Life is difficult enough without this current pandemic. Families now have the added stress of adjusting to lost jobs, children being out of school, strained relationships, and for some, a loved one battling the Coronavirus. Addiction is already rampant, and in these “strange days,” everything is magnified. If someone was dealing with anxiety prior to the pandemic, chances are, it is worse now. Part of the problem is that this is an unprecedented experience. For example, dealing with the effects of a hurricane can be deduced from the experience of past hurricanes. However, there are no recent pandemics from which to learn from. Therefore, it is more tempting than ever before to say, “Why not?” to drugs or alcohol.

The Cycle of DAD

DAD stands for depression, addiction, and denial, and this is a toxic cycle. It does not matter if addiction or depression came first because once encapsulated, the person begins to exist in the loop. Most people are in denial when this happens, which makes it even more difficult to recover. The cycle looks something like this: A person becomes depressed, so they drink. The drinking helps for a minute but this leads to more depression. The cycle continues, creating a spiral of chaos. Without healthy coping skills, this cycle can happen very quickly and, it is usually accompanied with denial. Denial is common among addicts, and even those who are clearly struggling with addiction may find it hard to accept they have a problem. Many people wonder why an addict would continue to deny the problem when it is obvious to everyone else. The reality is that many individuals affected by alcoholism and addiction are genuinely unable to see the truth of their situation. Their brain may be trying to protect them from facing reality. They may be afraid of living a sober life, or they could be embarrassed because of the stigmas attached to this destructive illness. Denial is a defense mechanism employed by the brain, and it often requires professional help to break down. If left untreated, alcohol and drug addiction can lead to severe injury or even death.

Factors that influence addiction

Many factors can influence an addiction to drugs or alcohol. Some of these factors include:

  • Genetics
  • Abusing drugs at an early age
  • Emotional and physical trauma
  • Family history of drug or alcohol use

Why addiction is difficult to overcome

Contrary to popular belief, quitting is not a matter of willpower or morality. The American Medical Association labels addiction as a disease. Overcoming addiction is a struggle, even for someone who genuinely wants to stop using. This is because drug abuse changes how the brain functions over time. Some substances, like heroin, “fool” the brain into releasing certain neurochemicals, producing a euphoric high. Drugs like cocaine or methamphetamine cause the brain to release too much of the happiness-inducing chemical called dopamine. Both drug types alter the brain’s makeup in ways that make users chemically addicted to them. People addicted to drugs or alcohol develop a tolerance or resistance to the substance’s effects. Addicts will need more of that drug to reach a sufficient high. Eventually, they will have to keep using the substance to even feel normal. When an addict quits “cold turkey,” they suffer painful withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal is one of the biggest reasons quitting drugs or alcohol is so difficult. Medical help is critical when managing withdrawal and the other health risks of quitting. Without professional supervision, stopping an addiction is not only difficult but often dangerous.

Coming to terms with your feelings

It is tempting and natural to want to avoid or suppress the negative feelings. Avoiding negative feelings often contributes to drug and alcohol abuse. The natural reaction to difficult feelings is to push them away. It is easy to ruminate on the negative feelings convinced that the problem solve itself. This fuels the fire of an addiction.  The pain and suffering can be described as being hit by two arrows. The first arrow is the inevitable pain of life, such as a difficult event, thought or feeling. A person has little control over the first arrow, but with the second arrow, there is more control. A person shoots the second arrow at themselves through their reaction to the pain. To put it simply, pain is inevitable, and suffering is optional.

The effect on others

Addiction affects more than just the addicted person. Family and loved ones of addicts are often subjected to physical and emotional pain. Although alcohol and drug abuse might impact a person’s life and family, it does not mean the family members are to blame. A crucial part of an addict’s recovery is accepting responsibility to become sober, but for family members, their recovery is achieved by accepting the addiction is not their fault. It is natural to feel hurt by a loved one’s addiction, but holding onto frustration and anger for too long can make rebuilding family trust difficult. Support groups like Al-Anon help family members and friends accept these feelings while learning how to support an addicted loved one during addiction recovery.

Healing spiritually

God’s grace is greater than any addiction or suffering. Always remember that when faced with fear, the Lord wants to take it and replace it with peace and joy. Here are some scripture verses that can be used to provide healing in the recovery from an addiction.

  • “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7)
  • “Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)
  • “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)
  • “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
  • “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)
  • “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23)
  • “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)