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Friends & Families of Addicts Information for coping, dealing & living with a loved one's addictive behavior.

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Old 05-23-2016, 09:02 PM
redtop43 redtop43 is offline
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Default Help Me Understand Drug Addiction

I wonder if someone can help me understand better.

Here is my oversimplified model of drug addiction. You take one shot of heroin. Your body now craves it and you will get sick if you don't take it over and over. But if you can get off it by going through withdrawal, your body won't need it anymore.

I've personally never had any kind of substance problems. I hate needles too. I smoked pot in college, did coke a few times, hardly ever drink.

My last two girlfriends had escalating drug problems during our relationships. Lexi, my most recent ex and the one I'm still in contact with, I know she went to rehab once. The other day she said something about having had a drug problem since she was 15. (She's 31 now.) I think that when we met last summer she was mostly smoking pot, but after we moved to the weekly rental in the ghetto and she knew where to score, it got worse and worse and worse. At the end I know she was on heroin, and I know she used coke and crystal meth.

Someone help me understand. She's in jail now. She says she's clean, and she seems to say all the right things. She doesn't just repeat "I'm not going to use drugs anymore" because the knows that's politically correct. Today I got a letter from her talking about eliminating "Crazy" from her life, singling out several of her drug-associated former friends for elimination. I wasn't on the list.

Let's say she's in jail and not using. When she gets out - what makes her different than me? Other than my fear of needles - what makes her more likely to shoot up than me?

I sort of understand a gambling addiction, being addicted to the rush and the fear. I think (naively) of alcohol as a craving that just never goes away, and maybe of alcohol as a lifestyle that lets you lose yourself, so when you stay sober you can't run away.

Lexi was relatively clean, and then she starting putting things up her nose, and then in her arm, and for all that she's already lost 6 months of her life and maybe 10 or 20 or 30 more, depending what she's convicted of. What makes someone risk all that? What could make someone risk that, possibly get off with just a few years, then go right back to risking it again? I gamble, I play low-stakes blackjack and craps when I'm in Vegas, but if I lose so much that I'm starting to get pissed, I quit rather than hate myself for losing more. (Being a mathematician and knowing the odds and thinking of it statistically rather than emotionally might help.) I don't risk things I can't afford to lose.

Help me understand how an addict thinks - or doesn't.
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Old 05-23-2016, 09:25 PM
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To overly simplify it, her brain has been rewired. She's spent however many years using drugs to the extent that, although her body no longer needs it to function, her brain absolutely believes she does.

We all have hormones in our body that act as a reward system. You eat, you feel good. You laugh, you feel good. You cuddle with a baby, you feel good. You have sex, you feel good. So we chase those things throughout life, because we like to feel good.

Her life has looked like this: you do drugs, you feel good.

Those normal things that draw us? They can't give that same "high" that heroine can, and certainly not over and over again like an ever increasing dose of opiate can. So her brain has just done normal brain stuff and said "Hey, I like what feels the best!" If you're sad, get high! If you're bored, get high! If you're celebrating, get high! Feeling insecure? Get high!!And every single time she does it, she's reinforcing the habit (she felt better just like she thought she would!) and it's becoming stronger and stronger.

She's also teaching her body that it doesn't need to make those "feel good" hormones on its own, because she's providing them from an outside source. Even after the initial detox, it can take a long while for the brain to go back to making what it needs to.

So basically, the difference between her and you is your brain. Maybe the best feeling you'll ever know is lying in her arms at night. The best feeling her brain will ever know is dope and won't be quick to let her forget it. She'll have to intentionally go against what's become second nature to her over and over and over and over until she's built new habits and her brain has had plenty of time to heal.

That's my perspective on addiction, anyway. It's just an extreme of perfectly normal behavior. We all get high on things in life...some of us just ended up finding it in substances that are too intense for us to handle.
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Old 05-24-2016, 04:45 PM
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Hello!! I moved your post and gave you your own thread with your question, as the other thread was about someone else's addiction. You pose some good questions, and this is a topic that needs to be explored, hence your own thread.
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Old 05-24-2016, 04:57 PM
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WeepingWillow gave a very apt picture of addiction-- it starts out as something that feels good and then goes really, really bad biologically. Maybe you've heard that addicts are always addicts even when they're not using? There's a myriad of meanings to that one, but one of them is that they are rewired so that their drug of choice is the thing that makes them feel OK, not even good, but just a status quo version of OK. It can also mean that a lot of 'former' addicts stay away from their DOC by swapping it for another habit-- drinking for smoking, heroin for weed, sex for shopping, ect. Hence, still a seeking addict.

