Disease Is Not a Choice: 5 Reasons Why Willpower Is Not Enough to Beat an Addiction
Addiction is tough to beat, so is cancer. You or your loved one will always be an addict, but recovery is possible, just like cancer can go into remission or a better lifestyle can disable type 2 diabetes. The argument that addicts don’t have to be addicts if they don’t want to be and that sheer willpower is enough to beat an addiction is severely flawed.
Although willpower is a major component of beating addiction, substances have this nasty ability to rewire the brain. An addict’s reward center is altered, their coping behaviors are greatly skewed, and other physiological changes have taken place that cannot be conquered by willpower alone. When you check in to Harris House, there is a whole team assembled to help navigate the unraveling of addiction. They offer the tools that are needed to beat addiction. And if you’re still not convinced that willpower is not enough to move past addiction, here are five reasons why willpower needs some help.
1. Addiction Causes Real Mental and Physiological Changes
It has been scientifically proven that addiction is a disease, a treatable disease that affects the brain in very measurable ways. Not only does addiction rewire the brain’s reward center system, impulse control, stress reactivity, learning center, and more. Repeated and habitual exposure to a substance will turn into compulsory behavior that will require clinical attention to break free from.
Just like cancer and cardiovascular disease require a multifaceted approach to treatment, the same applies to addiction. There is a physical and psychological component. Withdrawal can be very serious. The withdrawal of some substances has the potential to require hospitalization or the use of allopathic or herbal medicine to ease the symptoms and make the process more bearable.
There are also behavioral and psychological treatments to undergo. Addicts have to learn how to cope with their traumas and daily stressors healthily. Because substances have a nasty habit of recircuiting the brain’s normal processing, behavior therapy is very helpful in relearning what sobriety is and how to be sober. Therapists can help addicts uncover any deep-seated reasons for the substance abuse and help addicts reconcile these feelings, incidences or treat any mental illnesses that may be contributing factors to the addiction.
2. Addiction is Not a Choice
Although an addict may have chosen to smoke, drink, sniff, etc. a substance in the beginning, as time wore on, the choice became a thing of the past and addiction set in. It became a necessary part of daily living. Active addicts are not in control no matter how often they say that they are. There is no choice made to engage in substance abuse because the body becomes dependent on the substance and no longer knows how to function without it.
Addiction is no more a choice than is cancer, Alzheimer’s, HIV, or Type 1 diabetes. It is a disease that needs a logical and clinical solution. Addicts will always live with their addiction. There will always be a little voice inside that calls out to them, trying to lure them away from sobriety and facing their traumas, stressors, and unhealthy behaviors.
3. Willpower Ignores and Suppresses Trauma
When we suppress our pain and traumas, it tends to go untreated or ignored. These pains and traumas often end up manifesting outwardly in many different ways. Some people will look for love in all the wrong places, some will become abusive, and there are still many more unhealthy ways we deal with suppressed pain. Substance abuse is certainly one unhealthy response to trauma.
If you are an addict, you will have a difficult time overcoming if you fail to address your pain, anger, and traumas. Understanding the contributing factors to your addiction can do a lot to help you break the patterns and cycles that are destroying your relationships and your life. Addiction recovery shouldn’t be done alone, but willpower, which is connected to ego, will tell you that you don’t need anyone’s help. But meetings, group therapy, and licensed professional therapists can do a lot to reconcile your trauma and ultimately facilitate recovery.
4. Willpower is Inconsistent and Lonely
For most people, good old willpower will only work for a short period. For some, this may only be a couple of days, and for others, it may be a couple of months. Willpower is not a source of consistent strength. If stress triggers substance abuse, there is no way to avoid all stress. It happens, and whether it’s positive stress or negative stress, the only way to prevent anything from happening to you is not to exist.
Staying motivated to live a sober and more fulfilling life takes a lot more than willpower. When you have a bad day or something triggers you to consider relapsing, fighting the feeling may not be possible. You get weak, and there is often no one to hold you accountable or offer you the necessary encouragement.
5. Mental Illness
If you or your loved one suffers from a mental illness like bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or schizophrenia, substance abuse can be extremely difficult to kick. This is called dual diagnosis. When your mental processes are not where they should be, you may be more susceptible to substance abuse. And in some instances, substance abuse can trigger the onset of mental illness. Willpower is not strong enough to overcome mental illness.
Don’t get me wrong; willpower is a very important piece to managing the road to recovery. Willpower is a motivator and necessary to help keep you on track. But when it is the sole piece to recovery, relapse is far more likely. There are a lot of components that go into addiction recovery, so the more tools you have in your toolbox, the higher your risk of relapse can be. Willpower tends to remember what a substance did for you, not what it did to you.
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