There are many serious health consequences to alcohol abuse, alcohol dependence and alcoholism. Many you may know. Others may be less well known. Join Dr. Clark Gaither as he discusses the long-term consequences of addiction to alcohol and how these can be avoided and, in most instances, reversed.
No, not stock options. I’m talking about options as in choices. It is always nice to have options. They are branch points on the decision tree of life that allow us to exercise some measure of control over our destiny. Sometimes options are numerous and we can pick our direction leisurely and without a lot of attendant anxiety. Sometimes, our options are severely limited and we are forced to make hard choices. We have all been in the undesirable position of having to “choose the lesser of two evils”. But, wasn’t it a series of option choices that put us there in the first place? Ideally, it would be best to have more and better options most of the time and fewer instances where options are wholly constrained in scope with only frighteningly dreadful choices remaining. Is this a situation that is manageable?
If you are addicted to drugs, alcohol or any other type of self-destructive behavior then the answer to that question is in a word, NO! Remember, if you are addicted, your life will become unmanageable! Every addict begins by thinking that they are in control of their addiction. If that is your current thinking, I have got news for you. Your addiction is already in control of you. You just don’t know it yet. I have said this many times for it is undeniably true – addicted brain thinking is quite different that non-addicted brain thinking. This a priori makes addicted behaviors different than non-addicted behavior.
The person who is addicted spends an inordinate amount of time in self-seeking behaviors. Tremendous amounts of energy and personal resource are spent thinking about, obtaining and then using the drug of choice or engaging in some other addictive behavior. This comes at the expense of physical, mental, psychological, and spiritual growth and development. All of the important decisions in life are either ignored or set aside in order to satisfy the addicted individual’s cravings, wants and desires, all generated by addicted brain thinking. When the addicted individual’s resources are completely consumed they will begin to consume the resources of those around them or from the “system” of society at large.
Unless an addict attains sobriety and then achieves recovery, they will continue to slide down a steepening grade of loss. It is almost as if they have entered an options funnel that cones down the number of one’s choices. At the top of the funnel, just as the addiction begins, there are myriad choices that can be made for any given situation. As the addict circles and descends into the spiral-down funnel of addiction, the funnel becomes more and more narrow. Options become more limited and choices increasingly desperate. Living life on life’s terms becomes nearly impossible. As they continue to circle on down they begin to accelerate toward the bottom as the sidewalls narrow further, just like their options. Now, they are living purely on the addictive substance or behavior’s terms. Near the end, there are very few options left available that do not require desperate action. The funnel has become too narrow. The addict can no longer live without their addiction of choice, nor with it. Unless their course is halted and reversed, an addict will circle at the bottom until the great egress which is death. It is not an escape, but it is an exit.
I am of the opinion that as long as someone can fog a mirror there is always hope for recovery. As I have said, there are options, even at the very bottom. No matter how far down the funnel someone has fallen, two options will always remain, the option to choose to become sober or to die of the addiction. One option is an active choice, the other one passive. Guess which requires the most energy, planning, adherence, strength, perseverance, accountability, responsibility, and willingness? No wonder getting sober presents such a barrier to the addict who thinks with an addicted brain. Sobriety will never be any easy option to choose, but it will always be present. It will always be the very best option to choose. Sad to say, some end up so far down that they would rather die than get sober or give up their addictive behavior(s).
The addiction funnel, like life, is open at both ends. There is the grand entrance at one end of life – birth. There is the grand egress at the other end of life – death. Before we reach the great egress, I am of the opinion that developing one’s talents, becoming the best human you can be while soberly living life on life’s terms as your higher power intended, is the better option. Life has so much to offer, even the pessimist. If you look for endless possibilities, then what you will find are endless possibilities. If you look for the impossible, you will be rewarded as well. You will find the impossible no matter where you look. Such is the view from the bottom of the funnel that we call addiction.
Don’t let me tell you what does not have to be. Rather instead, let me tell you what can be. There is a difference. A person at the bottom can choose the option to make a change. They can stop the use of addictive substance or self-destructive behavior. Even if all they can muster is a mere scrap of energy they can turn around and begin to climb out of that funnel, to begin the process of restoring what was lost. I believe we have all been made special that way. The option horizon continuously expands as the recovering addict cements into place a solid program of recovery. Options will abound. More of them will seem between better and best than between bad and worse. They find a new freedom, a new happiness, a new peace. I have seen this too many times in the lives of others to doubt that it is true. It is a miraculous transformation.
As I try to better myself and maintain a strong program of recovery, I think it is important to continually reassess my options and do so on a daily basis. We should all choose pathways that favor limitless expansion of our options horizons and avoid anything that might limit them. That choice is the most important option of all.
What will you do today to expand your options horizon?