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URI Health Services — Health Education

Addiction

"When an individual persists in use of alcohol or other drugs despite problems related to use of the substance." Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV), (ReadMore)

Substance dependence can be diagnosed with physiological dependence, evidence of tolerance or withdrawal, or without physiological dependence. (DSM IV) Substance dependencies: alcohol, opiod, sedative, cocaine, cannabis, amphetamine, hallucinogen, inhalant, nicotine.

Behavorial Addiction - compulsions that are not substance-related. Shopping, sex, overating, gambling, internet.

Paula's Story

My name is Paula and I am a senior at URI. I am also a mother to my 3-year-old son, and a recovering heroin addict. Addiction is one of those things you really can't imagine happening to you - I know I certainly never planned on becoming a junkie when I was growing up. In hindsight, though, there were signs. Alcoholism ran pretty strong on my father's side of the family, as well as depression, which I started experiencing in my early teens. But I was a "good kid" - good grades, in the school band, I never got in any trouble - I didn't even experiment with alcohol until I was 21. But for me, alcohol wasn't just a weekend social lubricant; it was almost immediately a daily coping mechanism I used to alleviate my constant uncomfortability, depression, and fear. It worked, for a little while, but before long it seemed like I couldn't drink enough to get the feeling (or lack of) that I was looking to get. When I was 23 I was introduced to heroin and my love for it was immediately all consuming. I spent years in and out of jail institutions, convinced that this was my destiny and waiting to die. After one brief period of sobriety while I was incarcerated, I convinced myself that having a child could save me. In reality, I had given birth to a "hostage", and as much as I loved my son, I was drawn again to the streets and my son was taken from me at 6 months old. The time after my son was taken from me was (I hope) the darkest time of my life. The weeks melted into each other, every day filled with waking up sick, stealing, prostituting, scamming, getting high, running from the cops, finding a place to sleep, and waking up to do it all over again.

My family never gave up on me, and they helped me find my way to a treatment center where I would live with my son for a year, with the stipulation that if I left I would be facing up to five years in jail for the felonies I had committed. Through some miracle, I stayed, and for the first time in my seven attempts at treatment, completed the program. I slowly began to understand the cunning nature of my disease, and while there is no cure for addiction, I gained some knowledge about treating it. "Constant vigilance" is a phrase often tossed around when talking about treating addiction - it is a daily fight. My weapons are counseling, my family, 12-step meetings, and faith. If I let my guard down, the streets are always out there, and I know where they take me. Today I live in Narragansett with my son and it's a simple life-school, work, meetings... but in some ways it is more than I could have ever dreamed of.