When you love someone who abuses drugs or alcohol, you spend a lot of time, energy and resources in the hope that she or she will change.  During that time, you will probably live with quite a bit of unacceptable behavior while the addict lies to you, steals from you and makes hollow promises he or she does not keep.  They often disappear for days or weeks, neglecting you, other family members, their children and their job.  They do not physically or emotionally resemble the person you fell in love with.

This often leads to an ultimatum voiced by many and followed by few; “You have to make a choice – it’s me or the drugs.”  You hope he or she will choose you; in fact you expect they will choose you.  Because anyone who really loved you would choose you, right?

Yet the stark reality is the large percentage of the time, they don’t choose love.  If love were enough to cure addiction, there would be less addicts and less overdose deaths, because a large percentage of those addicted  are and were loved.

There are several schools of thought about addiction.

Whether a person is genetically or biochemically predisposed to addiction or alcoholism is a controversy that has been debated for years within the scientific, medical and chemical dependency communities.  One school of thought advocates the “disease concept” which embraces the notion that addiction is an inherited disease, and the individual is chronically ill at a genetic level, even those who experience long periods of sobriety.

Another philosophy argues addiction is a dual problem composed of a physical and mental dependency on chemicals compounded by a preexisting mental disorder (i.e., clinical depression, bipolar disorder or some other mental illness) and that the mental disorder needs to be treated as the primary cause of the addiction.

A third philosophy subscribes to the idea that chemical dependency leads to permanent chemical imbalances in the brain that must be treated with psychotropic medications (drugs that act on the mind, altering mood or behavior) and sometimes anti-psychotic medications after the person withdraws from the drug to which they are addicted.

While it is true there is some scientific research that supports each of these concepts, it is also true that none of these theories are absolute.

There is a fourth school of thought the Narconon program uses that has proven to be more successful.  To understand this way of thinking, it is necessary to understand the life cycle of addiction.

The Life Cycle of Addiction

This data is universally applicable to addiction, no matter which theory is used to explain the phenomenon of chemical dependency.  The life cycle of addiction begins with a problem, discomfort or some form of emotional or physical pain for a person.  This person is, like most people in our society, basically good.  But he encounters a problem which causes him physical or emotional pain and discomfort and for which he does not have an immediate answer.  Perhaps, as a child or teenager, he had difficulty “fitting in.”  Or maybe there are physical injuries such as a broken bone, a bad back or some chronic physical condition, or the person has suffered losses in life.

Whatever the origin of the difficulty, the discomfort associated with it presents the individual with a real problem.  He feels the problem is major, persistent and without solution or relief.  Most of us have experienced this type of problem in our lives to a greater or lesser degree.

Once the person takes the drug or drink, he feels relief from the discomfort.  Even though the relief is only temporary, the drug is adopted as a solution to the problem and therefore the individual places value on the drug or drink.  This assigned value is the reason the person ever uses drugs or drinks alcohol a second, third or more times.

There are a couple of key factors involved in this life cycle that determines which ones of us become addicts and which ones do not.  The first factor is peer pressure.  If, at the time of this discomfort, a person is subjected to pro-drug or pro-alcohol influences through some sort of significant peer pressure, that influence can affect his decision-making with regard to finding relief from this discomfort.

Peer pressure manifests itself in many different ways.  It can come from friends or family or through some channel of advertising.  Peer pressure combined with relief of the discomfort or problem can determine the severity of drug use.

Second, the person felt bad in some way before he used drugs or alcohol and he feels better afterward.  That relief has value.

Simply put, the bigger the problem, the greater the discomfort the person will experience.  The greater the discomfort, the more importance the person places on relieving it and the greater the value he assigned to that which brings about the relief.

Those who start down the path of addiction begin to accumulate so much damage to their physical and mental selves and their lives that their quality of life in general deteriorates.  If drug or alcohol abuse continues unchecked, eventually the person is faced with so many unpleasant circumstances that each of their sober moments are filled with despair and misery.  All this person now wants to do is escape these feelings by numbing them away.  This is the downward spiral of addiction.

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