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The Powerless of Cravings

“If you will understand that we are starving, then you will understand why we do the things we do in our addiction. We’re not bad people. We’re just people. Just like you. But unlike you, we’re starving. This is why we hock, sell, trade everything we have. This is why we do the things that hurt the people we love. Our loved ones will say that we love our drugs more than we do them, but that’s not true. Even if you’re starving, you still love.” Dr Sam Snodgrass

This article is one of the best I’ve seen explaining opiod addiction to the average person from the point of view of the person suffering. The author is a doctor who suffered himself for 22 years.

It explains why people lose so much weight (along with everything else) as they become more and more addicted to not only the substance, but the daily rat race lifestyle that requires so much time and energy, “just to stay well” as my son always says.

When I hear moms arguing about whether to buy food for an addicted loved one, there’s always the comment: “if they can buy dope they can buy food”.

The problem is, they don’t.

To me, it’s like expecting a severe Alzheimers patient to eat on time every day without forgetting to turn off the stove.

Filters to protect privacy

The first time my son was “out there” for 9 months, he lost 80 lbs. The second time he lost 60 in 5 months. When I received this second picture of him last year, I literally broke down in horror with shaking sobs. When I sent it to my daughter, she was so upset, she had to leave work. She said:

“I didn’t have any idea it could get this bad in just 5 months”

"Our starvation for these opioids is far more intense than our starvation for food. If it’s a choice between buying food or buying heroin, then that’s not a choice"

He explains how it relates to us eating as a means to survival.

“Let’s say that the only place you can get food is out of a black market where food is expensive and it is scarce. And it is illegal. It is illegal to buy out of this black market. But it’s the only place you can find food. If you were in this situation, what would you do? Would you starve? Or would you break the law and buy food, to eat and to live? Would you steal if you had to, to buy food? The answer to that would be yes. Because survival is not a choice”.

Honestly, because of articles like this, my anger towards my son for all the damage he’s caused has melted in complete compassion for his daily, minute-to- minute struggle. I wish I could say the same for my family. Addicts get a bad rap because they don’t magically heal all these brain changes when they go to jail or go to a 30 day rehab; big truth is, it takes almost as long to heal as the time in hard core active addiction.

“We’re not narcissistic hedonists. When we hurt the ones we love, we hurt too. And what is sad is that we don’t understand why we can’t stop. We don’t understand why we do the things we do. We don’t understand why we hurt the ones we love. We don’t understand because no one has explained to us that the changes within the brain at a cellular, molecular, level, what we call opioid addiction, is an acquired disease of brain structure and, thus, function that is manifested not as compulsive drug seeking and use but, rather, as behavior directed towards the survival of the individual”.

I invite you to click here to read the full article.

It also directs people to resources if they are interested in finding out more.
Dr. Sam Snodgrass received a Doctorate in Biopsychology from the University of Georgia in 1987. He was then awarded a National Institute on Drug Abuse Post-Doctoral Fellowship in the Pharmacology and Toxicology Department at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. After his Post-Doc, he was asked to remain as a faculty member in this department. In 1995 he lost his faculty position due to his opioid addiction. His use of heroin and Dilaudid began in 1976. For the first 13 years, his use was occasional. In 1989 he developed an opioid addiction and did not stop for the next 22 years. He is currently a member of the Board of Directors of the 501 c3 non-profit Broken No More and its subsidiary organization, GRASP (Grief Recovery After a Substance Passing).

Home Base

The Addicts Plea

Photo by author

On any addiction site or ad for a rehab or for a medication, you will find the argument of “disease versus choice”. Emotionally, it exhausts me. I write about it many times on this blog.

I heard it again this morning… From a nurse….

“They choose to stay in that situation”

I wonder if- as a nurse – she would say that to a domestic violence victim. It may be a poor comparison but it’s the only love / hate relationship that I can see compared to addiction.

