It is very common for someone trying to give up one addiction to immediately replace it with another, the compulsion to fill the ‘void’ left by the thing they were initially addicted to is so great. This is why understanding and treating the cause of conditions, such as crystal meth addiction, is so essential for recovery. Susan Peirce Thomson took this just a few steps further and made understanding the way the brain works the key to her success in beating all her addictions.
How Did Her Addiction Start?
Susan grew up in one of the beautiful areas of San Francisco. She was an excellent student at school, and loved to cook, frequently cooking three-course meals for her family. She did not have very many friends, so out of school she spent a lot of time on her own; unfortunately for her, food became her biggest focus. By the time she was twelve years old, Susan was already overweight, and her weight was a constant worry for her.
When she was fourteen, she had her first experience with drugs, and the effects these could have on her body. She took some mushrooms, and after experiencing a ‘trip’ that lasted all night, discovered the next day that she had lost seven pounds – half-a-stone in just one day. Drugs were, for her, ‘the best diet plan ever’. She didn’t stick with mushrooms, however, as it quickly led to an addiction to crystal methamphetamine, ‘the best diet drug ever’. She lost weight and became thin, but she also dropped out of school – the addiction had won. By the time Susan was twenty years old, she was living in a ‘crack hotel’ in San Francisco and working as a prostitute. Her crystal meth addiction had now become a crack cocaine addiction, and the money she made every night on the streets was spent on drugs.
Getting Over a Crack Cocaine Addiction
One day, Susan had a moment of clarity and realised the stark contrast between her life and the dreams she had once had of going to Harvard University. It was August 1994, and she remembered the time and date exactly: “It was 10 in the morning on a Tuesday. I had one wide, clear, alert moment where I just got a full awareness of my state, my condition, who I was, what I had become.” Susan said that she knew she just had to act immediately, so she went to stay with a friend, got herself cleaned up and started to sort her life out.
She had a rather unusual first date when she was taken to a 12-step meeting. For most people, that might seem like an awful date, but for Susan, it set her on her path to recovery. Since that meeting, she has remained completely sober – no alcohol or drugs.
Why Do People Swap One Addiction for Another?
Susan knew that as soon as she stopped taking drugs her weight would start to increase again, and that was just what happened. Her old food habits returned, with the same patterns of late night binges and cravings.
Being on the 12-step programme meant that she recognised that she had just replaced the drugs with food. She said: “My brain was wired for addiction. At that point, my dopamine receptors had been pretty blown out from the cocaine, crystal meth, and the crack. I needed a fix and sugar was what was available.”
Drugs like methamphetamine and cocaine interact with receptors in the brain, generating a reward response that the drug addict then ‘needs’ to feel again. Taking one drug away does not remove the persons ‘need’ for those reward feelings, and so he or she will often simply replace one addiction with another to try and recreate the responses in their brain.
Overcoming an Addiction for Good
Susan realised that in order to beat her addictions, she needed to understand what was happening in her brain. She put herself to work, achieving some impressive academic qualifications in the process, with degrees from University College Berkeley, the University of Rochester and the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. She is now a Professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at the University of Rochester, in New York and has taught courses on the psychology of eating.
Her studies allowed her to understand the reasons behind her addictions, and through understanding the effect that food, and in particular sugar, was having on her brain, she was able to control and change her relationship with food.
How Can I Overcome My Addiction?
Not everyone can become a neuroscientist like Susan did, but with the right help and treatment, you too can understand your addiction and learn to control it. Here at Addiction Helper, we have a wealth of experience in treating addictions, and we can give you the advice and support you need in finding the treatment that is right for you. So please, call us today and let us help you on your journey to recovery.
Source:(Shape) How One Woman Broke Her Meth Addiction and Got Healthy
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