Addicts are people just like you who have taken on their own recovery from substance abuse. Oftentimes, the stories that addicts tell can help others suffering with the same type of substance abuse disorder (addiction) to help them learn to desire, maintain or rediscover their need for recovery. Today, guest author Howard P. Goodman MA LMFT, shares stories of people just like you who have struggled with this type of disorder. Goodman is a licensed psychotherapist and addiction specialist who is also the author of the best-selling book The Staying Sober Handbook, a Step-by-Step Guide to Long-Term Recovery from Addiction. Based out of Los Angeles California, Goodman also blogs and speaks about the battle for sobriety, and how to make a successful long-term recovery.
Sounds Like Me: The Relatable Stories of Addicts by Howard P. Goodman, MA LMFT
Addiction is a disease that does not care if you are a man, or a woman, or a member of the military. Addicts come in all shapes, sizes and ages. Addiction doesn’t favor your bank account, race, or culture. It can take over the life of anyone, and there is no apparent relationship between any specific group of people, and addiction.
Interestingly, while the circumstances of an addict’s life vary, there are “the same basic symptoms. I call them the 5 C’s,” says Dr. George Cave with Malibu Hills Treatment Center, a non 12-step recovery center in California.
Breaking Down the 5 C’s of Addiction
Not all addictions are the same however, there are 5 things addicts seem to have in common.
- Compulsion to Use
- Loss of Control
- Continued Use Despite Consequences
- Chronic Use
- Cravings. Kimberly, a college dropout but newly sober heroin addict remembers, “The cravings that I had for H (heroin) were so powerful at first. But then over time, I realized that I had no control over them at all. Or my behavior, when I needed more H.” Her facial expression changes here. With her lips drooping at the corners of her mouth, she continues, “It wasn’t too long before I was stealing out of my Mother’s purse for $20.00 just for another hit.” Over time, addicts can start to notice their “high” is harder and harder to come by. Kimberly finished up her story by saying, “I felt bad about it, but to be honest the reality of my addiction was just more powerful than my feelings, or my conscious. You see, if I didn’t have any H I would go into withdrawals and suffer through the aches and pains, the anxiety and I just couldn’t handle it.”
- Compulsion. Dr. Cave says, “Obsessive thoughts and the compulsive desire to use can persist long after physical cravings subside.” He mentions Debra, a 28-year-old woman patient of his who was struggling for months with the obsessive desire to use. Debra would say that, “Even after I stopped taking opioids (Vicodin, Percocet, Oxycodone) there was a long time that all I could think about was getting high. The first thing I thought about in the morning was where I was going to get more pills. I literally was obsessed.” This type of compulsive thinking is similar to nostalgia, that can also be referred to as “euphoric recall.” Dr. Cave explains “The individual obsessively dwells on moments of drug use that were positive and blocks out all of the negative consequences of their addictive behavior.”
- Control. For a person struggling with substance abuse it can be very difficult to control their own behavior when they are anywhere near their drug of choice. Agatha, a mother of three is from a wealthy family, but “After the first drink, I could have 100 more and it never would have been enough.” This is the type of behavior that led Agatha to go for weeks, or even months without having a drink. She then developed a fantasy that she didn’t have a drinking problem, and inevitably this led Agatha right back to a 12-step program called AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) where she had to start over in recovery because her life again had spun out of control. “Binge drinkers often confuse the fact they can put together periods of abstinence with the ability to drink in moderation,” says Dr. Cave.
- Consequences. Despite going through a 12-step rehabilitation program again and again many addicts end up continuing their use. It is pretty common for an addict to relapse a few times before achieving long-term sobriety, regardless of the negative consequences of their substance abuse. That was the case for Nolan, a 45-year-old businessman. “I was an expert at rationalizing or discounting the seriousness of my drinking.” Nolan says, “I could have saved myself and those around me a lot of heartache if I had listened.” Dr. Cave reports that “Nolan is back home with his wife. He is working on repairing the damage his addiction did to the marriage. He’s also found a less stressful career at which he is more successful and enjoys more. It is amazing to see what is possible in sobriety.”
A Final Note
These stories of addicts are unique in their circumstances, but there is something that they all share. Simply acknowledging the 5 C’s is a great start on the path to lasting recovery. So, don’t wait to talk about them at home with the people you care about if you feel they could be suffering with any type of substance abuse.