Is addiction a disease, does treatment work and what can supporters do about it? These are my views only and the beauty of a forum like this is that I am able to express them. I have been 'in recovery' for 2 and a half years. Yes I have relapsed along the way but I still view the clean time before as just as important as my clean time now, I've learnt from both in equal measures. So here goes.................
Because the disease of addiction affects the part of the brain that is involved in our motivation and our decision making, from long term to the most basic of basic survival instincts, this is where it gets complicated! Is a choice a choice anymore? I don't know and in my experience this is what I've battled with most. The addict or alcoholic on the brink of a relapse, although an intelligent and rational being, somehow succumbs to picking up the first drug or drink despite having a clear knowledge of the consequences and that's not logical! In my experience, at a point of desperation, even the words 'this drink will kill you' doesn't stop me drinking it. So, in a nutshell, my life is a battle not to get to that point ever and how I do that is by working a program, surrounding myself with like minded people and tackling things as they come up, in essence, just doing the next right thing.
Now, does treatment work? I would say after spending months and now well over a year in various treatment facilities that the answer is yes and no. It depends on the individual and their desire to live a sober life, of this I am sure but again, this being a disease of the brain, that may also be over-simplifying things! The only way a supporter, that being a partner or family member, can help is to show some generosity of spirit or some compassion as often that is all they can do! In extreme circumstances even revoking support is a show of compassion in itself? Having said this I would never tell a person what to do, it's not my place. It is true that people using substances exasperate and infuriate those around them, being driven to behaviours that are clearly harmful to themselves and their families. However, compassion does not mean allowing people compelled by addiction to do whatever they want. What they need is the optimal balance of support, gentleness, and limits, to nudge the decisional balance back towards health and good function. It can take any length of time to reach this point and then maintenance keeps us clean and sober. (And surrounding ourselves with like minded people of course). That has been the key for me and the key factor in me not returning to the UK and remaining in Cape Town where the recovery family is big and powerful. However strong we are as individuals, we cannot do it on our own but often fellow addicts are better equipped to help than other closer relations. We then strive to re-build those relationships in time.
I had a situation a few weeks ago where I was kicked out of the place I was living over a dispute. I felt I was unfairly treated but rather than enter into a battle, I accepted the situation. I very nearly re-lapsed and by the grace of God I didn't but all I could think at the time was 'what's the next right thing to do?'. I didn't want to drink but I'd passed the stage of rational decision making. I booked into a hotel, got an early night and handed the whole situation over to my higher power. I went to a meeting the next morning, shared my situation in the meeting and was offered a place to stay rent free by another recovering addict. This was no coincidence and I am very grateful to not only be sober but also to have a wonderful place to live surrounded by true friends. It's spurred me on to do more service and help newcomers into recovery and just this week I have taken on my first sponsee. You see, one addict helping another always has a knock on effect and that's why I am eternally grateful to my friends who continue to support the alcoholfreeme.com