I dare say we all have something in our life that makes us feel OK. It may not be an obvious chemical-- it could be a relationship, our daily run, access to information that makes us feel well informed (crazy, right? but...). Tomorrow, wake up and not utilize that thing. And the next day. Now never again. Imagine that feeling and it's about as close as you'll get to understanding without picking up a needle yourself.
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Old 05-24-2016, 06:45 PM
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I worked in treatment....With heroin, when shooting it, it makes most puke, which in turns make the high faster and more intense.

Addiction is something that is caused by underlying issues, most of the time some type of abuse has taken place in the person's life at a very young age. Some of the time, too young to mentally remember. We all (I should say most) dabble in drugs or alcohol, but those that are damaged, seem to find it releases pain and shitty emotions and gives them the "love" they have always wanted.

Lastly, I will say nobody can force a person to seek treatment. All the love and attention in the world will not get/keep them clean/sober. It HAS to be a commitment to oneself to get treatment. It is always suggested that family/friends of addicts get themselves into their own recovery program, to learn how to live their life and not allow the addicts to control it.

There is so much more I could say, but will stop here. I do suggest you seek out your own recovery program as it appears you attract addicts...something to look at.
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Old 05-24-2016, 07:57 PM
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It changes the way I feel or rather, it did so the last time I partook of it and that has been a little over 13 months ago. Meth is my demon and has been for many years. I've shot it, smoked it, snorted it, and ate it. The euphoria is beyond words and so are the consequences. Death, prison, poverty, insanity and the darkness of the unknown harships which lie ahead in the life of an addict are beyond the understanding of many. In the end there is only one thing to understand; to use is is to die and many have done just that.
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Old 05-24-2016, 08:46 PM
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There's also a genetic predisposition to addiction. Many MANY people have addiction. I was fat, mine used to be food. What about coffee? Sex, etc. The problem with drugs is that it's illegal hence there are legal sanctions.
Also, the addict will always be an addict, don't forget that, it's the way an addict changes his or her lifestyle that will make it possible to move on. Additionally, whatever the addict is into has to be replaced by something else. That's why often smokers quit but will gain a little weight since they replace smoking with food. I stopped eating junk food, replaced it with healthy food and hated every second of it.....telling an addict to just stop is the worst thing you can do, the chemicals in the brain have completely changed who the person has become.
I've taught drug and alcohol classes for many years, it's a struggle, that's why you should maybe find a support group to better understand what she is going through, but also to meet people like you. You're not alone! Good luck to you.
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Old 05-25-2016, 01:15 AM
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I am going to Nar-Anon.

My own situation is perhaps complex. My own "addiction" was/is younger women (not crazy young, don't get the wrong idea, but I've been dating women in their 20's for the past 35 years). Staying in horrible relationships, including my last one. My "recovery" is to be able to say no, to realize that just because you never say "no" to someone doesn't mean they will never say "no" to you.

I've put it in other threads but I'll repeat it here - my own exposure is my last girlfriend, who got deeper and deeper into drugs over our 7 months together, cared less and less what I thought (she hid the drugs from me much better than the drug dealers she was cheating on me with), and eventually dumped me, took up with another addict, and it only took them a few weeks to commit robbery and kidnapping, for which they're awaiting trial in August. Lexi admits to using the stolen credit cards but says "My co-defendant is on the video, I was just in the casino." She seems to have some hope of being acquitted on the most serious charges.

I'm not tied into this like other people. I'm not saying I'm "better" than anybody else, just lucky that my addicted LO is not a blood relative or even a spouse, just a relatively short-term girlfriend whom I can walk away from, if I choose to. When the very last time you saw someone they stole $1000 from you, then literally kicked you out of their car, they really can't say you owe them anything. But my last girlfriend before her was an addict also, and I ignored that until I literally saw her using the "rent" money I gave her to buy drugs. Even then I tried to talk to her about it, let her deny it, and waited another 24 hours before I just walked in on her when she was shooting up.

Lexi says she is clean now in jail, and wants to be clean. I know she's had issues since she was 15; I think her mom sent her to a group home because she couldn't be bothered to stop smoking weed long enough to raise her and I think she was declared an emancipated minor at 17. She lived with her Dad for four years and he says she was great during that time.

