It almost goes without saying that at one point during our childhood, each of us made the mistake of touching the stove when it was hot. Our parents always told us not to and that we’d get hurt, but we just had to find out for ourselves, didn’t we? The plus side to the pain was that we learned something; not to touch a hot stove. Mom and dad were actually right, and after sustaining that burn, we likely never made the mistake again (at least not on purpose). This seems totally logical, right? You know the stove is hot, therefore you don’t touch it. Unfortunately, some people think this is how addiction works. You know abusing drugs and/or alcohol is bad for you; so just stop doing it!
If only it were that easy. There’d be no addiction treatment facilities, no overdoses, no families ripped apart, no interventions. Substance addiction goes way beyond knowing what’s right and wrong, as it’s recognized as a mental disorder according to the American Psychiatric Association. For those of us who don’t suffer from substance addiction, it’s hard for us to understand why our loved ones can’t just stop this harmful behavior.
“My brother is one of the smartest people I know. He should know better than to keep doing drugs.”
“My wife is a teacher. She knows the difference between right and wrong. She knows abusing alcohol is wrong. Why can’t she just stop?”
“Our father died of a drug overdose and my sister still can’t stay clean even after seeing what it did to our family.”
Addiction affects all walks of life; rich, poor, men, women, old, and young. This disease doesn’t discriminate and it destroys lives way beyond that of the abuser. It’s important for people to be educated on how to deal with a loved one who is suffering from substance addiction so that they can help in a constructive way and not enable the abuse to continue.
Getting angry and frustrated with our loved one is a natural reaction when we have such high expectations. We want them to know what they’re doing is wrong, and they do in fact, but they need help to stop. This isn’t the same case as the stove where they get burned and automatically know not to do it again. There is an underlying issue that prevents them from stopping and that’s where addiction rehab facilities come in to play. Doctors can get to the root of the addiction, treating the underlying problem that has led to substance abuse and providing tools that they can’t offer at home.
Believe it or not, your loved one doesn’t want to live a life of addiction, though it may seem like they do because they continue to use. This is not a disease that can be defeated alone. The mother, father, sister, brother, son, daughter, husband, or wife that you know isn’t the same person who is abusing drugs. They need your help and that all starts with understanding that this disease is bigger than they are; bigger than you are. Don’t get mad at them for their addiction, get them help as soon as possible and get your loved one back to who they really are.