Special Guest Author
I am proud and honored to introduce a special guest author today, Treye Eyler. Treye is my brother-in-law, but he is my brother in every truest sense of the word.
Treye is in recovery from heroin addiction and is approaching 5 years being clean. He bravely shared his story of addiction earlier this year.
At times in the past, I have intimately lived with his addiction. I know in certain moments of despair or frustration in the past, I have misunderstood his addiction as well.
When you love someone and see their addiction up close and in person, emotions of hurt can begin to override compassion.
I asked Treye if he could author a piece about the biggest misconceptions of drug addiction and recovery. I selfishly wanted to learn more about addiction and I believe there is a massive need for this type of frank discussion in today’s society. I hope this piece can help us all better hold onto our compassion.
Treye is so creative and thoughtful and he did not disappoint with this article. I am grateful for his contribution to my platform, which I now fully turn over to him:
I am a 27-year-old father of a 2-year-old boy. I worked in addictions treatment for 2 years until I took a risk and joined the carpenters union.
My fiancee is still an addictions counselor and my long-term goal is to do something within the construction and trades fields to help addicts.
I could always be doing more but I try to be of service to anyone that has the desire to stop using drugs or alcohol.
Being in recovery has most importantly saved my life from certain demise, but as an added benefit, it has given me a community I can lean on and confide in.
I am so immensely grateful for the journey.
Here Are The 5 Biggest Misconceptions Of Addiction & Recovery:
#1. Drugs Are The Problem
Drugs are only the most obvious symptom of addiction. The real issue is inside of us, whether you call it a disorder, a chemical imbalance, or anything else. Something just feels off.
Before I was introduced to substances, I sought adrenaline rushes through BMX and any other stunts I could pull off to entertain friends of mine. Before that, I lied. I still don’t know why, but I would lie about the most mundane things to parents and friends.
This type of behavior, which I always took to extremes, shows me that the illness that I have was present long before the first time I used.
In the times that I would stop using, without doing anything solution-based to try and recover, I would often get to the point of feeling like I physically needed to be high after letting it fester and boil inside of me. This is with weeks, a lot of times even MONTHS, away from the drugs.
My stomach would start doing flips just as if I was going through actual withdrawal. Something is definitely off there.
Now, once I got clean, the first thing to go was the drugs but the last thing to go has been my obsessive and compulsive behavior. It started out with cigarettes, Red Bull, and working 60-hour weeks.
Now it’s more like coffee, podcasts, and Twitter, but the point is that those behaviors are a part of who I am. Anything I do that alters my mood can make my life unmanageable if I am not in check and guided.
It has only been through feeding positive habits to counteract the negative ones that growth has happened. You can have years clean and still seem insane. It takes daily work to first realize what you are living with, second realize who you are, and finally how to live with that person.
#2. Morality Is The Problem
I’ve been instilled with family values since I was very young and believe that family is the most important thing, before anything else.
I feel like I have understood that for a long time because of my father, who taught me by example that family comes first, and you always stick together. I also was raised to treat people equally, show people respect, be kind, and to live life thoughtfully.
The first time I picked up any substance it was a social atmosphere where me and all of my closest friends got together and drank vodka on New Year’s Eve. I had no way of knowing what that would unlock in my brain. I thought I was just having a good time.
I quickly became a person that would sporadically drink during the day, or alone. Once other things got introduced, it became less of a social thing and more of a common goal that me and my dwindling group of friends had.
At some point, the progression took me to a place where I was only around people at all if they had something I needed or wanted, and vice versa. The tighter the grip that addiction took hold on me, the darker the circles became that I frequented.
If you had never met me before and then met me on one of my worst days using, you might even say I was an evil person, but I think that judgment would be misguided.
As I said, I was born to a loving home, with parents that taught me “right from wrong”, and it was only through the progression of this terrible disease that I got to a point where there was no right or wrong, there was only the next high, and how I was going to get to it.
There are a ton of reasons someone could see addiction as a moral failing, and I think most of them stem from hurt or fear. Replacing those feelings with love and understanding will not harm anyone, it will actually make living in the solution that much easier.
#3. Relapse Equals Failure
After we get some time away from drugs, it must seem earth-shattering to our loved ones when we pick back up. Understandably so, considering all the wreckage they just lived through the last time, or the time before that, or the one before that.
Relapse is not a necessity for recovery, but it does happen. The tricky part is, what do you do now?
