Is addiction a choice

Is addiction a choice

Read this and see if your mind changes
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I see many people post statuses or talk about how addictions are a choice, or that people with addictions are stupid. Ive noticed that most of those people themselves have never experienced it first hand. From having experienced addiction myself, I'm going to share with you my insight and knowledge on this topic to shed some light on this very touchy subject.

Sitting on my old 70s looking, mustard colored couch, my sister said to me something along the lines of "Just don't do it." She meant no harm, and probably doesn't even remember she said something like that, but it played like an old record in my head, over and over again. I would constantly ask myself why couldn't I just stop. It wasn't until years later, that I was able to answer that question for myself.

When someone has a hot temper, they usually respond to criticism or something that bothers them in a way they fundamentally know isn't serving them. They know that responding in a calmly manner would be ideal, but did something else. Even if they see that their behavior is ruining relationships, and making them unhappy, they continue to repeat those patterns. That is because their reactions and actions are impulses based on hard wiring in the brain that was unconsciously created over time through past thoughts and experiences. Addictions and mental illnesses are no different. It is hardwiring in the brain created unconsciously, not by choice, that cause people to take certain actions. To behave in a different way, one must change the hardwiring in their brain, and in order for one to do that, they must have the desire and persistence to change.

The decision to change does not come from a choice at first, but from a burning desire. That desire has to be stronger than their desire to act in a way that isn't serving them, which is extremely difficult when the hard wiring in your brain is unconsciously making you crave that behavior. Unfortunately for some, that burning desire only occurs once they have reached rock bottom. Other instances, inspiration is the catalyst for a desire which leads to the choice to change. Without the desire, there really is no choice. We can not force desire on another, just like how no one could force you to feel good when someone makes you upset. What we can do is shine our light and be the inspiration for change, and lead by example.

Is addiction a choice? Only you can be the judge of that. Every opinion, judgment, reaction, action, is of our own doing. Therefor our opinion on addiction is not based off of what is right or wrong, but what belief system we have built. I'm not here to tell others what to believe about addictions, but I'm here to share my voice and encourage you to challenge your own beliefs, show compassion towards yourself and others, and shine your light.

Cover Image Credit: Brooke Lyn Landon

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Yes, I Had A Stroke And I'm Only 20

Sometimes bad things happen to good people.
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Recently, I read an article on Cosmo that was written by a woman that had a stroke at the ripe old age of 23. For those of you who don't know, that really doesn't happen. Young people don't have strokes. Some do, but it's so incredibly uncommon that it rarely crosses most people's minds. Her piece was really moving, and I related a lot -- because I had a stroke at 20.

It started as a simple headache. I didn't think much of it because I get headaches pretty often. At the time, I worked for my parents, and I texted my mom to tell her that I'd be late to work because of the pain. I had never experienced a headache like that, but I figured it still wasn't something to worry about. I went about my normal routine, and it steadily got worse. It got to the point that I literally threw up from the pain. My mom told me to take some Tylenol, but I couldn't get to our kitchen. I figured that since I was already in the bathroom, I would just take a shower and hope that the hot steam would relax my muscles, and get rid of my headache. So I turned the water on in the shower, and I waited for it to get hot.

At this point, I was sweating. I've never been that warm in my life. My head was still killing me. I was sitting on the floor of the bathroom, trying to at least cope with the pain. Finally, I decided that I needed to go to the hospital. I picked up my phone to call 911, but I couldn't see the screen. I couldn't read anything. I laid down on the floor and tried to swipe from the lock screen to the emergency call screen, but I couldn't even manage that. My fine motor skills were completely gone. My fingers wouldn't cooperate, even though I knew what buttons needed to be pressed. Instead of swiping to the emergency call screen, I threw my phone across the room. "Okay," I thought, "Large muscle groups are working. Small ones are not".

I tried getting up. That also wasn't happening. I was so unstable that I couldn't stay standing. I tried turning off the running water of the shower, but couldn't move the faucet. Eventually, I gave up on trying to move anywhere. "At what point do I just give up and lie on the floor until someone finds me?" That was the point. I ended up lying on the floor for two hours until my dad came home and found me.

