Viewpoint: Addiction comes in many forms

  • Mike Beebe, former order of Temple Mountain Ski Area, is retiring after a long career as a drug and alcohol counselor Dave Anderson—Staff photo by Dave Anderson

Tuesday, August 29, 2017 10:17AM

Insidious. Baffling. Cunning. These are words repeatedly used by recovering alcoholics and other drug abusers as they try to describe the mysterious downward progression into substance abuse disorders.

If this major health problem is difficult for drug abusers to explain, it is extremely confusing for family, friends, and the general public, and even addiction counselors like myself. Among the many mysteries is why do addicts keep going back for more chemicals which just cause more serious troubles? Answer: Because, just like birds fly and fish swim, active addicts use chemicals, because they’ve lost control

While substance abuse disorders come in several forms, often with mood disorders and trauma, the journey into addiction is much like unknowingly walking through a patch of New Hampshire poison ivy. Until you’re exposed you don’t find out if you’re allergic. With poison ivy and certain drugs like pain pills and opium, the feedback is quick, whereas the process into alcoholism usually takes time. Often with booze or pot there are lots of fun times initially, but then problems start to mount.

In 37 years of addiction counseling, I never met a person who walked into a Granite State liquor or drug store with the intent of becoming an addict. Likewise, no one pre-plans a DWI or going to Valley Street Jail for a drug offense. The average person takes the meds as prescribed. The normal drinker has some and then stops. But for abusers, one drink or drug opens the door to the more, more, more compulsive use mode, i.e. “chasing the high.”

But when problems result, the abuser creates very elaborate denial techniques. 

“It’s only beer.”

“I can’t be an addict because the doctor prescribes these pills.”

“Next time will be different.”

As the troubles increase, the defenses mount. The combination of compulsive use and denial traps people in a literal death spiral.

Fortunately, substance abuse disorders are highly treatable, but usually, some type of crisis or intervention, like drug court, is needed to begin the challenging process. intervention is like first aid and the ambulance ride to the emergency room. Treatment initially is all about breaking the denial and getting the abuser to begin admitting, “Me plus mind-altering chemicals equals trouble.” The basic mantra is just for today, do whatever it takes to avoid that first drink or drug, today. Treatment ideally should be tailored to each patient’s needs and resources, which is very challenging with New Hampshire’s limited resources. Recovery is an on-going process needed to minimize relapse from the chronic disorder of addiction. unfortunately, we all live in a chemical consuming culture, so addiction will remain a challenge. 


Mike Beebe lives in Lyndeborough.