If someone you love is struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, it’s important to have a good understanding of the disease. Addiction or substance use disorder is a complex brain disease characterized by the inability to stop or control drug use despite any negative, harmful consequences it may be causing. Addiction is a chronic relapsing brain disease and repeated exposure to addictive stimuli. Anything that makes a person feel better or good, even if only for a short moment, can become addicting. People can develop drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, food, shopping, etc.
Can You Love Someone in Addiction?
Many people with substance abuse issues have co-existing mental health or psychiatric conditions. Often, these mental health disorders are unknown and have gone untreated. This commonly leads the person to start using drugs and alcohol as self-medication. When drugs and alcohol are taken, they cause certain chemicals in the brain like dopamine to be released. Dopamine is the “feel good” chemical in our brain that is responsible for pleasure, reward, and motivation. But, unfortunately, it also causes us to repeat these bad behaviors.
The Powerful Truths About Addiction
Addiction can be tough for loved ones to handle. But, remember, it’s not about you. You cannot take your loved ones’ issues personally. Their addiction wasn’t caused by something you did. Another truth to know is that detox does not equal treatment. Detox is part of the process, but they must also go through treatment for your loved one to recover. And recovering from substance abuse takes time. No one expects to become addicted. Initially, it may start as a choice, but it turns into brain disease, and the person cannot control it. Also, just because your loved one agrees to go to treatment does not mean they are ready to quit.
Effectively Helping An Addicted Family Member
Many addicts may feel like they have been forced to get help when they aren’t ready to stop using. Until they come to terms with their addiction and are willing to go to any lengths to get sober, there is nothing you can do to help them. Addiction affects millions of people across the globe every year. Nearly half or 46% of all Americans are affected or know some substance abuse disorder. The National Institute on Drug Abuse article titled “Understanding Drug Use and Addiction DrugFacts” explains the following:
Drug addiction is a chronic disease characterized by drug seeking and use that is compulsive or difficult to control, despite harmful consequences. Brain changes that occur over time with drug use challenge addicted people’s self-control and interfere with their ability to resist intense urges to take drugs. This is why drug addiction is also a relapsing disease. Relapse is the return to drug use after an attempt to stop. Relapse indicates the need for more or different treatment. Most drugs affect the brain’s reward circuit by flooding it with the chemical messenger dopamine. Surges of dopamine in the reward circuit cause the reinforcement of pleasurable but unhealthy activities, leading people to repeat the behavior again and again. Over time, the brain adjusts to the excess dopamine, which reduces the high that the person feels compared to the high they felt when first taking the drug—an effect known as tolerance. (NIDA)
Survival Tips For Loving an Addicted Person
Loving someone with an active addiction is very difficult. However, the most important thing is making sure you stay healthy through all of this. Here are some other survival tips for loving an addict.
- Acceptance – This means coming face-to-face with reality and accepting that this is your life right now. Parts of your life may be out of control at this moment, but you can’t wish this away.
- Keep yourself healthy – Set and maintain healthy boundaries and keep them. Learn how to say no and keep a good balance in your life.
- You cannot fix this person, so stop trying – You must know that until they are ready to stop and get help, there is nothing you can do or say that will make them.
- Stop blaming this person and look at yourself – Take a look at your behaviors and see if there is anything you may be doing that contributes to the addict. Are you giving them money, for instance? Are you contributing to any drama?
- Learn the difference between enabling and helping – Stop enabling them. This means do both give them money, buy them food, allow them to continue staying in your home, or continue to drive them places. None of this is helping them; it’s contributing to their disease.
- Don’t give in to manipulation – Addicts are master manipulators. They will lie, steal, cheat, blame, and guilt trip you to get what they want. Do not give in! Hold your ground.
- Practice self-care – Make sure you are taking good care of yourself. This is not being selfish. Your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs must continue to be met.
- Rebuild your own life – If your life seems empty and all you are doing is focusing on the addict, you have to stop. Instead, explore things that will make you happy and fulfill you.
- Ask yourself the magic question? – Have you become addicted to enabling the addict? Does your life revolve around them and their behaviors? Maybe you’ve got some of your things going on that you are avoiding by enabling the addict. But unfortunately, an addict can consume another person’s life.
The last survival tip for loving someone in active addiction is to reach out for help! Don’t wait until the situation has gotten out of control to ask. The sooner you reach out for help, the better it will be for everyone concerned.
Recovery is a FAMILY Effort
Evoke Wellness has a network of drug and alcohol treatment centers that are carefully designed to offer a lasting solution for healing those suffering from substance use disorders. In addition, we offer a safe and comfortable environment for medical detoxification. Our patients are treated extensively so that minimal discomfort is experienced during the detox process. Evoke Wellness provides residential treatment in a structured environment and then provides you with after-care support, which is important for addiction. Evoke Wellness is here to help you get on the road to long-term recovery. A sober life begins now!