Addiction Cycle – Like most things in life, addiction goes in cycles. Here’s how it starts, increases and how it can be stopped.
What begins as experimentation with drugs can turn into regular use. Continued and increasing use brings dependence and with it changes in the user’s brain that are physiologically and chemically different from a non-addicted person.
These changes result in the user continually seeking and needing their substance of choice. Until treatment is received this cycle of addiction will continue.
The addiction cycle:
Addiction professionals see 7 distinct steps in the cycle of addiction and while these may differ in length and intensity. Each step is something that addicts need to understand.
- Frustration and/or pain: Addicts seek to use substances as a means of relief
- Constant thoughts: Extremely strong thoughts that often reach fantasy level relate to use and desire about their substance of choice
- Obsessing: This relates to the above point. Addicts often have uncontrollable thoughts about expected feelings once their substance of choice has been taken
- Using: This act relieves the mounting frustration and pain mentioned above
- No control: Once the user has had an initial ‘hit’ they are unable to control the frequency of use or how much they take
- Feelings of regret: As they are coming down addicts will feel remorse, guilt and even shame about their levels of substance use
- Determination to quit: There will be many instances where an addict promises to themselves that they will quit. Unfortunately, these promises do not last because the cycle begins all over again.
It is extremely unlikely that an addict will break the addiction cycle without professional assistance. The need for such help must come from the addict in the first instance. They need to be shown and understand the lifestyle changes required to change dysfunctional and self-destructive thoughts into healthier more rewarding ones.
The process an addict goes through to reach the stage where they are ready for treatment begins with themselves.
- Pre-contemplation: While the addict has not yet considered giving up their drug use, thoughts of doing so begin to surface on an increasingly frequent basis
- Contemplation: Thoughts of quitting become far more commonplace and the addict starts to believe it is time to quit
- Preparation: The addicts thought process turns to determination and they begin to prepare themselves mentally for treatment
- Action: This is a major step. The addict seeks professional assistance and begins treatment which includes counselling. At this stage the addict has stopped using
- After-care: Ongoing maintenance of treatment is absolutely vital and after-care is seen as the ideal way to achieve this.
A relapse is NOT failure:
During any stage of the addiction cycle it needs to be understood that relapse is possible at any time and in many cases quite likely.
While relapse is a setback it should not and cannot be seen as a failure. The recovering addict must hold their hands up to this slip and explain in detail the reasons behind it to their counselor. From here it will be possible to look at ways in which future relapses can be avoided while continuing with positive treatment that will lead to long-term sobriety.
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