Stopping Trains: Why can’t I stop using drugs on my own?

Why can’t I stop?

My patient looked at me with frustration. he was almost in tears. “Why do I keep doing this?” As I listened to him, I started to think about stopping trains. Fighting addiction alone is as impossible as trying to stop a train with your bare hands. After letting him talk for a while, I explained that relapse happens and is common when it comes to opioid addiction. Even with opioid treatment, relapse can happen to anyone, especially if they are not strict in their program of recovery.

You don’t understand. I am stronger than this.

He shook his head. “You don’t know how strong I am. I am a successful business man. I am more disciplined than most people. This just doesn’t make sense!”

Even the strongest among us need help to fight addiction.

This particular patient was rightfully confused about his situation. In fact, I could see the results of his years of discipline, control and hard work. He was physically fit, well dressed, and he was an executive with a large corporation. When it came to working in the board room and running the company, he was a master. Yet, when he went up against his addiction, trying to use drugs successfully one more time, he always lost, every single time.

Making sense of it all.

I tried to help him make sense of what was happening. How was it possible that a man who had control in every area of his life, had little control over his use of drugs? I sat quietly, trying to think of a way to explain it to him that would make sense in his situation.

Stopping trains.

Superman can stop a runaway train. Yet, superman does not exist. No human being can stand in front of a moving train and reasonably expect to be able to stop it. So, I said to my patient, “Even if you are 10 times stronger than everyone you know, even 100 times stronger, you cannot stop a speeding train. Addiction is that train. You cannot stop it by yourself.” He nodded his head. Stopping trains alone is impossible.

Finally, it started to make sense.

Addiction is something different. In recovery groups, they call it cunning and baffling. When it comes to getting clean and staying clean, they say that you must surrender to addiction. This does not mean to give in and keep using drugs until the end. It means that you finally come to an understanding that you cannot beat addiction by using drugs. You cannot beat addiction by yourself.

Asking for help.

With help, you can succeed. So, ask for help. Go to a recovery meeting and raise your hand. Introduce yourself. Make an appointment with a therapist. When it comes to opioid addiction, find a doctor who is qualified to provide medication assisted treatment. It works and it can help you to beat addiction.

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