Lorelie Rozzano is a guest blogger for Vertava Health.
I Am An Addict. Please Don’t Feel Sorry For Me.
Addiction is a complicated and multi-faceted, illness. No one wants to be an addict. And very few people go through life without experimenting with drugs and/or alcohol. Most who experiment, won’t become addicted. Some will become weekend warriors, while maintaining a substance free lifestyle through the rest of the week. Others will become problem drinkers and users and some, will become addicted.
So how do you know if you’re addicted?
A simple answer to this question is when the consequences of using outweigh the rewards, and you still continue to use, you’re addicted.
In other words, weekend warriors and problem users can stop. Addicts can’t.
When you’ve lost the ability to predict what might happen when you use, you have a problem. However because addiction is an illogical and irrational illness, it is also dishonest. Meaning the host, or addicted person, develops defenses to protect their illness. And strangely, so do their family members.
Addiction thrives in secrecy, isolation and self-pity. Self-pity is an excessive, self-absorbed, self-indulgent, attention, to one’s own troubles and circumstances.
Addicts fabricate reasons and excuses as to why they use. These excuses may be real (but highly exaggerated) or completely fictitious.
Self-pity is negative thinking. It’s a learned mindset that looks for people, things and issues, to case-build over. It drains a person’s power and energy, leaving the individual feeling pessimistic about the future. There’s an overall attitude of ‘poor me.’ or screw it.
Addicts use feelings of self-pity to justify their use.
For those who don’t believe addiction is a disease, it can look like a moral failing. There are many who still believe addicts should just smarten up and show a little will power.
But addiction is neither a moral failing, nor a lack of will power.
Addiction is a chronic, relapsing, brain disease, which without the right professional help, can be terminal.
Families can co-aid the addicted person by making excuses for their unhealthy behaviour and choices and by feeling sorry for them.
Author John Gardner explains it as: Self-pity is easily the most destructive of the non-pharmaceutical narcotics; it is addictive, gives monetary pleasure and separates the victim from reality.
Self-pity and resentment are the number one prelude to relapse.
Learning the difference between having empathy versus feeling sorry for the addicted individual is important, when facilitating a return to health.
Empathy is meeting the addicted person where they’re at. This happens when the rose-coloured glasses come off and the excuses stop. A person with empathy will state the truth in a non-judgmental and factual, way. For example, I see you need help. I’m not going to buy into your excuses anymore. I can’t love you well and I won’t enable your addiction, but I will support your recovery.
When you make excuses and feel sorry for your addicted family member, what you’re really doing is ‘buying in.’
You buy into the victim mentality. You buy into believing this person is weak and incapable of change. You buy into believing it’s not their fault and people shouldn’t be so hard on them. You buy into excuses, justifications and rationalizing. You buy into the essential symptoms of their illness and the system of denial facilitating it.
For many addicted individuals it’s Moms who are their biggest cheerleaders. Unfortunately (sorry Moms) they’re also their biggest enablers.
Good parents can make bad decisions when it comes to addiction in the family.
Education and support are crucial when recovering from addiction. Learning how to detach with love, and letting go of controlling the addicted person’s behaviour – feels wrong. Learn why it’s necessary and what the difference between helping and enabling, really is.
Ask yourself these three questions.
Am I easily manipulated?
What role do I play in my addicted loved ones illness?
Am I addicted to my addicted loved one?
Successful recovery isn’t the lack of failing. But rather never giving up after having failed. When you pity the addicted individual, you cripple them in the worst way possible. Stop making excuses for your loved ones addiction. Stop blaming them and others. Learn to accept and deal with the reality, of what is.
And what is – is you have a very sick individual on your hands. One that needs professional help.
There’s no shame in getting well. As a recovering addict I can tell you, shame only exists when you’re not living up to your full potential.
The next time you’re feeling sorry for your addicted loved one, you might as well buy them drugs or alcohol to go with it. Self-pity really is that toxic to their well-being.
Rather than coddle your loved one’s addiction, encourage them to reach out. Let them know you love them and believe in them. Let them know you’re getting help, for you. Don’t expect them to be happy that you’re changing. When you work on you, you’ll be able to set healthy boundaries and say no.
Things might get worse, before they get better. But hang in there. Statistics show that addicted individuals whose families seek help and education, have a much higher success rate of recovery, than those who don’t.
If you or someone you know needs help, please call this confidential support line for assistance. 1 888 614-2379.