Let me start by clearing up one of the biggest false notions people tend to have about addictions. No one chooses to have an addiction, and I mean NO ONE! Addiction is a disease and in most cases it has serious ramifications. It has the power to cause the addict to lose their job, vehicles, drivers license, home, family and in some cases their whole family, and they may lose friends as well (not the friends who encourage and enable the addiction, but any healthy friends they may have had). As hard as it is to believe that one could lose anything more than what I’ve already listed, in extreme cases some lose their life or take the life of another. So, if you are someone who is under the impression that addiction is a choice, you tell me who in the world would ever choose to risk everything they have ever had for a hit or a pump of a drug, for a drink/beer/glass of wine, for unhealthy foods, for the possibility of hitting it big at a casino or in a poker game? I know a lot of addicts and I can assure you that not one of them thought they were going to become an addict the first time they did or tried any of the things they became addicted to.
Addiction is a sneaky disease. It attacks and infects it’s victim (the addict) slowly without the victim even realizing what’s happening until it’s too late. At which time the victim starts denying they have a problem, and makes claims such as, “If I wanted to, I could quit.” At this point, things begin to unravel at a steady pace for the addict, and whether the addict can admit it or not, the addict has been engulfed by the disease. From this point on their life will never be the same.
Now that the addiction/disease has taken over, the addict no longer has much control over the usage of their vise or their behavior. They become people their friends and family can’t recognize anymore. For some the disease causes them to only focus on getting their next fix and not much else matters to them. This is the case with most addicts to some extreme. They become all about feeding their addiction, that is what makes them happy, that is what matters to them; not their job, not their financial obligations, not the privilege to drive, not the safety of others, not their friends, not their families, and in many cases not their freedom, just feeding their addiction.
Who the addict is sober versus who the addict is while using are often two very different sides of the same coin.
Sober they may be the person you remember from before the disease took over. Sober they may be irritable, anxious, cranky because they crave their next fix. Friends (the healthy ones) and family may find that the addict they love will spend time with them sober, but family will notice the span of time may be short and they will come up with numerous reason to get going; their addiction is calling to them. Or in some cases friends and family may experience their loved one will come up with excuses to not spend time together, and again, their addiction is calling to them. It is important to remember that in many cases, probably most cases, the addict still loves their family and friends. They miss the relationships they once had with them, but the disease has a very strong hold over them. They are powerless to it.
The flip side of them being sober is them not being sober. In this state the addict is content, they’ve gotten their fix. This could make them more likable to others, because they aren’t craving the next fix anymore. This could cause the people around them to be enablers. Just keep the addict happy and all is good, right? Wrong! Enabling an addict in any way is unhealthy for all involved.
Getting their fix could make them more aggressive, give them a short fuse. Keep in mind that when an addict is using, they are not themselves. They will say and do things that they wouldn’t normally say or do when sober. They will verbally, emotionally, physically abuse the people they love. This disease turns people into very selfish individuals. Life is all about them, and the world should be revolving around them. And there is also the possibility that they will completely disconnect from the people they love and love them back. Remember this is a disease, not a choice. How they treat you is not a reflection of you, it is a reflection of the disease. Try not to take what they say and do personally. However, if they are abusive in any way you should distance yourself from the addict for your own safety and well being, it is important to have firm boundaries set with the addict.
As loved ones we think if we love them enough, if we give them enough, if we do for them enough that we can save them. We cannot save them. They have to save themselves, that is the only choice to be made with this disease. When, and if, they are ready to save themselves and seek help/treatment, then it is our job as loved ones to give them all the support and encouragement they need to take control over this disease. And once they have control over it, it will be an on going recovery process for the rest of their lives. It would do well for their loved ones to also seek help in ways of counseling, Al-Anon, Alateen, ACA meetings and other support groups. It would be beneficial for loved ones to seek out meetings and/or counseling even if their addict isn’t in recovery, in fact, especially if their addict isn’t in recovery.
I’ve spoke mainly about chemical/substance (drugs and alcohol) addiction, but there are several forms of this disease; to name a few others:
- Love/sex addiction
- Food addictions
- Gambling addiction
- Caffeine addiction
- Nicotine addiction
- Technology (video games, binge watching TV/Movies, phones, social media…) addiction
- And then some
For anyone dealing with addiction or anyone who has a loved one who is an addict please find help, support; no one has to go through this alone. I’ve listed a few links below for various meetings.
With Loving-kindness ♥