Lorelie Rozzano is a guest blogger for Vertava Health.
Is Addiction Tearing Your Family Apart?
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) published that in 2014, almost 8 million American adults battled both a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder, or co-occurring disorders. To break it down, one in seven families across North America are battling with addiction. This is a life and death battle, which often occurs behind closed doors. It’s the fastest growing causality of death among us. Sadder still, those struggling with substance abuse don’t realize how sick they’ve become until the end stages of this illness. By then, they might not even care.
If you love someone struggling with addiction you’ve probably heard this. I’m not hurting anyone but myself. Although the addicted person thinks they’re only hurting themselves, clearly that’s not true. Being in a relationship with a substance abuser is chaotic, intense and painful. Families that were once close, may feel devastated by this seemingly willful act. You might have found yourself asking, why can’t he/she just stop? Or, if they really loved me they’d stop. You may have tried everything in your power to make them stop. Only to find you’re the one feeling bitter, resentful and on the verge of collapse. Some parents say they’ve spent their entire life savings, rescuing their addicted loved one.
Addiction leaves scars. Trust is broken. Emotional wounds run deep. Lives are changed.
But here’s the thing…
If you don’t believe addiction is a disease you will continue to feel frustrated, resentful and angry. You will continue to rescue, fix and control. You will continue to enable and to be manipulated. You will continue to expect your loved one to smarten up and to get over it. In other words, you will continue to live in a world of hurt and pain.
But think about this. You wouldn’t expect a cancer patient to get over cancer without help. Cancer needs medical attention. The three main cancer treatments are surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Those diagnosed with cancer may relapse. They are most successfully treated when diagnosed early by a team of professionals who specialize in the area.
It’s exactly the same with addiction.
Once you understand this illness and accept it for the disease it is, you will know to seek help and what to expect. Addiction affects behavior, thinking, emotions, cognitive abilities and psyche. In order to justify using, the addicted person adopts a dishonest thought pattern. Manipulation, defensiveness, mood swings, avoidance, deflection, twisting words, self-pity, blaming, verbal abuse and lying become the new normal. These are the behaviors of a maladapted and sick individual. Yet addicted persons are by no means bad or evil, they are sick.
Jean (not her real name) recently contacted me saying her daughter had got hooked on pain pills years ago, after an auto accident. When the pain pills were gone, she was addicted and switched to heroin and crystal meth. Jean’s daughter abandoned her two children, which Jean is now raising. Jean wonders if it’s enabling to allow her addicted daughter visitation with her children. Jean states her visits seem to do more harm than they do good. She says the children cry for days after their Mom leaves, but Jean doesn’t want to say no and have her daughter lose all hope.
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Jean’s is not an unusual story. There are more grandparents raising grandchildren now, than ever before. Addiction tears everyone’s world apart. Even the most innocent littlest victims. Our children.
Watching your precious loved one killing themselves with drugs and/or alcohol takes a horrendous toll on families and individuals. You live life on high alert. One ear listens for the knock on the door or that phone call. It’s easy to become consumed with worry. You may be experiencing physical side effects such as high blood pressure, heart problems, depression, fatigue and exhaustion. Some have even succumbed to heart attacks and strokes. You don’t have to be addicted, to die from addiction.
You don’t have to be addicted, to die from addiction.
Every circumstance and person is unique. There are so many questions and no single right answer.
So what can one do when there’s addiction in the family?
Believe it or not, a lot. Your addicted loved one needs you to be strong. They’re already killing themselves and they don’t need more help. They may be angry with you for not giving in to their demands but do it anyways. Learn the difference between helping and enabling. While you can’t make the addicted person well, there is much you can do to influence the outcome. First and foremost look after yourself. Stay well. Don’t let addiction consume you. Learn to set healthy boundaries. Involve professionals. Practice kindness and loving acts with those who appreciate your gestures. Find people who understand your struggles and will help you make healthy choices going forward. Addiction is a family disease. If you’re not actively seeking support and educating yourself, you could be part of the problem. Like it or not, your loved one isn’t the only one who needs help.
For those who struggle with addiction, tomorrow is not guaranteed. But all is not lost. You don’t have to do this alone. Vertava Health can help you change directions and step into a bright, new future. The call is free. All you have to do to start your new life now is pick up the phone.
If you or someone you know needs help, please call this confidential support line now. 1-888-614-2379