You may be reading this because you are trying to figure out how to “be” around the addict or alcoholic in your life. You may not be sure what to think or how to feel. There is definitely a great chance that you are beyond confused and overwhelmed with a multitude of emotions ranging from anger to guilt. Witnessing someone you love and care for drinking or drugging is beyond scary. Whatever drug of choice they have, you notice it has become a problem. You wonder why they can’t just stop or even slow down. And you most probably vacillate between wanting to help and cut them off. This is normal. You are normal for feeling this way.
So, the first thing is to understand why someone can’t just stop and why they may need rehab. It is hard to accept that addiction is a chronic disease versus stemming from a weak moral character. The nature of the disease is the ultimate chameleon because for most people we think of indulging in bad behavior as a choice but for the addict, urges and cravings are the epicenter of how the disease controls the mind. For them, it is not simply a choice but a need.
And they don’t need an excuse to use. Perhaps they justified imbibing early on, but once the chemical takes hold of the brain, it’s very hard to live without it. Drugs interfere with the way the brain sends, receives, and processes signals. They fake positive forms of motivation, including the pleasurable effects of normal activities, and so the addict forms habits seeking these effects. With repeated influence of this chemical influence, the brain adapts and expects the presence of the drug, making it hard to feel pleasure from anything besides the drug. This also happens with the feelings of stress, anxiety and unease – the brain gets addicted to chemical intervention to relieve these feelings, and the person then needs the drug just to get through the day without getting overwhelmed. It becomes a cycle, a daily routine, and a habit that is very, very hard to break without intervention, professional help, and the support of everyone within reach.
Like any other chronic diseases that has progressed, chemical dependence needs specialized and possibly around-the-clock care in the beginning. This is why a person would benefit from rehab facility where there are caring individuals who know what detox is like and where there is a medical staff to help in the process. A treatment center is also an excellent choice because it takes the addicted person out of their current environment and allows them to get away from the triggers of using. Their sole focus becomes themselves and getting better.
Perhaps the greatest thing you can do as a family member or friend is to realize that addiction affects the whole family and close friends, not just the person addicted. As your loved one is going through the recovery process, it is vital you also realize your part in not just their success, but how you can contribute to it in a positive way. It may be tough to hear, but family members may also be triggers, so be kind and be on their side.
You may also have to cope with the loss of the person who you once knew. They are getting their life back, and you are getting your loved one back, but they may be different. That person has to change in order to get better and will with professional help, a new group of friends, and their new commitment to sobriety. Getting to know that loved one may be hard, but also rewarding in a way you’ve never experienced.
Take the opportunity that many rehab centers offer in family education or counseling. You can also connect with local community resources or programs like Al-anon or a local church group, if you are religious. Your main goal is find ways to deal with your own negative thoughts, feelings, passive-aggressive actions. These do no good to you or in helping the addict or alcoholic get better. If you want him or her to succeed, learn to change yourself and let go.
Keep in mind, there may be times when the one you love has relapsed. Relapse is disappointing for everyone—the addict, the family, and the professional caretakers in the treatment community. It’s not completely within their control. Those circuits in the brain that got used to having the drug present to provide pleasure or to give relief from stress are not gone. The brain doesn’t forget that quick path to reward and can hijack a sober streak. If old environments, stressful situations, or other using triggers are experienced again, uncontrollable cravings can re-emerge. This reflex can last a long time, even in people who have been sober for many years. This is why professional counseling reinforcement and peer support offered by AA and other groups are so beneficial. This holds true for the recovering addict as well as for family members.
Treatment for addiction is a life-long process—and a new way of life. This new way of life requires effort and diligence every single day. That means you need to first develop patience and tools for your own support system as a family member, just as the recovering addict has to develop theirs. All you can do is work on improving your own response to the person who you love so deeply and is in the grips of a devastating disease.
If you or a loved one has an addiction of any nature or if you need help getting through to an addict, contact us today. We can provide you or your loved one personalized, quality treatment for drug and alcohol addiction. Don’t wait. Call now.