Often it is the stories of those who have struggled with a substance use disorder (aka addiction) that help a person either seek or sustain long term recovery. Today’s guest author, Howard P. Goodman, MA LMFT, shares relatable stories of those who struggle with these disorders. Goodman is a licensed psychotherapist and addiction specialist who blogs and speaks regularly about the fight against addiction. Based in Los Angeles, he is the author of the Amazon top-seller, The Staying Sober Handbook, a Step-by-Step Guide to Long-Term Recovery from Addiction.
Sounds Like Me: The Relatable Stories of Addicts by Howard P. Goodman, MA LMFT
The disease of addiction does not discriminate. It does not favor any gender, socioeconomic group, race or ethnicity. It can plague the lives of young or old, rich or poor, from any culture. There does not appear to be any population of people who are exempt. Interestingly, while the outer circumstances of an addict’s life can be different, “they all seem to share the same basic symptoms. I call them the ‘5 Cs,’” says Dr. George Cave with Malibu Hills Treatment Center, a non 12 step recovery center in California:
- Compulsion to Use
- Loss of Control
- Continued Use Despite Consequences
- Chronic Use
Ben, a 23-year-old newly sober opioid addict recalls, “The craving to use opiates started early. At first it was fun, easy and free. I just went into my mother’s medicine chest and started taking her Vicodin.” It wasn’t long before Ben’s tolerance to opiates started to grow, requiring him to take higher doses to get the same effect. Ben turned to purchasing Vicodin, Percocet, Oxycodone and heroin on the street. As his tolerance rose, so too did his level of cravings. They started as soon as the effects of his high started to wear off. “By the time I started coming down, the craving for more kicked in,” says Ben. “If I didn’t have more on hand, I went into withdrawal. It was awful. I craved opiates like a starving man hungers for food.”
Compulsion to Use
“Obsessive thoughts and the compulsive desire to use can persist long after physical cravings subside,” observes Dr. Cave. He cites the example of Debra, a 28-year-old woman in his care who struggled for months with obsessive thoughts around using. She reports, “Even after I got off heroin, there was a period of time when getting high was the first thing I thought about in the morning and the last thing I thought about at night.” This kind of obsessive thinking is like a kind of nostalgia that is refer to as euphoric recall. “The individual obsessively dwells on moments of drug use that were positive and blocks out all of the negative consequences of their addictive behavior,” explains Dr. Cave.
Loss of Control
In the case of Patricia, a mother of three from an affluent family, “One drink was too many and 100 were not enough.” She could go for weeks, sometimes months at a time without drinking. This led her into the fantasy that she didn’t really have a problem and that she could control her drinking and have a glass of wine occasionally. The reality, however, was quite different. Even if she was able to drink in moderation on one of two occasions, Patricia inevitably reverted back to a pattern of alcoholic binge drinking that resulted in her life spinning 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.
Continued Use Despite Consequences/Chronic Use
The chronic use of alcohol, despite increasingly negative consequences is at the center of Nolan’s story: “I was an expert at rationalizing or discounting the seriousness of my drinking,” the 45-year-old businessman reports. He dismissed the advice of loved ones and friends who cautioned him to moderate his drinking as “meddling” and told them to mind their own business.
“I could have saved myself and those around me a lot of heartache if I had listened,” Nolan reflects. It wasn’t until his wife left him, he was fired from his job and lost his driver’s license that he was forced to confront the devastating consequences of his chronic alcohol use. Sober now for three years, Dr. Cave reports progress: “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.”
Though these different addicts’ stories are unique in their specific circumstances, there is a common link between each one. Acknowledging the existence of some (or all) of the 5 Cs can be a great first step toward a meaningful recovery.