Chemical Dependency: A Life Not Your Own
In its true form, chemical dependency is referring to an individual who has become dependent upon a chemical and is unable to function without that chemical. Even in the face of serious health, economic, vocational, legal and social consequences, the individual dealing with chemical dependency will time and again choose the chemical.
Many in the scientific and health industries refer to chemical dependency as an illness or disease. While the condition can be progressive and chronic, it is treatable with the right methods and mindset. The problem is that often once chemical dependency sets in, the power of choice over using mood-altering chemicals is lost to the draw of the substance.
The individual who has a chemical dependency displays a number of continuous or periodic characteristics, including impaired control over their behavior when it comes to drinking or using drugs; a preoccupation with the mood-altering chemical; continued use of a substance in the face of adverse consequences; and distorted thinking, most notable denial that they even have a chemical dependency problem.
Denial often serves the purpose of a defense mechanism. The individual will go to great lengths to reduce awareness of the effect alcohol and drug use has on their lives. Many an individual with a chemical dependency believes that the substance solves problems instead of creating them, which makes it harder for that individual to come to terms with the fact that they have a substance abuse problem.
Helping a chemically dependent individual get past the point of denial is often a key initiative as it is a significant obstacle to recovery and plays a key role in relapse events. An individual in denial believes they do not have a problem and therefore they cannot become engaged in the recovery process. A problem cannot be fixed if the individual doesn’t believe it exists.
Chemical dependency requires more than just abstinence to overcome the problem. The disease presents a complexity that demands a constant focus on moving away from the addictive substances and removing environmental triggers that cause the individual to want to turn back to the substance that is hurting them.
Detox is often required in chemical dependent situations, but is rarely enough to eliminate the dependency. The individual must also learn to understand the causes of the dependency in the first place in order to move away from them, eliminating their power over their choices. Complete recovery demands interpersonal and lifestyle changes that take time and often also require help. The person willing to seek the help is more likely to gain back control over life.