Addiction: Recovery, A Series for a Gentle Approach (Part One)

by Sue DeGregorio-Rosen, RN, CLNC, Contributing Editor


The idea of addiction is ancient – from a form of devotion to that of enslavement. Confucius (451-479 B.C.E.) understood excessiveness in all aspects of life and suggested moderation. Archaeologically ancient grave sites from China to the Middle East there are indications of the use of magic mushrooms as far back as ten thousand years. Whether to stimulate awareness or prowess or numbness, drugs, and addiction to them finds evidence of use in primitive human activity.

The old rule of thumb that one third of the addicted population gets better, one third either stays the same or relapses, and one third die is an incomplete picture.

Sharing this gentle approach may be helpful, it’s a personal and controversial approach and it may not be for everyone, but it may help someone.  It is crucial that this idea, which has been researched, be shared with one’s healthcare provider and therapist.

So, let’s take a step back……..what is addiction?

Addiction is a complicated and multifaceted condition that affects our brain’s neural pathways.  It is a chronic condition, and a dependency on certain substances that cause impairments in activities of daily living, it is a condition that affects the mind, the body, and the spirit.  These addictive substances cause a feeling of euphoria, a feeling to avoid pain.  Drug/alcohol dependence has been coined as “chronic” due to the relapse rates that have been observed over time and are comparable to other chronic conditions as in high blood pressure and asthma.  

Addiction relapse rates may be as high as 50_70%, as far as can be determined, and chronic substance abuse can disrupt the brain’s normal balance.  This can/will affect specific areas that control decision-making, emotional responses, and the pain/pleasure reward system known as the ” feel good neurotransmitter,” the reward that strengthens the habit and creates a craving to do more.  Those of us in healthcare know dopamine to be a part of intensive care, which supports blood pressure in life threatening illnesses.

 Many addicts seek help through conventional recovery such as in-patient rehab programs and/or 12 step programs.  Finding balance is the secret desire of science blending with the wisdom of recovery is challenging.  These programs work if one puts their mind to a desire to stop using and/or drinking.  However, the cycle of addiction is a vicious cycle while the nature of this disorder is pathological.  It is an insidious disease that tells us we are not sick.  We are sick.

An accurate description adopted by the American Society of Addiction Medicine (2019) states that “addiction is treatable, and is a chronic medical disease, involving complex interactions among brain circuits, genetics, environment, and individual life experiences.  People with addiction use substances to engage in behaviors that become compulsive and often continue despite harmful consequences.”  

There is no single event or factor that is the cause of addiction.  It is its own private hell.

There is no cure-based medicine for the disease of addiction.  The recovery process is based on spirituality. Though introspective holistic healing and support, recovery is available, it is a choice that must be personally claimed by the healthy part of us.  A clean stable mind supports all of these attributes and establishing our own personal recovery program can support our ability to release us from this bondage of despair, the bondage of self-will, and to move forward in peace and with freedom to live a life meant to be.  To be continued……….