A Person Isn’t Born an Addict…They Learn How to Become an Addict
Education is a key component to any drug rehabilitation program. There are many modalities to get an addict clean; 12-step, non 12-step, holistic, medical, etc. What many rehabs fail to implement is a strong educational step as a part of the recovery process. But why is education so important in handling drug addiction, anyway?
Let’s be blunt about this; most addicts don’t have the ability to deal with life or life’s problems in a constructive manner. Life is all about learning. When we’re young we learn right from wrong and we figure out how to solve problems and do things through trial and error… we hit a problem, we figure it out and we learn and grow as a result of that process.
At some point in their lives, drug addicts learn that drugs solve problems for them which could not be ordinarily solved through “traditional” means. A person may suffer from low self-confidence, low self-esteem, have trouble fitting in, have anxiety, depression; the list goes on and on. Instead of seeking the answers to why they feel the way they do, they gravitate toward quick fixes, silver bullets, and magic potions to handle their issues. Drugs offer them a promise of an escape from the daily grind of life and a “cure-all” for their troubles. Once they take their “medicine,” all of their problems fade away as the warm, soothing blanket of drugs overtakes their body and mind and, even if it’s just for the moment, they finally get some relief. So addicts continue through life taking short-cuts and looking for immediate solutions to their problems, no matter the consequences.
Addicts may think:
“If you’re dope sick and have no money, just take some out of mom’s purse… she’ll never say anything.”
“You could just break into someone’s car and pawn what you find… you won’t get caught.”
“You could 'fall' and hurt your arm and the doctor will give you something to take the edge off.”
“I could tell my mom I had to go to the Emergency Room and spent my money on my copay… she’ll definitely give me money… she always does…”
While they might sound crazy, the above statements are what go through an addict’s head as a means of solving the biggest problem they come up against… running out of drugs. The above behaviors are learned behaviors. Addicts pick them up along the way as means of surviving, staying high, not getting sick and most importantly, continuing to handle the original problems they solved in the first place.
No one is born with inherent, instinctual “addict” behaviors. They are learned, just like anything else in life is learned. Through trial and error, watching what other addicts do, figuring out what has the best payoff, and what helps them to “survive,” addicts learn how to solve their problems. Just like addicts have to learn how to be addicts, they must learn how to live a clean, sober, and somewhat “normal” life.
The reality is addicts do not have life skills. They do not have the ability to deal with life appropriately, without drugs. Unfortunately, most of them missed out on the parts of the life the rest of their friends went through which involved encountering life problems, figuring out the best, most survival-oriented solutions and implementing them. And if it didn’t work out, they’ll know how to better deal with it the next time. Drugs play no part in dealing with life and through making mistakes, falling down, and picking themselves back up, they developed life skills. The only life skills addicts develop are how to lie, cheat, steal, manipulate and destroy everything around them as long as they can keep getting their drugs, stave off the sickness, and stay high.
A good drug rehab program is going to involve a life skills component. This part of a program has to re-teach addicts how to deal with life and handle their issues. Coping skills, figuring out how to handle certain situations, and how to make any condition in life better is a crucial part of the recovery process. If a drug rehab gets a person clean, they need to teach the addict how to stay clean. Without that knowledge, they’re just going to walk out the doors of a treatment center and fall flat on their face. It’s not a disease, their demons or their insecurities that are going to cause them to relapse… it’s their complete inability to deal with life. The addict needs to be taught how to live life again to be successful in their recovery. Once taught the life skills they need to be sober, an addict will have a much better chance of maintaining long-term sobriety and finally leading the life they’ve always wanted for themselves.