Guest blog by Sharon Therien
How Addiction Destroys Lives
Addiction can start in many ways: trying a drug with some friends, turning to drugs because of difficulty dealing with problems, using substances socially. But once you’re really on the path of a substance use disorder (a term that includes substance abuse and addiction), it always ends the same way.
Sure, the exact circumstances can differ. But inevitably, if you continue without any personal or professional intervention of the addiction, you end up on a path of decline within your life. Substance use disorder ruins some aspects of your life or eventually it can ruin all aspects. It is capable of affecting every part of life.
Areas of Decline in an Addicted Life
How do your life and the lives of your loved ones decline when you’re addicted to a drug and/or alcohol? Here are some areas of life that tend to decline from substance use disorder:
Addiction takes a significant toll on your body and mind. Even if you’re able to hide your substance use from others, you won’t be able to hide it from your body. Often, people neglect taking care of themselves and fail to eat enough healthy nutrients the body needs when they are focusing their lives on substance use. They can end up with nutrient deficiencies that affect the body’s ability to run itself and heal itself.
The ways substances are used lead to certain health effects. When substances, such as alcohol or pills, are ingested quickly and/or in high amounts, the liver has trouble with its roles of breaking down what you ingest and detoxifying. You can tax it so much you end up with liver damage and/or disease.
Snorting drugs can lead to problems with your nose, such as nosebleeds and losing your ability to smell. By injecting drugs, you could end up with a blood borne disease, develop infections or abscesses, and/or collapse a vein. These are examples of health consequences of using drugs in varying ways.
Addictive substances can cause many other serious health consequences, depending on the substance. Drugs and alcohol are capable of creating brain damage, leading to heart disease and stroke, and setting the stage for a variety of diseases. In many cases, addiction creates a decline of your mental and spiritual health.
Addiction often leads to an early death whether by overdose, suicide or as the result of a progressing disease or health condition created or worsened by the addiction. Also, the World Health Organization points out that addiction can lead to people losing the quality of life they once had through disability.
Addiction is considered a family disease because the entire family is affected by it. Family members develop unhealthy coping skills to deal with the problems in the household and within the relationship. They often have to face financial struggles, hiding the addiction, dealing with an unstable household and other concerns.
Nonetheless, it’s not just family members who are affected by a person’s addiction. Friends, bosses, co-workers and others connected to the person’s life can also be affected.
Relationships become strained as the person focuses his time and efforts more on the substance than on the people around him. Relationship strain also comes when loved ones and colleagues have to deal with difficulties that come with the addiction, such as violence, a decline in performance at work, legal and financial troubles, lies and theft, and other issues.
In time, loved ones can change to develop their own unhealthy methods of dealing with life. For instance, they might become codependent and full of shame. They can develop mental problems and turn to substances themselves. Ultimately, as you progress with addiction, you will either have very unhealthy relationships with those around you or you will lose those relationships altogether.
Addiction also worsens your life in a lot of practical ways. While people often turn to substances to help them deal with problems, the substance doesn’t help those problems go away and instead adds new problems to the old ones.
Because of your substance use, you could have problems performing your work well. You could lose your job or get into professional trouble. For instance, it’s possible to lose your professional license because of actions you took, whether under the influence or from poor decision-making because of how addiction has changed your brain. Another scenario is that you could end up arrested after stealing from work to pay for drugs.
Overall, addiction can create many practical problems, such as financial troubles, legal problems and the loss of school or work opportunities.
High-Functioning Addicted People
Some people can get along better or longer while having substance use disorder than others. They may be good at hiding problems and capable of functioning well within the public aspects of their lives. This is the case with high-functioning addicted people who are still doing okay with their professional lives and maybe even their relationships but who have a hidden personal side devoted to substances.
Some people are able to delay or offset some of the problems that addiction can cause because they or their support systems have money and possibly power. For instance, you might be able to weather the financial and legal troubles addiction can bring because you have the money and social standing to handle them better than people without those assets. So maybe you lose a job because of drinking but you have savings, a trust fund or family support to fall back on. Maybe you have a lawyer who can make your legal problems go away.
But even the people who are able to get by in some areas of their lives will eventually feel the effects of addiction in some way. Family members may get tired of the pattern of bailing the person out of trouble, especially if there are no signs of progress. This can strain and even break relationships. You might struggle with the fact that you’re not able to personally support your family. You could end up with health problems, and while you may have money to help with that too, addiction health problems aren’t always reversible.
Addiction always comes with problems, whether it creates them or worsens ones that were already there. It destroys lives by creating a decline in some or all areas of your life. It can also greatly affect the lives of those around you, especially close family members. Even if you’re not dealing with addiction-related problems now, you won’t be able to escape them forever.
The only way to stop this decline is to get off this downward path and commit to recovery. If you’re not able to stop substance use by yourself, a treatment program or professional can provide support and guidance to help you.