Woes of a Drug Addict

by: Bob Garon
April 02, 2008

One of the obstacles to the rehabilitation of the drug addict is the lack of desire. By the time the addict gets into serious drug use, drugs have become an integral part of his life. In fact, he has built a whole new lifestyle around his drugs.

His focus is on getting enough drugs to satisfy his cravings, his addiction. He loses his desire to do much of anything else. He drops out of the normal kind of living that you and I are into. Most often he stops working if he can afford to or if his family continues to support him. He no longer cares to strive to better himself. In fact, even as he feels himself sinking deeper into addiction, he feels helpless to prevent the downward spiral of his life.

He is more comfortable with his drug using friends than he is with straight people. Crazy and self-destructive as his lifestyle might be, it is what he has come to be accustomed to and feel at ease in.

Sure, there are moments where his conscience bothers him and prods him to change his ways, but the effort needed to do so and the prospect of  giving up his pleasures quickly silence the feeble voice of his conscience.

Consequently, the Filipino addict will almost always have to be forced into rehab. Rare is the addict who walks into a rehab centred and says “I need help, please take me in. “Families have to compel the addict to change.  Or, the courts will give him the choice: jail or rehab.

The addict who arrives in the rehab centred doesn’t want to be there.  The challenge of the rehabilitation therapist is to motivate the addict to want to change. This is no small task. You might think that addicts are easy to convince. Wrong! They cling like glue to their ways.

This was made abundantly clear the other day when I held a session with my Nazareth House residents. I asked them to tell me what was more difficult for them to give up, their drugs or their lifestyle.
It was unanimous. Every single one said that giving up their lifestyle was far more difficult than surrendering their drugs.

I asked them to try to quantify the differences. All said that changing their lifestyle was 70, 80 and 90 per cent of the total difficulty factor. Abandoning their drugs accounts for only 10, 20 or 30 per cent difficulty.

That might come as a surprise to you. It shouldn’t if you look at what they are up against. Many have never worked a day in their lives. Most who did work have become dysfunctional. Their drug taking has caused them to drop out of mainstream society. Going back to the normal life you and I live is scary to them. Having to go back to school, back to working an 8 hr. day is a great challenge to them.

This is why the first phase of rehab is all about getting the addict to want to change. There is great resistance to change even if he follows the routines of the house. He goes through the motions even if in his head and heart, he still clings to his old ways.

If we are successful, that will change. Remember that addicts think that the straight lifestyle is exceedingly boring.  They also find the straight lifestyle to be very stressful compared to the easy going, irresponsible, pleasure centred lifestyle of the addict. Convincing them otherwise and getting them to abandon their old ways for a new, uncomfortable lifestyle is no easy matter. Still, it is essential if the addict is to get well.