If you are addicted to alcohol or drugs, why are you like that?
What is the cause and why have you become someone who cannot stay stopped? Is it genetic or caused by living with a family member who is addicted to drugs and alcohol?
Is it trauma?
Is it because you are an immoral or bad person?
Why can’t you just stop or drink like a normal person?
There are so many questions and so many opinions and facts about addiction and alcoholism exist.
We’re going to look at what Alcoholics Anonymous said and what researchers and expert addiction organizations say on why you are an addict.
An Abnormal Reaction
“Opinions vary considerably as to why the alcoholic reacts differently from normal people.” — Alcoholics Anonymous
First and foremost, if you are an addict, you react differently from a “normal” human who is not addicted.
Most often when someone like us starts to drink, we cannot stop. We go on a spree until something snaps us out of our bender.
In the book Alcoholics Anonymous, it states that our body has an allergic reaction to alcohol or drugs. What they mean by allergic is that we have an abnormal reaction.
We begin drinking or using and we cannot stop. Our body creates the phenomenon of a craving.
Think of an allergy as an abnormal reaction.
Sometimes we can see family members drink a glass of champagne at dinner. They might have two and not drink the entire glass.
Can you do that?
A Mental Obsession
Usually the cycle of addiction starts with one drink. We go on a spree and often a consequence sobers us up temporarily.
Consequences can be things like fired from a job, relationship problems with family, being arrested, overdose and much more.
We see how we hurt others and what our life has become. We emerge remorseful and have a strong resolution to never drink again. Some of us can even stitch a few months of dry time together.
But what happens?
We eventually drink and use again, don’t we. Why?
The book Alcoholics Anonymous states that the real problem centers in the mind rather than the body.
These observations would be academic and pointless if our friend never took the first drink, thereby setting the terrible cycle in motion. Therefore, the main problem of the alcoholic centers in his mind, rather than in his body.
Your Brain During Addiction
Way back in the 1930s, Alcoholics Anonymous told us that our addiction starts because we like the effect of alcohol and drugs. For whatever reason, which we will get into below, we want to feel different.
But eventually, we cross an invisible line where we lose the ability to manage our drinking.
“He may start off as a moderate drinker; he may or may not become a continuous hard drinker; but at some stage of his drinking career he begins to lose all control of his liquor consumption, once he starts to drink.”
This is backed by science.
According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, the reward circuit in our brain is being affected by the euphoria we feel from getting high or drunk.
Over time our brain chemical system and circuits are changed, making it harder and harder to have self-control and make decisions.
The National Institute of Health states that addiction is a brain disease. Drugs and alcohol over time destroys “key brain regions that are meant to help us survive.”
Family History and Genetics
One of the first places we find ties to our addiction can definitely be within our own families. The National Institute of Health states that genes have been linked to different types of addiction.
But it doesn’t explain why some members of a family become addicts while others do not. Also, other chronic diseases like diabetes are associated with one gene.
There are some associations with a family history of alcoholism or drug abuse that affect how likely it is for us to follow in the same path. If we have a family member such as a parent, older sibling, grandparent, aunt or uncle who struggles with addiction, the possibility for us to present similar dependencies is higher.
Nevertheless, it’s not entirely fair to say that this is a definite cause of addiction. Instead of attributing all potential for addiction to our nature, we have to consider the nurture aspect as well. Witnessing a close relative struggle and suffering from drinking and drug use can be very difficult.
Our family history is only one of many factors that we need to look at when explaining our addiction.
Mental Health and Trauma
Another factor to take into consideration when it comes to our addiction is mental health disorders and trauma we’ve faced in our lives.
Some mental health disorders have substance abuse as a known symptom that makes us more prone to drug and alcohol dependency.
Our behaviors are more likely to be impulsive and our emotions are intense. We have a predisposition to feeling out of control and this is reflected in our relationship with drinking and drug use.
When we’ve experienced trauma in our lives and haven’t processed it, our ability to use healthy ways to handle our fears and emotions can deteriorate.
If we haven’t received the help we need to properly treat our mental health disorders or work through our traumatic experiences, our coping mechanisms can turn into self-harmful behavior.
Drinking and drug use are typical ways that we try to find relief from our trauma. This is much more common than most people believe. The occurrence of addiction is highly likely when we are suffering from things like PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, and other mental health diagnoses.
Filling the Void
The most common link in alcoholics and addicts is the feeling that we are empty, or that there is a void within us that is impossible to fill.
We believe that there is something we’re missing and no matter what we do, we cannot fill the hole inside of us.
This emptiness causes us to seek out ways to quiet our suffering and pain. Drugs and alcohol become a solution to the problem inside ourselves.
The first time we drink or use a drug, we experience a sense of fulfillment that we’ve never had before.
Our misery seems to finally subside. We return to alcohol or drugs to try to feel that satisfaction.
It becomes harder to find satisfaction. In many A.A. meetings you attend, many addicts and alcoholics will tell you that they experienced this feeling of a void within themselves.
A sense of emptiness is almost universal among alcoholics and addicts.
Knowledge Won’t Keep You Sober
While it’s important to focus on our recovery and healing process, it can also be beneficial to look into the reasons behind our addiction.
Keep in mind that there typically isn’t one sole factor to lead us towards abusing alcohol and other drugs.
For many of us, there are several explanations or assumptions. Most commonly, we suffer from a problem within ourselves, a spiritual malady that leads to a mental obsession.
Through working the 12-steps, and possibly from additional outside help, we can discover the reasons we sought relief from alcohol and drugs.
We do recover, and we can lead healthy and happy lives.
However, having knowledge about these things are not going to keep us sober.
What keeps us sober is having a complete psychic change.