By Richard M. Knapp, JD/MBA
Addiction is a symptom of a disease
Most people will now agree that addiction is a disease. However, I disagree. I believe it is actually a symptom of a disease. Being the co-founder and executive director of Sherwood Hills Recovery Center, a treatment center for drug and alcohol abuse located in Wellsville, Utah as well having spent the last six years as a recovering addict myself, I would like to explore this idea of there being “no cure for addiction.”
Whether the addict chooses to “drink or drug” or whatever else instead, the only difference is how or how fast they will die. An intravenous drug user may beat a smoker to the grave but in some cases, not by much. Drinkers may last as long as their livers, but first get impaled by a steering column. Other addictions can destroy relationships and families more slowly but rarely, if ever, take prisoners.
If addiction, specifically substance abuse, is a symptom, then there truly is no cure any more than there would be a cure for any other symptom — a runny nose, for example. We simply don’t cure runny noses. We may alleviate them, but we don’t say we cure them. Indeed, most physicians will agree that there is no real cure for the common cold.
Addiction always has an underlying cause
After peeling away the drinking, or the drugs – shooting, slamming, smoking, snorting, sniffing, or swallowing or whatever else enters into the mind of man –there lies the underlying cause of the symptom, the real problem of addiction. Regardless of why, the addict feels what can be described as “the pain.” Deep inside the heart, at the root of who we are, lies a void or emptiness. The extent of that pain is primarily governed by our own experience.
Factors that can lead to addiction
Some people in life have been dealt an unfortunate hand. Whether by some traumatic or otherwise disruptive experience, there can be a magnification of this pain. Events like this may not always affect people in the same way and it is judgmental to presume otherwise.
There is a second factor at work here as well, and that is sensitivity. There are definitely some of us who are born more sensitive to the affairs of the heart. In my own personal experience, they are the most loving and caring people on the planet. Not all of them struggle with addiction, but many do.
Addictions are BandAids
There are many unhealthy ways of coping with these factors. There is alcoholism, workaholicism, gambling, internet and porn addictions. There is love, sex and even cigarette smoking, food addictions and adrenaline junkies, too. These all have one thing in common. They are all addictions done in an effort to cover up pain. However, these emotional BandAids don’t stick around very long.
So, how do you learn to cope?
In order to really overcome a predisposition for, or a sensitizing experience because of addiction… new coping skills must be learned. When it comes to addiction recovery, 70% of the efficacy of residential treatment is just getting away from drugs, but the other 30% consists of gaining an understanding of addiction. You have to determine the underlying issues and learn, or relearn, the necessary life skills. In order to accomplish this, a long-term residential setting is required. Until everything is changed, nothing will change.
At the treatment facility that I co-founded, we offer those struggling with addiction the opportunity to get away from their addictions by changing their environment and providing an opportunity apart from their normal, everyday life to examine their lives and to discover the underlying causes of their addiction. We feel this will make all the difference and truly provide a cure for addiction.
Get to the root cause(s)
This idea of there being “No cure for addiction” has played in my heart for a while. Being a recovering addict myself, I have dedicated my days since to examine closely what exactly addiction is. My conclusion that I am coming to is that there is no way to actually cure addiction unless you can get to that root cause.
I have, along with the staff at Sherwood Hills, dedicated my life to this noble work, but the question is how can I do my work if we are focused on the wrong cause? Through my own work in recovery it became very clear to me that the addiction was simply the symptom. What I really need to find, what all addicts have to find, is the cause.