If you were to walk up to a random person on the sidewalk and mention to them that you like to pound down alcohol to the point of oblivion and blackout, they would likely look at you as if you were nuts. This is because drug and alcohol users don’t think the same way other people think.
That doesn’t mean they have to be treated any differently. What it does mean, though, is that most people don’t see eye to eye with people who suffer from drug or alcohol abuse. Most importantly, most people do not understand what makes these struggling individuals partake in the behaviors that they regularly exhibit.
About the Mind of an Addict
The mind of an addict is strong but fragile. It also operates differently than the mind of a person who doesn’t have an addiction to drugs or alcohol. Sometimes, individuals who are on the outside looking in might think of struggling individuals as demented people.
From an outside perspective, the parents, children, or spouses of addicts might see them living in misery. These perfectly healthy people using drugs and alcohol to the point where they were destroying every aspect of life. Yet still, struggling individuals continuously use drugs and alcohol. It often seems as though they’re making little to no effort to change, either.
Various narcotics pull the minds of addicts in the direction of being 6 feet under. Hurting their loved ones constantly leaves individuals in a state of despair. Still, they continue using. Sadly, death oftentimes isn’t even a good enough option to change the addictive mindset.
Why Are Individuals Who Suffer From Addiction “Irrational”?
Why is an addict’s mindset different from other people’s? You may be asking yourself, “Why would dying be worth it just to take another hit?” Addicts themselves sometimes do not understand why. However, there is a verifiable and scientific reason to explain the irrational mind of an addict. It has to do with two things: the brain and the disease.
Addiction is a disease. You may not know this, a person’s actions can actually cause certain diseases to develop. Humans are hardwired to find new things to bring them pleasure. Thus, when people experience something that brings the brain pleasure, they want more of that thing. It is a simple natural selection.
However, despite drugs and alcohol making us feel good, they are not necessarily good for us. The brain does not understand that though. To the brain, substances are just something else that makes us feel good. Thus, a may person know that binge drinking to the point of throwing up or passing out will make him or her feel terrible. Still, the individual cannot control himself or herself because our brain thinks “more equals good”.
The second reason why the mind of an addict is so irrational is because of the brain itself. The brain changes after building up a dependency on substances. The motivation, reward, and memory centers of the brain literally change. For this reason, people may not feel normal unless they have the substances that they depend on.
It is almost like the mind isn’t complete without using substances. Think of it as brain control. For this reason, people should not always write off addicts as simply choosing the hole they fell into. Not all of these “decisions” are black and white choices. There are lots of variables, controllable, and uncontrollable things that go into it.
Components That Affect the Decisions Addicts Make
Many things that affect the decisions that addicts make. In fact, addictive behavior patterns can be considered symptoms of decision-making processes that do not take into consideration the long-term consequences of actions.
Decision-making processes are the different ways that the brain processes decisions. Therefore, when decision-making processes do not take into consideration long-term consequences, whatever behavior patterns that naturally develop as a result of those decisions will occur, regardless of whether they are negative behavior patterns or positive behavior patterns.
Addiction is a negative behavior pattern that many impaired decision-making processes can develop in people. Some decision-making processes that addiction can compromise are discussed below.
Sensitivity to Reward
Sensitivity to reward is one of the major ways that the human brain makes and processes decisions. For example, you may make the decision to wear a certain outfit often because of the compliments that you always receive when wearing that outfit. In this example, the reward that you are getting for wearing a particular outfit is the compliments that you receive.
When people are highly sensitive to rewards, they are more likely to seek out exciting and very pleasurable experiences and the rewarding feelings that they give them regardless of their long-term consequences. People who have a high reward sensitivity personality trait, have it due to genetics and heredity.
Because the brain only recognizes the immediate pleasure that taking substances or being in environments where partaking in substances take place often give you, and the brain sees pleasure as being good, people with a high reward sensitivity are more likely to develop problems with substance abuse. Thus, addiction to substances can compromise the otherwise natural sensitivity to reward decision-making process.
Low Levels of Self-Control
When people process and make decisions based on self-control, they are taking into consideration the long-term effects that those decisions will have on them. Therefore, when people have low levels of self-control, they are more likely to be impulsive and not consider long-term consequences in their decision making. People who make decisions based on a lack of self-control are more likely to abuse substances.