I can make this simple for myself if I choose to. if I have the strength to. I know she's bad at hiding stuff and she's a lousy liar, and she doesn't even know half the ways I spied on her. I can tell her that her name is not going on any car or apartment we have, and that the first time she lies, cheats, steals, or uses drugs, I'm putting her clothes in a bag on the doorstep and changing the locks. Hell, most people do that if their significant other does 1% of the stuff she did to me. That might be a very non-understanding and non-charitable way to approach it, but maybe I can also say 'There's one exception. If you're going to use, tell me first. Maybe I'll be understanding and help you clean up, but it can't be worse than using and then I find out, and I'm going to find out. I always do.

She might be out in three months, or 20 years. And even if she's acquitted on the violent felonies and gets time served and probation, it's not 100% that I'm going to welcome her with open arms. There's the little matter of the $50K we burned through last year and that she doesn't even own a pair of underwear, let alone a car or bed or anything else, and she can't live with me where I live now because I live with my dad. He doesn't know details, but I can't in good conscience invite an addict who hasn't been outside and clean for a while to come live in his house. We live 2000+ miles apart and even if she gets probation, I'm not having a part-time relationship so she can fall back into the bad behavior when I'm not around. If she isn't free to move to close to where I live, and my dad is still alive, I don't think it works out for us to be together.

But I'm still trying to learn and understand. That's the one concrete thing I can do for myself, and to prepare for a future with her, if there's going to be one.
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Old 05-25-2016, 01:18 AM
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To me there is no understanding addiction. It is a disease that is cunning, baffling, and powerful. (taken from the Big Book of AA). In my observations, addiction is just a symptom of a bigger underlying problem that has not been addressed. Still, body chemistry makeup has a lot of do with it. Scientific research has shown it can run in families. That certainly appears to be the case in mine.

The only thing that literally saved MY life (Yes, MY life) was attending Al-Anon meetings. Without them, I would have lost my sanity because I didn't have a clue how to deal with an addict. Al-Anon taught me how to deal with ME and how I react to the addict.

Nobody, and I mean nobody can save an addict until they want to save themselves. It's just that simple.
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Old 06-09-2016, 08:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WeepingWillow View Post
To overly simplify it, her brain has been rewired. She's spent however many years using drugs to the extent that, although her body no longer needs it to function, her brain absolutely believes she does.

We all have hormones in our body that act as a reward system. You eat, you feel good. You laugh, you feel good. You cuddle with a baby, you feel good. You have sex, you feel good. So we chase those things throughout life, because we like to feel good.

Her life has looked like this: you do drugs, you feel good.

Those normal things that draw us? They can't give that same "high" that heroine can, and certainly not over and over again like an ever increasing dose of opiate can. So her brain has just done normal brain stuff and said "Hey, I like what feels the best!" If you're sad, get high! If you're bored, get high! If you're celebrating, get high! Feeling insecure? Get high!!And every single time she does it, she's reinforcing the habit (she felt better just like she thought she would!) and it's becoming stronger and stronger.

She's also teaching her body that it doesn't need to make those "feel good" hormones on its own, because she's providing them from an outside source. Even after the initial detox, it can take a long while for the brain to go back to making what it needs to.

So basically, the difference between her and you is your brain. Maybe the best feeling you'll ever know is lying in her arms at night. The best feeling her brain will ever know is dope and won't be quick to let her forget it. She'll have to intentionally go against what's become second nature to her over and over and over and over until she's built new habits and her brain has had plenty of time to heal.

