Addiction is a 3 frontal attack – Physical, Mental and Spiritual.
The physical attack is the craving that follows the ingestion of the first drink, drug or pill. For most alcoholics and drug addicts, once the first drink or drug is consumed, there is no stopping until they black out, pass out, are locked up or have run out of money. For most drinkers and drug users that are not alcoholics or addicts, they will quit when they start losing control. Many alcoholics and drug addicts chase the delusion that they can either control their usage or can stop at will. These are one of the many lies of addiction. The 12 step program teaches us that the physical craving is an allergic reaction to the drink or drug. Instead of breaking out in rashes or hives, the allergic reaction is wanting the next drink or drug and then the next one and then the next one after that… So what is the solution? The solution is total abstinence from any mind altering substance. Another big addiction lie is that if I am a crack cocaine addict and have no problem with alcohol, I can drink once in a while. This kind of thinking will lead to one of two outcomes. One of the outcomes is that the crack cocaine addict switches their addiction to drinking. The other outcome, which is more common, is that after a couple of drinks, the addict will be steered to their drug of choice – in this case, crack cocaine.
The second attack is the mental obsession that tells the addict or alcoholic that they need the drink or drug. It is the notion that the alcoholic or drug addict cannot live without it. I heard that the mental obsession is like a 3 year old toddler who wants a Happy Meal at McDonalds. The toddler keeps yelling to his mom “I want a Happy Meal”. “Mom, I want a Happy Meal”, and then at the toddler’s loudest voice “Mom, I want a Happy Meal”… This is the thought process that is constantly repeated in the alcoholic / drug addict mind. Over time, the mental obsession is less and less- IF the alcoholic and drug addict stays sober and clean. You will never eliminate the mental obsession but after a couple of years of sobriety, the mental urge to drink or drug will become a fleeting thought. Certain events, emotions or memories may trigger the thought of drinking or drugging. We found that with 60 years of treating men with substance abuse, that the 12 step program is the most effective solution for the mental obsession along with completion of either a 6 month or a 12 month substance abuse program.
The last attack of addiction is the spiritual issue. It’s the emptiness that the alcoholic or drug addict feels. In fact, most addiction, whether food, shopping, gambling, or sex is because of the void that exists in our spirit. We look for things from the outside (drugs, food, drink, shopping,) to make us feel good on the inside. I believe that this is an inside out job. So what do I mean by that? Inside out job is doing for others to make us feel good on the inside. We teach our residents to pray for 3 family members or friends who need prayers. They could be sick, lost a loved one or lost their job. This technique reminds me of the “Karate Kid” movie where Mr. Miyagi had the karate kid wax his car and paint his fence. Karate Kid did this for several days and did not realize that Mr. Miyagi was teaching him karate moves. We use the same habit technique which moves the alcoholic and addict away from thinking about their self to thinking about others. By thinking of others, the alcoholic and addict becomes less self-centered. Soul’s Harbor stresses service work, chairing meetings and volunteering their time to help others. The alcoholic and addict feels much better about themselves after performing service work for others – thus filling the spiritual void from the inside out.
So the 3 attacks of addiction – physical, mental and spiritual can be addressed through a long term holistic approach to recovery.
Brent Burmaster is the Executive Director of Soul’s Harbor Treatment Center located in Dallas, Texas.
At Soul’s Harbor, we have a very high success rate of long term sobriety for patients that have completed our 6 month or 12 month program and have followed our aftercare program.