Low Levels of Willpower
Willpower is effort-filled and purposeful self-control. The more impulsive that a person naturally is, the more willpower that that person will need to hold back such impulsivity. Using high levels of effort and willpower to hold back high levels of impulsivity is exhausting. Therefore, when people that are genetically impulsive no longer have the energy to maintain such willpower, they will give into any desire, urges, or cravings that they have. For people that misuse substances, these urges, desires, and cravings could be drugs or alcohol.
Low Working Memory Capacity (WMC)
Working memory is the ability to mentally retain information. When people have a low working memory capacity, it is hard for them to not be impulsive. Many things can compromise working memory capacity levels. Some of these things include anxiety, stress, cravings, and alcohol. Therefore, when people that have WMC are compromised by one of these things, they are more likely to give in to their impulsive desires and addictions.
Certain Situational Cues
Any behaviors that people have are either there due to genetics or environmental influence. Certain environments can influence a person’s judgment and cause them to make poor decisions. One of these poor decisions is abusing substances.
Need to Escape from Stress
When people process or make decisions based on the need to escape stress, they are vulnerable to using substances to do so.
All or Nothing Thinking
When people are processing and making decisions through an all-or-nothing lense, they will use any small amount of relapse as an excuse to binge on any substance of their choice. Therefore, addiction can easily impair the all-or-nothing decision-making process.
The projection bias decision-making process occurs when people assume that what they currently desire will be what they will desire in a future situation. Often times projection bias causes people to underestimate what urges or cravings that they will have in the future. This is especially true if they are not experiencing any urges or cravings in current time. When there is a discrepancy in what people decide for their future and their current situation, it is easy for substance misuse to take place.
It is easy to exhibit addictive behaviors when you are making life decisions while in denial. This is especially true if you’re using your denial decision-making process to ignore any negative consequences that misusing drugs will give you.
Lack of Self-Awareness
When people make decisions while lacking self-awareness, they are not aware of the long-term negative consequences that their decisions make. Therefore, people that make decisions out of a lack of self-awareness are more likely to develop chronic substance abuse. Over time, a lack of self-awareness can turn into denial.
Long-Term Drug Use
Long-term drug use itself can impair your decision-making processes. When this occurs, misusing substances can act as a reward to your brain and form a cycle of substance abuse. The cycle of substance abuse can become so bad that people still get a craving for substances even when they no longer enjoy taking them.
At some point or another, we all take a step back and analyze our motives. Sitting back and reflecting on some of the more questionable decisions that we’ve made or acted on after committing to it internally, we tell ourselves that regardless of the poison that it causes us to take – the actions that we decided upon are okay to follow through with.
We- and when I say we, yes, I do mean you and I. WE are all human beings that make horrible mistakes on a regular basis. We deal with the aftermath of a situation accordingly, but most of our questionable choices are downsized in our heads. C’mon, we are all guilty of minimalizing our choices from time to time. What matters though is being self-aware enough to recognize why it is we do the things that we do.
The Power of Choice
The power of choice is both a gift and a curse. Everything that we do, (outside of involuntary actions like breathing) we do with the goal in mind of creating some sort of resolution. Therefore, when internal conflict arises inside of us, we pick a side. Even though it may appear like we carelessly choose sides when it comes to any internal conflict that we have, so many outside social factors affect the direction that we head in.
It is generally safe to say that most people do not like negativity. Most struggle to admit when they are wrong. Most people also don’t like to accept responsibility for their actions when there are negative connotations attached to them. People tend to get offended most about the things that they believe they know best.
You Have to Make Mistakes to Grow
Realistically though, mistakes are required in life. We aren’t meant to know everything. Life is but a collection of mistakes, and hopefully, we are learning and growing from them. In the meantime though, we continually do things that we are not always proud of. When this happens, don’t beat yourself up about it. Making mistakes is necessary for mental growth.
When your beliefs start to clash with one another, it can be uncomfortable. As a result, our minds tell us to side one way or another to relieve us of discomfort. In a way, we are playing mind games with ourselves and convincing ourselves of a particular reality that is often exaggerated, distorted, or ignored. We want to believe what we want to believe, but we must keep in mind that OUR voice is not THE voice.
The Effect Emotions Can Have on the Mind of An Addict
Often times, the mind of an addict allows irrational thought processes to step in and convince itself that what it remembers is different from what it actually does. Human beings, in general, sometimes allow emotional thought processes to dictate the way that we think about things. This is especially true for addicts and alcoholics that have been living in a state of numbness for years.
