The sort of experience an adolescent has with his or her first experiment with chemicals depends on the circumstances -- the type of chemical, its purity, the quantity ingested, the situation in which it was used, whether at a party, in a crisis, or while alone and the emotional state of the person at the time. Whether excited, happy, depressed, or in pain -- if the experience is positive, it leads to an important discovery: chemicals can change how you feel.
If an adolescent feels that alcohol makes one feel more outgoing and confident, or if an adolescent is finds it helps when he/she is flunking math or loosing a girlfriend or boyfriend then an indelible lesson has been learned.
The greater the mood swing, the more clearly the lesson is imprinted.
The next time one wants a change of mood, the answer seems obvious---get high! A positive experience with one chemical sometimes encourages them to try other drugs and more drugs or both, according to the effect the individuals desires. If one feels good at some quantity, then the rationale becomes that 'more is better.'
For many people, this early experience and learning is the beginning of a lifetime of social chemical abuse. The ill fated individual has no idea what may lie ahead of them. We can assume the person with the greatest perceived stress in
life and the fewest effective coping skills is the most vulnerable to addiction.
Some individuals find that months or years pass and they gradually are consuming larger quantities and go on to stronger and more addictive drugs. At some point the individual may notice this new tolerance acquired and is still not willing to see the early warning signs of addiction.
If the warning signs go unheeded, and larger quantities are ingested to get the "old relief" sooner or later another warning sign appears. He or she has their first black-out. As dependency develops, the memory of an entire evening may be lost. The onset of blackouts is a frightening development. It can begin to cause personal and professional problems that are costly and hard to explain because neither the victim nor their close friends or family has any clue that the blackout is happening. This now is crossing the invisible threshold of harmful dependency.
Once dependency sets in, alcohol, pot, and the 'party drugs' are no longer consumed as a social or emotional experience to cope, but now as a drug. The dependent now states, "I need it."
As the disease of addiction progresses so does the denial system.
Outright denial occurs which is, "I don't care, I am drinking or using because I want to."
The denial system is also made up of subcategories that addict or family of the addict does not recognize.
Such as justification, minimizing, rationalizing and avoiding. Many of the statements made by addicts use one of these types of denial to fuel their ongoing abuse such as, "I work hard, it is OK to get high when I am home and need to relax." And so on.
The addict begins to keep secrets from his/her family and friends. The secret protects the addicts degree and level of abuse. Secrets hold the addict in shame and the shame, in turn, is medicated by the drug. Soon the dishonesty manifests not only in the individual's denial of his/her problem, but the newly addicted individual becomes dishonest to all to contribute to preserve his abuse.
The transition to the addictive phases has now occurred and the addict becomes a helpless victim
to the disease of addiction,
At this point the addict is not able to monitor nor control the quantity or frequency or when he/she will consume their drug or combination of drugs to maintain the addiction. The addict's shame and guilt lead them to repression of all emotion, the last resort.
In order to survive, he/she turns off their painful feelings, keeps them turned off with more drugs and buries them somewhere deep in the subconscious. Unfortunately, positive feelings are also buried, like love and compassion, feelings on which relationships are built. As a result the addict gets further and further out of touch with reality. The growing delusions that "I am fine, I can handle this" becomes the strongest statement. Blaming becomes the defense and is simply a reassignment of the addict's own guilt, which he/she fills once filled themselves with their self esteem.
So lost, the addict often isolates, lies, and checks out of all aspects of life other than existing on having enough drugs to medicate for the day and using them so abusively that they cannot find their way out of numbness and the dark hole in their soul.
It doesn't have to be this way. There are answers, much help, lots of hope and love, and each individual has a different need towards recovery and a different origin to their disease. Treatment is individual to each client.
The recovering addict can once again start out life, developing a new self and a new esteem to live life deeply, are taught various means of coping with feelings other than numbing. Recovering addicts are life's hero's who have gone to the depths of loss and pain, have found the courage to seek help, and learn how to live to their fullest with peace and joy and connection.