The Instrumental Stage: A Familiar Routine

This is a continuation of our blog series: “The Cycle of Addiction.” Read the previous post, which discusses the second stage: The Social Stage: Beginning to Lose Control

I've been playing piano for nearly a decade. In my years behind the keys, low keys have always produced low sounds, and high keys high sounds. Because of this consistency, I can produce music by pressing high and low keys. But the “music” I have the ability to produce didn’t come to me overnight. My knowledge was limited until I experimented with the 88 different notes on my piano. And, like anyone else, I had to practice – sometimes hours a day. Now, nearly 10 years since I began playing, I can play an enjoyable piece of music. When the Instrumental Stage of addiction is reached, the addict has figured out the substance. Through experimentation, and using the drug again and again, the addict has developed a tool to use for specific purposes.

Drugs and Alcohol – With a Purpose

The addict has essentially written a score of music with his substance. He knows how much to take, when to take it, and what the effect will be. The melody of his piece can bring him into a different reality right when he needs it. Addicts will work on their "score" as long as drugs and alcohol are on the market. Unfortunately, drug and alcoholic melodies don’t end well. Just as the different notes of the piano served their own unique purpose, an addict in the instrumental phase uses substances for specific reasons and desires. Common purposes that an addict, stuck in the instrumental stage of the cycle, might use drugs and alcohol for include:

  • Raw Pleasure
  • Coping with a Specific Area of Life (work, home, relationships etc.)
  • Trying to Deal with Guilt and Shame
  • Trying to Deal with Anger
  • Trying to Avoid Fear

The more I play the piano, the more I enjoy spending time playing the instrument. The sad reality of the instrumental stage, however, is the addict often becomes enslaved to the substance. The more an addict uses a drug, the more he enslaves himself to it.

Tolerance Can Develop

“I just can’t get enough of it!” This is tolerance – when you need more and more to recreate the original pleasure. Have you ever done something for the first time, and really enjoyed it? I remember the first time I wrote an article for this site. I must have gone back 100 times just to make sure my article was still there, and to admire the way it looked on the website. Now when I write articles, I put the same effort into them, but once the product is finished, I'll probably start on a new project without the previous article a second thought. Developing tolerance towards drugs and alcohol is a similar experience. The more an addict uses the substance, the weaker the effect it has. To cope with this, addicts will increase their dose – sometimes to dangerously high amounts. But with each increase, the addict becomes more tolerant to the effect of the substance. This never ending cycle can lead to serious problems.

And Then He was Dependent

Imagine a man named Musheer. Let’s quickly take Musheer through the stages of addiction, ending with the final, and most dangerous stage: the Compulsive Stage.

  1. Experimental Stage: With a group of friends, Musheer experiments with heroin for the first time.
  2. Social Stage: He becomes comfortable with the drug, and begins to use it a lot – usually with his friends.
  3. Instrumental Stage: Eventually Musheer starts using the drug to deal with specific things in his life. It isn’t uncommon for Musheer to use the drug by himself.
  4. Compulsive Stage: When he discovers how helpful the drug is, he becomes completely dependent on heroin to help in specific areas of his life.

Musheer is addicted. Please learn from these stages, and avoid taking the steps towards addiction.