Addiction Psychology?

by asifemily

An answer to an email from a friend of mine that is relevant to my last post…trying to explain addiction management.

Clean, clean…I am cleaner than I have been for a long time, let’s put it like that.  After J— died and I was still at Uni, I spent about four months just sitting in my room taking drugs…of course, I didn’t manage to finish my degree, which is something I regret.  I have managed to stick to about once a week since I came out of rehab in March, partly because I managed to get the job in the pub straight away.  However, I want to stop.  I know the last post on my blog seems to be to the contrary, but the aim of it wasn’t to say “drug taking is safe and the demonisation is completely unjust” but from a mental health point of view to say “I was using every day and I have managed to cut down so I need to stop giving myself a hard time”.

I want to stop because of this recent improvement in my mood.  I am certain that one reason to explain it is being once again employed; why do I keep sabotaging that by taking drugs on my days off?  I know that I need about two days after shooting up to get back to feeling physically and mentally ‘well’ and the reasonable side of my brain tells me that taking heroin isn’t worth the recovery time.  It’s a constant struggle between myself and my inner addict.  
In answer to your question about control, evidence would suggest that it isn’t possible to control addiction and one should strive for abstinence i.e never take the substance/indulge in the activity ever again.  HOWEVER.  My own experience with alcohol goes against this train of thought.  Let me explain: firstly, I think that to suppress anything is basically unhealthy.  Secondly, if something is forbidden, it is more appealing (maybe that’s just my own psycho-brain but it’s true!).  Thirdly, I believe the key to overcoming addiction is a purely personal journey…one needs to have made the decision and be 100% committed, or it won’t work.  And when one has made that decision, I believe it’s possible to have contact with the substance/behavior without it leading to being once again addicted.  I hope that makes sense!
I’ll illustrate with my relationship with alcohol.  I was physically and emotionally addicted to alcohol; I would shake and hallucinate if I didn’t drink and couldn’t cope with living.  Just before J— died, I had started feeling better and had made the decision that I would stop drinking on my Birthday…but I wasn’t 100% sure, I had a ‘safety net’ in my mind that said “oh, it’s not so bad if you can’t do it”.  Hearing that he was dead was the last step in removing the doubt I had and I was sober for over a year.  Then I started to miss the taste of some of my favourite drinks, for example ale with lemonade (which had been the drink I would have on holiday with my parents when I was underage!  Very weak; my parents had tried to encourage a healthy respect of alcohol that worked on my sister but not on me…).  I decided that to deny myself a small pleasure would be worse than to give in.  I often find, however, that I will have one sip and that’ll do – i’ll have satisfied the curiosity and recognise that there’s no point in consuming alcohol further…
Hopefully you can read and make sense of what i’m trying to say!  Let me know your thoughts on addiction management.