During that two hours, I couldn't hear. My ears were roaring, not even ringing. I tried to yell, but I couldn't form a sentence. I was simply stuck, and couldn't do anything about it. I still had no idea what was going on.

When the ambulance finally got there, they put me on a stretcher and loaded me into the back. "Are you afraid of needles or anything?" asked one EMT. "Terrified," I responded, and she started an IV without hesitation. To this day, I don't know if that word actually came out of my mouth, but I'm so glad she started the IV. She started pumping pain medicine, but it didn't seem to be doing anything.

We got to the hospital, and the doctors there were going to treat me for a migraine and send me on my merry way. This was obviously not a migraine. When I could finally speak again, they kept asking if I was prone to migraines. "I've never had a migraine in my whole life," I would say. "Do you do any drugs?" they would ask. "No," I repeated over and over. At this point, I was fading in and out of consciousness, probably from the pain or the pain medicine.

At one point, I heard the doctors say that they couldn't handle whatever was wrong with me at our local hospital and that I would need to be flown somewhere. They decided on University of Maryland in Baltimore. My parents asked if I wanted them to wait with me or start driving, so I had them leave.

The helicopter arrived soon after, and I was loaded into it. 45 minutes later, I was in Baltimore. That was the last thing I remember. The next thing I remember was being in the hospital two weeks later. I had a drain in my head, a central port, and an IV. I honestly didn't know what had happened to me.

As it turns out, I was born with a blood vessel malformation called an AVM. Blood vessels and arteries are supposed to pass blood to one another smoothly, and mine simply weren't. I basically had a knot of blood vessels in my brain that had swelled and almost burst. There was fluid in my brain that wouldn't drain, which was why my head still hurt so bad. The doctors couldn't see through the blood and fluid to operate, so they were simply monitoring me at that point.

When they could finally see, they went in to embolize my aneurysm and try to kill the AVM. After a successful procedure, my headache was finally starting to subside. It had gone from a 10 on the pain scale (which I don't remember), to a 6 (which was when I had started to be conscious), and then down to a 2.

I went to rehab after I was discharged from the hospital, I went to rehab. There, I learned simple things like how to walk and balance, and we tested my fine motor skills to make sure that I could still play the flute. Rehab was both physically and emotionally difficult. I was constantly exhausted.

I still have a few lingering issues from the whole ordeal. I have a tremor in one hand, and I'm mostly deaf in one ear. I still get headaches sometimes, but that's just my brain getting used to regular blood flow. I sleep a lot and slur my words as I get tired. While I still have a few deficits, I'm lucky to even be alive.

Cover Image Credit: Neve McClymont

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We Need To Stop Ignoring Addiction And Actually See It For The Disease It Is

BE KIND.

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Addiction means something different to each and every person. To some it is something they or loved ones have had to deal with, others see it in celebrities/people they look up to, and some really know nothing of it other than media or television.

But to me, it is nothing to be ashamed of.

People can be addicted to many things from shopping to eating, yet where the stigma comes in is when we start dealing with drugs or alcohol. Don't get me wrong, those things are nothing to be proud of but we should NEVER be treating these people like less than, especially if they open up and want help.

I firmly believe that addiction is a disease and not only it being a disease but it can also be in a family's gene pool. Many people and researchers such as the Center on Addiction, Health Harvard Blog, and Addiction Campuses believe that it is a chronic disease. Research is showing how some people are more susceptible (genes). In knowing this, we cannot be pushing these people away and making them feel worse than they already do. We can't just stand by and help them in a way only conducive to yourself.

There are many different ways to help people with addiction. Taking them to get help, not embarrassing them, respecting them as a person, and most importantly to be kind. The ignominy that comes from being an "addict" in our society let alone wanting to open up to someone and ask for help is downright scary.

If someone ever reaches out notice how brave they are and take them in with an open mind. If you see someone with a problem with drugs or alcohol do not try to judge them because if we do that we are further ostracizing addicts from society. Do not let this be a disease we refuse to acknowledge and lose even more of our loved ones.

Above all else BE KIND.

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