Here\u2019s something your general practitioner and your therapist may have forgotten to tell you: the more stress you\u2019re under, the more vulnerable you are to becoming sick. If you are under stress while also feeling isolated, this is when your risk for illness\u2014pneumonia, malignancies, chronic disease\u2014is highest. Addicts isolate themselves by the very nature of addiction; they often feel shamed; they may wish to escape the judgment of family and friends, present or former colleagues, everyone. Their activities are sometimes illicit. So it stands to reason that addicts may be particularly vulnerable to becoming ill, and not simply because of the drug or alcohol use or the ways or amounts in which they use them, although these things play a factor. At any given time, we\u2019re carrying cancer cells and toxins in our bodies. \u00a0It\u2019s up to our immune systems to fight these intrusions. When we\u2019re under stress, our immunity is suppressed. When that stress is long-term, our immune response becomes chronically suppressed. You may be feeling pressure at work, heat from family, the urge to use again, along with the tension and anxiety of your conscience telling you not to. You\u2019re feeling internal conflict. I don\u2019t wanna go back down that road. I can\u2019t give up on this. You\u2019re frustrated. You might be having tension headaches, dry mouth, a stomach in knots. Inability to sleep. Anxiety. All very real, physiological processes related to stress. This stressed-out state has engaged your pituitary gland, a pea-sized endocrine gland at the base of your brain. The pituitary gland then engages your adrenals, two small, triangular shaped glands that sit atop each of your kidneys. The adrenals\u2019 job is to release the stress hormones, that primitive and wholly necessary part of the body\u2019s response to danger. You\u2019ve heard of the fight-or-flight response. There\u2019s also the freeze response\u2014when you\u2019re faced with a grizzly bear or a tax bill, and you shut down. In the case of the grizzly, it might save your life, which is its purpose. Your body can\u2019t tell the difference between the stress you feel from a grizzly and the IRS; they both threaten you a great deal. Your body knows only three ways to react to that degree of stress. The chemicals released during stress\u2014the stress hormones\u2014are primarily cortisol and adrenaline. What cortisol tells the body to do is this: increase blood pressure, sending glucose and oxygen to the brain in order to more efficiently combat the stressor; elevate blood sugar (same purpose); suppress the immune system, so that energy diverted from there will be immediately available to combat the stressor. Literally every system in the body is impacted during a stress event\u2014the circulatory, cardiovascular, nervous system, digestive, and neurological. The heart pumps faster, the legs move faster, the brain is more alert. But in chronic stress, these systems begin to break down. A heart under chronic stress will become itself stressed, at risk for heart attack or heart disease, one of the leading causes of death. Blood pressure that is elevated for too long becomes a condition we call hypertension, which places an individual at risk for stroke, another of the leading causes of death. Certain cancers are also linked to chronic stress. Diseases like childhood asthma are linked to stress in mothers. Diseases such as adult asthma, obesity, diabetes, the autoimmune diseases (e.g., scleroderma), and gastrointestinal conditions (e.g., Crohn\u2019s) share causal relationship to and are exacerbated by stress. This is in no way to suggest that people who experience these diseases or who die from chronic disease or infections cause their own disease or deaths because they allow themselves to be stressed. The cause of disease is a multi-layered thing, and as medical sociologists are seeing, it is indeed much larger than the germ alone. People become vulnerable to disease through multiple factors, and one of those factors, indeed a very important one, is stress. Stress combined with social isolation\u2014even just the psychological sense that \u201cI am misunderstood and therefore alone in this\u201d is a witch\u2019s brew; it is the cocktail that makes susceptibility to sickness possible. Whether you have asthma, scleroderma, lupus, or hemorrhoids, at some point your doctor is likely to treat you with hydrocortisol\u2014which is cortisol, the stress hormone. The body\u2019s reaction to stress is its most primitive survival mechanism. In a modern world, where literally everything can trigger these defenses, it stands to reason that so many things have the potential to make us sick. The rate of addiction is no surprise either. Every system of our body is being flipped on and off like a switch; we\u2019re, perhaps unconsciously trying to reset the wiring. Lower the dimmers. Cool down. After all, it appears most of us die from this process of being too long stressed. We don\u2019t have to be worried about spiders or snakes any more, but our evolution hasn\u2019t caught up with our environment and even those frighten us. We\u2019re afraid to fly, afraid of things we can\u2019t see. Marsha Linehan. Thich Nhat Hanh. Pema Ch\u00f6dr\u00f6n. There are wise teachers who can give us tools, teach us how to be here in this moment. To breathe and center and look. Teach us how to move through our addictions, and how to let go of our attachment to the stress reaction, because that is what it is. Anything that becomes an emotion you don\u2019t have control over might be just that.