Lorelie Rozzano is a guest blogger for Vertava Health.
If Your Addicted Loved One Won’t Seek Help, Try This.
Addiction affects everyone. It’s man’s great equalizer. It doesn’t matter what sex, age, weight, race or religion you are. It doesn’t care where you work, what you do for a living, or how much money you have in the bank. It’s not about your grade level, or the type of house you live in. Addiction doesn’t discriminate. It devastates everyone who comes in contact with it. There’s no place in North America that’s safe from it. It’s in your town, in your schools, on your streets and in your home.
But those most severely impacted are the people who love someone struggling with addiction. The addict’s family lives in shame and silence. It’s not easy watching your loved one waste away and not being able to do anything about it. Unlike cancer or diabetes, many believe addiction is a disease of choice. And while they may be right, to a point, addiction is a choice… but only the first time you use. After that, if you’re genetically predisposed, the choice is no longer yours. Addiction hijacks certain pathways in the brain. Of course no one thinks they’re going to be an addict when they first start out.
It doesn’t help there’s a deadly myth circulating, either. Some folks believe rock bottom must be hit, before an addict or alcoholic will agree to receive help. But what is rock bottom? Is it the first time you get a DUI? Or the first time you get fired or evicted? Is it when you steal grandma’s money? Or pawn your family’s electronics? Is it when you stop seeing your kids? Or start selling drugs, or yourself, to supply your habit? Do you have to overdose to hit rock bottom? And if you do overdose but continue to use, then what? Knowing that things are getting worse, not better, doesn’t it seem a little crazy to keep waiting?
Rock bottom is like an avalanche. It starts small, and builds. Wait long enough and rock bottom is death.
Although it’s important to allow the addicted person to experience the consequences of their actions, this is not the same thing as rock bottom. Consequences are necessary to facilitate choice. But not every addict has this capacity. Addiction is a progressive illness and those with it; are at different points along the spectrum. Not everyone has to lose it all to this illness. As a matter of fact, the longer you wait to intervene on your loved one – the more damage occurs. We don’t wait until cancer patients have reached stage four to treat them, and we shouldn’t wait until an addict is terminal, either. By then their thinking is illogical and dishonest. Their body and organs are damaged, and physically and psychologically, they’re completely dependent of their DOC – the same way your body is dependent on air.
With all the different opinions and controversy surrounding this topic, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and confused when considering treatment options. To complicate matters further, even the doctors and professionals seem to disagree. With so many programs available, what’s the right one? Is harm reduction the way to go? Is keeping addicts on drugs a good choice? What about abstinence? Which program is more successful? How do you know if your loved one is ready for treatment? Should you wait for them to come to their senses? What happens if they don’t?
These are just some of the questions treatment providers hear. For me personally, I’m not a fan of harm reduction. I don’t believe keeping addicts on methadone or other narcotics is a good idea. Having said that, it’s important for the addicted person to have a thorough medical and psychological evaluation to assess their situation. Each individual is unique in their circumstances. While there are some who do well on these medications, abstinence should not be overlooked.
To add to the confusion it seems some addicts can stop using on their own, while others can’t. But there’s a difference between heavy users of substance and those who are addicted to them. Heavy users are problematic. They understand they have a problem and after experiencing harmful consequences due to their using, they stop. Addicts understand they have a problem and experience the same consequences. (If they’re not being enabled, that is). They try many times to stop, but can’t. This is when it becomes dangerous, for the addicted person gives up and surrenders to their illness. In other words, they stop trying – to stop using.
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As a recovering addict who works in the field of addiction, I speak with hundreds of addicts and their families every year. By the time I get their calls, these families are in major crisis. They’re at their wits end and they’ve tried everything they can think of to make their loved one stop. But you can’t make an addict stop using. No amount of nagging or threats will change them.
If you’re concerned about your loved one, and they’re resistant to treatment, call an interventionist. These folks are highly skilled and passionate about what they do. Not only that, they’ll help you, the family members, too.
You don’t have to wait until all is lost to seek help. The truth is, there is no magical end line where rock bottom occurs. When you’re an addict there is only jails, institutions, death or recovery.
If you or someone you know needs help, please call this confidential support line for assistance. 1 (888) 614-2379.