When addicts continue to numb their minds and bodies, they shut down all of the emotions that their bodies are supposed to experience. This is not a good thing because, whether we like it or not, we as human beings use our emotions to help us recognize when things are going well or poorly. Emotions are tricky. They are strong enough to be able to make us feel them physically. That is why it’s important to not let our emotions affect the decisions that we make in life.
Otherwise, it will only take one good mood swing to alter our certainties and principles. That is why it is so important to hold on to your morals. If you find that holding on to your morals, regardless of what your emotions tell you to do, is too tough of a job, find somebody to help hold you accountable.
At the end of the day, anyone with an irrational mind of an addict should get to know himself. Logic and rational thought processes tend to naturally go together. The problem is that everybody does not follow the same logic. Thus, spending all of our time trying to act in accordance is irrational. The trick for us, the chemically inflicted, is to remain open to others and ourselves. That way we can learn which actions of ours are justifiable or not.
Receiving Help for Addiction
Getting help is important for people that are suffering from addiction. This is because of the logic and support that we are able to get from our loved ones. We as recovering addicts and alcoholics already tend to be irrational. This is because abusing substances alters our brains. As a result, our loved ones should come around us and set us straight.
If you know someone who is addicted, the most loving thing you can do is to plan an intervention to get them the treatment they need. An intervention can be one of the most important weapons in our arsenal against addiction. If done right, it can have great results, but if done wrong, it could do just the opposite.
Addicts should also consider seeking family therapy. Family therapy will help build an understanding of addiction within the family as a whole. It will also help keep us, the addicts, honest and accountable. It will even help to facilitate honest and open dialogue between us addicts and our family members.
Although it may seem awkward, or even unnecessary, having an honest and open dialogue with our family members about our addictions is important. This is because addiction is a chronic disease, that can always come back. Therefore, having a team that joins around you in therapy can help keep you on track. Treating the whole family is an important part of your addiction treatment process as well (since we know addiction affects everyone around us too).
Addiction Treatment Programs
There are several programs that you can use to help you treat your addiction. Here at Coastal Detox, we offer detox and treatment programs for a wide variety of substances. The substances that we provide detox that include everything from alcohol to heroin, Xanax, Fentanyl, and marijuana. We provide treatment programs for addiction to painkillers, crack, meth, opiates, cocaine, and benzodiazepines. We also offer residential and dual diagnosis treatment programs. Continue reading to learn about the differences between all the major addiction treatment programs.
Detox is the removal of all substances from your body’s system. For most substances, it is important to conduct detox gradually. Often times people will experience withdrawal symptoms while they detox. If your detox withdrawal symptoms are severe, then you may need to take medications while detoxing to help you manage them.
Residential treatment is an addiction treatment that allows patients to live in the facility that they are receiving treatment in 24/7. Residential treatment is for patients that have a severe addiction and are early on in their addiction recovery journey.
Residential treatment operates as a housing community. Therefore, although you are receiving intense addiction treatment and therapy at a residential treatment facility, you will still have time to participate in fun activities and enjoy the area that you are in.
Dual Diagnosis Treatment
Dual diagnosis treatment is a treatment program that simultaneously treats addiction and mental illness. Because most addictions started out because of mental illness, having an addiction while also having a mental illness is not uncommon.
Partial Hospitalization Treatment
Partial hospitalization treatment is an outpatient treatment that occurs five to seven days a week for up to 6 hours a day. Partial hospitalization treatment occurs partially in a hospital-like environment for recovery and withdrawal purposes. Another name for partial hospitalization treatment is “day treatment”.
Intensive Outpatient Treatment
Intensive outpatient treatment is an outpatient treatment that occurs for a few hours a day, three to five days a week. Because the intensive outpatient treatment does not occur as frequently as other outpatient treatment programs, it is highly structured and intense.
Continuing care is support groups that people attend after their regular treatment programs are over. Many continuing care programs operate in the form of 12-step groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous.
Help = Rational Thought Process
You may be thinking to yourself that detoxing isn’t worth the effort, but we are here to tell you that it very much is. Making it through the detoxification process is one of the most rational things that you can do. Besides, at the end of the day, drugs will only bring misery and torture to your mind, body, and soul.
If you or a loved one has been struggling to make the next steps in your addiction treatment, call us today. We have trained specialists on standby ready to help you start detoxing as comfortably as possible. Through our detoxing programs, you can direct your life to a path that you will be proud to be on.