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For those of us struggling with addiction, we aren’t usually aware of how our brains are impacted by the drugs we’re using. Our addictions can create a great deal of confusion and misunderstanding for our loved ones who are forced to watch us grapple with substance abuse problems. They don’t understand why we would ever choose to give into our addictions over the other, more important things in our lives. What we often don’t realize, and what our loved ones fail to understand, is that our minds are being chemically altered by the drugs we’re using. They form a dependence within us that is extremely difficult to withstand. They alter our perception of reality, how we feel our emotions, and how we respond to things.

Many of us prioritize getting high because we use our drugs of choice to distract ourselves from our difficult issues, to zone out and forget our worries, and to give ourselves the feelings of release, happiness and relief we’re desperately seeking. What we come to learn is that the drugs we’re using are creating a false sense of euphoria because the part of the brain called the reward system is being artificially flooded with dopamine, one of the feel-good chemicals that the body produces naturally but which we can respond to excessively when we’re on drugs. When we use, we feel a heightened sense of pleasure and stimulation. The result is a dependence on these positive, calming feelings of happiness, freedom, comfort and relaxation. We’re not cultivating our own internal joy but instead receiving false pleasure from the chemicals in these substances. We’re not actually feeling satisfied or fulfilled, we’re being lulled into a sort of chemical deception that’s functioning as a form of escapism and a coping mechanism for our pain.

We know from experience that the high usually precedes a crash, where we experience harsh changes in our emotions and intense fluctuations in our moods. We go from feeling happy and carefree to feeling depressed, panicked, volatile, even enraged. We don’t feel able to control the mounting internal pressure, along with the pressures of our everyday lives and relationships, in addition to our existing mental and emotional challenges. In this place of desperation, we would much rather feel high and nonchalant again, so we return to our drugs of choice even though we know we’ll be filled with the regret and disappointment that accompany these recurring cycles of trying to quit, trying to cope with life without self-medicating but then falling back into the trap of self-destruction.

If you’re struggling with addiction, you’re not alone. Reach out for support. The community of Riverside Recovery has personal experience with addiction and recovery. We’re here to help you reclaim the life you love. Call (800) 871-5440 today.

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