That's my perspective on addiction, anyway. It's just an extreme of perfectly normal behavior. We all get high on things in life...some of us just ended up finding it in substances that are too intense for us to handle.
She hit this one right on the nail. The want the need is similar to people that have a cutting disorder. After going though counseling to understand why my husband felt the need to slam, snort, you name it, the puzzle began to become clearer. I have never used illegal drugs my entire life. After watching my husband slam, snort, smoke these types of illegal drugs I had to think why the hell is he doing this??? It doesn't make you cool, it doesn't make you fit in with the crowd. I learned in counseling and I am not referring to NA or AA I mean real counseling with a doctor why do people do this shit? What do they expect to gain from it? And he replied something in his past, to ease the pain of what ever happened to him. The first time he used Heroin he didn't like it, and didn't use it for a very long time till he went back to prison then he started using it again. He described it not as a high, but as a comfort. Like a security blanket. That reminded me of people who cut themselves to relieve pain in their pasts. No they don't want to die from it, but they want to help erase what ever is in their past that they won't own up too an get help. Before my husband went back to prison he had no more veins left, and would spend countless hours trying to find a vein. It was very sad to watch. The scars from the abscess's will never go away. EVER. Why do you think Heroin addicts where long sleeved shirts even in the summer when its over 100 degree's ?? To cover up the scars on their arms, legs, stomachs, even necks. He used to wear a turtle neck in the summer and I would ask aren't you hot? And he would say yes but he didn't want people to see the track marks on his body. When he couldn't find a vein he would muscle it. Now his muscle's that have taken abuse over the years are now limp, and its not a pretty site. Heroin or Meth do reverse the brain cells. And it will take years for the brain to reverse. Back to where as if he never used before. here he is back in prison and the last letter he wrote me he wanted me to go to Wal-Mart and get needles and send them to him in a card. NO freaking way. I am not going to allow myself to ENABLE his drug addiction to Meth or even Heroin. Nor am I going to send him a money gram because he owes for drugs in prison. He has chosen his own path, and he will either get with the program and stop this shit before it kills him or he will continue to get that "comfort zone" that the brain is saying you need this. If I had to compare Heroin to Meth I think both are two evils. There are no comparisons. As I said in another post I had to go through counseling to understand why a person would want to do this to themselves. And sadly they are the only ones that can answer that question for themselves.
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Old 06-10-2016, 06:27 PM
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It is very hard for us who do not have this disease to understand . It finally Clicked for me when I was told that the craving in the brain is at a level that is sub consciousness and a primal level that is almost impossible to control. But still we can not just say then there is nothing we can do because we all have self will and some have been able to turn there lives around. The only real way to never have this problem is to never start . God bless everyone who is dealing with this .
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Old 06-11-2016, 06:18 PM
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I saw Lexi in jail for the first time yesterday. I'll see her again tomorrow but then I have no idea when because we live over 2000 miles apart.

She's gained a frightful amount of weight. I don't know if it's the food (she tries to avoid the jail food or doctor it with commissary) or being off drugs.

I've never had any addictions but this whole process has made me even more skittish about addictive stuff or anything close to it.

What people have posted here makes sense to me. I don't know how I will actually use it if Lexi and I try to be a couple after she gets out.

I feel like all I can do is say "You're an addict. That's a medical statement, not a moral one. You can choose to be an addict who uses drugs, or an addict who doesn't. I choose not to be with you if you choose to be an addict who uses drugs. I'm not telling you what you can or can't do, what you must or mustn't do. I'm just telling you the choice I have made. You make yours.

Is that a sensible way to approach things?
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Old 06-11-2016, 08:24 PM
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Addiction is very hard to explain to someone who isn't an addict. But it isn't just a physical addiction but a mental one as well. I can say for myself that the first time that I tried heroin, I knew that I was in love. It had me the very first time. Taking something like heroin for an extended period of time is going to effect her body's chemistry as well as how her brain processes things.

You just really have to sit down and have a talk with her, let her know that you're not interested in being with an actively using addict. I will say, most addicts are BRILLANT liars and tend to know exactly what to say.

Also, if you talk to her and she's serious about staying off of opioids, you may want to look into Vivitrol. It's a monthly shot that's given in the butt muscles, that lasts for 30 days, it blocks the brains opium receptors, so basically, she could shoot up as much as she wants but she's not going to get high. It's pricey but I'm pretty sure that most actively using addicts spend a lot more than the cost of that shot in a month on their drug of choice.
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Old 06-12-2016, 12:14 AM
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I've told her in almost those exact words. That she can't be with me and use drugs. And I mean it. I've changed by light years in the past 5 months. I've gone from being needy and dependent and insecure to being pretty cold. For me it's about the same as if my boss said "Your job now includes cleaning the restrooms." I'd just say "I quit." Same with Lexi. She uses, I quit. I don't need that crap in my life anymore.

Not even coldness or punishment, just reality. She'll never be what I want if she's using. Maybe the job analogy should be different. If my boss says "we're not going to pay you anymore." In the past is have thought oh, he can't be serious, he doesn't mean if, and if he does he'll change his mind. Now I'd just walk away. A job without s paycheck has no benefits for me. A relationship with someone using has no benefits for me.

As it happens, Lexi is an awful liar. She once tried to tell me that she went out in the middle of the night to CVS to look for a heating pad. She didn't even know where a 24 hour CVS was.
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Old 07-06-2016, 10:19 AM
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I've discussed my relationship with "Lexi" in several threads.

This seems like a good place to say that I got a call from her Public Defender today. The DA has agreed to recommend probation, although the judge will still have to approve it.

Now I have to make these small decisions like do I want to be with her again assuming she wants to be with me, and what will I do if her behavior hasn't changed.
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