How can he be so selfish? He can clearly see how much pain he’s causing – why doesn’t he care? I can’t take the stress any longer. He’s destroying all of our dreams. Our lives have become Hell. Isn’t he tired of living this way?
These are the typical thoughts that run through your mind when you love an addict. You can’t understand why he continues on such a destructive path. Why does he make so many bad choices? Why does he cause so much pain to his family and loved ones?
You get so angry because he obviously doesn’t care. You blame him for being weak. But this isn’t because he doesn’t care, and it’s not because he is weak – he is sick with the disease of addiction. all of the blame, guilt, and arguing in the world won’t change it. He needs help.
You expect him to ask for that help eventually. To seek it out once he hits “rock bottom”. You believe if you keep pointing out his mistakes, reminding him of his failures, and laying on the guilt, he will snap out of it and come to his senses. Unfortunately, for many addicts, it takes a tragic turn before they will reach out for help on their own. And, sometimes, not even then.
What science is now understanding, thanks to the technology of brain imaging, is that addiction is a brain disease. Addiction hi-jacks the brain, so that the addict’s brain no longer functions normally. Due to the changes in the brain caused by drugs and/or alcohol, the addicted brain believes it needs the drugs for survival (even over food). This is why the addict continues to drink or use drugs even in the face of devastating consequences.
In order for positive changes to take place, the family needs to understand addiction. The first step to helping your loved one is gaining knowledge. It’s difficult to help another person if you don’t understand the problem. By learning as much about addiction as possible, families can help their loved ones to recovery.
There are many myths surrounding addiction. Here are five of the common myths:
Myth #1 – Addicts are bad, immoral, or degenerate.
The truth – Evolving research is demonstrating that addicts have a brain disease. The person suffering with addiction will often times do things that society considers bad, immoral, or degenerate in order to feed the addiction.
Myth #2 – The addict lacks willpower.
The truth – this is an old belief. Addiction negatively affects the area of the brain called the dopamine system which in not under conscious control.
Myth #3 – Addicts should be punished, not treated.
The truth – The brain disease of addiction causes impaired control over the addicts use of drugs. Addicts need treatment.
Myth #4 – Addicts can not be treated with medication.
The truth – New medicines are being developed to help patients curb their cravings. These medications reduce the chances of relapse.
Myth #5 – Addicts need to hit bottom before they are ready for help.
The truth – The sooner an addict gets into treatment the better.
Addiction is a treatable disease, but it must be faced head on. You don’t have the power to take addiction away from your loved one, but you do have the power to give him a good push toward help. You can get educated on addiction, talk to doctors, and find a good treatment program.
Don’t forget the importance of building your own mental and spiritual strength. There are many support systems available to help you along the way; family recovery groups such as Al-Anon, your church, a counselor, trusted friends, and the list goes on and on. You don’t have to face this alone – help is out there if you’re willing to accept it.
There is a stigma attached to addiction, especially when it involves illegal drugs. Because of this stigma, many families have a difficult time reaching out for help. Feelings of shame, embarrassment, and failure are common in the addict household. But it’s time for families to let go of this shame. Addiction is a treatable disease.