Addiction | Dennis Cockerham

Mixed Family | Dennis Cockerham

A lot has changed recently, my friend Noah is home and I am still here in prison. Yes, that is both jealousy and envy that you hear.

I am happy for him, but with this also comes a change in our roles in each other’s lives. Noah is now on the outside looking in, which gives him insight into the connection between the incarcerated inmate and their loved ones who are supporting them from the free world. 

Noah is also an addict in recovery and these traits follow him outside.

I was surprised when he told me that his sister Morgan commented that I never talk about my addiction. Noah agreed with her but I did not.

I do write about my addiction, all of the time. The difference is how I write about it. I write about my addiction from the vantage point of my recovery, not from using itself.

After having this pointed out to me, I realize that I am possibly leaving out the very thing the reader is trying to understand. How do you help the addict that is still in active addiction? If your loved one is already out of prison or in recovery then the pieces of the puzzle might fit, but if they are not then I am missing an opportunity to help somebody get there.

Drug use is a symptom of addiction, not the addiction itself. Most relapses come from the belief that a substance or substances cause the addiction — when actually it is deeper than that.

An addict uses drugs as a solution to problems, but it’s only a temporary one. Drugs provide euphoric relief from pain, be it emotional, mental, or physical. This euphoria feels so good that we begin to depend on it and desire it above all else. We leave behind people and activities that gave our lives meaning and become consumed in the chase. This is when the symptom of drug use strikes the hardest.

When our use leaves us alone, having lost everything, the pain is compounded between the original suffering and our poor choices. So, we seek relief again the only way that we know: we head back to the drugs.

When caught in this cycle, the brain actually starts producing less dopamine, creating a chemical imbalance in the brain, and instead relies on the drug instead. Without the drug, neither the brain nor the body function properly anymore. It becomes a need. I have to have it.

This process has to be interrupted at all costs. If it is not, this pain, this solution, and this never-ending cycle will do nothing but bring damage and destruction to everybody and all things it touches.

It is not a matter of intent or will power. It is a matter of intervention. As long as an addict is using there is no chance of helping them.

I am not a believer in “rock bottom.” Dealing with an addict is like dealing with a suicidal jumper: it is possible to help them at the bottom, but it is safer and wiser to just get them off of the ledge.

I couldn’t stop by myself. Even if I’d wanted to (which I didn’t), my brain and my body told me that I needed drugs to survive. To fight addiction is to fight something that tells you convincingly that you shouldn’t.

Recovery takes time. The longer you can keep an addict from using, the better chance they have. The brain needs time to heal. It takes time to re-program and finds new solutions.

I found my recovery while I was out on pretrial release awaiting this sentence. Although I’d had many periods of abstinence during my prior incarceration, where I learned to cope while in an institutional setting, it wasn’t until I found a way to apply those same skills to my actual life, that my real recovery began.

Addiction | Dennis Cockerham

This time the judge told me that to stay out of jail, I had to attend 12-step meetings and I could not use drugs or alcohol. This interruption gave my brain the time it needed to heal and forced me to see my addiction for what it really is.

I have not used any drugs or alcohol in almost 4 years. The year and a half prior to this incarceration, was the roughest and most rewarding time of my life.

I had people to help me who had already gotten clean to show me the way. Before I knew it, I was dancing, singing karaoke, and having actual fun, without the use of drugs. I couldn’t believe it. I was reprogramming and learning to live without drugs.

Today I do not have the urge to use any chemicals, but I do still deal with the original pain and confusion that set me on the path to drugs in the first place.

My recovery is less about running to drugs, and more about not running from my feelings. It has been a long, painful battle that I have been fighting since I was 10 years old. I am now 48, in prison, yet finally free.

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