The last few days of intently listening to my son’s fears of prison and his charges- {He has court tomorrow}-for possession of feeding his cravings for a disease that he thought he was immune to; I am sitting here in complete desperation and fear myself. I’m exhausted from trying to explain to people that NO-ONE (*** in their right mind***) WOULD CHOOSE this. And it’s just not that easy to get out of. And…theyre not technically in their right mind! There’s a reason they tell you not to operate heavy machinery or make important decisions after surgery:

Due to the affects of the medication on the brain and rational thinking!

So this is why I can see my son’s limited view. I can see where the years of drugs have damaged his rational thinking. His primal brain is in full throttle of fight or flight. He wants to run away. He can’t see a solution. He doesn’t think it’s fair to get 8 years for self-medicating just to feel ok and then to have it turned into this monster that sucked the life out of everything. He didn’t know he was selling his soul to the devil.

I understand his pain, his dilemma way back when…..Because right now, I WANT to just feel ok. If something was in front of me as a solution to get out of this pain I’m in, I would probably take it! I would! I want it to stop. This is what my son did years ago…..he felt uncomfortable, unsafe in his own skin, always seemingly “doing it wrong” because that’s what the world tells us.

That’s what I continually get told. I’m doing it wrong. I’m supporting him wrong, I need to live my life, let him figure it out, & my favorite: go do something you enjoy. They just don’t understand that no matter what you’re doing, the discomfort & pain is ALWaYS THERE.

In my post Rat Park, Pam Jones Lanhart states:

NO ONE and I mean NO ONE chooses addiction. Not one person who took a drink or a toke off of a bud expected to become addiction. That’s a ridiculous notion and not informed by any data or science. “When I used I was rewarded with a really good feeling. So I used again.” And eventually the neuropathways of the brain are reprogrammed and THEN in spite of all of the negative consequences and the fact that the using is no longer working for them, they can’t stop. That is the definition of addiction. Continued use in spite of negative consequences.”

I know that recovery is a choice Also, but trying to convince a damaged brain that it isn’t damaged is exhausting.

A fellow addict wrote this:

Let me say… Cause this may be the only way some people can understand.
This was not our plan… We didn't plan this daily struggle of depending on something to numb us, just to get through whatever pain we can't stand.
Our plan was to be a natural part of society, not dependent on whatever may be lying around to help us see another day.
It's no excuse… We're a mess, I will confess… But we're also blessed by the best.
If god can forgive us then u can to, because trust me he's better then you.
Your no better sitting on ur throne, with ur nose held high to the sky… We don't judge you cause we already know that he's in charge of that… And we may be addicts, but I know for a fact one day we will change and you'll still be well… well you'll still be That.
N. H.

Please pray for my son, my family, the judge, the court, everyone who can have a hand in relieving the pain of this nightmare, not just for me but for the turmoil and pain my son is feeling inside. The feeling of being trapped and hunted down & punished for a disease that continually reminds him of who’s in charge. No matter what good intentions he has; no matter when the dad- or son, or brother, or entrepreneur, in him, peeks out and wants a “normal” life again; the master is quick to squelch this thoughts into “maybe tomorrow”. This monster took him way beneath his capability to handle or understand the consequences, no matter what ” choice” or reasons he started out with to use.

Thank you🙏

Home Base

The Craving Brain

Cravings are a huge part of addiction and one reason for relapse. As I wrote in this post on cravings, all humans have innate drive for “survival” even if the cost of survival is risky.

If you will understand that we are starving, then you will understand why we do the things we do in our addiction. We’re not bad people. We’re just people. Just like you. But unlike you, we’re starving. This is why we hock, sell, trade everything we have. This is why we do the things that hurt the people we love. Our loved ones will say that we love our drugs more than we do them, but that’s not true. Even if you’re starving, you still love.”

The powerlessness of cravings

This guest post by Ed Brazell agrees:

I just don’t understand,Why?

It was once said that unless you’ve walked in my shoes you’ll never understand.

This quote wasn’t about substance use but boy does it fit.

I hear the questions all the time from families: Why don’t they get it, They’ve done this so many times, They were in recovery and remember the bad days, What the heck?

