Along your recovery journey, you’ll eventually meet people who won’t understand your addiction. Whether they misconstrue it as a character flaw, or assume it’s possible to “outgrow” a substance misuse problem over time, they need someone to step in and help clear the air. What should you say if you find yourself in the position of having to explain addiction to a non-addict? Here are some helpful things you can bring up.
Addiction Can Happen to Anyone
Substance abuse disorders are a great equalizer. Addiction doesn’t care about your age, race, upbringing, gender identity or intellect. Nobody starts drinking or using drugs because they hope to someday struggle with a problem so vast it takes over their life. Many intertwined factors can lead someone to become addicted, from their family history to their unique neurological makeup. Indeed, scientists have yet to fully understand all the complex reasons behind why some people develop addictive behaviors and others don’t.
Addicts Can’t “Just Say No”
One of the most persistent stigmas around people who live with substance abuse disorders is that they wouldn’t have these problems if only they were strong enough to say no to the temptation of using. However, research has proven time and again that addiction hijacks the reward pathways in the brain, essentially changing the chemical makeup that causes people to feel good after doing pleasurable activities. Long-term drug or alcohol use causes people to need higher doses of a substance to feel normal. When someone tries to walk away from that cycle of ups and downs, a host of uncomfortable and even life-threatening withdrawal symptoms await them. Withdrawal symptoms are both physical and psychological, and can be unpleasant enough to drive someone back to substance abuse to prevent the problems from occurring.
There’s No Cure for Addiction
Even if you have successfully completed addiction treatment at a specialized facility, that doesn’t mean you are healed. Yes, you will feel better with every passing day you spend in sobriety, but you will still have to work on maintaining that substance-free lifestyle every day for as long as you live. Well-meaning friends and family members might especially struggle to understand this point. For instance, they might invite you to a party where people will be drinking or using drugs, and feel hurt when you decline the invitation out of a need to protect your boundaries. They might assume “just one beer” or “just one joint” would be harmless, not understanding the slippery slope of relapse triggers.
Addiction Is a Family Disease
Addiction does not only impact the person living with the illness. Its influence spreads and affects their loved ones, as well. For example, family members can feel intense guilt over engaging in enabling behavior, such as lying to cover for you or paying bills so you had more money to buy drugs. Or, they can resent you for creating ongoing tension in the family dynamic. Family therapy can go a long way toward helping everyone heal and make needed progress together.
Your Partner in Recovery
Many people in the earliest stages of sobriety find they need additional structure to help cement the strategies they learned in inpatient treatment. Segue Recovery Support provides a unique, high-accountability sober living environment for those who need to preserve their substance-free lifestyle. To learn more about the culture we’ve created, reach out today.