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Does the addict have the ability to just choose to say “NO”?

This is a question often debated by many. Why does the addict continue to harm themselves and others through substance abuse?

The core of the illness demonstrates that somewhere along the way the addict loses the ability to choose. Loved ones become frustrated, feeling hurt and powerless. The addict feels tremendous shame, guilt and remorse. Yet the substance abuse and harm continues on.

Scientific evidence supports the fact that addiction is not a choice. The neurobiological formation of the brain alters the brain circuitry. The attachment-reward and incentive-motivation pathways are “out of whack”. Neurochemical transmitters such as dopamine and serotonin altering these responses. Psychological trauma and environmental social components are also part of the bio/psycho/social mix that result in the disease of addiction. Years of continual use damages the prefrontal cortex of the brain, impairing decision-making and logic ability.

Unfortunately, for many decades society has socially constructed – through sheer ignorance and misconceptions – attitudes causing great unfounded stigma for those that are suffering (often impeding or derailing treatment). For example, the shame and embarrassment many feel for being stuck in the realm of addiction often prevents them from seeking help, adding years, if not decades, of continued pain and suffering. Many family doctors in the medical community are not trained properly in addictions, often prescribing another drug to the addict as an answer to the current addiction. It’s a vicious cycle.

I myself tried hard to hide my alcoholism from others; scared of what may happen to my children should people find out, and what others may think of me, instead of seeking the help I needed. This added years of pain and serious negative consequences to my life which fortunately [in my case] did not include a “loss of life,” as so many of us do die along the way.

My message today is that if you know of someone suffering from the disease of addiction, encourage them to reach out for help. Try to embrace and understand that addiction is a disease and the person is sick just like any other illness. This could help save so many young people suffering from the disease of addiction many many years of unnecessary pain and give others a chance at finding peace and happiness. Working together we can all take part in the deconstruction of the gross stigmatization of addiction.

About Carole Eastman

Carole is an addiction counselor whose passion is to provide support to others suffering from the disease of addiction and mental health disorders. In recovery from alcoholism for over 6 years, Carole understands the barriers and challenges many face in order to achieve a better quality of life which we are all so deserving of. Carole has raised three children as a single mother and after many years of struggling now enjoys living life on life’s terms. You can connect with her on LinkedIn, and follow her story on HMC’s Supportive Minds Blog.

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