Our brain is a powerful organ. There are always struggles with either getting into recovery or staying in recovery:

  1. The body’s need for the drug/alcohol.
  2. The habit. Mental obsession not physical.
  3. The memories. Some times called triggers.

Most families think that once their love one has conquered the body’s need for the drug it’s done. But it’s not! It’s actually only starting. Just because the physical addiction isn’t there any longer doesn’t mean that the mental obsession goes away. That also goes along with other traits that they have learned while using. It’s something that the brain has to unlearn and even then it will make connections based on our everyday experiences.

First off, I’d like to get rid of the notion that 30 days is enough time in rehab. It’s not. Also the saying ‘one and done’ (going to one rehab and putting the substance down for good) does happen but it is rare. How can our brain unlearn something it’s been doing for years. Even if the use was for several months it’s still not easy. Clinicians and studies have shown that 90 days is the minimum amount of time needed and even after that follow up care should continue.

The body’s need for the drugs/alcohol:

A detox of anywhere from 5-14 days is all that is needed for almost all detoxes. It will remove the physical dependency of the addiction. Once this is done the hard work really begins.

The habit. Mental obsession not physical:

I sit in my room looking at the walls with tears running down my face like a river. Where is my child? Is he alive? I know, I’ll drive down to where he gets his drugs. Wait a minute someone got killed near there last week – it doesn’t matter I need to know where he is at. I get no sleep at all and I can’t eat knowing that something might be wrong.

Parents and spouses do you remember those feeling? Doing things that could bring harm to us. Do you remember how helpless you felt? How lost, unable to get it out of your mind.

That is taste of what early recovery feels like to your love ones. There are several reasons why they go through this stage:

  1. Chemical imbalance. It takes a long time for the brain to become balanced again. During use, the brain’s reward system has become overloaded. The brain gets use to the high levels. When they stop, the levels falls below what is accepted as normal. When that happens you can imagine how a brain would want this levels back up to where they were.
  2. Emotions. This is often a major issue. Some start their use because of emotional issues but all have issues with emotions when they stop. Can you imagine how you felt if you did something against you inner-being but suppress the feelings that you would normally have. That’s one of the reason that some take a long time to stop using. They feel the shame and know that they will have to deal with it. Now that they aren’t using anymore they have to deal with whatever they are feeling when for a long time they didn’t. Just as a reference point, how many times has someone that’s not using; run from their emotions so they wouldn’t have to deal with them. We throw ourselves into our own addiction such as a job, hobby and so on. Someone that stopped using has to now learn to deal with the emotions and it’s very hard. Many times it takes baby steps. To fast, they can overload and relapse. Also another big issue is isolation. Isolation is also used to not have to deal with anything and it always leads to depression.
  3. The physical connections to the use. Not to the brain dependency but the normal day to day interaction. We are all very repetitive creatures. If you ever examine someone’s life. You’ll see that they do the same thing over and over. We get set in our ways. With work, play, where we go and what we do. Did you know that one of the biggest problems with quitting smoking is because of the cigarette that we hold in our hand. I’m not talking about smoking it, I’m talking about just holding it.

The memories. Some times called triggers.

Let’s first look at a trigger that I might have, because we all have them. So, I’m sitting watching TV and a commercial comes on for a desert and all of a sudden I find myself in the kitchen digging through the pantry looking for something. I know it sounds silly but that would be a trigger. How about you run into someone that did you wrong and the memories start bubbling to the top and in a very short time you’re ready to bite their head off for something that happened years ago.

For those in recovery I’ll use the words “People, Places and things”. A trigger is something that caused a thought to come up about their old days using. It can be something as simple as a bottle of water. We would never think anything about it, but I know several people in recovery that can’t have a bottle of water around them because it reminds them of using. How about driving the same route that they use to. A friend that they use to use with. How about a small dose of a drug (for medical reasons) that reminds them of using.

A really big issue is drug dreams. They happen randomly. They are asleep having a dream. The dream is of them using. It seems so real that when they wake up they swear that they really did use. It feels real, the memory was real and even the same body feelings are the same. It’s a very unsettling feeling for anyone to go through.

