and read it myself from the start. I has been a few years and I was wondering what I would think. I tried reading as if I was a stranger to the story, which wasn’t very hard to do. I felt like I was a stranger to the story!
Here are some things I noticed:
- The child who was in the most trouble (or causing the most heartache) got all the press – with only a few exceptions.
- Insomnia inspires blogging.
- Drug addiction sucks – for everyone in the family.
- I was in some real denial even when I thought I had stopped being in denial.
- This place and all of you here in blogland helped me preserve some sanity. Thank you.
- My journey really has been God-centered.
- The severity of the crisis made it seem (to me, at the time) like all this addiction stuff had been going on for years, when it was only one year from when I discovered the problem to when I chose to move away. (That left me feeling bad; like I gave up too soon – but I let that go quickly too).
- I have so much to be grateful for.
Another popular saying: “Don’t look back. You’re not going that way.” Good advice. There’s nothing I (we) can do about the past. Eyes straight ahead – forward, march!
I believe in the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would want them to do unto you. Love they neighbor. Be Jesus to the world. But can I help everyone who asks? Can anyone? The situation in my old neighborhood challenges me – and moreso my ex – to ponder this.
When my boys used heroin, it wasn’t just them. Almost their whole group of friends (not the girls as far as I know, but the guys) became addicts. I can easily name eight of them … maybe ten. And it probably reaches further than that. We’re talking about a middle- to upper-income suburban community; the place where people move to get away from this stuff. But I digress.
Recently, my ex came home from work to hear a phone message from the mother of one of my son’s childhood friends. This young man is now in the court system for charges stemming from his drug use. The mom has seen how well my son, Dan, is doing, and she asked my ex if he would be willing to meet with her to talk about it all.
Here’s the thing: This young man has been trouble with a capital “T” ever since we first met him (which was when the boys started kindergarten). He was in the court system before they were out of middle school … before any of these kids were using drugs of any kind. And the family has always had a reason why the things he did were not his fault. There is a deep root of co-dependency there beyond what either me or my ex feel able to step into.
So my heart aches for these people, but I’m going to be honest: I pray for this young man and his whole family but if I did not ever see them again, and if my boys did not ever know this young man in their lives again, I would be fine with that. I feel heartless! I’m not heartless … I’m just a little bit afraid. I’ve been lied to by this boy way too many times – before heroin and after. And they’d all have to show me that they are honestly and wholeheartedly working a serious recovery before I could reach out in any way. My ex feels the same. And yet we struggle with the decision to stay detached from them because we know how important it’s been for us to have people give Dan a chance, you know? I guess it’s all in God’s hands.
Heroin. Addiction. Lord knows it’s a communty affair.
Al has only ten days left in rehab. At least that’s how it looks right now. So he is deciding what to do next. His counselor recommends that he not go back to his hometown since all his connections are there. He wants to come to a halfway house about an hour away from me. I don’t know what to say.
First, I said yes. Then, I talked to his counselor and raised some serious concerns about it. Could he go somewhere in Colorado that’s not near his friends? But after that conversation, I felt terrible stress in the pit of my stomach. It doesn’t feel right.
Maybe he could come here. An hour away. Far enough that, without a car, he can’t just pop over to the house. Close enough that I could pick him up and take him to church and to the house for Sunday dinner once a week. A place where his only acquaintences would be family and the people he meets in his program. It feels right to me but I don’t know if I’m trying to control or if I’m trying to aid recovery. Once again, I’m clueless. The people in my Alanon group listen to me and nod, but give no advice.
I’m calling his counselor today to talk about it again. I feel unrest in my spirit. I have prayed that God would let things fall in place in such a way as to direct him to where he needs to go. I guess that’s the real answer. Trust God. Let go. Trust God some more. I’ve never been good at chess – and life really is not a chess game. If it is, it’s God’s move.
Posted in Addict Child, Addiction, Faith, God, Heroin, Parent of addict, Recovering Child, Recovery, The Ongoing Story
Tagged Addiction, Heroin, Recovery, Rehab