Addiction and its knock on effect

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So how does addiction start?  Addiction – be it to alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling even food etc is a person’s way of fulfilling a need/covering a hurt that is not being met within them.  It can start as simply as taking a drink, experimenting with drugs, making a bet to feel more confident/to relax/excite them/feel they fit in etc. etc.  However the expected feelings soon wear off and then they keep repeating the habit to regain that “high”.  But of course they can’t permanently and soon there are more lows than highs.   Addiction has claimed another victim.

The only way out of addiction is to stop and examine what need/hurt The Addicted is trying to fill and deal with it.  Sometimes they are so far down the road of addiction that it may seem to them like it doesn’t really matter about the whys and wherefores – but it does.  If they don’t and they try and stop they are relying on willpower and most people know how that usually pans out unless you are a Hermit or a Saint!! Willpower also (in my view) can be just like putting a plaster on something that may need major surgery.   However we (family, friends, colleagues, etc i.e.The Concerned) have to acknowledge that major surgery and even a plaster can seem a lot of effort when someone is tired out by addiction and it can seem easier to keep on the doing the destructive behaviour rather than stop it.   But the reality is that addiction takes a much bigger, longer, more destructive amount of time and effort than stopping and finding out why they fell into this big destructive hole in the first place.  Once The Addicted discover why they did they can then decide if they really think their life is going where they want it to or if they want to change it and knock addiction into touch.  If they do there is plenty of help around – some good, some not so good so it is important for them to choose carefully who they want to stand beside them to help them through it.  If they choose a counsellor/programme which is not suited to them, they could easily give up on themselves again and put it all down to blaming themselves (and others) for not being able to stop.  However it is simple.  If The Addicted truly come to a decision that they want to stop addictive behaviour – they will and if they subconsciously don’t  want to – they won’t.  As a counsellor I respect their choice either way.

However one of the hardest thing in the World is to watch someone (The Addicted) destroy themselves – little by little.  The method of their destruction is in fact not so important as the fact that they are hurting so much inside (even if they don’t actually realise it) that they do so.  Therefore I do feel it is only fair to point out to The Addicted that The Concerned do have to watch and try and make sense of what is happening to them and that The Addicted have chosen addiction over The Concerned.  The Addicted, for the most part, remain oblivious of the “knock on effect” their destructive behaviour has on those around them.

All The Concerned will feel powerless and confused by addiction.  Even more so if The Addicted is a child. As parents it is even harder as they have raised them, protecting them from harm when they were little and learnt the hard way that when they were older they no longer had the power to “make it better” for them.  They of course try to but it is, in the main, pointless.  Harsh reality I know but never the less true.  Having an adult child that is hurting throws all manner of conscious (and subconscious) thoughts up.  As parents they can question if it is their fault, did they do too little/too much for them, should they not have moved so many times, should they not have broken up the family even though everyone was unhappy, etc. etc.  In fact they could find a whole load of things they could try and blame themselves for (and some may, but only may, in part have contributed) but none of this really helps.  If The Concerned’s life health and life falls part then what has The Addicted got to come back to when/if they recover?

So what does help?   This is a really, really an unpalatable truth but………they can do nothing to help The Addicted until they want help.  The only thing The Concerned can do is to detach with love.  Again – sounds quite harsh especially for parents or partners.

So what is detaching with love.  The Concerned have to make it clear that they are there for them; that they love them but they don’t like their behaviour; that they will help them through their recovery if they decide to change but they won’t enable their Addiction; they will set clear boundaries that are right for them and convey them to the Addicted; they will keep in contact (on their terms not The Addicted) and then they Detach with Love.

What does this mean exactly?  Detaching with Love means that they concentrate on all the things that they have neglected while they have stressed and run around trying to say/do things to get The Addicted to stop their behaviour. They eat properly.  They take spend time with family and friends.  They can even laugh!  The Addicted has made their choice to be in misery The Concerned did not make the choice to be in misery enabling them.  The Addicted know they have The Concerned waiting in the wings if they truly need them but for now the best The Concerned  can do is to live their life fully and healthily so that when/if The Addicted wants to “come home” they have a healthy place to support them.

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