Memories are a link between something in the past with something that is occurring now. It can be pictures, movies or even a conversation. For many it takes a long time for those memory links to sever. As time passes our brain forgets old the thoughts, replaces old ones with learned new ones and adapts. But a old thought can jump out of no where.

I hope this helps explain a little bit of what’s going on without writing a book. I tried to write it so it related to some of what you’ve had in your lives. There are many other things we could cover but it’s long already.- Ed Brazell

Uncategorized

The Powerless of Cravings

“If you will understand that we are starving, then you will understand why we do the things we do in our addiction. We’re not bad people. We’re just people. Just like you. But unlike you, we’re starving. This is why we hock, sell, trade everything we have. This is why we do the things that hurt the people we love. Our loved ones will say that we love our drugs more than we do them, but that’s not true. Even if you’re starving, you still love.” Dr Sam Snodgrass

This article is one of the best I’ve seen explaining opiod addiction to the average person from the point of view of the person suffering. The author is a doctor who suffered himself for 22 years.

It explains why people lose so much weight (along with everything else) as they become more and more addicted to not only the substance, but the daily rat race lifestyle that requires so much time and energy, “just to stay well” as my son always says.

When I hear moms arguing about whether to buy food for an addicted loved one, there’s always the comment: “if they can buy dope they can buy food”.

The problem is, they don’t.

To me, it’s like expecting a severe Alzheimers patient to eat on time every day without forgetting to turn off the stove.

The first time my son was “out there” for 9 months, he lost 80 lbs. The second time he lost 60 in 5 months. When I received this second picture of him last year, I literally broke down in horror with shaking sobs. When I sent it to my daughter, she was so upset, she had to leave work. She said:

“I didn’t have any idea it could get this bad in just 5 months”

Filters to protect privacy
"Our starvation for these opioids is far more intense than our starvation for food. If it’s a choice between buying food or buying heroin, then that’s not a choice"

He explains how it relates to us eating as a means to survival.

“Let’s say that the only place you can get food is out of a black market where food is expensive and it is scarce. And it is illegal. It is illegal to buy out of this black market. But it’s the only place you can find food. If you were in this situation, what would you do? Would you starve? Or would you break the law and buy food, to eat and to live? Would you steal if you had to, to buy food? The answer to that would be yes. Because survival is not a choice”.

Honestly, because of articles like this, my anger towards my son for all the damage he’s caused has melted in complete compassion for his daily, minute-to- minute struggle. I wish I could say the same for my family. Addicts get a bad rap because they don’t magically heal all these brain changes when they go to jail or go to a 30 day rehab; big truth is, it takes almost as long to heal as the time in hard core active addiction.

“We’re not narcissistic hedonists. When we hurt the ones we love, we hurt too. And what is sad is that we don’t understand why we can’t stop. We don’t understand why we do the things we do. We don’t understand why we hurt the ones we love. We don’t understand because no one has explained to us that the changes within the brain at a cellular, molecular, level, what we call opioid addiction, is an acquired disease of brain structure and, thus, function that is manifested not as compulsive drug seeking and use but, rather, as behavior directed towards the survival of the individual”.

I invite you to click here to read the full article.

It also directs people to resources if they are interested in finding out more.
Dr. Sam Snodgrass received a Doctorate in Biopsychology from the University of Georgia in 1987. He was then awarded a National Institute on Drug Abuse Post-Doctoral Fellowship in the Pharmacology and Toxicology Department at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. After his Post-Doc, he was asked to remain as a faculty member in this department. In 1995 he lost his faculty position due to his opioid addiction. His use of heroin and Dilaudid began in 1976. For the first 13 years, his use was occasional. In 1989 he developed an opioid addiction and did not stop for the next 22 years. He is currently a member of the Board of Directors of the 501 c3 non-profit Broken No More and its subsidiary organization, GRASP (Grief Recovery After a Substance Passing).