The Journey of an Addict

Posted June 5, 2019 at 12:08 pm

(The Road to Real Recovery)

by Phillip Lee

In receiving treatment myself, I find myself asking thousands of questions questions for which there are no answers. As I learn more and more about myself, this disease and what it is taking to treat it, I try to reach out with sound knowledge and advice that could some way help others, I search for answers everywhere. People ask often, why do I do this, why do I spend so much time worrying about others. To me it’s really simple. I still believe this has been a calling for me. Yes, I had a slip up, but it didn’t break me. In fact, it helped me more than I could have ever imagined. It’s helping me still. I’ve lived for 20 years with this disease, and all I really want to do is help others succeed where, for years, I have so often fallen.

What is it about addiction that makes people behave in such destructive ways? Why is it so hard for folks to stop using? Why do people with addiction lose control over their actions? Why, at any and all cost, do we crave and seek out drugs, alcohol, or other substances– at the risk of damaging family, losing our children, costing our health or even death?

According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), it has been proven that addiction is a complex brain disease, without a known cure. It takes more than willpower and self-will to treat this disease. Addiction hijacks regions of the brain meant for survival. “A common misperception is that addiction is a choice or moral problem, and all you have to do is stop. But nothing could be further from the truth,” says Dr. George Koob, director of NIH’s National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “The brain actually changes with addiction, and it takes a good deal of work to get it back to its normal state. The more drugs or alcohol you’ve taken, the more disruptive it is to the brain.”

He goes on to say that, “A healthy brain rewards healthy behaviors—like exercising, eating, or bonding with loved ones. It does this by switching on brain circuits that make you feel wonderful, which then motivates you to repeat those behaviors. In contrast, when you’re in danger, a healthy brain pushes your body to react quickly with fear or alarm, so you’ll get out of harm’s way. If you’re tempted by something questionable—like eating ice cream before dinner or buying things you can’t afford—the front regions of your brain can help you decide if the consequences are worth the actions. But when you’re becoming addicted to a substance, that normal hardwiring of helpful brain processes can begin to work against you. Drugs or alcohol can hijack the pleasure/reward circuits in your brain and hook you into wanting more and more. Addiction can also send your emotional danger-sensing circuits into overdrive, making you feel anxious and stressed when you’re not using the drugs or alcohol. At this stage, people often use drugs or alcohol to keep from feeling bad rather than for their pleasurable effects.”

The prefrontal cortex, is the region of the brain responsible for helping you recognize the harms of using addictive substances and repeated use damages the decision-making center located in the front of the brain.” says Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the NIH’s National Institute on drug Abuse, she also states, “that brain imaging studies of those addicted to drugs and alcohol show decreased activity in the frontal cortex and that when the frontal cortex isn’t working properly, people can’t make the decision to stop taking the drug—even if they realize the price of taking that drug may be extremely high. And it isn’t truly known why some become addicted and others don’t.”

There are proven 12 step programs across Kentucky and, in fact, nationwide to treat addiction, but it’s only a treatment for the arrest of the disease. It can’t cure it. It includes reaching a spiritual realm in your daily thoughts, actions and life. No matter what your religious preferences are, there is a spiritual program for you. Programs that will help you regain control of the damaged parts of the brain, and I dare say, “Reprogram your very life” but it takes hard work and a regaining of willpower. Also, scientists have identified several medications and behavioral therapies—especially when used in combination—that can help people stop using specific substances and prevent relapse. Unfortunately, no medications are yet available to treat addiction to stimulants such as cocaine or methamphetamine, but behavioral therapies can help.

Addiction is a devastating disease, with serious social consequences, serious health risk and increasingly larger numbers of death rates. If you have questions or know of someone who wants and desires change in their own life. They can write to me at 100 Recovery Way, Emmalena, Ky 41740 or they can reach me by email at

My hope is that this disease fails to take another life.

A recovering addict,

Phillip Lee