July 4th. 4th of July. America’s birthday. Independence Day. This week, as a nation, we will celebrate being a great country that believes in and promotes freedom for all. Since our nation’s birth, the Declaration of Independence has promoted the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And together, we’ve made incredible progress towards making these inevitable rights – a reality. On Independence Day, we celebrate the people who make up our country. We celebrate equality and opportunity. We celebrate the relentless efforts of those who have fought – and those still fighting. We celebrate freedom. But for families struggling with alcohol, heroin, meth, and painkiller addiction – independence can be a double-edged sword. You see, when it comes to substance use, freedom can be a wonderful thing: freedom from addiction, freedom from the bodily damage of drugs, freedom from the lies that propel the disease, freedom from heartbreak and emotional scars. But with that independence comes temptations and triggers that can make sobriety difficult to maintain.
The Mismanagement of Freedom
In the disease of addiction, mismanagement of freedom – can have it’s own perils. Freely prescribed prescription drugs, new freedoms for young adults entering college, and financial freedom for successful businessmen and women – can lead to the freedom to use, use, and potentially get addicted to – drugs and alcohol to cope with life’s stressors, corporate expectations, or school and peer pressures. When independence isn’t properly managed, we may not be able to live as freely as we desire. When freedom isn’t kept in perspective, addiction makes the choices for those with the disease – and independence can quickly become dependence.
When a Loved One Struggles with Dependence – and Independence
Watching a loved one struggle with addiction and struggle with managing their independence in how they live their life can be extremely painful. You may feel like it’d be best if you took over – hijacked their life and made the right decisions for them: the decision to break up with her drug dealing boyfriend, to stop after one beer, to go to rehab. The truth is, you can’t make those decisions for your loved one. It is their life and it comes with their own freedoms. That being said, you can help friends, family members and loved ones in managing their independence by: 1. Not Accommodating the Dependence Addiction is a disease that affects the whole family. It can seep into the home, into the relationships, and minds of everyone involved. It’s a progressive disease that will only worsen if not treated. 2. Realizing that you have your own Independence When someone you love is hurting, sick or struggling – it’s easy to lose your independence to their needs. You leave work early to be home with them, you lay awake at night – worrying, you wait for hours for the phone to ring – or for him to return home. You sacrifice your own freedoms to make sure she’s OK. Turning your attention away from someone suffering from addiction doesn’t mean you’re selfish. Realize that you can set boundaries and take care of yourself – and live your life off the roller coaster. 3. Encouraging their Freedom of Choice Whether drugs or alcohol are involved, most people need to make decisions for themselves. A loved one is going to be much more likely to want to do something if they feel it was their choice. Encouraging a loved one to choose treatment and recovery from drugs and alcohol looks like this:
- Supporting, but not begging or bullying them into rehab
- Demonstrating empathy and concern – avoiding sympathy and criticism
- Rolling with resistance
- Taking advice from a professional treatment specialist or interventionist
When will your family celebrate true independence? Not the kind that rolls back around to dangerous choices, triggers and temptations – but the kind that’s been fought for and earned. You and your family were meant to live with life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – not with chains and enslavement to addiction. You can recover – and you can have a date to celebrate your freedom. Will it be July 4th?