I saw a post by someone on Facebook about addiction and just not getting it.
I just don't get it, I've used pain killers before and I never got addicted. I just used them while I needed them and when my recovery was over I wasn't addicted I just stopped taking them.
How many of you have heard that before? I sure have, in fact when I was first involved with this stuff and my son I said it many times. It took a long time to come up with logic that I could understand for myself to grasp addiction versus the beneficial use of many drugs that destroy so many lives.
I come to a personal understanding slowly but it finally sunk in after much heartache and deliberation. Not everyone gets to have that experience and has that much time. How do you explain it to the friend or acquaintance that wonders why, "Why don't they just quit? It's that simple."
Once I was having this discussion with a friend who is a retired professional athlete. He questioned, "I took many painkillers in my professional career. I never got addicted. There were many times on Mondays I could hardly move after a game. I took the pills and I could go to practice and see the trainer. When I stopped playing the game I no longer needed the pain killers like I did when playing and I just didn't take them any more."
I knew that I had a very few words I could use to explain this without losing him. He is a very smart man but no one sits still for a bunch of medical and complicated explanations, not even me. I had to relate addiction to something in my life and his life that made sense to his paradigm.
My friend is a hunter, like me, but his passion for hunting is times ten to mine. That provided the perfect scenario. My explanation went like this:
We both hunt. I mainly hunt pheasant and quail, upland birds. You hunt waterfowl, deer, elk, bears and turkey. Your real passion is turkey's. If you took me turkey hunting before the frost we would never see a bird. I would sit there sniffling, sneezing, wiping my eyes and squirming like a kid in the waiting room of a doctors office. That is because I have hay fever. Hay fever is a recognized medical condition. I am allergic to the pollen. It affects me drastically. But, you can walk in the woods and fields endlessly while the pollen invades your nose, eyes and mouth. Your body has no adverse reaction, it handles the pollen and you go on your way.
Think of the different reactions we both have to the same thing. Now translate that over to those painkillers. You used what you needed and it was over. Now think of a person addicted to the same pills. That persons body handles those drugs differently than yours, maybe you might say they are allergic to those substances. Just as your body handles pollen differently than mine. Something in their body trips a trigger that makes it nearly impossible to stop using them. They become addicted to the same thing you and I can take and stop easily, they can't live without them. Addiction then becomes a disease just as hay fever is for me and as much as I would LOVE to go turkey hunting with you I know that I cannot go to that place without suffering a reaction that is miserable to me.
That simple conversation was the beginning of my friends understanding that drugs addicts aren't just low life criminals and that they are sick people and need help.
I have used this explanation many times and it seems to work for most people. In fact I even advised my own son when he goes to the doctor and fills out the long medical questionnaires when it asks if he is allergic to any medications, I told him to put down any type of opiate based painkiller as his answer.
Our friends, family and aquaintances don't need long winded scientific explanations about addiction and the disease model. We must find ways that allow them to discover our reality without suffering through the special hell we all know so well.