Do you force us right back into rehab and just keep throwing money at it? Do you finally cut ties and try to live a life detached from your loved one? Do you keep us close so you know our every move so maybe you can control the outcome this time?
There is no right answer, the process the family goes through is just as erratic and unpredictable as the one we go through. Relapse is scary because the worst case scenario is that the addict is going to die.
We hear about it constantly so there is no real reason to think it wouldn’t happen to us. The important thing to remember is to try and stay present and do what you can right now.
Right now, your loved one is here, breathing, struggling, and probably wondering as much as you why they picked back up.
The most honest answer I could have given a family member when they asked why I decided to use again was “I don’t know”. That’s the truth.
If you know someone that is struggling to get clean time, do what you have to do to recover as well. This may mean detachment, but as long as an addict has breath in their lungs, there is hope!
#4. Punishing Addicts Will Teach Them A Lesson
While family members may find some peace of mind knowing that the addict is “safe” because they’re under the eye of corrections, as long as drug use is a crime, drug users will be looked at as criminals.
The problem with that, at least under our current system, is that people who quite obviously have a sickness are punished instead of rehabilitated.
This isn’t a problem just in the United States and other countries are trying decriminalization with great success. Portugal, for example, reportedly cut drug use in HALF in just 10 years after decriminalizing all drugs and treating it as a medical issue instead of a legal one.
By sending an addict to a room to think about what he’s done, we’re not really facing the problem at all. Scared straight tactics don’t work when you have something far more powerful screaming at you to go get “one more”.
My personal experience was being put on probation and still trying to find every which way to skate the system, knowing very well that I would not fare well if it caught up to me.
I was scared of being locked up, of course, but I was way more scared of facing up to life without substances.
Decriminalization is beneficial for the sake of society, the economy, and above all the addicts and their families in the thick of it.
#5. Drug Addiction Is A Choice, Not A Disease
The only thing up for debate here, in my opinion, is whether the first time an addict picks up was a choice, or not. I think people are certainly more inclined to be curious about drugs based on genetics or socio-economic status.
I believe that some people’s brains are just wired in a manner that makes them crave a certain way or crave a certain thing. It can manifest in the form of drugs, money, sex, self-harm, or something else.
A disease is “a disorder of structure or function in a human, animal or plant, especially one that produces specific signs or symptoms”.
Dependency occurs when the body adapts to regular exposure to a substance. As the dependency increases, it becomes harder and harder to quit because the symptoms of withdrawal become worse and worse.
Withdrawal is the shock the body encounters trying to quickly adapt to the absence of the substance. This sounds to me like a disorder of function that produces specific symptoms, the definition of a disease.
Open Minds And Open Hearts
I would say the most important thing to understand is that, from what I can tell, there is no one way for an addict to recover. What works for one might not work for the next. Some people attend 12-step fellowships, some people take a holistic route.
Drug addiction is so misunderstood. We are less than 50 years out from when addicts would just get thrown into psych wards and be hidden away from society.
To treat mental illness this way is barbaric and the only way to start the uphill battle away from this epidemic is to face it head on, humbly, and with open minds and hearts.
Addiction is about the isolation and recovery is about connection. Families and communities with open minds hold all the answers we need to really make a difference in this struggle.
If you or someone you know is struggling with a dependency on drugs or alcohol, it is important for you to know that you are not alone and there is help available for addicts and loved ones alike.
Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are 12-step programs for addicts or alcoholics with no professionals or authorities involved. They are peer-run meetings with no leaders or people that govern or rule.
There is no cost to go to these meetings. All you need to be a member is the desire to stop drinking or getting high. Even if you don’t have that yet, I would recommend checking out one of these meetings.
SMART Recovery is a program for addicts that does not rely on the 12-step model. According to their website, their approach teaches self-empowerment and self-reliance and their program evolves as scientific knowledge of addiction recovery evolves.
Al-Anon or Nar-Anon meetings are the sister programs to Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, but for families. There is such power in talking to someone that knows your pain, and this is the place for that. You can go here to meet family members in the middle of the struggle, as well as family members of addicts that have time in recovery.
Adult Children of Alcoholics is similar to Al-Anon and Nar-Anon, just more honed in on people who have parents that are struggling with addiction.
There are a ton of other resources out there, and there is no right way for you to get help. The most important thing is that you find something that works for you.
My first recommendation would be to get involved with a professional, like a treatment center or a therapist, to find more resources. But if nothing else, these support groups are free and you are welcome to come and go as you please.