The Depths of Despair
I for one can speak from personal experience on the subject of hopelessness. I was addicted to alcohol and cocaine for years. I had started using these substances at a young age and for a while thought I was invincible. But gradually things got worse and worse. I hit several points that I thought were “rock bottom” only to find I could sink even lower than that. I tried four different rehab programs but relapsed every time. I was without hope. Later on, I started upon a new program yet again. But something was different this time: It seemed to be working! It helped me come to terms with who I was, versus this “other personality”. It turned out this “other me” wasn’t me at all. It was a personality brought on by drug and alcohol abuse. That was one realization I had.
As I progressed I had many more startling realizations. This was all in addition to full detoxification from the devastating effects of chemical abuse. By the time I was done, I felt like a new person. Only I wasn’t really a new person. I was simply me, but this time I was more than happy with that. A “new me” wasn’t the end of it. I decided my purpose was to help others by using the same principles that had pulled me out of my own personal hell of hopelessness and despair. It became my driving purpose to help others free themselves from the chains of addiction.
Addiction can appear utterly hopeless, and there are many reasons for this. A primary one is the effect drugs have on the biochemistry of the individual. “Biochemistry” refers to the complex interaction of chemicals (substances, fluids) within a living organism, in this case the human body. The body breaks down food, vitamins and nutrients into chemicals which it uses to function properly. Drugs and other toxins are foreign to the body and disrupt its natural biochemistry, in particular the nervous system and the intricate system of over 100 neurotransmitters (chemicals produced and used within the nervous system and the brain).
One profound way that a drug interferes with biochemistry is that it will trigger the release excessive amounts of neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and endorphins. These chemicals are released in small quantities by everyday actions such as eating an apple or going for a jog. Drugs trigger a flood of these chemicals, which accounts – at least in part – for the “high” the user feels. But as any drug user will tell you, the high is commonly followed by intense depression as the body goes back to its normal (or lower) level of neurotransmitter flow.
The upshot of this is that the body is “fooled” into perceiving it needs more of the drug to “feel good” again. This vicious cycle gets progressively worse and worse as the individual uses more and more of a drug – to the point of severe dependence and addiction. As we all know, some drugs, such as cocaine, heroin, oxycodone and methamphetamine are known for producing such a level of addiction that the addict will act extremely irrational – even psychotic – depending on the length and severity of the addiction. As if that weren’t enough, drugs deplete the body of vital nutrients and vitamins, making addiction even harder to overcome.
The Value of Detoxification
The addicted individual’s body has been drained of its natural nutrients while at the same time it craves a drug or drugs in order to obtain a chemical high. The person experiences dramatic highs followed by abysmal – even suicidal – lows. It is a roller coaster ride that is – to put it mildly – simply not fun anymore.
The addict who feels hopeless must recognize that they are putting the body through an arduous series of ups and downs and the immediate answer is DETOXIFICATION. Detox is the action of letting the drugs exit the bloodstream. A thorough detox process results in drug residuals leaving the tissues of the body. Detox should be done in a supervised setting for the comfort and safety of the recovering addict. Attempting detox without help is not advisable nor is it safe.
Rehabilitation and Trust
Once the person is off drugs, the process of rehabilitation begins. There are always underlying issues at the root of addiction. In other words, physical addiction is very real indeed, but it is never solely a physical problem. Rehab works to deal with these fundamental problems.
Many people who have fallen into addiction have trust issues. They instinctively do not trust anyone who claims they can “help” them. Establishing a degree of trust, even a little at a time, is essential for the rehab process. That is one reason former addicts do so well with recovering addicts. An addict will often feel that anyone who has never been addicted could not possibly understand what they are going through, and they are in many ways correct. But a former addict understands all too well. No matter the setting, the value of someone who really listens and understands is immeasurable.
Drugs Change Personality
Drugs change personality. A once bright and cheerful person can change into one who is depressed, angry at the world, without a sense of hope, without purpose. Anyone struggling with addiction must recognize the fact that the addiction is rigged to perpetuate itself. In other words, addiction is wired to bring about continued addiction. By its very nature, it is difficult to escape. Simply understanding these facts is a good first step. Then comes the recognition that something can be done about it. This is immediately followed by the willingness to at least try.
Change of Environment
An inpatient setting for recovery is usually the best approach. This is because of the value of the CHANGE OF ENVIRONMENT. In the person’s current environment, he or she continued drug abuse, thus there is probably something wrong with the environment. So we change the environment and provide a safe space in which to recover. From there we look at what environmental factors have been causing or exacerbating the addiction and take effective remedial action.
The Spiritual Element
Quite in addition to addressing the physical and mental influences of addiction, one must not neglect the spiritual side of existence. Faith, religion and spirituality are of course unique to each individual. No one should force anyone to believe anything. But if a person feels they should be looking at the spiritual aspects of their addiction and their life in general, they should be encouraged and helped in doing so. Countless people have found renewed hope when they have fallen back on faith and sought spiritual guidance. It can make all the difference.
An addict often needs to make new friends. Plain and simple, they need to hang out with people who are not drug users. This takes some getting used to, and it is often in rehab where this occurs. They are in there pitching with others in the same boat. Everyone there is bailing water, so to speak, in order to stay afloat. They are part of a group with a worthwhile objective and this makes a huge difference.
A miracle I have witnessed countless times is the addict or alcoholic who starts taking responsibility for other people. They look beyond their own personal problems and see that others have had it just as bad or worse. They start to lead by example. This can mark the beginning of a new life for the individual, one where they care for themselves, their friends and their family. The idea of “hopelessness” doesn’t even exist after that. There is an abundance of hope.
Finding a Purpose
After emerging from the hell that was my addiction, I found a purpose: TO HELP OTHERS WHO HAD FALLEN INTO ADDICTION. This was two decades ago and I have not looked back. Anyone can find a purpose for their life, a higher calling, the thing that gets them up in the morning and motivates them to do better each day. Without a destination, without a strong sense of purpose, we are just drifting with the tide – we are not in control. To take control, it is necessary to decide upon a constructive goal.
The first goal of an addict is to “get more drugs” or “stay high”. Given some insight, they hopefully change that to “conquering the addiction”. When the addiction no longer has a firm grip, it is vital to formulate new purposes or rekindle the old ones that were abandoned. Adopting new objectives, new interests, and a new level of self-discipline in order to pursue those objectives and interests are all part of restoring hope and faith in oneself. There is indeed hope after the hopelessness of addiction. More hope than you could possibly imagine.