By Christian Shire

If you’ve never been addicted, never physically or psychologically dependent on drugs or alcohol, it can be very tough to understand how someone can destroy themselves so tragically, tough to understand how they can continue to drink or drug even in the face of seriously increasing consequences. Why can’t they just stop? Why do they need to lose everything? How can it possibly be worth it?

Once someone develops an addiction though, they are no longer completely in control of their actions. They may seem as though they choose their course in life, and in the beginning they do of course make the decisions to use drugs or drink to excess, but once addicted, things change. Once addicted, a deep preconscious part of the brain starts pulling the strings. You’re not fully aware of it, you can’t control it, but it exerts a great influence; and it keeps you abusing even in the face of very adverse consequences.

Addiction and alcoholism create a loss of control over actions and even over thoughts; and once addicted it is very tough to stop without professional help, and it has nothing to do with willpower or a lack of it.

Why Professional Help is Needed

Addiction creates changes in the mesolimbic, that deep pleasure and pain area of the brain. You’re not aware of this influence, you don’t think about it (you can’t think about it!) but it nevertheless pulls you towards drinking or drugging, and it’s awfully tough to control.

Luckily, the brain will heal and in time it will return back to normal, the challenge is just giving yourself the time you need to heal, time spent not drinking or using drugs. For most people, the only way that they can overcome these deep preconscious impulses coming out of the mesolimbic is through learned therapies of relapse avoidance.

You can’t control that part of your brain, but you can learn how to control your actions and even your thoughts so as to minimize those preconscious pulls. You learn to eliminate “triggers” to cravings, triggers that provoke real temptation, and get you moving towards relapse before you’re even aware of it.

We can never hope to eliminate all temptation from or lives though, so we also need to learn what to do when we find ourselves so close to using or drinking again. We need to learn strategies that will pull us back from the brink of relapse, and get safe to fight another day.

The brain will heal but the brain needs time. Participating in addictions therapies offers you the tools you’ll need to stay off of drugs or alcohol for long enough to allow your brain to heal; and after that, it gets a lot easier.

So it’s not about willpower, and addicts aren’t just “weak”. They endure fundamental neurological changes; they have a disease, and just like for any other disease, they need professional treatment help to get better.

You can get better, learn what you need to do:

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