There are many human conditions which can seriously affect our health, our happiness and the quality of our lives. All of us are familiar with the signs and symptoms of coronary artery disease, cancer, stroke and the potentially devastating disabilities caused by physical and emotional trauma. Addictive illness can produce physical, mental/emotional, social, family, legal and financial consequences just like any other serious, chronic, relapsing disorder.
Addiction does not come about overnight. At the outset, the person with an early-stage addiction might look normal in every regard; might be above average in intelligence; might have potential for a happy and successful life; may be highly productive, charming and talented.
As the addiction progresses, the physical health, mood, judgment and behavior will gradually deteriorate. A substance (such as alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, or a variety of pills) or a compulsive behavior (such as gambling, spending, aggression and stealing) may be identified as contributing to an unexpected downward spiral in the person’s former stability and level of function.
When the addiction is fully active, life does not look balanced and happy. The effects of the repeated alteration of brain function cause loss of control, loss of values, loss of self-esteem, loss of position in the family, and loss of standing in the community.
Life through the eyes of the addicted person looks dark, depressed, tense, anxious and afraid. It is at this point that the individual can no longer help themselves. The organ system with which healthy decisions are made is itself impaired.
There is hope for the person’s recovery if the signs and symptoms of addiction are recognized and professional help in concert with family support is sought.