There are several factors that can cause someone to develop a problem with substance use. Individuals experiencing emotional difficulties, chronic stress, financial problems or relationship issues may use alcohol or drugs to help them escape their problems or self-medicate. Someone struggling with mental health issues or unresolved trauma may also turn to a substance to escape from the negative emotions.
When these substances are ingested regularly, it can cause dependency and addiction to develop. As substance use becomes more habitual, the individual can find themselves stuck in the toxic cycle of addiction. This is when the individual’s substance use becomes compulsive, and they are no longer in control. The sooner this dangerous cycle is broken, the better the recovery outcome.
What is the cycle of addiction?
Addiction is a complex and chronic brain disease. Once an individual is dealing with this disease, addiction keeps them in a state where they are powerless to resist their desire for their substance of choice. After the brain’s reward system becomes used to it, the cravings and substance-seeking behaviors will follow. Their willpower is no longer something they can rely on to control their substance use, and can become utterly trapped in the addiction cycle.
Addiction becomes a cyclical pattern that is very difficult to break out of that can involve:
- Substance abuse: While it’s true that using certain drugs can instantly lead to addiction, in most cases, addiction develops after an extended period of ongoing substance abuse.
- Tolerance: As the brain adapts to the daily presence of the substance, the substance no longer produces the desired effect. In response, the individual begins to consume more of the substance to experience the same
- Dependence: When the body becomes dependent on a substance, the individual will start feeling ill when they aren’t under the substance’s effects.
- Addiction: Not everyone who becomes dependent on a substance will develop an addiction. Those that do will begin to obsess over obtaining and using the substance, with their behavior becoming compulsive and can begin to believe they will die without it.
- Withdrawal: Withdrawal symptoms can be so unpleasant and painful that the individual feels desperate to return to the substance just to end the suffering.
- Cravings: Powerful cravings also motivate the individual to seek out the substance.
- Return to substance: Once they have obtained substance, the individual returns to substance use and the cycle repeats.
Three ways to break addiction cycles
Whenever someone decides they are ready to enter recovery, it signifies that they have made the active choice to end the addiction cycle. Breaking the cycle of addiction is difficult and requires commitment and patience. It also takes time. Lots of time.
If you or someone you love are looking to successfully end the addiction cycle, here are some steps you can take while in treatment:
- Actively participate in the treatment process: The more engaged you are while in treatment, the more you will take ownership of your recovery. Cooperating with the therapy process, participating in peer group sessions and actively educating yourself about how addiction works and how to avoid relapsing will help you break free from the cycle.
- Change your lifestyle habits: Examine your daily habits and identify ways you can improve your overall well being. Set some personal goals, such as getting in shape, changing your diet or establishing a regular sleep schedule. Help reinforce your sobriety by integrating these new habits into your daily life.
- Practice aftercare: Once treatment is completed, your real life journey in recovery begins. In order to maintain your sobriety, it is necessary to continue participating in recovery efforts, including attending local 12-Step meetings, continuing on with outpatient therapy and support groups and cultivating new sober friendships.
Yes, addiction is a chronic condition, but with rehabilitation, determination and patience, it is possible to break the grip of the addiction cycle.
Ashley Addiction Treatment, formerly Father Martin’s Ashley, is a nationally recognized nonprofit leader in integrated, evidence-based treatment for substance use disorders. Our programs are accredited by The Joint Commission, and result in frequent publications of ongoing research into effective treatment methodologies. We offer holistic care that encompasses the mind, body and spirit through inpatient and outpatient treatment, provide drug detox, relapse prevention plans, family wellness programs and a variety of other services tailored to each patient’s unique needs. Our driving principle — “everything for recovery” — reinforces our mission to transform and save lives through the science of medicine, the art of therapy and the compassion of spirituality, and is complemented by our philosophy of healing with respect and dignity. For information about our comprehensive programs, please call 866-313-6307.