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Can you summarize SupportNet in a single sentence?
SupportNet is straight talk on recovery from addiction - presented in ways that make it easy to learn.

How do you understand addiction?
At its core - I see addiction as a compulsion - to do or to take something that changes how I feel.

And what do you mean by compulsion?
A compulsion is felt as a pull - as if there's a rope binding and tugging at me to take that drink or drug.

So compulsion is a mental problem?
It's a mental problem - that has links within the brain. There is some circuit or switch in the brain - that is the physical part of the compulsion to use.

So you see addiction as more of a biological problem?
No. I don't see it as only one way or the other.

Nothing occurs in the mind that does not also occur in the brain - and vice versa. They’re like two sides to the same coin.

Can you explain that to me?
In the addicted person - an urge to use may occur any time - and for any reason. The switch is always ready to be activated - and the pull starts to tug.

But the things that we do can also activate the switch. Talking or thinking about alcohol - being in the presence of others with drugs - allowing my self to be consumed with sick feelings - any of these can trigger a compulsion to use.

It happens either way or both. It can start in the brain. Or the brain is reacting to the things that we see, think, do or say. The switch is certainly something biological - but it cannot be separated - and is tangled in our mind and behavior.

Mind and brain cannot be separated in the problem of addiction. It is an issue of both at the same time.

Is compulsion like a habit?
Compulsion may begin as a recurrent behavior or a habit. But at some point it has disconnected - and has taken on a life and energy of its own.

What do you mean by disconnected?
A compulsion has become disconnected from any reasons why the behavior began in the first place - if there ever was a reason. It has lost connection to rational sense, psychological meaning or mere habit.

Once compulsion sets in - it takes on a force of its own - and become a problem of itself.

And that is similar to addiction?
Yes. People start to drink or to use drugs for all sorts of reasons.

For some - it becomes a habit. The substance provides them with a solution to their emotional pain - or it just becomes a routine of their social group.

Some of those who use drugs will become addicted. There seems to be some difference in risk to addiction - a variation in genetic or physical makeup.

But regardless, it is the compulsive pull to use - that most separates the addicted person - from others who use or abuse drugs.

So if it becomes a problem - why don't they just stop?
Well - that would be the big question.

Does it require a big answer?
It's just that there are different parts - and different answers to the question. And not all of the answers apply to all addicted people.

Can you answer it one part at a time?
Well the first answer to your question is that many people do stop using. The novelty wears off. They move on with their lives - get involved with other people and things to do.

Some will have a problem come up. They get help - or they just stop using.

And what about the others - who continue to use - despite the problems?
Well - you have to see a problem - before you can do anything about it.

Denial is the core psychological feature of addiction. It is like a blind spot for the condition. Even if I look - I just don’t see it.

And if I don’t see my addiction - if I don’t see it as the source of the problems that are happening in my life - there is no reason for me to get help or to stop using.

I suppose you might use more . . . struggling to cope with all of the problems . . .
Yes - exactly. It’s worked before - so just keep at it. Or they might stop using for a while - after something bad has happened. But they don’t know what to do with the pain - the guilt - the shame and remorse. They don’t know how to deal with these feelings in any other way - but to use.

So they don’t see the problem as it really exists - inside them?
No. Not at first - and maybe not for a very long time. Remember that compulsion is felt as a pull. Even if I consider that I may have a problem - it seems like the problem is out there - pulling at me to use. It’s the alcohol or the drug. It’s my partner - the new friends - or the wrong crowd. It’s not something inside me. It’s everybody or anything else.

But wouldn’t it be better to not allow myself to be pulled in that way?
That’s another part of the answer to your earlier question - about why an addicted person continues to use - despite the problems that eventually occur.

You have to remember that at first - there is no reason to stop. The use alcohol or drugs starts out as fun. It lets me fit in - and to enjoy the party. It relieves anxiety and lifts my spirit. It can calm all sorts of emotional pain - maybe only for a short while - but it is quick and efficient. It’s like a magic answer to all sorts of issues - sitting right there for the taking.

It may be months or years before the problems of alcohol or drug use begin to appear.

Those who are not disposed to addiction lose interest or change their ways. Others experiment when they are young - but grow out of the custom. Some continue to use - but don’t seem to be pulled in as deeply as others.

But then there are those that seem to have something different about them - that switch or thing inside them that is the compulsion of addiction.

The fun wears thin - and the problems start to build. But the addicted person is still pulled in the same direction - of using a substance to control their feeling. They keep trying to relive the early days - when it was fun - when they were in control - and not the substance in control of them.

But that’s not the way that they see the problem . . .
No. The person in the early stages of addiction knows that things are not going too well. But they don’t see this as a result of something wrong with them. They see themselves as pulled and pushed about by things outside of them selves.

The addicted person does not see their addiction at first. Their use of substances is not the problem. It is the solution. The problem is that the rest of us just can’t seem to get the world right - and that there always seems to be some reason to use.

That sounds like blame . . .
Look for addiction - and you’ll find blame.

The addicted person feels compelled to use. But they do not see their use as the source of any problems that may occur. Problems are seen as the cause of their use. Everything and anybody else is to blame.

It hard to grasp - that they cannot see what is happening . . .
Yes. This is a very hard thing to appreciate. And it is sad to see. Many addicted persons try so hard to control their use. They want to do better - but they keep trying to fix things outside of them selves. They change this or that - move - leave one relationship and start another. But whatever they do or change does not work out - because they have not addressed the problem for what and where it is.

How do you understand it?
I see it like a child with a learning disability. They try very hard - over and again - to get the answer to a math problem. But they don’t see the number five on the page. And so they keep getting the wrong answer - no matter what they do or how hard they try. Unless someone shows them another way to solve the problem - they eventually just stop trying.

Are there still other reasons why the addicted person continues to use?
Yes, there are many other reasons. Compulsion and denial result in blame. But they also lead to other changes within the mind. To continue to use a substance despite problems - is not a rational decision. The mind’s reason must therefore be bent in support of the compulsion to use. Excuses are made. Reasons are found - to justify recurrent use.

Use may begin as a way to control feelings - to manufacture some and to avoid others. But the pleasant feelings do not last forever. And sick feelings do not disappear. They are mostly postponed to another day.

What begins as an easy way to control unpleasant feelings - becomes a habit. The more that we avoid - the more it seems we have to fear from our feelings. They seem to grow larger - and our ability to face them grows weaker.

We start out thinking that we are winning - at the game of avoiding feelings. But the addicted person ends up being controlled exactly by their own feeling - on the run from feelings that they increasingly fear to face.

Some drugs also cause changes in brain chemistry - that result in a physical dependence. People want to stop using them - but find that they cannot - without medical assistance.

And then there are all the complications of addicted use - the health and legal problems - the loss - of family - financial resources and self respect. The longer it goes on the worse things get. It’s eventually just easier to use than to not.

Is there a way out?
Yes - of course there is. Recovery from addiction is always possible. 

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