Updated: Apr 2, 2019
I was recently at a training where I was the only recovering alcoholic present. The trainer began a segment on addiction and began relating his love for chocolate and his will power to say no and how that needed to translate into the world of addiction. Thanks, but we've already been down the "Just Say No" route. That's not how it works.
I chose to speak up and represent the addicts in the world. I asked the crowd to imagine not having enough feel-good neurotransmitters like dopamine and endorphins. Imagine going through life not having enough chemicals in your brain to make you excited and motivated. Imagine not having enough chemicals to make you feel soothed and comforted. Imagine never knowing anything else existed until you took the first drink or the first hit...and suddenly you feel what you imagine the rest of world has always felt like. OMG this feels amazing. I feel comfortable, even cozy in my own skin for once.
But then what happens once the substance is gone? I feel worse than I did before I used it, depressed, hopeless...so of course I want to get back to that regulated, happy, comfy/cozy place. So I use again. And the cycle repeats over and over, getting worse as times goes on.
Without it, I feel like a raw nerve with cold air blowing on it. With it, I have relief...albeit temporary, but thank god for relief. I can't live with it and I can't live without it. This is why it's not a matter of will power. This is also why recovery is more than just sobriety. We have to heal the underlying pain and begin repairing the nervous system and learn new ways to produce neurotransmitters.
Being in authentic relationship with others, meditating, exercising, eating healthy foods, doing yoga, healing underlying emotional wounds and many, many other ways can assist in the recovery process.
Recovery requires effort, but the rewards are infinite. If you've never struggled with addiction to a substance, please try to understand what this might be like and don't assume it's just a matter of will power. It's not that easy.