There is much debate on the topic of whether addiction is a disease or a choice. From experience, men and women who have successfully recovered from addiction and alcoholism can emphatically say that they had lost the power of choice. Willpower simply was not enough, and recovery meant more than just making the choice not to drink or use. Achieving and maintaining sobriety often requires treatment and strong adherence to a recovery program. Drugs and alcohol use changes the chemistry of the brain. The brain’s reward system can be changed to a point where our cravings and perceived need for the substance overwhelm our decision-making faculties. The National Institute on Drug Abuse explains, “Our brains are wired to ensure that we will repeat life-sustaining activities by associating those activities with pleasure or reward. Whenever this reward circuit is activated, the brain notes that something important is happening that needs to be remembered, and teaches us to do it again and again without thinking about it. Because drugs of abuse stimulate the same circuit, we learn to abuse drugs in the same way.” Eventually, drug use moves higher and higher up the list of priorities in our brain, until we feel a need for it in the same way we feel the need for food or water. The NIDA further explains these brain changes: “Chronic exposure to drugs of abuse disrupts the way critical brain structures interact to control and inhibit behaviors related to drug use. Just as continued abuse may lead to tolerance or the need for higher drug dosages to produce an effect, it may also lead to addiction, which can drive a user to seek out and take drugs compulsively. Drug addiction erodes a person’s self-control and ability to make sound decisions, while producing intense impulses to take drugs.” We eventually find ourselves at a point where our self-will is simply not enough to counteracts the need that our brain feels for substances. Many men and women who have successfully recovered believe in the tenets of 12-Step fellowships like Alcoholics Anonymous. They believe that their sobriety requires power from something greater than themselves, whether it be God or a higher power of their own conception. The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous explains, “The fact is that most alcoholics, for reasons yet obscure, have lost the power of choice in drink. Our so-called will power becomes practically nonexistent. We are unable, at certain times, to bring into our consciousness with sufficient force the memory of the suffering and humiliation of even a week or a month ago. We are without defense against the first drink.” The idea is quite simple—we are powerless over drugs and alcohol so we must find power in something greater than ourselves. We have what is referred to as a “spiritual experience” at some point along the way, and we come to rely upon our spiritual connection to maintain our sobriety. Whatever we choose to rely on, spiritual or non-spiritual, we must recognize that we cannot recover without help. We have lost the power of choice entirely, and must find the power to overcome our addictions in something else.
Your story can be one of redemption and recovery. You can make the decision to seek help now and begin building a better future in sobriety. Oceanfront Recovery, a treatment center in beautiful Laguna Beach, is staffed with compassionate professionals who understand the disease of addiction and are dedicated to providing you all the tools necessary to recover. For more information about individualized treatment options, please call today: (877) 279-1777