It’s Not Them, It’s The Disease
Former addicts will be the first to admit that in their active addiction, they were lying, manipulative, cunning, unreliable, and untrustworthy people. That is who their addiction turned them in to. People who abuse drugs and/or alcohol weren’t born bad people; addiction took over their brain and put them on a one-track mindset that had them focus on one thing, and one thing only – to get more drugs or alcohol by any means necessary. Almost like a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde situation. It’s one person with two personalities that drastically differ in moral character. When substance users are sober and lucid, they’re apologetic and remorseful for the things they did while they were under the influence of drugs and alcohol. As soon as they get high or drunk again, they turn back into the type of person that would do anything to get their fix.
It’s important to make this distinction because there is a stigma surrounding addiction that leads people to believe that people who abuse drugs and alcohol are immoral and that addiction is a character flaw. Addiction is a disease. When someone is driven by a disease such as addiction, they lose themselves to an illness that hijacks their brain and turns them into someone they would never willingly become. The statement, “Hate the disease, not the addict,” implores loved ones of those suffering from addiction to remember that they don’t want to be this way, either. The people they are in active addiction are not the same people you know and love. No one chooses to be an addict.
If your loved one is suffering from addiction, there is hope and help is always waiting. Addiction doesn’t need to be a death sentence, and your love and support are imperative to their recovery. While you may not feel like you even know this person anymore, your loved one is still in there and they need help. If you don’t know a lot about addiction, educate yourself so that you can better understand what your loved one is going through. It’s very rare that someone in active addiction can quit drugs or alcohol without treatment, so if they tell you they can quit on their own, they can’t. What they’re going through is not their fault so try not to place blame or be judgmental, and as frustrating as it might be, don’t give up on them.
While being supportive of your loved one, it’s essential that you set healthy boundaries for yourself so you don’t lose yourself and your control, and then you’ll be no good to anyone. Determine what your boundaries are by noting what behavior of theirs is unacceptable. If they’re verbally abusive, physically abusive, unreliable – then determine the consequences for their actions. It’s not going to be easy but if there are no consequences to them overstepping your boundaries, nothing will change. Like Albert Einstein said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
You can’t force your loved one to get help. They have to want it, and part of that could come from enforcing boundaries you set. Realizing there are consequences to certain actions, and that their behavior is destroying their relationships could be what they need to give them the final push to want to get help. It won’t be easy for you and it certainly won’t be easy for them having to leave home, leave their job, friends, and family, but their life literally depends on it.
Many treatment centers will offer counseling for the friends and family of the addict to help get everyone on the same page and have everyone better understand the disease and the best, most healthy way that you can support your loved one in their recovery. The addict isn’t the only one affected by this disease, so while they’re getting treatment, you need to get your life back together and learn how to cope with everything you’ve gone through. Recovery is a long journey but putting in time and hard work is worth the life of your loved one.