There are numerous reasons why people develop alcohol use disorder (AUD) or substance use disorder (SUD), but one thing is clear: no one sets out to become addicted. Uncovering the “why” of addiction is critical to healing but challenging. Nevertheless, when you know deep down that you’re not living the life you deserve, it’s time to move past fear and into treatment.
Factors for Addiction
Scientists classify addiction as a brain disease. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) further refines the definition to state that it’s a “chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use despite adverse consequences. It is considered a brain disorder because it involves functional changes to brain circuits involved in reward, stress, and self-control.”
NIDA further states that while many people decide to use drugs and alcohol, the chances of repeated substance use and addiction are based on various risk factors and protective factors in their lives.
The top risk factors are:
- Genetics. NIDA indicates that 40–60 percent of addiction risk is hereditary.
- Environment. From a lack of parental supervision to peer pressure, community poverty to substance use in the home or among friends, our influences play a strong role in addiction development.
- Trauma. Adverse childhood experiences, PTSD, and other forms of unresolved trauma contribute to the underlying causes of addiction.
- Biology. In addition to genetics, this category includes aspects of emotional, mental, and physical wellness.
Conversely, if someone has many protective factors, the chances of developing SUD or AUD decrease significantly. Some of them include:
- Early structure as children and adolescents, such as parental monitoring and support, purposeful education and activities, and less exposure to substances
- Positive relationships with family, friends, and intimate partners
- Supportive resources within the community
- A healthy self-image and tools for self-control and stress management
So as you examine aspects of your life, past and present, you might realize that addictive behavior is driven by negative risk factors that either haven’t been identified or processed effectively. Additionally, someone may not have some of the more traditional risk factors at all, but certain catalysts, such as grief, extreme stress, and other external influences may trigger them to engage in more maladaptive behavior as a coping mechanism.
Do Some Soul Searching
If you feel out of touch with your natural self, if you’re putting on a “brave face” for the sake of others, if your health is starting to suffer because of drug or alcohol use, it might be time to do some soul searching. Some people might not realize that they need addiction treatment until they have a few moments of clarity. Here are some methods that might help you overcome any fears about getting the care you deserve.
- Journal your thoughts. The University of Rochester Medical Center indicates that journalling is an effective way to understand yourself more clearly. “And if you struggle with stress, depression, or anxiety, keeping a journal can be a great idea. It can help you gain control of your emotions and improve your mental health.” You can choose to re-read what you wrote, or use more of a stream of consciousness approach and not look back. Either way, this no-judgment approach helps you shed light onto your fears and take another step forward.
- Take stock. Another exercise is to outline what’s working—and what’s not—in your life. Since you don’t have to share the results with anyone, don’t hesitate to be honest about how you feel regarding aspects such as wellness, relationships, homelife, career, and so on. Then, after a few days, review the list, and decide how addiction rehabilitation will improve your life. This helps you decide to get well on your terms.
- Call a helpline. Maybe you feel as though you can’t really trust anyone you know to listen with compassion, or help point you in the right direction. Free crisis helplines allow for anonymous yet personal connection, plus provide a valuable link to more resources that can help. Here are just a few sites that offer comprehensive lists of helplines on various topics:
- Visit a 12-Step meeting. You don’t have to speak up if you don’t want to. But to know that these free resources exist in your community—and some are even online—provides a touchstone of immediate support. Recognize that everyone in a meeting is at a different level of their sobriety journey, and use this information as an example of how to move forward. A quick search for Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meetings in your area is a great way to start.
How Willingway Can Help
If you’re anywhere in the Southeast, visit one of Willingway’s weekly free continuing care community groups. Many of them stream online, too. These groups provide a safe haven to recognize the value of recovery. Willingway welcomes everyone, regardless of whether you have been in treatment, are a person seeking recovery, or are a family member or friend of someone in recovery, and whether this is your first or last step in the recovery process.