Help? How Do I Get Off this Tilt-a-Whirl?
Understanding Addiction

By Penny Raimer, CSAC

Have you ever gone to the fair and ridden the Tilt-a-Whirl? It starts up and the basket you are sitting in sways back and forth. The main platform the basket is attached to gains speed and whirls in a circular motion. "Hey, kids! Isn't this fun?" Faster and faster, the platform whirls around. As it picks up speed, the basket you are sitting in spins and twirls faster and faster, too. Soon you are so dizzy you are hoping the ride will end. But what if the attendant who runs the ride isn't there? The crazy, dizzying ride doesn't end. It continues to pick up speed and you are spinning and whirling, out of control.

This is what addiction feels like. Drinking, using drugs, gambling, shopping, exercise and other behaviors start off innocently. It's fun! Some people can dip into these behaviors for recreation, then stop the ride, get off, and go home. Others, however, cannot stop the ride once they start a behavior with addictive potential. They really enjoy drinking or playing video games, and go back to the activity again and again.

Addict experience a loss of control over their behavior, over how much or how often they will drink, how long they will play the slots, or how much money they will spend while shopping. Even sexual behavior can become addictive and out of control. For an addict, the "on-off" switch in their brain is malfunctioning. People with addiction need more and more of their substance or a certain behavior in order to get the effect they want and need. Eventually, they cannot get enough to satisfy the addiction.

Addiction is more than what people think it is. Addiction is a disease. People with addiction have a disorder of brain chemistry. The disease also affects their spirit, disconnecting them from themselves and others. The disease of addiction causes people to end up isolated. They are physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually bankrupt. Life feels fragmented, hopeless, and out of control — a Tilt-a-Whirl that never stops.

Many people blame themselves for developing an addiction. Others blame their family or a certain situation, attacking people's character and spiritual being. Addiction causes people to feel a deep sense of toxic shame, that they are faulty and defective as human beings.

Addiction can go on and on. Calling out for help is crucial. Without a source of help that is not riding the Tilt-a-Whirl with the addict, the ride can spin further and further out of control until the addict loses everything important to them, or dies.

But there is good news in this picture. Addiction is treatable. People reach out for help everyday, and manage to step off the crazy ride of addiction and into recovery. At the Pauquette Center, we have addiction professionals who can help you or someone you love. Symptoms of addiction can include excessive spending, drinking or drug use; loss of motivation; frequent absences from school or work; unaccounted time; change in friends; ups and downs in mood; or dishonesty, as well as many other behaviors. If you or your loved one are experiencing these symptoms, call the Pauquette Center today to arrange an evaluation.

September is National Addiction Recovery Month. September 20th is Addiction Counselor's Day — we thank our addiction counselors and all those hard-working professionals, for their dedication and service to others.